Tips for Backpacking in South America
Brush Up on Your Spanish
Spanish is a relatively easy language to learn, and a few words and phrases will go a long way when you’re trying to buy a bus ticket, order food or converse with the locals. Many cities offer cheap Spanish courses, with Sucre in Bolivia being one of the most popular places to learn the lingo. Either take classes or partake in a homestay with a local family for a truly immersive experience, but even a few key phrases will really help you out if you’re in a bind – just think of them as an extra South America travel insurance! You’ll also get a lot more out of your trip if you can chat to the locals.
Embrace the Local Transport
While some destinations offer world-class coach travel between key spots, a lot of the travel you’ll be doing will be on former US school buses, which have been spray painted with cartoons. Oftentimes, these buses are crowded with locals and, more often than not, with quite a few chickens. This is how the chicken buses got their name, and for short to mid-length journeys, they’re your best – or even only – bet.
Follow the Sun
Plan your route wisely: it’s easy to fall into the misconception that this continent is sunny year-round, but the temperature plummets to freezing lows in the south from April to October. What’s more, you’ll need to be aware of the rainy season when travelling through the Andes.
Fiestas and Festivals
The entire continent is always up for a good party, and you would be mad to miss out. While Carnival in Rio is the most well-known festival, most local villages will have their own specific saints and other local holidays. Experience the party atmosphere and try the foods on offer, but be aware that these festivals can be a haven for pickpockets, so make sure that you have good South America travel insurance to cover you for petty theft. It is often difficult to travel on public holidays, so keep that in mind when making your plans.
Health is Wealth
While you’re bound to get a funny tummy at least once along the way, you can take precautions to protect yourself against anything worse. Get all of the necessary vaccinations and medications before you head off, and pack a decent first aid kit. Make sure you have comprehensive South America travel insurance to give you complete peace of mind while you are on the road. Should you lose anything valuable or need to cut short your trip to South America, travel insurance will also cover you so that you don’t end up breaking the bank. A comprehensive policy is definitely the most important thing to bring with you!