I am planning a month long trip to South America in Oct-Nov 2011. I will be traveling from New York. The plan is to cover 5 countries: Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. I do have specific destinations in mind in these countries. I will be traveling by myself.
Brazil - Rio
Peru - Cuzco, Machu Picchu (by train)
Bolivia - Lake Titicaca, Salt Flats
Argentina - Buenos Aires, Salta (maybe)
Chile - Santiago
I may add 1-2 more places to the list. Questions:
1. Am I being too ambitious?
2. Is there an order in which I should visit these places to keep the costs down?
3. Any other advise is appreciated?
I am sure I will have more questions over the next 2-3 weeks as I plan the trip.
I am afraid I think you are being too ambitious. I did 9 weeks in south america and did Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil and I was incredibly pushed for time.
I would suggest not bothering with Santiago. I would suggest -
Buenos Aires - Salta - San Pedro de Atacama (in Chile) and from San Pedro you can plan your salt flats tour that will also get you from Chile to Bolivia. Then head to La Paz and get from La Paz to Cuzco via Lake Titicaca. Then do macchu pichu. and fly to Rio last.
It is feasible to do it all in a month but you will spend a long time on buses. ee BA to Salta will take about 20 hours. It will also stop you seeing some amazing places around the cities you are visiting as you won't have long enough at each stop. For example north of Salta is beautiful and Mendoza in BA is definitely worth a trip.
If you can afford to fly between places it will save you a lot of time. However flying between Peru and Brazil was very expensive - I had to go via Bolivia and that still took 2 flights to get to Brazil.
Hope this helps a bit.
Yes you are being too ambitious! These countries are huge and most people take at least one month to do each one. You can take overnight buses to save time and costs of staying in hostels but BA to salta is very far and in Bolivia you need to prepare for buses to be delayed/cancelled/generally take longer than you were expecting. Flights are an option but expensive. The above suggestion by Nikki3905 is good, but also agree you will still be pushed for time and you don't want your experience to be ruined by being totally shattered! Rio is a wonderful city in my opinion, so is Buenos Aires. I've also heard people say to miss out santiago if you are pushed for time.
I did Argentina - San Pedro de atacama in Chile - Bolivia by bus in 1 and a half months, flew to brazil for carnaval and then flew to colombia for over a month. So a total of 3 months to do 5 countries which is what you are proposing to do in 1 month! I travelled very quickly and took several internal flights meaning I spent more. Wouldn't change what I did but no way I could have done it in less time...
Any reason why you need to see these particular places in 1 month? Would agree with the other posters that it will be a bit of a squeeze. Nikki3905's suggested itinerary looks good but I would probably ditch Rio as well as Santiago in order to give yourself a decent amount of time in each place.
Also, how are you getting between New York and South America? Plane ticket prices might end up dictating the start/end points of your trip in South America, which would also obviously affect the itinerary.
Thank you everyone for providing very helpful information. And yes, you are right. I needed a reality check. One month is not enough to cover all these places. I have always been an ambitious traveler but SA is lot more challenging than Europe.
Nikki – your suggestion seems excellent. Although I am curious about “Buenos Aires - Salta - San Pedro de Atacama (in Chile) and from San Pedro you can plan your salt flats tour that will also get you from Chile to Bolivia. Then head to La Paz and get from La Paz to Cuzco via Lake Titicaca. Then do macchu pichu. and fly to Rio last.”
Have you done this trip? The reason I ask is because, just of curiosity, I was researching trips from Talampaya – Salar de Uyuni, on to La Paz. And I could not find any easy way to do this, unless I plan everything on my own. The route that you have suggested above seems quite long as well and through the same region. How would one do this?
Hanadinho – Good points. I can only imagine that your trip must have been amazing. Did you do the Argentina – Atacama – Chile by yourself? Any safety concerns (besides general precautions required)?
Mohn – Thanks. I definitely want to keep Rio on the list. Luckily I have travel points that I will redeem for tickets. I have checked that the flights from NY to SA are covered.
Thank you everyone. I will likely have more questions as I plan further.
Hola! In response to your question, I went travelling in South America alone and had no safety problems at all in my 3 months. You are right - obvious precautions and general common sense is enough, be extra careful in cities and listen to what other travellers/local people advise you when you are out there is also helpful. If anything bad then happens I think it's bad luck, but it's good to have a back up plan in case it does. e.g. I took 2 different bank cards, some emergency dollars and separated my money around myself when travelling/taking long bus journeys. While i started my travels alone I met loads of people out there and the Argentina - Chile (Atacama Desert) bit I did with 3 other girls who were going in the same direction as me. The buses in Argentina/Chile are very easy to use/organise and I experienced little problems with them. I would say having a basic level of Spanish is important when travelling SA, even if it means getting a phrase book to take out with you. All the local people I met were very friendly, helpful and patient with my attempts at Spanglish but very few spoke English so you need it to get around.
As a side point, it's easy to book on the salt flat tour from the Atacama desert into Bolivia, it's a 3 day tour which starts in Atacama, crosses the border into Bolivia and finishes in Uyuni. You can then get a bus from Uyuni to La Paz which is meant to take 10-12 hours, mine ended up taking 24!! (note previous point on frustrations of Bolivian bus travel
Another thing about not rushing, especially in Bolivia is that the altitude will more than likely make you more tired than usual. I also agree with your plan to keep Rio on the list, probably my favourite city in the world (when it's not raining!)
Enjoy your trip planning, any other questions just ask Hannah