Do’s and Don’ts of Traveling to South America

South America is vast continents with 12 independent countries and every country has its distinctive culture and lifestyle. Though, to an outsider, this may not be perceptible at first glance due to certain similarities.

These countries started their life as colonies of the European powers and their antecedents date back to 18th century. Spanish and Creole, and sometimes Portuguese and Italian are the popular languages spoken by the majority of the residents.

Giving respect to the individual cultures and avoiding certain faux pas will complement your experience. Moreover, personal safety is also a big concern for the travelers. These Do’s and Don’ts will help you avoid many problems, as well as save money. They also provide just the perfect tips to make your stay more memorable.

Dos and Don'ts of traveling to South America

South America by Travel Jaunts

South America Travel Tips – General

Before delving into the specific Do’s and Don’ts it would be a good idea to have some basic tips on your sojourn with South America.

  • Be well-informed before you start: Endeavor to know as much about the countries and destinations that you are going to visit. To borrow a concept from business management studies, do a PEST analysis; which means knowing about the Political, economic, Social and Technology situation. Information on political unrest, civil strife or industrial strikes will put you on good stead. also keep in mind that air crashes or road accidents are much more common in South America than any other parts of the world. The public transport system may not be as punctual and efficient as you are used to.
  • Take necessary precautions: In certain cities it is not safe to travel alone on dark streets, secluded urban areas during late night, or to wait for buses on deserted streets. Let your common sense work for your safety. Always keep an eye on your belongings including mobile phones and purses. These small items attract snatchers. During journeys on buses and trains it is helpful to chain your luggage and keeping them locked.Crowded places like beachfronts, markets and tourist attractions are particularly vulnerable to nimble fingered pick-pockets.
  • Avoid trouble and prevent mishaps: Carrying large volume of cash or expensive jewelries and watches, are potential magnets for thefts and mugging. Many South American countries have high crime rates. Avoid being mugged. When in such situation, hand over your valuables. The assailants may be armed and might resort to violence if resisted or startled. After ensuring your personal safety, you can report the matter to the police.
  • Take help from the Locals: Although it is not advisable to trust the words of the very first person that comes along, it is wiser to take help from the locals in case you have any query about the distance, fares, locations or transportation available. Watching and learning how they go about certain things, will be very helpful. While eating street food, give preference to the joints popular with the locals. During adventurous trips or trekking, the help of local people is very valuable for your safety.
  • Check your fitness and enhance it: South America has beautiful destinations which are at high altitude with rarefied atmosphere, or have extremely hot or cold weather, and some can be harsh and dry. Your physical fitness to withstand such extremes is very important, else falling sick may spoil your vacation. Take immunizations and vaccinations to prevent as many illnesses as you can.
  • Be sensitive to their culture: Politics and religion should be taboo subjects for light and casual discussions, as South Americans are very sensitive to these issues. Instead, you can discuss family, arts and crafts, and tourist destinations. Some normal hand gestures like the OK signs are considered rude and insulting. Avoid shorts or informal attire in rated restaurants or clubs. In beaches too, nudism or bare-chested look is unacceptable.

Dos and Don’ts of traveling to South America

List of Don’ts for South America travel

  1. Do not travel with excessive valuables jewelry. Leave your necklaces, rings, bracelets, expensive watches, and other jewelry in a safe place like hotel safe lockers.
  2. Do not carry excessive cash. If you are going out for a trip, just carry enough cash to cover daily expenses and your credit card.
  3. Keep your money or wallet in your front pockets where you can see it. Back pockets are irresistible and easy targets for pickpockets.
  4. Ensure that the street food you eat is hygienic. Drink sealed bottled water.
  5. Never take anyone you meet outside, inside your hotel room.
  6. Avoid taking public transport, especially buses on lonely secluded routes. Take taxi, especially those arranged by the hotel.
  7. At local bars, avoid accepting drinks from strangers. Deny politely.
  8. Do not feel offended if you are referred as “Gringo”. That is their usual term for foreigners.
  9. Do not photograph Native American people without permission.
  10. Do not beckon anyone with hand gestures, claps or whistles. These are considered rude.
  11. When you are with someone, or on a table; then while yawning, cover your mouth.
  12. Do not be offended if a South American stands too close while talking. It is their culture.
  13. Do not be nude at beaches or in tourist spots. Woman should not be seen anywhere without the top.
  14. Do not show interest in any of the hawkers selling goods on the streets, else they will pester you to buy their wares.
  15. Do not refer to natives as ‘’indio or indios” as the words are considered insulting.
  16. Do not take pictures of people without their permission, especially when taking pictures of indigenous people or natives.
  17. Do not take unlicensed taxis with a red and white taxi sign on the windscreen. Take licensed yellow taxis.
  18. Where taxis are not running by meter, negotiate the fares first before boarding.

Some Important Do’s for South America travel

  1. Do dress simple, neat and respectable. Do wear casual clothes, but not shorts if you want to blend in.
  2. Do try to learn few phrases in Portuguese and Spanish.
  3. Do shake hands with men you meet, while maintaining friendly eye contact. Handshaking is the customary form of greeting between men
  4. Do keep a map as smartphones may not work everywhere.
  5. Do seek help for directions if you are lost, without letting them know that you are lost.
  6. Do wear long pants, long-sleeved shirt, cap or hat to avoid mosquito bites when visiting the wild.
  7. Do bring insect repellant to prevent illnesses like dengue or malaria.
  8. Do bring mosquito nets, insect sprays etc. in case you plan to sleep outdoors.
  9. Do act and dress the same way as the locals in beaches.
  10. Be friendly and humble, behave conservatively whenever possible.
  11. Do keep both hands on the table throughout the meal.
  12. Do tip wherever it is customary. It is 10-15% in restaurants and 20% in bars.
  13. Do dress in formal attire where it is required, like for exclusive dining and social functions. Dress conservative and modest if you want to blend in.
  14. Do bring your own toilet paper to use in public restrooms in beaches, tourist spots, bus stations; and expect to pay a small fee whenever so required.

 

Last words on this would be, “Do” add to these tips after your memorable trip; “Don’t” keep them to yourself.  Have a happy time at your chosen destination in South America!

 

Travel to South America – Check other articles on South America here

 

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Top 10 Most Adventurous Places in South America

Top 10 Honeymoon Destinations in South America

Top 10 Most Beautiful Places in South America

A short Travel Guide on South America Travel

Top 10 Family Travel Destinations in South America

Top 10 Value for Money  Destinations in South America

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