South America Living

Safety Tips – Traveling with Children in South America

Author & Her Son Before 'Zipping' Through the Tree Tops

Planning to visit South America with the kids but worried sick? Take a deep breath and don’t throw away the suitcases! A sound mind and smart travel planning is all you need to assure your vacation or extended stay is enjoyable for the whole family and worth the time and money spent. When it comes to life experience and education for children, the value of a trip abroad is difficult to calculate.

How to start? Multiply what you know by ten, then you may have what you need to know. Vulnerabilities, risks and potential dangers are magnified ten-fold or greater when anyone leaves the comfort and familiarity of home (and their home country) to explore foreign territories. Add to this equation a parent, or parents, traveling with more than one child and the need to research and prepare adequately may increase as well.

Read this article for general information:   Is it Safe to Travel in South America?

First is where are you going? To Argentina or Uruguay where health concerns are minimal if non-existent and safety issues similar to back home. Or are you planning an adventure in a Third World country such as Bolivia or Colombia where basic levels of sanitation may be unsafe and personal safety issues such as prevention of armed robbery and potential for kidnapping or abduction could be risks as well, greater than what you may have taken precautionary measures against back home. How to prepare?

Ask These Basic Questions:

  1. Health, Food and Water Safety . Is the water safe to drink? Are you likely to become ill from eating in a restaurant (such as remote areas of Bolivia or Peru)? Are vaccinations needed for travel (such as Yellow Fever shots for travel to Ecuador or Peru)? Is there a Dengue Fever or Malaria risk in the area? Other health risks?
  2. Personal Safety for Adults and Children. Have there been incidences of aggression against tourists such as armed robbery, sexual assault or other? What is the risk of abduction or kidnapping for foreigners?
  3. Relative Safety of the Country or Location. Is the country in a state of civil unrest or relatively peaceful? Is there infrastructure already in place for visitors such as tourist police, hotels, restaurants and basic medical care? Or is the location remote and off the beaten track and therefore potentially more dangerous and hostile to outsiders?

Researching Your Chosen Destination

In researching the answers to the above questions the most important consideration is to ensure the information is as up-to-date as is possible. Situations can change in a country seemingly overnight.

Where to Look? Online resources and websites for researching safety Issues are listed here:   Safety Tips – How to Research and Prepare for Your Trip

To illustrate an example – I traveled with my 11-year-old son through Nicaragua on an 18 month journey from Mexico to Argentina. I researched thoroughly online and chose three destinations to visit and a stay of approximately a month. Personally, I would not have felt comfortable with a more extended visit or time in the country due to safety concerns for my child. As Americans I felt we were vulnerable.

We had a pleasant experience with no major mishaps. A month or so after we left the country to head further south, a bus strike was initiated and news reports flooded the Web with photos of University students in Managua burning public busses in protest of raised fares. Taxis drivers also went on strike. If that had been the situation prior to our entering the country I would have traveled differently (not visiting the capital), for less time or possibly avoided the country altogether.

Guidebooks are a great first step in researching an area, as they offer background information about the country and addresses of hotels for you to have on-hand when arriving in a city or town. I’ve had many taxi drivers take advantage of my ‘not knowing where I was going’ when landing somewhere new without a sound game plan intact, being driven around the city (or in circles) in lieu of an available hotel unnecessarily so as to be charged an over-priced fare.

On South America Living we have many travel guides to cities and towns in South America complete with current information on where to stay, eat, things to do, photographs and an interactive map. Click here to find your destination: South America Living Travel Guides

You would also want to do an online search specific to the country such as ‘Chile and Crime’ entered into Google or BING. A quick way to get current information is to do a search for newspapers for the area.

When writing an article on Costa Rica, it was the information I read in the Tico Times that informed me of the serious increase in violent crimes (murder, sexual assault, armed robbery during the night in expatriate homes) in Limon province on the Carribean coast. We had traveled through the area a week earlier unknowingly. I knew they had a problem with drugs and theft, but had no idea about the level of violent crime that was going on in the area until I read the article: “Fear and Loafing in Puerto Viejo – Residents say town suffers from rampant crime as cops just sit around“. That information you will not get from a guidebook.

If planning an extended stay, check to see what listservs or newsgroups are available and post a few questions. Expatriates who have relocated to an area are an excellent source of information. An example of one for Argentina would be the Yahoo group – Buenos Aires International Newcomers Group.

Other Articles You May Like:
Is it Safe to Travel in South America?
Safety Tips – How to Research and Prepare for your Trip
Travel Health – How to Get Over the Inevitable Bad Experience
Travel Health – Three Supplements to Take on the Road

Photograph by Molly McHugh, all rights reserved.

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