Backpaking in South America!
My dear South America is a melting pot of cultures and dance, from samba in Brazil to the Argentine tango, this continent has a soul with a Spanish flavour. It has everything from the world’s driest desert to tropical rainforests, snow-capped mountains, volcanoes, and colonial towns, and is one of the most bio-diverse continents with high-altitude cities. It is also home to coffee plantations, ancient civilisations such as the Incas, and the Amazon River.
It is a continent that is popular with backpackers but it’s not for the first-time solo as you do need some basic Spanish to get by (in the Spanish speaking countries). Saying that many solo women travel within South America without any problems. Society is mainly a macho society so expect attention from males whether it’s just shouting “Linda” from afar (which means beautiful) or asking you to dance. If you travel to rural areas they may not be used to seeing a woman alone so expect even more attention.
In the more developed cities such as San Jose, Medellin or Rio de Janeiro you can dress however you like. With local women showing off their curves there’s no need to dress conservatively in these cities. Crime is the biggest issue here so be careful of your belongings, and if you go off the beaten path buddy up with other travellers or take a tour.
Unlike Central America, South America has vast distances and flying from country to country is not the cheapest method to get around. Although LAN Airlines operate within many countries in South America, the routes are not generally direct. Costs of flying internationally can be expensive compared to flying internally within countries. A good tip here is to cross the borders by bus then fly within the countries to maximise your time and budget.
Although bus travel is the cheapest method of travelling around the continent you need to be cautious of your belongings on some of the border routes. Crossing from Colombia to Ecuador is safer during the day. If you have to travel overnight make sure that your route is safe. Night buses in Peru are safe and so is the route from Ecuador to Peru. If you do travel by bus, expect some routes to have curvy roads if you’re going through a mountain pass.
Hiring a car isn’t really advised as the traffic can be chaotic and you don’t want to be driving anywhere alone which is off the beaten track. There’s also the chance of being stopped by corrupt police so use other methods of transport if you can. If you have time, taking a river cruise through the Amazon is a unique way of getting from country to country. If you travel from Colombia to Brazil, for example, you’ll need to allow a few days to get there.
Some islands are too far to travel by sea so if you want to visit San Andres, Easter Island, the Galapagos Islands or the Falkland Islands you have to fly instead.
Best Country To Visit in South America
With South America being a diverse continent you may want to plan your trip depending on what interests you. Below is a summary of what each country is known for to help you to decide which country to visit:
Argentina – Tango, steaks, wine, ancient caves, trekking, whale watching, Iguazu Falls, stunning scenery.
Bolivia – The highest national capital in the world, salt flats, traditions, salt hotels, volcanoes, coloured lakes, flamingos.
Brazil – Iguazu Falls, the World’s largest inland wetlands, carnivals, Amazon, wildlife, beaches, one of the most beautiful bays in the world.
Chile – Easter Island, star gazing, vineyards, glaciers, hiking, beaches, desert.
Colombia – The Andes, coffee plantations, Amazon, Caribbean coastline, dancing a lot of dancing.
Ecuador – Wildlife, Galapagos, jungle, chocolate, co ee, modern cities, water sports.
Falkland Islands – British, landscape, sea life.
French Guiana – Space station, Devil’s Island, leatherback turtles
The Galapagos Islands – cruising islands and unique wildlife.
Paraguay – Rural villages, jaguars, waterfalls, zip-lining, UNESCO villages.
Peru – Mountain scenery, Incas, Aztecs, Machu Picchu, trekking, national parks, jungle, festivals, Lake Titicaca.
Suriname – Eco-tourism, tropical forest, nature reserves.
Uruguay – Beaches, cattle ranches, mountains, countryside
Venezuela – Angel Falls, Caribbean islands.