Why I Went There?
I had always wanted to start my long trip in New Zealand, but due to delays and my desire to attend the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, I chose to start in South America instead. I must admit that I wasn’t super excited about beginning my trip in the familiar continent where I grew up.
Beds Slept In: 70
Flights Within South America: 4
Long Distance Buses: 39
Long Distance Trains: 3
15,106 USD, at an average of 60 USD/day. This includes flights within South America, but not into or out of South America.
For a more detailed look at costs for each country I visited, check out my post on Costs for 250 Days of Backpacking in South America.
Where Did I Go?
With one month between the start of my trip and the start of the World Cup, I decided to retrace the steps of my 2005 trip to Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. From Lima, I went to Huacachina and Nazca before arriving to Cuzco in preparation for the Salkantay Trek to Machu Pichu. After crossing by land into Bolivia, I stayed in La Paz before visiting the Salar de Uyuni. Frequent road blocks cut my time in Bolivia short.
My plan was to go to Brazil for the entire World Cup to follow Argentina. But I didn’t get any tickets in the FIFA lottery, and once I realized how expensive the tickets were at the resell market, I gave up on the idea. Instead, I went to Buenos Aires, Argentina to watch it with my childhood friends, like I did for the previous two World Cups. The Argentine team eventually made it to the final, and I couldn’t resist the temptation of spending a huge amount of money to watch it live in Rio de Janeiro.
After the heartbreaking loss, I headed south to Ilha Grande where I met and spent a week with the coolest group of people. I was then off to Paraty, Sao Paulo, and Curitiba before the amazing Iguazu Falls. I then crossed the border into Argentina and returned once again to Buenos Aires. After a short trip to Uruguay, I flew back to Brazil, this time further north to Salvador, where I had my first couchsurfing experience during this trip. From there I discovered the impressive Chapada Diamantina, and spent some relaxing days in the deserted beaches on Boipeba. Moving further north, I met another great group of people in Jericoacoara. I then few to Manaus in the middle of the Amazon jungle, where the heat and humidity was too much for me.
I learned to dive in Taganga, Colombia, and after visits to Santa Marta and Cartagena, I stayed over a month in pleasant Medellin. I welcomed the change of pace and did some volunteer work, while fitting in a trip to Manizales, Salento, and Valle de Cocora.
With only one month left in South America, I flew to Santiago, Chile where I met up with John, a friend from LA, and stayed at Celeste’s (another friend I met in LA) home. After a short trip to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, we headed almost to the end of the world for perhaps the best hiking trip I have ever done: Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.
Then it was back to Argentina, with visits to Glaciar Perito Moreno and Fitz Roy in Patagonia, before returning once again to Buenos Aires. After a weekend in Tigre, my trip to this amazing continent came to an end.
My Other Posts on South America
I have written a summary for each country I visited in South America. Each of them have links to individual posts for that specific country.
In Review: 18 Days of Backpacking in Peru
In Review: 11 Days of Backpacking in Bolivia
Colonia and Montevideo, Uruguay
In Review: 61 Days of Backpacking in Brazil
In Review: 18 Days of Backpacking in Venezuela
In Review: 52 Days of Backpacking in Colombia
In Review: 12 Days of Backpacking in Chile
In Review: 73 Days of Traveling in Argentina
How Is It to Backpack in South America
I met many backpackers from all over the world. Male and female. In groups or alone. Speaking good, little, or no Spanish. They were all having a great time (except the Swedish guy I met in Paraty, Brazil who stayed in his bed 20 hours a day sleeping and watching movies on his laptop).
It’s easy to travel, especially in countries that are used to tourism like Peru, Chile, and Brazil. Bolivia and Venezuela require more patience and a willingness for a bit of discomfort. Most of the staff in the hostels will speak English, but knowing Spanish will allow you more interaction with locals.
I usually found the backpackers in South America to be more mellow, and traveling at a slower pace. Contrast this to New Zealand for example, where most backpackers I met where moving very fast and trying to fit lots of activities.
I felt pretty safe most of the time. You do have to be vigilant of your belongings, but it’s not like you constantly feel danger while walking on the streets. The only places I felt a bit uncomfortable were in parts of Buenos Aires (Argentina), Salvador (Brazil), and Maracaibo (Venezuela). Most of the hostels are good when it comes to security, as all the better ones provide lockers for your stuff.
Comfort levels can go from high in countries like Argentina, to low in countries like Bolivia or Venezuela.
Favorites and Not So Favorites
Favorite Places: Machu Picchu (Peru), Torres del Paine (Chile), Iguazu (Argentina/Brazil), and Angel Falls (Venezuela).
Favorite Country: Brazil.
Favorite Beach: Boipeba, Brazil.
Favorite Touristy Site: Machu Picchu, Peru.
Most Disappointing Touristy Site: Christ the Redeemer, Rio, Brazil.
Favorite City: Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Favorite Region for Nature: Torres del Paine, Chile.
Favorite Hostel: Açai Hostel, Salvador, Brazil.
Favorite Country for Food: Argentina.
Least Favorite Country for Food: Bolivia.
As I look back to my time in South America, I can say that I saw and experienced enough places and moments that I would have been satisfied to end my round the world trip right after it. Of course I wanted to continued on (and have), but in South America I collected enough memories to last a lifetime. And this was just the beginning.
It wasn’t just the wide variety of places I visited. It was also all the people I met, the conversations I had, and the moments of solitude on long bus rides through foreign landscapes. It’s incredible how much one person can experience in eight months of traveling. I can recall 8-month periods back home from which I couldn’t recall any particularly exceptional moments.
This was a fantastic beginning to a long trip, and at the end of it I looked forward to more adventures to other more foreign lands with a lot of excitement. What I got out of it from these 8+ months was more than I had expected and anticipated, and I will always be very grateful for this opportunity.