Planning South America

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The Top things you need to know for planning your South America trip…

Where do I even begin…my first solo trip to South America! It was extremely exciting and in the run up to the trip, I don’t think I even had the fear until I landed.

Along with writing my individual blog posts for each country I thought this post would be useful for those planning their trip to SA. I mean, after all it is a whole continent! It took me a whole month to plan my 2 month trip in South America. I started off by speaking to a lot of friends who had already been and also researching online.

Now if you’re like me and a total excel – type A geek you’ll naturally want to create your own excel spreadsheet. But if you’re not I would still suggest creating one to have all your ideas/budgets/links together in one place.

So here are a few things you’ll need to think about in chronological order…

Step 1: Injections

I’d suggest if you’re planning last minute, make injections a priority as some of these can take up to 1 month before you can leave the country.

Step 2: Route

Once I had that sorted I started to plan my route and which countries I wanted to hit. I started from Peru and ended in Brazil but you can start in Brazil and go vice versa.

After much contemplation I decided on the following route:

PERU > BOLIVIA > CHILE > ARGENTINA > BRAZIL

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As I didn’t want to be spending all my time on overtime buses or planes I missed out Columbia and stuck to five countries in the two months. Bear in mind, Brazil is massive and there are so many things to do and see there alone.

Step 3: Cities/Towns

So now that I knew which countries I wanted to cover, I decided to research around which cities and must-see sights I wanted to see. You can check my individual blog posts for each country but here is a brief summary of the cities and sights I covered and highly recommend. Some of the most recommended must do things are as follows:

PERU: Lima-Miraflores Cusco-Machu Pichu, Rainbow Mountains

LAKE TITICACA and COPACABANA

BOLIVIA: Sucre Uyuni -Salt Flats Lagunas

CHILE: San Pedro Atacama-driest dessert in the world Valley of the Moon

ARGENTINA (for the steak of course): Salta, Buenos Aires (Tango shows), Iguazu Falls (Argentine and Brazilian side)

BRAZIL: Florianopolis (beaches) Buzios (Cabo Frio beaches) Rio (Christ the redeemer, Sugar loaf, Lapa steps, the Two Brothers Hike, Ipanema and Copacabana beach) Ilha Grande-Lopez Mendez beach

If I had more time I would have definitely gone to Columbia, Ecuador and Patagonia too!

Step 4: Budget

Now that you’ve determined which countries you want to hit and how long you’ve got it’s time to see how far your £££ can stretch. You can alter the amount of time you spend in each country depending on how much money you have saved up. Generally speaking as you go further south (countries such as Chile, Argentina and Brazil) the more expensive it gets. However, places like Cusco can get quite pricey too due to it being such a touristy area.

Step 5: Flights and Insurance

Book flights and travel insurance (World Nomads is the best)! Once this is done, there’s no going back!!! Time to get excited!

Step 6: Book the Must See Things

Budget done, now all you need to do is book the top tourist things you MUST DO. For example, I know the Inka Trek to Machu Pichu books up so quickly and you’ll probably need a month to book in advance. However, if you’ve got under a month -not too fear! Check out my Peru blog post which talks about which company I used to do the Jungle Trek to Machu Pichu.

Step 7: Accommodation

I’d suggest only booking the first couple of nights of accommodation in advance and then free style it from there. You’ll meet so many other travellers and will change your plans if you book too much in advance. However, do research the best hostels/hotels before going out there! If you are travelling alone I definitely recommend staying in hostels as this is really the best way to meet people!

Step 8: Pack

I’m not going to put a detailed description of what to pack as there may be guys reading this but if you are a girl (or a guy) and you want further advice in want to pack, give me a holllllaaa! The only thing I would suggest is to check the weather, some people seem to imagine the whole of SA to be sunny every day. Well that definitely wasn’t the case for me. Just imagine going through different seasons of the year and you’ll be fine!

Now get planning…

K xo

 

Taipei, Taiwan

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The Taiwanese Traveller 

April 27th, 2017

With only a 2-hour flight from Hong Kong, we decided to visit our friend who is currently living in Taipei. I found Taiwan extremely different in comparison to Hong Kong; it was generally a lot less crowded and had more of a relaxed vibe and the people were extremely friendly.

In 1895, Taiwan became Japan’s first colony and they decided to make Taiwan a “model” colony for all their future colonies, so much effort and money was put into building up Taiwan’s infrastructure, industry, standard of living, and economy. There was also a big effort to change the culture and encourage everyone to speak Japanese so if you’re ever been to Japan, you’ll definitely feel a similar culture.

