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Traveling in South America - how much does it cost?

URUGUAY | Monday, 14 August 2006 | Views [42038] | Comments [31]

I last travelled in South America in 2006 so my entry is only a general guide to prices as they were then. Things may have changed greatly since I was there. For everyone who wants the most up to date information I can only suggest the Footprint guide the 'The South American Handbook' which has the most up to date prices on everything. Or check out the discussions on Lonely Planets Thorn Tree.

I've had a number of mails recently asking me how much does it cost to travel in South America, and although it's nice to hear from people I thought it may be easier to write one post everyone can read.

For this survey there are three expense zones in Latin America, the Southern Zone countries of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil are the most expensive although still affordable compared to Europe. These countries have a large middle class who travel on holiday within the region so costs can be pushed up significantly during holiday periods, particularly the Southern Hemisphere Summer months from Christmas through to March.

The Andean countries of Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador make up the second group, they are much cheaper to travel in and as most of them attract budget travelers, prices are competitive and there is a budget infrastructure in place.

The third group includes Venezuela, which I have not been to so will not discuss it further and the Guineas countries in the North East, which I again have not been to but which are reputedly very expensive, with French Guaniean having similar prices to France itself.

As an overview, my partner Louise and I have been traveling through South America since the beginning of the year, spending three weeks in Colombia, two months in Ecuador (including the Galapagos), two months in Peru, a month in Bolivia, and one month in Brazil. In the last few weeks we have been in the Paraguay, River Plate region. We do all our accounts in US dollars and have kept records of all our expenditure, traveling long term as we do it is like running a small business, you have to know where the cash is going. The prices listed below are for a double room with bath and dinner costs are for two people with a starter and soft drink, so are just a guide. If you are travelling alone or staying in hostels and making your own meals, then you can adjust things downwards. We also traveled in towns and cites by taxi for the safety and convenience. Most rides only cost between $1 and $3 in nearly all countries. Our budget is $70 a day for all our needs (including transport, food, phone calls, internet etc) for both of us, and for most of our time in the region we have managed to keep within that figure.

The Countries in descending order of expense.

Bolivia

A very cheap country, we spent an average of $56 a day, a figure pushed up by the number of tours we did. A hotel will cost you $12 - $16 a night, although we did pay $30 in one tourist town. Dinner will average $10 for two. Transport is very cheap, so cheap we often bought a third seat to put our bags on. A 6 hour bus journey will cost around $3.50 per person, a 24 hour journey $15. Alot of the big sights are only accessible on tours which are very cheap and usually good value but shop around. Click on these links for info and pricing on Salar de Uyuni, Rurrenabaque Pampas tours, and Posati mine tours.

Colombia

At an average of $48 a day this was a cheap place to visit. This is mainly because most of the accommodation aimed at tourists are hostels and we spent some time trekking which is very cheap. A hostel room for two varies from $8 - $13 and hotels from $7 - $26. A meal for two is around $12 - $16, and food is of a very high quality. Transport is also reasonable with a 6 hour journey costing about $13 for one person. What is nice is that Colombia is a very developed and sophisticated country, so you can have a good time here very cheaply. As things are settling down more Colombians are travelling around and more people visiting, so get there before the hoards. For more practical details click here.

Ecuador

We averaged $60 a day in Ecuador which was probably higher than it needed to be as we spent alot of time in Quito, which is a little more expensive. Accommodation ranged from $14 - $21 a night and dinner was from $10 - $16. Transport is very cheap, a 4 hour journey costs about $3.5 and an 8 hour trip, $6.

These average living costs include the three weeks we spent in the Galapagos, but don't include transport, fees or tours there. Click here, for info on how to see the Galapagos without blowing the budget.

Peru

The travelers favorite and with good reason, there is a lot to see and do here and at an average of $63 a day it's an affordable place. Accommodation ranged from $15 - $20 a day, although we paid $23 for a room in Cusco as it was particularly nice. Meals cost from $12 - $19 although you pay more for poorer quality in tourist places. We were there in May, outside the high season, which is in July, August and September when prices jump.

