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South America on your own??

I want to go to South America for about two and half months but i will be on my own is this wise? Should be June July and half of August.
9 years ago, February 13th 2010 No: 1 Msg: #103524  
Hi all,
I want to go to South America for about two and half months and i am concerened that it may be a bit dangerous on my own.
I am considiring going on a tour but they are very expensive and I like seeing and doing things in my own good time and not being ushered around by tour guides. I want to do all of the major tourist things like the Inca Trail and Salt Flats in Boliva Argeatina, basicly i want to spend about two and half months and see as much as i can, as I fear that it may be a once off holiday.
However my major concern is that i will be very much a target on my own? Or are there other tourists in similar situations all over South America? I have been to India, Thailand and Australia and always met people by themselves so is it really that much of a gamble?
Which is the best time of the year to visit South America?
Any help i get will be very much appreciated!
Enda Reply to this

9 years ago, February 13th 2010 No: 2 Msg: #103530  
We travelled as a couple but we met stacks and stacks of people travelling on their own. There are thousands of people out there all doing the same things and so it's easy to meet people and find people who want to do the same thing as you.

We travelled with a Norwegian girl for a while, who was out there on her own, and she had no problems.

You just need to be sensible and you'll be fine.

Regarding the best time to go...we read that the Inca Trail is best in September, as it's quieter and the weather is good at that time of year. We went then and were quite surprised how quiet Macchu was. Reply to this

9 years ago, February 21st 2010 No: 3 Msg: #104401  
Hi Enda, i was in Peru and Bolivia last year with a friend and we met loads of people whilst travelling. We did a small gap tour near the end so i could see more stuff but it works out lots cheaper doing it yourself!
I'm going back in July by myself this time doing Brazil, Argentina and Chile before ending up in Peru again. Let us know if you're doing something similar.

Paul 😊 Reply to this

9 years ago, February 22nd 2010 No: 4 Msg: #104582  
There is a bad myth about South America and it been dangerous. Maybe before it was but it really isnt now. All I will say is it is not going to be what you expect. It was very different to what I expected anyway. It's my favourite place I've ever travelled. I LOVE SOUTH AMERICA! The mere mention of the two words gets my emotions running. I take it your Irish with a name like that!! Check out my blogs if you want. Reply to this

9 years ago, February 25th 2010 No: 5 Msg: #105017  
How about those of us who don't speak Spanish, is it still reasonably easy to get by? Reply to this

9 years ago, February 25th 2010 No: 6 Msg: #105042  
N Posts: 4
I would say it's pretty safe... As long as you're not like out at night by yourself in a bad neighborhood, be smart about it & take the same precautions you would take anywhere else...... Besides guys yelling out "piropeos" ie: corny ass lines..... you'll be fine..... I would agree with Ben & Clare & say that September-October would be the best time......

@ Pizzahut- Even though in the major cities you'll find enough people who will speak "some" kind of English, IF you wanna do the more off the beaten track I would suggest you take some Spanish classes before you leave..... Or even BETTER, emerse yourself in the culture, there are many students who go down to central or south america to learn spanish.... But for that you should definately look up those places b4 leaving.... because they can be somewhat costly...... Reply to this

9 years ago, February 26th 2010 No: 7 Msg: #105091  
Hello Edna 😊

I have been to South America on my own a few times. I think it is safe enough for you to go alone. A book such as 'South America on a Shoestring by Lonely Planet' may be a useful purchase for you. As well as safety information, it is full of all kinds of practical information for the independent traveller.

I met lots of other female travellers in S. America who were travelling alone. You certainly wont be the only one.

Hello Ryan 😊

How about those of us who don't speak Spanish, is it still reasonably easy to get by?

I think you will get by. I speak some Spanish, but I have been to lots of countries where I dont speak the language and got by. I dont think S. America is any more difficult than those places are as regards not speaking the language.

Mel Reply to this

9 years ago, February 26th 2010 No: 8 Msg: #105159  
Thanks for the feedback! 😊 Reply to this

9 years ago, February 28th 2010 No: 9 Msg: #105309  
B Posts: 171
if you do it alone you will most likely hook up with various tours along the way as most hostels are running tours , you will meet lots of people on these.

when travelling from place to place you would not necesarily be at more risk than if with other people. in fact there are benefits to being on your own, if you are the cautious type you can pick and choose your taxi drivers yourself and if you dont feel good about a situation you can change your plans in an instant without having to seek agreement of other people travelling with you. plus you can walk around towns with a degree of certainty about where your going even if you dont have a clue where your going, you at least dont have to wait for a group of other people stalling to look at their maps and pulling out cameras in a place where you might think it unwise.

of course you will have to look for new friends every time you land in a new place, which of course be enjoyable and very good for your social skills. hostel friends are easy to find as everyone is in the same boat anyway.

