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Need help with travel plan to Peru, Bolivia and Chile - depart 30 Jan

Need help with travel plan to Peru, Bolivia and Chile - depart 30 Jan

Jan 21st, 2014, 09:12 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 8
Need help with travel plan to Peru, Bolivia and Chile - depart 30 Jan

Hello, I was hoping to get some advice from the experts in South America, in regards to my upcoming trip to Peru, Bolivia and Chile. It's a last minute decision to travel from Asia to South America, and so I don't have a good idea yet in regards to itinerary. Also, as I will be single female traveler, I wonder if there's other travelers that will be in the region around same dates, to plan together?
I tried contacting agencies but turned out to be hugely expensive as they were proposing partly private tours...so looks like it will be free and easy, but there are a lot of excursions, esp Peru and Bolivia which I am hoping to get an agency to help, esp with the transfers (too short time unfortunately to do it entirely on my own with public transport). Any advice on itinerary, recommendation of agencies?

Tentative itinerary:
January 30: Arrival in Lima, Land Lima evening time from Singapore
January 31: Lima
February 1: Lima-Cusco - Flight Lima to Cusco
February 2: Cusco-Sacred Valley-Ollantaytambo
February 3: Ollantaytambo-Machu Picchu
February 4: Machu Picchu-Cusco
February 5: Cusco-Puno
February 6: Puno-Lake Titicaca
February 7: Puno-La Paz
February 8: La Paz
February 9: La Paz-Uyuni
February 10: Salar de Uyuni-Isla Inkawasi
February 11: Isla Inkawasi-Awakisa-San Pedro De Quemes
February 12: Laguna Colorada-Laguna Verde- San Cristobal- Uyuni
February 13: San Pedro de Atacama-Calama
Flight Calama to Santiago
February 14: Santiago
February 15: Santiago-Viña del Mar and Valparaíso
February 16: Santiago
February 17: Santiago
February 18: Departure day, Flight Santiago to Lima + Flight Lima back to Singapore (evening departure)
I wonder if I have put down too many days in Santiago. Any advice for Chile?
So far, I have only the first 2 nights hotel in Lima booked, as well as flight from Lima to Cusco.
Appreciate any recommendation!
Thank you in advance.
Leveline2014 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2014, 06:15 AM
Join Date: May 2004
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Looks like a pretty good itinerary. ( I assume you are aware that it will be the rainy season in the mountains?) I would only make a few suggestion:

1. feb 5 - take the Inka Express from Cusco to Puno. Takes around 8 hours but stops off at 4-5 places of interest and lunch along the way. I think it costs around $40 now. The only reason to go to Puno is rally the trip on the lake and Uros floating islands. There is an alternative which I prefer....
2. spend and extra day in cusco and get a night bus right through to Copacabana on the Bolivian side and take a half day trip to Isla del Sol. Overnight there and get the bus to La. Paz about midday teh following day. Copa is a much nicer place to stay than Puno, particularly as you are alone female. The Bus ride to La Paz is spectacular and reason enough for making the trip.
3. San Pedro has a lot to see and do but it is a very expensive destination and I guess you will have seen a lot of lakes and volcanoes in. Bolivia. Make sure you book onward tickets to Calama in plenty of time ( I.e. On arrival)
4. I think you have too Mach time in Santiago, but I hesitate to suggest anywhere else's as I don't know that part of Chile well. Valparaiso is a great city and we spent several night there and didn't get bored. vVina del Mar is very nice too but really just another seaside resort, although we did go hors riding there which was a great experience ( even if I am hopeless on a horse!)

As for tour operators/ travel agents, kanoo tours in La Paz have a good reputation and, although we didn't use them, they were very helpful to us. wwww.andeantravelweb.com as some good, relatively unbiased advice on tour operators in Peru.

It is relatively straightforward to book all this yourself either in advance or on the go but you are short of time so and agent may be your best bet. Using a local agent rather than one in your own country will save a considerable amount. Although do be wary of wiring money to anyone and use a credit card if possible.
crellston is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2014, 07:10 AM
Join Date: Dec 2008
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I only know Peru, but I've always booked everything except the first nites and last nite in Lima in country, where you'll find everything a bit less expensive, as Crellston says--if you're on your own, that will be easier to do. Once you get to Cusco, you will find there are lots of travel agencies where you can book a tour through the Sacred Valley that will drop you off at Ollantaytambo. However, you might want to take a cab or the bus (if it goes that far) direct from the Cusco Airport to Ollantaytambo, as it is at lower altitude than Cusco so adjusting to the altitude will be easier.

Advice from a Peruvian: when you get to the mountains, don't eat anything your first day and do very little. Maybe a bowl of soup at nite. Otherwise, altitude sickness may make you sick for days. I've a friend from Sri Lanka who ignored that advice and was sick for a week, spoiling her entire trip to Cusco.

As to your schedule, you'll want another full day in Cusco (as crellston says) at the end of your time there. Cusco is one of the most interesting places in the world, and has lots to do right there.

