The first step we took was to plan the route. Andrés spent a few days fine tuning a list of all the places we will stop, how long it will take us to get to each place, and how long we will stay in each location. It all added up to about 13 weeks on the road. We know we’ll spend more time than expected in some places along the way and we’ll hear about things from locals and other travelers that we want to check out, so we are thinking the whole trip will take about 6 or 7 months.
Next, Andrés worked on a budget for the trip. We are doing this on a shoestring for sure, so we are trying to keep expenses to a minimum. Andrés let me know that there are a lot of things that we can buy in the USA that are a lot more expense in Colombia, so we were are trying to balance what makes sense to buy ahead of time and what we should wait to buy in South America. The first couple of weeks will be the most costly while we buy big ticket items like a car and other large things we couldn’t pack in suitcases. We’ll also have to pay for a place to stay and we will have to eat out a lot. Once we get on the road we hope to camp and cook for ourselves as much as possible.
Over the last few months we have bought a lot of things we will need during our trip. Most of it included clothes like shirts, pants, socks and shoes. We need good quality items that will need to withstand a lot of wear over the next six months. We also bought some camping equipment and car accessories like lights, a gas stove, and hydration pack. We also brought along some games and e-readers to keep us entertained in the evenings. In the end, we are bringing six suitcases worth of stuff, which is a lot! Hopefully it will all fit in the car!
Before hitting the road, I needed to get some visas for countries we will be visiting on the trip. As a US citizen, I need to apply for visas to go to Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia. Each one costs $160. The Brazil embassy requires someone to personally drop off the visa application, which is fairly inconvenient because I live 4 hours away from Washington, DC. Luckily there are agencies that can take care of this for you. For a reasonable fee, you can send all your paperwork to an agency and they will submit it for you. I was surprised by how quickly the process took. I got my passport back within a week. Thankfully, Paraguay accepted visa application by mail and I will be able to apply for a Bolivian visa at the border. I did have question about applying for visas from each country, but it was really difficult to get anyone on the phone! Some people gave conflicting answers and some embassies didn’t answer their phone at all. Luckily, everything worked out and I have all the visas I need before traveling. And since Andrés has a Colombia passport, he won’t need to get any visas beforehand or along the way.
Finally, before leaving we made sure to make multiple photocopies of everything. Like passports, visas, drivers’ licenses, visas, etc. We have a file folder with all our photocopies so passing through borders should be fairly painless, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see about that.