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Need Help Planning A Trip [21 Male, first time]

Need help planning a trip.
9 years ago, January 16th 2010 No: 1 Msg: #99966  

I am going to be graduating college in May, and my full time job will start July 19th. I’ll probably go to Las Vegas right after graduating, so starting in June, I want to go traveling for a month, possibly a month and a half. I want to go places before I start working. I don’t want to visit the city/night life - I want to see natural things i.e. safari in Africa, rainforests, pyramids, waterfalls, old churches, etc. Basically anything that is interesting, natural, and possibly historic.
The only place I have been, outside of America, is India. So basically, anything besides India and America I would consider. I don’t know about Europe, mainly because I don’t know if it is sort of the natural sort of atmosphere that I am looking for, at least not based on face-value, but if you think otherwise please tell me why. Right now, I am thinking Costa Rica, or Africa, or Australia/New Zealand. Who knows, maybe even two out of the three, or all three. What do you guys think? Should I go somewhere else? Where would you recommend I go based on what I want to see. Also, if anyone knows any good deals for flying, or other deals once I actually land (i.e. discount for a safari or something), please let me know of that as well.

Any help is appreciated!

Thanks. Reply to this

9 years ago, January 17th 2010 No: 2 Msg: #100021  
Hello Kenny 😊

There is plenty of nature in Europe. In fact, I love taking day trips to the Alps, which are just a short train ride away from Munich where I live. And the rugged coastline of Ireland where I come from is a top experience of nature. And all the the other countries/cities also have their natural highlights.

Right now, I am thinking Costa Rica, or Africa, or Australia/New Zealand.

That is a difficult choice. I really would need to toss a coin to choose, or else you could check out the blogs and photos for each and see if some or one of the places appeals to you more than the other. If they are all equal, I would choose the one with the least expensive flights to it, and the least visa trouble.

If you choose to go to all the places you are considering, maybe a Round the World plane ticket would be the thing to get.

Mel Reply to this

9 years ago, January 17th 2010 No: 3 Msg: #100107  

How old do you have to be to rent a car? I will be 22 by the time this trip is done (birthday in April).

I think I have narrowed it down.

Right now, I am leaning toward Central and South America.

I am thinking the rainforests and sights of Costa Rica > then to Quito, Ecuador in order to take a trip to the > Galapagos islands > Iguazu waterfall in Argentina > Patanal in Brazil/Bolivia > San Pedro de Atacam in Chile > go north via Nazca to > Machu Picchu, Peru

Is this the most efficient way to go about it? I might as well visit Brazil while I am in the Patanal, right? Check out those Brazilian beaches?

This sounds very expensive! I don't even know if I will even be able to do half of it!

Also, how will I actually go about seeing all these things? Will I have to go through a company that specializes in adventure packages? Or is it possible for me to just do these things without that? Maybe I will just use a company in order to go to the Galapagos, and for the rest, just backpack it? Is that possible?

Anyone with any information is appreciated.
Thanks. Reply to this

9 years ago, January 18th 2010 No: 4 Msg: #100158  

How old do you have to be to rent a car? I will be 22 by the time this trip is done (birthday in April).

I think that depends on which country you are in. You could make a specific thread about it, so those who know the answer are more likely to see it.

I think Ecuador is certainly a good choice. Brazil is a top choice too. Many say it is their favourite country in S. America.

This sounds very expensive! I don't even know if I will even be able to do half of it!

Yeah, this is quite an expensive trip you have planned. Things like the Galapagos islands are expensive. Also hiring a car is likely an expensive option, if you wont be sharing it with others.

Also, how will I actually go about seeing all these things?

For most of them, you can just go yourself, without a tour. I think you may need a tour for the Galapagos. For the rest, I would use a guidebook such as South America on a Shoestring by Lonely Planet. It gives just about all the practical information an independent traveller could need. There is also such a book for Central America.

I will just use a company in order to go to the Galapagos, and for the rest, just backpack it? Is that possible?