First time I went to Peru, stayed at a hotel where there were lots of single women (lucky me!) who were hooking up to go to Cusco, etc., together, and during my trips met quite a few other pairs and groups of women who had met in country and were going around together. So even if you don't meet someone on this board chances are you will meet someone when you get to Peru.

Crellston is right that this is not the ideal time of year to go to the mountains.
dwdvagamundo is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2014, 08:57 AM
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It will be the rainy season in Cusco and in the Salar de Uyuni. In Cusco this just means that you can get very wet, but can also mean mudslides which can interrupt transportation, including the train to Aguas Calientes. I would take a day or two off Santiago and add more there to get flexibility.

As far as the Salar de Uyuni is concerned, it can be very beautiful when the salar has reflective sheets of water on it but it also means part of the salar is usually not accessible so tours do not include all options and, more importantly, the pass on the way to San Pedro de Atacama can close. On Feb 12 you have Uyuni as the end of that visit but you can also be dropped at the border with Chile and go straight to San Pedro. But, if the tours are not running on the dates you have because of weather issues, then you need to have a Plan B for getting to Chile.

I would leave the extra days you have for Santiago in case you need them somewhere else. If everything goes smoothly, there are plenty of day trips from Santiago.

February is the busiest month of high season in Chile. Finding somewhere to stay in Santiago should not be that difficult but finding somewhere in San Pedro de Atacama, Viña del Mar or Valparaíso could prove very difficult indeed.
Huentetu is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2014, 07:28 PM
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@ Crellston - Many thanks for your great advice and I'll definitely look into your recommendations. I am also thinking time in Santiago is too long. I originally was thinking to add Easter Island, but decided to remove from itinerary after knowing the flight hours from Santiago and back...
I probably will then cut Santiago by a day, and add an extra day in Cusco. Will look into Copacabana too. Quick question on San Pedro, do you know how people travel from San Pedro to Calama? And how long it would take? I was advised to take the flight from Calama to Santiago. But I wonder if we can fly from San Pedro to Santiago instead, if there's not much to see in Calama?? And lastly, I'll reach out to Kanoo Tours. Thanks for this recommendation!
Leveline2014 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2014, 07:35 PM
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@ dwdvagamundo - Thanks for your tips on diet and low activity once in the mountains. I live in Singapore where everything is absolutely flat, and therefore do get worries about high altitude sickness. Noted re. your advice! Thanks very much.
And it's also encouraging that I'll be able to find friends/travelers on the go!
Will definitely add one more day now in Cusco - done!
And last but not least re. weather, a friend/colleague told me to go to Bolivia South around this time as it's amazing, but yes, I only found out it's rainy season after booking the long haul. Hopefully it won't be too bad...I only have February, where I can travel 3 weeks...

One last question - is there a lot of pickpocket/armed robberies in Peru and Bolivia?
Leveline2014 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2014, 07:40 PM
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@ Huentetu - Thanks a lot again for the tip on plan B, after Uyuni, to go to Chile. Will add extra day, in case there were delays...due to wet season.
As for Viña del Mar or Valparaíso, I was thinking of doing day trips only, and spend the night back in Santiago. Will look into booking.com, for options on 2* hotel.
Do you know Santiago well? If I was to book a hotel, which neighborhood is more convenient? Center of Santiago or somewhere else? Thanks!
Leveline2014 is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2014, 09:36 PM
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There are shuttles from Calama airport to San Pedro called Licancabur. It is about 1.5 hrs to get to SP.

Don't use booking.com. Book directly with the hotel. Many hotels will offer the tax free price (19%) on hotel room bill if you pay cash dollars or with a foreign credit card. Stay in Providencia or Las Condes near a metro stop. If you short list a few hotels I can recommend. Also if you name a budget, it helps. 2* doesn't really mean much here. US$80-US$100?
Huentetu is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2014, 12:04 AM
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Re travelling from SPA to Calama. As Huentutu pints out itvis peak season in Chile and places will be busy. We were there over a Chilean holiday period in September and found it very difficult to get seats on a bus to Calama. A few people we met had to stay in the town for a day or so longer than planned.

Here is a link to our blog covering our recent trip around some of the places to are planning on going which has a bit of detail on how we got from place to place ( although we did take a different route into. Chile via NW Argentina.
crellston is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2014, 08:52 AM
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Re theft: I was going to say that I would be shocked if there were any armed robberies of tourists in Peru. BUT just found: http://clearcausefoundation.org/2013...broad-in-peru/ So avoid travel at nite and out-of-the-way places. BTW--I wouldn't worry about the Shining Path because you're not planning to go anywhere they're active. Also, see the advice below re not carrying anything that looks like it is of value.

Peruvians are on the whole sweethearts. My first time in Peru, someone snatched my camera on the last day. I had put the strap around my neck under my sweater. someone came up behind me, slashed the strap and ran off with the camera. BUT I had been warned by people on the street about the camera at least ten times before it happened, so I have only myself to blame.

Don't know anything about pickpockets.

