Planning to go cycle touring in South America? Here's a look at what to expect, along with travel tips on biking across South America.
Cycle Touring South America
If you want to explore South America, there's no better way than by bicycle. The landscapes vary from tropical rainforest, to snow-capped Andes and deserts. You'll find ancient Incan ruins, colonial cities with cobblestone streets and grassy pampas full of llamas.
There's vast open places to camp out, high mountain passes to challenge the legs and lungs, and a natural beauty that permeates the soul.
South America really does have something for everyone, and it's one of the best regions in the world to go bike touring.
My own bike ride through South America
I spent 10 months (from May until February) crossing South America from north to south.
During this time, I experienced challenging rides, but also a sense that the journey really was becoming more important than the destination!
If you get the chance to do something similar on two wheels, I hope you too enjoy the views of snowcapped mountains, jagged peaks, salt pans, and sense of accomplishment as you are riding.
Cycling South America Routes
There's no one right way to tour South America by bike. Some people like to visit just one or two countries at a time. Others might be on a longer trip such as my bike tour from Alaska to Argentina.
You can check out detailed guides and my cycling diaries from South America below:
- Bicycle touring in Colombia
- Bike touring in Ecuador
- Bike touring in Peru
- Bicycle touring in Bolivia
- Bike touring in Argentina
My route followed a classic north to south pattern, starting at Colombia and finishing in Argentina. (I actually didn't make the Tierra del Fuego because I ran out of money!).
Biking across South America
Cycling in South America is an attractive proposition for a number of reasons. I've already mentioned the scenery and landscapes, but there are other, very practical reasons why cyclists love touring in the South American region.
Costs of Bike Touring South America
South America can be one of the most wallet-friendly places in the world to cycle. There's endless opportunities to wild camp for free, the cost of living for things like food is very low, and hotel prices in countries such as Bolivia and Peru are legendarily cheap.
If you're looking for a part of the world to cycle cheaply, it really doesn't get much better than biking South America!
Anyone with more than a passing interest in ancient civilizations and cultures is going to love South America. We've all heard of Machu Picchu of course, but try dropping by other lesser known sites on your bike tour like Kuelap and Markawamachucko!
Another often overlooked advantage to cycling in South America, is the length of visas granted to visitors. This means there is plenty of time to see a country from the saddle of your bike without feeling rushed to get to the border before your time runs out. Many countries also offer easy ways to extend your visa.
It's quite possible to bounce around the countries in South America for years on your bicycle without ever needing to exit the region.
Most of the countries in South America are Spanish speaking, apart from Brazil. It is fairly easy to pick up enough basic Spanish either before or after a trip to communicate (combine it with a bit of sign language!).
I have to say that learning foreign languages are not really a strong point for me, but I learned enough Spanish to be able to converse in what I am sure was grammatically horrible sentences!
Gear for bikepacking South America
If you're looking forward to cycling the length of South America, you'll want to be as self-sufficient as you can in terms of bring camping and cooking gear. I'd also advise bringing a water filter of some description, and also making sure that your electronic gear is in good working order.
Suggested bike touring gear lists here:
- Best Powerbank for bike touring
- Bicycle Touring Gear List For Cycling From Greece To England
- Cycle Touring Kit List For A Month Bike Tour In Greece
- Bicycle Touring Gear List for a One Week Cycle Tour
- Bike Touring Gear List For The Hercules Bike Tour of Peloponnese
- Bike Touring Gear List For A One Week Tour – Credit Card Touring
- Bike Touring Essentials – 10 Items I Always Take On A Bike Tour
Bicycle Touring in South America
Planning a bikepacking trip across N and S America? You might also want to check out these other bike touring guides:
- Cycling North America
- Bike ride from Canada to Mexico on the Pacific Coast Highway
- Tips for picking a bicycle touring sleeping bag
- Where to sleep when bike touring
- Duct Tape Bike Repairs: Bicycle Touring Tips and Hacks
Cycling in South America FAQ
If you're planning a long distance cycling trip in the South American continent, these popular questions and answers might help with your own tours:
Is it safe to cycle in South America?
In Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, you can cycle all year round, but many dirt roads will be more challenging to pass during the rainy season and you will miss out on the lovely sights. The Andes will be covered with snow, and some routes might be blocked.
Which country is best for cycling?
Some of my best memories from my cycling tour through South America were from Peru and Bolivia. The mix of wild landscapes and South American culture in the small villages made for an amazing experience.
Best time to cycle South America?
The seasons are reversed in South America, so avoid the winter months (June-August) when it can be quite cold and wet. In the far south snow can be an issue. January through March is the best time of year for cycling down there.
How much does it cost to go bikepacking across South America?
You should budget about $15 per day to get by very cheaply on food and hostels while biking South America. To live like royalty you might want to spend closer to $50-80 per day. Just keep your eyes open for ways to reduce costs!!
Can we use road bikes for South America cycling?
Road cycling is quite popular in Latin America, so you could use road bikes if you only want to stick with sealed roads. You could pair your road bike with a trailer for your bicycle trip for example. Personally, I think that a touring bike is much better, and gives you the flexibility to get off the beaten track during your time cycling.
– Dave Briggs
Dave cycled across South America when bike touring from Alaska to Argentina. In addition to this post about cycling in the South American continent, he's written many other guides to bike touring.
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