Putting Your Bike on a Bus in Latin America

We have now used buses in Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Peru, and Bolivia, and have used the train in Mexico and Bolivia.

In the US it's quite a lot of pain to transport your bike by bus or plane - they want you to disassemble it, put it in a box, etc. It's a big deal. But we've had generally good and easy experiences.

  • The size of the bus's storage compartment is often the biggest issue. If the bike won't fit, it will have to be disassembled. On a dangerous road in Costa Rica we decided to bail and take a bus and we had to wait overnight for a larger bus with a larger storage compartment.
  • Sometimes the bike goes on top. In that case, we try to supervise how it's fastened down. But they seem to be experts. However, it's our bike, and therefore our responsibility. We care about it more than anybody else does.
  • Sometimes they have charged us a bit for the bikes, which seems reasonable. It is generally negotiable. Sometimes we haven't been charged at all.
  • There is some risk of damage to the bikes, as they rattle around. Normally they come out with some scratch or something that they wouldn't have gotten otherwise. On a couple of dirt roads they have gotten extraordinarily dusty.
  • Sometimes when things are very busy you may have to make advance reservations and wait, since baggage compartments may be all full.

Overall, our experiences with buses have been quite satisfactory and easy.

Safety: Riding on Sunday

Drunk guy at Sacapulas
Drunk guy at Sacapulas (View on flickr)

One thing we heard repeatedly in various people's blogs: "Sunday is a big drinking day in Latin America, so you should avoid riding on Sundays".

Well, they were certainly right about Sunday being a drinking day for the men. Wow, have we seen a lot of blasted men on Sundays. And I'm sure some of those men were driving.

But most people in Latin America do not drive private vehicles, and there is far less traffic on the road on Sundays. So our experience, over and over, has been that Sunday is a great day to cycle. It's also the day that the local sports-cyclists get out and ride. It's the perfect day for cycling.

Latin American Highway Etiquette and Cyclists

Nancy riding with the big rigs
Nancy riding with the big rigs (View on flickr)

We've heard many people complain about motorists in Latin America, we we haven't had a lot of trouble. We actually have quite a lot of respect for the drivers, especially the professional drivers, as they seem to know what to do with us and often do it with courtesy.

However: The more you stay on the busy roads, the more complaints you will have. For example, we often say that there are two experiences cyclists have in Mexico. Those who come down the main highway on the west coast feel like Mexico is one big, busy, ugly highway. Those who mosey down the small roads in the interior of the country feel like it's a wonderful, welcoming, interesting country with reasonable highways.

Here are some of our observations about highway etiquette and getting along on the roads in Latin America:  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Toll Roads and Cyclists in Latin America

Cyclists occasionally ask us about our experience on toll roads in Latin America, so I thought I'd give a little overview. We've ridden on many of them without trouble.

Throughout Latin America roads have been "privatized", giving a concession to a private company to operate them for a period of years. In general, this means better maintenance on the roads.

We have never been asked to pay a toll on any of the roads we've traveled from Mexico to Argentina. However, we have heard of cyclists being required to pay on some roads in Mexico.

Also in Mexico, we avoided the toll roads but occasionally took them. (We find that the toll roads there are fast and fancy, but you get no sense of the culture of the country.) There was one road (from Pueba to Oaxaca) that was rumored to exclude cyclists. Also, the road from Tijuana to Rosario in Baja California is supposed to rigorously exclude cyclists, forcing them onto a very dangerous, narrow alternate.

In our experience, though: We haven't been excluded from any toll roads, and we haven't been charged tolls.

On occasional, in Mexico and again in Peru, there were specific procedures they wanted us to take when approaching a toll booth. They did not want us to go through the auto lane (because we'd register on a camera?) but rather go completely around the toll booth installation. One time in Mexico, not understanding this, I approached too close and the guard did raise his gun for my benefit.

