I’ve been in South America for quite a while already. I came here as a complete novice but after over seven month observations I have a lot of experience people who come here for the first time do not have. Also, I’ve met dozens of other travellers and I’ve had hundreds of talks that gave me far wider perspective. So I’m going to share it with you. I wrote two texts with some useful information before. I mentioned there the subjects such as public transportation, food, security or hygiene. The first one is about seven myths and facts about Ecuador, the other one, more specialised, about the public transportation.
So, today the question: where to go in the South America?
So, yes, the decision has been made. Destination: South America. But where exactly? I was also asking myself. I’ve chosen Ecuador, because the ticket was cheap. From Europe, the best is to look for flights from Spain, but also Frankfurt and London gives some reasonable options. From the US the cheapest flights tend to be to Columbia (the country, not the state). I took a plane from Frankfurt, Germany. The price… I had a chance to purchase a one-way ticket for 370 euros. Usually two-way ticket costs about 600-700 euros (from Europe).
If I were going to South America today, despite my love for Ecuador, I would probably choose Columbia or Argentina or Chile – to be able to travel across the whole continent in one direction. However, Ecuador is still relatively in the north, so you can visit it, go to Columbia and then to Peru. There are many options.
This is the plan for a long journey, though, at least few months long. What can you see in two weeks, then? Or in a month?
For Europeans, I would rather suggest going somewhere else for two weeks. Although, an organised trip would make sense even for two weeks. For those who prefer to wander without a guide and booked buses, I suggest coming here for a bit longer time. South American countries tend to be huge and using public transportation requires time. I spent about four days (from Tuesday afternoon to Saturday morning) on few buses going from Puerto Maldonado in Peru to Guayaqoil in Ecuador. My only stops (besides Piura where I wanted to buy one thing – and where I took a shower) were to change bus. That’s why for shorter trips a good solution would be Ecuador. It’s relatively small but offers a variety of things to see. The continental part of Ecuador divides in three natural regions – the coast (costa), mountains (sierra) and the East, the Amazonian jungle (Oriente, selva). Of course there is also Galapagos Archipelago but as I heard many times, you can pend there a month and not get bored. Furthermore, the well developed bus network in Ecuador allows to cross the most of the country during one night to economise some time and money for accommodation.
Understandably, the important question while choosing the travel destination is budget. Bolivia is the cheapest country of South America besides Venezuela. I wouldn’t go to Venezuela, though, because of the current social and economical situation and the actual threat for travellers. Next, Columbia and Peru. The accommodation costs varies from about 15 to 50 soles (3.5 soles are worth about a dollar). You can save money on food, because except strictly tourist Cusco, you can have a lunch for 6-10 soles. Columbian prices are similar, maybe slightly cheaper. Next Ecuador. A bit more expensive. A lunch for 2.5-3.5$ but there are also cheaper ones, especially in big cities. The cheapest accommodation can be found even for 5$ but usually it’s up to 10$ per night, especially for a private room. Argentine and Chile… My interlocutors shared the opinion about the high costs of travelling there, especially in tourist regions.I should verify it myself one day. I dream about going to Patagonia…
There is another pro of Ecuador – security. It’s not that in other countries it’s somehow dangerous but Ecuador is in the top of the continent. Also, especially in tourist destinations and big cities, it’s relatively easy to communicate in English. Speaking about security, in Columbia it’s not so big a concern as it’s said.
Well know and liked option is Peru – especially for it’s Inca ruins. Machu Picchu is a must-see. But those distances… But definitely worth thinking through, especially if you think about a longer stay (at least a month).
As you can see, I skipped few countries. Including Brazil. I admit, I’ve never felt the temptation to go there, therefore my info about it is limited. So I’m not going to express my opinion.
In the future, I’ll write about the preparations for the travel – what to take, what to plan, what to leave to luck.