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South America Trip questions

Bern, Switzerland
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South America Trip questions

Hi!

I'm planning to spend my holiday in south america with a friend. It's the first time for me on the continent. Travel time is 3-4 weeks in June/July.

As of now I only have a very rough idea, which is why I'm writing here to get some of your experience and ideas along the way :)

Our idea was to start in Santiago and then head north to La Paz/Cusco/Lima (Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru). Must-see for us: Salt Flats in Bolivia and Machu Picchu.

Now here is a bunch of questions we already have:

- What do you think are the must-see/do's along the way? If we are into nature, hiking and national parks? Does someone maybe know route descriptions which cover this already?

- Is it enough time for this distance?

- We are not yet sure where to end the trip La Paz/Cusco/Lima. What do you think what is best to fly back to Europe and also in therms of things to see along the way? Is there alot between La Paz and Lima?

- How is the best way to do this trip? Are there buses and are they good? Can you reach also more remote National Parks with them? Or better with a hire car? Is it possible to rent a car in Chile/Argentina and return it in Peru/Bolivia and at what price?

- I know our summer is winter in south america. But is it still a good idea to travel then and what to expect in therms of temperatures?

- Will we need any special vaccination for this region?

- Is it hard to zig-zag the Chile-Argentinian border? In therms of time, cost and visas?

- Last but not least, I don't speak spanish. Is this a big problem or do most people understand english? Or will it be necessary for me to get at least crash course in spanish?

Cheers

Edited: 08 April 2014, 08:26
Mentioned in this post
Santiago
Santiago
Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
La Paz
La Paz
La Paz Department, Bolivia
Cusco
Cusco
Cusco Region, Peru
Lima
Lima
Lima Region, Peru
Peru
Peru
South America
Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu
Sacred Valley, Peru
Bern, Switzerland
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98 posts
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1. Re: South America Trip questions

Another question just popped up:

Is there a lot good stuff between Santiago and Salta? An idea was also to maybe spare the drive and just fly. Or maybe even start in Buenos Aires and fly from there to Salta.

What do you think? What is the best way to outline this trip?

Mentioned in this post
Santiago
Santiago
Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
Salta
Salta
Province of Salta, Argentina
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Capital Federal District, Argentina
London
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2. Re: South America Trip questions

First things first. Flights - you seem to have a rough idea of what you want to see so I would first investigate an "open jaw" ticket. Maybe fly into Santiago and out of Lima. That way you won't have to worry about backtracking your route. We got good fare from LHR to Quito and back from Lima last year and it worked well.

Flights back from. La Paz to Europe tend to be expensive and not that frequent when compared with other SA cities.

Another way to do it would be a circular flying into Lima down to La Paz, maybe Northern Chile/ Argentinal, Uyuni before heading back north to Lima via Puno, Cusco etc. The variations are endless.

One thought, having seen your second post, is to fly into BA, maybe take a quick side trip to Iguazu before flying to Salta and entering Bolivia via El Quiaca and on to Tupiza and do a Salar tour from there.

3-4 weeks is not a lot of time to see all you mention so you will have to be selective, distances are vast and transport infrastructure although reasonably efficient, does take time. Buses vary with the country - Peru's are very good, Bolivia as one might expect, are somewhat more basic. Nevertheless they are a great way of experiencing the country.

Everyone has different views of what they want to experience / see but for me, the must sees in Bolivia would be Uyuni, La Paz to Copacabana and, if you have time Madidi National Park for a rainforest experience. In Peru, Cusco and the Sacred Valley, Arequipa/Colca Canyon, Lima. I could easily spend teh 3-4 weeks just seeing those places but you could squeeze in a few more. One of the attractions of this part of the world is that travelling between the various places is almost as good as the places themselves as the scenery is so breathtaking. Other favourite places in that part of the world include NW Argentina and Arequipa which I suppose could be included at a push. Probably the best thing you can do is to get a generic guide to South America and tick off what YOU really want to see.

As for renting a car, anything is possible but I don't think it is worth the hassle and expense which will be considerable.

Speaking a few words of Spanish will enhance your trip immensely and, can be essential in some places e.g. At least take a phrase book with you and there are also some good APPS online that will help you learn the basics.

Here is a link to my blog covering our trip to this region last year with details of our route, photos and more info

…travelpod.com/travel-blog/…tpod.html

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Santiago
Santiago
Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
Lima
Lima
Lima Region, Peru
Quito
Quito
Pichincha Province, Ecuador
La Paz
La Paz
La Paz Department, Bolivia
Puno
Puno
Puno Region, Peru
Cusco
Cusco
Cusco Region, Peru
Salta
Salta
Province of Salta, Argentina
Peru
Peru
South America
Sacred Valley
Sacred Valley
Cusco Region, Peru
Arequipa
Arequipa
Arequipa Region, Peru
Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon
4,949 Reviews
Arequipa Region, Peru
San Miguel de...
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3. Re: South America Trip questions

You are trying to do way too much in 3/4 weeks. The best time to visit Chile and Argentina is the southern summer (ie Dec-Feb), but the southern winter is best for Peru and Bolivia, with the exception of Lima. It's cold but also sunny and generally clear.. You could just about fit in both in your time frame but you would still be rushed and have to miss highlights such as the Nazca lines, Arequipa and the Colca Canyon. I had six weeks for the itinerary below and it still felt rushed.

Fly in to Lima, then fly to Cusco, spend 5/6 days in and around the Sacred Valley including MP (prebook train and entrance as it's peak season), tourist bus to Puno takes one day, then on by bus to Copacabana in Bolivia, bus to La Paz, fly from there to Sucre, then bus to Potosí and Uyuni. The salt lake tour is two full days from there. Overnight train or bus back to La Paz and then fly back to Lima for your flight home. You'd have to plan this very carefully to fit it all in!

You cannot rent a car in one country and return it in another.

English is not widely spoken (on the salt lake tour I was the only Spanish speaker and had to interpret for everyone else!), but the above is the popular gringo circuit so you'll get by with very little.

If you have a European passport, none of these countries require a visa or reciprocity fee.

No vaccinations are required but it's always a good idea to have the usual tetanus etc.

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Peru
Peru
South America
Lima
Lima
Lima Region, Peru
Nazca
Nazca
Ica Region, Peru
Arequipa
Arequipa
Arequipa Region, Peru
Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon
4,949 Reviews
Arequipa Region, Peru
Cusco
Cusco
Cusco Region, Peru
Sacred Valley
Sacred Valley
Cusco Region, Peru
Puno
Puno
Puno Region, Peru
La Paz
La Paz
La Paz Department, Bolivia
4. Re: South America Trip questions

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