Affordable Travel Guide to Travel Safely in South America

Ten Tips for Happy, Safe South American Visits

Travel Safely in South America

Unless you reside in one of the countries that comprise South America, you’re about to venture into strange and wonderful new lands. While fully westernized in some regions and most cities, South America is also a continent of on-going change, pockets of third-world types of civilization, and climate and terrain that can be challenging. But it’s an incredibly diverse, vibrant and fascinating place to visit, from the tropics to the sub-Arctic, the Andes to the Atlantic. Here, in no particular order, are ten tips that will ensure your South America vacation is the tops:

  1. Plan ahead. Traveling to South America is not like deciding on Thursday to go to Paris for a romantic weekend, leaving Friday. It’s vast range of vacation types and locations demands careful study and consideration. And because you’ll need a current passport and vaccines, you must take that into consideration. Plus, it can take many months to get one of the limited passes to access Machu Picchu (Peru); this is not for the spontaneous traveler.
  2. Pack for a mixed bag of tropical, sub-tropical, mountain and maritime weather, sub-Arctic if you are heading to the far south, to places like Tierra del Fuego. Days can be hot, nights downright cold. And unless you’re heading for the glitter of Rio de Janeiro at Carnivale, leave the cocktail dress at home. Think casual and comfortable.
  3. See your doctor 4 to 6 weeks before your departure date for a clean bill of health and any necessary vaccines, both your routine ones and those for South American-prone diseases like malaria, yellow fever, typhoid and dengue; not all areas are affected, but it’s best to play it safe when it comes to your health.
  4. Go with a respected, experience South America tour operator that has a sound history of travel, adventure tourism and ecotourism. Find out how long they’ve been in business and ask for them to provide names and contact information for people who are their frequent patrons. Ask for proof of insurance. Be certain that their local guides in South America speak English fluently or close to it.
  5. Don’t try to cover too much ground unless you have six months or a year to spend. South America is a large continent, comprising 13 distinct countries, each with its own travel appeal, and sub-regions within each country that afford a varied and different tour experience. Chose one country, or a few adjacent ones, but more importantly, select a vacation “encounter” you would enjoy for your first visit to South America, and then take subsequent South America tours as you delve deeper.
  6. Assess your personal level of physical fitness and well-being before you tackle a hiking tour or other vacation package that involves physical activity. Investigate options, such as trains, buses and taxis that can help you with sightseeing if you are unable to walk long distances in possibly hot weather. Be sure you have travel and out-of-country health insurance.
  7. Don’t wait until the last minute to get your passport and paperwork in order. Some travel documents take up to 6 months to process. While you’re doing that, get an extra prescription filled and be sure to pack it in your medicine kit.
  8. Don’t carry too much cash. Most places in South America accept United States dollars; others have their own currency, normally in pesos. Trust travelers’ checks and credit cards; inform credit card companies that you will be away, where and for how long. Prepay hotels where possible.
  9. Always perform a last-minute check on political stability of the South American country or countries you plan to visit. Countries such as Colombia may have volatile governments and are known to be involved in illicit trading; innocents have been taken hostage and held for political reasons. There are so many incredible places in South America to visit; you do not need to risk your well-being going to a country that offers potential danger.
  10. Relax. South America is not New York City. The people have different priorities and a way of life steeped in thousands of years of tradition. Let the new world go and embrace old world mores, if only for a week or two. And don’t forget your camera!

More in South America

Argentina

Argentina

North to South, from Sub-tropics to Sub-polar
Bolivia

Bolivia

Central and Sensational, a Singular Experience
Ecuador

Ecuador

Forged of Mountains, Forest and Sea, Ecuador is Forging a Future
Peru

Peru

Moving Forward, Looking Back
South America ECO Tours

South America ECO Tours

Responsible Tourism Combined with Education
Vaccinations for South America

Vaccinations for South America

Are Your Shots Up to Date?