In a previous article I pointed out some things you need to know about Latin American culture and life style. This time I’m going to give you eager travellers some tips and tricks that might come in handy when backpacking around Latin America:
• Be flexible. No matter how far in advance you have booked hostels and planned your trip, there is a high probability that things are not going to go your way, but this is not necessarily a bad thing! Sometimes it might work out even better than expected.
• Any contact is a good contact. Ask around for friends or friends of friends living in the cities you’re visiting, and get in touch with them. There is nothing better than coming to a city where you know a local. Latin Americans tend to be very welcoming and are always willing to help tourists.
• Talk to the locals. In case you didn’t manage to get in touch with friends, don’t be afraid to talk to the locals, ask them for advice on what to do, what safety measures to take, etc. No travel guide will be as useful and accurate as the locals.
• Read about the country in advance. This might give you insight on the culture, and it will definitely result in a more enriching travel experience.
• Carry small amounts of money with you whenever possible.
• Do not rely on credit cards. Normally they’re accepted only by big businesses and in cities.
• If you’re taking a taxi, agree on the price beforehand. In some countries they don’t have taximeters.
• If you’re a girl don’t travel alone. I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you still want to do it try to stay and travel with Latin American friends.
• Blend in with the crowd. Very often in Latin America you can spot foreigners from a mile off, and not because they’re blonde and milky white. Here is a description of the typical foreign traveller for you so you can avoid looking like him/her. They will be wearing Bermuda shorts and/or tiny skirts, flip flops at all times, fancy shiny sunglasses and have a camera hanging around their neck. They are also always looking up, even if there are no skyscrapers to be seen.
• Follow the usual safety precautions. Do not walk along dark streets, hide your money in a safe place and never put it all in one place, eg your pocket. Be aware of your surroundings and the people around you, make several copies of your passport and important documents and keep them in different places (as with your money), carry important addresses and phone numbers with you, etc…
• Do not abuse your stomach. Give your stomach some time to adapt before trying out all of the possible types of street food. I’m sure you don’t want to end up in hospital.
• Sorry, no cheap airlines or trains. There is no such thing as a Transamerican train or a Ryanair of the Americas. The truth is, travelling by plane is expensive and travelling by bus is not really safe, partly due to unsafe boundaries, the rugged landscape and roads that are in poor condition.
• DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DRIVE. Under no circumstances, even if you are an expert driver…
• Leave the fancy stuff at home. You don’t need to take your laptop, blackberry, iPhone, GPS, gold earrings, etc. If you must take electronics don’t show them off.
Have you been to Latin America? Are there any tips and tricks you want to share?