Touring multi-countries on Bus - Am I Crazy?

Jan 14th, 2014, 09:39 AM
  #1  
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Touring multi-countries on Bus - Am I Crazy?

Hi, I am single and have travelled many countries in several continents, but none in South America. My retirement is approaching so the time will not be an issue anymore. Since I have time and so many countries I would like to visit, I an thinking about flying into, say, Quito, for example, and tour the South America large cities an small over two months on buses between the cities and the countries. The countries I would like to visit include Ecador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil. Am I crazy? Or is it doable in terms of availability of inter-country bus lines and safety of this type of travel on buses? I am thinking of carrying a 50 Liter backpack and utilize airbnb type accommodation whenever possible. I have been learning Spanish over year and a half using Pimseuler method. Going to Spain for 6 weeks this April, and that should help. Any advices, thoughts, or comments?
tominrm is offline  
Jan 14th, 2014, 10:38 AM
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No you are not crazy. Or, if you are then I am too! We did two trips two South America travelling almost exclusively by bus. In 2008 we covered Argentina, Chile, Peru and Uruguay over 5 month and last year we spent 6 months starting in Ecuador and travelling through Peru, Argentina and Bolivia.

You can check out the detail of our trips on our blogs http://blog.travelpod.com/members/candcthai - around The World and Back To South America. I won't pretend it was all straightforward but we lived to tell the tale!

Having done it with a 60 litre backpack weighing in at 20+ kg and once with 40lt @ 10 kg I know which one I will choose next time! There are plenty of buse companies to choose from including some which cross borders. crossing borders is generally a bit of a PITA but keep your wits about you and all will be fine.

happy to answer any specific questions you may have
crellston is offline  
Jan 14th, 2014, 10:51 AM
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Aren't we all???

Crazy about travel, I mean.

LOL!!!
avrooster is offline  
Jan 14th, 2014, 05:27 PM
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LOL totally agree with above comments, if you're crazy then all of us are crazy too! I think you will find the busses as one of the best ways to experience South America! We also used AirBnB extensively in Argentina and Brazil and had wonderful experiences and strongly encourage this over a hotel. The only thing I see crazy is not including Bolivia on your list of countries - that is the one I wanted to visit the least (my wife really wanted to) and it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip.

The other caution I would throw up is bussing around Brazil. We went all the way from Salvador to Rio taking the bus and although it was completely fine, we didn't know a lick of Portuguese and it got interesting and at times a little nerve-racking trying to get around, especially up in the Bahia area. But still worth it all - so amazingly beautiful there!

I had an 80L backpack and my wife had a 65, I wish I had the 65 - 85 was simply overkill and although nice for souvenirs, if I did it again I would have gotten a backpack/daypack combo. Remember you can always buy what you need on the road, so I think your plan with the 50L pack is totally doable - just pack smart and you should be good!

I am finally getting around to posting our trip reports and photos - I'm only up to the Brazil part of our trip, but should hopefully have the rest done in the next few weeks. Here is the work in progress if you are interested (will have a couple posts about busses soon): www.whynotletsgo.com

Enjoy your adventure!
posty is offline  
Jan 14th, 2014, 09:11 PM
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I (retired female) am another crazy. Year before last I spent a couple of months traveling from Rio to Santiago, mostly in Patagonia, much of it on the ground.

For my TR see: http://www.fodors.com/community/sout...-patagonia.cfm

Or, with pix: http://mytimetotravel.wordpress.com/...-taste-of-rio/

Totally agree about traveling light...
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 15th, 2014, 04:41 AM
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It the only way to see the continent! The buses in Chile and Argentina are pretty luxurious. Big leather seats that recline until you're almost horizontal!

There is always someone to help you carry your bag for a small tip - so I wouldn't worry too much.

