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South America : By Bus

Travelling Latin America by bus

by Hannah Vickers

Travelling around Latin America is a challenging, fascinating, exciting and glorious experience. Travelling around Latin America by bus is sometimes just challenging. Most of the time, though, and with the right kind of preparation, bus can be the absolute best way to travel, especially around a continent as geographically fascinating and visually stunning as Central and South America.

With these tips, you’ll look back on your 20-something-hour bus trips with fondness rather than grinding teeth. You might even find some stretches of your long-long trips a little fascinating, exciting (for all the right reasons, and none of the wrong ones) and glorious. Be patient: you’re in this for the long haul.

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I could get all philosophical (and a bit preachy) here and say that this is a good way to live your life generally. But I won’t, because that would be annoying and not at all helpful. Unfortunately, though, if you’re travelling between destinations by road in Latin America,patience is going to be key to your trip. It’s just all so darn big.

In Peru (which isn’t even one of the big countries, considering the size of some of its neighbours. I’m looking at you, Brazil. Don’t go all coy on me. You know what I’m talking about), it takes 22 hours at least to get from Puno to Lima. You can spend days going from one country to another and 10-hour journeys start to feel like a treat. And there’ll be delays.Lots of delays. Strikes, protests, accidents, bad weather, missing drivers… Sit back, get comfortable, and get ready to ride it out, because you are in this for the long haul. Build potential delays into your schedule.

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Speaking of delays… It’s easy to have your whole trip messed up by the domino effect of a delay making you miss your connection, which in turn makes you miss your next connection, which could be a flight or a only-one-a-day bus… It’s easy done and horrible when it happens. Assume there will be delays and make sure you’ve left yourself ample time between connections. Things will run smoothly much of the time, but it’s better to find yourself spending more time in bus stations than you’d like to having to shell out, time and time again, for new tickets and being stranded in cities you only ever wanted to pass through.

Bring supplies: Food, warms, entertainment and earplugs. Some of the buses provide food, but many of the cheaper ones don’t. And, you won’t always have time to buy things on the breaks, so be prepared and bring some eats. And liquids. Other things you should think to pack: plenty of warms, something to read (eventually the same film repeated four times in a row before any of the staff notice will make you want to weep) and earplugs.

Don’t be shy.Want to practice your Spanish (or Portuguese), make the hours pass faster, avoid trying to follow Steven Seagal’s adventures in a different language and get the down low about your destination? Chat to a local! Your Latin American experience will be that much enriched with some inside knowledge from someone who knows. And you may even end up making a new friend!

Hannah Vickers lived in Lima, Peru for a year and a half and, while there, was the editor of Peru this Week. You can read more of her work on her blog or on the Peru this Week website. This article was written for Tucan Travel, specialists in adventure travel and tours all over Latin America.