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Lillian asked

Best way of getting around South America?

Hi all, I will be traveling to South America with a companion for a month in September, and we were hoping to travel to Peru, Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. Is this possible? Is this feasible? If so, what is your recommended itinerary and what is the best mode of transportation to get around? I have desperately searched forums to find out what the best method is - and while it looks like an airline pass titled "South America Pass" seems like it would be a good option, their customer service seems unreliable and out of date. Specifically wondering about:

  1. If all 4 countries are possible in one 4 week trip, what is the order of countries visited that you recommend?
  2. What is the best method for transportation to each location? We are open to flying, if it is the more convenient option. How is the bus system?

Peru   Chile   Argentina   Brazil

6 Answers
answered first by
Laura from Buenos Aires

Hi Lillian, the four countrys you are planning to visit are incredible. Specially my country, Argentina ;)

I think first you sholud decide which places you'd like to visit. I've been to all of those countries and I would recommend this:

- Argentina: you can't miss Buenos Aires, it's a beautiful city with a really good vibe. Iguazú Falls are trully wonderful, you'll need 2 full days there at least. El Calafate is also great because of the Perito Moreno Glacier, you can visit that along with Ushuaia, the southest citie of the continent. If you like the mountains you could go to San Carlos de BarilocheSan Martin de los Andes or Mendoza. This places are near the frontier with Chile so if you decide to go there you could combine both countries. The north of Argentine is also wonderful, Salta or Jujuy Province.

In Iguazu you'll find tropical forests and waterfalls, the weather is humid and hot. Salta, Jujuy and Mendoza are arid and dry. Bariloche and San Martín de los Andes are somewhat like Switzerland. Calafate and Ushuaia are unique. 

The best and fastest way to travel is by plane. You should check, and for flights. There are also buses but the distances are really long. 

Chile: I've been to Santiago wich is nice, Valparaiso, which I love, it's a 2 hour trip from Santiago and 20 minutes from Viña del Mar, a nice seaside city. The south of Chile is wonderful: Valdivia, Puerto Varas and Chiloé Province, but again the distances are long so you should check the available trips to decide. 

Brasil: I'm in love with that country, is beautiful, the people is great, the music is wonderful, and they have lots of beaches. You shouldn't miss Rio de Janeiro, from there you can go to Paraty or Angra dos Reis for instance. Sao Paulo is also wonderful but is a really big city, one of the biggest of the world. I also loved Salvador

Peru: I've been to CuscoMachu Picchu and Puno. I haven't been to Lima but I know is beautiful as well as the north of Peru. 

You have some difficult decissions to make. First I'd say that you should come to Southamerica, is really wonderful. 

If you want to have a taste of almost everything you could go to Lima, Cusco and Machu Picchu; Buenos Aires and something else of Argentina; and Brasil, Rio and whatever you choose. This are places to enjoy and eventhough the flights are almost always available yo travel here is not as easy as in Europe for instance and the distances are really big, you should keep that in mind. 

I hope I was helpfull, if you have doubts don't hesitate to contact me. And if you come to Buenos Aires also. 

Good luck

Comments (4)

Laura, I'm having a bit of difficulty finding a way to get around, as it looks like the flights are expensive and confusing to navigate. Do you think it would be too difficult to travel via bus from Peru - Argentina - Brazil - Chile? How are the bus conditions and is it worth it?

The worst are the distances and the times cause here everithing is very far apart. You could do it but for instance between Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires you have a 40 hs trip. You can check bus routs to and from Argentina here It all depends in your itinerary. Usually those who go to Peru by bus travel through Bolivia (or Chile), I did it, that way is possible and cheap but it takes a lot of time. You should take a flight to Lima, a bus to Cusco, go to Machu Picchu, then a bus to Puno, then a bus to La Paz, then you can go straight to Argentina (24 hs) or visit other places in Bolivia like Potosi or Uyuni. Then you cross the border, visit Jujuy and/or Salta in Argentina, then take a bus to Buenos Aires, then you can go to other places of the country by bus and then I'll sugest a flight to Rio de Janeiro from Buenos Aires or from Iguazu. Within brasil you can travel by bus. Or you coudl beggin in Lima, then Cusco, then get to the north of Chile, and from there get to the north of Argentina or continue to Santiago and get to Argentina by Mendoza. It is possible but I don't know if you could do it in 4 weeks. Check this sites also:, As for the flights I'd serch in cause they have all the arilines or in that goes to all the destinations. Bus tickets are not so cheap in Argentine, some times is most convenient to take a flight.

