As a frequent South American traveler I thought I would share with you some tips that will make your journey to the amazing country even better.
And honestly, these tips are just great generalizations for any travel out of country.
But as I see it, South America is growing more and more popular as a tourist destination each year and for folks who have never been it may just be a bit of a culture shock. But the popularity is not unjustified; there is something for everyone and every season. Hiking, mountain biking, sun bathing, ancient civilizations, fishing, surfing, basic R&R or adventure can be found there.
Here is my two cents:
1. Keep an open mind.
There is nothing worse than traveling with someone or meeting someone that has a problem with everything! Sure, I could hate everything because it is different than what I am accustomed to but why would I do that.
Different is what I crave and if you cannot handle living outside of your box for a week stay at home.
Find joy and beauty in the things that make their culture different from ours.
2. Understand exactly where you are going and the logistics. Like how to get from point a to point b, what part of the country you will be in, the nearest medical care and embassy, how long it takes to get from the airport to destination, currency etc.
These are important safety methods - you want to make sure that if you are responsible for your own transportation that you know how long it should take, the name of the town, whether it is north, south, east or west all in order to not being abducted or robbed or maybe just taken advantage of.
3. Know the safety level of the area(s) you will be traveling to.
Check with your embassy always before traveling to make yourself educated on any "no go" zones. But South America is generally safe :)
4. Vaccinations Needed?
Travel health is vital - do not just assume that because you are going to a fancy resort that you will not contract Malaria.
Malaria does not care how much money you spent on a suite. There are a number of diseases that can be found in South America and depending on where you are traveling some vaccinations may be needed. Learn more here on how to protect yourself.
5. Passports and Visas
For Americans you only need a Passport to enter the country for pleasure and short periods of time. As for other nationalities it is best to check with your embassy.
6. Its not always sunny in South America
When you think of the country do you automatically think of hot? It is ok if you do but only a few places are hot and humid. The landscapes and terrains vary greatly depending on the region so again it is best to know where you are going. Please do not get caught in a mountain region with only a swim suit - you will freeze!
English is not widely spoken there as Spanish is the primary language. And in Brazil, Portuguese is the official language so be prepared to have to speak their language to get by. It never hurts to buy a book and a study it before, while traveling and when there - the locals appreciate a gringo that makes an effort.
8. Electricity and Water
From my experiences in both Central and South America the general rule of thumb is to always be frugal in this department. Sometimes you may have blackout in power and/or during the morning but its fine because you will already be on your way to the daily adventure. We are so accustomed to leaving lights on and being able to shower whenever we want that if go down there with the same expectations you could be severely disappointed.
Now, I have never stayed at a resort so it may be different. All I am saying is to be prepared.
9. Quality for less
This applied for accommodations and also products. No matter where you shop you usually can get the price down by haggling. Please keep in mind that the people work hard and for little and if they are selling a quality product you should give them what they deserve. You can really score beautiful leather items, gold and silver and fine gems and stones at incredible prices.
10. Jungle Exploration
Be wise. Protect your body.
Bug spray, tug pants into boots, where socks, bring extra of everything and a bathing suit. Also, bring your own libations as some places that are remote may not provide any. Do not forget your camera!
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And that my friends is my two cents on South America Need To Know Before You Go!