South America & Mexico 5-6weeks
Replies: 16 - Last Post: Dec 21, 2012 6:44 AM Last Post By: amobr82
Dec 12, 2012 8:31 AM
My boyfriend and I are wanting to travel South America and Mexico for 5-6 weeks from mid march til end of april 2013.
We have both never backpacked before. We are flying from Western Australia.
With only having a short time to do this I am wanting to know what people can recommend so we can get the most out of our trip.
Our main places we want to visit is Cancun, Machu Picchu, Iguazu falls (perferably from argentina side) and Rio De Janero.
Can anybody help me with which way they think is best go and how long would you reccomend for each of these places? and any small in between places on the way? Also is it best to book tours like the machu picchu well in advance or in the country itself? We don't have a big budget but with our time constriction think it might be easier to fly some places...again any advice would be greatly apprieciated.
Dec 12, 2012 3:55 PM
1South America is a large continent. 5/6 weeks would be enough time for two countries at the best, ex. Ecuador and Peru, or Peru and Bolivia..
Skip Mexico or go only to Mexico. It won't be worth the money to combine Mexico and South Am in such a short time.
Cancun is a tourist ghetto for package tours and all inclusive resorts.
South America is well suited for independent travel. It's easy to book local tours, bus trips and accommodation. There's no need to go on organised tours that would cost you at least double.
You'll need Spanish phrase book though as English isn't widely used outside tourist industry.
Dec 12, 2012 4:35 PM
2I agree that Mexico should be cut out of the trip. You won't be missing much by not going to Cancun. It is just a generic place of resorts and beach similar to many other places in the world
I am assuming even though you are from Western Australia, you will be flying via either Melbourne or Sydney. My suggested itinerary is as follows.
Fly into Buenos Aries. spend 3 days here, catch a ferry to Uruguay spending a night or 2 in Montevideo before catching a ferry back to Buenos Aries. Then catch an overnight bus to Iguazu. 1 day Argentinian side and 1 day Brazil side.
From here, either catch a bus (24 hours about) or fly to Rio in Brazil. Rio is great and give it at least 4 days to suck it in.
From Rio fly to Lima in Peru. Don't spend much time in Lima, maybe just a night. Then head south, stopping at Nazca for the famous Nazca lines. Also stopping a Arequipa. From Arequipa it is a 6 hour bus ride to Puno which is on the shore line of Lake Titicaca. Go out the see reed islands of floating villages. Maybe do a homestay on an island (I real island not a floating one) one night with a family.
From Puno you can catch a bus to Cusco. There was a train as well but I do not know if it is operating at the moment. If you plan to the 4 day Inca trail trek, the YES book ahead as it fills up months in advance. But if you are just going to see Machu Picchu on a day trip tour, then no do not book ahead as it will be cheaper to buy once in Cusco. There is plenty to see around Cusco and the Sacred Valley, Give it at least 3 days not including Macchu Pichu
That is about 4 to 5 weeks I have given you there. Another way to do it would be instead of catching a bus to Puno from Arequipa, you could catch a onvernight bus to Cusco instead and then go to Puno and Lake Titicaca from Cusco. From Puno you could go to La Paz in Bolivia. Do the Death Road by bike or various other activities or sites. Then fly home from La Paz (most likely via Santiago or Buenos Aries)
Another option in either Peru or Bolivia to pad out the trip is going to a jungle lodge in the Amazon Rainforest. you want at least 3 nights. You will see plenty of wildlife and can go fishing for Piranha.
As you have never backpacked before, you really need to focus on packing light. First time travellers almost always take to much with them. I would also start learning some Spanish as English is not wildly spoken and you want to know what you are eating.
Hope this gives you some ideas.
