Hey everyone.. So, here's my story: I'm a 21 year old female Canadian backpacker who's been travelling Australia for a few months, but I'm heading to S.A. in January with a friend. So, the plan is him (he's 19, from Colombia), would meet in La Paz, Bolivia, then go to Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina, then Chile (all by land, mostly trains/buses).. so.. we're backpackers, so the majority of the time we'll be living as inexpensivly as possible and staying in hostels and whatnot. So far we both have been doing programs like Help Exchange, WWOOF, and couch surfing.. and we will try to do more of that, though Andres (the guy I'm travelling with) has had people predict it will be difficult for us to find places who will take us, as most places will only have one room and it is taboo for an unmarried guy and girl to stay together. If this is the case, it looks like we will be spending most of our nights in hostels and or tenting (if this is possible/safe). My main concern is safety.. does anyone have any advice as to how safe/unsafe our plan is? I've known a few people who have been to S.A. and loved it, and had no problems at all, however, they weren't backpacking or staying in hostels or anything like that. Does anyone have any tips or advice? And, as far as the tenting idea goes.. does that seem plausable? Does anyone do that in S.A.? And basically, how backpacker friendly is S.A. in general?
Forget tenting-that's just plain stupid IMO.
"as most places will only have one room and it is taboo for an unmarried guy and girl to stay together. "
That is nonsense.
Low cost transport and accommodation are widely found you'll be fine.
I have just come back from SA and have visited all the countries you mentioned. Your plan is perfectly safe, and you will not have any problems at all. Except for paraguay (no hostels, but hotel are cheap), there are hostels everywhere, all quite cheap, safe, and very good fun!! (i can give you specific reccommendations if you want me to!) In Argentina and chile, specially in the south, you will find that camping is easily available in the national parks, but unles you are arrying all the stuff, i would still reccommend you the hostel option (if you want you can rent the tent though!)
SO, yeah, no worries about safety in that sense. You just need to be careful and responsible, cause you are in SA after all! but dont be scared. I was travelling by myself, and never had a problem (apart from fleece stolen in a club in bolivia and wallet in a bar in chile) but those are just the usual things, you are a gringo, they are watching you and anything you own can probably pay to feed a family for a while, so just think about that before flashing your valuables :D
Go for it, SA is UNBELIEVABLE!! and you will love it. if you want any particular info about anywhere, let me know, will be happy to help
x x Miriam x x