7 Tips for Backpacking in South America

tips for backpacking south america

Strapping on a backpack and hitting the path is a great idea. That is, if you know exactly what’s waiting for you. Sometimes it can be really hard to plan properly for your trip unless you know what you’re going to be doing, but something that is often neglected in terms of proper preparation for your journey is the actual preparation. While this part may not be particularly fun, especially if you hate organizing or planning, it can really help you to enjoy the idea of budget travel in South America. Here, you’ll find some tips and tricks on how to make that easier so that you won’t be left feeling unprepared and over budget in a foreign country.

7 Tips for Backpacking South America

Speak some Spanish

While it may seem obvious, it’s important to make sure that you can speak some Spanish when you are looking at backpacking South America by bus, foot, or car. No matter what South America backpacking route you consider, you will need to have some skills in order to travel comfortably. You should brush up on the essentials, but you’ll seriously want to consider the idea of bringing a phrase book or translator with you in case you need to make some contact with someone that has a hard time speaking English. And don’t forget to download the offline Spanish pack for Google Translate on your phone!

south america backpacking tips

Know the dangerous spots to avoid

When you are looking at stopping in big cities on your South America route, remember that there are bad spots to avoid, just like we have in our own cities. Do your research and make sure that you watch for any notices in crime or attacks that may make you want to avoid certain locations. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so focus on this as much as you can.

Embrace the bus

Unless you plan on hiring a car or a driver, you’ll have to get comfortable with a common bus. Budget travel in South America is all about embracing the sometimes run down option of a good old-fashioned public bus. While these may seem uncomfortable when you are used to first class flights, you’ll find that it is great for your idea of a South America itinerary that isn’t going to break the bank. Besides, it’s not going to be as bad as you think it will be. This is the modern travel world, after all, and it’ll give you a chance to admire the scenery around you as you travel.

tips for backpacking south america

That being said, before you leave, you can take a look online at reviews for certain bus companies and see how they stack up against each other. This will allow you to decide which ones to try, or which ones to avoid depending on what you find. Take personal recommendations if there is someone that has done it before. It can go a long way to helping you figure out whether or not it’s something to try out.

READ MORE: Check out our review of Peru Hop, the best way to get around Peru and Bolivia! 

Take care of your health

The worst thing that can happen when you are on the go is getting sick. This is especially so when you are backpacking South America, because you’ll be hiking and walking quite a bit. Get the necessary shots (make sure you ask your doctor about any preventative measures) and focus on the idea of getting a good amount of sleep, hydration, proper food and anything else that you can get to help you out.

tips for backpacking south america

Consider renting a spot for long-term enjoyment

If there is a spot on your South America itinerary that you know you’ll want to spend a lot of time in, you should highly consider the idea of renting. You can look at something like Airbnb, which can help you to keep the costs down, enjoy local cuisine and culture, and still be somewhere safe and reliable.

While this isn’t practical when you know you’re just going to be there for a day or two, this is great to consider for when you really want to get into the details of the spot that you’re in and are looking to avoid hostels as much as possible for more than a night or two. It can offer an authentic option, too, which is definitely great.

Vecina

Bring the right equipment

There is a lot of focus on making sure that you don’t pack too much in your backpack, which is definitely important, but you also need to make sure that you focus on the idea of what’s actually inside of the backpack. Do you research, make a list (yes, seriously) and give yourself a couple of trial runs. Try packing it a few different ways and even wearing it around. After all, if it’s not comfortable in your living room, what makes you think it’s going to be comfortable in the middle of nowhere with the heat beating down on you? Okay, so maybe that’s a big dramatic but you get the point.

Invest in a good backpack, make sure that you bring the right kinds of clothing, and above all else, wear comfortable shoes that are actually going to support you. These are all important ways to plan properly when looking at a South American backpacking route, no matter where it may take you.

The spirit of Backpacking

Plan carefully from start to finish

Lastly, you’ll want to take your time planning your trip. Whether you’re looking at pre-designed option that uses buses and a large group, or you want to do it on your own and design it as you go, you’ll want to have a start, middle, end and a path on how it all is going to connect together. This way, when things get stressful or overwhelming, you can fall back on the South America route that you planned out so carefully. This will also give you a sense of familiarity if you need it.

Tell someone in your life what you’re doing and give them the plan that you decide so that, worst case scenario, someone knows where you are and what your plan is. No one wants to think about the worst case scenario, but it should be acknowledged in case of sickness.

ips for backpacking south america

There are so many benefits to backpacking in South America and with these travel tips in place to help make it the best possible trip ever, you’re going to be able to really enjoy the aspect of exploring the world that is out there. It just may be the very best trip that you are ever going to take, especially with this advice to help make it the best version possible.

About Emily Luxton

Emily Luxton is an award-winning travel blogger and writer with a special love for South America - her favourite continent and second home. A lover of slow, deep travel and really interacting with new cultures, she travels as often as possible on the hunt for new adventures.

One Comment

  1. great post! The buses are actually surprisingly comfy if you get the right one.

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