Our average includes our entrances and transport to Machu Picchu but do not include any tours. We did not do the Inca Trail and if you want to go on an organized trek in the region you will have to factor that cost in. We trekked extensively in the Sacred Valley (click here for an example) and in Colca Canyon organizing everything ourselves, which was very cheap and enjoyable.

Argentina

We have only spent a week in this country but it's been a pleasant surprise cost wise. We were last here just before the crash in 2001 when the peso was one to one with the dollar, now there are three pesos to a dollar. A good double with bath in Buenos Aires (with heating, very essential at this time of year) costs $24. With meals ranging from $10 - $20. Arriving in Buenos Aires is like arriving in Paris at a fraction of the cost, you can afford to loll around in cafes half the afternoon. Transport is fairly expensive at $35 for an 8 hour journey but you are served an airline type meal, including wine and champagne (I though I was dreaming!).

Paraguay, where we spent a few days costs about the same as Argentina, the same goes for Uruguay, where we are now.

Brazil

Now the screaming really starts, as this was the budget buster with an average spend of $86 a day. Accommodation ranged between $24 to $40 for a room with bath. Meals were from $12 - $40. Taxis were only for when we were carrying bags as the average was $8 a ride. In the cities we went by bus. Long distance buses, although good are expensive with you paying $40 - $50 for an 8 hour ride per person, and all the distances are long. Also beware of areas that are popular with Brazilian tourists as these can push costs up. We paid $50 for a basic room in Ouro Preto (our trip record) as it was weekend, and we were lucky to get that.

One way to cut costs is to eat at diners that where pay by weight, the prices are usually quoted per 100g. These are often only open for lunch so it will be worth making this your main meal. Basically you only pay for what you want and the quality is usually very high. It's worth noting that hostels are not a good deal in Brazil particularly if there are two of you. Usually you can get a better deal by looking around the hotels. For example in Iguazu Falls we stayed in a very nice three star hotel, with a gym and pool and a big breakfast for the same cost as the IH hostel was asking for a double room, which was just that, a room with a double bed in it.

Although you will pay to see some sights, like the Sugar Loaf in Rio, Brazil also has some quality sights like the public buildings in Brasilia and the Itaipu dam which have free guided tours.

Chile

I didn’t spend long in Chile so this is not a very comprehensive survey. Accommodation is pricy, $30 a night for a double in a hostel. Food is variable, eating out is for Chileans a special occasion, so it’s expensive. There are lots of Chinese restaurants where you can get a meal for two for under $20. Chile is junk food heaven and if you can subsist on Hamburgers and fries, then you will have a choice of promotions to choose from and eating for about $3. Fruit (not surprisingly) is cheap as is internet access. Transport will be the real killer as there is so much distance to cover. A one and a half hour trip to the coast was $6 each way, so heading down to Patagonia is going to cost.   

Travelers who will be in South America for a any length of time might want to consider joining the South American Explorers Club (http://www.samexplo.org/) which has clubhouses in Quito, Lima, Cusco and Buenos Aires. They also have discounts for members with lots of businesses in the region and can provide a lot of useful information as well as running talks and activities. A great place to meet people and very worthwhile.

If you are going to South America and traveling around the only guidebook worth taking is the 'South American Handbook' published by Footprint. This is the only guide that has the detail and depth you need and it is also the most up to date regarding costs and the quality of listings. Accept no substitutes; this is the only book you need.

I hope this is a useful guide, all comments welcome.

 

Tags: travel tips

Comments

1

This is GOLD!! thanks! I'm looking at travelling in a couple of months and wanted to know where my money would get me! I now have a budget to work on :-)
Love your work!

  Rozzi Dec 25, 2006 3:03 PM

2

Hi,

Thanks for your great blog. I'm going to south america for 2 months from mid july to mid august with two friends of mine. I guess it's a short stay but I can't get away from the "real world" for longer.

