The Essential Backpacker's Guide to South America, Part 2

Published: 03/13/2014

Following on from the previous article in this series which outlined the safety and common sense tips that every backpacker should adhere to aswell as a general overview of South America, we begin a summary of each individual country to help you plan your adventure.

Argentina borders the South Atlantic Ocean between Chile and Uruguay with a population of around 40,302,000.  Spanish is the official language but English, Italian, German and French are also spoken widely.  The climate here is mostly temperate: arid in the southeast and subantarctic in the southwest – Summers in the north are hot and humid and winters are dry and mild whilst the south experiences warm wummers and cold winters with heavy snowfall.

Many different animal species live in Argentina, though they keep to their habitats and can’t all be found country-wide, for example, jaguars, cougars, crocodiles, armadillos, deer, foxes, elephants, seals, dolphins, orcas and a mass of marine and bird life including hawks and falcons.

The Argentine culture has heavy European influences, especially in the capital, Buenos Aires, where one will find a large population of European descent and the imitation of European styles in much of the architecture.  Famed for the tango, the pampas and beef consumption, this soccer-loving country’s favourite cuisine consists mainly of red meat, sausages and pastries.

Sites worth visiting in Argentina are: The Ibera Wetlands where nature enthusiasts can enjoy a myriad of wildlife; Ushaia, the southernmost city in the world, commonly used as a base for hiking, skiing and cruises to Antarctica; Mendoza Wine Regions in the eastern foothills of the Andes vineyards; Monte Fitz Roy, a 3,375m high mountain in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field; The Beagle Channel – a strait in the Tierra del Fuego Archipelago where you can view the sea lion colony in the Beagle Channel by boat; La Boca, the colourful working class district of Buenos Aires where performing tango artists can be seen.

Transport in the urban areas is mainly by bus or colectivo.  Buenos Aireas has an underground which is the only one in the coutry.


Brazil is located in eastern South America, bordering the Atlantic Ocean.  The climate is mostly tropical but temperate in the south and the official language is Portuguese but Spanish, English and French are also widely spoken.  The climate is varied, being across such a large area, but most of the country is tropical.  In northern Brazil there is no real dry season and temperatures average 25 degrees, central Brazil has more seasonal rainfall and south of Bahia, rain falls throughout the year.

This is where you will find the Amazon Rainforest – characterised as having 6,000 species of plants in one square km and home to many wildlife including 700 species of birdlife. 

Brazil’s culture has mostly been built upon Portuguese influence due to strong colonial ties with the Portuguese Empire.  The cuisine differs depending on which region you are in but average meals consist mostly of rice and beans with beef and salad, many fried foods and pastries and breads.  The national beverage is coffee and alcoholic drink, Cachaca.

Some of the top ten sites include: Ouro Preto – one of Brazil’s best-preserved colonial towns; Teatro Amazonas, a theatre in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest; Fernando de Noronha, a beautiful archipelago boasting pristine beaches, landscape and wildlife; Olinda, on Brazil’s northeastern coast, which features an historic downtown area churches nd the famous Carnival of Olinda; the Amazon River;  Rio Carnival; Salvador which is the capital of Bahia and The Pantanal – the world’s largest wetland.

Transport consists of a railway system which started declining since 1945, the highway system and the Sao Paulo Metro (the first underground system in Brazil).

Posted in: Travel Advice
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