Hello, I am going to South America in February and I was hoping if you could help me with my travel plans. I am flying into Santiago and want to travel down to the west coast to Tierra del fuego, then onto Buenos Aires. I would like to see Iguazu Falls before going back to Santiago. I have 6-7 weeks to travel, would this be long enough? Would you recommend places to visit along the way and the transport that you used? Is it important to have a good level of spanish? I am very limited and feel a bit nervous about this. Do I need any visas? Did you go to the antartic? Also were there any atm's that issue american dollars? I would really appreciate it if you could help me and offer any further advice.
Also has anyone heard of santa Barbara Airlines and can you recommend them??
You are safe with visas in both countries. No worries there. That amount of time is workable. I don't envy you the time on the bus (ALOT) but it is doable.
I would try to pick up some pidgen spanish phrases if you could, but the route is well travelled with English speaking travellers, so you should be able to hash things out.
As for the atms. Actually, a surprising amount DO issue American dollars. At least they say they do. I have never felt the need to get American dollars so I cannot say that I actually saw the machine spit any out. But several give you that option, so I assume that they ain't lying.
Good luck, bring a pillow. That's a lot of bus time.
You are talking about very large distances, but the buses in chile and argentina are really good, even if they aren´t the cheapest in S America. To give you an idea, from Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn, which is about half way down the country on the way to Patagonia, is a 23 hour bus journey. Iguazu from BA is about 20.
I have been in S America for 3 months now and started in BA, bused it all the way down to patagonia, all the way back up the other side, into chile (San Pedro De Atacama) and then into Bolivia and Peru - it´s a standard backpacker route, but my point being that i have travelled through Argentina on a bus and it´s pleasant, safe and comfortable. There are three classes of bus you can pick - premier or executive class which has a completely flat bed, movies, food, wine and if you´re lucky a spot of champers; Cama buses, which are almost fully reclining seats, food, movies etc and finally semi cama which have seats that only recline a little way and are more like standard coaches. Cama is usually fine, although i did treat myself to a couple of first class journeys (mainly for the booze!) and i would say that any journeys over 8 hours, you are going to want a comfy cama seat. Over night journeys are the best, as you can just treat them as a night´s accommodation - in fact some of the night´s sleep i had on buses were more comfy than some of the more questionable hostels i stayed in along the way! The bus companies i would recommend in Argentina are Andesmar, Via Bariloche and Chevalier, although there are hundreds of companies you can choose from.
internal flights in Argentina and Chile are expensive and often double or even triple the price for tourists, so although it saves you time, it certainly won´t save you money. I didn´t make it to Antarctica, but i can also say that it is a very expensive trip. Unless you are planning on stowing yourself away on a cargo boat, you are looking at around $500 or more depending on if you actually touch down on the antarctic or just sail past.
The majority of cash points for the major banks in South america offer dollars, although i haven´t needed to use dollars at all so far on my trip. I do know that if you want to pay in dollar bills, they have to be brand new otherwise they won´t be accepted.
With a british passport, you won´t need visas to get into Chile or Argentina, although you might need a yellow fever vaccination card if you are planning on crossing into Brazil at Iguazu. Also i know that some people take malaria tablets for that trip.
i would say tha the highlights for me in Argentina were Perito Moreno glacier (El Calafate, Patagonia), Mt Fitzroy (El Chalten, Patagonia), Salta (N W Argentina), Bariloche and the lake district (Patagonia) and Buenos Aires (although keep an eye on your handbag!). Also depending on the season Whale watching at Puerto Madryn is pretty cool too.
Also for the record, i arrived in South America on my own and was really nervous about it, but there is really nothing to worry about. Argentina and Chile are very european, friendly and relatively safe, plus if you are staying in hostels you won´t be alone for long - in fact the problem is more likely that you have no time on your own, rather than being lonely! There are so many solo travellers all over the continent, and particularly girls, so there is nothing to worry about. Speaking spanish is a bonus but not completely vital - maybe a brief basic course before you arrive?
Anyway, i hope this has been of some help and have an amazing time - this continent is fantastic and hasn´t yet failed to impress me in everyway possible. You are going to have the time of your life!
good luck and Buen Viaje!
Skip Santa Barbara airlines - they are based out of Venezuela and have a bad track record. At least two plane crashes in the last two months that I know of, and many aren`t publicized (crash landings with no fatalities do not have to be reported to authorities here). If you are looking for a reliable carrier, your best best is Avianca, then Copa (sister of Continental and Star Alliance), and of course LAN (but they cost an arm and a leg). Any airline based out of Chile should be o.k. and meet international standards. Flying within Argentine you have no choice - their airlines are government run. We did Chile, Argentina, and Patagonia ourselves last March and loved it. We travelled with three kids under the age of 6 though and are both fluent in spanish, so my advice might be very different than what you are looking for. LOVED Patagonia, and a cruise through the Straits of Magellan shouldn`t be missed. Skip Antarctic though, too cold, too far, too much wasted time, and nothing much to see. Instead, spend your extra money in the Lakes District of Argentina or for guided tours through Patagonia so that you capitalize on the knowledge of the guide. Happy trails!