Laura, so just to confirm that I am understanding your recommendation correctly - you suggest that it is OK to use the bus for transporation from Peru all the way down to Argentina, but you are recommending that we use a plane to fly from Argentina to Brazil?

Lillian, maybe this is too much for my knowledge. What I can tell you is that you can travel within each country by bus and you can make connections between countrys also by bus but I'm not sure from and to which points exactly. A few years ago I went to Cusco from Buenos Aires by bus through Bolivia so I'm sure is possible but, as I said before, it takes time that's why I suggest you take some flights because 4 weeks for 3 countries is not that much time.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Buenos Aires (city)
  2. Iguazú Falls (attraction)
  3. El Calafate (city)
  4. Perito Moreno Glacier (attraction)
  5. Ushuaia (city)
  6. San Carlos de Bariloche (city)
  7. San Martin de los Andes (city)
  8. Mendoza (attraction)
  9. Chile (attraction)
  10. Salta (city)
  11. Jujuy Province (attraction)
  12. Santiago (city)
  13. Valparaiso (city)
  14. Viña del Mar (city)
  15. Valdivia (city)
  16. Puerto Varas (city)
  17. Chiloé Province (attraction)
  18. Rio de Janeiro (city)
  19. Paraty (city)
  20. Angra dos Reis (city)
  21. Sao Paulo (city)
  22. Salvador (city)
  23. Cusco (city)
  24. Machu Picchu (attraction)
  25. Puno (city)
  26. Lima (attraction)
comments (4)
likes (2) thanks
answered by
Elvira from Bilbao

Hi Lillian, 

Your plan is ambitious but absolutely feasible.  

I crossed South America (from Cusco (Perú) > Bolivia > Argentina> to Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)) all by bus in four weeks in 2010. 

I had my doubts too, so I started by sketching out the most realistic trip possible by using the following easy formula: 

30 days / 3 days per place*  = 10 places  

10 places / 4 countries = 2.5 places per country 

* (1 day to get there + 1 day to stay + 1 day to leave)  

Therefore, I would suggest you to choose 2 places you would like to visit in each country, build a flexible itinerary around it and leave some spare days in case you need to readjust the plan. Trust me, if everything goes fine, you will be visiting way more than that. 

Buses are without any doubt the cheapest and most popular form of public transport in South America. Some bus services are excellent and sleeping in overnight and long-distance buses can be surprisingly confortable. However, cheapest companies should be avoided for security reasons.  

There is normally no problem to buy tickets from one day to another, this way you can always decide on the fly where to go next. Just be patient, keep your mind open and enjoy the South American way. 


You have an exciting journey ahead!

Comments (0)


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cusco (city)
  2. Bolivia (country)
  3. Argentina (attraction)
  4. Rio de Janeiro (city)
likes (1) thanks
answered by
Katherine from Melbourne

Hi Lilian, 

It is definitely possible to touch on those countries in a 4 week period but you most definitely have to fly around a bit to get the most out of your trip as you are covering a lot of ground.  

The SA Pass is an option IF you fly into South America with Lan airlines and most travel agents (specialised in South America) can help you with this as this fare option is widely used by us. It may be a bit tricky to use yourself but you can always give it a go on the Lan website. 

Where are you flying in and out of South America? This can sometimes impact the order of your itinerary. 

The good news is that September is a generally good time to travel throughout South America but without knowing exactly where you want to travel and specific things you want to do it can be difficult to recommend the overall order. 

Without more details about your trip I would say start on one coast (eastern or western) and work your way down and across to the other side eg. Start Brazil, then Argentina, then Chile and finish in Peru or the reverse of this. You want to avoid flying from one end of the continent to the other (Lima to Rio) as this will be the longer and most expensive flight sector. 

if you need more help narrowing down what to do, we offer an introduction to 32 different destinations plus recommended staying times in each place.  

Good luck and hope you enjoy South America!

