#1 1-30-2018 1:38 PM

leavinggringolandia
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Planning the ultimate Latin American backpacking trip - need tips!

Later this year, I'm planning on leaving on a long-term backpacking trip through Central and South America. I want to visit EVERY country (except Venezuela at this time). I don't have a time limit and I'm a freelancer so running out of money isn't a huge issue (though I'll still be traveling on a budget).

I want to take my time and explore major cities as well as small towns, so really I'm looking for suggestions of places I should go or that I should skip.

I've traveled to Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Nicaragua in the past, so I have a general idea, but I'm always looking for more tips and ideas!

Also, I currently live in Colombia and it won't be part of the itinerary.

Looking forward to hearing your suggestions! smile

 

#2 1-30-2018 8:56 PM

DaveSwede
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Re: Planning the ultimate Latin American backpacking trip - need tips!

Firstly, the three Guiana's (British, Dutch, French) are geographically more isolated from the rest of South America.  You say you're not planning to go to Venezuela, which means that the land border being closed between Venzuela and Guyana is moot.

You can travel between the Guyana's over-land.  However, if you plan to go from either of them to Brazil, unless things have drastically changed since I visited, the one and only land border is at the Guyana town of Lethem (which would get you access to the remote colonial gem of Boa Vista).  And sadly keeping these three countries even more isolated, flights into them can be much more expensive than expected for such short haul flights.

Lethem itself is a tiny town, but a bit of an adventure to get to.  After Georgetown, you can go in and see the Iwokrama forest.  I jumped out of the bus and walked in to the Jungle Lodge, camped in a hammock and did the canopy walks, etc. on the way back from Lethem.  Having no reservation, I did it on the cheap about $5 - most visitors have chartered transport (4x4 or helicoper, and pay $250 a night)

As you go east through the Guiana's, the infrastructure generally improves, safety generally improves and the general cost of living absolutely gets higher.  French Guiana is, in my humble opinion, the most expensive in South America.  But there are some beautiful nature sites to see, as well as some historical  things along the way like Paramaribo and Devil's Island prison.

I could rattle on about suggested places along the way, but I don't know enough about how fast you travel, if you gravitate towards urban settings or nature, if want to hit the Andes in the winter for snow sports or rather stay on sunny beaches, etc.

 

#3 1-31-2018 5:35 AM

leavinggringolandia
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Re: Planning the ultimate Latin American backpacking trip - need tips!

Hi Dave,

Thank you so much for your response! That's the part of my trip that I'm most clueless about so it's super helpful! Really, cheaper is better. Is it possible to reach them by boat? I know it would be a longer trip, but I'm not sure if it's a better option.

Did you find Lethem to be dangerous at all or perfectly safe to pass through?

As far as my travel preferences, I have no time limit and I prefer to travel slow. I think I'll spend 2-3 months in each country, but probably less in smaller countries. I love both nature and urban settings, so a healthy mix of both is what I'm aiming for. I love beaches, but I'm absolutely IN love with the Andes. So, basically, I'm up for anything and everything on this trip!

 

#4 1-31-2018 6:08 AM

Toonsarah
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Re: Planning the ultimate Latin American backpacking trip - need tips!

If you love the Andes you should absolutely allow for plenty of time in Ecuador. The area around Cotopaxi is stunning. I loved Quito and also Cuenca - both very different but with loads to see. Cuenca is also great for food - our Ecuadorean friends told us it's the foodie capital of the country

 

#5 1-31-2018 6:51 AM

fransglobal
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Re: Planning the ultimate Latin American backpacking trip - need tips!

I've been to every country in Latin America except the Guyanas, Venezuela and Paraguay. I've spent about 18 months in total in region.

If you live in Colombia, presumably you are familiar with many of the positive and negative aspects of the region, are aware of safety issues and can speak Spanish.

Other than that, there is so much to see and do in region. I would tend to avoid or spend little time in most capital or big cities except Quito, Rio, Salvador da Bahia, Buenos Aires. All of these are musts. Worth seeing are Sao Paulo, Santiago de Chile, maybe San Jose and Panama City.

I would suggest getting the Footprint Guides to South America and to Mexico and Central America and see what appeals to you.

