South America Living

How to Have the Best Trip to South America

by Molly McHugh, Former Editor/Publisher of South America Living.     About the Author

Thinking of or planning a trip to South America? Throw your expectations whatever they may be into the propeller of the jet at takeoff. Traveling to the continent will never match what you have envisioned beforehand, for better or worse.

It is impossible to have “no expectations” – you´ve read a magazine article, bought a guidebook or two, researched online a bit and knowing how smart you are think you´ve got a pretty good grasp of what you are heading into.

[ “Chuckle, chuckle” goes the recording of the canned audience ]

Most likely it will be nothing close.

  • You thought Peru was going to be cheap then spend over $300 USD in less than a week´s time (staying in hostels, cooking some meals, bus transportation).
  • You were overly-concerned about crossing into Bolivia where it was almost certain you´d be robbed or looking over your shoulder constantly. Then find it to be the most safe and tranquil country you visit.
  • Read that Medellin was one of the most beautiful cities in Colombia only to arrive and view an expanse of cement upon cement colored housing structures from whatever vista you happen to be looking from.   Medellin, Colombia – Cheap Place to Live in South America

For the best trip ignore much of what you have read or heard and focus on enjoying – to the best of your ability – whatever you may encounter.

Another hot tip? Get ready to be ripped-off. I’m talking not once, twice, but quite often depending on how long your trip is and how much travel experience you have. Sitting at a restaurant eating the $3 USD ‘set meal of the day’ special and gloating inside at what a great deal you are getting for so much healthy food… then the table next door seating four locals gets up to pay and is charged $8 USD ($2.00 USD per person); hard not to get a little pissed-off.

It is going to happen a lot and there is very little you can do about it. Hostals and hotels play the ‘rip-off the foreigner game’, restuarants play it, tour operators bet their high profit margins on it and taxi drivers specialize in it. In Cusco, Peru I overhead a conversation where a man from Canada was forced to pay his tour fare in Canadian dollars instead of soles – what it should have been.

You will meet many kind, honest tour operators, hotel proprietors, cab drivers, etc. who go out of their way to help foreigners feel comfortable and have a good time. Yet knowing in advance that being ripped-off is going to happen on occassion will help you not let it spoil your trip.

More info here: The Tourist Tax in South America; Be Prepared!

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