South America Living

Tips for Traveling Around South America

Planning an adventure in South America? Here are some tips and information on what travel is like on the continent, so that you can be a bit prepared for what you will encounter on the road beforehand.

Map of the Pan American Highway
Surprises can be fun… but when on the road in a foreign country surprises are usually stressful, and often costly. Arm yourself with the information below on transport, food and housing before you hop on the plane!

1. Transportation

Busses are how most travelers get around in South America, and in Brazil, Argentina and Chile, very comfortable with reclining sears, movie screens, snacks available or meals served and in-cabin bathrooms.

Venture off into rural Bolivia or Ecuador, and it will be more of a ‘chicken-bus’ style bus, yet very cheap! If you prefer to take driving into your own hands, car rental agencies are in all major cities.

Rentals are sometimes older model used cars – what you see on the road in countries such as Bolivia, Chile or Ecuador – but when in Argentina or Brazil will be newer automobiles, more like you would expect at home.

It is very easy to rent a car in most countries, and low cost. You must have a valid drivers license from your country of origin, or an International Driving Permit – good for one year from the date of purchase. You can get an International Driving Permit online by clicking here.

More information on traveling via automobile is here: Traveling by Caravan in South America.

2. Food & Dining Costs

No one wants to travel to a foreign country to then have to sit in their hotel or hostal every evening to eat, simply because they are on a tight budget. Heck, South America is a top destination for budget travelers primarily as there are countries where you can eat and sleep for cheap.

How? Easy. If on an extended trip (not just a week or two) then definitely stay at an apart-hotel or hostal with a kitchen to cook some meals in. Hostals are great for this, as usually it is a social affair and you get to meet other travelers from around the world.

But if on a short trip to see some highlights then it is back home and back to the office… one tip is to have your main meal at lunch time, and enjoy a filling menu del dia (lunch of the day), preferably near a tourist attraction you are going to hit up after.

Available throughout the continent, it will be a bit more in Argentina and of higher quality, but dirt cheap in the ‘economical countries’ Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru.

At night, stroll around wherever is of interest and have a lite meal instead of the 4 star pricey version at an upscale restaurant. Save that for one special night, in a special place at a restaurant recommended by other travelers.

More tips on how to save costs on food is in this article, that has a focus on South America: Saving Costs on Food and Eating Out While Traveling.

3. Housing & Hotels

You know the answer to this one: hostels. Hostels are everywhere and an experience in and of themselves. The majority are locally owned, often by families who are keen on getting to know you and learn about where you come from, others more party-style atmosphere marketed to young travelers looking for that kind-of thing.

Apart-hotels – or apartments connected to a hostel, many offer that service and will advertise online – are excellent as of course you can do your own cooking for some meals, but also as it gives you privacy and a space to de-stress if you need to.

If one of your main goals of your trip is to experience living with a local family, then get online at and find yourself a host. It is a free service, meant to connect travelers with local families or persons who want to let them crash on the couch or in a spare room, and experience the area they live in like a local does.

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