Some general advice to avoid pickpockets and thieves: Don't carry a purse or bag; don't bring any jewelry; lock your valuables, credit card, ATM card and passport in the hotel safe rather than carry them on the street (keep a copy of your passport on your person); whatever of value you do carry on the street, carry it in a moneybelt or under clothes bag on a strap around your neck under your clothes (and make sure no part of it shows) and don't access it in public.

No matter where I am, I carry a little currency--well under $100--and a credit card in my front pants pocket. I carry my ATM card only on the days when I am going to withdraw cash and then go right back to the hotel to lock the card and the excess cash in the safe. I carry my cell phone elsewhere on my person where it would be easy for me to know if someone were trying to get it and try not to take it out except at the hotel. Walking around talking on a phone both distracts you from watching what is going on and is an invitation to be robbed of your phone.

There is one crime that you should be aware of and an easy defense: It is not unknown (and used to be somewhat common in Peru) for someone you meet to put something in your drink or in your food which will knock you out. Then they rob you or worse. Quite a few years ago I read about a group of four or five German tourists in Cusco meeting a friendly stranger who took them out for drinks one night. The group woke up in an alley the next morning and all their belongings had been taken.

My Peruvian friend warned me about this before I went to Peru and told me NEVER to accept any food or beverage from a stranger (who does not work at the bar or restaurant) and NEVER to leave your drink on the table at a restaurant while going to the bathroom. This appears to be more common now on trains in Italy than in Peru, but I'd still be very careful. It's difficult to insult someone who seems to be trying to be your friend by refusing a drink, but do it anyway.

Again, don't know about Bolivia except from the State Department site, but I'd be more concerned about it than Peru because of civil disturbances. Last trip to Peru, we had planned to go to Bolivia but cancelled because of disturbances and went to Nazca and Pisco instead. So I'd ask around in Lima and Cusco before going up to Bolivia (and maybe check the US State Department website for any travel warnings or advisories (none currently), and be prepared to change your itinerary if necessary.

I don't want any of this to scare you off. If I were offered the opportunity to take your trip, I'd go tomorrow!

Buen viaje!
dwdvagamundo is offline  
Jan 27th, 2014, 02:04 PM
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Bolivia is one of the safer countries in South America, but you do need to allow extra time and flexibility for a number of reasons (including road-blocking protests). Actually the same can be true around Cusco and Puno in Peru. Usually the protest activity is publicized ahead of time.

Generally in Peru the biggest risk for robbery or theft is at the airports, bus stations and in taking an unsafe taxi. Try to arrange your airport transfers through your hotel if possible, and watch your stuff.
mlgb is offline  
Jan 28th, 2014, 05:45 PM
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Thank you all for the kind replies to my additional questions and apologies for slow reply. I was in a remote location the last 4 days with no access to internet
Leaving on the trip tonight, very excited except for the 30 hours flight from Asia through Europe to South America...

@ Huentetu - oh thank you. I only know how to use booking.com but noted your comment on reaching out to hotels directly. So providencia or las condos area in Santiago. Okies. Budget...hmm...I'd like to spend $60-75 for a night...Be great if you have one or two hotels to recommend.
Btw, do you happen to know if there are budget airlines in Chile? I am trying to book a one way ticket from Santiago back to Lima, and it's almost $600 one way. I have left it too late to book? There's only LAN, or is there another airline I can search? Thanks.

@ crellston - thanks and will try and book the bus to Calama right now, just in case. And thanks for sharing your travel blog. Will definitely read this on the go!

@dwdvagamundo - thanks for all the safety tips. Got a money belt already and had no clue about people putting something on drinks or food. Will be extra alert!

@ mlgb - will arrange transfers from airport and buses. Noted as well!

Almost ready to travel to South America. Yay!
Leveline2014 is offline  
Jan 29th, 2014, 03:39 AM
Join Date: Mar 2006
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Check Hotel Las Flores in Providencia. Hotel Loreto in Bellavista. The Hotel Ciudad de Vitoria in the center. All have websites.

You can try SKY Airlines as an alternative to LAN. They have a smaller fleet so delays are more common but they are usually cheaper. The closer to a date that you want to fly, the more expensive it is.
Huentetu is offline  
Jan 30th, 2014, 09:06 AM
Join Date: Jan 2014
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Leveline, you have ready your reservation for your stay in Peru with an agency.
juancarlosvasquez is offline  
Jan 31st, 2014, 04:11 AM
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Thanks all. Yes, Peru and Bolivia is now sorted, I'll need to arrange Chile right now.
Only got my flight there to Santiago. I will need to book flight back as well as hotel stay. Will check out Las Flores and Loreto...
Tried SKY but they don't accept one way online booking for international flight, strangely enough.
My long haul back to Singapore departs Lima at 9pm on 18 Feb, and so I was thinking to book afternoon flight from Santiago to Lima to arrive around 5pm, but maybe safer to book to return to Lima the day before? What do you think? Considering the delays story etc...
Leveline2014 is offline  
Jan 31st, 2014, 09:39 AM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 2,435
!Buen Viaje!
dwdvagamundo is offline  

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