6 months in South America - when to go, where to start??

Hello fellow travellers
I am hoping you can give me some advice and guidance. I am planning a 6 month trip to South America and taking weather and wet/dry seasons into account I am trying to work out when to start and which route to take.
I initially thought of starting in Ecuador and spending a couple of weeks in a Spanish immersion course before travelling down through Ecuador into Peru then down into Bolivia. Head east to Argentina and up to Brazil. I would then travel back up to Colombia with a view to continue to Central America if I can manage to extend my travel time.
If I was to start in October would this be a good itinerary? Or would I be better off starting in Brazil and going in the opposite direction?
Also is 3-4 weeks in each country enough time?
Is flying a better option than buses for longer distances?
Thank you for you help!
Happy travels.

ChelseaJade 26/02/14    When to goSouth America Link Report

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3 Replies Date Popularity

Hi Chelsea,

That sounds like an amazing trip, whichever way you do it! Have a look at our destination pages for each of those countries to find recommendations on when to go, and how to get there. In terms of how long to spend in each country, I’d imagine 3–4 weeks will be sufficient, but it depends how much internal travel you plan to do. October is a good time to go, but if you’re spending that long in each country of course it’d be good to consider where to go when.

Buses are likely to be cheaper, and they’re generally more eco-friendly and feel much more like you’re actually experiencing the countries you visit! Having said that, if you decide on any big jumps from place to place, having a flight or two planned out might be a welcome bit of respite…

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a wonderful time!

Rebecca Hallett 03/03/14    Link Report

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Thank you so much for your advice Rebecca. I’m so excited about this adventure. :)

ChelseaJade 03/03/14    Link Report

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  • Sounds very similar to the trip I did in South America! I started in October, and the weather throughout (also went for 6 months…) was completely perfect. I think it’s a great time to go.

    I took buses the whole way round and they surprised me because they were so accommodating, better than some buses I’ve taken in the USA and Europe! Especially good Argentina and Chile where you get fed for the entire journey (and when it’s 26 hours long, you’re very grateful for that!). Peru buses are also very good. You’ll quickly get used to how the buses work, and there are so many travellers around, and people in hostels, to give you plenty of info and help. It’s your choice if you want to fly and some people do for the longer jumps, as they can be pretty drastic. I think those are decisions you can just afford to make when you’re there and see how you get on with the buses first. I personally found travelling over land totally fine, but others completely hated those mega bus rides so hopped around on flights.

    3-4 weeks in each country would be fine I think. Definitely enough time to see 3 or 4 key places per country, and long enough for you to be flexible (as I can guarantee that you’ll find at least one place you completely fall in love with and never want to leave! So perhaps you’ll spend a couple of weeks there and less in another place that doesn’t sweep you away as much).

    You’ll have an incredible time, that’s for sure!!

    Emma Higgins 27/03/14    Link Report

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    Thank you so much for your reply! I really appreciate it. I’m getting so excited about this trip. I will definitely be using buses for longer trips if they are as good as you say. Thanks again.

    ChelseaJade 29/03/14    Link Report

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    You’re welcome! Like I said, they’re not for everyone, but sometimes they can be really good. Look out for ‘cama’ or ‘semi-cama’ options – cama is the best you can get (obviously more expensive, but still not crazy money). And remember that up in Ecuador/Peru/Bolivia they might not be as amazing, but in Chile and Argentina they’re definitely well worth it. Have a sweet time!

    Emma Higgins 31/03/14    Link Report

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  • Hey Chelsea

    This sounds like an amazing trip – I did something similar last year and would recommend all your country decisions. I think it is important to remember that when you are visiting Peru and Bolivia it will still be coming out of the rainy seasons, this can often cause trouble to travel arrangements in the mountains. Also trips such as Machu Picchu (assuming it was on your list) are slightly damp! However, they are still brilliant to visit and you just have to be prepared – some journeys will take 8 hours longer than expected but with the plenty of water, food, a blanket and a good book you will be fine.

    Some people choose to fly but I found buses the cheapest and usually quite a comfortable option. In Brazil, Peru and Argentina especially the standards of the buses are sublime. Like tvs (sometimes english sometimes spanish), often aircon/heating, some with wifi and big comfortable reclining seats. If you want minimal budget i would stick to buses as you can be more flexible where you stop thanks to a greater number of places accessible by bus. However at the right times, on the right websites, flights in Brazil from place to place will often be the same price as buses – so look into this as a way of saving time. However, I preferred to use an overnight bus instead of forking out for a night in a hostel too. I would definitely suggest flying from Brazil to Columbia, you will probably find something reasonable in price for that journey.

    I would look carefully at where you will be during ‘carnival’ as the spirit spreads far and wide over south america – although Uruguay is not on your list perhaps Montevideo, I have heard plenty of good things about it during Carnival, although I visited at another time. Montevideo is a short ferry ride from Buenos Aires too.

    As far as time in each country, don’t be too strict on yourself – 4 weeks can be plenty of time but you never know where will catch your eye. I worked in Cuzco for 2 months on a whim – I liked the city, hostel and people. You may not want to work but often you just find the right setting and the right group and plans get delayed a week. Don’t be tough on yourself – enjoy it! (this is also why buses are a more flexible option)

    Also, never let anyone put you off about it being dangerous, especially for girls. As long as you have common sense and your wits about you, you are no more in danger in Bolivia than London.

    Hope this helped and have an amazing time!

    Kate

    Kate Hazelwood 31/03/14    Link Report

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    Thank you so much for your helpful tips Kate. I am looking at a $25000 budget now so I hope I may even spend more than 6 months. Would be fun to just cruise from place to place and stay a while if the time and place is right. Time is not a problem. I have plenty of that. it will all be down to budget. :)

    ChelseaJade 19/07/14    Link Report

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