Other areas I really liked were Antigua, Lake Atltlan, Monterrico, Tikal in Guatemala. Granada, Leon and Ometepe in Nicaragua. Huaraz, Cusco region, Manu Biosphere Reserve in Peru. Lake Titicaca and Salar de Uyuni regions.  Chilean lake region. Mendoza and Bariloche in Argentina. Easter Island.  Lencois and Chapada Diamantina region in Bahia State in Brazil. Pantanal in Brazil. Vilcabamba in Ecuador was a great place to relax. Olon on Pacific coast too.

If you like beaches, Brazil is definitely the best country I think. Some of the best beaches I've ever seen. Brazil is my favourite country by far in South America though Peru is probably the most interesting.

There's just so much other stuff. Not sure if you're looking for advice on Mexico....

 

#6 1-31-2018 8:33 AM

shavy
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Re: Planning the ultimate Latin American backpacking trip - need tips!

I visited most of Latin American countries, there are only 3 countries I would like to visit someday - Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela. You live in Colombia, you can travel in budget - you have some possibilities of budget airlines from Colombia.

I love South American countries, but to be honest, Colombia is the most beautiful country in the continent smile

You have Peru, is an incredible country, one day you are in the desert, the next day on the beach, again and the other day you stand with your feet on the ice at almost 5000 meters altitude.

Ecuador, is much less known than its major neighbors.  The most famous sights are indeed the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon Rainforest. Is maybe not so pretty as Colombia, but you should get to Galapagos and the Amazon ( Cuyabeno)

I went to Paraguay and Uruguay in combination with Argentina. As I don't have much time I only speny 4 days in each place it was was so rush, I could stay a bit longer

From Central to North America, Costa Rica and Mexico are one of my favourites, pleasant country and beautiful. I'm sure you are good with Spanish language, travelling around will no problem for you

 

#7 1-31-2018 8:14 PM

DaveSwede
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Re: Planning the ultimate Latin American backpacking trip - need tips!

leavinggringolandia wrote:

Hi Dave,

Thank you so much for your response! That's the part of my trip that I'm most clueless about so it's super helpful! Really, cheaper is better. Is it possible to reach them by boat? I know it would be a longer trip, but I'm not sure if it's a better option.

Did you find Lethem to be dangerous at all or perfectly safe to pass through?

As far as my travel preferences, I have no time limit and I prefer to travel slow. I think I'll spend 2-3 months in each country, but probably less in smaller countries. I love both nature and urban settings, so a healthy mix of both is what I'm aiming for. I love beaches, but I'm absolutely IN love with the Andes. So, basically, I'm up for anything and everything on this trip!

You're welcome!  I thought I'd chime in on the Guianas first since there is plenty of information on other parts of Latin & South America.  I personally found Guyana and Paraguay to be the least documented (as far as travel guides and/or on-line resources) so I specifically traveled there for the adventure of it all.  Suriname and French Guyana are highly traveled, but mostly by the Dutch and French, so there's plenty of information on them, but mostly in those languages.

I've spent a few years combined in Latin & South America, both for work and for pleasure.  If you take it slow and travel overland, I for one will be jealous of your adventure!

I searched for boat passages, but all I ever heard was stories of other people also hitting dead ends.  There are boat options to Guyana from Venezuela when the land border is closed, but that again is moot if Venezuela is off your list.  Going through the interior of the Guiana's to Brazil is just too thick of uninhabited jungle.  Going around the coast from Cayenne to Brazil is a long way and there's just not enough traffic to support the industry.

Because of the difficulty of getting to the Guiana's, I actually waited until I was in Trinidad, because from there, it was more accessible.  I cannot speak for flights from Colombia, but maybe Copa has flights.

Alternatively, I'd suggest Surinam Airways to link some of those destinations, or at least bridge the gap down to Brazil.   (http://www.airlineroutemaps.com/maps/Surinam_Airways)

Georgetown was dodgy.  Even being a confident traveler, I found myself looking over my shoulder, particularly at night.  Even locals would typically only travel by taxi after sundown.  I even recall being cautioned by some guys sitting on their porch that "its not safe here, keep moving".

