Lessons Learnt Backpacking Across South America

in South Africa

machu piccuRich in culture and history, South America is somewhat of a Mecca to many backpackers year in and year out with its vast sweeping landscapes, scenic sights, and vibrant atmosphere. From large, exotic rain-forests to great, looming temples, South America is a paradise for tourists, and though the flights over there may take a huge chunk out of the savings, it’s definitely worth the price. If you can backpack around South America, then it’s likely you’ll be well prepared for any other challenge lying ahead, so here are some basic lessons that backpacking through South America will teach you:

Learn the Language

Though it may be too late after you’ve finished your journey, it’s a great lesson learned; the most spoken language in South America is Spanish, however Brazil’s primary language is Portuguese, and by the end, you’ll realise how important those stock phrases that you learned before leaving really were.


Following on from the last point, this category seems pretty straightforward, and something that the tourist will ensure they have done beforehand. But when I say preparation, I mean in every single way possible. Plan your route; search out discounted airlines before embarking, plan what you are going to take, make sure you have covered every eventuality. It doesn’t have to be a cast iron plan before leaving but a lot of the fun of backpacking is making new plans and exploring, but make sure you know where you’re starting from, and where you need to be at certain times. Bring what needs to be brought, but don’t take too much as you will be carrying it around with you for months.

Toilet Paper

Perhaps a surprising addition, but many of South America’s hostels don’t provide their guests with toilet paper, and whilst this may be extra incentive to sleep with Mother Nature, sometimes this just won’t be an option based on the surroundings or the temperamental weather. So, absolutely bring your own toilet paper and make sure you dispose of everything properly and in a sanitary way.

brazil carnivalPatience

As the saying goes, patience is a virtue, and this will have to be exhibited countless times during your South American adventure. If you’re traveling with a partner, relationships will get a bit frosty at times, and there will be occasions when you will doubt yourself and your journey. It’s not going to be easy, it’s going to be whatever you make of it, and there are going to be hard times ahead. Things are going to go wrong, and there will be problems along the bumpy road, but the good will far outweigh the bad and you’re going to have to take it with a pinch of salt.

Respect the Weather

As previously mentioned, one of the biggest obstacles you’ll face is one that you’ll have very little control over. The weather will change continuously; from the brash winds of Patagonia to the monsoon rains of Rio, Mother Nature has to be respected.

Get Involved

This one seems fairly obvious, but it applies nonetheless; as mentioned, South America is a backpacker’s paradise, and there is plenty to see, but only if you seek it out. This is the experience of a lifetime and you’re not going to get that second chance, so make a conscientious effort to get around, get your money’s worth, and make the experience complete. Visit Machu Picchu, take the Inca Trail, celebrate the New Year on the beach of Venezuela, jump into the street carnivals and festivals, experiment with different foods; create new memories.

It doesn’t matter how many times you do it, you’re always going to learn something new during these backpacking experiences; the important thing is to make sure you have fun and enjoy your privileged experience.

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