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Backpacking in South America
Backpacking in South America

Backpacking in South America – All You Need To Know!

Here I give you all information needed for Backpacking in South America from preparation and tips to detailed guides. I have been 8 months in South America backpacking through Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

Before I embarked on my journey I forced myself to learn spanish – I did it online and highly recommend to learn at least some basic spanish before you go. Use this guide to plan your own backpacking trip:

Backpacking South America – Navigation
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1) Why South America?

1) Why South America?

Backpacking in South America ensures you to discover a huge diversity: glaciers, blue lagoons and impressive mountains can be found in Patagonia in the very south; old inca ruins, deserts, salt flats, floating islands and beautiful beach towns more up in the north; nice people and tasty food can be found everywhere ;)

To get an impression I summed up the most popular tourist attractions in the following articles:

Backpacking Chile - Highlights

Backpacking Chile – Highlights

2) Language & Communication

babbel-spanischEven though basic english is spoken in touristic hot spots, airports and tour offices it get’s hard if you are in the cities, at busterminals and want to get in touch with locals.

Therefore I recommend learning at least some basic Spanish (or Portuguese for Brazil) – as mentioned above I learned spanish within 3 months using the following Online course and got along quite well with my skills:

In general the people in South America are warm hearted, mostly very friendly and do their best even if your Spanish isn’t perfect. They are also very proud people and will often ask for your opinion about their country – don’t hurt the national pride!

3) Prices & Budget

In general most countries in South America are less expensive than what we are used to in Europe – but some are more expensive, the same goes even for some attractions in cheaper countries.

If I should make a list I’d say that Bolivia and Peru are quite cheap, Argentina (using US$) and Uruguay are average and Chile as well as Brazil are the more expensive countries.

Some examples:

  • Night in a Dorm: 10-15€ (Chile) / 5-10€ (Peru) / 4-7€ (Bolivia)
  • Night in a Private: 17-25€ (Chile) / 10-15€ (Peru) / 8-13€ (Bolivia)
  • Meal in a Restaurant: 5-10€ (Chile) / 4-8€ (Peru) / 1€ – 3€ (Bolivia)
  • Long Distance Bus: 60€ (Chile) / 40-50€ (Peru) / 20 (Bolivia)

If you find a good mix between cheap and expensive countries and you sleep only in dormitories it is possible to calculate an average budget of 1000€ per month for backpacking in South America.

4) Health & Insurance

6 months before you leave you should consult your doctor to check your vaccine as some countries in South America require special vaccinations when entering. The earlier you take care of this the better as some vaccinations need a few months to have the full protection.

hanse_merkur_reiseversicherungI also highly recommend to get a good travel insurance as in almost every case your current health insurance won’t work in most of the countries. During my time I used the awarded Travel Insurance by WorldNomads which you can easily purchase online for the exact time needed:

  • WorldNomads – Travel Insurance for normal and active travelers (extension possible)

5) Safety in South America

It is hard to make a general statement as some countries are more dangerous for foreigners than others. But you should be careful in every country in South America, especially in the big cities and even more at night.

Please follow the instructions given in the following article to travel more safely:

6) Transport & Luggage

Flight tickets are pretty expensive compared to Europe, the best way to get around are the long-distance buses. They are mostly very comfortable and much better than in Europe, long trips are comparably cheap and enjoyable. A good website for checking connection is Plattaforma 10.

Regarding your luggage: try to pack light, a 44-70l backpack is totally enough for your trip. I put together a universal Packing List especially for Backpacking South America:

If you need recommendations for outdoor & camping gear you’re able to find it here:

7) Travel Guides

If you want to discover the best of Latin America these guides will give you some great recommendations for restaurants, activities, tours and hostels as well as itineraries for hiking in my special hiking guides.
 
