What you need to know: South America


First a proviso, things change constantly in Latin America, and the pace of change is electric in certain places, so my advice may not hold forever, but here are the things I wish I’d know before I came:

-Kilo restaurants are your best friend: you will not find a cheaper meal if you can control the amount of food you put on your plate. Focus on meats and you will be getting even better value.

-Be cautious, but not too cautious! I freaked myself out with mugging and assault horror stories before I came here. In fact it’s really very nice, and if you are in Chile and Argentina it’s even safer!

-Know where it’s safe to drink tap water: this will save you on the bottled stuff, and avoid getting the shits when you least need them.

-Don’t hail taxis on the street, ESPECIALLY NOT in La Paz. The robberies do happen, and happened while we were there. Be aware.

-Don’t catch the local bus in the middle of the day from Nazca to Ica. You may boil to death before making it to your destination.

-If you enjoy cheap saunas, catch the local bus from Nazca to Ica. It’s very cheap, very hot, and nice and long to offer value for money.

-Don’t fear the subway. Where a city has a subway use it to death. They are safer than taxis, cheaper, and give you a chance to get in amongst the locals.

-Don’t expect smooth. Nothing is smooth when you travel, especially not in South America. Your bus will leave 20 minutes late if they want to, you will pay extra taxes when you least expect it, the lines in the supermarket will take 30 minutes. Take that time as a bonus opportunity to stand and think.

-Splash out on the big dreams. Nazca Lines? Expensive, but do it. Inca Trail? Likewise. Sugar Loaf? Whooaaaaaaa. But what’s the point in skipping these. You could be in any city otherwise.

-Spend a week in Arequipa, Peru. Cannot emphasise this enough. Class city, class food, relaxed atmosphere, perfect place to de-stress.

-Drink your wine in Mendoza, Argentina. It’s cheap, it’s plentiful, and it’s not at altitude, so do it!

-Be ready for altitude. It will suck, and no amount of diamox will entirely save you. That being said, you will appreciate that lovely soupy sea-level air when you get back down.

-Check the weather before going to Rio. We went in the wet-season, so it was grey all the time. Well done us!

-Don’t skip Chile. Lots of people skip Chile. What’s wrong with you lots of people??

-Don’t be ashamed of going for a Burger King in La Paz. It’s one of the few recognisable western places, and it can be seriously nice to relax somewhere familiar.

-Bring anti-biotics. For the shits. Patchacuti will get his revenge on you, but you will be ready.

-Walk around Buenos Aires. You’ll lose weight, get fit, and get a great idea of the layout of the city.

-Know your destination before you arrive. I’ve walked the streets of most places on street view long before I get there. The security of knowing what things look like, and where your hotel is makes a MASSIVE difference to feeling safe.

-Spider Senses tingling? Step into the nearest shop or restaurant and ask them to call you a cab. The cab should be safe, you’ll feel happier, and you get a cool drink out of it all.

-Lastly (for now) don’t worry about getting ripped off the odd time! Don’t worry about arriving at the bus station late at night, and don’t worry about what all your friends and family who have never been tell you about South America. Go there, see for yourself, and love it. It’s class.

See you on the road.


One thought on “What you need to know: South America

  1. Great post!! Made me laugh. Completely agree 🙂 I too have experienced the exact same. Completely sympathise with waiting in line at the supermarket… Nightmare!!


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