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1. Posted by charis.ric (Budding Member 10 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Hey guys,

I need some advice. I've heard some real horror stories when it comes to travelling south america alone and its freaking me out because I've been told i'd be an easy target. Just to give you an indication, im a little asian aussie girl who only speaks english who, can be a scatter brain sometimes and has a habbit of getting lost.

I plan to start at mexico and then work my way down through south america and ending in Brazil. I really really want to go to Boliva, Argentina, Columbia, Cuba, Mexico and Brazil.

Travelling alone. My only other backpacking experience was around europe with a friend and it was good luck on our part that we didnt get pick pocketed or mugged because we were completely ditzy and niave. i even left my bag with my wallet and camera on the table alone in a latvian night club (nothing got stolen). I dont want to be freaked out by the stereotypes so if anyone can enlighten me on the matter please let me know. Any advice would be appreciated.


2. Posted by mandylou4u (Budding Member 73 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Hey Charis,

I am in the same boat, I am a tall red head and travelling alone to and around Argentina in Nov. Just make sure you are careful and stick to people when you go out, that's what I am going to do, even if they have to tell me to get lost! lol When are you going?

Manda :)

3. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Hi Charis and Mandy,

If I can do it you can too! I spent 7 months backpacking solo in the following countries:

Peru, Bolivia, Chile (inc. Easter Island), Argentina and Brazil.

My advice would be to go with the idea that things can happen but may not necessarily. If you prepare yourself for something like being pickpocketed, then you wont fall apart when it does happen.

I have a few minor mishaps, but they've only all become great travel stories at the end of the day I could tell you about them, but then they might only serve to freak you out, and really there's just no need to. If you are a smart traveller and you dont put yourself in harm's way intentionally or stupidly, then odds are you will be absolutely fine!

There are a few simple things that I stuck to when I was travelling:

- Dont walk alone at night. (and to be honest, this rule I try to apply to even my home country!)
- Dont miss out on really experiencing the culture just because youre travelling solo - so team up with other people from your hostel when you want to go out at night
- Dont flash expensive electronic equipment. That will definitely make you a target
- When you are on the move, split your credit cards into two seperate places, have a reserve stash of money somewhere safe, make a photocopy of your passport to keep in your luggage and keep your actual passport on your person. That way, IF the worst happens and you have to hand over your wallet, you have a back-up system.
- Dont get nervous if the South American men pay you a lot of attention. It can be intimidating at first if you come from a country where the men generally ignore you, like Ireland . Actually, the vast majority of the South American guys are just being complimentary. They dont really mean to make you uncomfortable or offend you. I think this was something I learned as time went by.
- Use locks on your luggage.
- If you are travelling overnight by bus, dont leave your backpack on the seat beside you. Keep it firmly between your legs, with one strap anchored to yourself or something else, so you can feel if it's moved at all.
- Get out your Lonely Planet before you arrive at a bus/train station and try to orient yourself before you get there. There's nothing that screams "tourist" like standing bewildered at the door of the station with your map out trying to figure where to go next.

A few backpackers I met had some story about being pickpocketed or having a bag stolen, but the vast majority had nothing like this happen at all! :)

There are plenty of solo backpackers down there and you will find that you are hardly ever alone unless you want to be.

There's no need to book hostels every time way in advance. The only time I reserved a hostel was if I knew I was getting off a bus somewhere in the middle of the night. Other than that, just go with the flow and see where your travels take you. :)

Hope that helps. Travelling South America is an amazing experience, challenging on occasions, but totally worth doing solo!

4. Posted by BHammer301 (Budding Member 33 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

so I am in the same boat as you guys. I am a white red head from the states with a think new york accent. I stand out like a sore thumb. Myabe I am crazy, but I haven't been freaking out at all. I am leaving in three weeks to travel in chile, argentina, uruguay and brazil for about 45 days. I have traveled before and I usually mind my own business and I am not bothered. Even living in NY i find it easy to avoid conflicts by keeping your head up and acting like you know where your going/what your doing. If you look/act confident enough you won't seem so vulnerable. It sounds like it might be hard in another country, but if it can work in NYC I think it will do you well abroad.

cheers and enjoy your trips

5. Posted by charis.ric (Budding Member 10 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Thanks for your advice! i know freaking myself out isnt gonna help. Manda im going to argentina too but late feb next year. i will be totally sticking to people! although the meeting people part doesn't worry me so much. other travellers are generally open and friendly. its the sticking out like a soar thumb that gets me but i can take some spanish classes to compensate.

samsara2- Your advice has lessened my freaked out mode. however i do need to pick you brain about travelling south america. im looking to travel south america for about a year, maybe more. What kind of budget were you on for 7 months? I think i will possible teach english or volunteer. Is it silly to bring a lap top? lol i know a laptop is just extra weight but I'm prepared to sacrifice not having alot of clothes for my laptop.