Anyway I was wondering why you'd prefer South American Handbook to Lonely Planets South America on a Shoestring because that's what I've bought and given a good reason I'll buy the handbook too.

Also I'd like to ask about our schedule, is it really way too tight and should we fly instead of using busses and trains.

So the trip is supposed to last two months. Most likely we will start from Buenos Aires and head then to Santiago and go up the coast trough Chile to Peru all the way up to Lima, then from there head to Cuzco. From Peru we are supposed to go to trough La Paz to Copacabana in colombia, then Santa Cruz and from there travel to Sao Paulo.

Should we fly some of the legs or should we altogether rething where we're going and maybe take Ecuador and Colombia to our agenda and fit them in somehow?

Any other things we should really consider?

  Mikko Jan 6, 2007 6:10 AM

3

Thank you for your comments. I’m a little confused by your itinerary. You say you are going through La Paz to Copacabana in Colombia, do you really mean Cochabamba in Bolivia? Copacabana is a beach in Rio. If you are then your route makes sense and practical in two months. If you want to get up to Ecuador or Colombia you are going to have to fly up, unless you want to spend a week on a bus. I would leave them for later; you will see some of the best of Latin America on your planned trip, no need to cram it all in.

Buenos Aires to Santiago and up the coast is fine but why are you going to Lima? Do you have a particular reason to go, the museums? Most people only go there because the plane lands there - most leave immediately. Going there will mean a long boring journey (of a couple of days if you go by bus) up the coast and you will have to backtrack to get to Cusco. Entering from Chile it would be better to go to Arequipa, a lovely city and go from there to Cusco. From Cusco it is easy to get to La Paz stopping off at Lake Titicaca along the way.

I have not been to Cochabamba but I hear it’s nice, if you are going to be in Bolivia I do suggest you make time to go to Salar de Uyuni, the most interesting sight in the country. Going from Santa Cruz to San Paulo overland will take several days on a bus, distances in South America are huge. The one advantage of going overland is that you can stop off in the wetlands region of the Pantanal, again I’ve not been there but its supposed to be a fascinating region. I assume you are going to San Paulo because you plane flies from there. I didn’t go there because I couldn’t think of a single reason to do so. If you want to visit a Brazilian city, go to Rio at least it has some world class sights to see.

The Lonely Planet Shoestring South America was published in March 2004 (I was working at LP at the time) and was researched in 2003, which means that the information in it is almost four years old. The South American Handbook (known universally as the ‘Handbook”) is published and updated every year. I was a contributor last year. The LP Shoestring guides are aimed at the budget traveler, which is fine if you are one but the Handbook lists everything and can be used at any budget level. The detail in the Handbook is simply overwhelming, it gives details of every bus from every town, the cost, the time it takes, everything. Every sight, town or village of note is included complete with details of where to stay and how to get there. I worked in travel publishing for a number of years and it was one of the few guidebooks that has an international reputation. There is really no contest; it is the only book worth carrying.

Simply because you had a good experience with a guidebook brand in one country does not mean that their books are as good for other parts of the world. Most guidebook publishers are better at some continents than others, usually the region they first started doing books for. Rough Guide are the best for Europe particularly the Mediterranean; Lonely Planet are very good in Asia, when I traveled in China, the LP guide was the only book to have and it probably still is; but for Latin America - Footprint is the only show in town.

  Will Jan 7, 2007 6:05 PM

4

Thanks for your quick reply!

Yeah, I mean Copacabana Bolivia, I guess I was tired when writing the question. I guess you're right that we shouldn't waste time going up all the way to Lima and just go trough Arequipa.

And yeah, our flight would leave from San Paulo but Rio is near it so that would be an obvious place to visit on the way.

