Fearless Explorer

18.0 Backpacking in South America

For adventure lovers there is no better place than Latin America. Here you can find every type of terrain, scenery, weather and a wide array of peoples and cultures for all tastes. For those of us who love to travel off the beaten track, with nothing but our trusty walking boots and a pack on our back, this is the place to be without a doubt. While the experience can be challenging, the rewards are well worth it.

There are a million options depending on the type of adventure you are looking for, but a good place to start is a simple backpack plus walking boots approach, travel light and explore with no fixed plan. The wonderful thing about South America is the possibly of low cost travel, accommodation and food, allowing you to simply turn up at all hours of the day and night and book yourself into any one of a wide selection of hostels or cheap hotels, get cleaned up and hit the town for a hearty meal.

In places such as Bolivia and Peru it’s possible to find a very nice quality hotel for as little as £10 per night and if you really want to save money you will able to find budget options for as little as £4, believe it or not. A meal out for two could set you back £5, possibly less. In fact on my travels around those two countries I often found myself eating my main evening meal for around £1! Hard to believe but true.

In terms of travel, it’s possible to travel halfway across Bolivia by bus and end up spending around £5. You can pick up internal flights for around £30, between the major cities there. Peru is slightly more expensive, but still has prices very comparable to the above.

So the point is, all of this means you are free to explore and move around with no fear at all of running up excessive costs, as you might be in other countries, in Europe or the US for example. Argentina and Chile will cost you somewhat more and it goes without saying that the capital cities of any country are more costly, but by and large the above also applies to those countries.  

So aside from costs, is it safe? It’s generally a lot safer than you might think, despite some of the horror stories you sometimes hear. I certainly found all the above-mentioned countries I have visited to have been safer and more peaceful than the UK for example, where you often find yourself looking over your shoulder or guarding your wallet in busy places. However, it goes without saying that you have to take care, especially when travelling alone or at night. Some of the larger cities are certainly more dangerous, especially with regard to thieves and a well-known scam involving fake police which is famous in Bolivia. This involves the fake policeman (who is working with the taxi driver) demand the ID of the hapless traveler, which is then confiscated along with their wallet. You can guess the rest.

But don’t let these nasty stories put you off, as the general experience, according to other travelers I have met, is highly positive. South America people are very warm and friendly and love a good party, so you’ll often find yourself getting invited out with groups of people you only just met and they will treat you like you have known them for years. However, you might want to pack a good pair of earplugs for those nights when you are not ready to party and simply need a good night’s sleep!

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