When I was younger, I preferred travelling the luxurious way. I stayed in the poshest hotels and focused only on visiting urban centres and following what the tour companies said.
After a while, I realized that I wanted to get something more out of my travels. I yearned to learn and embrace the culture of the countries that I visit and get to experience things, instead of just taking photos and buying souvenirs. So I abandoned my old travelling habits.
I went on a long trip that gave more focus on cultural immersion – I chose to explore South America. I instantly fell in love with this warm, inviting and exotic continent.
Here’s my detailed travel preparation guide to help you explore South America like a local.
Keep in mind some standard safety tips
A lot of people tend to shy away from visiting South America because they hear so many news about petty crimes and all sorts of local mishaps. Honestly, I think it’s quite a safe travel destination – if you know and do the right things.
I’ve never experienced becoming a victim of any crime while I travelled to various South American countries. Here are the standard safety tips I follow:
- Avoid exploring dark alleys and other shortcuts at night.
- Never wear a flashy outfit or large pieces of jewellery.
- Don’t show off expensive gadgets or money most especially when you tour around the cities.
- Be alert, most especially if you choose to travel solo.
- Keep abreast of the latest news and stay away from crime-ridden areas.
Study their language
To achieve my goal of becoming fully immersed in the culture of South America, I dedicated a few weeks to take Spanish lessons. Surprisingly the language was quite easy to learn. The lessons included speaking, reading and comprehension lessons to help me learn the language systematically.
By learning how to speak Spanish, I was able to become friends with so many locals, most especially in Spanish-speaking countries like Chile, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Argentina and Bolivia.
Think about the activities you will do
Whenever I visit a new country, I make sure to have a short list of things that I would want to try once I get there. For example, as an adventure junkie, I want to check out as many natural formations as I can. So, I include destinations like the Santa Cruz Trek in Peru, Lost City Trek in Colombia and the Huayna Potosi in Bolivia.
If you want to see glaciers or enjoy a few days of skiing, I recommend including Argentina in your South America travel itinerary. To be specific, you should include Patagonia and Bariloche. These two Argentine destinations closely resemble the filming locations of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogies.
Book your accommodation ahead of time
A lot of travelers tend to give very little importance to booking their accommodation in advance. If you plan to visit South America any time soon, I highly recommend getting a room through your trusted booking app at least a few weeks before you fly to your chosen South America destination.
Take note that millions of people flock to South America, so it can be difficult to find a place you can sleep in unless you book ahead of time.
Pack the right outfit
It’s best to check the climate and weather condition in your target destination before you start packing your clothes.
Thanks to the varying topography of the continent, you can experience various climate, most especially if you plan to visit different South American countries in one vacation week.
In packing your clothes, you should also consider the type of activities that you want to engage in.
For example, if you love trekking like me, you should invest in good-quality shoes. The landscape in most of the hiking spots tends to vary, so you should opt for footwear that can withstand extreme wear and tear.
Get close with the locals
If you want to truly enjoy a meaningful trip, you need to be friends with the locals.
This is where your Spanish speaking skills come in. By knowing the language, you can ask for directions, and even restaurant and hangout suggestions.
Because you’re eliminating the language barrier, they can share interesting information that you can’t get from a travel guide such as local folklore and myths.
Travel with insurance
Travel insurance policies may be costly but they protect you from unwanted costs that may arise during your trip. Your travel insurance can provide coverage for the following:
- Medical costs in case you get sick while on vacation
- Costs involved in trip cancellations or interruptions
- Medical evacuation in case the local hospitals don’t have adequate resources
- Loss of baggage during airport check-in or delayed luggage
I’ve travelled to South America for a lot of times. My trips to this continent were nothing short of memorable and happy experiences. As with visiting other travel destinations, you can enjoy a more unforgettable vacation in South America if you travel like a local. With the tips I shared above, surely you will see South America in a new light.