Step 2. Research & Essentials.
How much money I need for the trip? What is essential? What do I need?
I spent days and weeks doing research for my trip. In fact, this step went way before quitting. I was dreaming about going to South American continent for a few years by then. When I accepted that it’s not another regular vacation I started my long way towards realising this dream to life.
How is it cheaper to get to the continent?
Should I stop in Brazil or go straight to Buenos Aires?
How dangerous is Rio? And Sao Paulo? And Argentina? Bolivia?
How much does the flight Rio – Igiazu cost? And Sao Paulo – Iguazu? And bus?
What are the neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires? Should I find couchsurfer there or hostel?
What hostel is closer to the bus station? Or should I stay in the city center?
Or, how much things cost in Rio? And much Salt Flats tour costs? How much trip to Machu Picchu costs?
How do I get to Bolivia? Do I go via Buenos Aires or should I skip it and stick to the North?
Where can I go next? From where will I fly home? Should I go to Titikaka?
What people eat in Peru? What’s «menu del dia» and how much it costs?
And what’s the deal with ayahuasca, that everybody talks about?
Well, and million other questions.
But first, Spanish.
You shouldn’t have any illusions here – if you really want to travel around Central and South America you HAVE TO speak at least basic Spanish. Yeah you can play ‘rich white tourist’ and stay only in expensive hotels, get around only in taxis and buy everything triple the price. It just was not my approach, and not only because of money.
Later I might touch on the reasons and purposes that I’ve been putting into this journey, but for now I say this – I didn’t want just to see the landmarks, cross out points from the checklist and post pictures stating ‘I’ve been here!’ to instagram.
The idea from the beginning was to get to know this continent. Become acquainted with real life there, speak with locals, stay with locals, be friends with locals.
You have to speak common language, and Spanish is essential here. Most of the people don’t speak any other language (same for Brazil and Portuguese).
People ask me, how much money I saved for this trip. It honestly depends on you. Are you ready to stay in 8-bed dorms and risk doing couchsurfing here and there? Are you ready to take effort in finding cheaper food? You know, long time travellers actually travel food. Some oil, spices, rice and pasta – you won’t buy a new pack in every new place again and again. You buy food in the supermarket and cook your own dinner in every hostel you stay. Are you ready for that? Do you want to travel 12 or 20 hours on a bus or you prefer a flight?
If money is the hardest thing for you, don’t be lazy and calculate considering your approximate itinerary. It’s not that hard. You know you.
More on the topic in separate article.
Or yes, itinerary.
Honestly, I researched dozens of different ways to connect the main dots on my personal map. In my case I didn’t have a deadline for the trip. I decided to go back when I run out of money. Or when I get tired. Whenever I want.
So I made a rough plan. I mean, really rough. The plan was something like this:
Rio – Iguazu – Some place in Argentina – Bolivia and salt flats – May be Chile (because I might run out of money and it’s easier to return from Satiago de Chile) – May be to Peru if I still have money and energy – And may be, but most probably not, get to Colombia and finish there.
There you go. Very rough.
A bit more about that here.
Equipment & packing.
Packing light is key. Based on locations that you want to visit you need very different gear. Any case, you’d need these:
– hiking/trekking low boots. No need for heavy high boots. Some can even get away with good terrain trainers.
– liquids must be only in secure packaging and double packed.
You wanna know what licked in my suitcase? Let’s see… Shampoo, hair conditioner, makeup remover, face oil – all of that. Shampoo was the worst though. It was an infinite foam party when I was cleaning my suitcase from it.
– good headphones (better 2 pairs), earplugs, travel eye mask are a must. Travel pillow is a plus.
– old smartphone in case your main phone gets stolen. Install/update all the necessary apps before the trip.
More on the topic and gear checklist here.
Compose your medical bag with your usual stuff. Take more legit anti-flu and stomach stuff. Don’t forget antiseptic and nose spray.
Yellow fever vaccine.
You need it if you go to Amazon jungles. I’d say it’s good to have it in any case. There are a lot of places on the continent that make this vaccine for free. Bare in mind that you might feel really sick few days after the vaccine shot, so make it 2 weeks before the trip at home.
In my case, I forgot to make it beforehand so I decided to make it in Rio on arrival. I found a hospital that makes this vaccine to anyone including foreigners for free. But in Rio I was too lazy to go to the hospital. Finally, I made this vaccine in Bogota International Airport. It was fast, easy and free of charge.
As far as I know, if you go from Colombia to other countries, like Panama, you probably will be asked to show your yellow fever vaccine certificate, so. Just do it.The truth is after a hours or digging, calculation, converting priced from local currencies I get to the point where I said:— Whatever. I will just go. Whatever happens.
The truth is after a hours or digging, calculation, converting priced from local currencies I get to the point where I said:
— Whatever. I will just go. Whatever happens.