GREAT! We cannot recommend it enough. We had the most incredible time travelling three months through the magical countries of Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina. Here are a few tips and suggestions to make your trip EVEN BETTER.
LEARN SOME SPANISH
Unlike travelling through Europe and getting by not being able to speak the language due to all of the locals having a basic knowledge of English, generally people in South America do NOT speak ANY English. Luckily Christie studied Spanish at university, making the trip a whole lot easier. There were some situations which could have become extremely difficult had we known none at all. And we definitely would have been ripped off a HELL of a lot more (although the locals are kind and friendly, they know a traveller when they see one!) Even just learning the basics, will guarantee to get you a lot further and be far more accepted by the locals in every country.
Colombia, Peru and Bolivia were countries where keeping costs low was easy. We often found that eating a meal out in a local restaurant is actually more cost effective than buying your own ingredients in a supermarket!
Don’t panic the further south you get… Argentina and Brazil are a LOT more expensive than everywhere else we visited. Although these countries are possible to do on a budget, the average prices for eating out, supermarkets, and general daily life are pretty much equal to major cities at home in the UK. Have a read of how we kept to our budget whilst travelling these countries below.
CHOOSE HOSTELS WITH A KITCHEN. All countries in South America are filled with ‘fruteria’ ‘verdureria’ and ‘carniceria’ at every street corner - essentially fruit & veg shops, or meat stalls, from which it’s dirt cheap to buy fresh ingredients. We would often cook a delicious supper and make sure we had enough to stick in a tupperware for the following day’s lunch, saving us a hell of a lot of cash
BE AWARE OF ATM FEES. A lot of countries charge serious fees to take money out from a foreign bank card (Argentina in particular), so make sure you CHECK how much a machine is charging, look about for the cheapest rates, and if they are all pretty expensive then take out large amounts at a time, and pay on your card wherever possible.
WALK EVERYWHERE. Although the ‘cheap’ rate of Uber’s can be tempting, we found walking places not only saved us a LOT of money, but also made us far more knowledgeable on specific areas in the countries we visited, as well as being great exercise every single day. For longer distances we tried to use the local metro/buses, which are also far cheaper than taxi’s.
As two British girls we certainly stood out wandering the streets of South America. When we first arrived in Colombia we were slightly taken aback by the sheer amount of ’wolf-whistling’, horn honking, and even men clapping as we wandered through cities. Saying this, we rarely felt threatened by any of these onlookers, and as long as you keep to general precaution whilst walking around the people are generally very friendly.
We found Peruvians to be particularly kind and caring, every single one we came into contact with being totally fascinated by the fact that we were from the U.K. They would love to ask us ‘What’s it like in England?’, ‘Is it different to life here?’ and in return we would attempt to explain how madly opposite life back home was.
When we got to Brazil it was miles different from Peru and Bolivia, and we felt far closer to home culture wise. For starters the locals looked a lot more similar to Westerners, which made us stand out far less walking around the streets. In the big cities as you sit down to eat or to have a coffee, the waiters often warn you to guard your belongings closely incase of pickpockets, however this all comes under the general precautions!
In Colombia the locals have a saying, “NO DAR PAPAYA”. This quirky saying which is often graffiti painted on walls or signs, translates as - “Don’t put yourself in a position where you become vulnerable to be taken advantage of.” For us this saying applies throughout the continent, and as long as you are cautious and aware of your surroundings, you should be totally safe.
Unlike in Central America, night buses are the most commonly used travel option for travellers. There are many companies offering different price options according to how much legroom you would like - and trust us when we say we tried them all, from the best to the most budget ones! We would recommend using www.busbud.com to choose your bus, and going for a mid range one, its super easy to work and you can pay and reserve online. The cheapest ones are fine and do the job, however with zero space to recline you will turn up at your next stop feeling extremely grouchy (we learned this the hard way.)
**TIP: On the buses in Colombia for some reason they BLAST the air-con to the point that it is freezing, so always make sure to bring plenty of extra layers!
Transport in Argentina is ridiculously expensive, the bus from Buenos Aires to Mendoza was going to cost us between 80-120GBP, so keep this in mind when planning for Argentina. Instead we opted for car rental, which worked out cheaper because we were travelling in a group of 3. Driving abroad was slightly nerve racking due to the lack of indication from other drivers on the road, but if you are a confident driver it is certainly worth looking in to. We rented from Localiza.
MUST NOT MISS
Here are our three top things that are not necessarily done by everyone, but we would 100% advise any travellers NOT TO MISS!
Trekking to the stunning Laguna 69, a lake situated in a town called Huaraz, north of Lima, Peru. - https://www.findusfaraway.com/single-post/2017/11/29/Peru-Laguna-69
Sandboarding through the desert hills in Huacachina - https://www.findusfaraway.com/single-post/2017/12/08/Peru-Sandboarding-in-Huacachina
Cycling through Mendoza’s vineyards - https://www.findusfaraway.com/single-post/2018/01/21/Argentina-Cycling-round-Mendoza%E2%80%99s-vineyards