The TravelPod South American Start Kit
Tips and Frequently Asked Questions
Permanent Link: http://www.travelpod.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=1458This starter kit isnít meant to replace a guide book. Itís a collection of top tips and frequently asked questions about the region. If you are headed to South America, make sure to have a glance.
Contribute if you can by replying to this post!Blogging
- Although it may not be the fastest, Internet is generally available just about everywhere in South America.
- Most computers at Internet cafťís have USB ports which you can use to upload photos from your camera to your blog.
- Some cafťís can burn your photos onto CD for you.
- Taking a laptop to north-western countries like Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador is a challenge due to security and rough roads.
- Keep notes in your paper journal then write your entries when you get to a cafť.
- If you would like to write your entries outside of a cafť, consider getting a small and sturdy palm pilot or the like with a fold out keyboard.Security
- Generally speaking, itís best not to wander around cities ( especially big ones ) at night.
- Keep your passport and valuables in a hidden money belt and never take it out when outside.
- Walk with assurance, donít look lost, even if you are.
- Use zip or Velcro pockets and pin them shut.
- Put a hanky in your pocket on top of your wallet to make it difficult to pick.
- To beat pick pockets, turn your wallet sideways in your pocket and put a rubber band around it.
- When arriving in a new city from your home country, try to book your first nightís stay before you arrive.
- Donít draw attention to yourself, hide all of your expensive goodies.
- Remove or obscure big name labels on bags and cameras.
- In tight areas like public busses, keep your expensive stuff very close to you. If you need to, turn your daypack around so that itís sitting on your front side.
- When sitting to eat or look at something, always wrap your leg through your daypackís strap or hold on to it somehow.
- If your day pack has a rain cover, use it when in cramped spaces to keep quick hands from opening zips.
- Travel Insurance is a good idea and is generally cheap, make sure that it covers the types of activities you plan to do. TravelPod offers adventure travel insurance
- Be very aware if someone touches you, bumps into you or even brushes nest to you. Contact is a common trick to distract you or it could be someone dipping into your pack.
- Although not the ďbe all end allĒ for security, a daypack locked in a pacsafe
locked to something solid in your room can avoid casual theft of your stuff for the day. If itís very valuable leave it in the hotel safe.South America SightsMachu Picchu, Peru Travel Blogs
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- You cannot trek the Inca Trail on your own. You need to book a tour.
- You need to book at least 2-3 months ahead of time for the Inca Trail in high season. In low season you can reserve a few weeks in advance.
- High season is June to September, Low season is October to March.
- Maximum group size is 16 people
- Acclimatize for at least 2 days before doing the Inca Trail.
- Drinking and eating Coca based products will help you acclimatize ( ie: coca tea, coca leaves, etcÖ )
- If you arenít used to high altitudes, reserve at least 2 days for acclimatization.
- The classic Inca Trail trek is 4 days ( trek to Machu Picchu and take the train back ).
- You can take the train to Machu Picchu if the trek sounds like itís too much for you. More info on the trains: www.perurail.com
- Get a walking stick or two. You can buy them in Cusco for only a few USD.
- Save a day or two to visit the Pisac and Sacred Valley which is very close to Cusco before you visit Machu Picchu. Itís beautiful and will help you acclimatize.
- Take the time to explore Cusco, itís a great place.
- You can store your extra baggage in your hotel or tour operatorís office for the duration of the trek.Iguazu Falls, Argentina & BrazilTravel Blogs
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- Both sides are beautiful in different ways. The Brazilian side gets you closer to the falls and the Argentinean side gives you a more panoramic view.
- The Argentinean side is usually cheaper.
- Taking a tour ( which isnít much more than transportation to and from the falls ) is definitely the most convenient way to get to the falls and back from your hotel in Foz or Argentina and is probably not much more expensive.Torres del Paine, Chile Travel Blogs
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- Camping is cheaper but renting gear in Puerto Natales can be expensive.
- Refugios close in low season, look into this before you go if you donít plan to camp.Galapagos Islands, Ecuador Travel Blogs
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- Plan to spend at least 7 days.
- Doing it on your own can be just as expensive as booking with a tour agency.
- Book at least 2 months ahead of time if you plan to go in high season ( June Ė August ).Salar de Uyuni, BoliviaTravel Blogs
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- By doing the typical Uyuni to Uyuni Salar tour in reverse order ( ie: east to west ) you can see the sunrise at the Salar AND at the geysers. All agencies can do this, just ask.
- Make sure that your agency has good food and transportation. The best way to find out is to ask other travelers who have just returned from a tour.
- Donít put give too much credibility to the ďindependentĒ tour company rating system which they have in Uyuni and will flaunt to you. Our tour broke down 4 times and our cook never showed, the company was ranked #3.Health
- Generally Malaria isnít a problem unless you enter deep into the Amazon BUT check www.malariafacts.com
for more accurate info and if in doubt, take the meds.
- Generally, itís best to avoid drinking the local water.
- If you have a sensitive belly, ask for the vegetarian options on trek and trips.
- Info on http://www.high-altitude-sickness.com
- If you have bad diarrhea, avoid Imodium at all costs unless you absolutely need to travel somewhere that day. Imodium keeps your sickness trapped inside and can make you sicker.Travel
- Sit in front of the bus is possible. Sitting directly above the wheels guaranties a very bumpy ride on many South America roads.
- On overnight busses make sure to lock your daypack up well before going to sleep.
- Generally you will get a ticket when checking luggage on a bus. Make sure to ask for a ticket if you werenít given one.
- Tipping the guy who puts your luggage into the bus storage is a good idea and is expected in some places. A large tip isnít expected, any small change will do.Taxis
- Take care when choosing taxis. Always have your hotel call one if possible and especially at night.
- Tell your driver where you want to go by using a street corner instead of an address. For example, ďdrop me off at the corner of X and Y streetĒ.
- Try to get a receipt when possible. This can be useful to track down lost or forgotten items and also provides another layer of security.
- Write down and show the driver the name of the location you are going to avoid miscommunications.Air travel
- Some smaller airlines require that you reconfirm your flight before departure. Itís a good idea to get in the habit of doing this with all flights.
- Some Aerolineas Argentina planes have a horrible back of the plane seat with no windows which doesnít recline. Ask for a seat in the middle or front of the plane.
- There is no road between Panama and Colombia, flying is your best bet.Language
Learn a little Spanish before you go. Itís likely that you wonít find as much English as you think you will. Speaking Spanish will certainly give you a better, richer experience with Spanish speaking locals during your trip.Here are the basics:
Hello / Hola
Goodbye / Adios
Thank you / Gracias
Where is / Donde esta
the washroom? / el bano
The bus terminal / el terminal
How much is it? / Cuanto cuesta?
Beer / Cerveza
- Taking a few weeks of Spanish lessons in South America can go a long way to helping your Spanish out.
- In almost every country you can fine short Spanish programs and stay with a local Spanish speaking family during your stay.
- If traveling with a partner, try speaking Spanish between yourselves daily.If you found this useful, once you return from your trip please take the time to help by contributing to the FAQ and also by replying to posts.
South America is a wonderful place to visit, be safe and enjoy the culture, people and places!