Backpacking Tips for Your South American Adventure

South America is a great place to go backpacking; it has diverse cultures, amazing food and friendly people. However, before you set off to the airport, read on to discover some expert advice. Here are my must-know tips and tricks for travelling in this part of the world.

The Basics

Here are the need-to-know facts about two of the most important aspects of travelling –communicating with people and paying for things.


In South America Spanish and Portuguese are the most common languages, so start brushing up now! You may also hear Dutch, Chinese and English depending on where you travel along with many indigenous languages, such as Quechua which is spoken in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile and more.


Exchange rates can differ across the various countries in South America. Bolivia and Peru are cheaper, whereas large cities in Brazil and Chile are more expensive. Look up exchange rates before you leave so you are not caught by surprise.

It is important to carry a lot of cash with you. Whilst this wouldn’t be the advice I would give to travellers everywhere, ATMs in South America can be known to run out of money, especially if they are outside of large towns. Take some US dollars with you as well as these are usually accepted everywhere any may come in handy if you struggle to exchange other currencies or get money from an ATM.

The Extras


To get around South America you’ll find yourself spending many long hours on buses. The first few times you might be description simply looking out of the window at the scenery, but after that you will want something to do. Here are my bus preparation tips: download music to your phone so you can chill out offline, take a cheap e-reader packed with old favourites and new reads, bring along a dictionary so you can work on your Spanish and pack a notebook and pen to record your travels.


If you have a birthday coming up in the months before you travel, why not ask for a photography class or course as a present? Investing in building your photography skills will make a huge difference to the images you capture whilst you are away and help you preserve some special memories.

The Safety


Pickpocketing is pretty common in South America, so investing in some high-quality anti-pickpocketing clothing is a great idea, especially if you are planning to take overnight bus journeys where your belongings might be vulnerable. The company Clever Travel Companion is a good place to start.


Whether you buy pickpocket-proof clothing or not you should take out backpacker travel insurance to cover your valuables in case of theft, so you can be assured that if you are a victim of pickpocketing it won’t be the end of the world. Print out your backpacker travel insurance policy or email it to a family member just in case you lose the details whilst you are away. Hopefully you will never have to use it, but, as a backpacker, travel insurance is a real necessity – it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Now you are fully prepared for your South America trip, all you need to do is book the flights and get ready to start making memories.

Ethan Bailey is an experienced adventure traveller and insurance expert with the team at Let's Go Insure. Ethan’s passion is to inspire his clients to go just that little bit further, deeper and higher on their travels and his expertise in providing the ideal insurance cover allows them to do just that. If you're looking for the best backpacker travel insurance Let's Go works with the most experienced underwriters, intermediaries and insurers to offer a range of competitive insurance without compromising on cover.

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Author: Desiree Michels

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