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Newbie-Travellers going to Central/South America!

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Newbie-Travellers going to Central/South America!

1. Posted by LittleDragon (Budding Member 9 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Hello! Me and my partner are new to backpacking, I have only ever gone away solo for a few weeks in Europe (we're british so that is close!) and he has only ever gone for a couple of weeks with me and a week solo on his own. I've read lots of online guides but I really want to hear advice from the backpacker community that is more personalized. If you can recommend particularly good/useful sites (because different blogs/guides actually offer totally different advice and stories...) that is also helpful :)

We plan on going November/December through to March, so three to four months, mainly because of small budget. We aren't well-off at all, we live in a small run down caravan and work crappy jobs and try to save what we can, travelling is a big dream of ours and more important than material possessions. We are planning on starting off in Costa Rica (staying and working at a farm or community so we don't have to pay accommodation and have reduced food costs) then flying to Ecuador and then going to Panama for a festival (it's three weeks long and really affordable!) - probably stay in Panama afterwards and then go home. We definitely consider this to not be the trip of a life-time, our goal is to one day travel South America over the course of a year, this is more of a relaxed, nature-loving, gentle introduction to being somewhere totally different our little corner of the globe :P If anyone has tips for any of those countries, or beautiful places to recommend, please let us know! Or any good communities/work oppertunities/etc. & any packing musts, we plan on having a smallish pack each.

We speak pigeon Spanish, I can read and write it better then I can speak it (5 years of learning it in school plus I use Duolingo) - he can speak it a bit better then me, but only hold a bit of conversation. We've got months left to practice and take lessons though, so we're planning on being on an adequate level before we get there.

So I'm sure each country is so different, but I have a big question to ask - Piercings. I have lots of them. I have both ear lobes stretched with multiple holes in the lobe, I have two nostril piercings and a septum piercing, I have a philtrum piercing and a labret piercing, and I will probably have a bridge piercing by the time I go. I know it's not totally unheard of there, because some of the most famous pierced, tattooed and modified people in the world come from South/Central America, and of course certain tribes have a long history of it, but I wanted to know what kind of reactions to expect. I've got friends with piercings who have travelled all over S/C America but they only had one or two. I will -not- remove them so please don't advise that. However, I am considering wearing very subtle jewellery while travelling, my septum piercing can be totally hidden, and small crystals in my lip piercings would make them less noticeable, and the bridge piercing can have small balls and be covered by glasses (which I probably will want to wear most days when exploring!) - but is all of this necessary? Or can I get away with my normal jewellery?

2. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 842 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Sense and sensibility are important while traveling.

Your piercings may be fine at home, but you'll attract undue attention in many places around the world. It's attention that you don't want, particularly when standing in front of an immigration official who can deny you entry after also demanding proof that you have the financial means of traveling there; and a prearranged way of getting out. And, you don't want to attract undue attention while going through customs. So I'd recommend toning it down.

Many people think they can do as they please overseas. But sensibility is important. For example, in Muslim countries, one should dress conservatively as a mark of respect for the host country's religion, customs and beliefs. In turn, you'll be respected by locals; and you won't be stared at, hassled or sneered at.

Air travel between countries in South America can be expensive, so do your research before you go, particularly since you plan to fly from Central America to Ecuador. Also, don't count on working in Costa Rica. It can run you afoul with the law.

3. Posted by LittleDragon (Budding Member 9 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

I am a very sensible person, which should be somewhat self-evident by me researching for travelling advice/guides rather then booking flights and buying a tour guide and not considering my piercings/appearance/etc. as a potential problem.

I really am not scared of immigration officials, I have never heard of anyone being refused entry of a country for having facial piercings except for a few cases of heavily modified people entering certain conservative Islamic countries, and I plan on booking all of my flights in the next couple of months. We are poor but will have created a budget so I am fully confident the trip is totally possible. I am very well-spoken and well-mannered so I'm quite confident that customs would not hassle me in particular. But thanks for pointing that out, it's quite easy to put discreet jewellery in so I would consider doing that for the airport.

I am very considerate of other cultures and would never *dream* of visiting another country without being aware of cultural norms, laws, religious beliefs, etc. - in fact when I plan on going to India I fully intend to buy clothes there and wear a headscarf. I want to immerse myself in others cultures, not tread through them carelessly.

Thanks for warning me about air travel, but I do plan on booking flights before we go. And work exchange isn't illegal in Costa Rica, in fact lots of farms depend on it :)

Funnily enough from my personal experience here in the UK it is generally Western people who seem most offended by my piercings, I have gotten compliments from African and Indian people (I wear very beautiful facial jewellery with silver and gem stones most of the time) - One African lady I worked with was so delighted by me stretching my ears, she told me it reminded her of her grandma who belong to a tribe that stretched their ears. it's good to remember that Western countries aren't necessarily more open-minded and in some cultures piercings and tattoos are actually more accepted.

4. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 842 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

You have sense and sensibility; and you're doing advance preparations for your trip. Bravo!

I see quite a few people with tattoos and piercings all over the world, especially tattoos. So it's not unusual.

You'll have a grand time in Central and South America.

5. Posted by LittleDragon (Budding Member 9 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

If anything I am overly taken to planning and caution, I'm hoping travelling will also help me to be more spontaneous and brave!

I think I will wear discreet jewellery while travelling though, if anything just because I want people to feel comfortable around me, unless I am going to a festival or a city maybe where it's more accepted, although when I go to India I will definitely be indulging in some amazing nose jewellery because they wear some pretty wild rings ;)

I know I will, thanks for commenting :)

[ Edit: Edited on 18-Apr-2016, at 05:48 by LittleDragon ]

6. Posted by hasbeen (Travel Guru 1260 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

I am curious as to wether your jewelry will cause a problem going through the security scanner at the airport. Have you ( or anyone else ) had experience of that?


7. Posted by LittleDragon (Budding Member 9 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Never, I've travelled by air plenty of times and it has never happened to me, but maybe it could happen if the scanner was really sensitive?