Amazonian rainforests, monstrous glaciers, tropical coastlines and ancient cities in the clouds: South America is an explorer’s paradise. In spite of this, its reputation for being a little rough around the edges and its sheer size, can make a trip to this continent seem a little daunting. Yet, there’s no need to worry: our essential tips for travelling around South America aim to ensure your adventure is unforgettable for all the right reasons.
Eight essential tips for travelling around South America
1. Menú del día
The best way to experience a culture is through its food. Fortunately, due to the strong prevalence of street food culture in South America, sampling tasty dishes is relatively cheap. However, if you fancy dining in relative comfort at a swanky restaurant it will obviously cost more. A handy tip to keep prices down and still live the high life, is to eat at restaurants during lunchtime instead of the evening. Most establishments throughout South America substantially slash their prices during the day to attract local workers on their lunch break.
2. Learn a bit of the local lingo
The majority of the countries in South America speak Spanish, but in fact, Portuguese is the most spoken. So, depending on which countries you fancy exploring, getting a basic grasp on the local language is extremely useful. It may seem a near-impossible task for native English speakers; however, with a little effort, you’d be surprised how much you can pick up.
We recommend buying a cheap phrasebook or downloading an app; our fave is Duolingo. This language-learning app is interactive, light-hearted and, best of all, completely free.
3. Be street smart
It must be said that the majority of South Americans are some of the most friendly and kind people on this planet. Many of them will go out of their way to help you with directions, give you some advice and involve you in activities. Nevertheless, poverty is rife in this continent which in turn gives fuel to crime. So remember to keep your valuables hidden when out in public, not enter unlicensed taxis, and avoid walking alone at night. In general, the poorer areas of large cities are the most dangerous, so either stay away from them completely or heed caution when entering.
4. Wear warm clothes for bus journeys
This is one of the most essential tips for travelling around South America. If you are on a mission to visit the ancient wonders of Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and Iguazu all in one trip, some seriously long bus journeys will be involved. Although most coaches are equipped with televisions and surprisingly comfortable seats, they are also blessed with bone-chilling air conditioning. At first, this comes as a welcome surprise if you’ve been traipsing through a blisteringly hot town; however, after a few hours into a 16-hour journey, you’d give your right arm for a couple of warm layers.
5. Pack light
Yes, being prepared for everything is all well and good but ask yourself this question before packing: do you really need it? Many first-time travellers to South America arm themselves to the teeth with chunky books, unnecessary devices and piles of clothing. Remember that if you’re travelling for more than two weeks you’re going to have to wash your clothes. Take this into consideration and pack a few garments that can be easily washed – most hotels offer a quick and cheap laundry service. As for the case of books, consider investing in a light-weight kindle or take part in the age-old tradition of book swapping with other travellers.
6. Travel insurance
Yes, this may be a little pricey, but we consider getting travel insurance a no-brainer as the majority of hospitals in South America will flat out refuse giving treatment to an uninsured foreigner. For the best quotes try price comparison websites such as moneysupermarket.com. Also, If you’re thinking of partaking in any potentially dangerous activities – like whitewater rafting for example – remember to check you are covered before getting involved.
7. Bring medical supplies
In some instances, you may find yourself in the middle of nowhere, so bringing some essential medical supplies is a good idea. We suggest bringing diarrhoea tablets, paracetamol, plasters, disinfectant and paracetamol.
8. Invest in a water filter bottle
Products such as the Lifestraw Bottle ensure you don’t get sick from local water sources: the filter on these bottles removes bacteria, and transforms the dangerous into drinkable. Not a bad feature if you fancy getting away from it all in the true sense of the word. Along with being extremely handy, it also cuts down on plastic bottle waste.
Feeling prepared? Take a look at our incredible tour packages to this magical continent to book a once-in-a-lifetime trip today.