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First time visit to South America,advice and suggestions needed

Going to travel around South America for about a year and want to start planning my adventure. Any tips of advice would be welcomed.
9 years ago, November 18th 2009 No: 1 Msg: #94020  
Hey there,

Planning on going traveling to South America for the first time next September, have plenty of experience traveling and would love to hear some tips/advice and suggestions from people who ahve done somthing similar. There will be two of us traveling and we're both open to new ideas. We are going to start off in San Francisco for a few days and go to Burning man and then we would like to fly to Cuba boat to Cancun quite quickly over land through Guatemala, EL Salvador and Costa Rica
Not sure how to go from there, have heard that going through Panama ca bit a bit dodgy, adn my boyfriend isn't that pushed about it.

I wouldn’t mind fitting in Puerto Rico and Suriname but hard to see how they will link in easily.
A leisurely travel through South America by land...
Colombia (I would like to spend a good bit here, I hear it is the best for partying)
Ecuador (Galapagos Islands)
Bolivia (Volunteer to rehabilitate monkeys/pumas into the wild for 1month maybe)
Chile (working a ski season would interest me)
Brazil (have to make sure there for Carnaval)
Then back to Buenos Aries to work for 3 or 4 months if that was possible

As Ski season is June/July time we will probably go work in Buenoa Aries and then do a ski season, we also reaslise that we will have to visit someplace before we go to Brazil for Carnival and some after. Brazil for Carival is a definite on our list!

As you can see its all very very vague. So all tips,hints or suggestions would be more than welcomed as I think the more prepared we are the more we'll get out of it.

Also trying to get an idea of costs, so any tips on that would be welcomed.

Thanks in advance.

x Reply to this

9 years ago, November 18th 2009 No: 2 Msg: #94044  
B Posts: 171
you didnt mention weather or not you know spanish, so i would suggest (sorry.. insist) you both learn some since you have ample time to get to a conversational level ...but start now dont wait around.

a fun and easy way to learn is by using a audio course called "pimsleur spanish"
trust me on that. there are various ways of obtaining it , its pricy but i have seen cheap ones going on ebay and maybe you can borrow one from library or so. if you do unit 1 2 and 3 you will be speaking in 3 months.

also one major aspect to south american culture is the music and dancing, you WILL encounter it and you WILL participate. this is something that you have to see to believe.
the best way to initiate yourself in europe anyway, would be to take some salsa classes. then you can have a bit more fun.

of course this advice is very personal and none of it is essential.... it depends very much on somebodys willingess to learn, but both of those tips will increase your experience 10 fold !
as you will have a chance to mingle and get to know the locals in a way many travellers never do.

but going by your "vague" plans which are a lot less vague then mine where i have to say hehehe .. maybe you already know it.

you should get by on 10 dollars for accomodation per night in most south american countries by staying in budget hostels.

wow , what a trip!

good luck!
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9 years ago, November 20th 2009 No: 3 Msg: #94191  
Oh my!! That sounds super fun!!! South America is a really vast Continent. I've seen that you already have a line up of countries you want to visit. I have a friend from Chile and he told me how warm and "always in a party mood" people are in there. I'm sure you'll have a good time. Those are such historical places that you've mentioned. I know a site about Peru.( www.learnaboutPeru.com), So you'll get a bird's-eye-view on what to expect when you get there. Try to travel light though, yeah I think it would be helpful to know how to communicate even with just a few phrases just in case you don't know the local dialect of each country. Be careful with your stuff as always. !! Have a happy trip!! Life should definitely be enjoyed and so Carpe Diem!! Reply to this

9 years ago, November 21st 2009 No: 4 Msg: #94238  
Hey your trip sounds awesome. Me and my friend are planning a very similar trip, just the opposite way round! We're starting in buenos aires, travelling through to chile, up into peru, ecuador, columbia, venezuela, making our way on faith to brazil, then back to buenos aires. I agree with with 'matty1' about learning spanish, i have started learning basic greetings, goodbyes and simple sentences, i can imagine it will help a LOT. Where abouts have you travelled in the past? Whats inspired you towards S.America? Reply to this

9 years ago, November 25th 2009 No: 5 Msg: #94445  
B Posts: 130
ah wow awesome! This topic is perfect!lol

Me and my boyfriend are planning on traveling south America in September 2010 too! We are both from the UK and are thinking of starting from the bottom, Argentina then working our way up.

