In recent years tourism has increased in South America. From mysterious ruins in Peru to world wonders in Brazil, South America has so much to see and do. Despite the surge of travellers into South America, the continent still bares a question mark over it. This is neither Southeast Asia nor Europe; South America is a completely different entity altogether when it comes to travelling. Travelling South America – especially for a lengthy period of time – will require you to think on your feet, be extra cautious and plan ahead.
South America Is Huge
Getting around South America is no easy feat, especially if you’re going to be by land. Bus journeys average 12-18 hours from destination to destination in some countries like Brazil and Colombia. Unlike Central America, South America takes time to venture around.
Brazil in particular, is bigger than much of Central Europe! You won’t be able to see all of South America in one jaunt, so plan ahead and pick out the best bits with a bit of spontaneity along the way.
In Brazil, Portuguese is the language spoken whilst in the majority of the remaining countries – apart from Guyana, French Guyana and Suriname – the rest are Spanish-speaking nations. It’s highly recommended you learn some lingo before you go. Not only will you endear yourself to the locals and the culture but also you’ll avoid the risk of getting ripped off from money seeking locals.
Get Your Yellow Fever Vaccination
Entering some countries in South America you’ll be required to show your Yellow Fever Certificate. If you don’t have this, you could be refused entry. Make sure you have gotten your vaccine before you go to prevent you contracting the disease.
It’s common for solo travellers to travel around South America, so in case you’re wondering, yes you can travel it alone. Man or woman. However, it’s important to keep your wits about you and trust your instincts. Plan as much in advance, try not to travel at night and avoid areas that you’re unsure about.
You’re bound to meet fellow travellers if you go on tours, stay in popular areas and stay in hostels so you don’t always have to be alone.
All Weathers & Terrains
South America is home to the world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon. It has some of the highest capital cities in the world. Patagonia has the best rugged terrain on the continent. South America has pretty much everything. Pack and prepare for all weathers from high altitudes to humid jungles to chilly mountainous areas. Bring SPF, mosquito repellent, hiking shoes and a coat. You’ll need more than flip flops and t-shirts here.
The Gringo Trail
Unlike trails in places like Southeast Asia that have well trodden traveller routes, South America is far too big for there to be one circuit. The only thing close would be travelling through countries Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. As they are all next to each other this opens up travellers to travel north or south through these countries. You’ll likely see people you’ve met on the road a second or third time if you travel within these destinations. It’s never goodbye!
Despite what the folks might think at home, Colombia isn’t the drug-fuelled war-zone that it once was in the 80’s and 90’s. Colombia has everything – beaches, jungle, cities, culture – and is fast-becoming one of South America’s top traveller destinations. Medellin is a buzzing city that has won awards for its newly innovative approach while you can hike into the jungle to visit the Lost City Ciudad Perdida just out from Santa Marta. You definitely should go!
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See Machu Picchu Without The Crowds
Machu Picchu needs no introduction. If you’re visiting Peru you have to visit because it’s simply stunning. However, one of the Seven Wonders of the World is one of the most visited attractions in South America and everyone wants their photo for Instagram.
If you can, head up to Machu Picchu as early as possible. After around 9am, the place becomes like a museum with all the mini buses and day tourists joining the party. The best time is to see Machu Picchu with as few people as possible, normally a couple hundred first thing in the morning.
The Galapagos is in Ecuador
Many people know about the Galapagos, home to some of the best and unique wildlife on the planet. Yet, many will refer to the Galapagos as a separate state. It is in fact off the coast of Ecuador. If you have the budget and time, the Galapagos will be one of the best things you experience in South America. You can scuba dive with manta rays and sharks, hang out with the famous Black Marine Iguanas and trundle on by those pre-historic looking Galapagos Tortoises.
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Paraguay & Bolivia Top The Most Affordable Countries
Bolivia is place made for adventure travellers. Here you can dive into the Amazon Rainforest, visit the world renowned Salt Flats in Uyuni and mountain bike down the infamous Death Road. What makes it even better is Bolivia – by western standards – is one of the cheapest countries to travel within. Accommodation, food, drinks and transport are all included in some of the less expensive outgoings.
Paraguay, a country many travellers tend to bypass, is very cheap too. Often referred to as ‘boring’, Paraguay is a place you appreciate the little things. One of its main attractions that are often the postcard picture in guidebooks – Jesus de Taravangue – is completely free!
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