I have self driven in Africa, but now want to explore South America. Can you help?
The short answer is yes! We already operate self drive safaris in Argentina & Chile. Covid-19 has delayed our ‘Latin Drive’ website launch which will also showcase our self drive holidays in Uruguay, Brazil, Ecuador and Costa Rica - but we’re open for bookings now and the website will be live in the coming months.
Self driving in Central and South America is every bit as fun, adventurous and life-affirming as self driving in Africa. There are some long challenging drives, stupendous scenery, extraordinary wildlife, genuine hospitality, some wonderful conservation & community projects to visit (and get involved with), memorable places to stay and delicious food to eat.
Do I need to speak Spanish?
It is not essential. In the major towns and cities English is widely spoken, as is the case in many hotels and lodges. If you do speak Spanish (or Portuguese in Brazil’s case) then life will certainly be easier and you will arguably get more out of the trip as you can converse with people along the way and hear their stories. However – any attempt at speaking Spanish will be much appreciated and even if you can mug up on the basics then this will stand you in good stead and often provide lots of entertainment and some fun interactions as you try and make yourself understood. Latin Drive will arm you with quite a lot of key phrases for a road trip in your final information pack, including sensible things such as “Please fill up the tank” and “What’s the condition of the road to XX”, to “I’m really hungry - where can I find the best empanadas.”
Best advice is to take a Spanish/Portuguese dictionary, be confident, smile a lot and be prepared to use some acting skills/make yourself look a bit silly.
Can I camp?
We don’t offer camping on our self drive trips in Latin America. This may happen in time, but for now all our trips are ‘lodge to lodge’, although in Argentina we do supply you with a basic picnic kit, which allows you to make a simple lunch, with a collapsible table and chairs to enjoy a scenic spot.
What’s the accommodation like?
Accommodation is really varied – a typical trip would begin and end in a small, boutique city hotel. We like to suggest some interesting options, rather than a chain hotel. In Buenos Aires for e.g, there are many ‘villages or neighbourhoods’ within the city (known locally as barrios), rather like London in that sense, and so we would encourage you to stay in different areas at the beginning and end of your trip to allow you to experience more of the city. Perhaps Recoleta at the start if arriving on a Sunday morning to allow you to enjoy the huge craft market outside the famous Recoleta cemetery (the final resting place for many of Argentina’s wealthiest and most famous families, Eva Peron amongst them), and ending your trip in trendy Palermo with its great restaurants and bars.
Along the routes we have put together you could be staying in a stunning estancia (farm) on one night, followed by a simple guest house the next. There are vineyards with rooms, estancias steeped in history, fincas out in the countryside, quirky family run hotels in small towns and everything in between. The common thread between them all is a comfy bed, good food and a friendly welcome. Where this is not the case and on some of our remoter trips there is no option but to use really basic accommodation in a remote non-touristy village, then we will make you fully aware of what to expect.
What will I drive?
Unlike in Africa, for our trips in Latin America we do no town our own vehicles. Instead we use vehicles from reputable local car hire agencies. For many of the routes a 4x4 is not required, although it may be more comfortable for the driver and passengers. 4 x 4s often available are the VW Amarok, the Toyota Hi Lux double cab, the Ford Ranger. These vehicles do cost more and so in many instances a Dacia Duster 4 x 4 or 4 x 2 will be perfectly fine for a trip and will be able to cope with the terrain. Again, we will advise you.
You will need to sign for the vehicle and leave your credit card details with the rental agency just as you would when hiring a vehicle anywhere in the world. Our local partners will always be on hand should you require help at any time.
We would always recommend taking out Vehicle Excess Insurance for your Latin Drive trip. This is an inexpensive additional insurance which will cover you in the event of any damage caused to the vehicle.
How long do I need?
Ideally 2 weeks (including flying time), but for destinations like Argentina & Chile then 3 or even 4 weeks would easily be filled. However we can offer trips of a minimum length of 10 days for all our destinations.
What’s it going to cost?
As a rough guideline a 10 day trip, without flights, would have a starting price of £2,500 per person. This would be based on 2 people travelling, sharing a room in mid-range accommodation and driving a non 4 x 4 vehicle.
If you are familiar with our Africa trips then Argentina, Brazil and Chile are roughly on a par with our ‘lodge-only’ Botswana holidays from a pricing point of view i.e. from £3,500 per person upwards depending on the level of accommodation you choose and the length of your stay.
How do I get there?
You can fly direct from the UK to Argentina, Brazil, Chile & Costa Rica. There are also plenty of indirect flights too usually via Spainor America. Flying via Europe is considered preferable by many as passing through immigration at any major city in the US is slow and you also need to have applied for an ESTA online well in advance of travel.
If I haven’t been to Latin America before where would you recommend I start?
Broadly-speaking if you love big scenery, wide open spaces, long drives on the open road then Chile and Argentina would suit you down to the ground. If wildlife is your reason for travel then Brazil’s Pantanal or Costa Rica would need to be high on the list. For a mix of really varied scenery, great wildlife, shorter drives and with perhaps the option to extend your time in the Galapagos Islands then Ecuador is for you. If wine, beach and good birdlife are your thing then we’d strongly urge you to consider Uruguay perhaps beginning with some time in nearby Buenos Aires for some city life before taking the fast ferry across the River Plate as you slow things down for an exploration of the Uruguayan countryside.