7 useful things to know before travelling to Central & South America
No matter how much reading, asking and googling you do about a place, there is always an element of surprise when you arrive. To make sure you aren’t as surprised as me for your next trip to South America, here are a few tips and insights: 1.It's not that cheap
This has been a consistent theme through all my South American travels. For some reason I have always had this idea in my head that South America was a cheap alternative to Europe but I have been wrong, really wrong. Although accommodation has been cheap (thanks to Airbnb and our low standards) but as far as getting around, eating and drinking goes, it’s much the same as Australia and other parts of the world.
2. Entry costs & visas
Although most passports get you into many countries of South America like Chile and Agentina without a visa you still need to pay a reciprocity fee when entering the country. It's approximately US$150-250 per country which starts to add up if you’re moving around a lot. Visa applications can be time consuming so try and do as many as you can before leaving so you don’t waste valuable holiday time and carry some spare passport photos with you, just in case.
3. ATMs are few and far between
Cash is king. When you have the opportunity get a lot of cash out to avoid the never ending hunt for ATMs. There have been a few times that we have been running around trying to find banks that have a) ATMs b) have ATMs that aren’t out of order and c) take our type of card. We have MasterCards and AmericanExpress but lots of places only accept Visa and some only service locals. Lesson learnt!
4. Things move slowly
Punctuality is relaxed here and in most cases no one can be accused of working too hard. I remember the first night I arrived to Belize’s Caye Caulker Island a man stopped me to let me know I was walking too fast. The slogan for the island was “go slow” and apparently you ruin the vibe if you exert too much energy.
5. The roads are scary
The lines indicating lanes seem to only be a suggestion rather than a rule in this part of the world. If you plan on doing any driving here be prepared and make sure you’re a confident driver (which completely rules me out) and get full insurance cover when you hire a car.
6. The people are incredibly friendly
Another misconception I had about South America was that is was unsafe and dangerous. I didn’t see or feel this at all. I think like in most places in the world you have to keep an eye on your belongings and don’t position yourself as a target i.e. don’t get stupidly drunk, don’t go into notoriously dangerous areas and don’t take your valuables with you. Everyone I came across was incredibly friend, kind and helpful.
7. You will need vaccinations
See your travel doctor well ahead of your trip to make sure you get the required vaccinations and to ensure your standard ones are up to date. You might also require some anti-malaria medication and make sure you pack lots of bug spray because dengue fever looms in these areas. It is a nasty thing to catch and there is no vaccination or cure. I spent over $450 getting all of mine… so be prepared for another stab to the wallet.
Enjoy your trip!
Ps. If you're headed to Santiago, you can download my guide below.