Though im in the same boat as you, any tips on daily costs and accommodation would be greatly appreciated! Sanitary conditions and creepy crawlies we have to be aware of would be very very useful!

Also, anything we simply CANT miss out on.

Im quite cautious about going to Colombia so i think we will be missing that out and my boyfriend is quite concerned about going to Brazil but i desperately want to go, is there anywhere specifically in Brazil any of you could recommend to us?

We are researching the best time to go for weather etc (i dont fair too well in very hot humid conditions) but its such a massive continent theres so much to think about!

Ibic2006, your itinerary sounds cool! Is there a specific website or anything about the rehab work in Bolivia? That is something im really really interested in. Me and my boyfriend have seen a couple of really nice helpxchange places in Argentina but not alot anywhere else. Reply to this

9 years ago, November 25th 2009 No: 6 Msg: #94448  
If this helps anyone on this topic.. I have a few websites that might be good looking at, especially for ''redshoes'' if your in the UK, so am I so me and my buddy have been looking at first aid courses to do. Have a dabble :D

First Aid Course -

Passports and visas -

This will help with vacanations you may need -

I have a friend who is columbian and has moved over here, he said columbia isnt as bad as some say, but to stay away from 'Medellin' and a lot of Equador. Hope these little bits come of use to you 😊

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9 years ago, November 25th 2009 No: 7 Msg: #94451  
B Posts: 171

Though im in the same boat as you, any tips on daily costs and accommodation would be greatly appreciated!

much of south america has little family run restaurants that serve a set lunch menu, if you eat in those your looking at an adequate meal for 2 dollars approx, particularly in colombia ecuador, peru. but entering these places requires a small amount of courage as they dont speak english and the decor often consists of little more than a few plastic chairs. i loved it!

it will cost a little more in chile but you can still eat for cheap if you look!, argentina is cheap, for example in buenos aires you can find all you can eat buffets for 18 pesos= 4 euro

if you stick to the more european or american looking restaurants and those made to appeal to tourists your paying around twice or even 4 times as much. but thats not to say it isnt worth it also.
by the way note that hostel food can somtimes be dearer than the restaurants on the same streets (ie. cusco & la paz)

Sanitary conditions and creepy crawlies we have to be aware of would be very very useful!

it wont take you long to notice that toilet paper is seldom to be found in restaurants and public places. so carry some when moving from A to B. on the plus side , napkins are almost always on your table.. see where im going?

you will come across some cockroaches in the hotter areas, personally i didnt find them to be a problem, only had to kill 3 in 9 months.

by far my worst experience was a hostel that had bedbugs , its a rarity but when you discover them my advice is make sure the staff know and get out of there to another hostel, dont wait around to be eaten alive. one way to know is if your getting apparent "mosquito bites" appearing in the evening time, quite itchy and often grouped in a line of 2 or 3. then you know its not a mozzie.. its a bite from the night before. ugghhh... the thaught.. but as i said, its fairly rare!!

anything we simply CANT miss out on

that depends what you want i suppose. there are always going to be sacrifices somewhere along the line so just enjoy whatever you do!
my only regrets are not going to the salt plains in bolivia, i had to meet a friend in chile so i skipped it
and also i ran out of money and time just before i got to cali colombia, which is described by the colombians as the "salsa capital of the world"

Im quite cautious about going to Colombia so i think we will be missing that out

i skipped colombia on the beginning of my trip and started in ecuador. after 8 months around south america i learned that colombia is a very important country. and has quite an influence on the rest of the continent particularly for latin music. and i changed my plans at the last month, skipped brazil and headed for colombia. it was a hard desicion but i was not dissapointed. its the one country i have no doubts i will return to.
if course we all know the bad reputation colombia has in the world but i believe that is down to the fact that the kind of crime like cocaine smuggling etc.. makes for a very dramatic news reports. we dont hear much in the news back home every time a tourists gets mugged in buenos aires or has a gun pointed at him in rio de janeiro but speak to a few travellers and you would surely meet one or two who have had that happen.
in contrast, most travel reports form colombia are positive and my own experience was that colombia was relativly safe in terms of street crime and i noticed a high police presence.
of course nobody can guarantee your safety...but thats the same anywhere.

stay away from 'Medellin' and a lot of Equador

no way! medellin is a great city, good nightlife, very beautiful people and a very prosperous place indeed.

ecuador is also lovley and its people too.
baños, riobamba, montañita... you have to go there!
though its true that its a bit dangerous, as is peru. just be savy and mind your things.

