The last 2 weeks have been spent planning my upcoming trip to South America.
Most of the trip is pretty straightforward except for the Galapagos Islands cruise and my stay in Brazil. I’ll elaborate more on this later.
Where as I traveled in Europe, Africa, and Asia mostly using ground transportation, I will mostly be flying around in South America. If I had more time, I might have taken it slower and stopped by all the unknown smaller towns between the major cities. Each bus ride between major cities in, for example, Colombia, takes around 12-20 hours one way. I may not have minded 5 hours but 12-20 seems a bit longer than I’d like. Moreover, the cost of long distance bus rides are about 50-60% of a planet ticket for the same route, which takes a tenth of the time. It’s a no-brainer to fly in South America most of the time. (But I will be traveling via bus for a few legs of my journey through South America.)
TIP: Don’t rely on Kayak to research plane ticket prices. This is because ever since they were bought my Priceline, they will show a low price initially but when you hit “Select”, they will look again and give you messages like “Sorry, this price isn’t available anymore. It is now $xxx.xx”. I used Expedia.com and prices shown are what you pay.
Back to Galapagos and Brazil.
I’ve read that the best way to experience the Galapagos Islands is with a cruise, which is usually offered in the 5-day or 8-day variety on various classes of boats ranging from economy to luxury. Now, to get the best prices for these cruises, it is recommended people fly to the Galapagos Islands (most people land in Isla Santa Cruz), take the bus to Puerto Ayora, and look for last-minute cruise deals there (alternately, you could do the same in Quito or Guayacil on the mainland but you may not get as good a deal as you would in Puerto Ayora). I also read that the longer you can spend waiting in Puerto Ayora, the better the chance of you scoring a great deal. We are talking about a 20-30% difference in price, which is considerable when you realize the price of an 8-day cruise can range from $1500 to $4000, depending on which boat class you pick. I personally have chosen to travel to Puerto Ayora and take my chances. It is the shoulder season after all. I don’t know if I would have the same luck traveling during peak season (June to September).
As for Brazil, it’s World Cup year. Which means most places (and I’m just referring to “lowly” hostels, not fancy hotels) mark up their per-night price about 500%, starting June 12 and ending July 13, which is when the WC starts and ends. Yes, 500%! US$20/night turns into US$100 for a DORM BED. So my plan is to spend about 2 weeks prior to the World Cup in Brazil when all the prices are normal, and then spend a few days staying in a city which is hosting a match, for the purpose of experiencing the atmosphere. And let’s not even discuss the battle for a place to sleep, even at those prices. After messing around with alternate itineraries and doing a ton of research using my Rough Guide, Wikitravel, Hostelworld, and Hotels.com, I was fortunate enough to secure accommodation in Sao Paulo (and at a much better price than originally thought, which I can’t confirm until I actually get there in June, so I’ll keep you posted). On June 12, I will get to be in Sao Paulo as host nation Brazil open the 2014 World Cup by taking on Croatia in Sao Paulo itself. I will then leave Brazil shortly after. I will write about the details of my “escape from high prices” route out of Brazil when I’m there. Also, it’s probably better to fly around Brazil. If you wonder why, open Google Maps and check out its size. Flights are relatively cheap, plenty of time will be saved, and your butt/sanity will thank you for it.