 
Argentina

Bolivia

Chile

Ecuador

Peru

Where to sleep
I put together a list of all the Hostels / B&Bs and Guesthouses I stayed at and found to be recommendable:

 

Highlights in Peru: von Mancora bis zum Titicacasee

Highlights in Peru

Books: Travel Guides (Offline / eBooks)

If you want to come well prepared the following are great resources for your time in South America:
 

Download my Chile Guide incl. TdP itineraries

 
backpacking in chile ebookBackpacking in Chile: my Chile Travel Guide
 
This is a clear and concise 100 page eBook based on my experience from 4 months traveling through Chile.
 
It includes travel guides for each region of Chile as well as a complete trekking guide for Torres del Paine, plus route itineraries. Checklists are included to help make sure you don’t forget anything.
 
This eBook is designed to save you a lot of time & make your trip much easier. Download it now and take it with you!
 
more information >>


 
backpacking in argentina ebookBackpacking in Argentina: my Argentina Travel Guide
 
This is a clear and concise 100 page eBook based on my experience from 3 months traveling through Argentina.
 
The book includes travel guides for the several regions of Argentina as well as a tiny trekking guide for El Chaltén and Ushuaia. Checklists are included to help make sure you don’t forget anything.
 
This eBook is designed to save you a lot of time & make your trip much easier. Download it now and take it with you!
more information >>


 
 
lonely planet chileArgentina, Lonely Planet

The travel guide for Argentina covers also Patagonia and lines out the most popular things to do, comes with small maps of the covered cities/villages and gives recommendations on restaurants and places to stay.
 
buy it on Amazon >>

lonely planet chileChile & Easter Island, Lonely Planet
 
The Lonely Planet for Chile covers also Patagonia and lines out the most popular things to do, comes with small maps of the covered cities/villages and gives recommendations on restaurants and places to stay.
 
buy it on Amazon >>

dk chileDK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Chile & Easter Island
 
The fully updated guide includes unique cutaways, floorplans and reconstructions of the must-see sites, plus street-by-street maps of all the fascinating cities and towns. The new-look guide is also packed with photographs and illustrations leading you straight to the best attractions on offer.
 
buy it on Amazon >>

lonely planet patagoniaTrekking Patagonia, Lonely Planet
 
This is a must if you plan to hike a few times in Patagonia as this guide has itineraries for several parts of Patagonia and even for Tierra del Fuego. It’s a good resource for the popular spots like Torres del Paine and Chaltén as well as the lesser known parts. Highly recommended!
 
buy it on Amazon >>

lonely planet peruPeru, Lonely Planet
 
The Lonely Planet for Peru covers the most popular things to do, comes with small maps of the covered cities/villages and gives recommendations on restaurants and places to stay. As all of the guides by LP it is a very comprehensive guide!
 
buy it on Amazon >>

lonely planet south americaLonely Planet South America on a shoestring
 
This Lonely Planet is also available as Kindle eBook and covers the highlights in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru etc. Essential info at your fingertips – including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices.
 
buy it on Amazon >>

lonely planet spanishLonely Planet Latin American Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary
 
Get More From Your Trip with Easy-to-Find Phrases for Every Travel Situation – the Lonely Planet Phrasebook helps you to order the right meal with the menu decoder and comes with a 3500-word two-way dictionary. Moreover you’ll find shortcuts, key phrases & common Q&As
 
buy it on Amazon >>


8) Organized Tours

During my Backpacking in South America I attended a lot of organized tours to learn more about the history of the places or simply to see more in a short amount of time.

If you like to book some activities in advance I recommend you to have a look into GetYourGuide as this platform offers the possibility to book tours from local tour operators for fair prices.

Here are some Tour-Highlights:

9) Videos

I produced several travel documentary series and video guides from my travels in South America which are strongly related to the guides and tips here on this website:

 

There you have it – for more material make sure to check out also the Photo Essays and Videos provided on this website!

 

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Disclaimer: This post contains Affiliate Links for services and products I’m using on my travels – therefore I can highly recommend using them. By using this links you won’t pay any additional fees!