Thanks for your suggestions on where to stop by. I guess we were pretty much at loss thinking about where to stop and what to see after leaving Bolivia for our flight in San Paulo, I guess wetlands it is then.

Thanks!

  Mikko Jan 8, 2007 2:44 AM

5

Hi brilliant blog, very helful! Could you please tell me approximately how much it would cost to get a bus from Rio in Brazil to the Bolivian border? And then from the south bolivian border to buenos aires argentina. Any help much appreciated. Cheers Luke

  Luke Feb 4, 2007 2:33 PM

6

Dear Luke,

I don’t know the price of individual buses as I have not done those trips myself. To find out this info I suggest you look in the Handbook, which lists all long distance buses. You should bear in mind that these journeys will take a couple of days, quite a long time to be on a bus and are likely to be quite pricy, Brazilian buses are not cheap.

There are quite a few budget airlines operating in South America now, especially in Brazil and flying may be a more cost effective way of traveling the long distances that you have in mind. When you’ve paid out for the bus fare and meals you may find that there’s very little in it. So unless you particularly want to see the scenery, check out the flight option.

Best
Will

  Will Feb 4, 2007 7:01 PM

7

Thanks so much for this info, you hav no idea how helpful (and inspiring)it has been. I am ravelling from Australia to Central America (doing a tour from Guatemala - Costa Rica) from Costa Rica my partner and I planning to head to Ecuador for a tour to the Galapogas, then Peru, Bolivia to Uruguay (where we have family) and plan to take in Argentina and Brazil at our own pace from Uruguay. Our schedule is pretty tight from Costa-Rica to Uruguay and I am a little concerned as we are doing it on a backpackers budget. I am more of a prefernce to book flights/transfers once there rather then from an agent back here in Oz as I just wanted to take all as it goes if you know what I mean (I have given myself about 6 months to do in total) what is your opinion on this? Is it better to have flights and date's booked from city to city here or is it just as okay to make flight bookings/transfers once there? Also, have you heard of the Sth American Air Ticket, a few people have told me this is a great tool for use in Central/Sth America....
Maree, Sydney Australia

  Maree Apr 8, 2007 11:38 AM

8

Hi Will,
I've enjoyed reading your journals. My boyfriend and I are travelling to South America in June. We are visiting some friends in Colombia for a couple of weeks and then on to Chile to work at El Colorado for the ski season. We would like to go to Argentina and Brazil during the month of October. Do you have any tips for in country flights?
Jeri Lyn from Angel Fire

  Jeri Lyn from Angel Fire New Mexico May 28, 2007 2:21 PM

9

Dear Jeri, Good to hear from you.

The internal networks in Brazil and Argentina are very good, with a couple of budget start ups in each country, based on the US/Europe model. Getting between countries is not always as cheap and straightforward though, there is for example no route between La Paz and Manaus, and you may have to fly expensive dog legs.

I travelled on GOL in Brazil which was fine, one to avoid is Varig (if they still exist) which was on the edge of bankruptcy when I was there. In Argentina, Aerolineas Argentinas (AA) the state airline is one of the big players. If you fly to Argentina on a AA flight you can get discounted fares on internal flights, if you book them in advance.

As a foreigner you will not be able to book budget flights online and so get the cheapest fares. In Brazil, no airline will accept a foreign credit card for an online order, and that includes foreign airlines for flights outside the country. I tried to book on South African for a flight to Jo’berg and this was rejected. In Argentina, when you book online you have to put an Argentine ID card number on the booking, which is checked against the ID card at the Airport. The only way to book is at a Travel Agency, which can be quite competitive, so shop around. Booking in person is still very common in Brazil, and even the budgets have walk in offices on the main streets. In contrast, I don’t know why airlines have offices in Argentina as they don’t seem to do anything like sell tickets, I was always told to go to a travel agency.

Check your details when you are at the airport and getting on the plane. We assumed that our flight was called when the crowd surged forward, the stub checker didn’t look at our stubs so we and all the other foreigners got on the wrong plane. Luckily this was sorted out before it took off.

