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Advice for bus+ train in south america

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Advice for bus+ train in south america

1. Posted by scot79 (Budding Member 6 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

My friend and i are heading off on a trip at the end of November (yaaay, very exciting!) We are going to fly from London to either Rio De Janerio or Sao Paulo and then from there we hope to bus or train south to Buenos Aries... then west over to Santiago.... then North up cost to Peru... We will either fly out of Lima or Santiago, at which point we are heading to new Zealand.

Does anyone have any pointers of particularly inspirational places/ dodgy places to avoid/ dodgy train rides to avoid.. etc.
Also, we only have about 1 month to do all of this in- do you think this is realistic?

One more thing... as we havent actually booked yet , does anyone have any tips on the cheapest round the world offers?

2. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5635 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Travelling around these countries will be almost exclusively by bus (or maybe plane if you like). There are no trains of interest if at all there are. Exception is the Curitiba to coast trainride, which should be great with landscapes etc.

Personally, with a month I would really focus on the Rio/S.Paulo to BA part and skip Chile and Peru. For example BA to Santiago takes probably around 20 hours and Santiago to Lima more like 30 or 35 if travelling directly. Just to give an idea of the vast distances.

Places worth a vist on the Rio-BA part: well, Rio of course, Ouro Preto, Paraty, Ilha Grande, Pantanal, Iguazu Falls, and Buenos Aires itself requires at least a day or 4 to get an idea. You might fit in a nice day trip to Colonia in Uruguay.

Since you haven't booked your RTW trip, I really suggest you spend longer in South America and the route you described can be done in about 3 months, including central parts of Argentina (maybe Patagonia, it is the right season), northern Chile, the Bolivian Altiplano (one of my favorites) and souther Peru including Machu Picchu.

Have fun!

3. Posted by scot79 (Budding Member 6 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Thanks Micheal.. I feel like a bit of an idiot misjudging distances like that- because im working until the last minute i am having to do research in between and am finding it difficult! Anyway, this is very helpful...

im actually thinking now that maybe stay a bit longer- we could possibly work it to stay 7-8 weeks... i would love to make it longer but we have to be in sydney by xmas. After your advice am thinking
fly to Rio- from there take bus to SP then through to BA (visit some of these places you mention)
fly from BA to Santiago- from there bus it around... We want to visit Machu Pichu and think theres quite a spectacular train ride up which hopefully we can do...

Also, can you advise on the level of Spanish required in these places? I did a Spanish course last year but to be honest i am really really limited and will need a book for phrases- are they quite good with their english? To scrub up on spanish may not be the answer anyway as i heard that the spanish in latin america is really quite different...

lots to think about.. thanks again,

4. Posted by aharrold45 (Travel Guru 1281 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Can't add much to what has already been said, but in your last message you state about flying from Buenos Aires - Santiago. In my personal experience I think this would be a major mistake as you would be missing out on a very scenic bus trip that is well worth taking.

In Brazil they speak Portugese so Spanish is not going to be too useful there, but the rest of the places speak Spanish. I could only speak a few basic words of Spanish (and literally only a few) and I was able to get by in the major cities. I didn't explore much in the outer areas but knowing some Spanish would certainly be a help to you.

5. Posted by scot79 (Budding Member 6 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Hi again, thanks.
Do you really think we could bus it from Ba to Santiago.. i would much prefer to bus it- mostly because you get such a better idea of the place and the geography/typography/culture... on a plane its just up and down and suddenly you have to adapt to your surroundings...

how long do you think a bus journey like that would take? to me, its all the smaller places on route that are the most interesting but obviously this is a decision we should be sure about because once we have booked our plane tickets our hands will be tied.... do you think if we allowed a week to do the journey that would be enough? (obviosuly im not thinking a week on the bus! but to get on and off on the way).

This forum is really so useful... ive been trawling the internet for weeks but have got more info from you guys in matter of hours!

6. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5635 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Hi Scot,
You're welcome and no worries, it's better to get an idea before you leave instead of getting the idea when you are already there.
Personally, I didn't like central Chile that much, so I would skip that part and head from BA to the northwest of Argentina (maybe via Mendoza and than up north) to Salta and from there go either to San Pedro de Atacama or to Bolivia and visit this fantastic part of the continent. I think about 7-8 weeks for that route including BA and Brazil is a decent amount of time.
I spoke a few words like aharold and didn't have problems as well.

Have fun!

7. Posted by aharrold45 (Travel Guru 1281 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

The trip between Buenos Aires and Santiago took around 20 hours. Along the routing I didn't see that their were many places worth stopping off at, but the scenery along the way is really nice.

When the bus reached Mendoza we got off to stretch a bit and get something to eat and that was a little bit of a worry with what went on then. While the passengers were stretching, the bus went off and did another route close by picking up a few other people and all of this while the passengers baggage was still onboard.

Around the Mendoza area was about the only place along the way where the bus actually stopped (apart from at the borders). Right near the Argentina/Chile border there a couple of places had some nice places to stay, but with the bus as far as I could see you were not able to get dropped off or picked up there. By no means do I know a huge amount on buses in South America, so maybe someone else reading this may know something about a bus that does drop off/pick up around the border region on the Buenos Aires-Santiago route.

The bit between Mendoza and heading towards Santiago is the most scenic and picturesque part of the journey as that is where you are zig zagging down through the Andes on rather steep and narrow roads. It also had some buildings that were surrounded by compacted snow that was almost as tall as the first story of the buildings. This was in late August, so depending on when you are travelling the snow may have melted a bit more, but in that section it was almost like a glacier it was that deep.