Missing flights and getting ripped off by a taxis or two is part of traveling. This post provides some plane, bus and taxi tips (all based off of our failures) to help you make the most of your time getting from point A to point B.

Our preferred method of travel is with our own two feet, however we do not have the time to travel the world by foot. For the most part, we’ve used planes and buses to get around South America. As you would expect, planes are more expensive and quicker if you’re going to and from large cities. Buses are cheaper, take longer but often provide beautiful views of cities and countrysides that you miss from thousands of feet up in the air! If the trip is less than 6 hours we usually take a bus, if more we usually take a plane.

Planes

Show Up 1.5 Hours Before Your Flight

  • Yes, we know this should be a given. If you have to check in at the airport, give yourself some time. Some budget airlines require you to be at the airport an hour before your flight to check in. We’d gotten into the habit of showing up 45 minutes before our flights in the US, however TSA pre-check doesn’t exist in South America and this is bit us on our first flight in Colombia.

Research the Airline Bag Policy Before Booking

  • Have I mentioned that we hate paying fees, that goes for our bags as well.
  • If you’re traveling with a 40 liter backpack like ours, you’re in the grey area for whether your bag can be considered a personal item. Here’s a list of airlines we’ve used to date and whether they classified our bags as carry-ons and forced us to pay extra at the airport. Be sure to factor this into your decision when picking the cheapest flight on GoogleFlights.
    • LATAM: No extra for our backpacks. LATAM is our preferred airline.
    • VivaAir: $85,000 Colombian pesos ($25) per person for our backpacks at the airport. We avoid VivaAir like the plague.
  • If you have any budget airlines you highly recommend please mention them in the comments below!

Plan to Fly from Capital to Capital

  • Transportation, especially flights, from country to country will be some of your biggest expenses on a yearlong trip. If taking a bus is not an option, usually the cheapest way to get from country to country is fly from capital to capital (i.e. Bogota, Colombia to Lime, Peru) even it is not the most direct route

Flights within Country are Cheap

  • By comparison to the US, once you get into a country flights within that country are cheap. Our average one-way flight cost in country in Colombia was ~$50USD when booking with as little as 1 day’s notice. On GoogleFlights, we’ve seen one-way flights from central to northern Chile for as little as $7USD,

Buses

Expect Buses to be On Time and Full

  • Contrary to my expectations, buses are usually on time. Also, no matter where you’re going or what time you leave, they seem to be (A couple times they have even left early on us because they filled up!)

Day Versus Night Buses

  • Although we are yet to have met a traveler who has had an issue taking a overnight bus. Due to our travel risk tolerance, our preference is to take buses during the day and arrive in a new city prior to nightfall. Plus, the views are way better this way!

Taxis / Uber

Always Make Sure the Meter is On in Your Taxi

  • Somehow we fell for this one too. We knew better and yet it still happened to us so be vigilant. The second you get into a taxi, look for the meter or “metero” and make sure that it is on. We ended up paid 2x what we should have for a ride to Andres Carne de Res in Bogota because we weren’t paying attention and didn’t ask about the meter until half through the ride.

Don’t Expect to Uber Much

  • But what about Uber? In some countries (like Colombia) Uber is illegal. Despite of this, the app is works just fine and many people (including us) have used it. When taking an Uber it is recommended that someone sits in the front seat so that it looks less like a taxi. Although Ubers are usually a little cheaper and your pay with credit card, due to poor internet we often had trouble communicating with them. Due to ease of use, we most often used taxis.

Other Notes

  • All prices in this post are current as of end of August 2019.