13 things you wish you knew before travelling to South America
There are times in life where learning from our own experiences is crucial to our growth and development. And there are times where it is a little bit easier to just learn from other peoples mistakes. So here are the top 13 travel tips i.e. my mistakes that you can learn from before you jet set off to South America.
1. Visa is preferred in South America
Vendors are charged less for the use of Visa services than Mastercard and therefore often wont accept Mastercard. – If organizing a prepaid travel money card, you are far better off with a Visa than a Mastercard.
2. Airlines have prices for both tourists and locals
Some airlines have prices for locals and for tourists naturally with the price for tourists being far more expensive. Use airlines that have a general price for all such as LAN. Note also that tickets often go on sale close to flying date, it doesn’t always work out cheaper to purchase in advance (see next point)
3. It is cheaper to buy internal flights for South America in South America.
Travel agents most often have access to flights far cheaper than those advertised online or on Skyscanner. Always check with agents first.
4. Carry a fake wallet
A fake wallet with a few expired cards and a small amount of cash can prevent your actual wallet being stolen as this is enough to satisfy thieves, keep your actual stash of cash hidden on you.
5. ATMS have a mind of their own
ATM’s won’t always give you cash and can decline your card for no apparent reason. Even if you have gotten cash from a particular bank before this does not guarantee it will give you money each time. Always have some spare cash or keep some money to change in times of need (especially if travelling solo).
6. Laundries will steal your clothes
Laundries are known to steal your clothes and resell them. Don’t have anything you cannot replace or are attached to washed by a laundry – it’s a game of Russian roulette and sadly I speak from experience!
7. Lock your belongings to the bus
Clip or lock your backpack or daypack physically to the bus if travelling for long journeys as thieves will steal your bag from under the seat/from your feet or those stored above. Take extra caution when the bus stops to allow other people on. There is often no checking of tickets during this time and people will jump on to grab a bag or two and be off again all in the time the bus has stopped – Once again I speak from first hand experience unfortunately!
8. Spread important documents/money/belongings between your backpack and day pack
If you keep everything in one place it increases your chance of losing everything. Consider having spare ATM card, phone (and charger), copy of passport and cash in main backpack.
9. Your main backpack is less likely to be stolen than your day pack
Whilst it often feels safer to physically carry expensive and important items with you, it’s actually more likely to be stolen (less face it – what thief is going to run off with my 20kg backpack full of clothes). Consider packing more expensive items into main pack.
10. Always bring more food and water onto bus trips than you anticipate you will need
Be aware in some countries no food/drink is provided on long haul buses – once again, learnt this the hard way
11. Eat street/market foods at own risk
I have been warned by locals many times that most locals in the know don’t actually eat from these types of vendors unless they know them personally. There is very little hygiene (if any) available or used when preparing these types of foods. While I am the first to encourage supporting locals and trying local foods be wary of where you get these from.
Which introduces my next point nicely…
12. Have a medical kit prepped for the inevitable travelers’ diarrhea
Being prepared with the following will be a godsend when an inevitable occurrence of travelers diarrhea or food poisoning strikes. Antibiotics, anti-parasitic medication, loperamide, rehydration salts and anti-nausea medication are a lifesaver when you are hurling up your guts and in no way are in any shape to find a doctor in a foreign country – once again, speaking from experience!
13. They don’t speak English!
Shocking I know, but this continent isn’t like Europe or other tourist destinations where they still know English in addition to their own language. Majority speak Spanish only and this can make life very difficult if you don’t know any Spanish. ‘Hablas Ingles?’ will be your friend if you decide against learning a little Espanol.