I am a newcomer to this site. I am planning on backpacking in Latin America next year. I plan to start in Central America with possibly Costa Rica, and then work my way towards Argentina. I would appreciate any advice on how I should plan this as I haven't done anything like this before, although I have travelled quite a bit in Europe and a bit in Asia (viz., the Indian subcontinent).
My biggest problem would be time as I would probably have about a month at my disposal. Also, what would be the best time to go there?
There seems to be a dispute amongst travellers between the usefulness of the Lonely Planet guide and the Footprint guide. Any advice on that front?
I would appreciate any information from you all.
Thanks in advance.
I recommend you buy an airpass. Mercosur Airpass allows travel between Argentina, Bazil, Chile, Paraguay & Uruguay and is pretty inexpensive. About US$850 for 7,200 miles or more. From Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador & Chile you can take busses. Arica is the Northmost Chilean city that has an airport and you can fly between Arica and Santiago. The bus ride from Arica to Santiago is 50 hours! All international flights leave from Santiago. From Santiago you hop over the Andes to Buenos Aires (I recommend a stop in B.A. as it is the most beautiful city in all of SA). I traveled these Countries last summer (May & June) and the weather varied. Chile & Argentina rained and had flooding. I almost froze to death on the boat on Titicaca and then in Lima it was 80 degree beach weather (which I appreciated being from Los Angeles and all). My sister and I are going to Brazil in November...I'll catch you up on that Country when I come back. I would also recommend that if you are planning on staying in cheap hotels that you bring a sleep sheet. Fold a large bed sheet in half lengthwise and stitch from the fold (bottom) to halfway up the side leaving the top open. You get in this under blankets in some of the not so clean rooms. This prevents you from having to sleep in dirty sheets or always in a sleeping bag where you might be too warm. Good Luck and let me know if you want more info.
Thanks a bunch for your post. My biggest worry at the moment is time. I think I would be able to wrangle out a month. And travelling so far (from England) I want to see as much as possible within that time. Would it be possible for you to give me an idea as to the expenses you incurred for fooding and lodging?
Since I speak only broken Italian, I was wondering how big a barrier would language be in South America.
Thanks in advance,
I speak only Spanish words, not sentences nor phrases. But I am really good at the "bad" words though... Italian being a Latin based language will help you but I suggest you get a phrase book in Spanish and study it. I am currently learning Portugese which has to be the hardest language ever. I did not speak any Spanish my first time to Costa Rica and the phrase books helped to order meals, get hotels rooms, even to find the correct bus to get on. You are going to find that different Countries speak different Spanish. Different slang and also different pronunciations on certain words. I met a couple of Aussies that didn't speak a lick of Spanish and they got by on only their English.
As for cost, SA is very inexpensive for us coming from our Countries. I think in the three weeks I was down there on my last trip, we spent about US$3,500.00 but that was for two. We did not live cheap. We ate expensive meals with bottles of wine and we flew a lot. I think we took six flights each and I booked them all separately. I could have really cut costs if I had had the time. TO give you an idea of how cheap it is in Chile, I had a guy and his finace that I met down there come and visit me here in L.A. I took them sightseeing in Santa Monica and when I attempted to pull into a pay parking lot that had a max US$11.00 all day parking fee. He grabbed my arm and shreaked that it was too expensive. That $11.00 was equivalent to 50 "Micro" bus rides. Almost a month of commuting to school and back for him. I think the most expensive "legitimate" hotel that we stayed in was about $12.00 a night for two. In Argentina we went to this beautiful restaurant and stuffed ourselves on Sushi and drank two bottles of wine and it was less that US$25. The exchange rate was 3 to 1. Woohoo. THe biggest expenses are going to be hotels and transportation, but you have time to plan and that will help.
Cheers for your post.
Initially I was thinking of starting off in Central America and then moving down south. But after picking the brains of ppl over here, it seems that this idea might be an overkill. So, I might just stick to South America this time ard, and hope to be bacl for central America in the near future.
I agree that Brazil has to be done separately. It's so huge. But I will try and see if I can at least hit Rio and get a glimpse of the Amazon rain forest.
I'm not sure Columbia at the mo. tho, specially since the recent guerilla ambush on a grp of tourists. What do you reckon? how comes you gave Columbia a miss?
here are a few tips for you
don t worry about speaking only english -at least in argentina- because here most people will understand it. however, i don t know about other south american countries.
i strongly reccommend you not to come to southamerica in winter because you won t be able to see half of what it has to offer. try to come from september to may.
the only problem about south america is the distance, unlike europe everything is far away and that s what will take most of your time, getting from one city to the other... you are right about brazil, it deserves to spend a whole month to see its beautiful beaches and cities.
hope it s useful!
Sunshine (and everyone else),
Your post was extremely informative. Your advice on the air tickets is very helpful.
I was planning on heading to South America next June - their winter. Am I really limiting my exposure to their wonderful culture by going in the winter? What, specifically, will I be missing?
Also, what are the travel books that will turn this trip into the experience of a lifetime? I plan on living in hostels, and I will be travelling with one other on a tight budget. Aside from travel books, are there any books I should read on the region in general?
Lastly, given a time period of 4 months, starting in Brazil, how many countries should I visit? If you had to make a top five list of countries that are needed to gain a complete picture of South America, what would they be?
Thanks all, and happy trails.
I'm also headed for SA in march next year, ive got a month to 6 weeks, i speak basic spanish. I'm looking for the best companies to arrange flights from england to probably mexico and then hop around to a few places before returning from another country. Also can anyone give more of an oppinion on columbia? my friend and I can take care of ourselves but would be a bit stuck faced with guns! pitty about the rep cos I hear its a beautiful place. I also believe that if most people are staying away then theres probably some real untouched adventure to be found there.....
I think I am gradually coming ard to deciding on March/April for my trip time. I was generally aware of the various viral and bacterial infections one's liable to pick up in SA, but a recent programme on the BBC ('Bodysnatchers') did make me sit up and take notice to some of the potentially life-threatening ailments which one can possibly pick up.
I would be quite interested to hear about the kinds of vaccinations that previous travellers to SA have taken before embarking on their journeys.
Thanks in advance,
I'm travelling to South America on Jan 26 from Australia. Am flying into Lima peru then making my way to La Paz via machiu picchu going through bolivia then into brazil for Carnivale (late feb). I'm then travelling around brazil a bit before flying to mexico for 3 weeks as part of my RTW trip. so i'll be in brazil until 23 march. I've been teaching myself portugese the last couple of years and now trying to do the same with spanish.
anyway in terms of VACCINATIONS (for Ron) for brazil you need a yellow fever shot if coming from a yellow-fever infected area ie that is a lot of the north part of SA. check with your doctor but if you aren't sure which countries you are definitely going to, i think you should definitely get it.
there are lots of shots like rabies, tetanus, diptheria, cholera etc recommended to get but my doctor said i probably won't need to get the rabies one, the tetanus you would probably have had back in high school? (we have it done in australia), diptheria (same as for tetanus). I think i'll get the cholera one.. oh also there the meningicoccal shot to get which is pretty important i reckon
and Lonely Planet recommends getting a Hepatitus A and Hep B shot. they now come in a 2 in 1 shot which is good. All these shots cover all the SA countries.
anyway hope that helps and by the way you guys should let me know when and where you're travelling in SA we might be able to meet up.
good luck. from kristina