Dec 12, 2012 11:45 PM
3Yeah, with limited time AND money, you really need to choose Mexico OR South America. You will be very disappointed with Cancun - it's like the Gold Coast on steroids. SUPER expensive, and only worth it to stay on an all-inclusive package, eat at our hotel, drink at your hotel, and roll onto the beach with a hangover (admittedly, with stunning water and white sand). There are many, many amazing things to see and do in Mexico, and Cancun isn't one of them.
If you want sun, surf, sand and a SPECTACULAR city, Rio is going to be much more up your alley.
Additionally, to fly between Mexico and South America is going to cost you around $900 or so (have a look at some booking sites).
#2 has given you a great starting point as an itinerary. Also have a look at G Adventures, Intrepid & Geckos, and see what itineraries they do. Then multiply the time taken by 3, and that's (roughly) how long it's take to do it yourself. A basic rule of thumb is 3 days in each location, and a full travel day between each (even if they are 'only' 300km apart!). Some places you will stay 4-5 days, and others 1-2, but this is a good rule of thumb for planning.
You really are going to need at least a bit of basic Spanish. I'd aim for 3-6 months of lessons at home (yes, it takes a bloody long time, just doing 1-2 hours a week, and you will be SO glad that you did!)
Dec 13, 2012 12:44 AM
4Thank you guys so much this has all really helped!!
I'm just trying to put a basic itinary together now.
I think we will definetly cut cancun out of the trip thanks for the advice.
I just have a couple more questions with traveling between places, is there a website I can search for flights bus etc that run between countries ie Flight Rio to La Paz??
Igazua falls bus to Rio does that run up the coast?
And with doing the death road bike tour is it best to wait to get there or book again well in advance?
Thanks for the Spanish lesson advice to I forgot to even think about that...
I always pack too much even for short trips... I've read that it's cold all year round if doing the Machu Picchu trek, what about everywhere else in mid march/April?
And can anyone recommend a good tour company for the inca trail by experience??
Again thanks heaps for your time and comments
Dec 13, 2012 12:50 AM
5Sites you will need.
Expedia.com (go to the US site, not AU, it can be cheaper)
The ONLY tour you need to book in advance is the Inca trail. Do a separate search on here for recommendations, and remember, the more you pay, the better paid your porters will be, and the overall experience should be better and safer. Every other tour / activity you can usually just book the day before.
Enjoy!! My first trip was a 5 weeker (only 3.5 weeks in Sth America) and now I'm on my, um, 10th trip? LOL!
Dec 13, 2012 8:11 AM
6"Igazua falls bus to Rio does that run up the coast?"
Iguacu (ee gwah SOO) in Portuguese
From the falls to Rio is an inland route, the most direct route anyway--look at a map--with not too much interesting between.
Flights from Foz do Iguacu are often about as cheap as the 20+ hour bus.
Mid-March/April will be warm(ish) in Rio.
Dec 13, 2012 9:00 AM
Dec 14, 2012 10:56 PM
8This is my basic Int. so far
15th-17th Buenos Aires
18th - 19th Travel by bus and stay at Iguazu Falls
20th - Travel to Brazil side
21st - Fly to Rio
22nd - 27th Rio
28th - Fly to La Paz
29th - 4th La Paz
5th - Travel to Arequipa (bus or train?)
6th - Arequipa
7th - Travel to Cusco (bus or train?)
8th - 15th Cusco (5 day salkantay trek, how far ahead would I need to book?)
16th - Travel to Lima (bus or train?)
17th - Lima
18th - Fly Home
Does this seem realistic??
Dec 14, 2012 11:20 PM
9In relation to (bus or train) it will always be bus, train is not an option as there are no trains except from Puno to Cusco but it is not always operating.
I am personally thinking that maybe head to Cusco before going to Arequipa from La Paz. I think the bus ride from Cusco to Lima is a shocker, but I have not done this route my self I have only heard 2nd hand.
It is realistic, though you are time missing some sights. But it is good you are not trying to pack to much in a short space. Giving yourself a good amount of time in Rio and Cusco is great.