Absolutely, and not as complicated or as difficult as many think it is. It is the way I travel almost all the time. Getting around on busses rather than a car may also be an option for you. It would likely be less expensive, and you wouldnt have to think about things like looking after a car, road conditions, car paperwork...
Reply to this

9 years ago, January 19th 2010 No: 5 Msg: #100276  
Just do your research.
There are loads of resources online (esp this website) and thru numerous amounts of travel guides. I even use Wikitravel for the simple version because when you are just looking for specific info, it's a good tool.

Talk to people if you can and at the end of the day you'll end up meeting loads of people at hostels anyways. So have a no worries attitude and get out there.

I was pretty nervous when I first started travelling on my own, but after a while you build your confidence and meet so many people that it becomes the experience of a lifetime. The hardest part is planning it, but remember that things don't always go the way you planned it as well.
So be prepared to wing it if you have to and change plans as you go.

Use tour companies for places that are harder to reach, but I usually find that tours are overpriced and don't really give you the freedom. Although I have heard Intrepid is really good from quite a number of people but they are also pretty pricey.
Reply to this

9 years ago, January 20th 2010 No: 6 Msg: #100386  
I agree with Ann. A bit of research will go a long way when you get where you are headed. I think that sometimes travel/tour companies will try to scare people into going with them, like it would be impossible to figure things out on your own.

If you need some piece-of-mind you can purchase some Travel Health Insurance.
Reply to this

9 years ago, January 29th 2010 No: 7 Msg: #101730  
Thanks for your help so far.

I am thinking of sacrificing a few places because of cost and time reasons.

Here is what I MUST see:

Costa Rica - rainforests/other activities
Peru - Machu Picchu
Brazil - Amazon River/Rainforest/Iguazu Falls
Argentina - Iguazu Falls

What I want to see:

Galapagos Islands
Patanal in Brazil
San Pedro de Atacam in Chile
Brazilian Beaches

I am willing to sacrifice the latter list, but what do you think about the list that I MUST see? Would this be possible and affordable?

The problem is that I cannot begin the research yet because I do not know what point A is and what point B is - I have decided where I want to go but I do not know the most efficient way of traveling. I'm pretty sure I'll go to Costa Rica first, because it is the closest, but then I am unsure.

I think I will pass on renting a car, and just backpack it. Although I am kind of nervous since I have never done this before. I am told that I will need a tour to visit Machu Picchu as well?
I am in the process of learning spanish via Rosetta Stone (and I did take 3 years of it in high school)

Thanks for the references Mell, I will check them out. Reply to this

9 years ago, January 31st 2010 No: 8 Msg: #101927  
Okay, here is an update of where I am now.

I haven't even begun to plan out the logistics - i.e. costs, flight, transportation, living accomodations, visas, other documentation (?), immunizations, exchange rates, weather, what places I should avoid due to crime, what I will need to bring to the trip, etc. (I am probably missing a lot). I am going to be using Lonely Planet's and Frommer's travel guides to help me with some of this stuff, along with internet resources.

For flight, I am thinking of doing it through oneWorld (http://www.oneworld.com/ow/air-travel-options/single-continent-fares/visit-south-america). Is this a good idea?

Here is what I REALLY WANT to see:

(2) Peru - Machu Picchu
(3) Bolivia - Lake TitiCaca ( on the border of Peru/Bolivia), Río Madidi watershed (Parque Nacional Madidi) also (Noel Kempff Mercado National Park)
(1) Brazil - Amazon River/Rainforest/Pantanal/Iguazu Falls/Brazilian Beaches/Rio de Janeiro
(1) Argentina - Iguazu Falls (I hear both sides of the falls are amazing to see.

Here is what I wouldn't mind seeing, but will probably skip due to cost/time reasons:

(4) Costa Rica - rainforests/other activities (ziplining, river rafting, white water rafting, etc.) (this is nice but the rainforest isn't so great compared to the Amazon, right?)
(5) Galapagos Islands (very expensive)
(6) Kaieteur Falls, Guyana - (this place looks beautiful, but again, expense and time).
(7) San Pedro de Atacam in Chile (I don't know how exciting this will be)

What do you think of that list? Is it realistic to do 1, 2, and 3? Should I get rid of (3)? Is it possible to include (4)?

