Need help with planning a six-week trip?

Old Jan 13th, 2015, 09:50 PM
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Need help with planning a six-week trip?

Hey everyone,

I plan to visit South America for six weeks. I am travelling with my sister, and I am more keen on doing countries such as Chile, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru rather than Brazil and Argentina (for another time perhaps).

We will pretty much be budget travellers, and this will be our first trip to South America and our first trip travelling together. Both of us are in our early 20's. We're not exactly seasoned travellers, but we like roughing it and exploring new things

There are only two times in a year that we can take this time off - either December and January or June and July. Which time would be recommended for the countries I have mentioned above? We like tropical beaches as well as history and architecture, so we'd want to go in a time when both are accessible to us. Hot weather doesn't bother either of us.

I don't know if 6 weeks is enough for the four countries I've mentioned above, so I'd be fine with cutting one of them out - if you all feel the time isn't enough to properly explore each country. I definitely want to do Peru and Bolivia, so it would be a toss up between Chile and Ecuador. Although I'd love to explore the wildlife of Ecuador, in particular the Galapagos, I've heard that visiting the Islands is very expensive. Any tips on affordable excursions to the Galapagos?

Also, what is the safest way of travelling through these countries? I don't think we can afford plane tickets through each place - besides I doubt smaller towns will have connectivity. And is there any chance of taking trains between countries?

Finally, any tips you'd have for 2 female travellers to this part of the world would be much appreciated! Especially with regard to safe but budget accomodation, and also any off-beat places that we should visit.
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Old Jan 14th, 2015, 12:47 PM
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You will probably want to read crellston's blog (I'm sure he will be along in a bit) as well as some of the posted trip reports under each country (you may need to be on a "real" computer to see the orange book symbols). For the most part there is no train service, there are a few lines remaining which primarily serve tourism. The usual alternative to flying is long distance bus travel.

However you will also find local airlines that are not as expensive for some flight legs, eg TAME in Ecuador or some of the local Bolivian airlines. Getting from Ecuador to Peru there are several options to combine flights in Ecuador with bus trips across the border to Peru.

In order of expense, Bolivia and Ecuador are the least expensive, and Peru and Chile the more expensive. With 6 weeks I might exclude Chile if you are on a budget.

I like the Footprint guidebook series and crellston recommends Rough Guides.

Also, I would probably not look for beach time except in Ecuador, I don't think it is worthwhile in Peru or Chile (cold Humboldt current).

December/January is the start of the rainy season but warmer and is beach time.

June/July is colder and drier, especially in the mountains but will be foggy on the coast. I wouldn't go to Patagonia during that season, but people do visit the Andes (Peru/Ecuador) since the weather is clear and it's a better season for hiking there.

Highlights for many would include Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, L Titicaca, and the big cities La Paz, Lima, Quito. Downtown Quito has lots of restoration of the colonial churches (although after a while you will get "churched out". In Ecuador there are smaller towns such as Latacunga, Otavalo, etc with nearby volcano/lake circuits.

Some of the off the beaten path places in Peru include Chachapoyas (a 10 hour bus ride from Chiclayo) and Ayacucho which has really only recently reopened to tourism (and you can fly from Lima). Sucre in Bolivia is a town that has a big student population, interesting cultures nearby, and many enjoy spending more time there.

You can do land-based touring and take ferries to some of the islands in the Galapagos although it's still expensive.
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Old Jan 15th, 2015, 04:34 PM
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Mlgb has given you some great advice and I pretty much agree with everything said - except the choice of guidebook !
Here is a link to the blog of our trip which covers our 6 month trip in 2103 mostly around Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador with bits of Chile and Argentina.

We could have covered the same ground in less time but we stayed for a month in Lima and a couple of weeks in some other places. Lack of planning on my part also meant we took and unintended diversion to Santa Cruz , Bolivia ( not worth it)

With six weeks I would probably suggest you limit yourself to two or three countries, possibly Peru and Bolivia, maybe Ecuador as well.

Peru has a well developed tourist infrastructures and is really easy to get around by bus but the odd flight is also advisable Lima - Cusco. A massive number of iconic sights to see.

Bolivia is the least developed and one of the most amzing places I have ever been to. It is the cheapest palce to visit and great value.

Ecuador has the advantage of being cheap and small. It's size means that you rarely have to spend more than 4 hours on a bus to get to the main sites. It is often described as South America in miniature as it really does seem to have it all, mountains, beaches and jungle in a neat, small, package.

Personally, I wouldn't bother with the beaches. Stick to the mountains and jungles

Of the choices given! I would be inclined to travel in June July.

As far as safety is concerned, the most important thing to pack is your commonsense. SA is as safe as anywhere I have travelled. Take care of your belongings at all times, don't where flashy jewellery. Don't wander around with IPhone in hand. Use atms inside bacpnks rather than on the street. Don't accept drinks or food from strangers, especially on buses.the list is endless but have a look at

Hope this helps. Fire away with any other questions that may occur.
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Old Jan 15th, 2015, 04:43 PM
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LOL crellston.

I just booked a trip leaving in less than two Bogota via FLL, nothing is planned.

My usual MOI> Got a good fare from LAX, less than $400 R/t.
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Old Jan 17th, 2015, 03:40 PM
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Sound great mlgb. Columbia s high on the list for next year so I am eagerly awaiting your report. As comprehensive as possible please!!
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