I took my first journey to South America in 2019. I had freed myself from the company grind and at last felt like I had sufficient time to start exploring this huge continent. I’ll be sincere, I had some fears going into the journey. 

As an American who’s a part of the STEP program, I’m used to ongoing warnings in that area about kidnapping, crime, and many others. I began my journey in Cali, Colombia, to rejoice a good friend’s birthday celebration. I continued onward, solo, to 6 extra nations. My preconceived notions had been challenged and shifted every single day. Listed here are my ideas on what it is best to know as a solo traveler going to South America.

1. Native Buses Are Secure And A Nice Method To Journey, However You Want A Couple Of Ideas

For those who’re alone and on a funds, take the buses. I used to be shocked at how protected I felt journeying throughout Argentina, round Chile, Peru, and Brazil. Chile was the one place I used to be warned to look out for folks dressing like a bus worker in a ploy to steal your baggage. I met a beautiful younger English couple in Santiago that fell prey to the rip-off and misplaced all their luggage, together with the one with their passports. 

So long as a couple of floor guidelines, you’ll have a wonderful expertise. Baggage goes in the bus, not on prime. Don’t settle for presents from anybody wanting to place your luggage on prime, that’s how the aforementioned couple misplaced their belongings. Line up by the baggage maintain when your bus arrives and ensure to get a ticket on your bag. Tip the baggage attendant no less than a greenback, U.S. That and your ticket will assure your luggage might be there whenever you arrive at your vacation spot.

Some nations, like Peru and Bolivia, have a “Hop” bus. I extremely suggest utilizing these providers when you’ll be able to. You may need to take a look at my evaluate of the best ways to use Peru Hop. What I beloved most about this was it’s a transportation methodology and tour information multi functional. You’ll meet a lot of enjoyable folks as you go, and maybe most vital, the drivers are protected.

Colorful street in South America.
Heather Markel

2. Pay Consideration To Harmful Areas, And Use Your Instinct

Most nations in South America have a model of slums, just like the favela, in Brazil. Ask whether or not it’s protected to be out at night time, alone, whenever you arrive at your lodging. No matter they advise you, pay attention. Be open to the concept locations might not be as harmful as you learn. I wandered across the seashores in Rio de Janeiro within the early night and felt completely protected. Instinct, particularly as a solo traveler, is your greatest and strongest ally. All the time take heed to it, even when it is unnecessary in any respect. 

3. Study Some Spanish, However Be Prepared For Dialects

There are numerous locations in South America the place that you must converse Spanish. If you wish to get to a few of the remoter elements of any of the nations, you’ll quickly discover there are elements the place no English is spoken. I heard concerning the “gringo tax,” however I hardly ever encountered it. Both I didn’t discover, or it’s as a result of I made an effort to talk Spanish. Solely as soon as, in Buenos Aires with a good friend, who’s from there, did we get charged a “desk price” that we each discovered ridiculous. 

I do suggest primary Spanish when you’ve by no means studied it. Nonetheless, even when you think about your self fluent or a superb Spanish speaker, the dialects change from nation to nation, and typically even inside bigger nations like Argentina. As a solo traveler, you’ll be extra comfy touring with some Spanish.

4. It’s A Lot Colder Than You May Anticipate

Regardless of the recommendation I received upfront, I wasn’t ready for the way chilly some South American nations are. It’s straightforward to overlook that their seasons are flipped with the U.S. Understandably, locations like Ushuaia are chilly mid-year. I used to be shocked by how chilly Chile is all 12 months spherical, particularly at night time. I didn’t count on Urugay’s winter to be so chilly, nor did I do know that in winter, Buenos Aires will be 2 levels Celsius. You’ll be grateful that this space of the world makes some nice sweaters!

