Guide to Travelling Around South America


Everyone has stumbled upon Instagram pictures of Macchu Pichu, the glaciers in Patagonia, even the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, and these are the sites that inspire most people to travel around South America. There is so much to see and so much to cover, let alone so many borders to cross, and the possible language barrier you may face. Some of the things to consider before and while you travel across South America include:

Language

If you get the chance to, try learning as much Spanish as you can prior to your trip. It always helps to have a small amount of the language before you get there. While traveling you could potentially increase on your language knowledge along the way.

Transport

Traveling through South America can either be relaxing or it can be the longest hours of your life. Either way, these are the experiences that create stories that you can tell everyone back home.

If you are after a more authentic experience, it is much better to travel by bus. There are a lot of companies to choose from and most of them provide meals and recliners seats for leg room – and that’s just in basic class. Argentina is known for their world-class buses that provide over the top amenities such as glasses of champagnes, even heated blankets. On the other end, Bolivia bus companies tend to be cramped up and old.

There are very few train services in South America, with the most common one being used by tourists going from Cusco to Macchu Pichu and back. If you are not up for bus rides, you could choose to fly instead if it meets your budget.

Accommodation

Your accommodation depends on your budget and where you are located. Most places offer hostel and dorms as accommodation options, and there are quite a number of chain hostels growing in South America too. You also have the option of splurging on hotels and then economizing once you travel into smaller towns that do not offer much variety in terms of accommodation. You might not be required to book in advance, except during peak seasons such as Christmas, New Year’s, or during Carnival season in Rio.

Food

Food in South America is quite cheap. Unlike most European hostels, South American hostels do not have kitchens, so you can’t really buy food and prepare it at the hostel, and why should you? Eating out is quite cheap, so it would be silly not to. You are bound to have more food options depending on where you are at the moment.

For the full South America experience, try opting for local food, which is usually rice, chicken, and beans. If you eventually get tired of the local food you always have the option for other food such as pizza, McDonald’s, and similar American-style options.

What to Wear

Your clothing options depend on the countries you are visiting. One of the most common beliefs about South America is that it’s always hot. It definitely isn’t.

Areas such as Argentina and Southern Chile can be cold and snowy in summer and the weather tends to fluctuate a lot. It’s important to ensure that you have a mix of summer clothes as well as winter clothes. If you are trekking, ensure you have the right footwear too, and if you are trekking through the jungle, it’s advisable to go in long trousers and long sleeves to keep mosquitoes at bay.

Safety

The tips here are downright obvious, but you might occasionally meet someone that runs into problems because they haven’t used common sense. The most important tip is that you shouldn’t go around flashing your jewelry, or expensive camera gadgets, or even go wandering in unsafe areas after dark.

Always keep your valuables locked safely, and if you feel that you are walking into an unsafe area, just turn back and head in the direction you came from. You should always take a taxi to where you are going, instead of walking and risking your safety.

Places to Visit:

Brazil

This is the largest country in South America and also the largest non-Spanish speaking one (they speak Portuguese). Accommodation can be pricey during the Carnaval season and the New Year, however, some of the highlights include the beaches and Iguacu Falls.

Argentina

Argentina is known to the home of one of the liveliest cities in the world, Buenos Aires, which also happens to have a very European feel. It also has amazing mountains such as the Bariloche Mountains. You can even visit Uruguay as a short detour, as its only one hour away by boat.

Chile

Chile is one of the driest places in the world, but one of the most interesting to visit. You can visit its Atcama desert and even go Volcano climbing, then visit the stone statues of Easter Island.

Bolivia

Bolivia still does not have large-scale tourists, which is a surprise considering the people value their traditions so highly, and the scenery is incredible. Some places worth visiting include the Salar de Uyuni, Laguna Verde, and Laguna Colorado. It is also home to the city of La Paz, which is a city built onto a hill.

As you travel around South America, make sure you research each country, their level of security, and list any specifics places you would want to visit. There is a lot to see that still has not been commercialized in South America, so it’s bound to be a trip full of adventure.


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