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How to Travel Throughout South America

May 25, 2016

ISEP student Melissa O. is a part of ISEP Voices Spring 2016. She is a Spanish education major from University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, and is currently studying abroad at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso in Chile.

When I first arrived in Chile, I knew little to none about what services were available to me for traveling throughout my host city of Valparaíso. Furthermore, I was essentially clueless about means of travel to other cities around Chile, and even to different countries in South America. I have learned a lot since being in Chile about the busing system, and hope that this information will make you feel comfortable and capable of traveling throughout Valparaíso and beyond!

 

1. Travel within your city

Micros, or buses, will most likely be your main form of transportation throughout the city of Valparaíso and its sister city of Viña del Mar. Unfortunately, there is no map of bus routes available. You can use Google Maps to plan your route, as they include micro numbers under their “public transportation” tab when searching. You can also ask locals at the bus stop. Furthermore, micros post signs in their windows listing popular destinations or roads that they will pass along their route. If you know you’re going to one of these main areas in the city, simply keep your eyes peeled for one of these “key words” posted on the front of the micro!

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Micros within and between cities typically cost $0.50 - $2.00 USD 

2. Day trips to different cities

In addition to traveling throughout Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, certain micros will also take you outside of the city to different neighboring towns. For example, I traveled by micro to reach Parque Nacional la Campana which was a 1.5 hour trip in total. The beautiful Laguna Verde is another trip outside of Valparaíso accessible by micro

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3. Long-haul trips within Chile

When planning a trip to an entirely new region of Chile, you will need to upgrade to a coach-style bus and buy a ticket in advance with one of the many bus companies that operate in Chile. There are bus terminals in both Viña del Mar and Valparaíso, and I recommend buying your ticket two to three days in advance at the actual bus terminal, not online. Popular and reliable companies include TurBus and Pullman Bus. I traveled to Pucón and Puerto Varas in the northern Patagonia region of Chile, which was a 10-12 hour overnight trip.

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Tickets range in price based on company and distance. My trip to Pucón cost $15.00 USD each way. 

4. Traveling outside of Chile

Whether you choose to bus or fly to travel to another country in Chile will depend on several factors - your budget, the distance of your trip and how much time you have. A common trip for students in Valparaíso is to travel to Mendoza, Argentina by taking an overnight bus. However, if you were to travel to Peru, you would need to take a 26 hour bus to reach your destination. It is up to the traveler, how much they want to spend on transportation and how much time they have for their trip in total. Here are some great resources to help you compare your two options and compare prices and availability:

Bus Bud - use this site to research and compare prices of buses. Remember, if you’re planning a trip that includes a border crossing, be sure to also research popular border crossing cities and plan your trip to that specific city, then buy a different bus ticket to cross the border. For example, there are no buses from Viña del Mar to Cusco, Peru. However, there are buses from Viña del Mar to Arica, Chile, then from Arica across the border to Tacna, Peru, then from Tacna to Cusco.

Sky Scanner - use this site to see what flights are available to your destination. When searching, keep the dollar amount in Chilean pesos, as the prices for some reason are sometimes cheaper than when you are searching in USD.

5. Safety

Lastly, be safe when traveling anytime and anywhere, but especially by bus. Keep your valuable items close to you, especially on overnight buses. Wear a fanny pack underneath a sweatshirt with all of your must-have items, such as your passport and money.


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