Backpacking in South America - Tips, Advice, etc. (Locations, Luggage)?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by CalPoly10, Feb 2, 2009.

  1. CalPoly10 macrumors regular

    Sep 5, 2006
    Hello everyone. Long time lurker/user here.

    I am planning on backpacking South America with a good friend of mine. We plan on leaving in early July, and returning late August or early September.

    A little background: We are both semi-fluent in Spanish, but we have no skills in Portugese. We're both 21 year old males from California. Very easy going, comical guys. We both study engineering at Cal Poly, and just want to go and have a good time and see the world.

    We'll be leaving from Los Angeles (LAX), and that's all we know as of right now. I'm pretty sure we'll be flying in to Rio de Janeiro, and stay in that area for about 6 days.

    Here's a list of what we'd like to see/go:
    Iguzu Falls
    Santiago, Chile
    Buenos Aires, Argentina
    La Paz
    Lima, Peru
    Cuzco, Peru
    Macchu Picchu (we will be hiking the trail)

    We don't know where to start initially, best methods to get around, other hot spots to see, what to bring, etc.

    I think we will fill in the gaps on getting around/what to see as we come closer to the date. I think we will be buying a one way ticket, and returning when we both decide to sometime in late August.

    I need advice on:

    What would be a good backpack? I won't bring my laptop, but maybe my iPhone, and definately a nice camera, as well as clothes/necessities.


    Couch Surfing (if anyone knows what i'm talking about)



    Whatever you Mac Rumor people have to offer. Hopefully someone has advice.

  2. Peterkro macrumors 68020


    Aug 17, 2004
    Communard de Londres
    A back pack with a Canadian flag sewn on it may be prudent.
  3. Macky-Mac macrumors 68030


    May 18, 2004
    some quick comments;

    La Paz........start working on getting your visa, the political situation there has made it complicated for US citizens to enter Bolivia

    You'll need a visa for Brazil too so make sure you get that taken care off in a timely manner. (you can do that at the Brazilian consulate in Los Angeles, probably the fastest way. Check their web site for the application).

    Lima....a huge and not particularly interesting city that you can skip without feeling like you've missed anything important.....but then maybe it'll be where you get a plane home.

    Machu're aware the Peruvian government limits the number of people that can hike the trail at any given time? I was sittin in a bar in cuzco last october and met this guy who was about to start his hiking trip to MP. He said he and some friends had tried to get permits for the trail back in july and found that october was the earliest they were able to get them due to high make your plans early

    Cuzco is quite interesting but plan to spend some time in the Sacred Valley as well. Pisac, Ollantatambo, Chinchero et al are all interesting places, and the valley is extremely beautiful.

    Consider a visit to the city of Arequipa in southern peru. There's a great historic district in the old colonial part of the city.

    And maybe you should consider Lake Titicaca? Especially if you get your Bolivian visas settled, since you can travel by bus from La Paz to Cuzco

    Getting around; Air travel for long distance hops; there are very few trains in South America. Bus travel is an inexpensive and popular way to get around in South America so read up on it. They have different classes of service including some that'll be better than you can get in the US.

    Regarding your airplane're probably going to find that you'll need a return ticket to get into some of the countries down there. It seems to me that I had to present a copy of my to/from ticket in order to get my Brazilian visa.
  4. maestrocasa macrumors regular

    Aug 16, 2007
    Somewhere on the Buffalo National River
    + 1 on this. Sad though it may be, being an american isn't all that popular in most of the world right now. I've heard from many international backpackers that this is a wise approach. I've also heard that an Alaska flag is good too. I guess Alaska is so far removed from the rest of the U.S. it's hardly american. :)

    Some friends just got back from Machu Pichu. Go if you can, but plan early for access passes.

    get seriously good boots. don't scrimp on that part. I have some Danner Mt. Light Hikers. All leather, waterproof, recraftable, excellent support. Take 2 or 3 weeks to break in, and cost $200+. worth every penny!

