Advice on travelling in South America!

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Advice on travelling in South America!

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1. Posted by RandM (Budding Member 3 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Hi we are heading for south america from england in a few weeks and are looking for advice as to travelling by bus! We are starting in Rio and have five weeks to get down to Buenos Aires. We then fly up to peru (Cusco) and have five weeks to get down to Santiago!!

I just wondered:
1. How safe is it to travel by bus (between us we speak little spanish)?

2. How far in advance do we need to book buses?

3. After reading some of the listings on the site I feel I want to avoid Bolivia(La Paz especially)if it is as unsafe as it sounds!! Especially as we little spanish.

We're very sorry to hear some of the awful stories as to what has happened to some of your loved ones in bolivia and hope that they will be found safe and well soon!!

I suppose we are looking for some re-assurance and advice!! All hints and tips would be gladly received.

Rachael and Mike.

2. Posted by numero1 (Respected Member 295 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Booking buses may be difficult if your spanish is not up to scratch so make sure you brush up or invest in a good phrase book;)

Rio to BsAs by bus won't be a problem and should be safe, don't know much about the other legs of your journey though.

If you a breaking up you journey along the way I advise you to do Florianapolis, Curritiba, Iguacu and maybe Cordoba in Argentina as well.

Buses can be booked a few days in advance as long as it's not the peak of the holiday season.

3. Posted by wyre83 (Budding Member 47 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Hi there,

I´m in Argentina at the moment. I cant offer any advice about Brazil although i have heard you need to be very careful in Rio especially - dont go flashing your camera or jewellery around - pretty much everyone i have met travelling so far as had something stolen while travelling in Brazil - dont want to put you off because that is seriously the only bad thing I have heard - they all love the country as a whole.
In Argentina you definaly need to see Iguazu Falls - took a bus up from BA which was about 18 hours - my spanish is minimal but i managed to book the bus quite easily. I saw the Falls from both the Brazillian side and the Argentine side. If you decide to see them from both sides also - i would recommend seeing the Brazillian side first - this way you get a good overveiw of them and then see the Argentine side - they are much more spectacular from this side and you can get very very close!
The buses in S.America are fantastic - even more comfortable than a flight in most cases. You are served meals and they have movies and give you blankets and pillows etc. Be prepared for a lot of long overnight trips on buses- they aren´t nearly as bad as you would expect though.
The availability on buses has been fine so far in my experience - only need to book a few days in advance. In same cases you can get a seat the same day. And they are very safe - although I can only speak about Argentina.
I will be travelling through Boliva, Chile and Peru too so maybe I can give you some more advice later.

4. Posted by daniG (Budding Member 24 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

I went to south america last year and it was the best travelling experience ever. I only went to chile, bolivia and peru, and i have to say that my favourite country was Bolivia, so go there if you can. La Paz is amazing, but the highlight for me was Potosi - go visit the gold mines, buy dynamite at the miners market, and ther are great karaoke bars! Best part of bolivia, was Uyuni, where you go to the 'salt flats'. Its basically thousands of kilometres of salt, and the most amazing site.

Yea, the language barrier can be a problem, but transport is great, especially in Chile - definately more comfortable than british public transport. In Chile, make sure you go to San Pedro de Atacama. Its a great little gypsey town with a great observatory.

Make sure you walk the Inca Trail (if your going to do it!) - dont get the train. But, you do have to book that really far in advance and costs a lot.
Thats just a few tips for you! Enjoy


5. Posted by ericos (Budding Member 37 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

I can say that it is very safe traveling by bus in Brasil.
Only, the distances are great and some times you will stay a long period on the way. Don't forget to take something to cover you at night on the bus. Otherwise you will not sleep any second. The airco is to hard at night and you cannot take anymore for instance a sleepingbag out of the baggage room. Take it with you when starting the trip!!
I describe for you here a trip from Rio to Buenos Aires you can manage it easely in five weeks and seen a lot of beautiful things in Beazil.
Rio de Janeiro is the starting point. Visite Rio
Take the bus to Ouro Preto and the colonial cities, the gold cities like Mariana, Tiradentes, Sao Jao del Rey Make your choice.
From there you will take the bus to Campo Grande, capital of the State Mato Grosso do Sul.
In the busstation (were you arrive) there is an office from the company "Pantanal Discovery". They will take you in the Pantanal from there for almost 40,- Euro a day, all included. This region is the best region for seeing wild animals and birds.
Let you drop at "Buraco das Piranhas", they know it all. There the bus to Bonito passes. Take this bus to Bonito and make there a beautiful walk in the nature. (the walk rio sucuri is the best, snorkling between the fishes, amazing)
From bonito you will take the bus to Dourados and further on to Curitiba, capital of the Stata Parana. There you can make the trip by train to Paranaguà in the mountains. Beautiful!
Then you take the bus to Foz do Iguaçu, the falls on the border with Argentine.
Visite the falls on both sides and finaly continue to Buenos Aires.
All this you can make by bus and saftely!!
In five weeks you will have made a wonderfull trip, I guarantee you!
Good luck and enjoy Brazil

6. Posted by RandM (Budding Member 3 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

Hi guys! Thanks for all your tips they are gladlly received!!
Rach and Mike.

7. Posted by mariaines (Budding Member 39 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

hey, i'm from Chile and as i've seen you're visiting Santiago i can only say this.. go to Valparaiso!!! despite it's near Santiago (1 hour by bus, in the coast) i hadn't been there since 1990 and came back last new year (the new year in that city was one of the best experiences in my life). It has changed A LOT, since it was declared Humanity World Heritage by UNESCO. The little houses and colorful buildings are amazing and you can find a lot of great places to eat or to sit and relax while watching the view of the bay. You can also enjoy a visit to one of Pablo Neruda's famous houses ("La Sebastiana").
There are buses from Santiago to Valparaiso every day. Hope i helped!!

8. Posted by dbloom (Respected Member 586 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

marianes is right, generally big cities are not places to stay in for those on vacation and some Latin American cities can be downright dangerous for travellers who don't know their way around or speak much Spanish, as well in resort towns you often can walk around very late at night without fear of being robbed and avoid taking taxis, having a relaxed vacation.

9. Posted by bentivogli (Respected Member 2398 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

1. Bus travel is completely safe if you take the usual precautions. Don't take anything fancy along that you don't absolutely need; don't pack valuables (camera etc.) in your hand luggage; spread your money, cards etc. over different spots on your body.
2. Don't bother to book in advance, especially since you don't speak spanish. Dó check bus frequencies before you go somewhere, however. Worst case scenario I ever got into meant waiting two days, but usually a fare can be arranged within a few hours.
3. I don't have knowledge regarding the most recent past, but Bolivia has always been a safe destination for non-US folk to go to, even though the situation in La Paz, Sucre and Oruro can be a bit tense at times. Avoid demonstrations and you will be all right, as long as you take sufficient food on bus trips to overcome potential road blocks (worst I ever got into kept us stranded for 3 days). IF you end up in a road block, don't try to get past them, since that may set the local people against you. But in general, Bolivians are amongst the friendliest of folk I've ever met (much more so than the peruvians, for that matter :-))

10. Posted by RiverRuner (Budding Member 38 posts) 12y Star this if you like it!

What is particularly dangerous about Bolivia for folks from the US? pardon my naivite...