Updated on April 15th, 2022
As travel restrictions are lifted and we start planning our next adventure, you can use the following weeks to prepare for the so-long-coming adventure of a great Latin American road trip.
Let me give you 30 tips to help you ride out this time – and soon enough, we’ll see each other someplace down the road!
And when you’re ready to go, rely on AndesTransit’s up-to-date information on how to get around the region!
There’s much planning to do before setting off on a trip. What should I take? Where should I go? Here are the basics to help get your bags prepared.
1. Read travel blogs to get a feel for what’s out there. One place to get a good feel for routes between towns in South America and what there’s to see in the destinations is AndesTransit or dedicated blog posts per country on EcuadorBus, ColombiaSchedule, PeruSchedules, BoliviaSchedules.
2. Browse through guidebooks. Some of the major ones are Lonely Planet, Footprint (who have been covering South America for over 100 years!), Brandt and Moon Guides.
3. Work on your bucket list – places you dream of visiting in Latin America. Think of not only the most famous places that make every blogger’s Instagram page, but also search for those destinations well off the "Gringo Trail."
4. Begin compiling the packing list for your next trip, and gather in the supplies. (Yes! Begin packing! Keep your travel knapsack ready to go.) One for South America travels was created by Steve Hänisch.
5. Go through your inventory. Check for expired medicines (including gauzes and bandages – yes, they have an expiration date!), or any supplies that may be low and make a list of what needs to be replaced. Mend any items that may be needing attention. Wash your knapsack, daypack, sleeping bag and other gear.
6. If you find things that need expert attention (hiking boots that need cobbling, knapsack repairs, etc.), put them to one side. Once neighborhood shops open again, you can take them in – and give mom-and-pop businesses some much-needed income after this emergency passes.
Take time to learn new skills that will make your trip more enjoyable – or that will prove super useful to carry out activities.
8. Hire a native speaker to give you online classes in Spanish (or Portuguese). Ask around in Facebook or WhatsApp groups to see who might be available.
9. Learn to make proper knots – which will come in handy when you’re traveling (especially for properly hanging your hammock or pitching your tent!) Learn the name of each type of knot in Spanish (and/or Portuguese).
10. If you’ve always wanted to go fly fishing (the Patagonia of Argentina and Chile have fantastic fishing!), take the time to learn to tie flies.
11. Practice reading a map – of roads, cities, etc., and topographical. You won’t always be in areas with cell service and will be especially useful on treks (and gee, what fantastic trekking there is in Peru and the Patagonia!).
12. Practice making conversions from metric to British Standard (and vice versa). Many Latin American countries use a combination of both systems, as well as the old Spanish measures like vara and arroba.
The culture in Latin America is much different than that of many of our home countries – and even between countries and regions! Museums, music, dance, and food are some of the riches you’ll experience on your trip. Get to know something about them before you head out!
13. Latin American museums offer virtual tours. A few of them are Museo Nacional de Costa Rica, Casa Azul (Museo Frida Kahlo, Mexico City) and the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City. A number of Peruvian museums can also be visited virtually.
14. Not all museums have virtual tours – but they do have their collections online for you to view and study. One to check out is Museo Larco (which even has a Sala Erótica!) in Lima.
15. Get to know Latin America’s fantastic music through legendary performances. The largest event is the yearly Viña del Mar music festival in Chile – with Latin America’s greatest musicians. Also catch Concierto sin Fronteras (with Juanes, Miguel Bosé, Carlos Vives, Juan Luis Guerra, Ricardo Montaner, Juan Fernando Velasco and Alejandro Sanz, 2008).
16. Put on your dancing shoes and learn the basic dance steps for salsa, bachata, cumbia, tango, samba, and other Latin American swings. Try salsa choke and reggaetón, too! The internet is full of tutorials so you won’t have two left feet in the discotecas!
17. Get to know local cuisines wherever you’ll be traveling. There are many blog articles discussing Latin American culinary adventures. Watch cooking videos – and cook along with them!
While you can’t get to many places at once, you can get there virtually! Set out on some excursions by internet or get inspiration from social media.
18. Head to Machu Picchu, a popular bucket list entry for many travelers to Latin America.
19. Another fascinating, though lesser-known, archaeological site in Peru is Kuélap.
20. How about scuba diving the reefs of Belize?
21. Or wandering the great Patagonian expanses of Chile and Argentina?
22. Colombia’s Tayrona National Park has some of the best beaches and ruins in the country.
23. Ay, and the great Iguazú Waterfalls on the Argentina-Brazil border!
After a couple of years of people working online, schoolkids doing lessons online and people escaping through videos and internet classes, you might find your cyber connection getting stressed out.
So – disconnect and unwind!
24. Read an old-fashioned book or download a copy from the internet. Catch up on the novels by Latin American authors you’ve always meant to read, like Carlos Fuentes (Mexico), Gioconda Belli (Nicaragua), Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia), Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru), Isabel Allende (Chile), Jorge Luis Borges (Argentina) and Jorge Amado (Brazil).
25. If poetry is more your game, savor the works of Ernesto Cardenal (Nicaragua), Jorge Enrique Adoum (Ecuador), Cesar Vallejo (Peru), Gabriel Mistral (Chile) and Pablo Neruda (Chile).
26. Eduardo Galeano’s book The Open Veins of Latin America is a must-read to understand Latin America’s complex social, political and economic history.
27. Follow the adventures of other travelers. Some recent works I’ve read are:
Paddle to the Amazon by Don Starkell – A world-record-setting canoe adventure of a father and son who paddled from Canada to the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil.
The Lost World of Quintana Roo by Michel Peissel – Hiking down the uncharted Mexican Yucatan coast a few decades before Tulum got on tourists’ radars.
Travels in a Thin Country by Sara Wheeler – Traveling through Chile, from the far north to Isla Navarino.
Andes to the Amazon by Bruce B Janek – In search of wildlife in the wild expanses of South America¡s diverse ecosystems.
Brazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming – In search of British explorer Percy Fawcett who disappeared in the Amazon jungle while searching for a lost ancient city. Another book that deals with a more recent expedition to find out Fawcett’s fate (and which was made into a movie) is The Lost City of Z by David Grann.
Cochineal Red: Travels through Ancient Peru by Hugh Thomson – This legendary expedition leader takes us exploring Inca, Moche and other ancient ruins of Peru.
29. Play board games – dominoes, checkers, Chinese checkers, chess, Jenga, ladders & snakes … the possibilities are endless! Sharpen your dulled skills, readying yourself for a night of sharing travel tales over a game in the hostel.
30. Learn to play solitaire – there are many other versions than just Klondike! (In fact, there are over 150 ways to play it!) Slipping a pack of playing cards into your knapsack is well worth it (light-weight and takes up little space) and will help you pass the time alone – or with other travelers!
Lorraine Caputo is a travel writer, poet, and translator. She has authored 10 guidebooks for South America. Her literary works appear in over 150 journals in Canada, the US, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa; 18 anthologies and 12 chapbooks – including the collections of travel poetry, Caribbean Nights (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2014) and Notes from Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2017). For several decades, she has been traveling through Latin America, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her travels on her Facebook Page.
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