Just before the EU Referendum in June 2016, I mentioned that a leave victory would see the cost of travelling abroad creep up and thats exactly what happened. Luckily my trip to South America happened just a couple of months beforehand. Whether the cost falls over time depends on a number of factors, but for now some of the prices I came across might be slightly more expensive now.
I spent just over a month travelling from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic Coast and in that time I managed to see four different countries. There's a couple of big omissions; Argentina and Colombia but I managed to see Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Brazil and there is a variation of cost between the different countries.
Compared to the cost of travelling around Thailand, South America was considerably more expensive, even in Bolivia which was the cheapest of the countries I had visited, however there are certain things you can do to make sure you get the best value for money. As I mentioned in my post on travelling around Thailand, the more you get to know a place, the cheaper the cost per day becomes.
How expensive is South America? Here's my take...
Bolivia is a fairly large, landlocked country in western South America that was previously a part of the famous Incan Empire. These days, Amerindians make up a sizable proportion of the country, infact the different native tribes together make up just over half the population and the country is proud of its history and culture.
The first thing I noticed was its relative poverty when compared to its neighbours, although it is a country with a growing economy. Bolivia has a number of unique landmarks and attractions, La Paz, which is the seat of the government, is one of the city '7 wonders' as it is built over 3000m above sea level. Further south are the famous Salt Flats, or Salars in Uyuni, a landscape unlike anywhere else on the planet.
In this article I have included a selection of my favourite photo's that I took in the country, pictures that I think can give you a feel for Bolivia, its culture and its attractions.
South East Asia or South America. These two parts of the world have seen an explosion of popularity over the past decade and for most people the decision of where to visit first is often a difficult one. In this entry, I'll try and rate each of the locations on factors that are important to the average person and come up with an overall rating.
Things to consider
Before I get things started, its important to note that my experiences over the two locations will vary. I spent more time in South East Asia, and it was also the place I decided to visit first. There are important locations missing from both locations. I didn't visit Laos in SE Asia and I didn't visit Colombia and Argentina in South America. Personally, I feel that Argentina is a significant omission due to the size of the country and the number of things to see and do. Ratings and experiences are also very subjective, my experience could be significantly different from the experience of others so I'd bare this in mind when you make your decision.
Finally, a comparison between the two locations isn't an exact science. The phrase apples and oranges comes to mind. Peru and Brazil have completely different cultures, speak completely different languages, yet for the purpose of comparison they have been lumped together under a loose 'South American' category. This entry is a subjective rough overview of my experiences and can form part of your research into each location.
Airport Rating *****
Reception of locals *****
The cancellation of my flight in Peru had a knock on effect that lasted about a week covering my time in La Paz, Uyuni and San Pedro de Atacama. In Uyuni I had booked a three day salt flats tour. The tours are world famous and take in the salt flats, lagoons and active volcano's as they work their way down to the Chilean border. However, as I had been delayed by two days, I had to cancel the three day tour and rebook onto a one day tour. The tour operators were very helpful, offering me alternative dates and when this wasn't possible, refunding me the extra money that I would have spent on the longer tour. It wasn't ideal, but I figured it was better than nothing.
The plane from Cusco to La Paz was small, but the one from La Paz to Uyuni was tiny. You couldn't actually stand up in the plane and the spaces for the carry on luggage were very small, but did the job for what I had with me. Although the plane could probably seat about 40-60 people, there were only 5 of us on the plane. I had struck up a conversation with a French guy who was living in Dubai. He had a two week holiday and the salt flats were on his bucket list of things to see. I had read nightmare stories about the turbulence on this flight, especially with smaller planes and as I sat down, there was a sick bag right in front of me so I was prepared for the worst. The journey, however was very smooth. As with Cusco, the scenery when flying out of La Paz was phenomenal. Large mountains in the distance surrounded the plane and from every angle the view was more impressive.
Airport Rating ***
Reception of locals *****
This is where it all started to go a little wrong on my trip. Unlike my other travels, I had a much stricter timeframe to get around the continent, and any delay or cancellation meant that my plans would have to be substantially altered. Having suffered cancellations before in other countries, I knew this was a very realistic problem and therefore, before I left, I made sure I got the type of travel insurance that would cover any claims.
It all started in Cusco where I turned up for my flight and was told at check-in that it had been cancelled and the next flight wouldn't leave until late the next day. I was told I would reach Uyuni in the morning, which wasn't so bad, but 5 minutes later I was told there was a long stop in La Paz and I wouldn't reach Uyuni until late at night. I had booked a 3 day tour of the salt flats and therefore this wasn't an option.
Also in line for the check-in were a group of 5 Chinese tourists and 2 Brazilians who were in a similar position. We started asking for alternate forms of transport, trains or buses but quickly realised that with either option we would still miss our tour. At this point the guy in the check-in began to get a little rude and what was a bad situation started escalating. At first he refused to give us a phone call so we started kicking up a small fuss until he relented and let us use his mobile. Sometimes it feels that other passengers start looking to me when things go wrong. I've been told my resting B face is pretty unfriendly so I guess they thought, "he looks angry, lets leave this with him".
I called the tour company and informed them that I would end up being a couple of days late and therefore couldn't do the 3 day tour. They said they would be happy to re-arrange it, but as I had a flight from Calama a day later, I said this wouldn't be possible. In the end I had to change my three day tour into a one day tour which brought up issues of its own which I will address later. After demanding a letter showing our flight had been cancelled, we headed back to a hotel the airline had booked for us.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.