Like I said, I haven't planned much of the logistics yet. I have no idea how long I will stay at a particular location, let me know if you have any estimates.

Here is the specific journey, in my mind so far.

I am thinking that I will land in Peru, somehow find a safe place to stay that is not far from Machu Picchu, and then use a guided tour to visit Machu Picchu. I want to avoid guided tours due to expense, but I am told that it is a good idea to do this for Machu Picchu. After that, go to the border of Bolivia to see Lake TitiCaca/Parque Nacional Madidi. Then somehow travel east to see Parque Nacional Noel Kempff. After that, I will be pretty much on the border of Brazil. Then I will somehow go South to see the Pantanal and the Parque Nacional do Pantanal Matogrossense. After that, I will continue to go further south (a lot). Until I reach Iguazu Falls (Parque Nacional Iguazu). Then, if time permits, I will head northeast to Rio de Janeiro and spend some time there and find a nearby airport to come back to Chicago.

In the above trip, I did not include the Amazon Rainforest/River because I have NO IDEA yet where in Brazil I should go to see this. I do not want to go to Manaus because I understand that this is a beaten path, and I want to go somewhere less traveled, but not overly expensive. I am thinking I visit the Amazon rainforest/river before I head south for the Pantanal, but that will depend on where I want to see it. As for the Brazilian beaches, I am clueless on that as well so far. Please let me know where I should go.

Thanks! Reply to this

9 years ago, February 11th 2010 No: 9 Msg: #103381  
I have updated my trip out of concern for time, please let me know what you think. Also, for the most part, Brazil is not included in this updated itinerary. I think your idea about making 3 itineraries is really good, and I will definitely do this, but first I need to find some focus on what I am doing. After I have some focus, I will definitely do that!

My concern for time is due to a lot of people telling me that I will not have time to do the following plan in 5 weeks:

Machu Picchu > Lake TitiCaca > Parque Nacional Madidi > Noel Kempff > Amazon Rainforest/River/Brazilian Beaches (I am not sure where to put this, but I definitely want to do this) > Pantanal / Parque Nacional do Pantanal Matogrossense > Rio de Janeiro.

You guys are saying that I will not be able to do this, and that I should focus on less things and just not rush it and enjoy my time there.

I don't know how to alter my trip if I am not going to have enough time. I definitely want to see the Amazon! My priorities are more over toward nature and wildlife than toward history and things like that - I only want to see Machu Picchu, I will pass on the Incan Trail, and the Nazca lines

I researched Puerto Moldanado and it seems like this is more and more of what I am looking for. Maybe this is a better idea. Instead of rushing to Brazil after Lake Titicaca, I can stay in Peru and see the the Amazon from Puerto Moldanado?

Or is it better to see it from Brazil?

Please see my modified trip below. Please let me know where you think Salar de Uyuni can fit in this trip, if it is possible

So here is what I am thinking now.

I start with Lake titicaca > Machu Picchu > Cusco > take a train or flight to Puerto Maldonado > take a boat to Tambopata-Candamo/Sandoval Lake/Collpa de Guacamayos (apparently boat is the only way to access this place, please tell me if you know otherwise) > go south to see Bahuaja-Sonene National Park > go west to see Manú National Park > Iguazu Falls???

Will this work?

Tambopata sounds very exciting, it is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. It is also home to Colpa de Guacamayos (the clay lick attracts thousands of macaws and parrots each day!).

I don't think I will have time to see Iquitos, right? since that is much further northwest than my current itinerary. Which would you recommend, Puerto Maldonado or Iquitos?

The downside to this is that I will not get to see the Pantanal, nor Iguazu Falls. Is there a way I can still do one of two of these things? If not both =[. Maybe take a flight from somewhere near Puerto Moldanado to the Iguazu Falls? And then either end my trip there, or go to the Rio if I have time.

