Overlanding South America – summary

During 7 months in South America we visited 6 countries, crossed the borders 13 times, drove 26000 km, saw thousands of beautiful places and met hundreds of amazing people, BUT our life is a journey, so as in normal everyday life, we had better and not so good moments. Some countries we enjoyed more, some of them less. Same thing was with local people. Let’s look at South America through our eyes. Time for a little summary! πŸ™‚

 

πŸ“ŒOur whole route can be seen here: RTW trip – the route

 
 

Favourite countries in South America in terms of views:

 

1. Bolivia

Bolivia is very diverse: endless high-altitude desert in Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve with multicolored lagoons, pink flamingos, volcanoes, canyons and geysers, the world’s largest saltflat – Salar de Uyuni, hot springs, unusual rock formations, easy to climb 6k peaks, picturesque La Paz and the Amazon jungle. Believe us, literally everything is in here!

 

2. Argentina

In Argentina, we really enjoyed driving through the wild, deserted 4×4 routes along the Andes between Mendoza and Salta. Ruta 13 near Mendoza was our first, and also the most interesting off-road track in Argentina. We also found a beautiful lagoon in a quiet town of Rodeo where a Water Castle (it is how we call it) from the photo below is located. We’ll remember forever the huge red rock formations nearby Cafayate and our first moments at over 4500 meters above the sea level at Paso de Jama! We like Argentina because of its huge uninhabited area, colors and deserts. We have to add that we haven’t been to Patagonia yet because of the time of the year (winter), but we know it’s so beautiful and definitely we will go there in the future.

 

3. Chile

The number 1 in Chile is one of the driest places in the world: The Atacama Desert in the area of San Pedro de Atacama. We also liked Termas de Polloquere located very high in remote mountains. What’s more, we were able to see beautiful volcanos almost from every point along the Andes. Amazing views guaranteed!

 
 

Favorite countries in South America in terms of people:

 

1. Colombia

Colombians are awesome! πŸ˜€ Soooo helpful, funny, chit-chat all the time, honest and what’s the most important: in Colombia NOBODY tried to rip us off, not a single person, nobody treated us as “walking ATM.” Loveliest people in South America!

ludzie w kolumbii
A guy who stopped us for a little chat. He asked if we saw his cows, where we’re going, where we come from etc. Doesn’t matter our Spanish is so bad, that was nice! πŸ™‚

 

2. Ecuador

On the second place is Ecuador. We had situations that Ecuadorians tried to charge more only because of us being tourists, but in general people were OK for us. We also liked that entrance fees to the official tourist attractions were the same for both us and the locals! (in other Latin countries there were 3 prices: for foreigners, for Latin Americans and for locals).

ludzie w ekwadorze
Like always, the nicest people we’ve met were living in nontouristic places. Here is the back door to Sangay NP.

 

 

The worst countries in South America in terms of people:

 

1. Bolivia (highlands)

Bolivia is a beautiful place and won this part, but when we think about its people… Well, they were mostly unkind for us. Most of the time they treated us just as “walking donors of money” and were giving us silly prices! Hotel staff was very unprofessional, we had the impression that they are doing us a favor that we could stay inside their walls (and we still had to pay much more than locals…). Also, we have to add, that other travelers we met on our way in the past few months had the same feel of this country, and some of them didn’t even recommend us to visit Bolivia! Luckily, people in the Amazon were a little bit nicer: some of them smiled back, sometimes even chatted for a while. Probably there is more sun and their life is happier. πŸ˜‰

people in bolivia
Scary Cholitas in La Paz. Cholitas – Bolivian women wrestlers.

 

2. Peru (on the coastline)

We have heard that the coast of Peru isn’t very safe because of attacks with guns and knives. Overlanders were attacked by locals and robbed many times. Peru is very touristy so prices are pumped up. Nicer people were off the beaten track, in smaller towns and villages – in places which can’t be found in tourist guides.

salinas de maras
Peruvian woman in Salinas de Maras

 

 

The worst drivers in South America

 

1. Peru

Peru, Peru, Peru. They just have no idea how to drive! Nightmare on the road. 2 lanes and 5 cars trying to overtake each other. They never get tired of depresing horn buttons, kind of South American India. πŸ˜‰ They were overtaking from the left or right, didn’t really matter for them as long they could get in front. Hazard lights – they use them whenever they want to stop, turn them on and leave the car wherever, even in the middle of the road. Driving, driving and… sudden stop! – Hazard lights on and they’re off to do shopping…

roads peru
The standard view in Peru! πŸ˜€

 

2. Bolivia

Same in Bolvia. There’s just a con that more roads lead through remote areas. Only in La Paz we had to cope with Bolivian drivers.

