Tips for Travelling South America.
I spent just over three months travelling South America and there were a few things I wish I had known before going out there, and things I did know but chose not to listen to. Now I have been and experienced it myself I realise I was stupid not to have taken note and am now offering advice that I ignored, plus some extra bits I wish I had known before hand. Please don’t do what I did and ignore this, it’s all important and it will save you a lot of stress, money and time in doing so.
Enjoy your trip and stay safe.
Yellow fever/ Vaccinations: One of my biggest, most recommended pieces of advice is to get your yellow fever injection! Don’t do what I did and leave your injection to the last week. Your yellow fever injection is only valid 10 days after you have had it done and for a few countries in Central and South America it is essential for you to have it to get in to the country. If you don’t have a valid certificate with you (this is provided when you get your injection) you will be refused entry into the country and sent on a return flight home (this happened to a girl when I was there!!). So go to your Pharmacist (Boots do it) or local Travel Clinic and get all medications and injections you need; way in advance!!
Learn Spanish: This was advice I heard from everyone before leaving for South America and did I listen? Nope! Should I have listened? Yes! In South America the people do not speak English; I promise you. If you want to get around, use public transport, order food, get directions, book a room etc (which of course, you will) then you need to speak Spanish. Even if you know a few basics, it will help you out A LOT! Get yourself a dictionary, phrase book, some phone apps and/ or take some classes. It will definitely be worth it.
Get a money belt: these are fantastic for keeping your valuables safe. Pop it under your clothes and keep your money, cards and passport in it. These are great for when on public transport and if you fall asleep especially. They are hidden and no one can access them apart from you.
Keep your valuables on you: when on public transport always have your valuable on you, i.e. not in your main backpack that is in storage. Keep a padlock on your day pack and keep all items you don’t want stolen in here. Keep it close to you and always take it with you, everywhere you go.
Carry minimal items on you: this is really important, especially when in big cities or going to the beach for example. When you are out and about you don’t want to stand out and you don’t want to look rich. Leave your valuables in a safe in your hotel/ hostel and only carry the necessary items with you. Don’t wear nice jewellery because that will make you a target and if you’re going to the beach only bring essential items with you. The last thing you want is to have you camera stolen or any of your important possessions.
Be prepared for all weather: the weather can change a lot in South America, not only in the day but between countries. Come prepared for wind, rain, sunshine and ice. Wooly hats, warm gloves, hiking shoes, flip flops, rain coats, jumpers, bikinis; the lot. It’s annoying but you will need them all!
Bring a Go Pro or Waterproof camera: I didn’t bring one and I wish I had. My DSLR was fantastic but when it’s raining or if you visit waterfalls, lakes etc, a waterproof camera would be ideal.
Bring a dry bag: As noted above, I didn’t have a waterproof camera but I did have a dry bag. This came in handy as I could keep my phone, camera and other valuables in it when on the water / or near water and I didn’t have to worry about anything getting damaged.
Get a decent day backpack: very helpful and useful. A decent day bag about 25ltr is ideal. You will be carrying a lot of items around with you for safety and convenience so a decent and large day pack is essential. Think about sun cream, waterproofs, camera, water bottle, food, change of clothes etc. Also handy for shorter trips you will do as you can leave your main bag in storage and just take your day pack with you!
Look away if you’re a male for this next one…
Always carry tampons/ sanitary towels in your hand luggage: You will be out and about a lot on your trip and will probably be on a lot of public transport for many hours (think of them night busses). The last thing you want is to have you’re tampons/ sanitary towels in your backpack stored away and then nature calls. I don’t need to say much more about this but just be prepared…
Use buses over taxis when possible: Buses in South America, especially the big cities like Rio, Quito and Lima, buses are a lot cheaper than Taxis. Buses are also a lot safer and in some cities they are a lot quicker also as they have their own road (like a tram). You will save a lot of money this way.
Those are some of my top tips. Don’t be afraid or put off, it’s an incredible and diverse country. You will love it, just be smart, be confident and enjoy each moment.