South America's vast distances make air travel the best bet for getting around, especially if you are visiting more than one country. LanChile has a large network of connections...
South America’s vast distances make air travel the best bet for getting around, especially if you are visiting more than one country.
LanChile has a large network of connections to most cities in the region. Other recommended local carriers are AeroContinente, Varig, TACA and Tans Peru.
Unlike in the United States, cheap flights can be booked with as little as two or three days’ notice with no penalty.
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Travelers with a sense of adventure and some time on their hands should consider bus transport. Throughout Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia and other countries, safe, deluxe air-conditioned buses are available at surprisingly cheap rates. A first-class bus from Lima to Cuzco, Peru, for example, costs about $30 one way. The downside: The trip takes about 24 hours.
The dollar is strong in most of the region, but particularly in Brazil, Chile and Argentina.
A double room in a three-star hotel in Buenos Aires can be found for less than $40 a night, for example.
Cash machines are common throughout the region, and using them to obtain local currency via credit card is one of the best option for travelers. Use ATMs with caution, though, as they have been scenes of robberies.
In some cases, such as in central markets or tourist centers, U.S. dollars are accepted. In Ecuador, the U.S. dollar is the official currency.
Language barriers can pose a challenge for many Americans across much of the continent. Spanish is spoken in most countries, except Brazil, where Portuguese is the mother tongue; French Guiana, where locals speak French; and Suriname, where Dutch is commonly heard.
In the major cities, most hotel and restaurant employees speak enough English to communicate.
But in more remote areas, very few people speak more than a few words of English. A guide and a good phrasebook can save you headaches.
Visas and fees
Entrance visas or fees are required for Americans visiting Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Suriname. Visas for Brazil, a popular destination for American travelers to South America, must be obtained before arrival, from the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C., or a Brazilian consulate; the cost is about $100.
Brazil recently has been fingerprinting American visitors in retaliation for the new U.S. policy of fingerprinting Brazilians and many other foreign visitors to the United States.
Court fights are continuing over the policy in Brazil, but in the meantime the fingerprinting has been speeded up and there are no longer lengthy delays.
South America information
Argentina. Argentina Government Tourism Office, www.turismo.gov.ar, 212-603-0443.
Bolivia. Bolivian Consulate, 202-232-4827, www.bolivia-usa.org (in Spanish).
Brazil. Tourism Office of the Brazilian Embassy, www.braziltourism.org, 800-727-2945.
Chile. Chilean Tourism Promotion Corporation, www.visitchile.org, 866-937-2445.
Colombia. Consulate of Colombia, www.colombiaemb.org, 202-332-7476.
Ecuador. Ecuador Ministry of Tourism, www.vivecuador.com, or Consulate of Ecuador, 202-234-7166.
Guyana. Embassy of Guyana, 202-265-6900, www.guyana.org.
Paraguay. Embassy of Paraguay, 202-483-6960, www.senatur.gov.py (in Spanish).
Suriname. Embassy of the Republic of Suriname, www.surinameembassy.org, 202-244-7488.
French Guiana. French Government Tourist Office, 410-286-8310, www.tourisme-guyane.gf.
Uruguay. Embassy of Uruguay, 202-331-1313.
Venezuela. Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, 202-342-2214, www.embavenez-us.org.