Before embarking on my South American trip (more on the reasons why South America in another post), I had to plan my entry into the continent.

There were 2 major entry-points I considered for this trip:

  • Lima, Peru
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina

Lima would be closer to the highlight of my trip, which was Macchu Picchu and would work out cheaper. However it would be a far longer route (46 hrs vs 33 hrs), and at least 2 stops (change of plane included).

Buenos Aires was located closer to Patagonia, which was the Southern-most point of my trip and a shorter flight time with just 1 stop in Dubai. and given I was travelling solo for the 1st week (not something I’ve done for such a period in a unknown land), I thought Argentina seemed the more developed and safer destination (despite their economic woes) and would be softer introduction to the continent than Peru (I was mistaken in this regard as Argentina seems much closer in character to mainland Europe than the Americas, but more on that later).

I also considered flying out of Lima to save on internal flights back to Buenos Aires but after comparing the costs of the 2 options, decided that flying into and out of Buenos Aires would be more economical overall.

With the long flights settled I moved onto planning my South American circuit.

You can see my original plan in the map below as the grey markers. But in one month one can only cover so much territory effectively. So I scaled back on the route and decided to focus on the Southern most areas with Central Peru as my northern most point. My final route markers are in red & gold.

I consulted both online & offline resources for the planning of this trip.

  • Lonely Planet guide : South America on a Shoestring
  • Insight guide : South America
  • Tripadvisor

The insight guides were rich in pictures which helped narrow down the points of interest, whereas the lonely planet provided the nitty-gritty details of the getting to the area, travel tips, hazards etc. Both books were borrowed from the library without too much trouble.

Offline guides risk being out-dated so I used trip advisor to filter out sights/hotels/routes which were either hazardous, badly-managed or just not value for money.

Macchu Picchu, which was the highlight of the trip required quite a few bookings in advance.

Macchu Picchu entry-tickets (2500 slots per day) Rail tickets (Cuzco to Machu Picchu) (limited in quantity due to a duopoly)

Given the crime statistics in most of the cities I was visiting I decided to pre-book all the hotel upfront.

I did so via Trivago cross-checked the review comments against trip advisor to be sure I would’t have any nasty surprises mid-trip.

I booked the internal flights & buses in advance as the distances involved in this trip meant flights would be crucial in covering my itinerary within the month.

With my trip bookings settled (thus clearing my mind from the stress of it) I could prepare to pack and brace myself for the daunting journey ahead.