Vibrant, beautifully crafted souvenirs.
Heather Markel

5. Make Room In Your Suitcase

South America has gorgeous surroundings, and also you’re going to search out a number of souvenirs you need. First, these sweaters I discussed? I don’t assume it’s doable to go away this area of the world with out no less than two. For those who go to Peru, you’re getting a poncho, even when you didn’t plan to. For those who turn out to be a fan of yerba mate in Argentina or Uruguay, you’ll need the cups, the metallic straws, and the yerba. It may turn out to be an habit. I’m within the Fb teams about it, so I do know I’m not alone!

Aerial view in Rio de Janeiro.
Heather Markel

6. Respect Your Altitude Illness Signs

Don’t take this flippantly. I introduced Western drugs with me, however I hate taking drugs, so I used in-country natural treatments all over the place I went. From coca leaves to natural drugs and lozenges, I attempted all of it. The distinction is, when you use the prescriptions, you’ll extra doubtless undergo the unwanted effects than the altitude illness. For those who use the natural path, it’s going to take a bit of longer to kick in. That’s the place time comes into play. Ideally, give your self 2 to three days to regulate to the altitude in locations like Peru, Bolivia, and many others. You might undergo dangerous complications and shortness of breath. 

For those who’re a solo traveler, altitude illness may impression your wits and your skill to perform at 100%. Be certain that to respect your signs. I discovered that, sadly, altitude illness resilience doesn’t construct up over time. For those who’re at a excessive altitude for a couple of days or every week, then return down and are available again up a couple of days later, the signs begin throughout.

7. If You’re A Feminine Solo Traveler, Abide By Native Customs

I’ll merely provide the recommendation that you shouldn’t go to dinner or drinks with a person, alone, except you’re bodily all in favour of him. In contrast to different nations, there’s typically a base assumption that when you exit alone with a person, you need to have intercourse with him. I counsel, whether or not you want that or not, you abide by this rule. For those who like a person, exit with him. For those who aren’t sexually all in favour of a person, don’t settle for his invitation.

Stray dog who followed the writer.
Heather Markel

8. Pay Consideration To Canine Tradition

I notice this will likely sound unusual, however canine are a giant a part of journey in South America. In a lot of Argentina, particularly smaller cities, canine are like folks. They don’t put on collars, they wander the streets as if on their technique to vital conferences, and when you pet them, they’re yours. They may actually comply with you round, probably for hours, and be your literal greatest good friend. 

In fact, they’d love a deal with, however even when you don’t feed them, present a canine affection in Argentina, and also you’re more likely to have a brand new greatest good friend who gained’t need to go away your aspect. (Sure, they normally do have house owners that love them, too.) In Chile, canine are so vital {that a} regulation was handed punishing individuals who abuse them.

9. Take As Many Free Strolling Excursions As Doable

These at the moment are all around the world. For those who aren’t conversant in them; the tour and information are free, with the hope that you simply’ll tip them for his or her nice service. I beloved all of the guides I had all through South America. The teams are normally small, and it’s a pleasant technique to meet folks as you journey. As a solo traveler, it’s at all times good to have dependable and cheap methods to satisfy different vacationers.

10. Be Prepared To Overhaul All Your Prejudgments

Some South American nations have gotten a nasty rap. Colombia is an instance of a rustic nonetheless attempting to beat its guerilla warfare status. I’m not saying that security in South America is identical as what you’re accustomed to. Nonetheless, South America can also be not rife with militants and drug sellers all over the place you go. I’m certain they do exist, however the perceptions are based mostly on one thing aside from assembly great locals and connecting, which is what you’ll be doing whenever you go there. 

South America is without doubt one of the most fascinating continents I’ve ever been to. The colours, the folks, the llamas, the views, the meals — there’s a lot to tantalize the senses. I miss it and might’t wait to return. As so typically occurs whenever you achieve an emotional attachment to a spot, it follows you in your travels. 

The opposite day, right here in New Zealand, I met a lady from Ecuador. It’s getting chilly as we roll into winter, and she or he was promoting ponchos and jackets from her nation. I don’t have winter gear with me so I attempted on certainly one of her jackets. Due to my now wonderful Spanish-speaking talents, she gave me an enormous low cost. The expertise warmed my coronary heart and my physique, similar to my time in South America.

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