I already posted this yesterday, but I thought that my thread title may not have accurately described what kind of replies I was hoping for, so here it goes again. Sorry to everyone who reads this twice.
Thanks in advance to anyone who feels inclined to respond to this thread.
So, I'm starting to plan a trip starting in Mexico and bussing and backpacking my way through Central America and through South America if possible. It's a pretty amibitious trip and while just the thought of it makes me feel alive, I want to make sure I'm not taking a naive approach to it. So anyone who has done a trip like that or has been to any of those places, it would be great to know some "survival" techniques, ie. how to make it an amazing trip, things to see, places to stay, things to avoid, potential dangers, visa issues, political stuff, etc.
I don't care about living dirt cheap. In fact, I have a number of connections with people in all parts Central and South America from some time I spent as a missionary in East Los Angeles (Lots of latino immigrants in East LA!) and I would try to stay with as many of them as possible. I also thought I would try to find some casual work everywhere I go; just enough to buy my next bus ticket and food and that kinda stuff. I speak Spanish, so that should make things easier. Part of the reason I want to do this trip is to immerse myself in the culture, so I don't want any fancy hotels or anything. I have a little bit of knowledge about the countries I would be visiting, but anything that might affect my trip I'd like to know about. And just in case it makes a difference (cause sometimes it does) I'm a 25 yr-old, white, Canadian male.
So, yeah! Any advice is welcome, reality checks as well. Thanks a lot fellow travel-lovers!
I can't really give you any suggestions based on experience unfortunately because South America is still on my 'to do' list!
What I would suggest doing is a search of the travel blogs on this site, of any of the countries that you're interested in visiting. Not only do they make for great reading but lots of others may have done or may currently be doing the trip you want to do. You pick up a lot of ideas of how, where and when to go to various places, see photos of towns/ attractions, hear the problems they've encountered and had to deal with and get entertained into the bargain!!
It's one way of getting some very detailed ideas.....
I haven't done all of what you are talking about, but a bit of it. I found that in South America (at least the bits I went to which were Chile, Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil) it was pretty simple to get long distance buses within and between the countries. I didn't get to the other countries but would imagine it wouldn't be much more difficult. Not many people spoke any english and the words for the places were often very different so not speaking any spanish (or portugese in Brazil) it often meant having to look on the signs around the bus stations and write down how the place is spelt. With you being able to speak Spanish that'd help you heaps especially with trying to get buses if you know the Spanish pronounciation for the place name.
I did a little bit of travel in Central America if you include Mexico ther as well. I did find that it was a lot more difficult to get around in Central America. It was pretty basic to get from Mexico-Guatemala-Belize but outside of that I had no experience but I did find it very difficult to find any bus lines that did other routes. To get from Mexico-Guatemala it meant me getting a bus from Mexico City-Palenque and then getting a van, boat and bus from there to Flores/Guatemala. The same bus company who did the bus part of that journey also did a bus from Flores-Chetamul/Mexico border town that goes via Belize City. I'd heard that it was possible to get other places in Guatemala and other Central American places from Flores but I couldn't even find a bus terminal that would get me to Guatemala City. I haven't been, but from what I have seen on TV and read in books El Salvador is probably a place to avoid with it having one of the highest murder and violence rates in the world. A program I watched the other day showed the rival gangs in El Salvador that hold all bus drivers ransom every day and are trying to having a war against each of the gangs to see who will run the country, it looks like such a horrible place for any tourist to step foot in. It looked about as appealing as the centre of Baghdad/Iraq or the firing line in Afghanistan you'd probably have close to the same likelyhood of being shot dead. It'd certainly be an eye opening and frightening experience that I couldn't imagine why anyone would put themselves through.
Maybe a better option for you that'd get you more replies to this post is if you put a similar post to this in the Central & South American forum. Most people who live in both those regions are pretty poor and have not had enough travel experience in the majority of the world to bother frequenting the RTW forum. People in South America are pretty much the same in that most haven't been outside the continent. A lot especially in Brazil with it being such a large country have probably not even left the country.
have a great trip.
[ Edit: Edited on Oct 27, 2007, at 6:14 PM by aharrold45 ]
Thank you for your responses. It helps a lot!