I'm planning my trip around the world and am wondering how safe is it to backpack alone across central and maybe south america? If anyone has any advise or has done this before i would like to know what the public transportation is like and how much it costs
[ Edit: Edited on 08-Oct-2012, at 05:13 by Stevewilloughby ]
I can only comment on Argentina but I felt perfectly safe there; in Buenos Aires just keep an eye on your wallet and valuables as you would in any big city. The public transport is amazing in Argentina! Coaches are luxurious and good value, with chairs that fold into beds, your own TV and decent meals with wine. They're a really good way of covering large distances there and are popular with locals as well as travellers.
Public transport varies between very good to very basic. Distances can be great so you can spend many hours on buses, even for short distances sometimes if roads are bad as in parts of Guatemala, etc.
Costs I found were relatively cheap though very long distance can be expensive (as in between Lima and Santiago, some 30 hours. I flew which turned out to be not much more expensive.)
Mexico has ongoing troubles for decades but they have flared up into violence in the last few years with lots of dead.
Petty theft is endemic in South and Central America so watch your money and possessions at all times. On a bus in Mexico years ago, I had some stuff stolen by a little old lady sitting behind me on the bus. On another visit I had my pocket picked on the Mexico City metro. Even if you know who did it, you do not confront them as they carry knives and have friends with them who also carry knives. I gave money to a beggar woman in Peru in a market somewhere and she warned me about pick pockets.)
Venezuela I had no trouble but had heard of armed hold ups in Caracas while I was there. A woman was caught stealing in a market as I walked through. In Ecuador they got fed up with petty theft so started stringing them up when caught.
There has been some cases in the British newspapers in the last several months of tourists being in the wrong place at the wrong time in jungle areas of SA, like:
I'm not saying you will come to harm or be robbed but remember it is not like backpacking across Europe or America.
Central/South America has about 20 countries in a landmass that is about 75 times larger than the entire UK where you're from. Obviously that number of countries with that much space with that many people encompasses a dizzyingly complex mixture of politics/culture/language/etc. so any comments and advice referring to safety/costs/etc. will vary wildly.
There are vast areas throughout Central/South America that with common sense and normal street smarts are safer than many areas in the UK and there are obviously other areas that you as a tourist have no business being.
Have fun and good luck with your research.