Skip Navigation

First time travelling

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean First time travelling

  • 1
  • 2
Last Post
1. Posted by stupidn00b (Budding Member 47 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Hi everyone

I'm new at these forums, and new to travelling completely, so please be nice! :-p

I've just been given the opportunity to pack work in for 6 months for a sabbatical (the recession strikes again...). I've never travelled before (except 1 - 2 week holidays with my parents when I was still a minor, I'm now 20) but I'm hoping to go on a nice, long back-packing holiday around Europe and South America, with a return to England in June for Glastonbury Festival in between (already bought my ticket and refuse to let £185 to go waste! :-p).

I've bought a few books on travelling around Latin America and been trying to gain information off of them, but I'd like to get some opinions from seasoned travellers (from reading topics here it's quite evident most of you know your stuff).

I'm planning to fly out around 1/2 July and stay until mid-September when my sabbatical ends. I've got a good idea of where I want to go and what I want to see but I have a few questions I'm hoping somebody here can help me with.

I read about the authorities wanting to see evidence of a ticket out of South America. I'm not really sure where I'm going to fly from to come home, so how will I get around this problem?

I have read quite a few conflicting accounts of how dangerous Colombia can be. Some books say it's not too bad, other places make out it's a battlefield. I wasn't intending to stay in Colombia for very long (a few days in Bogotta, maybe a day or two in Medellin) but I was wondering if these big cities are relatively safe compared to say, Rio or Buenos Aries?

At the moment I don't speak a word of Spanish, although I've ordered a book on it and I intend to cram in some 'revision' before I go so I can at least communicate, even if it's on a really basic level. Do the changes in language vary much between countries? I read in another topic that Bolivian Spanish and Chilean Spanish would be quite different. Would I be okay with a basic understanding of Spanish in these places? Will there also be Spanish speaking people in Brazil?

If anyone can help me out I'd really appreciate it! If it helps, I'm planning on visiting Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru and possibly Ecuador. Thanks!


2. Posted by Simmoyia (Budding Member 4 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

oh don't worry about the spnaish, have the book in ur hand and when u r at the country in a few days u'll be ok it's the easiest language next to english and most of the words do sound like the meanings in english so u'll be fine........................if all else fails then ruslt to drawing that the will understand what u r talking

but I would definately suggest the caribbean island of Jamaica at that time of the year with it's warm tropical atmosphere and breath taking sceneries from coast to caost, wonderful accomodation options such as Leading hotels such as (Sandals, Beaches, Sunset Jamaica chain among several others) and varying different villas and apartments in any area of the island that u chose available at your disposal for your time period with your personalised service added. The staff are among the best in the world and all hotels are Green Globe Certified.......In addition to this are many wonderful attraction cites and tour packages available..........these include Dunn's River Falls- Ocho Rios; The Blue Mountain Tour - a tour guided by few of our reknown tour guides that will guide your everysteps in your climb from the bottom to the peak where you will be able to see varying botanical gardens at different stages, our national bird - the humming bird, the giant swallow-tail butterfly that can only be found in Jamaica, at the peak your also able to see the island of Cuba while lookin down at the clouds and the rest of Jamaica and the beautiful, glistening Caribbean sea; also there are coast to coast tours taking you through many different historical points of the island that will take into our culture, and if you are a seafood fan then the little ochi stop is just for with their varying menu items : lobster, shrimp, fish etc. all marinated and cooked with a caribbean flair and a Jamaican twist that will have you licking all ten fingers and asking for more................................
You can take the timeout look at the island and all its amenities and let me know if your interested........

3. Posted by stupidn00b (Budding Member 47 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!


I was considering a small detour towards the end to the Caribbean, although at the moment it's only an idea.

Thanks for the advice about picking up the language. I hope it won't be too bad as it could really blight the trip. I'm going to get learning the language ASAP so I'll be at a bit of an advantage when I get there.

Can anyone else please help with my questions?


4. Posted by stupidn00b (Budding Member 47 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!


I'm also interested in any information anyone can give me on applying for Visas. I've been on the internet and found some conflicting information. From what I can tell Brazil doesn't require you to apply for a visa beforehand but the other countries require you to visit the Embassy before you go to get a visa in person?

Any more help would be greatly appreciated

Thanks again

5. Posted by bsaslover (Inactive 14 posts) 9y Star this if you like it!

Depending on your nationality, you do need a visa before arriving in Brazil. Take a look at Brazil's embassy site. I also know that it costs about US$130 for the Brazilian tourist visa.

