Planning to travel Central and South America alone

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Planning to travel Central and South America alone

Last Post
1. Posted by aliciaw (Budding Member 7 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!


I am planning to travel Central and South America at the end of 2012 for three months. I am quite daunted by the fact that I am planning to do such a long trip alone and have been warned of the dangers in Central and South America for gringos (probably more so because I am blonde and speak little spanish or portugese :) )

I am posting this in the hope of gaining some advice as to must see destinations n central and south america, there are so many and I would like to see everything although i am limited by time. I haven't decided where to start the trip (was thinking Mexico) although I know I will end up in Rio for Carnivale late Feb '13 before travelling back to Sydney.

I would very much like to volunteer on my trip and would love some first hand experiences as to where I can do this and the possible costs involved.

Also, if anyone else is planning the same destination during this timeframe, I would love to hear from you :)


2. Posted by Cyberia (Travel Guru 1876 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Yes there are potential dangers in these countries, notably places like Mexico, Columbia, Venezuela, recently Ecuador and maybe others.

The Carnival gets VERY busy with almost all rooms being booked up in the area several months beforehand.

One of your biggest costs will be travel as flights in SA are expensive and buses take forever, and sometimes a number of connections.

How much you spend depends on travel, what kind of accommodation you want, if you eat and drink out, etc. Pick pocketing and petty theft is endemic in Central and South America.

Google: volunteer work central south america

Such places will often want a contribution before you start work.

3. Posted by cbr600 (Budding Member 22 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

In 2007 and 2008 I backpacked (and did volunteer work), on my own from Guatemala down to Panama (all, I am proud to say, on chicken buses !) - then did South America by bus starting in Ecuador.

It was my first time and wasn't sure what on earth I was doing !!

Try not to let the "dangers and annoyances" sections of popular travel guides affect your excitement. Read them, digest them and use common sense and maybe look into a one day course on travel safety.

There are loads of things to see and experience, all of which will be detailed in the "popular" travel guides !

Re: voluntary work - depending on whether you want to pay to volunteer or not you'll have loads of choices - try putting into google "Free to volunteer Latin America" - there are loads out there. The advantage of volunteering with organisations that you pay is that you have the back up and support of their staff which I found comforting on arrival in Guatemala !! I built houses there and that was a great experience - also living with a local family was brilliant.... but once your confidence builds you may find that you can root out volunteer opportunities as you go along. Often volunteer programmes include Spanish school - I would recommend learning some Spanish before travelling as it helps you experience so much more.

Enjoy !

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

Hey Alicia. Where are you from? I am a 24 yr old Australian girl girl. I want to head to South America around late Oct this year? We could travel tog for a bit depending on where and when you want to go?

Add me on fb and we could try and sort it out! :D

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

Hi Siberia - thank you for you message. I've heeded your advice and will be booking my Carnivale ticket in the next few weeks - I researched after your comment and am realising just how fast you need to book and plan for this type of (epic) party!!

Hi cbr600 - thank you for your message about Guatemala and volunteering. Both are things i really want to do whilst in central and south america and i loved your post on chicken buses, i look forward to doing that :)

Letty - sounds great, i am planning to be in central america mid dec then head down to South america for final destination Brazil for Carnivale end of feb '13. i will add you on facebook now :)

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

Hi Alicia

I traveled solo in south and central America for seven months and didn't feel unsafe once. Treat your trip like you would any big city and you should be fine. There are some good travel safety tips in this article written by 'the Pickpocket King' :)

Cstn is also good if you're looking to connect with other solo travelers.

Don't worry about language - being on the road is the fastest way to pick it up and don't skip Nicaragua, it was one of my favourite places, especially Isla de Ometepe.

Happy travels.


[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]

7. Posted by cbr600 (Budding Member 22 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Thoroughly agree Jo ..... one of my favourite moments whilst travelling was Isle de Ometepe .... about a year before my travels I was sitting at home in England "travelling the world on google earth" and I noticed this huge "something" in the middle of Central America .... zoomed in a bit more and saw it was a lake ..... thinking to myself "bit ashamed I have no idea what that lake is and what on earth is that in the middle ??" ..... zoomed in a bit more, 2 volcanoes in the middle of a lake !!! Thought, "I've got to see that". Months later I'm on a boat approaching the Isle de Ometepe with a big grin on my face !

Loved Nicaragua and loved Panama too !

Looking forward to reading your blog if you do one Alicia !


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


I was hoping to do a similar trip... central & south america, although I have never really traveled before and I'm not really sure how to go about planning! I don't have a specific date that I'm trying to leave- I have a gap year between undergrad and grad school so I'm just trying to experience the world.. I'd love to hear your plans !!

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

My wife and I are driving from McAllen, TX to Panama...we would consider a travel companion. We really need some one who speaks spanish so that it would make the trip more enjoyable and we could learn along the way.

We leave next week on April 13th first light of day.


10. Posted by rvcampertravele (Full Member 80 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Hi Alicia:
I just recently returned from a trip of a lifetime - the word "fantastic" can not explain it! I am from England and did not speak Spanish, and took the Trek of the Americas expedition with my caravan camping all the way from Texas, USA to Ushuaia, Argentina, then north to Uruguay and Brazil.

They also have informal Spanish lessons and go to the way out of the way little villiages and actually stay with the people (not the cruise ship type tour!)... also is a free travel companion service if that is what you wish.. you can learn the countries. Of course you also see the famous sights, Machupichu, the glaciers, fin del mundo, Iguazul, and more. Its really a different approach to tourism latinamericano...i am working on a blog...sorry its not ready yet. google adventuretrek and trekamericas net Have a great adventure. Also do not be afraid of going thru Mexico..they tellyou how.