Hope this helps, as ever, details, websites and routes can be found in the Handbook.

  Will May 30, 2007 11:37 PM

10

Camping Kit in South America

Hi Will,
My partner and I will travel thru South America for at least a year starting August 2007. We will be budget backpackers interested in meeting locals, seeing natural life, trekking, and taking our time. In all of my research your blog is by far the most informative site I have come across. I have a question - Do you recommend that we bring a tent, sleeping bags, and a camping stove for independent treks? We are concerned about additional weight but want to get off the beaten path.

Thanks,
Jocelyn
-----------------------------------------------------

A good question and we have some experience of your problem. We cut down on the amount of stuff we carried though Central America and had our sleeping bags and blow up mattresses mailed to us in Quito (from friends in the US) before we started exploring the Andes. We had to pay $100 to get them out of customs but it was worth it as we carried them for the rest of our trip, and they were very useful trekking and in places like Salar de Uyuni.

We also decided to buy a tent in Quito, which we used trekking in Ecuador and Peru. It was a lot of weight but it was good to know that we had a tent that was in good condition and that we knew how to put it up quickly. At the end of our trekking we sold it to a kit shop in Cusco.

Did we need to carry all this stuff? A tough call, certainly money wise we were out of pocket on the tent. It all depends on how much trekking you plan to do. Towns like Quito, Huaraz and Cusco all have shops were you can hire kit and if you are only going to do one or two treks then you will be better off hiring tents and mattresses. Always check it out in the shop, put the tent up if you can, you don’t want to discover that a vital pole is missing halfway up a mountain. I always like to have my own sleeping bag, would you sleep in someone else’s dirty sheets?

We also carried a stove, which we’d bought in Seattle. This was just the burner head, which was small and very light. Try and get a make that fits the more common types of canisters. Gas can be bought all over the region, so there is no need to carry canisters, accept on a trek. They can’t be carried on aircraft. Don’t buy Colemans, it may be big in the US but the gas is difficult to find elsewhere. You can buy stoves in the trekking towns, but they can be large, clunky models. White Paraffin (Kerosene) stoves are more eco friendly, and will be much cheaper to run, but your kit will smell of it for ever. Things like pots and mess tins can be bought locally, there’s no need to carry them.

You could take pot luck and buy everything when you get to the region. The larger trekking towns and places down in Argentina and Chile have great outdoor stores, with new, good quality kit for sale. The prices won’t be so very different from at home but at least you won’t have to carry it there.

Will


  Will Jun 1, 2007 12:24 AM

11

Dear Will

My husband and I will be traveling to South America for only one month and would really like to visit Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Do you think this is possible with our short time and which route and attractions would be best in this short time period.
Also thanks for your info, it is very informative. Any comments will be helpful and greatly appreciated.

Aloha, Ilima

  Ilima May 23, 2008 7:02 AM

12

Hi,
I am traveling to Ecuador in the Spring of 2010 and trying to plot a trip further south to either Peru or Chile. What i am most curious about is how to get from Ecuador to Chile? Is it easy to rent a car and make the drive with an easy exit point back to the USA? I would very much like to drive the coast a bit and make two stops over night. Any ideas? 3 nights in ecuador, 2 in Peru, 3/4 in Chile and then fly back to the USA.

Any input is greatly appreciated.

  Chris Oct 9, 2009 7:37 AM

13

Hi Chris,

Am I right in thinking you are planning to drive from Ecuador to Chile in a week? Get a map and look at the distances, you will spend almost every waking hour driving.I don't know about taking hire cars across borders I've never hired a car in South America, it's one of those regions were I wouldn't want to. Look at my post on 'The real risk in Colombia'.I do know that it's easier to hire cars in more developed countries like Chile and Argentina. It would be far better if you chose one country or region and explored that.