First impressions of Argentina

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Cacti everywhere - Valley of Humahuaca
Cacti everywhere - Valley of Humahuaca (View on flickr)

Now that we have been in Argentina for a bit over a week, I have noticed some differences I would like to share. Wine flows more freely than water and is way cheaper than bottled water. I haven't really found good wine since the USA so this land of wine and honey is a great place to buy very good wine at a fantastic price. I wish I knew which wine vineyards are the best. (If you have a recommendation of some of the better wines let me know.)

Water can be drunk directly from the tap all over Argentina! No more buying plastic bottles of water and adding to the world's plastic waste.

We have entered into the land of refrigerators so we can buy cold cuts and cheeses, and refrigerated yogurts. We are now preparing sandwiches for lunch instead of the lunch specials or menu del día found in most of Latin America. The lunch specials usually consisted of rice, french fries, yucca, chicken or beef with a soup as an appetizer with rice, potato, stock and some kind of chicken or beef all for an amazing price of a dollar or two. Argentina's lunch specials are far more expensive than we've had in the rest of South America, at 3 or 4 dollars. They eat around 2:00pm, take 3 hours off and then start the evening feasting and entertainment around 9:00. We went out for dinner the other night to have our first Argentinan steak. At 8:15 we were the first ones in the restaurant that night and they had to turn on the lights for us. Most Argentinans eat dinner about 9 o´clock or 10 o´clock at night.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

A perfect ride down from the highlands of Bolivia into Northern Argentina, Jujuy

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Nancy with Lllama crossing sign
Nancy with Lllama crossing sign (View on flickr)

We started our descent from the Altiplano at about 3800 meters where the air is thin and sometimes seems almost non-existent. I never did get acclimated to the high elevation even after almost 3 months. So riding down to the lower lands was very exciting to me, I had hopes I would get my health back and my motivation to ride. This section was going to be downhill. Yes down, down, down. I enjoyed the ride downhill for all 4 days. It had a very satisfying feeling. The road was paved, smooth and no traffic to speak of. The land was open range with llamas grazing everywhere. Instead of having the yellow road signs, "watch out for cows", there were a signs with black silhouetted llamas. I think llamas have about the mental capacity of cattle. Llamas must have suicide tendencies because herds of them keep running across the road just as cars where coming. I imagine they dared each other to run across just as the biggest, fastest bus was approaching and cheered each other when they made it alive to the other side and just went back to grazing when one did not make it.

Camping at the chapel - Capilla Vieja
Camping at the chapel - Capilla Vieja (View on flickr)

The first day, the winds were quiet and we got in about 100 kilometers. At the end of the day we found an little old adobe church and set up our tent on the quiet side out of the wind and out of sight from the traffic. We cooked dinner inside the bell tower, and watched the sun setting over high grassy plains.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

A 3 day tour of the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia - a salt desert

Texture of the salt on Salar de Uyuni
Texture of the salt on Salar de Uyuni (View on flickr)

Our 3 day tour around Bolivia´s famous Salar de Uyuni, a massive salt desert, is best described by photos. Because of the difficult terrain, high elevation, remoteness, and extreme cold, we decided to explore this amazing region of southwestern Bolivia by 4x4 vehicle. We went with a tour company called Andes Salt Expedition . They provided all the transportation, food and lodging and expert interpretation in English about the surreal desolate geography we encountered along the way. They delivered what they promised and at a fair price.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Blazing into Argentina (by bus and train). 5121 Kilometers to Go!

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Randy and Nancy crossing from Bolivia into Argentina
Randy and Nancy crossing from Bolivia into Argentina (View on flickr)

We crossed the border from Bolivia into Argentina today after spending all night on a very comfortable train. Well, at least it was a well-run, clean, on-time train.

Here's the sign that met us at the border, telling us how far it is to Ushuaia, our goal? at the bottom of Argentina:

Ushuaia is only 5121 Kilometers (3175 miles) from our crossing at the Argentine Border
Ushuaia is only 5121 Kilometers (3175 miles) from our crossing at the Argentine Border (View on flickr)

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