Comments (2)

Katherine - thank you!!! It's people like you who make my travel anxieties much more bearable. Your comment was extremely helpful, especially the part where you mentioned the need to define where I want to travel and what I specifically want to do. Here goes: Lima, Peru Cusco, Peru (Machu Pichu) Patagonia, Chile Buenos Aires, Argentina Puerto Iguazu, Argentina Rio de Janiero, Brazil I'm flying into Lima from San Francisco, CA, and upon my first crack at it, feel that it would be best to structure my planning as follows: 1. Fly from country-to-country 2. Within country travel (for example, from Buenos Aires to Puero Iguazu, travel via charter bus) Do you feel that this is cost efficient, and what is your opinion on the order described here?

Hi Lillian, I did not see your response until now. Personally I would still fly from place to place. You've only got four weeks so you are trying to see a lot (e.g. Iguazu to Buenos Aires is like a 16 hour bus ride or longer from memory or a 1.5 to 2 hour flight. The bus is definitely cheaper but not much considering this is an extra 14 hours or so of your time ) Getting to Patagonia from the cities can also be a long way so definitely fly these legs. I agree with the order that you are travelling in as that is the most logical. Good luck :)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Brazil (country)
  2. Argentina (attraction)
  3. Chile (attraction)
  4. Peru (attraction)
comments (2)
likes (1) thanks
answered by
nako from London

i had been to Peru and some of Brazil

i think that to cover all 4 countries in a month is a bit too tight.

the continent has so much to offer.

we spend nearly two weeks in peru but still not cover all.

we spend 4 days in Cusco (including a 1 day hike to Machu Picchu)

then a day in Colca Canyon and two days in Lake Titicaca.

then we go to arequipa to see the mummy and the convent there.

Iguazú Falls is such an amazing place. i thin it is all beautiful from both sides.

i recommend you to cut it down to 2 countries so you have time to absorb the culture and the fantastic scenery.

pls also remember that some of the places there are in very high altitude and you cannot go that fast there.

best way to travel there is to fly with some help of the bus (we took the bus from cusco to lake titicaca which stop at 3-4 interesting places along the way.)

hope you have a great time there.

we also plan to be there again soon, to cover chile and argentina

Comments (0)


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Peru (attraction)
  2. Brazil (country)
  3. Cusco (city)
  4. Machu Picchu (attraction)
  5. Colca Canyon (attraction)
  6. Lake Titicaca (attraction)
  7. Iguazú Falls (attraction)
likes (1) thanks
answered by
Irene from Pretoria

We travelled through South America in the 80's which is quite a long time ago.  We started in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro and flew to Receive from where we flew to Manaus.  From Manaus we flew to Iquitos (Peruvian side of the Amazon) and then on to Lima.  From Lima we flew to Cusco and did Machu Picchu (a must see and if you can do the hike).  From there we travelled by bus to Bolivia.  In those days you could get a ride on the back of  truck for next to nothing travelling up and down South America, which most of the students did.  Not sure if this is still possible, it is more than 30 years ago.  I would go from Peru to Chile (cannot advise you on Chile) and then on to Argentina.  You have to see Iguazu Falls.  

Comments (0)


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. South America (attraction)
  2. Brazil (country)
  3. Rio de Janeiro (city)
  4. Manaus (city)
  5. Iquitos (city)
  6. Lima (attraction)
  7. Cusco (city)
  8. Machu Picchu (attraction)
  9. Bolivia (country)
  10. Chile (attraction)
  11. Argentina (attraction)
likes (1) thanks
answered by
Wanda from Amsterdam, Netherlands

Hi Lillian, that isnan amazing plan! Although it is a very short period of time to see all 4 countries, but it's doable to see a little bitnfrom all. I would suggest you start in Peru. Fly to Lima and then to Cusco and from here visit the Machu Picchu. Stay at least 2 days in Cusco, also to adjust tonthe altitude. From Cusco you can easily go by bus to Puno and go to the titicaca lake. Then cross the border by bus to Bolivia and go to the salt lakes there. With a 3 day excursion over the salt lakes you can cross the border to Chile. You will be in the Atacama desert. Go by plane or bus (long drive) to Santago and fly from here to Buenos Aires. Patagonia is spectacular, but I think you should keep that for another visit due to your lack of time. Depwnding on how much time is left, you could visit the Iguazu falls! Withbthis itanerary I would buy separate air tickets, no pass. 

Lots of fun and enjoy!!

Comments (0)


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