And what are your plans for when you are in Argentina? Argentina is so tremendous with waterfalls, glaciers, mountains and city, so I hope I could steer you in the right direction. For BA city, you can take a look at this neighborhood breakdown -snip-. I've traveled alone throughout Argentina (and around Rio de Janeiro) so I can vouch for the safety and excitement.

[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]

6. Posted by mendocina (Budding Member 3 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Well, I am not a Spanish teacher here in Mendoza, Argentina, but have been teaching English for several years, and I am familiar with many of the Spanish schools and teachers here, and have talked to a lot of foreign students who have studied Spanish over the years.

Yes, it is true that most Spanish teachers do not have qualifications or training to teach Spanish in Argentina. In fact, many do not have teaching qualifications at all. There are few places to get training as a Spanish language teacher in Argentina, and most that have teaching credentials have English or Spanish Literature credentials. The best ones have DELE certification from the Cervantes Institute of Spain.

Also, there is no such thing as a "certified" language institute in Argentina. There are advertising groups for "partner schools" that call themselves associations, but they are just a loose net of different schools that join together to give "recommendations" in different cities. For example, the " SEA - Asociación de Centros de Idiomas " which has many "member schools", has no real educational development function at all, it is just a way for "member schools" to advertise, and many of their schools are terrible (I know, because I have taught English at many of these schools, in BA and In Mendoza, at one time or another). Be carfeul. The best way to be sure is to get personal recommendations or references from former students. Some of these schools have some good Spanish teachers, but most are only mediocre, it is often a question of luck.

Also, be careful of websites from places like New York, Madrid and London who say they have "schools" in places like Mendoza or BA. They are nothing more than agents that charge large sums to Spanish schools in Argentina as a way of attracting students, which is the big battle here. If the sites (and probaly they are the majority of the sites that you get after a search) do not give the address and/or telephone number of the school (because they do not want you to contact them directly so they lose their big commission), do not deal with them. Be satisfied only after direct contact and after you feel confident in the school administrator or teacher.

There are some excellent Spanish teachers in small schools or who offer private lessons to small groups and individuals. For example, I have had excellent comments form foreign tourists and expats I have met in the cafes about Spanish instruction from:

Also, be carfelul about the accomodation arrangements of many of the institutes or other places, either they are overpriced or they are homestays wghere you are not really welcome. Again, personal recommendations from many students are always the best measue.

Enjoy your visit and studies here in Argentina, it is always a pleasure to run into people like you!

Buen viaje! :)

7. Posted by turtle1 (Budding Member 6 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!


Just seen your post.
I'm going to South Am from June this year and, like you were, was wandering about the border crossing fiasco of having outward-bound tickets available to show the authorities.
You have obviously been and gone to S. Am now so could you please enlighten me with your new found wisdom on this topic? I'm planning on not having too much of a plan and doing as much overland travel as pos i.e. will not have plane tickets out of countires. Will this be a prob?

8. Posted by turtle1 (Budding Member 6 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Ooo also how'd you find the Spanish situ? Again, i'm like you and am only starting to teach myself Spanish now (despite having the SPanish language book since August last year..) with just 14 weeks left till I go. eek!

9. Posted by stupidn00b (Budding Member 47 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!


I'd definately recommend studying Spanish now. In 14 weeks you're not going to learn enough to speak to people and understand all of what they reply but you should be able to pick up the essentials; greetings, numbers, days of the week, months of the year, names of alcoholic drinks etc. and some useful phrases.

If you don't speak the language you won't have as much fun as you did if you did know it but it shouldn't hinder your progress too much. You'll pick up a bit by osmosis. This said, if you stay in hostels with other travellers and young people you should be okay just speaking english. You will however, wish like anything you could speak the language. I did. The first thing I did when I got back was enroll in Spanish lessons and having been learning for about 5 months now in preparation for my next adventure.

10. Posted by wololooo (Budding Member 13 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

as far as your proof of onward travel is concerned, just print yourself out a fake ticket from a different airline.
Most of the time you're only likely to get hassled about this from the airline that is trying to force you to buy a new ticket right there, so have something printed out that looks like a flight out of somewhere and that should be it.
If you do go to Colombia, I felt much safer in medellin than in bogota. That was my personal experience though, just remember they're cities where things can and do happen, like in most cities. I haven't been to Rio, but Bogota is definetely dodgier than Buenos Aires, at least the parts of Buenos Aires you'd expect to visit as a foreigner.
learning spanish...well i don't know how good you are at languages, but don't expect to be conversational, and accents and mannersims vary a lot throughut south america