Almost four months have passed since we started traversing the roads of South America, starting from Buenos Aires, Argentina all the way to Quito, Ecuador. In that short period of time, we went whitewater rafting, came face-to-face with modern day dinosaurs, raced up Macchu Picchu and almost froze to death in the Uyuni Salt Flats. The adventures we’d had exceeded our imaginations. South America is one hell of a continent with diverse landscapes and untouched humanity.
Here’s a quick look back at the past few months. For those who are finding their way around, here’s our approximate route and trip details.
Travelling by Land
In South America, the cheapest and easiest way to get around is by land transport, be it crossing the border or traversing a mountain. Flights are outrageously expensive in Latin America. Argentinean regional buses put European transport to shame – imagine airplane-style business class seats but moving on wheels! To save transportation costs in Argentina, we purchased the South Pass ($160 for 14days of unlimited national bus rides). There are options to extend it to neighboring countries as well.
Bus travel in Bolivia is a whole different world, roads are unpaved and buses are definitely of a lower standard. Still, it’s an interesting way to see the country. Expect to pay $1 for a 3-hour ride. Tickets need not be booked in advance. In Peru, buses are cheap and good, check out Cruz del Sur, a bus company that covers major routes. Getting transportation to Macchu Picchu can be tricky, check my post for details.
The only time we flew in South America was from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands. The short 1hr flight cost us $117.90 each way on TAME. Other than that, buses in Ecuador are also comfortable and cheap, especially the buses that go from Guayaquil along Ruta del Sol to Montañitas.
In our three months through South America, we spent approximately $6,000 each. That’s not to forget we are still heading to Central America after this. We’ve kept our expenditure to a minimum, staying in basic hostels, eating at local eatery and avoiding tourist traps. The main things we spent on were adventure tours into isolated places that were unreachable on our own (Uyuni salt flats, Macchu Picchu and Amazon Rainforest).
You could easily cut your budget down by couchsurfing, which I personally enjoy a lot but as a couple, we chose to stay in hostels. Another way to save money on your trip is by using a flight aggregator like Skyscanner to research your flight options on different airlines.
Most crossings are relatively quick and easy and don’t require any fee. You can always exchange currency right after the customs, and rates are fairly good. The only crossing we got stuck at was Argentina-Bolivia frontier at La Quica, where hordes of people cross the border on a daily basis. Other than that, the Bolivia-Peru crossing at Copacabana was easy enough on a bus we booked from La Paz. From Peru to Ecuador, we took a CIFA night bus that took us straight from Mancora to Guayaquil, fast and easy.
I personally will never forget coming face-to-face with the uninhibiting animals of the Galapagos Islands, how sea lions were always part of the picture-perfect backdrop. The colorful Uros tribes of Lake Titicaca in Peru came in a close second, as we visited their floating homes and soaked in the open skies and extensive lake. Another highlight would be getting all wet under the massive Iguazu Falls – almost like an Indiana Jones adventure. Not to forget, trekking through the dense Amazon Rainforest – priceless.
What We’ve Missed
From the map, you can see that we really haven’t covered much of South America, and we’d missed out entire countries like Chile, Brazil, Venezuela and Columbia. We definitely hope to make it there in the near future, hoping to dedicate a month to each of these countries.
We’re moving on to Central America next, first heading to Guatemala from Ecuador to attend a travel writing course organized by V!VA Travel Guide. Then we’ll be making our way around Guatemala before heading to Belize and finally Mexico. You’ll be hearing from us soon!