You set your mind and you’re ready to travel to South America, a magical place of immense beauty where myth and legend continue to walk hand in hand. I’ve traveled 18 months in South America and can give you some tips on how to prepare yourself for an unforgettable adventure.
We all hear the unpleasant stories and South America has a fame of being dangerous. I traveled thousands of miles traversing cities, jungles, islands and mountains. I survived 6 weeks in a street child care center in the favelas of Salvador da Bahía (Brazil) and had the party of a lifetime during carnival. Nothing, I repeat, nothing happened. Use your common sense. Avoid badly lit streets at night and if your sixth sense is giving you the “something is wrong” sign then take a taxi to your destination.
Travel Guide Book
The first thing that you will need is a travel guide book. It will be your best companion in your search for adventure. I can highly recommend Lonely Planet´s South America on a guides-info.org to get you started. The book covers all you need to know to get the most out of your trip and is ideal to plan your journey ahead. I’ve used the guide extensively during my 18 month adventure. They offer excellent separate travel guides of all the countries (besides using the Lonely Planet Shoestring I’ve used their separate travel guides of Peru and Brazil). Their guides are the most popular among backpackers.
Other popular guides are The Rough Guide to South America and the South American Handbook. Ideal, but not practical because you want to travel light, would be to enjoy the adventure with a Lonely Planet and either the Rough Guide or the Handbook.
Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese
The most rewarding thing for me was the fact that you can travel in a huge continent like South America with only 2 languages. Spanish and Portuguese. If you plan to travel just for a few weeks you can invest in a Spanish and/or Brazilian Portuguese Phrase Book. English is not widely spoken and even a basic knowledge of Spanish and/or Portuguese makes the trip so much more rewarding (they’re extremely willing to help you, so don’t worry, be happy).
If on the other hand you’re planning to travel for a few months I can highly recommend taking a language course. Ideal would be in a school in South America (I took lessons in Quito, Ecuador, and had a private teacher for $2.50/h).
South America’s nature is overwhelming. You’ll walk for many hours day after day. It would be a shame to walk in the footsteps of the Incas with blisters on your feet. My biggest recommendation is to invest in high quality walking shoes with Gore-Tex.