Myself and a friend are currently planning a 4 month trip to South and North America (2 months travelling from Rio to Boliva and then flying up to California).
We are both 24 and quite inexperienced travellers so just wanted to ask some advise on the best way to travel around south america. We are looking at tours with STA travel (travelling from Rio to La Paz, Inca trail, salt lakes etc) although these are quite expensive and I really don't want just 2 months of group tours - really want to do some diy travel!! Are some tours advisable? Can you book better tours out there? Is it easy and safe to travel around on your own by bus/train?
Would love any advise you can offer. I would like to do as much on our own as possible, but there may be some instances when a tour is more advisable? Also we want to travel on quite a tight budget!
I look forward to your comments!!
Im going to travelling around Peru, Bolivia and either Argentina or Brazil for about 2 or 3 months aswell in the middle of next year. I was actually looking for some advice also as I have been getting quotes for my round the world trip recently they have been giving two seperate ones...1 including internal flights in South America and 1 not.
Are there a lot of limits with regards to where you can travel in South America without internal flights? Help people!!
I travelled round South America for just over two months in Feb. I went alone so I started the trip with a two week tour booked with Intrepid, the tour was Sacred Land of the Incas and covered: Lima (Peru), two nights in Amazon jungle, Cuzco, trek to Machu Picchu, tour round MAchu Picchu, Punto, floating islands, La Paz.
I found it really good to meet people and had a really good group so had an amazing two weeks plus it made life easy! It was also great to have a tour at MAchu Picchu because our guide told us all the history and stories rather than us just wondering round looking aimlessly....however if you have a travel buddy and are looking for the budget option I'd say that it's definitely cheaper to just do it on your own and then can stop and start and different places as you please. ...
Definitely fine to travel on your own on buses, I did a lot of over night buses on my own that can be booked as you go along at numerous bus terminals, I just always ensured I arrived at my destination during the day.
In regard to flights i booked with Flight Centre and for £1000 I got these flights:
London to Lima
Santiago (chile) to Rio
Buenos Aires to London
Hope this helps, you guys will love it!
Thanks for your comments! Great to know its fine to get around on buses...we'd heard some stories (from other south american countries) that it can be a bit scary at times using the buses...but I suppose sometimes you just have to go with it!
We'll definitely check out the flight centre and intrepid. Knowing that you can book your bus tickets there is really good, gives us more flexibility as we planned to travel around Bolivia for around 3 weeks on our own. How did the prices of bus travel out there? STA have told us its quite a bit?
Sooo excited, want to go now!
I've been travelling south america with my boyfriend for the last 7 months. Started in Brazil, been to Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and are now in Chile. We haven't taken any flights, just buses the whole way - it's really easy, easier if you have some basic Spanish, and prices vary greatly on where you are and how far you're travelling.
For the countries that you're going to, here's what I can recall....
Brazil - we did lots of long distance buses, most between 12 - 20 hours (don't worry, you'll get used to it!) Bus travel is not that cheap but then we were going long distance. For an 8 hour journey, you're probably looking at 30 pounds each. And that's for 'semi cama', a seat that goes back a bit but not luxury. But then everything is a bit more expensive in Brazil! Night buses are fine. Pluma was a recommended company.
Peru - Lot cheaper than Brazil, and the longest distance we travelled was around 14 hours. I think a 10 hour journey was around 15 pounds. Night buses are fine, best bus company is Cruz del Sur. Flores are also a good company.
Bolivia - Dirt cheap. Around 3 pounds to travel 8 hours. But you get what you pay for - buses are overcrowded and uncomfortable. No such thing as air con. But that's the charm of Bolivia I would advise taking day buses where possible, but only because they are uncomfortable for sleeping.
Tip for buses - keep your hand luggage at your feet, don't store it in the overhead. Call me paranoid, but I guard my passport with my life!
As for tours, I also looked at some before leaving with STA etc. but didn't book anything, and I'm glad we didn't. Tours are easy to book once you're here, and a lot cheaper. We did the 3-day salt flats tour from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile - Uyuni with Estrella del Sur, booked 2 days in advance. I can recommend this route, although you can also do it from Tupiza in Bolivia if you don't want to go to Chile. Cordillera are also a good company.
Inca Trail - if you want to do the classic treck, you will have to book some months in advance before you leave home. But there are lots of other trecks available when you get to Cusco, which are half the price.
In Bolivia you can also do jungle and pampas trecks which are pretty cheap, but you don't need to book before you leave. Also tours in Rio - most hostels offer city tours, but there's lots you can do by yourself too...you will spend most of your money in Brazil, especially Rio so be prepared for that. You'll make it all back in Bolivia.
One of the biggest things I've learned while travelling is not to plan too much - our plans change almost daily, we might really like somewhere and end up staying longer, or meet some great people and decide to go somewhere different...that's the fun of travelling!
So don't worry about planning too much - get a basic route, identify the things you really want to do, and everything else will sort itself out when you come to South America
I second everything E said, my girlfriend and I had an almost identical trip (i half expected to see her name in the signature)
booked everything as we went, definitively the way to go.
I traveled in Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru. I start a new trip gpoing to Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador. I never traveled with a group. Never. In South America there are plenty of cheap buses. If you are not stupid, like going out on night looking like a rich tourist with a visible camera or a cell phone, if you use taxi on night, you will feel secure.
Enjoy your travel
I'm also leaving for a Central / South America trip next year.
One question about the Inca Trail - one of the posters said you need to book it up months in advance. Is this correct? I'm not sure exactly when I'll arrive in Peru, don't want to miss the chance of seeing Macchu Pichu!
You must book the Inca Trail months in advance. However, there are tons of alternative routes, both in a group and independent, that don't require any advance reservations. I took a bus from Cuzco to Santa Rosa, walked to Santa Teresa (day one), walked to Aguas Calientes (day two), walked to Machu Picchu and back to Aguas Calientes (day three), and took the train back to Cuzco on day four - guide-free - on my own pace. Fantastic. Go for it!
I did a four month trip around South America a few years ago and did a mixture of independent backpacking and pre-arranged tours. It's very easy to book your transport ie overnight buses etc as you go along, and usually it's fine to turn up at a hostal on the day and check in for the night.
If you're looking to do the Inca Trail (short or long version) then I would definitely advice getting this booked up before you go. Permits need to be booked well in advance and you won't be able to organise this locally. The following link has a list of short tours that you can either get some inspiration from or pre-book before you go: -snip-
I took a Peru Lonely Planet with me, and this really helped!
I hope you both have an awesome time on the trip!
[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]