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South America by tour or independently?

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean South America by tour or independently?

1. Posted by rborzillo (Budding Member 84 posts) 6y

My girlfriends and I are planning on spending about 3 months in South America. Looking to travel from Peru through Bolivia, Chile (into Patagonia), up through Argentina and finally ending in Rio - certainly staying on a well worn tourist trail. We only know basic Spanish so we are fearful of the language communication. We were considering doing a GAP tour running from Lima to Santiago for 40 days. I know the cost per day is significantly higher, but is independent travel in South America as easy as other regions such as Asia? Any advise would be greatly appreciated! Thanks

Rob

2. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5595 posts) 6y

Oh yes, it's extremely easy to travel around independently in most of South America as well.
Although there are almost no trains whatsoever and plane tickets are generally more expensive compared to Asia (or the US or Europe for that matter), there are very good connections by bus.
Especially in Chile, Argentina and (a bit less so) Brazil, buses are very comfortable, with options for semi-cama or cama seats, which have less seats in a bus and thus with very high comfort, sometimes including meals and drinks.
Especially for night trips, this saves you the cost of a hotel room plus that you still can get a decent sleep.
Also, roads are generally good (except for Bolivia, still not that bad in my opinion), and there are hotels and hostels in every price range.
Believe me, you won't regret travelling independently.
Have fun!
Michael.

[ Edit: Edited on 02-Apr-2010, at 10:22 by Utrecht ]

3. Posted by rborzillo (Budding Member 84 posts) 6y

Peru and Bolivia seem pretty straight forward. What route would you suggest I take from Salar de Uyuni to Patagonia (specifically Puerto Montt for the Navimag ferry).

Plan A is: Uyuni to San Pedro Atacama - fly from Calama to Santiago (very expensive) - bus to Bariloche via Osorno - Lake Crossing back to Puerto Montt

Plan B: Uyuni to Tupiza - Salta - Mendoza - bus to Bariloche - Lake Crossing to Puerto Montt

Of those two routes, which one would be the best way to travel in terms of places to see

4. Posted by bex76 (Moderator 3711 posts) 6y

I can only speak for Argentina, but my boyfriend and I travelled independently there and it was fine so I don't think there is any need to do a tour. It's really easy to get around and the Argentinian buses are fantastic!

We barely knew a word of Spanish but we managed to make ourselves understood most of the time by using our Spanish phrasebook!

5. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5595 posts) 6y

Quoting rborzillo

Peru and Bolivia seem pretty straight forward. What route would you suggest I take from Salar de Uyuni to Patagonia (specifically Puerto Montt for the Navimag ferry).

Plan A is: Uyuni to San Pedro Atacama - fly from Calama to Santiago (very expensive) - bus to Bariloche via Osorno - Lake Crossing back to Puerto Montt

Plan B: Uyuni to Tupiza - Salta - Mendoza - bus to Bariloche - Lake Crossing to Puerto Montt

Of those two routes, which one would be the best way to travel in terms of places to see

If I had to choose between the two, I would go for Plan B.
But I would add a Plan C: From Uyuni a trip to San Pedro de Atacama, spend some time there. Take one of the 3 weekly buses to Salta and follow plan B from there. Although Tupiza and surroundings is nice, there is more to do around San Pedro.

6. Posted by Ofelia (Respected Member 142 posts) 6y

I agree with everyone else here- do it independently. The gringo trail is easy enough on your own, and I went with knowing about 5 words and came out with good, basic Spanish. The only thing you might find is the time... I think 3 months to do all that is a bit tight, especially if you want to finish in Rio. Maybe finish in BsAs and just fly to Rio for the last few days, if you don't want to miss out on it? Distances are long, buses slow and everything unpredictable, but oh, so beautiful. Enjoy!