    Have a great trip!
  5. AppleMatt macrumors 68000


    Mar 17, 2003
    I did the same. He wanted to go South America, me Fijian islands (to dive) so we made a deal and did both. I'm so glad he convinced me though, it's an absolutely amazing place, you'll love it. Good idea to travel together as-well, there are hundreds of times when you need to quickly drop your pack and do something, which you simply couldn't do if you were alone.

    I'll try give you the best tips I can:

    Semi-fluent in Spanish should be fine, we both spoke pretty poor when we went but picked it up very quickly. You get an infinitely better reception when you at least try. One hiccup is that they tend to speak very, very quickly in Bolivia.

    No no no. Everyone (I mean everyone)who goes there first regrets it, they blow all their money and change the rest of the travel plans to stay there longer. I'm in no way exaggerating, literally every person we spoke to said the same. Can you not have this as your last stop?

    As for your list:
    Iguzu Falls - amazing, don't miss it.
    Santiago, Chile - ok, I found it a bit dirty and not a lot to see/do.
    Buenos Aires, Argentina - didn't go here. Apparently beautiful.
    La Paz - Brilliant, as is all of Bolivia. Definitely bike 'the worlds most dangerous road'.
    Lima, Peru - not a lot to see here either.
    Cuzco, Peru - yep, lovely.
    Macchu Picchu (we will be hiking the trail) - The above posted is right, it can get booked up, but to be honest we never heard of that. Depending on how much it means to you, personally I'd wait until you're there to book any trips. We found, to our great cost, booking things 'in advance' costs hundreds of dollars more and is often difficult to find 'obscure named travel company' on a random backstreet of a country you don't know. Much easier to walk into a town, ask where a tour agency is (there are hundreds, it's a massive revenue stream for the area).

    It's impossibly easy to get around. There are taxis, bikes, buses (careful on these) everywhere. It's teaming with transport.

    I'd recommend spending most of your time in Bolivia, there's so much to see and do, from amazing lush scenery right down to heart-wrenching poverty (people giving rotting bones from bins to their children was a low point for me). Also stay overnight on a floating island on Lake Titticaca; watch how they build them, the politics of why they're dramatically increasing in number etc.

    Large camping backpack with lots of pouches, front access etc. You'll find you need certain small things all the time, so pockets are good. If you're going to the jungle make sure it's got an integrated waterproof cover that you can 'pull over' it ('waterproof' backpacks don't suffice).Take no more than two sets of clothes. They're going to get destroyed, and you can pick up three t-shirts for $5.

    Every now and then pop into an internet café and give them your camera memory card. They'll stick the files onto CD for you to post home (cameras are a hot item, there's a good chance someone will try to steal it, or you'll drop it in dust, or rain etc)

    Don't use travelers cheques, you'll pay for the exchange twice (sometimes three times) and in some towns you'll find no-where will exchange them.

    Couch surfing is risky in the poorer countries, you might find your iPhone goes missing in your sleep. I'd keep it hidden when you're out and about too.

    STAY TEN DAYS IN THE AMAZON JUNGLE (with a very good guide). It's probably the hardest thing you'll ever do, and will strain your relationship to breaking point but it's completely worth it - waking up to massive paw prints two feet from where you were sleeping (on the floor) is a feeling you can't describe.

    You buy one travel guide (lonely planet) and get him to buy another (rough guide). These will answer all your questions. Really, all of them.

    I could talk about this all day, so I'll leave it at that.

    edit: and goto Salar de Uyuni too, but if you're staying overnight prepare to be so very cold (the salt holds no heat). If you go Patagonia, write a will. That's killer cold.
  6. essica macrumors newbie

    Oct 29, 2009
    Thanks a lot!!! I didn't knew what to take either, I'm going in a peru tour to arequipa, nasca,ica,puno and last but not least cusco! so I guess I'll have to pack some summer clothes and winter s for cusco and puno

    thanks again:)!

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