Visit South America - The DON'Ts of Visiting South America
How to Travel to South America
South America is a large continent filled with diverse cultures and dazzling natural wonders. With so much to see, the hardest part about traveling there might just be deciding where to go. Before you leave, do your homework so you’re prepared and have your major travel arrangements taken care of. Once you’re there, make the most of the trip by soaking up the local sights and culture. Use a little common sense while you’re abroad, and you’ll have a safe and unforgettable adventure.
Choosing the Vacation that Fits Your Style
Choose your destination.South America is a large continent with many countries. Locations like Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay are well-developed and easy to navigate. Other countries, like Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Ecuador are a little less visited by tourists, but have their own treasures to offer. Popular destinations include:
- Brazil, with its lively cities like Rio de Janeiro.
- The Ancient Inca city Machu Picchu (Peru).
- The Amazon Jungle (Brazil, Peru, Columbia).
- Patagonia (Argentina and Chile).
- The Andes mountains (Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile).
- The Atacama Desert (Chile).
- The Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador.
Pick the best season for your trip.Go in the spring or fall if you want to see some natural sights like the glaciers in the mountains. October or November is also a great time to see the rain forests. December to March, on the other hand, is the best time for festivals like Carnival.
- Keep in mind that seasons in the Northern and Southern hemispheres always run opposite to each other.
Choose your accommodations.Decide if you want to stay in hotels, hostels, or homestays. Hotels can offer standardized, world-class experiences, while hostels will give you a chance to interact with travelers from around the world at affordable rates. If you rent a homestay (through Airbnb, for instance), you get to vacation in a local's house for an authentic experience.
- Any of these types of accommodations can be found throughout South America. However, well-developed areas in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay will have the largest selection of hotels.
- Areas like Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador will be cheaper, but have fewer options for accommodations.
- Choose accommodations that are highly rated on travel sites to ensure the best experience.
Go for an all-inclusive package to have accommodation plans taken care of.Talk to a travel agent or book a package online. Pre-packaged resorts can take care of flight and accommodation arrangements for you. They may also include preset destination tours. These can be relatively expensive, however.
Join a destination tour for a sightseeing guide.You can purchase tickets to join tours at most popular tourist destinations. If you’re an independent spirit, you might prefer to make your way on your own. If not, a tour guide can help arrange entry to attractions in your destination country.
Make continental travel arrangements.When you’re in South America, take advantage of the local buses if you want to travel between cities. They’re the most common transportation method on the continent. Trains are available in many areas as well. The train services in areas like Brazil have convenient websites so you can check the timetables and fare information.
- Road conditions can be unpredictable in parts of South America, outside of major cities. Renting a car will not be the most convenient option for getting around, unless you are planning to use it only for a short time in a city.
Preparing for Your Journey
Get your passport and visa.You’ll need the passport to make international travel, and most countries in South America will require a visa for entry. You can get in touch with the state department in your home country for details on making arrangements. You can also work with a travel agent who can make the arrangements for you.
- Apply for these well ahead of your travel dates. It can take several months for a passport application to go through. Plan on a few weeks for visa processing.
- You may be required to get some vaccines before traveling. Even if they’re not required, get them if your state department recommends them.
Learn some basics of the language.Get a phrasebook, study with an app, or read travel-oriented language sites so you won’t feel lost when abroad. Most countries in South America use Spanish as the official language, but in Brazil Portuguese is the main language. Learn enough at least for the basics, like:
- Please and thank you
- My name is…
- I need help
- Do you speak English?
- Where is…
- How much is this?
Purchase travel insurance.Buy at least minimum coverage so that you can see a doctor when traveling if you get sick or injured--you can’t guarantee that your home insurance will apply abroad. Travel insurance is usually quite inexpensive, and you can work through a travel agency to make the application process quick and easy.
Pack clothing for a variety of climates.Bring both cool and warm weather clothing, no matter the season you’re traveling during. Weather in South America can vary greatly depending on where you go. Deserts can be hot during the day, but become quite cold at night, for instance.
- For instance, you might want to pack some long pants and a short sleeve shirt for mild weather. Pack a light jacket in case the temperature drops.
Get the currencies you need.Exchange currency when you’re in the airport or as soon as you get to your first destination. Each country in South America uses its own currency, so you might need to be prepared with several kinds, or else exchange several times.
- You can check with a bank or currency exchange in your home country before you go, if you prefer. However, you won’t get the most-up to date currency exchange rates when you travel (though this may or may not work to your advantage).
Set travel alerts for your finances.Let your bank and credit card company know that you will be traveling abroad. That way, you won’t end up having your card frozen while in South America.
Get an international cell phone.If you already have a global phone or device that allows you to use an international SIM card, you’re set. Otherwise, you could ask your service provider if there are options allowing you to use your phone while traveling abroad.
- There are free options for communicating with back home, too. For instance, you can try Skype or Facetime.
Staying Safe While Traveling
Check your state department’s website for travel information.Look up the destination(s) you are traveling to and see if there is any information you need to know. This could include things like customs in the area, access to medical care if needed, safety concerns for travelers, etc.
Try to blend in.Keep a low profile by wearing plain clothes, and leaving jewelry, expensive watches, etc. at home. Stick to areas that cater to tourists unless you have a guide or know your way around. Don't flash wads of money around. Only take out a small amount of cash at a time.
- South America sometimes is sometimes said to be unsafe for travelers. In reality, if you avoid traveling alone and use some common sense, it’s as easy to travel there as anywhere.
Check in with your embassy.When you arrive in your destination country, go to or call your nation’s nearest embassy. Let them know you have arrived, and what your travel plans are. That way, they can keep tabs on you and help you out if you get into any trouble.
Keep in touch with your hotel’s concierge.Let them know about your travel plans, too, and ask them any questions about getting around. They’re not only a way to get tips on great restaurants and attractions--they can also advise you on how to stay safe and have a great trip in South America.
Video: How to travel South America - Peru, Bolivia and Chile travel guide
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