The Essential Backpackers Guide to South America Part 1

Published: 02/21/2014

The continent of South America is an intriguing destination high on the list of most travelers and certainly backpackers.  The wonders that this part of the world holds reach beyond historical records and capture the imaginations of explorers around the world.  People travel from every corner to visit mysteries such as Machu Picchu, set in the mountains of Peru.


South America is a massive continent situation directly beneath North America in the Western hemisphere and located mostly in the Southern hemisphere.  It is considered a sub-continent of the Americas.  The countries in South America are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.  South America also includes two overseas territories: French Guiana and the Falkland Islands.


The South American climate is wet and hot, predominantly, but being such a large continent, weather varies a lot throughout the continent so we’ll touch down on the climate in each country as we go.  Being a backpacker, however, it is wise to be prepared for any weather in case you happen to be staying in a campsite.  Always carry with you a liner in your backpack to keep your belongings dry in a storm.  Be sure to have your own personal rain gear, sunscreen, extra clothing and a hat too.


As with any country, the best place to find accommodation with reviews and comments is online.  Here you will find countless sites offering listings of accommodation ranging from hostels and backpackers to boutique B&Bs and award-winning hotels.  Do your homework – read the reviews and locate the accommodation in close proximity to the sites and people that you plan on visiting to save on your travel costs.


Staying safe whilst you backpack around a region like South America is key.  Travel insurance covering all activities, theft, accidents and travel problems is also important for those unforeseen incidents.  Take precautions on your journeys and always remember that any research before you go will help.  Here are a few tips to keep you safe:  Always lock your hotel door, shut your windows and sliding doors, especially if your room is at ground level and make use of the safety boxes that your hotel has to offer.  An alternative, even though backpacking is usually on a budget, is to spend a little more on your accommodation.  Be prepared when you leave your accommodation.  Know where you’re going and how to get there.  Don’t let yourself wander around looking lost as this is the first sign that a pickpocket or con-man will look for when choosing a victim.  Invest in a pouch that hugs your stomach where you can keep your valuables, your money and your passport.  If you plan on using taxis, make sure that they are licensed before you jump inside.  A taxi in a foreign city is one of the most vulnerable places that a traveler can be. 


Some important rules for backpackers:  always carry a map of the region you are in and a compass to supplement your daytrips.  Water is not always safe so stock up on water purification pills and keep extra snacks in case you’re stranded somewhere temporarily.  Matches or something to start a fire can come in handy more than you think and a small pocket knife holds many tools that could make your day in an emergency.  Finally, and most importantly, keep a First Aid kit in your bag everywhere you go. 


In the following articles we’ll visit each country in South America and elaborate on the climates, transport structures, sites, cuisines, traditions, cultures and some interesting facts to assist backpackers in preparing for any trips to countries in South America.

Posted in: Travel Advice
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