All other parts of Guyana however were much better.  Lethem is a quiet town.  Unless they had more recent growth, there was only about 1/4 mile of paved road in the entire town.  It was safe, it was friendly.  You'll be almost a celebrity there since they simply don't get many outside visitors.  I don't recall the time of year, but they do have a big annual rodeo.

Last edited by DaveSwede (1-31-2018 8:20 PM)

 

#8 2-1-2018 3:35 PM

leavinggringolandia
Brittany
Cali, Colombia
Couch Potato
Posts: 17

Re: Planning the ultimate Latin American backpacking trip - need tips!

fransglobal wrote:

I've been to every country in Latin America except the Guyanas, Venezuela and Paraguay. I've spent about 18 months in total in region.

If you live in Colombia, presumably you are familiar with many of the positive and negative aspects of the region, are aware of safety issues and can speak Spanish.

Other than that, there is so much to see and do in region. I would tend to avoid or spend little time in most capital or big cities except Quito, Rio, Salvador da Bahia, Buenos Aires. All of these are musts. Worth seeing are Sao Paulo, Santiago de Chile, maybe San Jose and Panama City.

I would suggest getting the Footprint Guides to South America and to Mexico and Central America and see what appeals to you.

Other areas I really liked were Antigua, Lake Atltlan, Monterrico, Tikal in Guatemala. Granada, Leon and Ometepe in Nicaragua. Huaraz, Cusco region, Manu Biosphere Reserve in Peru. Lake Titicaca and Salar de Uyuni regions.  Chilean lake region. Mendoza and Bariloche in Argentina. Easter Island.  Lencois and Chapada Diamantina region in Bahia State in Brazil. Pantanal in Brazil. Vilcabamba in Ecuador was a great place to relax. Olon on Pacific coast too.

If you like beaches, Brazil is definitely the best country I think. Some of the best beaches I've ever seen. Brazil is my favourite country by far in South America though Peru is probably the most interesting.

There's just so much other stuff. Not sure if you're looking for advice on Mexico....

Thanks for the tips! I can't wait to take some time and look into all of the places you've mentioned. Tips on Mexico would also be great!

 

#9 2-1-2018 3:36 PM

leavinggringolandia
Brittany
Cali, Colombia
Couch Potato
Posts: 17

Re: Planning the ultimate Latin American backpacking trip - need tips!

shavy wrote:

I visited most of Latin American countries, there are only 3 countries I would like to visit someday - Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela. You live in Colombia, you can travel in budget - you have some possibilities of budget airlines from Colombia.

I love South American countries, but to be honest, Colombia is the most beautiful country in the continent smile

You have Peru, is an incredible country, one day you are in the desert, the next day on the beach, again and the other day you stand with your feet on the ice at almost 5000 meters altitude.

Ecuador, is much less known than its major neighbors.  The most famous sights are indeed the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon Rainforest. Is maybe not so pretty as Colombia, but you should get to Galapagos and the Amazon ( Cuyabeno)

I went to Paraguay and Uruguay in combination with Argentina. As I don't have much time I only speny 4 days in each place it was was so rush, I could stay a bit longer

From Central to North America, Costa Rica and Mexico are one of my favourites, pleasant country and beautiful. I'm sure you are good with Spanish language, travelling around will no problem for you

I've heard a lot of people say that they think Colombia is the most beautiful country and it's interesting! I personally love Colombia and it has some breathtaking areas, but I don't think it compares to how beautiful Chile is.

Thanks for the tips!

 

#10 2-1-2018 3:39 PM

leavinggringolandia
Brittany
Cali, Colombia
Couch Potato
Posts: 17

Re: Planning the ultimate Latin American backpacking trip - need tips!

DaveSwede wrote:

leavinggringolandia wrote:

Hi Dave,

Thank you so much for your response! That's the part of my trip that I'm most clueless about so it's super helpful! Really, cheaper is better. Is it possible to reach them by boat? I know it would be a longer trip, but I'm not sure if it's a better option.

Did you find Lethem to be dangerous at all or perfectly safe to pass through?

As far as my travel preferences, I have no time limit and I prefer to travel slow. I think I'll spend 2-3 months in each country, but probably less in smaller countries. I love both nature and urban settings, so a healthy mix of both is what I'm aiming for. I love beaches, but I'm absolutely IN love with the Andes. So, basically, I'm up for anything and everything on this trip!

