Research the Best Time to Go
Research the best time of year to plan your trip. If you’re going to explore the Amazon rainforest, October and November are the best months because it’s less crowded and rainy. However, the Chilean landscapes may be best explored in the summer.
Try the Local Cuisine
Taste a regional fruit at the local market or specialty dishes like the arepas in Venezula or the ceviche in Peru. Don’t be afraid to try the menu del dia – or menu of the day. In some countries, this means a 3-course meal at a relatively cheap price. Oftentimes, you’ll even have a few choices of what to get. If you have a sensitive stomach or are weary about street food, consider bringing your own snacks.
Embrace the Public Transit
Though there are many ways to travel around South America, sometimes the most efficient mode is by public bus. There are also a few budget airlines available like LATAM Airlines and Andes Lineas Aereas, but make sure you watch out for any hidden fees.
Do Your Research
Spend some time before your trip doing research on local customs, currency and political and economic situations in your area, particularly if there are any strikes on public transportation. Find out if the tap water is safe to drink. And research local festivals in case you want to join in on the fun or if you would like to avoid it. Keep in mind there are also often street closures for these events that may affect your travel.
Pro Tip: Be aware of Cyclovia – one day a week where certain South American cities close the streets to cars. The cities turn to pedestrian and bikers-only and there are usually events and music on the streets instead.
Brush Up On Your Spanish (or Portuguese)
Along with being a nice gesture, learning some of the local language can also help you get around better and connect with the locals. You don’t have to be fluent, but learning a few key phrases and words could be useful and appreciated.
Beware of Pickpockets
Carry as few valuables as possible and always be aware of your surroundings. Though you should be fine venturing around major cities, it’s always good practice to be vigilant of your belongings and your environment.
Be Prepared for High Altitudes
Some altitudes can reach over 3,000m which can cause altitude sickness. Do your research on the altitude of the places you’re going and if you need to bring any medication to alleviate this. Try to avoid rapid changes in altitude and if you’re moving from high to low altitude, try to spend a day in the middle to adjust.
Disconnect from Technology
If you’re someone who needs constant connection to the Internet, be aware that Wi-Fi is scarce in South America. Though it is possible to find, it’s rare. If you’re looking for it in an accommodation, read reviews first as often places will say there’s Wi-Fi when there is not, and if there is internet, it may not work in every room.
Be Prepared for Outdoor Adventures
If venturing through the jungle, wear long sleeved shirts and pants to avoid mosquitoes and other bugs. Insect repellent is also a good idea! If you’re planning to hike Patagonia or the Andes, make sure you check with your doctor and research trails that are right for your fitness level.