I am obsessed with South America. My first trip was to Rio de Janeiro and after spending New Years on Copacabana beach with my toes in the sand and fireworks all around me, I was hooked. Before my trip to Brazil, most of my traveling had been to Europe with some scattered trips to Central America and Asia. Now I've added Argentina, Chile, and Colombia to the list and there's no stopping me until I conquer that whole continent.

You just booked your first trip to South America. And the rush of excitement is coursing through your entire body at the thought of exploring some incredible destinations. If you're used to Europe, then South America will feel completely foreign. Whether it is the currency, language, or some of the customs, there is going to be plenty that is different than home. And you will love every second of it!

Here are 10 tips for your first trip to South America:

First and foremost, be flexible

During my last trip, we were supposed to take an overnight bus from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile. We arrived at the bus station with luggage in tow only to find out that border was closed for the night. Just like that. No warning or nothing. It certainly threw a wrench in our plans. It's possible you can run into this situation or one where someone is late, your transportation isn't on time, etc.

tips for south america
Our bus broke down but these lovely gentlemen just gamely pushed it

Don't try and cram too much in

It's okay, I’m guilty of this too. But unlike Europe, countries in South America are very large and traveling from one country to another just sometimes isn't feasible in a short time frame. Plus there's so much to see and do in each country. Try to keep your pace manageable

tips South America
Stop and enjoy the view

Be complimentary to your hosts and locals

South Americans love to hear how much you love their home city. Really who doesn't? But it truly seems to brighten their day if you pay them a compliment. Tell the waiter how much you love the food or your host how much you appreciate their hospitality

Cute little cafe in Rio de Janeiro with the sweetest owners

You can get by with just a few local key phrases

As great as it is to know a few words and key phrases in the local language, there are people who speak English, especially in the bigger cities. Plus, South Americans really enjoy the opportunity to practice their English so don't be shy! That being said, they also love if you can speak the language so if you know Spanish (or Portuguese, if you're in Brazil) be sure to bust that out.

tips South America
I had no problem finding people who spoke English in Bogota and Cartagena

Be social

South Americans are extremely friendly. Don't hesitate to ask a local for some recommendations of maybe some input on your itinerary. They will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.

tips South America
Obsessed with this sign. It should be in every restaurant!

If you're buying souvenirs, always haggle

My mother is seriously the god of all hagglers but even if you don't have her mad skills, you can still get a good deal. Try asking for a discount if you buy multiple items, for example.

tips South America
Walked away with one too many souvenirs from here

Don't forget to wear to sunscreen

The sun is a lot stronger in South America, even if it doesn't feel like it. The first and only time I got sunburnt was during my trip to Colombia. I didn't know what was wrong with me. I learned my lesson for all my subsequent trips

south america tips
Little did I know I was already sunburnt here

Know your stomach

The food is going to be delicious and rich and full of flavors you haven't experienced. Just be careful and know your stomach. It's possible to get sick from foods you aren't used to. If you have a sensitive stomach, be sure to avoid street and fast food. By the way, here are some delicious eats if you're ever in Rio de Janeiro

tips south america
This dish was so unbelievably incredible

Be smart and aware of your surroundings

This is really for everywhere that you travel. Do some research and avoid any areas that are generally not safe for tourists. If you're unsure of the safety level, just be sure that you know where you are headed when you leave your accommodation. Be sure to take trustworthy forms of transportation. Don't just hop into any taxi if you're not sure that they are safe to take

tips South America
My stunning hostel in El Calafate

Have an open mind

Be open to new experiences. You will see and witness so much during your travels and the best way to appreciate the culture is to go in with no preconceived notions. Then you'll become just as obsessed as I am.

In the next coming weeks, I will be posting lots and lots (don't worry, nothing too obnoxious) on Argentina and Chile. If you don't want to miss any posts, drop your email below to be notified when something new is on the blog. Otherwise, be sure to check back for some great content! 

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  1. I’m headed to South America for the first time this summer and these tips were AWESOME! Especially about cramming too much in (I have a bad habit with that one). Thanks!!

    • Priyanka Reply

      You are welcome!! Glad you found this useful. Stay tuned for some more posts on South America. Hopefully they’ll help you with your upcoming trip!

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