If you’re planning a backpacking trip through South America, take heed of these ten tips for backpackers that just might come in handy.
Embarking on a backpacking journey through South America promises an exhilarating adventure, where ancient wonders like Machu Picchu in Peru and the vibrant streets of Buenos Aires, Argentina, await exploration.
Here are ten indispensable tips to ensure your South American odyssey is safe, budget-friendly, and culturally enriching.
The World Bucket List’s fun facts about South America:
- The highest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls, is located in South America in Venezuela. This is an absolute must-visit if you travel to the region.
- South America is home to the expansive Amazon Rainforest, the largest rainforest in the world.
- There are numerous native tribes that call the Amazon Rainforest home, each with their own fascinating and unique customs.
- Brazil’s Carnival Festival is one of the most fun, vibrant, and unforgettable festivities around the world.
- The Tango, one of the most famous partner dances, originated in the working-class neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
10. Craft a flexible itinerary – don’t be too rigid
South America is a diverse playground of destinations, from the ancient allure of Machu Picchu to the bustling energy of Rio de Janeiro. Plan a flexible itinerary that allows for spontaneity while ensuring you visit must-see spots.
If you plan your itinerary too rigidly, travelling becomes more of a chore than a fun time, so don’t worry about staying an extra few days here and there or cutting one destination short if you aren’t enjoying it!
9. Choose accommodation according to your budget – plenty of options available
If you’re travelling on a budget, stretch your cash by opting for hostels scattered across Lima, Rio de Janeiro, and beyond. Beyond cost savings, hostels are hubs for meeting fellow travellers and sharing valuable tips.
If money is less of an object for you, but you would still like to meet new people and fellow travellers, opt for a private room in a hostel from time to time instead of a hotel to really embrace travelling culture.
8. Prioritise safety – one of the top tips for backpackers in South America
While South America is generally safe, prioritise your safety. Safeguard belongings, exercise caution in crowded areas, and stay informed about local guidelines, whether navigating Cartagena’s vibrant streets or the serene landscapes of Patagonia.
Each country in South America will come with its different risks and guidelines, so be sure to check them out before you arrive. For example, Buenos Aires is known for being quite pickpocket-heavy – something to be aware of if you choose to travel there.
7. Embrace local cultures – the best way to travel
Connect with the soul of South America by engaging with locals. Learn basic Spanish phrases to enhance interactions and gain insights into the rich cultures of Ecuador, Colombia, and other countries. Locals often hold the key to hidden gems.
6. Navigate currency differences – familiarise yourself before you go
Different countries, different currencies. Familiarise yourself with the local currencies in Peru, Chile, Argentina, and other South American countries. ATMs are widely available, but it’s wise to carry some local currency for smaller establishments.
Currency can also usually be exchanged at airports or land borders, but using ATMs is your best bet.
5. Experience thrilling adventures – so many to explore
South America caters to adventure seekers. From hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu to exploring Bolivia’s salt flats, embark on exhilarating adventures that showcase the continent’s diverse landscapes.
4. Choose countries wisely – everybody is different
Ideal destinations vary based on personal preferences. Chile and Argentina boast stunning landscapes, while Peru and Colombia offer rich cultural experiences. Brazil caters to diverse tastes and Bolivia’s untouched beauty beckons.
3. Opt for affordable transportation – there’s plenty of it
Opt for budget-friendly transportation options such as buses or shared taxis. South America’s extensive bus networks offer a cost-effective and scenic way to traverse the continent.
2. Learn basic Spanish – a little goes a long way
A few basic Spanish phrases can enhance your travel experience. Locals appreciate the effort, and it opens doors to more authentic interactions in countries like Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia.
It’s worth noting that South American Spanish, from country to country, is vastly different from the accents, inflexions, and tones you’ll hear in Spain.
Furthermore, if you’re heading to Brazil, try to pick up a little Portuguese before you go; it’ll make a world of difference to your experience with locals.
1. Connect with fellow travellers – embrace the backpacking lifestyle
Engage with fellow backpackers along the way. Shared experiences and tips from other travellers can enrich your journey, whether swapping stories in a hostel common area or joining group activities.
Budget wisely: Backpacking across South America can be affordable with strategic planning. Rely on local street food, budget-friendly accommodations, and public transportation. Exchange money in local markets for favourable rates.
Explore hidden gems: Venture beyond tourist hotspots to discover hidden gems. Local markets, off-the-beaten-path neighbourhoods, and lesser-known trails offer a more intimate experience of South America.
Scuba dive in exotic locations: For underwater enthusiasts, Colombia and Brazil offer scuba diving opportunities, unveiling vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life. Dive into the crystal-clear waters off Cartagena or the captivating coastline of Rio de Janeiro.
Embrace unique culinary experiences: Savour South America’s diverse culinary landscape. Try local dishes like ceviche in Peru, empanadas in Argentina, and feijoada in Brazil to immerse yourself in the gastronomic richness.
Your questions answered about backpackers in South America
Which country in South America is best for backpacking?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. For landscapes, explore Chile and Argentina. Immerse in culture in Peru and Colombia. Brazil offers diversity, while Bolivia provides unspoiled beauty.
Is it safe to backpack across South America?
Overall, South America is safe but exercise caution. Be vigilant, especially in cities like Lima and Rio de Janeiro.
Is it expensive to backpack South America?
Not necessarily. With budget-friendly options, street food, and affordable accommodations, you can explore South America without draining your wallet.
Embark on your South American backpacking journey armed with these tips, and let the continent’s beauty and diversity unfold before you. Safe travels!
MORE TIPS FOR BACKPACKERS: