Best way to get around South America ???

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Best way to get around South America ???

1. Posted by Nevans (Budding Member 19 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hey chaps , being a rookie backpacker I'm in the dwang trying to decide how to get around South America, money being more of an issue than time. I'm looking at starting in Peru , then to Bolivia , Chile (only really Santiago) , Argentina and lastly Brazil (cos it seems travelling thru Brazil to the other places is the most expensive route). I'm sure some of you have learnt the hard way and would LOVE to pick your brains on how you achieved this ?

Thanks ya'll (got that from the yanks)


2. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hi Nevan

In my opinion, the only way to see South America is to travel overland. :) You really feel like you're experiencing it properly when you are stopping off in the little backwater towns and villages.
Plus you get to see all sorts of landscapes passing by.
PLUS you get to interact with local people wherever you are, which you wouldnt get to do by flying, as most of them would obviously never do that.

On a larger scale, there's the impact of flying on the environment to consider, which all savvy travellers are doing their best to minimise these days. So, if time isnt an issue for you, then that's yet another good reason to overland! :)

Buses are the most common mode of transport around most of the continent. For that reason, you can expect pretty good standards of services in most countries. Even Peru and Bolivia arent too bad if you're not over fussy
In Chile the buses are great and very efficient. Same can be said of Argentina. Brazil was definitely the most expensive and the service paled in comparison to be honset. That said, it wasn't uncomfortable.

Peru and Bolivia are just dirt cheap to travel around.
More expensive in Chile - for example, expect to pay approx $40 for a semi cama ticket from San Pedro to Santiago.
Argentina is less expensive that Chile and the service is equally good in my opinion. its worth splurging for the coche-cama where you can stretch out, watch dvds and even have a glass of champagne! :)
From the argentine border to Rio I paid approx $50 to Rio.

Bus companies I recommend:
Cruz del Sur or Ormeno in Peru/Bolivia
TurBus in Chile
Pullman and Via Bariloche in Argentina
Pluma in Brazil


3. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru 4567 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hello Nevans

I used to get around, by bus, when I was in South America.
There did not seem to be a good train service. And in some places train travel was actually dangerous, becasue trains were sometimes hijacked. ;) Flying can also be a good way to get around, and is not always expensive.

Because u are new to backpacking, I suggest u get yourself a good guide book. It will tell u the best modes of transport and lots more information. They are a bit expensive, at 25 Euros a pop, but worth it, for the information they give, in my opinion. I would reccomend the following ones, and they are available, in most book shops, around the world. Try to get one, which covers a number of countries. There may even be one, which covers the entire of South America.;)
Lonely Planet
On a Shoestring
Rough Guide
Lets Go


4. Posted by bentivogli (Respected Member 2398 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

The SA forum would have been a better place for this thread.

Have a look around there; as you will find, bus is indeed by far the best way to go. Cheap, reliable, comfortable, and not half as polluting as flying.

Moderator comment: This thread has now been moved from General Talk to this forum to better accommodate the request for information.

[ Edit: Moderator Comment ]

5. Posted by Nevans (Budding Member 19 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Thanks chaps , good to see the Guru's out there helping the newbies. Thanks again ,


6. Posted by BeckyLloyd (Full Member 3 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

Hi Nevans :)

Mel´s suggestion of a guide book is good - then you can have an idea about how much it will cost for the varying methods of transport that are available. However it is always worth talking to the locals you meet when you get there and you may be able to find alternative cheaper ways. I agree with Samsara2 that the most common method of transport is bus; there really is no other mainstream way to get around.

In my opinion the best guide book covering the whole of south america is the Footprint one. It is thorough and detailed. The LP one is the second best but really out of date now which makes a big difference with the price guide (although I heard a rummor that the new one came out in Feb, but I haven´t seen it around).

By far the cheapest places are peru and bolivia, then argentina then brazil and the most expensive is Chile I think. You should consider going to columbia as well as everyone that I have spoken to about travelling around SA have said how wonderful it was and i really wish that I had enough time to go myself! The transport is expensive there but otherwise prices aren´t too bad.

Some general travel advice for you: there is a lot of truth in the saying "pack half as many clothes and twice as much money" as you think you´ll need

7. Posted by marlis (Travel Guru 1167 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

My 2 cents to the Guide books.
add to all the average prices the say 25% and more,then you are on the safe side.
mostly books are not realy up date(can"t be)so I think it is better to calculat a trip more expensiv and not at the lowest.
positiv surprises are much better then the other way around.

there is also sometimes a big differenz if it is high or low season,keep this also in your minde,(Hostales,Tours,Guides,Flights)

8. Posted by bentivogli (Respected Member 2398 posts) 11y Star this if you like it!

I never quite detected the price difference between high and low season that Marlis reports; except for the REALLY touristy spots (mainly Cusco, Iguazu, and maybe Uyuni), SA tourist industry doesn't seem to make this distinction.

I second Becky on the choice for Footprint; admittedly, Shoestring has the better maps, and does equally well in the listing of sights, but the truly valuable info (busses, telephone numbers, opening hours) is simply better in Footprint, in part because the latest edition that I know of is more recent than that of LP...

Transport is not, however, expensive. Although prices are likely to have changed since I last did a big trip in 2004, I travelled Sao Paulo - BsAs with a big detour last summer, and spent less than a 100USD on transport; the Andean countries are generally even cheaper.

Mel's story about train hijacking sounds like absolute rubbish to me. I never heard it before, even searched the web for it, but nothing turns up. Don't let these baloney stories scare you off (not even the ones that have a grain of truth in them ;)). That said, you're not very likely to end up in a train, since SA hardly features any long-distance railway connections; most trains are for commuting purposes only.