A short travel guide on South America

Rio de Janeiro by Travel Jaunts

It would not be incorrect to say that South America has been attracting people from all over the world for centuries.  The earliest ones were the explorers, and then came those who built colonies all across the continents; and today it is the tourists who visit the continent for tour and travel. The uppermost concern remains the same, that of safety. Most of the countries in South America today are stable democracies with free media and where human rights are upheld. Personal safety, although a concern for everyone, is not much different as for any other country in Africa or Asia. As a matter of fact, in certain places in certain countries the crime rate is no worse than any country anywhere else. Although safety issues differ from place to place and some countries may be considered safer than others.

 

Is it safe to travel to South America?

This is a very popular question, and the answer is an emphatic “Yes”. It is recommended to have a travel insurance policy covering theft, loss, accidents and illness.  By planning every leg of your travel to include several alternatives for transportation, food and sightseeing and taking common sense safety precautions; you can avoid trouble or minimize the risks. For instance, any involvement with drugs may lead you into great trouble. You should be wise enough to steer yourself clear of such potential hazards. Fake taxi operators too, pose a great risk which you can avoid by using taxis recommended by the hotel, using radio taxis wherever available and hailing only government registered official taxis. While traveling in buses, you should take extra care to ensure that your luggage is safe, and keep your purses or bags on your lap instead of putting them on racks or under the seat.

Most of the South Americans are warm, friendly and welcoming; and South America with its beautifully diverse and stunning sights is one great destination which is as safe as any other place on earth.

 

What is the best way to travel in South America?

There is no single best way to travel in South America, but a judicious mix of travel option will make your trip more efficient, productive and comfortable as well as save your money and time. South America is a vast continent and it has an extreme diversity of landscapes. Transport options, therefore, will not be based much on personal preferences but according to the requirements and need at hand.

Airplane: Flying is the best and only option in case you want to see as much as possible of the famous destinations across the continent in a short time. Airplanes can take you from a destination in one country to another in a few hours instead of days of travel by train or by road, especially considering the mountain ranges and topography of the land. There are regular commercial flights for hopping from a capital city to another, or well known urban cities. Also, remember that certain remote destinations like certain famous islands and iconic falls are best served by air. There are small planes and air taxi services for these destinations.

Train: Trains provide a safe and comfortable transport option across several scenic routes of South America.  Although the train network is not very extensive, yet you can still reach far-flung remote destinations in Argentina, Brazil and Peru by trains. If available, you should always give preference to this mode of travel as it is not only economical, but comfortable and safe.

Bus: Bus travel is the easiest and most popular form of transport. While long-distance buses operated by good companies are modern, air-conditioned and have reclining seats; this is not so with short distance buses in rural areas.  However, if you can bear the discomfort and crows for a few hours, these provide a cheaper option to taxis, as well as enabling you to get a feel of daily life from close quarters. Be careful about your luggage and valuables though.

Boat: The long and winding Amazon River and its tributaries are the main attractions of the Amazonia rain forests and boats are the most comfortable ways to explore. Boats are the best option to certain destinations like Manaus in Brazil and Iquitos in Peru. Slow meandering voyage gives you ample opportunities to watch the rich wildlife, flora and fauna. The Amazonia trips are four to five days long. The boat rides on the famed lakes are a must and unavoidable.

Taxis: Officially registered yellow taxis are safe and charge by the meter, or a negotiated fare. Avoid fake or private taxis, as they may charge exorbitant fare, can pose a threat to personal safety, can be very unsafe to your belongings or can simply be more prone to accidents and breakdowns. However, taxis are the most convenient time-savers for local sight-seeing trips.

Hitchhiking: Hitchhiking alone in the wilderness or secluded areas may pose a potential danger. Unless you are a seasoned hitchhiker and fully familiar with the place; it is best to do it for short, well-known routes or to go in a group.

 

Travel destinations in South America for 15 days trip

South America is such a huge continent and there are 12 countries, excluding French Guyana and the Falkland Islands; with every country having several natural wonders, it is almost impossible to suggest an itinerary to cover even the top 10 destinations in 15 days. Moreover, there can be individual preferences and tastes to consider too. Also remember the fact that the countries vary in sizes, shapes and proximity to each other. So it is not like one can choose a few destinations randomly. Several destinations in different countries can geographically be closer to each other, than another set of destinations. The best that can be done is to present a country-wise list of few top destinations to let anyone make their preferred choices.

Brazil is the largest country and closest to USA. You can easily spend a fortnight exploring the Amazon, on boats where you can eat and sleep, or trek on land. The cities of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Pauolo or Salvador have their own charms. Or choose to spend days on the Ilha Grande islands, Florianopolis or Jericoacoara beaches.

While In Argentina, chose to spend your time between Buenos Aires – the city of Tango, Mendoza – the wine country or Iguazu Falls, the most expansive waterfalls in the world. there are places like The Patagonia, a region of glaciers and forests where you can explore unique places like Ushuaia (close to Antarctica, the end of the world), Bariloche (lake and skiing resorts),  El Calafate or El Chalten, famous for being Argentina’s hiking capital, with the views Fitz Roy and Torre mountains looming in the background.

