10 must-know things for your South America Travel Trip

by | Sep 28, 2022 | Travel Tips

Traveling to South America soon? Here are 10 useful and handy tips to prepare for unforgettable trip. Find out how to navigate through the labyrinths of South America with this blog.

1. Visit Countries that Suit your Interests

Don’t let FOMO overload your South America travel trip. It is a massive continent with a long list of stunning landscapes and wildlife.

Unlike Europe or Southeast Asian countries, it is time-consuming to country-hop in South America. Have a laid-back, relaxing adventure by picking a country that suits your travel expectations and focus to get the most out of it.

For example, visit Ecuador, and Galapagos Island, to savour nature and wildlife. For a vibrant and cultural urban experience, visit Bogota and Cali in Columbia and Rio De Janerio in Brazil.

For the best hiking trails, explore the highlands in Bolivia and national parks in Peru. Or visit Chile and Argentina to see vast expanses of coffee plantations and Alpine lake districts.

2. Seasons are Opposite in South America

One can say the world is upside down in South America. Well, it literally is.

Located south of the equator, seasons and weather patterns are vastly different here. Also, because of its size, it is impossible to pick the best time to visit to South America. It largely depends on the country you are visiting.

That said, be aware of the seasons of the southern hemisphere which are summer from November to March and winter from April to October. Pick a country and research the best time to visit according to your interests and itinerary.

Tip: Even summer nights can get chilly and winter mornings can be hot because of the piercing sun. Hence, always carry sunscreen in winter and warm clothes in summer.

3. Health Tips to Keep in Mind

South America travel and fear of diseases have been synonymous for a long time. While this is an unnecessary exaggeration, there is some truth to it. So consult your doctor at least a month before and prepare a list of medicines to carry and vaccine shots to take.

Be cautious and prepared to deal with Altitude or Moutain Sickness while traveling to South America. This is felt in high-altitude places like Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and parts of Colombia which are more than 3,500 meters above sea level.

And it can get very, very cold in such places too. Hence, hypothermia, and dehydration are some common side effects.

High altitude trails in Peru, a must visit on your travel to South America
High altitude trails in Peru

Some tips to beat this include drinking lots of water, ascending a region slowly (1000 metres a day), and rest for a few days there for your body to acclimatize.

Tip: Vaccine for yellow fever is supplied free of cost by the local governments in Argentina and Brazil. Also, try the local Coca candy, a traditional remedy made from Coca leaves to curb nausea and headache caused by altitude sickness.

4. Knowing Basic Spanish is a Must

English is not going to get you too far in your South America travel trip. Spanish and Portugese are widely spoken and learning the basics before traveling is a must-do task. 

Breathtaking mountain trails and heritage sites are usually located far from bustling cities. And here is where knowing the basics of Spanish can really come in handy. In smaller cities and towns, most hotel staff and taxi drivers speak only Spanish.

If you are nervous to travel alone to a country whose first language you are not familiar, fret not! Travel confidently and comfortably with a group of like-minded, enthusiastic travel buddies with JoinMyTrip. We curate group travel trips headed by Trip Leaders who have in-depth knowledge about traveling through South America.

5. Sort out Payment Options with your Bank

Money and banking are not the same abroad as in your home country. Informing your bank about your trip should be the first thing on your checklist.

This makes sure that they don’t block your card when transactions are suddenly made in another country. Moreover, you can have a chat with them about the banking, ATM services, and card options available in South America.

The ATM withdrawal charges can be as low as €0.50 in Bolivia and as high as €9 in Peru. And shops only in bigger cities readily accept cards. While paying with only cash is a doable option, it is not very safe to carry a thick wad of bills on you all the time.

Hence, talk to your bank and get a mix of debit cards, credit cards, and hard-cash options before traveling to South America.

6. Be Respectful of Local Culture

South America is an ultra diverse continent with contrasting cultures, customs and traditions. It is also home to many indigenous tribes and communities, many of which are isolated from the outer world.

Hence, being respectful and accepting of practices in their land is very important as a tourist. And every small gesture from your side makes a difference!

How to be a responsible tourist?

->Buy crafts and souvenirs from local artisans instead of commercial shops.

->Consider eating out at local restaurants instead of international chains.

->Explore the continent’s natural treasures with the help of local tour guides and companies.

->Visit national parks and appreciate their conservation efforts by paying entry fees.

->Also, consider donating or volunteering with organizations that preserve local cultures.

Other helpful tips:

  • Do not take pictures of local tribes without permission. (You can convey your appreciation with a small tip afterwards)
  • Do not enter their homes without being invited or disturb their daily activities in any way. Do remember that you are a guest in their land.
  • Haggling over prices is a common habit but do not overdo it. (especially with local artisans about handmade crafts)
  • Try not to stare at people in traditional clothes or on your trip to local Favelas.

7. How to Stay Safe in your South America Travel Trip

It is no secret that Latin America faces a myriad of problems like high corruption, poverty, and violence due to drug trafficking.

But if you know where not to go and keep a few safety tips in mind, you can explore the magical natural treasures of South America without worry.

Safety Tips:

->Be aware of your surroundings, and what you eat and drink. Especially in crowded tourist attractions and while traveling in trains and buses.

->Avoid going to deserted places alone at night with too many valuables, especially beaches. Pro-tip is to keep around $20 to pay off robbers in case of a mugging (do not resist them). They usually expect hard cash and don’t target phones.

->Also, do not participate in local protests or demonstrations, its a possibility they will turn violent.

Is it safe to travel to South America? Yes it is.
A peaceful protest by locals in Bogota

Is it safe to travel to South America now?

Yes, it is but steer clear of these places handpicked by expert travelers according to Global Peace Index and World Risk Report:

  • In Colombia- Communa 13, Buenaventura, Central Medellin, Barranquilla, District 4 in Soacha, Arauca
  • In Venezuela- Central Caracas, Barrios Or Ranchitos (slums), Sabana Grande district, Cumana, Maracaibo, Paraguana, Marutin and Valencia
  • In Brazil- Rocinha, Natal in Rio Grande do Norte, most Favelas, Manaus, Mato Grosso
  • In Bolivia- La Paz, Coronilla Hill in Cochabamba, deserted places in Yungas and Chapare

8. Keep Aside Cash for Tips

Always tip a fair amount to local guides, drivers, porters and translators as this makes a big difference to their livelihood.

These are the people who will help you to truly explore South America. Nobody knows the hiking trails in Machu Picchu, jungle tours in the Amazon or routes to Chilean hot springs better than them.

While there is no set amount or percentage, ask locals or your hotel staff about tipping norms as it varies from each country and region.

9. Avoid Traveling by Unlicensed Taxis

Avoid unlicensed taxis while traveling through south america
Taxi Traffic in streets of Cordoba in Argentina

This is the most useful and practical tip you can use in your South America travel trip.

It is very common to be fleeced by local taxi drivers. This can be avoided if you stick to traveling by only licensed taxis.

Have a quick work with your hotel staff about which taxi service is reliable and safe to use. They will already have a list of trusted companies and in some cases drivers too.

Another option would be to use international taxi services like Uber or trusted local ones like Cabify and Easy Taxi.

10. Don’t Flush your Toilet Paper

If you are traveling from UK, USA or Europe, it is almost a subconscious act to flush toilet paper after use. But in most countries in South America, this is a banned activity.

Most sewage pipes are not equipped to deal with toilet paper waste and get clogged regularly. You can find boards outside many public toilets requesting you not to do this.

Though this might seem like a silly thing to remember, different country, different rules!

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