Thanks for your help! Reply to this

9 years ago, February 12th 2010 No: 10 Msg: #103447  
There is no perfect way to do it, Kenny. Just do whatever looks good to you. Spend at least 3 nights in everyplace you stop so you dont rush around too much, be sure to take a Lonely Planet guide for South America and everything will work out. 😊 Reply to this

9 years ago, February 18th 2010 No: 11 Msg: #104077  

Here is an update:

Ok, so at least I have something decided. This part of the trip is finalized.. for now.

Chicago > Lima > Cuzco (all flights)

From Cuzco, (after Machu Picchu) I will meet up with a travel agency to do one of their tours through Manu. The question I am trying to answer right now, is which agency?


Here are my 5 options based on researching:

*1. http://manuperu.com/*

*Manu Nature Tours: Manu Cloud Forest Lodge & Manu Lodge (5, 6, 7, or 8 day options) - price not listed, emailed them asking for information on prices.*

This seems like a very good site and it seems like they know what they were doing, if price was not a consideration, this would definitely be my first or second choice.

*2 atalayaperu.com/peru-tours/02-rainforest.php*

*Atalaya Peru*

There are a couple of different options here:

Either the *"Manu Park" 8d/7n tour (PRICE $ 970.00 PER PERSON + s/ 150.00 Park Entrance)*

or the

*Manu & Tambopata National Park 11d/10n tour ( PRICE $1840.00 + S/150.00 ENTRADA PARQUE*)

This also seems like a great site and would be in my top 2 if money was not a factor.

This is where I need help, It seems like the latter is too expensive, is it worth it? I need help in comparing the two trips on this website, and also comparing the trips on this website to that of #1. Although it is difficult without knowing the pricing of #1, but any help is appreciated.

*3. Pantiacolla*

*Cloud Forest, Lake Salvador & Otorongo, Macaw Lick and Pantiacolla Mountains (9days) in and out by bus (emailed for price)*


This one seems a little longer than a few of the other ones, but that may very well be because bus transportation is used. This could also mean it is cheaper, which is good. Although I'm not very impressed with this website, I'm still unsure if it is really going to make a significant difference which tour agency I choose.

*4. Perutravels*


*Manu Reserved Zone Tour (8d / 7n) (1000$*)

This site seems very cluttered, but it seems cheaper than the others, assuming the cost of a single person doesn't shoot the price up.

*5. SAS*

There are several different Manu trips, but I am not sure which one is the best deal.

What do you guys think?

One concern with some of these tours is that the price is assumed based on two people traveling. I doubt that I will get a person to accompany me, so hopefully the prices don't shoot up too much. I will work on getting the pricing based on my situation, but what do you guys think about the tours in general? Which one would you guys recommend?

After Manu, I will be back in Cuzco, and I am still deciding on whether or not I will go to Lake Titicaca. I definitely wanted to do it at first, but after seeing some videos online, it seems like it's a great lake, and it's definitely going to be a great experience living with the natives.. but I don't know if it is for me. It's a good place to relax, but I don't really see anything besides the lake. Assuming I skip Lake Titicaca, I want to go to the Pantanal from Cusco, and then to Iguazu, and then end my trip in Rio. I will continue planning this, but I want to get the Peru part of my trip finalized first. You guys say that I don't need a guided tour for Machu Picchu, so there really isn't much planning to do there right? I just want to get the Manu trip finalized. Reply to this

9 years ago, February 18th 2010 No: 12 Msg: #104099  
It may be an idea to remove Machu Picchu from your list, considering the following.

Floods in Machu Picchu Reply to this

9 years ago, February 19th 2010 No: 13 Msg: #104191  
isnt it reopening in April though? Reply to this

9 years ago, February 19th 2010 No: 14 Msg: #104195  

isnt it reopening in April though?

I dont know. Reply to this

9 years ago, February 28th 2010 No: 15 Msg: #105275  

9 years ago, March 6th 2010 No: 16 Msg: #105850  
Here is an update for my trip:

- Manu
I have been in contact with 7-8 different agencies for Manu, and after seeing all their offers, I believe DosManos has the best deal, where it is 770$ for 8D/7N. Anyone heard anything good or bad about this agency?