Machu Picchu by Travel jaunts

Machu Picchu by Travel jaunts

Peru offers you the mighty magnificent Macchu Picchu, the capital of the Incas amd also the fascinating Inca trail that can last a week. You can also visit and spend days at Lima, Huacacachina – the desert oasis town or visit Isla Ballestas, known as the mini Galapagos  islands.

In Chile, you can spend a week in the cities of Santiago and Valpraiso, tour the Torres del  Paine National Park, Easter Islands or the Valle de La Luna Desert.

Bolivia offers it quaint city La Paz and the colorful Laguna Verde and Laguna Colorada.

In Colombia, you can explore the Cano Cristales, the river of five colors; or visit Bogota, the capital city. Ecuador’s  capital city Quito is worth spending a week.

Uruguay has Punta Del Este beaches apart from its capital city Montevideo.

In Venezuela, visit the highest waterfalls in the wotld, the Angel falls or spend a week on Los Roques archipelago.

Visa Requirements for South America

South American countries have relaxed visa norms in order to attract more tourist traffic. Citizens of USA, UK, Canada, Australia and some EU countries do not require visa to these countries. Visa-on-arrival is available to citizens of several countries in Europe. However, one must always confirm the current status from the embassies or consulate of these countries before departure.

Argentina: UK, South African and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa. Australian, US and Canadian passport holders do not require a visa but are required to pay a reciprocal fee to enter Argentina. This fee must be paid for prior to travel, it cannot be paid at the airport.

Bolivia : UK passport holders do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days. Canada,  Australia, New Zealand do not need a visa for stays of up to 30 days. Citizens of other countries including US require a visa.

Brazil : UK, South African and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa for entry into Brazil. US, Canada, Australia passport holders require visa.

Chile : UK, US, Canadian, South African, Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa.

Colombia : US, Canada, Australia, UK and few European country citizens do not require a visa..

Ecuador : UK, US, Canadian, South African, Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa.

Paraguay : EU countries citizens do not require a visa. Citizens of US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia will get visa on arrival at Asuncion.

 

Peru : UK, US, Canadian, South African, Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days.

Suriname : Citizens of USA, UK, Canada, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany can obtain a single entry tourist card for $25 at the Johan Adolf Pengel International Airport.

Uruguay : No visa required for UK, USA, Australia, Canada and a few more countries.

Venezuela : No visa required for citizens of UK, Australia, Canada and EU  countries. Surprisingly, no such relaxation for US citizens, they need Tourist Visa.

For Indian citizens: To visit Ecuador visa is not required. Visa for Argentina is free of cost. Bolivia gives visa-on-arrival at La Paz for 90 days. Guyana also gives visa-on-arrival.  Suriname gives Tourist Card in lieu of a visa-on-arrival.  Apart from these countries, for visiting any of the remaining countries of South America, visa is required.

 

Approx Costs for traveling in South America

The best part about South America is that it is very economical to travel on a budget. Hotel or hostel stay, restaurants and taxi costs are like as if you are in a friendly neighborhood. However do not assume that every country or destination is cheap. Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay are expensive countries and the expenses are just like any American or European city. Colombia is mid-range. French Guyana being a part of France is expensive with Euros as its currency. Equally expensive are the neighboring countries of Guyana and Suriname.

The least expensive countries are Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Venezuela and Bolivia where one can manage on a daily expense of $15 – $30, excluding the hotel room or dormitory expenses. No wonder, these are the favorites with budget travelers.

The cost of local sightseeing and moving around is not much. Museum entry fee wherever applicable, are less than a dollar. Managing taxi fares would be easier with Uber and several other taxi service aggregators and typical fares range from about a dollar for the first 3 kilometers. Buses and public transport would turn out to be much cheaper.

 

Typical scuba diving, sand buggy rides or sand boarding, para-gliding sessions will cost anywhere from $20 to $100. Zip-line rides, kayaking, skiing are similarly priced.

A McDonald meal would come around in $5, a bottle of water will cost half a dollar, a big bottle of coke or a bottle of  beer will cost around a dollar, a restaurant meal for a couple would be around $10.

If you are travelling on a budget, you can save money by staying in dorms or shared rooms in hostels, rather than staying in luxury expensive hotels. There are midrange posadas too, which are like guesthouses or B&B arrangements.

Travelling on long-distance buses with comfortable reclining seats, instead of by air, will save you lot of money in fare costs and avoiding overnight stay. Often meals are included in the ticket price. This is especially true in case of Argentina and Peru with long bus routes and modern fleet.

The heavy expenses are involved in travelling to the well known tourist destinations like Macchu Picchu, Iguazu Falls, Salar de Uyuni salt flats; which will cost you anything from $200 to $400. a trip to the Galapagos Island will be about $1000. Expect a typical trip to South America for two weeks will set you back by $1000 to $ 5000, excluding the air fare to reach there, depending on where are you starting from.

 

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