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9 years ago, November 26th 2009 No: 8 Msg: #94467  
Good advice man 😊 I heard to stay away from my friend but as im realising more and more is that if I always hear bad rep, im never going to do it, and i want to do it so badly, so i think.. i just will! lol i believe you have to always make your OWN judgement in this world. Good and bad points from different people give more evidence to the fact that you just need to do it yourself. So cheers for the inspiration! lol 'matty1' you seem to know s.america well, what were the locals like that you met along the way? volunteer work is a big aim for me while im out there but i cant stand the idea of paying these companies just to get the oppurtunity to help, i would love to pass through areas where i can put my hand to good use?? Reply to this

9 years ago, November 26th 2009 No: 9 Msg: #94500  
B Posts: 130

volunteer work is a big aim for me while im out there but i cant stand the idea of paying these companies just to get the oppurtunity to help, i would love to pass through areas where i can put my hand to good use??

Same here! have you heard of help exchange?my friend is doing it in France atm and i am planning on hopefully doing some of the oppotunities in Argentina .. www.helpx.net i think the site address is 😊 x Reply to this

9 years ago, November 26th 2009 No: 10 Msg: #94501  
Ah amazing, website looks good, will have to get in contact with some of the projects out there. If all goes well with plans, as I hope it does for you, it would be really cool if me and my friend could meet up with travellers alike whilst out there on the same trip? Exchange heads up on any places you may have been to before us or the other way around ya know? Reply to this

9 years ago, November 26th 2009 No: 11 Msg: #94504  
B Posts: 130
yeaha sounds good! ^_^ when are you planning on going btw? thanks for the website links. i cant wait to get out of the UK and meet like minded travelers its just all the planning theres so much to think about! o_O x Reply to this

9 years ago, November 26th 2009 No: 12 Msg: #94510  

Check out this page for opportunities for free/very cheap volunteering in South and Central America.

Volunteer South America

I found it when thinking about volunteering there.

Hope this helps!

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9 years ago, November 26th 2009 No: 13 Msg: #94511  
Well my mate finishes uni not this july coming, but the one after. We're hoping to leave shortly after he comes back. Its so long away! Annoying... we're planning to travel for 12 - 18 months, but obviously that could all change, who knows?! thats the one of the glorys of it ey lol your going in september right? how long for?

cheers kate for the link :D did you manage to get out there and do some work?? Reply to this

9 years ago, November 26th 2009 No: 14 Msg: #94516  
B Posts: 130
Thanks for the link Kate,brilliant and comprehensive site!

Yeaha going this september hopefully. wanted to go straight after id finished uni but figured i should save for a year to make sure i dont come home early! I was thinking of just buying a one way ticket..i want to be out for as long as possible but after researching, it seems i have to have a return ticket to be let into most countries to begin with :/ so maybe buy a RTW ticket so i can still go to south east asia too.

Ahh the optomisim! lol. Its good your planning now, plus learning spanish too..thats a very wise move i will attempt to follow lol. Reply to this

9 years ago, November 27th 2009 No: 15 Msg: #94538  
This is true, would be such a let down to have to come back after a couple of months. I didnt know about needing a return ticket for some countries! Cheers! lol what a bummer. South east asia would be a lot of fun i think! How long would you hope to go for?

Ive been using this just to get into the swing of greetings and farewells, starting from the bottom! lol


Its only a freebie introduction to their product, but its a start. Want to make sure if im gonna pay stupid amounts for education, that its actually gonna be a good one! lol Reply to this

9 years ago, November 27th 2009 No: 16 Msg: #94547  
B Posts: 171

it seems i have to have a return ticket to be let into most countries

im not so sure you need a return.
the ecuadorian consulate i think said i needed a return. but when i actually arrived in ecuador they didnt give a hoot.
just stamped the passport and let me in!

i think a lot of people have got through without a return. maybe depends on which country you land in..

what were the locals like that you met along the way?

very hospitable, and welcoming to a foreigner. never walked past me on the street if i needed help. and when i made friends it was like they made me one of the family. many are still my friends today. generally the south americans have strong set of family values.

