So a while ago I posted about losing my motivation to travel and not really being sure if I wanted to go to South America and blah blah. None of that applies anymore. It’s winter break, school has taken a back seat for 5 glorious weeks and I’ve either been planning obsessively or watching day-long marathons of Grey’s Anatomy.
Mostly the former, though. It’s a rough life.
Here’s the plan:
I’ll leave in October (hopefully) or November ($$realistically$$). It makes the most sense to start in Rio, work my way south and clockwise up South America. I might head down the coast and eventually end in São Paulo, then take a bus to see the Iguazu falls. After that will be a long bus trip to Buenos Aires, where I’ll stay for about two months while I take a Spanish class. I’ll take a weekend trip to Uruguay at some point (Colonia, Montevideo)…then when I’m ready to move on, I’ll start heading west towards Chile, stopping in Rosario, Córdoba, and Mendoza before getting to Santiago.
If a tour like this from Santiago to La Paz is still running by then, then I’ll probably take that up to Bolivia even though it’s more expensive. I want to do a tour at one point to break it up a bit and have someone else do the planning for me. But it includes San Pedro de Atacama and Salar de Uyuni, both of which are necessities.
Then Peru (Arequipa, Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Lima), Ecuador (still need to do research on where to see, but I’d love to go to the Galapagos Islands if $$ allows), and Colombia (which I’m really excited about).
If I’m not completely burned out and broke at that point, I want to sail to Panama from Cartagena…but that’s where my research has fizzled out.
I can’t commit to any of this and buy a plane ticket because I’m having too much fun thinking about the possibilities.
STAtravel has become my new favorite website.
So when I look up plane tickets on Skyscanner from NYC –> Santiago (one way) for end of October, the cheapest one I see is $903, with two layovers. Same goes for Vayama, One World, Kayak, etc. When I look on STAtravel and I check the “youth” box (under 26), I see flights through TAM for $259.20 with one layover. That’s a $643 difference and the reason why no matter what, I HAVE to leave before I turn 26.
One thing to keep in mind about Chile, though, is the $160 reciprocity fee for U.S. citizens if landing at the Santiago airport. Argentina also has a reciprocity fee of (currently) the same price for visitors coming in through ALL points of entry, and it has to be paid online via credit card beforehand (with a printed receipt to give to immigration upon arrival).
So that $259 plane ticket is really $419.
ALSO a Bolivian visa costs $135. Brazil is $140. Sigh.
All this talk about fundz leads me to the next topic…
Here’s what Lonely Planet estimates for shoestring traveling through SA (which we’ve already established that I suck at):
Will I stick to that? Probably not. Everything I’ve been reading recently says to expect to spend more (like $60-80 in Brazil).
I also read Jeff from Lengthy Travel’s post about what he spent per day in South America and How to Plan an Extended Trip in South America, among a million other blogs about it. All of this helped me to realize that I’ll be spending the most time in the most expensive countries (Brazil, Argentina, Chile), which led me to research things that are free:
The Buenos Aires free walking tour. Yeppp that’s about it.
For Buenos Aires, unless someone can convince me otherwise, I’m pretty excited about El Pasaje. This school has the cheapest Spanish lessons I can find in B.A. because there aren’t any extra fees for activities. If you want to go watch a football game or go for a city tour, you can still do it, but you’d have to pay extra.
In Barcelona I went with a school that charged a little extra for these built-in activities…but I only went to one. It was the new student social and I got one free drink before going off to another bar with my new friends. That was it. So I’m totally fine with the cheaper Spanish classes.
Note on the Spanish class:
As a Spanish learner, I have a hard time understanding the Argentinian accent. I also thought about a class in Santiago, but Chileans supposedly speak the fastest Spanish. I’ve heard numerous times that the Colombian accent is a lot easier for people speaking Spanish as a second language.
Why not take a class in Bogotá then? I might, especially since it would be cheaper and I love everything I’d read about Colombia. But I have a really good feeling about Buenos Aires, so we’ll see.
I am currently obsessed with El Travel Blog, and by the end of the break I will have probably read the entire thing. Their trip is long over and some of the pictures don’t show anymore, but it’s not your typical travel blog and it’s refreshing to read something different. Plus it’s hilarious.
As I mentioned before, my parents hadn’t been so excited about this trip since it entails delaying my teaching career. They have some legitimate concerns, but I’ve been bombarding their e-mail with pictures like this in hopes that they’ll change their mind:
P.S. Any and all advice is welcome!! I’m still very much in the early stages of planning.