Transportation in South America

Venezuela

Venezuela has an exceptionally well-developed road network and is Latin America’s most impermeable country, largely due to the long, extremely low gasoline price. Paved roads, mainly Pan-American Highway, connect Venezuela with the rest of South America via Colombia. Rough terrain in the east combined with a border conflict means that there are no land links with Guyana.

The rail network is almost non-existent and there is no train traffic for passengers. Large ports can be found in La Guaira, Maracaibo and Puerto Cabello. International Airport is located just outside Caracas.

Uruguay

Uruguay, one of Latin America’s most densely populated countries, has an extensive road network. A picturesque but thinning feature of Uruguay’s street scene are the many old cars still in private use. This is a result of previous decades’ high import duties on motor vehicles.

The railway network covers 1,600 km, and the country has an international airport in Montevideo. The rivers are also important transport routes for both cargo and passenger traffic.

Suriname

Most transport takes place via the river system, which has a navigable distance of 1,500 km. Good motorways connect Paramaribo with Paranam and Zanderij International Airport. A coastal road also links Suriname with Guyana in the west and French Guyana in the east.

Peru

Rough terrain conditions with desert and the Andes mountain range make the country’s communications more difficult. In 2010, Peru’s railway network had a total length of 2,000 km; two lines connect the coast to the Andes mountain area, one from Lima and one from the port cities of Matarani and Mollendo to the south. Large elevation differences – the highest point of the network is 4 829 m above sea level. – makes the railway an impressive engineering art.

The road network in 2010 amounted to 102,900 km, of which 7,500 were paved and another 13,500 had all-weather pavement. In its entirety, however, the network was in great need of upgrading. The main routes are the Pan-American Highway, which runs along the coast and connects Peru with Ecuador and Chile, as well as the highway between Lima and Pucallpa in the east.

About 86,000 km of the rivers in the eastern part of the country are navigable, and their importance has increased in recent years. The city of Iquitos can be reached by Atlantic ships via the Amazon River. Callao is Peru’s most important port, but a further 16 deep ports are found along the coast. Shipping also occurs on Lake Titicaca. The country has five international airports, of which Jorge Chávez (Lima) is the largest.

Paraguay

Freight traffic to and from the main inland ports of Asuncion, Ciudad del Este and Encarnación is via the Paraguay and Paraná rivers.The road network, which in 2010 covered 29,500 km, of which 2,000 were covered, is undergoing refurbishment.

The capital Asuncion and Ciudad del Este have international airports.

Guyana

In the coastal area of ​​Guyana there is a relatively dense road network, while the rivers are the most important communication routes inland. Aviation also plays a major role in inland communications. Georgetown has an international airport, and several small airports are available.

Bolivia

Transport conditions are difficult. The growth areas in the east have poor contact with the central region. The railway, 3 960 km (2019), is divided into two separate systems, one in the west, with connections to, among other things. export ports on the Pacific, and one on the east, built later and linked to Argentina and Brazil.

The road network, 13 600 km (2010), includes a main road between Cochabamba and Santa Cruz but is in poor condition. Air transport is better developed, with three international airports (La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba) as well as many airfields and smaller runways.

Ecuador

Topography and other obstacles have hampered the development of transport routes. The railway network does not cover a full 1,000 km, half of which is the Quito-Guayaquil line. The best extension is the road network, which is partly of a good standard. The system consists of two north-south main roads, some cross-links and some other roads. Pan American Highway (Spanish Carretera Panamericana) comes from Colombia and goes through the central mountain area (La Sierra), via Quito, Latacunga, Ambato, Riobamba and Cuenca, further into Peru. A partially built coastal road connects Machala in the south with Guayaquil and continues north via Portoviejo to Esmeraldas. In and to the eastern lowland area (El Oriente) there are only a few road links.

Flight plays a big role. International airports are located in Quito and Guayaquil. The latter city is also Ecuador’s most significant port. Important ports are also Puerto Bolívar (banana exports) in the south, Manta northwest of Portoviejo, San Lorenzo and the oil ports La Libertad (Santa Elena) and Esmeraldas (pipeline from El Oriente).

Colombia

Land transport is made more difficult by the high mountains, and the main means of transport for long haul transport is aviation. Colombia has more than 100 airports, eleven of which are international. The railway network covers 2 140 km (2015) and is in very poor condition; traffic is inefficient and a total reform of the system is needed.

The road network covers just over 141 400 km (2009), and there are three major motorways. Plans are underway to build a highway to Colombia’s interior and to complete the short remaining stretch of the Pan-American Highway between Panama and Colombia.

The Magdalena-Cauca river system is the hub of Colombia’s river traffic and is navigable a distance of 1,500 km. The main ocean ports are Buenaventura on the Pacific coast and Santa Marta, Barranquilla and Cartagena on the Caribbean.

Chile

The difficulties in building good transport systems are great in a country with Chile’s topographical conditions and geographical scope. The best is the communications in the middle part of the country, especially around Santiago.

The railways (a total of 5,480 km in 2009) were built with several different track widths, which has prevented rational utilization. Railway connections with neighboring states are from Arica (Peru and Bolivia), Antofagasta (Bolivia and Argentina) and Santiago (Argentina). The most important railway lines go from Santiago, partly out to the coast (Valparaíso) and partly south in the central long valley to Puerto Montt. They are electrified. The rail network north is worse. Although there are important sidelines here from the mining areas to the port cities, transports in the north-south direction occur mainly along the Pan-American Highway, which is paved and of a good standard. It extends 3,400 km from the Peruvian border to a distance south of Puerto Montt. To the south, there are only sea and air links.

Coastal shipping generally plays a big role. Chile has many important ports, e.g. Arica, Antofagasta, Valdivia and Punta Arenas and, not least, end up in the Valparaíso and Concepcion areas. The largest airport is Santiago with extensive international traffic.

Brazil

Large distances and difficult transport conditions, for example in the sparsely populated Amazon, have been obstacles to Brazil’s economic development. The rail network (a total of 28 900 km) is partly outdated, and plans are underway to modernize and expand the network.

The road network (1.6 million km, of which 13% is paved road) plays an important role, and 70% of all freight and 97% of passenger traffic goes on country roads. The 5,000 km long transamazonian highway between the Atlantic coast and the border with Peru, which began in 1970, has not been as expected. It has an extension that goes from Recife and Cabedelo to the border with Peru.

River transport plays a relatively minor role for freight. The main transport routes are the Amazon, Paraná and São Francisco rivers. The Amazon River is navigable all the way to Iquitos in Peru.

Of Brazil’s 48 major airports, 21 are international. Much of the international traffic is handled by the airports of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

Argentina

Argentina’s communications are well developed. The rail network, covering 31,444 km (2009), is Latin America’s longest and densest according to Countryaah. The railways were built by British and French companies in the late 1800’s, which operated them until they were nationalized in 1948. Nodes are the major ports of Buenos Aires, Rosario, Santa Fé and Bahía Blanca, from where the lines mostly radiate in different directions. There are few transverse lines. There are three different track widths, and interregional transports usually have to cross Buenos Aires to be transferred to tracks with different track widths. Three lines cross the Andes, those to Santiago and Antofagasta in Chile and the one to La Paz in Bolivia.

The road network has a length of 231,400 km (2009), of which 63,000 are paved. The merchant fleet is about 890,000 tonnes. There are about 40 airfields with regular traffic, of which ten have international connections.

Transportation in South America