 

 

The best drivers:

 

1. Ecuador

Ecuadorians drive very well! Only in Quito their driving was a bit worse, but still much better than in Lima or La Paz. They respect other drivers and lines on the road, know road signs and rules, turn off high beams were passing other cars… Something obvious in Europe, but not here in South America… Here those simple things amazed us! πŸ˜€

roads in ecuador
Best drivers, but the worst roads, unfortunately. Everyday we had this kind of views on the way. Asphalt was damaged by earthquakes, rain and landslides . While driving we had to watch out for missing parts of road.

 

 

The cheapest countries in South America*:

 

1. Colombia

2. Peru

3. Bolivia

 

Prices in those 3 countries were only slightly different. It was cheap – let’s see detailed prices.

 

The cheapest hotels

  • Colombia: 35.000-60.000 COP;
  • Peru: 20-50 PEN;
  • Bolivia: 80-120 BOB.

 

Campsites

  • Colombia: from 10.000 COP/car;
  • Peru: from 30 PEN/car (usually more expensive than hotels because they were run for foreigners by foreigners);
  • Bolivia: — (sometimes included in National Park entrance fees, but we’ve never used it. Option not quite popular in Bolivia, but doesn’t matter – there is a lot of space for wild camping!
Cocora Valley
Our best campsite in Colombia was in Cocora Valley with such a views from the car! πŸ™‚

 

Restaurants

  • Columbia: from 6.000 COP ( starter +main + drink);
  • Peru: from 6 PEN (starter + main + drink);
  • Bolivia: from 25 BOL (main) ( we didn’t eat in resturants in Bolivia really often. We’re usually buying products in shops or local markets and were preparing food by ourself. We ate a really bad pizza fro 70 BOB in Uyuni and after that we didn’t want to eat food in this country…
food in peru
Food in Peru was really cheap. Menu of the day was usually for about 6 soles and the portions huge and delicious.

 

Fuel

  • Columbia: 6.200-8.500 COP/gallon (92 octans);
  • Peru:9.30-11.5 PEN/gallon (84 octans);
  • Bolivia: official prices for foreigners were over 3 times higher than for locals, but we always managed to bergain and were buynig fuel illegaly for 3.90-6 BOB per liter (without receipt – sin factura). We also folded plates to hide the name of the country where the car came from – it was easier to negotiate.

 

>>>Current fuel prices in other countries, you can check here: Fuel prices in the world <<<

 

 

 

The most expensive countries in South America:

 

1. Argentina

2. Chile

3. Ecuador (but the cheapest petrol!)

 

Argentina is definitely the most expensive country in South America. Prices in supermarkets are similar to prices in the UK or sometimes even higher. A year ago it was not that expensive, but after the economical changes in 2016 prices rised dramatically.

 

Cheapest hotels

  • Argentina: from 300 ARS for en-suite double room
  • Chile: 18.000-25.000 CLP;
  • Ecuador: $15-30.

 

Campsites

  • Argentina: from 70 ARS (car + 2 people), but we found some free campsites (for example in Parque Leoncito near Mendoza);
  • Chile: from 10.000 CLP (car + 2 people);
  • Ecuador: a lot of free campsites in National Parks (sometimes with cold showers), paid campsites from $10 per car.
campings in chile
Campings in Chile were full of retired Europeans in heavy modified 4×4 expedition trucks. We always wonder why they do all these modifications, as they only drive from one campsite to another one, never met them on the off-road! πŸ˜€

 

Restaurants

  • Argentina: min. 90 ARS (main without drink);
  • Chile: min. 3.000 CLP, but usually 4.500 CLP upwards;
  • Ecuador: from $2.5 (starter + main + drink).

 

Fuel

  • Argentina: 16-17 ARS/l (90 octans);
  • Chile: 730-780 CLP/l (90 octans);
  • Ecuador: $1.48/gallon (87 octans), $2-2.35/gallon (92 octans).

 

 

Remember! It’s just our personal opinion and we were writing only about countries in South America we have visited so far. Each of you can pick different countries. Certainly, all depends on how you travel: independently (for example in your own car or bike), backpacking SA or travel with a travel agency on an organized tour. If you do not agree with our rankings, please write your opinion in the comments.

 

*We took into consideration prices of hotels/campsites + food [restaurants and products from shops] + fuel.