There is a 50%!p(MISSING)ossibility that at least one of my friends may accompany me on at least some of this trip.

So here are the questions I have now:

- Machu Picchu (No Inca Trail)

I will visit this place before or after Manu depending on the dates I am able to book for Manu. Just to be sure, I do not have to use a tour agency for this, right? Simply take the train and go there early in the morning before the tour groups get there?

- Lake Titicaca

I want to try and spend a few days here, but I don't know if I should use a tour agency for that. Maybe if I use the same tour agency they will give me some sort of package discount? But before I look into that, I want to know if it is even necessary to use a tour agency for this - can I just show up there on my own?

- The Pantanal

I want this to be at least 2 weeks of my trip, since this is the place where I can see a lot of wildlife. Can anyone recommend any tour agencies for this? From Lake Titicaca, I will have to find a way to somehow arrive here - I am thinking I will do this by plane since bus would take too long, anyone have any idea what airport I would use to depart Lake Titicaca and where I would land near the Pantanal? Or should I bus it?

- Iguazu Falls

Hopefully I still have time for this. Maybe from the Pantanal it would be a good idea to fly to Rio de Janeiro, since I want to go there anyway. And then from Rio, find a tour agency that'll take me to Iguazu. Or it might be easier to go from Pantanal to Iguazu to Rio and then go home from Rio after spending a few days there.

Thanks for your help! Reply to this

9 years ago, March 10th 2010 No: 17 Msg: #106189  
I just got back from an 8mnth tour (check out our blog... very similar places)... and I'd make more time for Iguazu- very touristy, but the waterfalls are just STUNNING. Lake Titicaca is beautiful too (we did an overnight, floating islands, 3 island tour)- be sure and negotiate your prices ALL THE TIME. 😉 Reply to this

9 years ago, March 11th 2010 No: 18 Msg: #106230  
How much time do you recommend for Iguazu?

Also, how do I negotiate for prices? I was hoping to book everything through email before I even leave! Reply to this

9 years ago, March 11th 2010 No: 19 Msg: #106252  
Haha!! Kenny, in South America you only negotiate prices in person. ANY bit of Spanish you can pick up before you go- will take you a LONG way! You may end up paying WAY OVER price if you try and book everything in advance. AND if a bus is delayed or cancelled... it may continue to hurt your "reserved schedule" meaning you might have to skip places to get you back on schedule. Plus, once you get somewhere- you might want to stay an extra day or so.

The best advice I can give to you Kenny is to take one day at a time. Have a general/dedicated timeline and hot spots, but if you meet some awesome people and change your mind about specifics you've planned and paid for- you don't want to be tied down. Not sure how far you will get in a month (considering we planned on traveling South America for 3 months and ended up traveling it 6!!).

Another Awesome place is Peru is Huacachina, a real Oasis. Killer sand dunes where you dune buggy it (the drivers are a riot) and sand board. I didn't stand... I layed on my stomach and flew down the dunes. Do the afternoon tour- the sunset is mystical.

Rio is neat. Lots of partying- be very alert here. Lots of rif raff. Not a favorite city of mine, but Sugar Loaf was pretty damn cool and so were the favela tours. Cusco IS AWESOME for churches!! Def. do both churches in the square.

Alrighty- enough is enough! Good luck to you! It's going to be AWESOME!! Oh... and get up at 4:30am for Manchu Piccu and HIKE Wannapichu (they only allow 400 people a day on it)... so get there fast. It was surreal AND ancient. Reply to this

9 years ago, March 11th 2010 No: 20 Msg: #106255  
Opps... Iguazu... you need about 3 days (customs... going over the boarder takes some time). If you can only do one side... definitely Argentina... you get wayyyy closer to the falls and the city is way cooler. Brazil side... you can see more at the same time... but Argentina side- sweet + awesome steaks!

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