V jealous of your plans.......
I have recently finished a 4 month trip around South America and am currently planning a trip to Central America so thought I would drop you a line. I flew from London to Rio and did a loop down through Brazil, across Argentina, up through Chilie, Bolivia, Peru and Equador and flew out of SA from Quito. I had the MOST amazing time - you will love it I am sure! So some tips I wish someone had shared with me before I went are:
- Brazil, Argentina and Chilie are quite expensive......particularly buses. Where are in the other countries you can get basic budget buses with the locals, the buses in Brazil, Argentina and Chilie and much nicer but there just aren't really the cheaper options availible. Panic not, however, because it gets cheaper and cheaper the further north you go!
- Brazil, Argentina and Chilie are all quite European, Bolivia, Peru and Equador are the real SA!
- I would try to take a small amount of each currency with you so before you get there and swap with other travellers you meet or exchange it on the street with locals - this will mean that after a LONG bus ride you can use a toilet or pay for a taxi etc.
- Night buses were a great way of saving time and money if you can hack it.....I did this wherever poss!
- I generally felt very safe but I did use allot of common sense and in many places didn't go out alone after dark. I always spread out my cash in lots of places and had copies and scanned copies of my documents. I did find that at times it was a toss up as to whether take me passport with me or leave it in the hostel, but always have a one or the other on you as the police can be a bit funny about it! I had one small incident near the bus station in Beunas Aires where i got 'shampooed'. Basically someone squirted shampoo (could have been much worse) all over me and my pack this is followed by lots of sorries and then they help you off with you pack and leg it - luckily we knew of the scam so were fine but it is something to be aware of. Having spoken to many travellers Beunos Aires seemed to be the place that was most common in terms of experiencing anything unpleasent. 99.9% of the people I encountered in my 4 months there were kind, friendly and helpful if you make the effort to engage with them.
- If at all poss polish up your spanish, I had very little when I went but had lessons in Bolivia (so so cheap, £3 for an hr 1:1 lesson) this helped hugely particularly when trying to book buses and when chatting to locals.
- Bolivia and much of Peru is at mega altitude and sickness is common and makes you feel rubbish - altitude sickness pills are like magic so def take some with you just in case. Also being up high means it is often freezing so warm clothes are essential
- I did some group tour/trips which were fab:
- Iguassu Fall, White Water Rafting everywhere, Wine Tasting in Argentina and Chilie, Horse Riding in Atacama Desert, Salt Flats, Jungle (from Rurrenbaque, Bolivia), Inca Trek
- I stumbled upon a monkey santuary in Banos, Equador-you can visit just for the day or you can volunteer and pay a small fee for food and dorm. This was one of the best experiences so here is the link if you are interested http://paseolosmonos.webs.com/
Sorry if I have just garbled at you......once I get started on talking about SA I can't stop as i love it so much. Have an awesome time and if you have any other questions just ask as i am more than happy to help if I can,
thank you soo much for your detailed information and especially the information around 'shampooing' these are the kind of things you would never consider prior to traveling yet they are invaluable. YOur trip sounds absolutely amazing and has gotten me even more excited about my upcoming trip!!!! I hadnt planned on heading to Iguassu falls, but this forum has highlighted my need to travel there and experience it firsthand.
It's been a while since i'e been on this sight, sorry , and thank everyone for their invaluable information. oh and i will be in Nicaragua on the18th of December (just finalised my ticket and am tres excited!!) and will heading to costa rica, panama, equador, peru, then flying to rio for carnival, iguassu falls, argentina then home to sydney on the 26th of feb - if anyone is planning to travel these dates and locations (roughly), please drop me a line