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1. Posted by lucyl77 (Budding Member 5 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Hi, I'm planning to travel from Santiago to Peru next March, however I've been told that its very difficult to get by without speaking Spanish. Is this true?

2. Posted by chemukh (Full Member 132 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Do you plan to travel by land?

3. Posted by Rach-a (Respected Member 368 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Speaking Spanish will help you alot in South America!! I went assuming most people would speak English and left wishing I'd made more of an effort with the language!! However you can easily get Spanish lessons in Chile and Peru for reasonable prices which I would recommend!! However regarding the level of difficulty travelling around, I first got round Santiago etc. uttering from a phrase book and did just about make it round - I would say it was half the fun at first but some people might say it would be awfully frustrating!! It depends on how comfortable you feel travelling around with people not knowing what the heck you are saying and vice versa!! My advice is to try and learn some basic Spanish before you go - it will help you alot but if not you can still have the option of learning when you get there!! Also if you know more of the language it is a better cultural experience also!!!

4. Posted by lucyl77 (Budding Member 5 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

I was planning to travel over land, but have since been told with my limited Spanish & only a month to travel it would be more beneficial to go on an organised tour. What do you think?

5. Posted by chemukh (Full Member 132 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

I asked because poeple who sell bus tickets usually don't speak english, at least no more than "Hello, my name is...".

When I was in France, without speak a single word of french (and I still don't know if french people doesn't know to speak english or they just don't wanted to) helped me a lot to carry a map, I pointed the place with the finger and the rest was a mix between gestures and subconcient comunication.

6. Posted by snatterand (Travel Guru 454 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Learn some Spanish! It's really easy. And seriously, far too many people with English as their first language speak ONLY English! Come on, the rest of the world are forced to learn at least one second language, and in Sweden most people go for i third one as well. It helps a lot when travelling!

7. Posted by gozub (Inactive 11 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Hola, I'm from ViƱa del Mar, Chile.

Yes, it's true, most people here don't speak english (in fact, I don't speak very well). But... i think it's not so dificult to travel without speak spanish. At least, here in Chile the buses lines works very good (as well as european buses) and you don't need to say more than "un pasaje a Arica" (one ticket to Arica).
I recomend you to buy a spanish basic book, to learn to say some basic words.

8. Posted by janszham (Full Member 35 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Of course a bit of spanish will help you a lot but don't be put of by not knowing very much. Chile and Peru are very touristy countries and you will probably find somebody who speaks a bit of english and as said before me: with a little frasebook you will get along fine.
On the other hand you have enough time to learn a bit. Spanish in 3 months is a very good book.
Good Luck!

9. Posted by lucyl77 (Budding Member 5 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

I'm also planning to travel through Bolivia as i've heard good things about the country, do you think the lack of knowledge of spanish & also the political side would be a problem?

10. Posted by wotthefiqh (Inactive 1447 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

My wife and I did a 3 month backpack through South America, Cuba and Mexico starting late January this year, and our Spanish was almost non-existent. A good phrase book is a must, and many young south americans understand and speak some English.
Hell, I spent a month backpacking Japan in 1983 and only knew 3 phrases (good morning, thank you and one more beer please). The Japanese phrase book got a flogging, and so did the 'one more beer please'.
We were going to take the bus from Arica in northern Chile to La Paz round about late February 2005, stopping at Putre for a days altitude acclimatisation, but the Bolivian workers/peasants had closed the border and had barricades up in quite a few cities, La Paz included. We had to fly from Arica to La Paz, and getting out of La Paz to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca at 3 a.m. on a minibus was pretty hairy. Got stopped at one barricade on La Paz outskirts and the protesters wouldn't let us past. Driver backed up about 200 metres, switched his lights off and barrelled down a narrow alley and through slums, garbage tips and rough ground to get us past the barricade.
Met some fellow Aussies 2 days later in Copacabana who had also been stopped at the barricade the night before, and had to hump their backpacks about 8 kilometres down the road before finding a vehicle to take them the rest of the way. Lugging 30 Kgs on your back for 8 kms at 3,000+ metres up in the Andes is a young persons job!!!
Really liked Bolivia and La Paz, and Copacabana, Lake Titicaca and Isla del Sol were delightful.
Whichever way you go, ENJOY.


P.S. I took pills for altitude sickness before leaving Arica and they were worth the expense. Had just reached the Immigration desk in La Paz airport and one of my fellow passengers was already in a wheelchair sucking oxygen through a mask. Hot coca leaf tea and chewing coca leaves seems to help as well.

P.P.S. San Pedro de Atacama was fantastic. Spent 3 nights there and intend going back so we can take the 4 day 4 wheel-drive to Uyuni in Bolivia. Talked to a guy in Arequipa who had done the trip and he said it was awesome, especially as it had rained just before his trip and the massive salt flats shimmered in the sunlight.
God I can rabbit on!!!