BHammer301- it will be interesting to know how your trip goes. keep us posted! i shall pick your brain too! :) i guess travelling south america will be an eye opening experience for me. I'm from Wollongong, a little city on the south coast of australia. Everyone knows everyone and we don't even lock our doors. so i guess im going to have to learn those street smarts that New Yorkers have.

6. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Hi Charis,

Unless you are a serious big spender, I would say $25-30USD a day is a good amount to budget. In some countries, you will spend half of that, in some countries maybe a little more. Chile and Brazil tend to be on the upper limits of your budget, depending on what parts you are travelling in. Accommodation and transportation are definitely more expensive in those two countries. I spent about €6000 in 7 months, but honestly that was just silly, I could have done it on much much less than that.

As for the laptop, I suppose it depends on how much you feel you need it. If you are only using it to access the net, then there are LOTS and LOTS of internet cafes in South America - even in some of the smallest towns you will find an internet point. If you are using it to store your photos, then I suppose it's very useful to have. I didnt have one so it was one less thing to worry about it, but there are others here on TP who always travel with their laptop so they might be able to give you better advice on that score. Teaching English is a wonderful experience while you are there. I taught Business Eng in Sanitago for a couple of months and it was great. Santiago and Buenos Aires are two of the easier places to get work teaching English. Check out for jobs in Chile. Usually, you will get about 10-15 hrs work a week with a school (at least, in my experience), so you might have to try and get work with two schools, or do some privtae tuition on the side. I was earning about $10USD an hour. If you have TEFL, it's possible to earn more, but you can definitely secure work without a TEFL qualification.
If you're learning some Spanish before you go, great, but dont worry too much if you're not very fluent. I had "Hola" and "Cerveza" when I got down there and I managed fine.

I'm so jealous - a whole year in South America! I'd go back there in the morning!:)

7. Posted by SamSalmon (Respected Member 626 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

There's some great advice above.

One tip I can give you to help acclimate is to eat as much as possible in local marketplaces-whether in small food stands or just buying a few fresh bread rolls, some cheese/and/or fruit.

Cheap easy to do and you'll see that you really don't stick out all that much, they see tourists every day and welcome your business.

You'll also see how people really live and how precarious their existence is.

8. Posted by mandylou4u (Budding Member 73 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Hi, this is all amazing advice thank you! I can't believe it is 3 and a half weeks now before I set off to travel the world! That's a pretty big statement and I still don't think it has sunk in!

I am not sure if I am going to be able to fit everything in that I want to do in Argentina in 16 days but which places do you recommend I go??

Starting Buenos Aires

Iguazu Falls - Definately going!

Salta ???

Mendoza ???

Valdes Penninsula ???

I am not booking my hostels or buses until I am there is that wise seriously?

Thanks again,


9. Posted by tp3813 (Budding Member 20 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

In general things are not as bad as you hear, I never had many problems in South America. Of course you have to be sensible and not ask for trouble with dumb tourist type behaviour.

However the only place where I would take warnings seriously is Brazil! That really can be a very dangerous place! And life is cheap, some kill you for your watch, so never fight back!
I did once but was lucky. Normally I am careful at night but these buggers got me by surprise in Fortaleza- did not expect to get robbed middle of the afternoon in tourist area with people around. Two guys followed me into a side street and jumped me from behind, I fought with them and got one on the floor and then a car stopped and the driver shouted at them and they ran off. The driver said it was not wise fighting with them, as they often carry guns or knives and will use them without hesitation- so guess I was lucky that day!

Oh yeah if you think of asking the Police there for help, you might as well ask your cat! They are the most idle useless cops I ever came across...either utterly useless or violent and corrupt.

[ Edit: Edited on Oct 2, 2008, at 11:17 AM by tp3813 ]