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To backpack or do a tour?

Melbourne, Australia
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To backpack or do a tour?

I'm a 23 year old girl and I'll be travelling alone through South America in August time. I'm very conflicted as to whether to do a G Adventures tour around South America or to do it on my own and meet people in hostels. I'll be in the U.S. for 2 weeks then do South America for about a month and wanting to visit Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Columbia.

I know it can be much more dangerous than Australia but I've also been told that a lot of girls travel alone. I did a contiki in Europe and as much as I loved it I prefer to constantly be meeting new people rather than getting stuck with the same people for a month. On the other hand a tour seems much safer and everything is already organised so I won't have to take too much time finding the right buses, tour guides, etc.

Can anyone provide any advice?

Thank you in advance!

Rio de Janeiro, RJ
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1. Re: To backpack or do a tour?

There's no poblem on doing by yourself, backpacking. This is valid for all the countries in South America. You'll find many other people doing the same -- just avoid going off the beaten path.

Medellin, Colombia
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for Panama City
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2. Re: To backpack or do a tour?

You can certainly do it yourself, hopefully you speak some Spansh, you will meet a whole different group of people doing it yourself, i would guess a tour group would be older and have more money.

If you enjoy the backpacker lifestyle and hostel living is fine with you - skip the tour.

UK it's a OK
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3. Re: To backpack or do a tour?

Six countries in 30 or so days.that's either a lot of time spent on buses or waiting around in airports.

My advice would be to spend the whole 30 days backpacking around Colombia but if you are set on the various countries a contiki, exodus, dragonman etc organised tour would be best as they'll take you direct to places both off the beaten path and in tourist centres. The trade off will be stuck with the same people for half or all of your tour.

Bogota, Colombia
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4. Re: To backpack or do a tour?

Hi! I'll have a month of traveling in august as well, starting from Colombia. Maybe we should get acauainted and look for other backpackers together. Let me know.

Amsterdam, The...
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5. Re: To backpack or do a tour?

What a great time you have ahead of you.

But the countries you mention merit a month EACH.

If you want to rush through a lot of destinations in a short time, then indeed an organized tour is better because everything is already arranged. If you go backpacking yourself, some time will be lost arranging hotels and buses and all that.

But even with a tour, 30 days for covering that much ground (don't forget how mountainous it is!) is kind of killing. you will need a holiday after your holiday! ;-)

If I had to make a choice it would definitely be Bolivia and Peru which are easy to combine, though 30 days is still very little for two such huge countries.

I mentioned the mountains because you are from Australia and you may be used to long distances, 3000 kilometers may not daunt you at all, but in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia it can easily take 8 hours to cover 300 kilometers, just because it's so mountainous and the roads are curvy, and it's hard for buses to overtake slower trucks on those curvy roads with hardly and view ahead. So sometimes you ride at 30km/h going up a steep mountain for a long time.

Using flights is also an option just so long as you know that flying across borders is quite expensive within South America (for example US$500 for Bogota - Cuzco), whereas flying *within* a country can be affordable at about $70 or $100.

Safetywise, indeed you need to be aware of the dangers, so do your reading up, even if you travel in a group. People in groups also get pickpocketed or worse. In fact being in a group can give people a false sense of safety and they stop being alert.

So I guess it is up to you what is most important to you:

- either wanting to see loads of destinations in loads of countries

- or wanting to be flexible and on your own, meeting people along the way... but seeing less destinations... but also having more time to actually enjoy the ones you do see! I know what I'd prefer... :-) Less is more! And just go back for the rest on future trips.

¡Buen viaje!



Edited: 05 July 2014, 14:14
London, United...
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6. Re: To backpack or do a tour?

ditto everyone else. it takes an incredibly long time to get anywhere here, and inter-country flights are expensive. domestic flights more affordable--have a look on skyscanner, but they miss out some airlines.

cruz del sur is a good bus line, and their website will give you an idea of the time required.

peru and bolivia are good ideas for one month. they are fairly cheap and peru at least has good tourism infrastructure, so if you want to see something, there's a tour.

7. Re: To backpack or do a tour?

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