I find that people often think that travelling say between Bogotá and Montevideo, or Caracas and Santiago de Chile is fairly straightforward. Must be. They are all in the same continent, they all speak the same language. OK, there’s the Amazon in the middle to complicate matters and the Andes, too, and vast deserts… But, surely, it can’t be that difficult…
But it is. Transport links within South America are scarce and expensive, at least compared to European standards. Rail transport is minimal, air transport is expensive, infrequent and covers only the largest cities. There is heavy reliance on coaches. Car travel has increased and infrastructure has improved, but it can take days to travel from one country to another, often across dangerous areas with no services for motorists.
There are exceptions. Neighbours such as Argentina and Uruguay, or Venezuela and Colombia, have strong transport links – which reflect the patterns of business travel and tourism. However, you will often find that most South Americans who have been abroad (and there are vast numbers who have never left their home country) are likely to have travelled only to a one or two neighbouring countries. It is not uncommon in Europe for an adult to have travelled to five, or even more, different European countries. That is very rarely the case in South America.
So a piece of advice: if you plan on travelling to South America for business or pleasure, make sure you research inter-continental travel thoroughly. Check routes, frequency, prices – plus bear in mind that strikes are common as well as last-minute changes.