We stayed at the W Hotel, which was perfectly located in the Xinyi District, in the centre of Taipei. With the Breeze shopping centre located directly opposite and close to the 101 building.

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On our first night we decided to go for dinner at Sukiyaki (黑毛屋), which was a Japanese hotpot style place. This place was super cool as you each get your own cooker at the table, giving a more hands on dining experience. I would recommend booking in advance for bigger groups as this place gets super busy. Located really centrally in Taipei there are loads of bars to go to around the area.

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Exploring Taipei’s intriguing swathe of ‘secret’ prohibition style cocktail dens we decided to go to the Alchemy speakeasy bar after dinner. This was perfect for exploring different types of cocktails accompanied with live music.

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The following morning we woke nice and early ready for our hike to the Elephant Mountain. We were extremely lucky with the weather and it was sunny at round 26 degrees during the whole weekend but Taipei is known for it’s bipolar weather so make sure you check the weather forecast in advance before doing the hike. Slipping on our gym pants and trainers we headed to the Elephant Mountain to begin the Nangang District Hiking Trail. Voted as the number 1 thing to do on TripAdvisor, it was a relatively easy hike (however, having just done the jungle trek to Machu Pichu that’s just me comparing). The hike took 20 minutes to walk up and has two beautiful spots where you can view the landscape of the city including the 101 building. Easily pathed out with stairs, the hike is possible for all levels and ages.

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The Shilin Night market located in JianTan is a must for those foodies out there. From oyster omelettes/pancakes, rice noodles, deep fried chicken steak, roasted corn and dumplings to fresh exotic fruit, chilled milk, fruit drinks and bubble tea, there’s bound to be something you’ll love. The narrow streets also have a number of fashion and cosmetic markets where you can buy super cheap makeup brands such as Shiseido. Be sure to also grab a pack of the charcoal face masks that Taiwan is famous for (for girls and guys).

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Another must ‘sea’ is the YinYang Sea (陰陽海) and the Golden Waterfall (Jin Gua Shi). The waterfall was only small and nothing compared to Iguacu falls but it is close to the Ying Yang sea so worth a visit if you’re going. Located beside the northern coastal road in the Gold Ecological Park, the bay is a mix of yellow and blue due to the pollution from nearby mining activities in the past years.

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If you’re into the hipster scene the Eslite Creative Park is perfect for a chilled day wondering around the stores. Think funky coffees and creative shops. Another interesting thing they had here were a lot of ‘do it yourself’ stores whereby you could make your own pottery and wallets. Located in the mall was also one of the biggest 24-hour bookstores in Taiwan, Eslite bookstore. From cookbooks and beauty books to culture and photography there’s something for everyone!

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If you’re an anime fan then you’ll have definitely seen the movie Spirited Away. This movie was taken from the influence of the red lanterns, streets and stairs at the Jioufen market in Taipei. I definitely recommend a visit to this market even if you’re not an anime fan, but purely for the food…

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The nougats make perfect souvenirs-I recommend the sesame and rose flavour.

Shifen Old Street (十分老街) is another place to explore, whereby the main attraction here is the sky lanterns that is a cute activity to do with friends and family. If you have time I also recommend going to see the Shifen waterfall which is nearby.

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Known for the super famous Xiao long baos in Taiwan is Din Tai Fung in 101. It’s usually an hour wait but so so worth it. A few must try’s are dan dan noodles (spicy), truffle dumplings, prawn wontons and chocolate dumplings for desert!

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It does seem like all we did was eat on this trip, and I’m not going to lie but there was just so much choice it would be rude not too. As a sushi lover, we had to try out the famous Aquatic Addiction for Sushi. This was basically a stand up bar which served good quality sushi and fresh fish. Again super busy due to its reputation and usually minimum 30-minute wait, but the photos speak for itself.

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And now for dessert, located not too far from the city centre on YongKang Street is the Smoothie House where you can get the best snowflake shaved ice. In case you’ve never heard of shaved ice, this is basically the perfect substitute for ice cream and tastes amazing. I’d recommend the mango and strawberry flavour!

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Having only spent four days in Taipei we managed to fit in a lot on an extremely busy itinerary but if recommended I would suggest needing a week to do everything.

I hope this blog post has helped your travel planning and feel free to comment if you have any questions!

K xo