T Nation

South America Backpacking

Going South America in 2 weeks with a friend,
aged 20-21,
going for 6 weeks,

Flying into Buenos Ares and going to travel up the west coast mainly.
Probably not going to be able to get into Brazil due to visas taking 15 Business days to acquire and we only booked this yesterday…

We have booked a 7 day guided hike/tour for Machu Pichcu

Anyone have any travel tips/past experiences they could share with me?
First time over seas
Also from Australia.

Some random remarks / ideas:

When visiting Macchu Pichu make sure you’re there when it opens in the morning. It’s way nicer to see when there aren’t any crowds yet. Also look into climbing the Huayna Pichu (sp?), which is 500m higher but gives a very beautiful view of MP (you need to buy tickets beforehand, just like MP, might already be too late now). Which hike are you doing towards MP?
Coca tea really helps with altitude sickness, but it’s a very strong diuretic so don’t overdo it.

In Buenos Aires do NOT change money on the streets, go to a bank. You’ll see there’s a ton of people offering to change money to tourists in the streets. These are known to be part of organized crime & a big part of the money they give is fake.

Are you planning to go by Mendoza? I’d strongly recommend this. Book lunch & a visit to some wineries, the wines and food (a shitload) is incredible. I don’t know if you like driving but I’d also STRONGLY recommend to hire a car in Mendoza and take the road through the Andes towards Santiago de Chile, passing el puente del Inca & the aconcagua. This was my best moment in South America so far (been there almost 10 times).

There’s a national park in Malargue (800km from Mendoza) with the highest destiny of volcanoes in the world. Very impressive (but then I had never seen volcanic activity in my life)

When taking a cab, be careful to not get ripped off. I don’t know how the cab drivers do it exactly but when I was there 3 friends got ripped off.

Bring condomns, the women are hot.

South-Americans barely speak English, how’s your Spanish?

Some general remarks about Argentinia: very expensive, be careful as a pedestrian (cars have no respect and will not stop for you), hot women, proud and not very friendly people, very westernized. Argentina doesn’t really have the “South American feel” to it, so I recommend not spending too much time there.

Also I suppose you know most long term transport in South America is by bus (I did a 36 hours drive, what a hell!), it’s quite cheap. Pop a couple of anti sickness pills, fall asleep and wake up at your destination!

South America is pretty safe by the way, I don’t know why so many people from the west (those I know anyway) believe South America is dangerous & third world. Obviously you take the same precautions you should always take when traveling, some basic common sense (especially in hostels, shit gets stolen there).

Don’t get sick though, I worked in a hospital in Mendoza, there were stray dogs in the E.R. department.

Argentinian meat is supposed to be great, but I preferred the meat in Uruguay. Montevideo is only a boat ride from Buenos Aires. If you go there, to the old part of town in the old train station to a restaurant “el Palenque” and sit at the “barbecue bar” and ask a bit of everything. I had 1 kg of meat that meal. Montevideo is a lot more South America-like. But if you’re traveling to the West this might not be ideal for you.

The spanish word coger (to take in Spain) means in south america “to fuck”. I got in some awkward situations when I didn’t know this.

EDIT: On the subject of money. Make sure your bank cards will work there. Best thing to do is get a VISA card. Due to some unknown reason not 1 of my cards worked in Argentina (they all work in Uruguay)…luckily I had my parents to end me money through Western Union (obviously all cash which can be annoying). Also, when you go to a smaller town BRING CASH.

I was in Malargue and the 3 ATMs were empty. We ran out of cash supposing we’d be able to get more from the ATM and use cards (not mine obviously) to get gas for the car. They didn’t accept cards (which we knew after we filled the car). Was pretty funny.

Thanks for your response really good to get some insight from someone other then a travel agent, or my parents who just say ‘be careful its really dangerous’ although never have actually.

Cheers