Traveling to South America is a great experience but here is some key advice to prepare yourself for the big move:
1. “Near” and “far” have a completely different meaning
When you’ve lived in Europe or just within America your entire life, you are used to traveling from one country to another in a one hour flight, maybe two…
Well, when planning your trip to South America, you need to bear in mind that this continent has more than 17 million square meters and traveling from one city to another might take you longer than expected. Just for you to get an idea, from Arica (North of Chile) to Punta Arenas (South of Chile) there are 5.356 km by route, which takes approx. two and a half days by car!
But don’t worry! This is part of its charm. Even though you might be heading to a specific place, the quote “it’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey”, definitely applies to a trip in this lovely continent.
2. There’s a lot about the Spanish language you don’t know about
Even if you are a Spanish native speaker, you will find yourself struggling with some accents and hear words you’ve never heard before in your life. Each Spanish speaking country in South America has its own slang and dialects, and you can be sure you will start using some of these words yourself! If you want to get an idea of the things you’ll hear, check out this hilarious video, which looks at the use of words in the entire Spanish-speaking world: “Qué difícil es hablar el español”
If you want to practice some Spanish before you leave just get one of our courses!
3. Thinking that it’s always warm is a big mistake
People tend to think that South America is warm. It’s impossible, with the size of it, for the whole region to be warm all the time. Make sure you do your research well and to pack all types of clothing if you’re traveling through different countries, no matter the season which you decide to travel in. Even during summer, the temperatures can drop significantly, especially at night. If you decide to visit the Atacama Desert, for example, there might be nights that even reach negative temperatures.
4. Not all of South America is cheap
There are some really cheap places, yes. But there are some others that are not cheap at all, especially Argentina and Chile. If you are planning on visiting Buenos Aires or Santiago, for example, don’t think for a moment that you will live for a month with what you would spend in a week in Spain. That’s a myth. Make sure you research a lot and prepare an accurate budget unless you want to run out of money halfway through your journey.
There are plenty of ways of saving money, such as traveling on local buses, if you don’t mind the longer and less comfortable journey, eating like a local (avoid fancy chains and just pop into local market where you’ll find tastier and cheaper dishes!) and you could try couchsurfing to get to know local people.
5. You don’t have to be afraid, just careful
There are risks when it comes to traveling, no matter where you go. It’s been said that South America is a dangerous place to visit, but… is that true? It depends! Common sense will go a long way in making your trip enjoyable and trouble-free. There are places and situations that are dangerous – but easy to avoid or to take precautions against when visiting.
Make sure you know where you are going, how you are getting there and what risks or travel warnings are present in order to take precautions.
Pickpocketing is quite common in most big cities, but as long as you are not careless with your belongings, you should be fine. Again, use your common sense! Don’t leave your purse in the chair next to you, choose well-lit streets instead of dark ones, etc. It’s all about being careful!
Do you have any tips you would like to share with us? What advice would you give to someone traveling to South America? Visit our Facebook and help everyone plan their trip to South America! All comments are more than welcome.