Have fun!
RobMD is offline  
Jan 15th, 2014, 05:35 PM
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Wow, thank you very much for all the info. I will visit all those blogs to prepare myself for a trip to remember for a long time. when I use buses to travel from one country to another, it is almost impossible to skip a country in between. So chances are likely I will start from Quito, Ecuador, and then go through Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Brazil. I have this feeling even though I have never been to that Paraguay and Uruguay are Western Europe countries transplanted in South America. Should I make an effort to go there too?
tominrm is offline  
Jan 15th, 2014, 10:55 PM
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I know nothing of Paraguay but Uruguay has a. Very European feel to it ( a little like Argentina). We travelled down from Iguazu stopping at Salto, Montivideo and Colonia so didn't really see a whole lot of the country, but what we did see, I liked a lot. The countryside reminded me a little of my childhood in the English countryside i.e. Lots of rolling hills and cows!
crellston is offline  
Jan 16th, 2014, 05:29 PM
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As you develop your plan, be sure to look at weather. Some climatic conditions can be a surprise, eg fog along the Pacific coast, flooding in the Amazon basin, landslides in the Andes. These become more critical when traveling by bus, especially at night.

Also look for cultural festivals that you might work in to your route. You should be able to find this info on official tourism websites.

I would try to allow at least two weeks per country. So max 4 countries in 2 months. Even so you will feel like you are scratching the surface. Peru and Bolivia in particular are much more diverse than typically presumed if you grew up in a Eurocentric country.

I like the Footprint series, and Fodors South America guide is good for deciding what to see.
mlgb is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 08:04 AM
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I am very happy for those who are fortunate to travel extensively while much younger. I wish I could have done it that way. Fortunately I had a job that required me to travel quite often to Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Clive and Carolyn, how do you do it?

Early retirement is a good idea, too.

migb, what you said makes a lot of sense. Maybe I will make two trips instead of one and spend more time in smaller towns. Besides, the continent streches long north and south, so, I think, the climate differences will be significant between them. What is the good time of the year to visit the northern part (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, etc.) and the southern part (Argentina, S. of Brazil, S. of Chile)? Since I plan to use a backpack, I cannot carry all 4 season clothing, and I would like to avoid the peak season.
tominrm is offline  
Jan 17th, 2014, 01:21 PM
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Brazil: suggest from april to early june, or september to november. Not so hot, not so cold, lower prices. Southern part is colder than the rest of the country, specially in winter.

I've been in Buenos Aires in april and had great weather. Santiago was very cold, at least for brazilian standards. Don't know about the lakes region.

Best time for Bolivia and Peru - from june to early september.
luademochila is offline  
Jan 18th, 2014, 09:52 AM
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For Bolivia and Peru I would go in April/May or September (right when fares go down) to November. May is probably my favorite month in the Andes since it is still green and the rains have tapered off. Early September is also nice although brown.

This avoids the trekking/high tourism season. If you go off season, are retired and not planning on doing any big hikes you can avoid the June-August madness, which comes with dry but cold temperatures.

I went to Puno (Lake Titicaca) with a Thanksgiving Day crossing in to Boliiva. November gets periodic intense thunderstorms but the temperatures are warmer. The trip to the Salar in November worked out quite well, didn't need a sleeping bag and there were dramatic clouds but no rain hit the ground. On the bus ride from Uyuni to Potosi, that was another story. Horrible intense storm on a night bus, don't do that! Take a day bus whenever possible.

The weather in Lima varies from miserable to miserable. I prefer the overcast season (May to November). November/ December is okay on the coast, fog should be lifting but when the sun comes out Lima is hot and humid (at least to this California resident). I did the coast south of Lima this past September, continuing by day bus to Ayacucho, and avoided the rains (which crellston got!).

