Resources

  • Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/south-america) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveler forum and more.
  • Latin American Network Information Center (www.lanic.utexas.edu) Links to all things Latin American.
  • UK Foreign Travel Advice (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) Travel advisories.
  • US State Department (www.state.gov) Travel advice and warnings.
  • Thorn Tree (lonelyplanet.com/thorntree) Get trip recommendations and destination tips from other travelers.

Top Tips

  • Don't be shy. Talk to locals, who are often happy to share insights into their culture.
  • Be prepared. Read up on destinations before you arrive; know the exchange rate. Have a map handy when arriving in a new town.
  • Slow down. Don't be in such a hurry to tick off sites that you miss the beauty in front of you.
  • Learn some Spanish and Portuguese. Don't expect to rely just on English.
  • Prepare for crazy driving. Pedestrians have no rights.
  • Carry valuables in a hidden money belt to prevent theft.
  • Don’t cram the whole continent into a month. Pick a country or two, and get to know it.
  • Prepare for huge contrasts in weather and terrain.
  • Get your vaccines in order — especially yellow fever!
  • Acclimatize! Give yourself ample time to adjust to the Andean heights and heat/humidity of the tropical coast. Don't make any big plans on your first few days.

What to Take

  • A week's worth of clothes
  • Rain gear (jacket, dry pack for electronics)
  • Hat (for sun and rain)
  • Good walking shoes
  • Small flip-flops (for beaches and dodgy showers)
  • Earplugs
  • Medicine/first-aid kit
  • GSM cell phone
  • Refillable water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Tissues (for public toilets)

What to Wear

In general, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes will be the most comfortable options. Bring a jacket for cool highland temperatures and over-air-conditioned buses. Pants and long-sleeve shirts are handy insect protection for jungle hikes. Shorts are generally not appropriate outside of beach destinations.

Pre-departure Checklist

  • Ensure your passport is valid for six months past your arrival date.
  • Apply for visas well in advance.
  • Organize travel insurance.
  • Medical check-up and vaccinations.
  • Stock up on contact lenses and prescription medicines.
  • Inform banks of travel plans.
  • Scan key documents (passports, visas, credit cards) and email them to yourself in case of loss.