i should add that the further you drift from the tourism hornets nest, the more of a novelty it if for the locals

but its a land of contrast, you will meet all kinds. and some who will be more interested in your money than in you. so you need to be on your toes. but dont be surprised if some people just says hello and invited you for a drink with them for no other reason than to chat with you and practice their english. at the same time, one must never ever leave ones drink unattended in case something is slipped into it, thats a general rule form coast to coast.

oh, but while im saying that colombia is relativly safe, hers my disclaimer lol !

i mean safe for south american standards.. so if you can get through brazil, argentina peru ecuador unscathed, then you should be ok in colombia! but if your really into the great outdoors and intend on doing hiking excursions, then all i say is, do plenty of research because as many know, some areas of colombia have been and still are home to guerrilla fighters who through the years have been known to kidnap for ransom. but that is apparently getting safer now. but its perfectly possible to see the beautiful parts of colombia without putting yourself in that kind of danger.

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9 years ago, November 29th 2009 No: 17 Msg: #94699  

it seems i have to have a return ticket to be let into most countries

I didnt know this! Hmm... matty1 its good that you didnt have any hastle, maybe an open ended return would work? would rather wing it and see how it goes but wouldnt wanna' end up in shit?

i guess meeting with locals would be something no one can predict, as... well... we'll all meet different people lol but i see what your saying about keepin on ya toes with people just after your money. Thank fuck im pretty skint and wont be wearing ANYTHING slightly expensive haha (pardon my french)

Columbia is a must see i think! Reply to this

9 years ago, November 29th 2009 No: 18 Msg: #94754  
B Posts: 171
well, if you can visit another continent on holidays or backpacking, or the fact you can do so without any visa restrictions is a blessing many people in south america are not so fortunate to have. in fact even travelling from one end of peru to another is something many peruvians dont ever get to do.
also having white skin can make you seem wealthy to some as unfortunatly there is still an impression that white people are somehow a higher class in some parts, whilst indigenous people still suffer from a certain amount of predjudice, or so i have been told by some south americans. a social divide still very much exists.

also taking into account that many south americans, just as many people all over the world, still are not familiar with the backpacking lifestyle of valuing time over luxury, sleeping in dorms and living on the cheap to stretch every last penny. for many normal south americans, a holiday is more likely a case of staying in luxury hotels and resorts for a couple of weeks and being pampered same as so many people back home. so when they meet someone who tells them "im travelling around for a few months".. its no surprise that the first thing they say is "you must have a lot of money"

however i would hate to paint the wrong picture, there are many people who earn 5 to 10 times less than a typical european if you take the currency exchange rate into account and they would still buy you a drink, or pay for your meal just as any friend back home would, they have dignitiy just as we do.

however when you are trying to buy something, they know they can hike it up a little and it still be so cheap we wont even notice. so watch out for that.. but dont be too hard on them either, i have seen some travellers opting to walk for 20 minutes so they dont give the taxi driver the satisfaction of (presumably) overcharging us by the equivalent of 30 cents !

anyway even if you speak fluent spanish, its kind of imposible not to stick out of the crowd . so id nearly say one is better off dressing in nice but casual clothes as though you were living and working there, this is how most south americans dress. its ironic but another thing we so "rich" gringos have a reputation for is dressing kinda scruffy :-)
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9 years ago, December 29th 2009 No: 19 Msg: #97831  
Definitely try and learn as much Spanish as you can as it will reallty enrich your experience, especially in Colombia where the people are so, so friendly and will want to talk to you, but don't have great English! Colombia and Argentina were the highlights, country wise, of our trip and it'd be a real shame if you skipped it altogether!

Also, don't avoid Medellin - it's a terrific city, safe, and has a nice European feel. It's also a great place to party and we had a brilliant night to celebrate my 30th!!

We found the borders weren't nearly as strict as people warned us they would be - we certainly never had to prove what flights we had or how much money we had etc

Regarding 'sticking out' - we found it was impossible not to stick out until we got to Buenos Aires, where a pair of jeans will mean you blend right in! I was constantly getting mistaken for an Argentinian and asked directions! Whereas in Colombia, I stuck out and was constantly getting asked to pose for photos with Colombian girls - what a nightmare! :-)

We have a blog if you're interested!
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