If you click my name you'll get my trip reports which should detail the weather and month.
mlgb is offline  
Jan 18th, 2014, 12:48 PM
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I am not sure this is the right place to ask. I have read more than once about "visa fee" in this S.A. Forum. Do all SA countries require U.S.citizens get visa? If so, i understand it is quite stiff, can i get visas before leaving the U.S instead of going through a hassle at the border especially on buses?
tominrm is offline  
Jan 18th, 2014, 01:04 PM
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If you have a USA passport:

Perú you don't need a visa, just fill in tourist card.

Brazil, you need to obtain a visa in advance from a consulate. You need to leave your passport with them, so leave ample time. Duration varies.

Chile, you pay a reciprocity fee of US$160 if you fly into Santiago on an international flight. You don't pay at any other entry point in the country. Good for the life of the passport.

Argentina, you pay US$160 online before you arrive. It doesn't matter where you enter the country or by what method of transport. Good for 10 years, even in an expired passport.

I think you need a visa for Paraguay but not really familiar with what you need.
Huentetu is offline  
Jan 18th, 2014, 01:27 PM
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Bolivia also requires a visa, I believe it is still $135.

I live in Los Angeles so did it in advance, it took 48 hours if dropped off in person. As far as I know it is also possible to do it at a border.

Ecuador doesn't have an entry visa.

Be sure to note that there may be steep airport departure taxes for international flights, which should be included in your ticket. It may save you a bit to fly out of an airport that doesn't have such a hefty fee.
mlgb is offline  
Jan 19th, 2014, 03:51 AM
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You can get the Bolivian one at the border but do look up what you need to have with you (photos etc).
Huentetu is offline  
Jan 19th, 2014, 07:38 PM
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Boy, when I was travelling a lot a few years ago, I thought paying $50 for a visa to China was a lot because most countries I travelled to at the time like Western Europe or Asia, it was free (no visas required). Only those former Soviet Union countries, China, and African countries required visas/fees. $160 or $135 is a lot of money for a visa.

By the way, what is the difference between visa fee and reciprocity fee? Whatever it is called, high fee will not stop me from visiting the country. I guess the citizens of those countries have to pay that much to visit the U.S.
tominrm is offline  
Jan 19th, 2014, 08:26 PM
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"I guess the citizens of those countries have to pay that much to visit the U.S."

Exactly. That's why there are reciprocity fees and why many visas cost more for US citizens than others. (And it's not just fees, often would-be visitors have to show up in person at US embassies for interviews even if they live hundreds of miles away.)

A reciprocity fee is just a flat out fee, whereas for a visa you may have to prove that you're a desirable visitor by filling in forms and getting vetted.
thursdaysd is offline  
Jan 20th, 2014, 12:12 AM
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All this talk of Reciprocal fees makes me glad I have a UK passport and that our government hasn't gone down that route. Instead, we have the highest airline/ airport taxes of anywhere so I guess we all pay the same one way or another...

"Since I plan to use a backpack, I cannot carry all 4 season clothing,"

Oh yes you can! We travelled with just carry on only. Bag weighed in at around 10 kg and was easily stowed on planes and buses etc.

http://www.fodors.com/community/trav...ry-on-only.cfm

Will probably take even less the next time.


"and I would like to avoid the peak season." As other have pointed out, the peak seasons and good weather vary with the coast, mountains and location so can be difficult to work out a route which is optimum in all respects. Personally I would try to avoid rainy season in the mountains as it really does rain and land travel can be a tad difficult.
crellston is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2014, 10:31 AM
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Thank you all for helping me out. The next big question I have is about the bus route. If I start from Quito, I do not anticipate finding buses that will take me to Cuenca. Then what? If I want to go from Cuenca, Ecador, to, say, Mancora, a northern coastal city in Peru,how do I know there are bus lines that serves the route without a major detour? (I just looked up a map and other travel site to find the city of Mancora - don't know anything about it other than its location close to Ecador.) Will finding bus lines be difficult? Having never been to those countries, I am a little concerned. If I am fluent in Sanish, I suppose I can get around one way another, but I am not that fluent even though I am practicing everyday.
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