From the pounding surf of Rio de Janeiro to the driest desert on the planet, crossing South America is an incredible experience which packs in more natural wonders than anywhere else on the planet. In just seven days you can feel the spray from the world’s largest waterfall, walk through multicolored mountains and gawp at high altitude lakes en route through three incredible countries.
However figuring out a route across this diverse nation wasn’t easy. With a limited transport network and a surprising lack of information online, it took hours of trawling online forums, poring over maps and baffling bus timetables to work out the best way to travel from East to West.
So to save you going through the same headache, we’ve shared our seven day travel itinerary for crossing South America via some of the most spectacular and diverse landscapes on the planet.
Singapore is well known as a major transport hub connecting destinations across South East Asia and beyond. But this clean, green westernized oasis marooned bizarrely in the middle of chaotic South East Asia is much more than just a place to refuel.
Known as the ‘Garden State’ on account of its extensive green spaces, beautiful parks and gardens, this wealthy country also boasts some of the most impressive night-time skylines on the planet, is home to a world-famous zoo and is the birthplace of a must-try eponymous cocktail. However many travellers are just passing through and fail to see its potential beyond a transport hub.
We travelled to Singapore twice and fell in love with this high tech, high rise city crammed with shiny skyscrapers, refreshing greenery and an orderliness that is so at odds with the rest of South East Asia.
Whether you’ve got 8 hours, 24 hours or more between flights, here’s how to make the most of an airport stopover in Singapore.
From deserted beaches and bustling cities to historic temples and lush green jungle, South East Asia has it all and then some. We spent two months travelling around this fascinating region. Here are our South East Asian highlights in pictures.
It’s pitch black. The dense jungle around us is oddly quiet, the creatures lurking within biding their time, waiting until we glide by in our little wooden boat before continuing on their nightly business. The only sound is the gentle slap of a paddle in the inky black water as we navigate our way through a maze of tributaries.
Suddenly two eyes appear in the darkness, illuminated by the torchlight. We paddle towards them and before I can utter a word, our boatman Joe plunges his hands into the water and plucks out a 1 metre long baby alligator. Continue reading
Melbourne made us giddy. From the moment we set foot in Federation Square, surrounded by shiny high rise buildings and hip cafes we were possessed by a strange energy. Maybe it was the heady coffee aroma which permeates every street corner seeping into our bodies, or maybe it was the influence of the fitness obsessed Melbournians rubbing off on us. Either way, Melbourne has a cool electricity which, like the current of the Yarra river which runs through it, is impossible to resist.
However, every backpacker knows that visiting cities on a shoestring budget can be tricky. Like a poor kid in a sweet shop we press our noses to the restaurant windows gazing enviously at the heaving plates of gourmet food or avert our eyes as we pass shop menequins draped in designer handbags, before trudging back to our hostel for a third night of beans on toast.
The good news is Melbourne has plenty to offer even the most financially challenged backpacker. Check out our list if the top ten free (or cheap) things to do in Melbourne. Continue reading
Jetlagged we stagger out of our hotel lobby onto bustling Av 9 de Julio, squinting in the Autumn sunshine. A steady stream of office workers pass by, effortlessly glamourous even at this early hour. Towering above us a powerful black and white image of Evita is painted onto a scruffy concrete high rise, looking out proudly over her city. This is Buenos Aires.
The sultry Argentine capital was our first stop in South America and marks the moment we fell in love with this fascinating and mesmerising continent. Colourful, raw, passionate, gritty; Buenos Aires has a lot to offer travellers besides amazing food and nightlife. It’s varied neighbourhoods showcase the different sides of the city and deserve thorough exploration.
While city breaks can be tricky for backpackers travelling on a shoestring and Argentina certainly isn’t the cheapest South American nation, we found plenty of budget-friendly things to see and do in Buenos Aires.
Wearing traditional conical hats and colourful clothing, the rice pickers laugh and chat cheerfully amongst themselves as they go about their work, pausing every so often to answer their mobile phones. The scene perfectly epitomizes Vietnam’s extremes of old and new. From the colourful tribespeople in the northern mountains to the tech savvy teenagers on motorbikes, jostling for position in six indistinguishable lanes of traffic in Ho Chi Minh City. Go to full post
Laos took us by surprise. From the moment we set foot outside the airplane at the most picturesque airport I’ve ever seen we were bewitched. We were expecting lush jungle and a charming French colonial vibe but weren’t prepared for Laos’ raw, unspoilt beauty. Outside the main tourist spots the land of a million elephants is still relatively undeveloped compared to its neighbours, making it a traveller’s dream destination.
“Seung seung” I say. Slowly the elephant lifts her front leg and waits patiently. Her huge brown eye looks steadily into mine. I can’t quite believe it but my elephant is giving me a leg up! These beautiful, intelligent animals can learn up to 150 voice commands. The mahout nodded and reached for my hand. Placing my foot on the elephants leg I was hoisted onto her bare neck, her skin warm and spongy against mine. We move slowly and deliberately, gently rocking from side to side as she lumbers through the jungle.
The countryside in northern Vietnam is mind-bogglingly beautiful. Shimmering green rice terraces, rustic little villages, soaring peaks shrouded in curling mist. Chances are these are the images that drew you to travel in Vietnam in the first place. There’s just one small problem…the gateway to this stunning landscape is Sapa, a soulless tourist trap riddled with pushy street vendors where huge hotel blocks are going up at lightening pace. Crowds of selfie stick wielding tourists pour in by the bus load and jostle for position despite the uninspiring streetscape while horns blare incessantly in competition with the local traders for your attention. You buy from me! You buy! Read more