Dec 15, 2012 12:04 AM
La Paz (via Copacabana and Puno) to Arequipa is a better option logistically. So, I'd stick with OP's plan.
OP you can book Salkantay trail when you arrive to Cuzco. After La Paz you'll be already acclimatised, so you should be feeling fine.
When you've booked the trek, you can spend the two following days sightseeing the city and visiting Sacred Valley. After that, two days later you'll start the trek.
Cuzco-Lima isn't that bad. Only the first part of the trip, before getting to the coast, is a bit like a rollercoaster ride.
Dec 15, 2012 12:07 AM
11Too much time in La Paz IMO. Although you will need minimum 2 days to acclimatise and then you want to cycle the death road, so I guess you do need 3-4 days. Be prepared to feel awful coming from sea level, and not able to do much but shuffle around with a headache for the first 2 days :-)
One day in Arequipa is not really worth it (if you want to do a tour to Colca Canyon you need 3-4 days in total). You're not going to stop at lake tititcaca even though you're going right past it? In your original post you said 5-6 weeks. Can you throw in a few extra days to a week so that you can visit Titicaca and Arequipa properly? Alternatively, shave a day off Rio & Cusco (plus a day off La Paz) to allow extra time for Titicaca or Arequipa.
Just my opinions :-)
Dec 15, 2012 7:51 AM
12So I think I can leave a day earlier but have to leave Peru on the 18th.. Ive cut a few days off in places and have looked more into time in Arequipa it does look amazing am really keen to see it, as for Puno and Lake Titicaca being it looks more like lakes & mountains being from NZ im used to them, obvisously not with floating villages, so maybe 1 day will do?? Anyway this is take 2 Int.... Am really appreciating all your guys help and tips can't thank you enough!!
14th-16th Buenos Aires
17th - Overnight bus to Iguaza (does anyone know what time this leaves? could i squeeze in another half day sightseeing)
18th - Iguaza Falls
19th - Travel (again is this and all day trip to the other side?)
20th - Iguaza Falls
21st - Travel fly Rio
22nd - 25th Rio
26th - Travel fly La Paz
27th - 30th La Paz (Bike Death Road 29th, enough time to climatize?)
31st - Travel (from here is a bit undecided I'd like to be in Cusco by the 8th/9th and have about 4 days in Arequipa)
1st - 2nd - Either stay in Puno or Cocoabana...
3rd/4th - 6th Arequipa (canyon tour & explore the city)
7th - Overnight bus to Cusco
8th/9th - 16th Cusco (want to do the Salkantay trek from 11th - 15th, 1 day for sacred valley??)
16th-17th - Travel to Lima
18th - Look around Lima (depart at 11pm)
I think as long as I'm in La Paz by the 26th and in Cusco at least by the 9th I will give or take a day at any of the places as we go along and try to make the most of the overnight buses.
Dec 15, 2012 8:02 AM
13"17th - half day sightseeing
18th- Iguaza Falls
19th - Travel (again is this and all day trip to the other side?)
20th - Iguaza Falls
21st - Travel fly Rio"
17th--part of day in Argentine side of park???
18th falls--Argentina side of park--full day
19th--the bus across the border from Puerto Iguazu to Foz do Iguacu takes about an hour max. The bus that does that route intersects the route of the bus that goes from the bus depot in Foz to the park entrance on the Brazil side (but you'd have to be able to ask the driver where to drop you to change buses OR go all the way to the bus depot and get the park bus from there)
Brazil side of park takes about 3 hours to walk and take photos
The Bird Park near the entrance is worthwhile--a few hours
The other thing I would fit in, on one side or the other, is a boat ride under Devil's Throat.
You might also just want to linger on the Argentine side. There is a pleasant little stream with shade, where you can take a dip.
But otherwise, I think you have one day too many (unless you want to see the dam and/or go see Chinese junk merchandise in Paraguay). You might like the extra day in and around Rio to get a bit more off the beaten path there.
Dec 15, 2012 4:11 PM
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