Transportation in South America

Just like in Asia, we used a variety of transportation methods to get us across South America. Where in Asia we relied mostly on buses and trains, in South America we mostly used flights and buses as the rail network is almost nonexistent. Also, because the countries we visited in South America are a bit further away from each other, we often opted to skip 24+hr bus rides and just take a short flight instead. This made the trip a little bit more expensive, but way more comfortable.


Traditional underground subways cannot be found in every major city. São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Guayaquil have one, but for example Lima, Quito, and Bogotá don’t. In those cities, metro buses are in place which basically act like a subway, having separate lanes to transport loads of people from A to B quickly. We used both these systems and found them reliable, cheap, but very crowded (especially the metro buses).

As we were a little bit more cautious in South America compared to Asia, we opted to take taxis more often. Only in Chile we had a perfect experience: nice drivers, good cars, and working seat belts. The latter one is a trend all over Asia and South America: taxis deem it necessary to hide the seat belts for some reason. When asked, the driver would always respond with “it is OK, it is not required…”


When we didn’t flew between cities, we used the generally cheap long distance buses. Except for Patagonia, which is a bit more expensive (think around 30$ for a 8hr bus ride), a few dollars can get you a long way. For example, the bus from Quito to Baños only cost us $3.50 one-way.

The water transport was of mixed quality: the ancient ferry to Ilha Grande was extremely slow, while the top-notch ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia was quite fast. On Galápagos and Ilha Grande locals and tourists both rely on water taxis to get them where they need to go. Especially on Galápagos this was a great way to see the landscape.


The organized tours we went on always came with some form of transport. Mostly, transport consist of a van to drive the tourists from highlight to highlight. We had mostly good experiences, unlike in Asia South American drivers are generally more careful, yet for example the Torres del Paine tour was terrible when it came to the drive. The park consists of mostly gravel roads, causing dust to go everywhere inside the van, as the windows were not sealed properly. After a couple of hours it really started to irritate our breathing. However, in Rio and Bolivia we had very nice drivers who also voluntary doubled as tour guide.

The photos below this post gives you an impression of the luxury (or lack thereof) of the transportation methods available.

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We, Mark & Herta, are currently backpacking through Europe, and eventually planning to settle in London. Beyond that? The possibilities are endless.

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