Hi everyone, firstly a little about me as this is my first post.
27 years old currently living in Dubai, UAE. I moved out here 4 months ago from the UK. Work in the Insurance industry and have realised that it really is not the life for me! I hate the fact i have such a set routine and need to break free! Travelling is something i have always wanted to do, but have never been able to mainly due to a lack of funds! However, i am able to save up for what could be the trip of a lifetime for me, this coupled with the fact my girlfriend finished with me means i am in the perfect position to do so.
Next April (2012), i plan on heading off to Argentina with a one way ticket and exploring the whole of South America. The plan is to spend 18 months and take in - Argentina - Chile - Bolivia - Peru - Ecuador - Columbia - Venezuela - Brazil - Paraguay - Argentina (to fly back home!) I am working on a list of things i would love to see and do over in South America, other than those i already dream of such as boating down the Amazong from Manaus to Belem, climbing Cotopaxi, trekking through the Andes and the one which got me interested in South America as a kid, the Machu Pichu trek. Most of my travel round South America will be via bus rather than flights and yes, i do understad the sheer distances involved in getting round!
At the moment, everything is in the planning stages! I am researching about the countries of South America, i have enrolled on some Spanish classes in order to pick up the lingo and am currently researching what gear to take, what camera to take etc, etc. All i know is come April 2012 i will be walking out of my job and essentially for 18 months going on the experience of a life time, so essentially, i am after a little advice from those who have tried this before:-
- Am i biting off more than i can chew? Should i really be looking to do a shorter trip elsewhere first to get a feel for travelling? Or should i just jump in the deep end feet first? Anyone else done this and just gone all out from the start?
- What kind of a budget will i need for a trip of this size?
- Is there anywhere i should truely avoid?
- What advice can you give to a first time traveller?
Many thanks in advance!
How exciting! Your trip sounds amazing and you have loads of time to plan what you are going to do because what I love about South America is that it is such a diverse continent, there is loads to see and every country is different.
South America is really easy to travel round, as a female travelling alone for 3 months I had no problems and only incredible experiences. I would have loved to have stayed out there longer but unlike you didn't have the guts to quit my job so had to return to the world of routine quicker than I would have liked. I've been to Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Colombia and Brazil and totally loved every one. The only country I've heard some bad things about safety wise is Venezuela but having never been I can't advise on first hand experience.
Budget wise it really depends on the countries you are in, how you travel (like you said buses are cheaper, sometimes, than flights), how good you are at cooking yourself rather than eating out all the time, how many organised tours you do etc etc. Each country is different, I found Brazil to be very similar to European prices, Chile similar whereas Bolivia and Peru are still really cheap and you can travel on very little. I spent £4k in 3 months but did loads of tours, travelled through 5 countries and generally went for it! I think it's possible to travel on a tighter budget but don't assume all of south america is really cheap because it isn't. It totally depends on how long you spend in each country and what you do, have a look on more specific threads relating to different countries on this site.
It's really good you are going to take Spanish classes, you really need a basic understanding of Spanish as a minimal, particularly if you want more than an observatory experience of the culture. My biggest frustration was not having enough Spanish to really converse with local people. As you are going for so long I'd also recommend you go on a Spanish course in one of the countries you are visiting, there are loads of good schools which other travellers can probably advise on you on plus latin american spanish is slightly different from European spanish, and there are also some slight differences between the countries themselves!
My other advice would be:
- Go to your local library to take out travel books on the countries you want to visit, gives you loads of ideas about what is good to do, and gets you excited! Research when is the best time to be visiting the countries you want to see, they all have differing wet/dry seasons, climates, festivals. Be aware of local holidays when things get busy/more expensive and also when the weather can make it more difficult to travel. E.g. Pategonia for trekking - good time is Jan - March, Carnaval in Brazil is feb/march, Bolivia can be a bit of a nightmare to travel around when it's their rainy season as roads turn into rivers!, Machu Pichu trek is closed one month (i think feb but may be wrong) etc
- Get good travel/medical insurance and understand any clauses they have regarding health conditions or visiting an area which is advised against by your government.
- Look at the British Foreign Office's travel advice pages regarding current conditions about areas you are going to. But also you will get a feel for a place when you are out there, in Colombia our Government advises not to do the Lost City Trek but it was one of the best things I did in that country (although as per previous point it did invalidate my insurance!)
- Take overnight buses especially if long journeys.
- Don't take a backpack which is too large/heavy or it will do your head in when you are out there! Generally though i think women travellers are worse at this
- If you are travelling alone don't worry about not meeting people, you will meet loads of people in hostels, on tours etc. Plan the key things you want to do and then when you are out there you organise things on the go. I booked hostels/buses a few days in advance, but some travellers just turn up and it works out for them fine!
- Don't listen to much to people who haven't travelled and say you are being irresponsible or unsafe!
- Be prepared for the reverse culture shock when you return home, in my opinion this is the hardest thing about travelling.
Enjoy your planning! Hannah