Best
Will

  Will Oct 9, 2009 5:23 PM

14

Hi Will

This really is amazing information, thanks so much for taking the time to share it with everyone. I'm guessing from the first post that this was a few years ago now, do you know if prices have fluctuated much? I know there will probably have been a little increase.

Also where do you think is a good country to start in?

Finally......what was your favourite place, somewhere you'd definitely go back to?

Thanks for any help,
Sara

  Sara - England Jan 14, 2010 8:07 PM

15

Hi there Sara,

Thanks for you comments. Things will be more expensive now, as I’ve discovered having just come back from a trip but this is mainly due to the lower value of the Pound, which means you get less money for your quid in most parts of the world.

Check out my post 'South America - The Highlights' for more info on my favourite places. If it’s your first time in South America – Peru is a great place to start, lots of world class sights and good tourist infrastructure.

I certainly want to go back to South America; places I’d like to see are the Colombian coast, and the southern tip of Chile/Argentina. My favourite place is probably Mendoza in Argentina and the area around it, one of the few places outside the UK where I felt I could live.

I hope this helps, Best

Will

  Will Jan 14, 2010 10:05 PM

16

G'day Will,

You've just come back again?
I've found the original budget info really helpful!

Just wondering if you went back to the Galapagos?
The wife and I are off next month, haven't booked the tour yet - been told by several people it's best to wait till Quito before booking...any tour companies you can recommend?

We're also checking out BA, Iguazu, Rio, Pantanal, La Paz, Salt flats, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Lima, Panama, Costa Rica....and relevant updates or recommendations would be hugely appreciated.

Cheers,

Steve.

  Steve Jan 25, 2010 11:54 PM

17

Steve,

I've just been to SE Asia and have not been in South America since 2006. For up to date information on prices and everything else, get yourself a copy of the 'South American Handbook' published by Footprint - the bible for travel in South America. Or check out the chatter on Lonely Planets 'Thorn Tree', there is usually someone online who is where you want to go.

Best
Will

  Will Jan 26, 2010 12:21 AM

18

how much would it be for 2 days in america

  natasha Mar 23, 2010 1:27 AM

19

Thanks for your blog- its absolutely ideal as im trying to work out my budget for a month in South America this summer and getting an idea of internal bus travel costs has been the most difficult. Really helpful and much appreciated :)

  Jonathan Jan 6, 2011 4:30 AM

20

Hi,
I found this very helpful in planning my trip. Thankyou. I was just wondering what currency you were talking about when you said dollars?

  Em Jul 7, 2011 5:50 PM

21

US dollars. I know there are others but this is the only one that counts, particularly in South America, but in most of the developing world I've found that anyone that has any interaction with travellers knows the price in US dollars. Ecuador (and Panama) use the US$ as their everyday currency.

  Will Jul 7, 2011 11:43 PM

22

Hi Will,

Thankyou very much for your inspirational and most importantly helpful blog. I am wanting to go to South America next year with my partner for about a month and as it is not alot of time, I want to experience as much as I can!
Where would you suggest going to for the month? Must see's?
And also a rough guide for a month for money (food, accomodation, transport, tours etc)
Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks Will

Alex

  Alex Aug 15, 2011 7:07 PM

23

I am a single female, age 21, planning this trip from BA to qutio.

Is it common for single females to travel there?

Sarah

  Sarah Feb 1, 2012 6:00 AM

24

Hi Will!!

Big thanks for the info here :) I'm planning to go to Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Brazil maybe next year when I can fix my schedule.

Anyhow, I do have a question. What is the best way go from one country to another? Train? How much did it cost??

Thanks a lot! :)

  Marc Jul 3, 2012 10:29 AM

25

Hi Will hair wondering if your still active on this forum?

I've been thinking about traveling to South America in general for sometime now
I'm from Aussie I'm 21 is it safe enough to travel by myself? Or do you know any
Ways of meeting other young people interested in traveling here?

