Find out how to get prepared for your trip in South America
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Top 10 most common travel mistakes when traveling in South America
Even the most experienced traveler can fall prey to common travel mistakes when planning a trip to South America. Although many conundrums can actually be solved with only minor inconveniences once there (calling the bank to notify them that you’re abroad, for example, or buying that travel converter you forgot to pack) there are a few bases which really should be covered from home.
1. DON’T…fall into the mass-media warning trap
Spend a few days or an entire lifetime following mass media reports on South America and you could be forgiven for thinking this must be one of the least developed and most crime-ridden corners of the world. The truth, dear adventure seeker, couldn’t be more contrasting. From vibrant and captivating Rio de Janeiro to startling Buenos Aires, magnificent Amazon jungle and alluring Andean mountains: enchanting South America is, in reality, one of the safest and most rewarding travel destination on earth. Even once-plagued nations like Colombia are swiftly rising in rank and are now considered some of the most spectacular countries to discover. So turn the TV and I-pad off and, instead, seek opinions from those who have been there. And more importantly, trust an experienced and professional tour company: if they go there, then trust that it is perfectly safe. South America rocks in every way and, if you leave your preconceived notions at home, you’ll discover a destination that will WOW you endlessly.
2. DON’T… travel without insurance
Now that we have your attention and travel-lust, we’ll get stuck into the nitty gritty world of South America travel mistakes to avoid. The first, is to travel without insurance and we hold this credo with every journey you may take, anywhere in the world. From bouts of illnesses to unfortunate falls, accidents and whatnot: no matter how unlikely the chance is you’ll need it, having travel insurance is an absolute must. It’s what can turn a mere ‘inconvenience’ into an enormous financial and emotional burden. Want travel? Have insurance! And don’t forget that 99% of travel insurance policies require you to be still in your home country when purchasing cover, not be already travelling, so sort your insurance out as soon as you’ve booked your tour.
3. DON’T… rely on your tour guide for all communication
There’s a very good reason our organised South America tours are so popular. Discerning travellers love having the logistics sorted for them, private transport and an experienced guide along for the ride. Having said that, there’s something to be said for picking up a few key Spanish words and sentences before you even leave home. Take some Spanish lessons and bring a small pocket Spanish guide with you and you will have an infinitely more rewarding travel experience. Locals in South America are friendly, curious and totally engaging and if you can communicate with them – even just a little – it will make your whole experience that much more unforgettable.
4. DON’T… pack too much
Now to be fair, it is true that one person’s must-have is someone else’s frivolity yet by and large there is usually a tendency to pack more the further one heads from home. Funny that, uh? Even though most people know that no matter what you need, you will likely be able to buy it in all major South American cities. So fight that urge to pack everything you own: travel light and make sure to leave plenty of extra space in your luggage for all those amazing souvenirs!
2. DON’T… bring traveller's cheques and/or big wads of cash
Traveller’s cheques are yesterday’s trend and, in South America, they are becoming more and more difficult to exchange. Yet in this modern and bustling continent you’ll find ATMs just about everywhere, oftentimes offering dual currency withdrawals (both in local dinero and USD bills). As long as you have a debit Visa/MasterCard with a bank that charges no or low ATM-withdrawal fees, there’s really no reason to carry all your holiday funds with you from the get-go.
6. DON’T… underestimate the effects of altitude sickness
Altitude sickness is a sneaky little bugger and it mostly affects those who don’t prepare for it. Travelling through South America overland goes a long way in helping you acclimatise yet flying between hubs is what will offer you more destinations in less time. Once those high elevation destinations like Puno, Cusco or La Paz are reached, you ought to take a few things into consideration. It’s a good idea to eat and drink (alcohol) less than you normally would, as your digestion will be hampered by the altitude. Get plenty of rest, take an afternoon siesta and try to not pack in too much sightseeing into the first few days. Moreover, drink the coca tea! It REALLY does work and can seriously alleviate the headaches and nausea associated with travelling at altitude.
7. DON’T… forego a good night's sleep
South America is certainly an exciting place to be and we’ll forgive you for not wanting to miss a second of your time there. But you really do need a good night’s sleep. Most especially as you will likely be a lot more active than usual, with all the hikes, sightseeing tours and activities on offer at every turn. So take a time out occasionally, and enjoy an early night or an afternoon off to rest, read and siesta. Even a 3-week jaunt through the continent can really take it out of you if you don’t take some time out for R&R along the way.
8. DON’T… leave everything to the last minute
From permits to hike along the Inca Trail to spots on Amazon cruises and even hotel rooms: high tourist reason in South America brings a hive of activity, which usually results in the best places/activities booking out entirely. Plan ahead and you won’t be left disappointed.
9. DON’T… skip on research
Just because you’re heading to South America on an organised tour it doesn’t mean you will find out ALL there is to know about a destination when you get there. These incredible countries boast long and illustrious histories with each point of interest offering a myriad of things to see and do. Read up on your chosen spots and not only will you be one step ahead but you’ll also know which parts will likely take your interest more. Sometimes, you will have to choose what to see and do on a particular day, and you should only do that if you’re thoroughly informed.
10. DON’T… dehydrate
You’ll be surprised to learn that most travel discomfort, even altitude sickness symptoms, are caused by dehydration. Make a conscious effort to drink at least 2 litres of water a day and you’ll stave off heat exhaustion, headaches and even stomach upsets.
Bonus #11. DON"T… assume your passport is valid
One of the peskiest South America travel mistakes comes courtesy of the innocuous passport expiration date. Oh you won’t believe how many HEEEEELP! calls we field from guests who realize their passports are about to expire AND they’re due to fly out the following week.
So check it now. Yes…right now! We’ll wait
Enchanting South America is a thrilling 23-day tour we’ve dreamed up to gift you some of the continent’s most astonishing highlights. You’ll go from bustling Buenos Aires to addictive Rio de Janeiro with an unforgettable jaunt to Iguazu Falls in between. Then, we’ll whisk you off to Peru to retrace the steps of the ancient Incas, all the way to mesmerizing Machu Picchu via startling Lake Titicaca, before plunging you into the heart of the Amazon jungle and capping off your adventure with a superb tour of the best wine region near Santiago, in Chile. A little bit of everything that makes this continent so immensely rewarding and an array of fantastic experiences to soak up. So keep tabs on those travel mistakes when planning your South America trip and we’re sure you’ll remember your adventure for all the right reasons.
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