there is also an advantage in that you can meet south americans and make friendships with them far more easy on your own than with a group of others, which may be the best part of the trip as south americans can be of the highest quality of friends you can meet.
do trust your inscincts though as some will be after your tourist money. and never leave your drink unattended when chatting with newly found friends, just as a rule of thumb.

its common for foreigners to be slightly overcharged in restaurants and is even 'policy' in some places so keep the eyes peeled for that. in some places you might even find the english menu has a different price than the spanish one.

in the case of muggings in places like buenos aires or lima, i definitly dont think it makes a difference if your with other people or on your own, you are wiser to find out about the safety of a given area and take a taxi or so and not hang around dodgy neighbourhoods especially at night, same as most big cities. again being on your own can be a benefit because you dont have to argue with a friend who insists on walking back to the hostel to save money when you would prefer to take a taxi.

in case of pickpockets , it doesnt make a difference if your with people or not because the whole skill of a pickpocket is to get away without you noticing. and a group of tourists would probably attract more attention than an individual anyway.

all in all i would say more benefits than hazards.

best of luck
Reply to this

9 years ago, March 16th 2010 No: 10 Msg: #106596  
I´ve been living the slow travel lifestyle in Ecuador for two years and have recently been on the boards answering questions about travel here, the Galapagos, buses, volunteer options, safely, you name it. I have volunteered and worked at a hostel, led volunteers to the coast for three weeks, and worked at a really good Irish bar that boasts teachers, guides, hostel owners, travel agents, Spanish students, gap year travelers, bike guides, etc. Through these experiences and while I was posting responses to questions on the travel boards I came up with a plan for traveling on a budget that I wanted to post here as a know a few brave souls who have done similar trips and really have gotten a lot out of it. For those willing to spend a little time and a lot of energy to see the sights in Ecuador, here are a few well vetted ideas.

Volunteering at hostels

The Secret Garden, Quito takes volunteers for a month or more where you help check people in and out, serve food, take people to clubs and bars, and act as their social, travel, and Ecuador guide. Good way to meet other travelers and get free food and accommodation. Really good for figuring out what you want to do next as everyone is in the same boat..

Currently from the bar where I work I came across this opportunity a few days ago-

Hostal Llullu Llama is still looking for people who like to help run our in Isinlivi. From the end of April until they like. We usually prefer that people stay for 8 weeks and then we give food and board in return. Isinlivi is pretty small so people have to like being out there in the Andes and speak Spanish, cause it will make their lives much more fun. Teaching at the local school is an option and the rest of the work is helping at the hostel. Receiving guests, giving information, take our dog for hikes, etc. While the position is currently filled they have the need for new volunteers every eight weeks.. A great way to learn Spanish first hand, meet a lot of people traveling, and get out of the city and into Ecuador's beautiful country side.

For the Galapagos, There are companies that offer land based volunteer trips that cut the cost of a cruise and include tours and activities on three islands.. Santa Marta, San Cristobal, and Isabella. Incorporating conservation work puts participants on the other side of the equation as far as the damage that tourism does to the islands. These trips usually cost about two thousand dollars including air fare. With the extra money saved people have the independence to stay at the end of their trip and find activities that they want to do. As I have been doing a lot of research from the hostel about these activities as opposed to a cruise.. Here is a list of free activities on each Island.

Centro de Interpretacion: (free)

An extremely informative museum with information in Spanish and English on the geographic and human history of the Galapagos, definitely worth a visit. An easy, short walk from town.

Las Tijeretas: (free)

This is the area behind the interpretation centre. There are several paths leading to various lookout points, as well as a snorkelling area where sea turtles, sea lions, and herons can be seen. There is also a sandy beach (Punta Carola) with a sea lion colony. You can see blue-footed boobies diving, as well as on the rocks, pelicans, marine iguanas and frigate birds flying (also in the trees from the higher lookouts).

Playa Mann: (free)

A popular sandy beach right at the edge of town, across the street from the university. There are often sea lions here, and the water is calm for swimming. Boobies can be seen flying and diving here.

La Loberia: (free)

About a 30-40 minute easy walk from town. Walk towards the airport and turn left at the corner right before the military school (ask directions along the way). You will pass a gravel pit before reaching the sign for the entrance. This is a mostly rocky beach, with some sand,
with a playful sea lion colony. Marine iguanas can also be seen here.

El Junto: (free)

A lake in the crater of a volcano where frigate birds can be seen fishing and bathing. To walk here all the way from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno takes about 3 1/2 hours, or on weekdays there is a bus which runs about 5 times a day (first two buses leave at 6:30 and 7am) to the village of El Progreso, and then from there you can walk for 2 - 2 1/2 hours along the main road to reach the lake (ask directions in El Progreso, then once you are on the main road you cannot get lost).

Punto Chino: (free)

This beach is another 10km past El Junto, and other than walking, hiring a car or taking a tour is the only way to get there. We did not go out this far, so are not sure what a car would charge to take you out there.


El Chato tortoise reserve (free)

This is part of the park where we saw over 30 giant tortoises in the wild. Transport from Puerto Ayora in a collectivo costs $1 US p/p each way (if there are 5 of you) to Santa Rosa and then a 10-15 km round trip walk through the reserve and back to Santa Rosa. Ask for directions in Santa Rosa if you are unsure.

Bellavista tuneles del amor (3.00 US p/p)

These giant lava tunnels stretch over 1 km. Transport from Puerto Ayora to Bellavista in collectivo is 0.25 US p/p each way, and then a 2.5 km round trip walk (ask directions in Bellavista).

Darwin research centre (free)

Has a Giant Tortoise and Iguana breading centre. 2 km round trip walk from Puerto Ayora. Ask anyone in town to point you in the right direction.

Bahia Tortuga (free)

A nice sandy beach where you can see marine iguanas, crabs, and birds. 12 km round trip walk from centre.

Garrapatero Beach (free)

A sandy beach suitable for swimming (and camping with a permit from the parks office). Marine iguanas, endemic poison apple trees, crabs, mangroves, and lots of birds can be seen here. Transportation from Puerto Ayora costs $10-15 each way (for the whole truck, so best to find a group), also arrange pick-up time with the driver because not many vehicles come out this far. This beach is also set up with a beautiful campground though a permit is required from the park entrance Puerto Ayora in advance. Day and night there are lots of bloodsucking bugs. Bring drinking water!


Volcan Sierra Negra: (free) *This could be a little complicated so see endnote.

This is apparently the second largest caldera in the world and a beautiful hike, with spectacular views of northern Isabela on a nice day. Transport from Villamil in a city bus is 1.00 US p/p (.50 US for Ecuadorians) and leaves at 7:00 am every day. Tell the driver you want to be let off at the entrance road to el volcan. Then it's a 6 km walk to the park entrance (but try hitchhiking, as workers are often driving up at this time and may take you for free) then a 16 km walk up to the caldera and to Volcan Chico, and then back to the park entrance. From the park entrance it is a 18 km walk back to Villamil (again try hitchhiking, it is unlikely that you would not get a ride, but possible) any truck back to town will cost 1.00 US p/p.

Las Tintoretas: (free if you swim, $15 for a "Bay Tour")

These are some neat islands just off the harbor where we saw sea turtles, white tipped sharks, manta rays, seals, hundreds of marine iguanas, a penguin and many other sea birds and marine life.
Transport: we rented some flippers for 2.50 US and swam out there (it took us 2 hours to get there, at a leisurely pace, looking a sea life, and 45 minutes to return, at a fairly rapid pace). We recommend you go with at least one other person and at low tide. At high tide the water gets quite rough as the reef is submerged. When swimming, try to follow the shore/reef since it is an active harbor with boats coming in and out. If you are not a strong swimmer we do not recommend you do this.

Wall of tears: (free)

The wall itself is not that exciting, despite its interesting history, but the walk along the beach and between the lagoons to get there is beautiful. We saw the largest Marine Iguanas of anywhere on our trip on this beach.
Transport: walk about 15 km round trip along road beside beach (you can walk the first part on the beach)

National park tortoise reserve: (free)

Not as interesting as the Darwin centre, but to get there you can follow a nice boardwalk through some lagoons which is a pretty walk. This reserve also has tortoise species which you can't see anywhere else. Transport: walk west along the main road out of town, then turn right (north) at the sign where the boardwalk starts (before the road forks), you will see a very red-orange lagoon, follow the boardwalk about 1 km until you get to the parking lot.

Laguna Salinas: (free)

Nestled between urban development, one street back from the main street you will likely see flamingos here between about 5:30-6:00 am or pm.

Laguna Concha Perla: (free)

Located right beside the port, there is a little boardwalk to get out to it and it is a good place to snorkel and see rays, seals, penguins, sea turtles, Sally Lightfoot crabs, and many fish.

These programs and opportunities are a savvy way for the adventurous to explore and not just be given the gringo tour..

These are good ways to see places on a limited budget. I have done it off and on and it´s a good experience. The Galapagos on a backpackers budget, Latacunga, and Cotopaxi are all somehow all easily made available to people if they don´t mind spending their time and energy chipping in a little to get a lot out of their experience.

As I said this is in Ecuador, but I know that other hostels in Peru and Columbia are doing the same type of things. Try Loki in Peru or The Cranky Croc in Columbia! Hope this helps and let me know if I can find anymore information for you! I live in Quito and enjoy seeing people find great opportunities and make the most out of their time here.
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