I've traveled most of south east Asia but that's about it.
Thanks
Terry

  Terry Nov 30, 2012 6:35 PM

26

Hi Terry,

Yes I’m still following messages on this blog. I’ve on a trip at the moment, check out my website at: www.grahamwilliams.net to see what I’m up to. As for going to Latin America, if you can cope with South East Asia you can cope with South America. Check out my post about ‘Security for travellers’ which I wrote just after leaving South America for some tips on staying safe. As for meeting people, I would head for the country with the most travellers, which is Peru and take it from there; also take on board my comment about the South American Explorers Club, which have clubhouses around the continent, including one in Cusco. Check out their website and also Lonely Planets Thorn Tree website, another good place to find friends. I hope this helps.

Best, Will

Writing from Anjuna, Goa.

  Will Dec 2, 2012 3:06 AM

27

Thanks very much mate I will do! Have a great trip

  Terry Dec 5, 2012 1:12 PM

28

I just started reading this conversation due to the right google search at the right time! A pie in the sky idea that has now evolved drastically from the original thought has now turned into potential south/central America travel plans for spring 2014. (27 year old female traveling alone at this point.) Thanks for all the comments, I'll be looking through more of your posts and articles as I start planning. I'll be getting a copy of the Handbook. My big question for right now is what do you consider the best tour book/ backpacker/budget guide for Costa Rica and/or Central America. I'd like to start the trip in Costa Rica. I did a school tour 10 years ago as have been dying to go back. But I don't know where to start as a solo budget traveler.

  Linzi Jul 30, 2013 4:48 AM

29

Dear Linzi,
Thanks for getting in touch. Can I assume that you are travelling to Central America from the USA? If so I would suggest maybe starting your trip in Guatemala and heading south from there. Guatemala has a huge amount for the traveller and from there you could head through El Salvador to Nicaragua, which I thought was the country the most untapped potential for travellers, some great places to visit and nice people. Costa Rica and Panama to the south are the most developed for travellers and easy to get around but don’t ignore the countries to the north. Antigua and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala are both worth a week of anybody’s time as is Granada and the Lake Nicaragua region.

Which guidebook? This is difficult, there has been much debate in the UK recently after big lay offs at Lonely Planet, as to does the guide book have a future? I certainly think so; unfortunately many companies like LP have spent alot of money thinking digital but not making it work, while their books have become very poor indeed. Myself like most people on this forum travel in places where you can’t always get that internet/phone connection (try most of India) and where a guide book is still essential.

I would consider the Footprint guide to Central America, they are leaders in the region and having used their India guide last year, they have upheld their standards. I’ve not used them myself but you could also look at Moon guides, they are an American company and write for an American market but they have a good reputation in areas popular with Americans, like Central America.

So, buy a book, start scheming but most of all – do it.
Best

Will.

  will Jul 31, 2013 12:59 AM

30

Hi Will,

Thanks! I've started with Footprints Mexico and Central America 2009 because that's what the library had and I was eager to start reading! I'll have to get the updated versions asap. the South American Handbook 2014 is coming out in November. Do you think its worth waiting for that one before I purchase a copy? or will 2013 do. how much is likely to be updated for the next version?

I'll be traveling from Vancouver BC. I'm going to my cousin's wedding at an all inclusive close to Puerto Vallarta the 3rd week of January. My idea is to stay there and keep going! (backpack style, no more all inclusives!)

This might be ambitious for a budget/backpacking first timer, solo woman, but here's the idea: (keep in mind I have done precious little research yet of places not to miss, routes, etc.)

Starting after the wedding, head south. not sure about flying straight to Guatemala or busing through Mexico. Might depend if I find anything I want to see in Mexico. Then go through Central America, both coasts, hitting major sites and outdoor activities/tours I'm interested in. (I'll figure out a route that gets me to what I want to see. basically I want to try continuing south without backtracking north, while still seeing everything on my list across east and west, if that makes sense logically and practically)

Then when I hit South America, head down the Pacific coast, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru etc. I really want to go all the way south in Chile/Argentina because I think it would be really cool to go as far as I can go and look out to Antarctica. Is it worth it? How about Falkland Islands, anything to see there?