You're welcome!  I thought I'd chime in on the Guianas first since there is plenty of information on other parts of Latin & South America.  I personally found Guyana and Paraguay to be the least documented (as far as travel guides and/or on-line resources) so I specifically traveled there for the adventure of it all.  Suriname and French Guyana are highly traveled, but mostly by the Dutch and French, so there's plenty of information on them, but mostly in those languages.

I've spent a few years combined in Latin & South America, both for work and for pleasure.  If you take it slow and travel overland, I for one will be jealous of your adventure!

I searched for boat passages, but all I ever heard was stories of other people also hitting dead ends.  There are boat options to Guyana from Venezuela when the land border is closed, but that again is moot if Venezuela is off your list.  Going through the interior of the Guiana's to Brazil is just too thick of uninhabited jungle.  Going around the coast from Cayenne to Brazil is a long way and there's just not enough traffic to support the industry.

Because of the difficulty of getting to the Guiana's, I actually waited until I was in Trinidad, because from there, it was more accessible.  I cannot speak for flights from Colombia, but maybe Copa has flights.

Alternatively, I'd suggest Surinam Airways to link some of those destinations, or at least bridge the gap down to Brazil.   (http://www.airlineroutemaps.com/maps/Surinam_Airways)

Georgetown was dodgy.  Even being a confident traveler, I found myself looking over my shoulder, particularly at night.  Even locals would typically only travel by taxi after sundown.  I even recall being cautioned by some guys sitting on their porch that "its not safe here, keep moving".

All other parts of Guyana however were much better.  Lethem is a quiet town.  Unless they had more recent growth, there was only about 1/4 mile of paved road in the entire town.  It was safe, it was friendly.  You'll be almost a celebrity there since they simply don't get many outside visitors.  I don't recall the time of year, but they do have a big annual rodeo.

It sounds like looking into a flight will definitely be the way to go! And thanks for the safety tips. Do you think it was worth going to Georgetown or could it be skipped?

 

#11 2-2-2018 12:26 AM

shavy
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Belgium
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Re: Planning the ultimate Latin American backpacking trip - need tips!

leavinggringolandia wrote:

shavy wrote:

I visited most of Latin American countries, there are only 3 countries I would like to visit someday - Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela. You live in Colombia, you can travel in budget - you have some possibilities of budget airlines from Colombia.

I love South American countries, but to be honest, Colombia is the most beautiful country in the continent smile

You have Peru, is an incredible country, one day you are in the desert, the next day on the beach, again and the other day you stand with your feet on the ice at almost 5000 meters altitude.

Ecuador, is much less known than its major neighbors.  The most famous sights are indeed the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon Rainforest. Is maybe not so pretty as Colombia, but you should get to Galapagos and the Amazon ( Cuyabeno)

I went to Paraguay and Uruguay in combination with Argentina. As I don't have much time I only speny 4 days in each place it was was so rush, I could stay a bit longer

From Central to North America, Costa Rica and Mexico are one of my favourites, pleasant country and beautiful. I'm sure you are good with Spanish language, travelling around will no problem for you

I've heard a lot of people say that they think Colombia is the most beautiful country and it's interesting! I personally love Colombia and it has some breathtaking areas, but I don't think it compares to how beautiful Chile is.

Thanks for the tips!

Oh well Ive been to Chile in 2016 travelling from North to Souh for one month, Chile is less than what I’ve seen in Colombia. Every country in south America is different, but after visiting most of them, Colombia is my favourite at the moment smile

 

#12 2-2-2018 9:30 PM

DaveSwede
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Re: Planning the ultimate Latin American backpacking trip - need tips!

leavinggringolandia wrote:

Do you think it was worth going to Georgetown or could it be skipped?

Georgetown is a necessary stepping stone.  You cannot access the interior of Guyana, or Lethem without going through Georgetown.  I made some friends along the way, was invited to a party at the ambassador's house, etc. so I stayed a few more days that I originally planned.  But if you're just doing the tourist circuit in Georgetown, you could do it honestly in a leisurely day and a half.

 

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