Worst Transportation In South America For Tourists & Backpackers

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Last Updated on January 30, 2023 by Rose Morah

There are many benefits and worst-case scenarios when it comes to transportation in South America.

I remember when planning my first trip to South America, my main worry was how I would safely travel for the next couple of months. I also wondered what means of transportation to use and what to avoid.

So, I did some research online. But unfortunately, the information I got was only about 10% of what I was looking for.

In this article, I share my experience in South America, what I learned from the trip, and the best transportation tips when touring South America. Additionally, I have listed the cons of using the different means of transportation available.

But first, how do you get around South America?

You can tour around South America through the following means:

  • Bus
  • Train
  • Plane
  • Mini-bus
  • Car
  • Rental car

Related: Traveling By Bus To Mexico From The US – Best Tips.

Worst transportation means in South America

We will start off with the worst means of transportation in South America.

Traveling by Bus in South America

I generally found myself in many situations when riding on a bus in South America but I learned to embrace and appreciate each of the experiences.

I also made more friends on the bus and enjoyed the scenic views along the way.

However, the following were some of my worst experiences during my travels by bus in South America:

  1. Congestion. Some buses carried excess passengers while some lay in the aisles.
  2. Some rides were very bumpy. When traveling at night, it was very impossible to sleep.

I experienced brutal bus rides, especially when traveling for long hours. You will have to book first-class buses for comfort! That means you need to dig deeper into your pockets.

I remember traveling by bus in Peru from Cusco to Mendoza via Arica, Calana e.t c. This was a 24 hours brutal trip. I wished I had booked a first-class bus.
  1. Car sickness. Traveling by bus through the mountains in South America will most likely get you car sickness. But even if you don’t get car sickness while traveling, most likely your neighbor will. . .

See also:

Top 15 Cheapest Destinations to Travel Internationally Even on a Tight Budget.

How to Get Cheap Hotel Rates Last Minute.

Traveling by Taxi in South America

When it comes to taxis, I also had my fair share of bad experiences.

These included:

  1. Fake cash. 
  2. I was scammed twice by different taxi drivers. I am not naive but I fell right into their traps just because I had never experienced such a level of scam.
  3. Overcharging. Some taxi drivers could charge more after realizing that you are a tourist.
  4. Language barrier. It was so hard to communicate with some taxi drivers.
Make sure you only use taxis from trusted companies. Additionally, you can have the hotel/hostel where you are staying call a cab for you.

See also the Best Money Tips For Traveling To Mexico.

Traveling by Train in South America

Traveling by train in South America can be great but;

  • Their subways can get so congested during rush hour. 
  • Some are very slow.
  • You need to take extra care of your bag and wallet.
Argentina, Chile, and Peru had the most scenic views when traveling by train on my South American trip.

You may also like:

Best European Train Booking Sites (Traveling By Train In Europe).

Best Travel Apps For Europe.

Traveling by Plane in South America

If you plan to tour South American countries, boarding a plane to take you from one country to another may not be a great idea. 

Sure, this is the safest means of transport in South America, it’s time-saving, and may save you lots of stress, but here is why I don’t recommend it:

  1. It can be expensive to travel by plane on your South American tour. 
  2. You will miss great scenic views.
When planning my South American tour, I realized that Columbia had very cheap airlines.

Helpful transportation tips when touring South America

  1. When traveling by taxi, always keep an eye on your destination via GPS or Google Maps. This is to make sure the taxi driver is heading to the right destination and is not ‘taking you for a ride.’
  1. When using public transport, always keep a closer eye on your luggage. But don’t be paranoid.
  2. When you are traveling by bus, DO NOT put your bag under the seat or on the bus’s overhead shelf. Keep it on your laps.
  3. Before you hail a taxi off the street, ensure you already know the price to your destination and the route, and can speak and understand some Spanish.
  4. Before entering the taxi, first agree on the charge. This is because, on most occasions, they usually don’t have a meter.
  5. Beware of the distractions at the bus stations to avoid losing your luggage.
  6. Keep your wallet in your front pockets.
  7. Don’t carry a lot of cash with you and beware of fake notes. – Always take a closer look.
  8. Carry a spare credit card with you.
  9. When going on long-distance trips, you can book cama buses (bed buses). Their seats can be reclined into beds. But, they are also a bit expensive.

Hello there! My name is Joel, a travel author here at Tripversed. Meeting people ignites my passion for travel. I believe that travel is never a matter of money, but of courage. But I never go out sad.