After that, head north along the Atlantic coast (not just coast of course, but hitting the eastern countries). after Venezuela I thought I could complete the circle and go through all those little islands (probably picking a few and not actually ALL) do they even do ferries/flights island to island? Jamaca, Cuba? (how is traveling in Cuba these days?) Do all those island countries have their own guidebook each? Is that area backpacker friendly? and then ending up in Cancun or Miami to head home.

Is that just insanity? or can it be done?

Linzi
(I've just barely skimmed the surface of reading and researching, and can't wait to check out more of your journals. Here's a question: do you make a living as a travel writer/photographer/specialist? do you have a 'day job' in between trips to finance your next trip? Does this site and others employ you to keep up to date and share your suggestions with fellow travelers, or do you do it for fun? is there any room in the field for an inexperienced writer to review accommodations and attractions for guidebooks? If those questions are too personal, please ignore them!)

  Linzi Jul 31, 2013 11:24 AM

31

Dear Linzi,
I’ll work through all your questions.

Firstly, its worth waiting for the latest edition of the Handbook, so hang on until November.

What you don’t tell me is how much time you have and what kind of budget? To put this in context, I spent fifteen months travelling from the US border to the middle of Argentina. If you plan to do you entire trip in two months, its going to be difficult and expensive, a year to eighteen months, you’re probably going to make it. If you set to hectic a pace you are going to be spending alot of time on buses, its’ best to choose spots where there is alot to see and do, and then move on so you are not travelling every couple of days. I spent a month in the Cusco area and three weeks on the Galapagos, for example. Check out some of my answers on this thread concerning flying around the region.

Most of what you want to do can be done. I’ve been down to Patagonia but not to the deep south. Patagonia has dramatic wild country and is worth exploring. Remember that if you get there in the ‘summer’ July, August, it’s going to be very cold. There is probably no way you can fly to the Falkland Islands and little to see when you get there.

Heading up to the North East of Latin America, you’ll notice on maps there were is very little in the way of communications north of the Amazon. The Guinea countries are difficult and expensive to travel in and I’ve not been there. I know people who have but they usually flew directly from Europe. I had planned to go to Venezuela but didn’t go in the end. This country has an unpleasant reputation and of the people I’d met who had been there, every one of them had been robbed – by the police!

Regarding the Caribbean islands, most of them do have individual guides and you should be able to get flights to most of them, most likely from Panama and Mexico. I have been to Cuba, about ten years ago for a two week trip from Europe. I liked it very much but it’s not very backpacker friendly. Surprisingly, public transport between cities is not plentiful, everyone hitch hikes here, so you are reduced to taking ‘private’ hire cars to get about which is expensive. Tourism is geared towards resorts not independent travellers. Apparently this is even more the case on Jamaica, outside the resorts and tours, travel is difficult and risky.

I have never made a penny from my writing I just do it for the fun of it. I have updated lots of guidebooks, including the Handbook, and you can too, just don’t expect anyone to pay you anything. Even the authors don’t get much, when I worked at Lonely Planet I was shocked by how little they received and on really restrictive terms. I’m lucky at the moment in that I can work for a while, save some money then go on trips. In the last four years I’ve spent at least a couple of months travelling in each of them. I worked for three months at the beginning of this year so have taken the summer off, so I’ve spent a month on Crete, I’m going to Germany next week and will be in Spain a week or so later. Then I will have to find a job that will see me through the winter. I’m lucky in that I have a wonderful supportive partner, we own our house and she earns alot so I don’t have to worry about the utilities. It’s not the kind of lifestyle you can have if you accumulate baggage – children, mortgages, career aspirations etc.
I hope all this helps,

Best, Will

  will Aug 1, 2013 2:30 AM

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