Travel Guide > South America
The dense Amazon rainforest, the jagged spires of the Andes Mountains, the tropical beaches and the towering waterfalls. With this kind of nature all around, it's no wonder why Central and South America have become nearly synonymous with eco-tours. Experience the cloud forests of Costa Rica, the birds and animals of Belize, the otherworldly Amazon rainforest, Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, Chile's Class V Rio Futaleufu, Mayan ruins hidden in the jungles of Guatemala. There is an endless variety of things to see and do in Central and South America.
Most Popular Destinations
Called Foz do Iguaçu in Portuguese, and Cataratas del Iguazú in Spanish, Iguazu Falls in Argentina and Brazil are a top destination for visitors from all countries. Cartagena in Colombia was one of the first cities founded by the Spaniards in this continent. Begun in 1533, the strategic location called for a fortress, and the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas was started in 1639, but not completed for 150 years. Machu Picchu, is the most visited tourist destination in Peru, with good reason. The ruins of this ancient city stand atop a steep mountain overlooking the Urubamba river far below, and raise questions archaeologists and historians are still asking. The mystique and grandeur bring out the cameras. Cayenne and the three Iles du Salut (Islands of Salvation or Health), off the coast of French Guiana are lush, tropical isles of abundant foliage, great views and open to visitors. Once however, they were the site of the infamous Devil's Island penal colony, called the Green Hell. Ile Royale is now a resort destination for visitors to French Guiana. At 979 meters (3230 feet) with an uninterrupted drop of 807 meters (2663 ft), Angel Falls is sixteen times the height of Niagara Falls. Located in Venezuela's Canaima National Park in Caracus, the falls are best viewed, and appreciated, from the air. Here's a sampling of the awesome falls. Mendoza in Argentina lying at the base of the Andes is a clean, well laid-out city, with parks and tree-lined streets and parks, the centre of commerce and tourism for the area. It is also an all-seasons destination for climbers, hikers, skiers, rafters, bikers, para-gliders, naturalists, trekkers, and oenophiles. Enjoy these photos of some of the local attractions!
Best Time to Visit
Being such a large continent it has very distinct weather patterns but the seasons are very similar to Australia on the whole. However, things to remember are that in the Altiplano region, where it would normally be summer, it is the rainy season between December and March, and that Rio de Janeiro has a major rainy season from the end of February through March. Above the Tropic of Capricorn, which runs on a line through Antofogasta to Rio de Janeiro, the climate is hot and sultry most of the time, with coastal areas of Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and the Amazon jungle being extremely humid. South of Puerto Montt around the Tierra del Fuego area the best season is literally from September to April. So the answer to when the best time to travel depends on what you want and where you want to go.
Safety - Although most foreigners travel safely in this continent, travellers should be aware of the safety risks they might face during their trip. South American countries are developing nations with widespread social disparities that encourage petty crime. Foreigners, regardless whether they are wealthy tourists or backpackers, are widely considered wealthy compared to the locals, which puts them at a higher risk of being targets of petty crime and rip-off schemes. The best way to prepare yourself is to be well-informed about the current political and economic situation, which often indicates the overall safety and stability of a country. Search the web for reports on strikes, protests and civil unrest in the South American country of your interest, and also look for news about transportation safety
Pick-pocketing - Among the most common annoyances for travellers in this continent is being overcharged by taxi drivers and shopkeepers, and being targeted by skilful pickpockets. These annoyances pose no direct safety threat, but they point at the vulnerability of foreign travellers in an unfamiliar environment. It is essential for travellers to be alert and observe the world around with watchful eyes. City centres, beaches, and tourist attractions are often frequented by pickpockets, and you should always keep an eye on your belongings.
For Women - Although women travellers in this continent face the same general safety concerns as men, they also have to cope with undue attention from local males. This continent is a fairly chauvinistic continent, and a single foreign woman is often considered an easy target for male advances. To get rid of undesirable male company, some women recommend wearing a wedding ring and referring to their imaginary husband.
Passport - You must be in possession of a valid passport with at least six months validity. Visas are required for most South and Central American countries.
Immunization - Yellow fever vaccinations and anti-malaria tablets are required for people travelling to the Amazon Basin.
Language - English is not widely spoken in this continent; Spanish is the official language of the majority of the countries in this continent, with Portuguese the official language of Brazil. Being such a large continent South America has very distinct weather patterns.
Currency - A new form of carrying money is Visa Travel Money that works as a keycard on your travels around the continent (please ask agent for more details). You also have the option of Travellers cheques; it is recommended that you carry these in small denominations. A supply of US dollar notes is also recommended as every country in this continent readily accepts them and you may get a higher exchange rate for cash. Cash is also beneficial as in some countries, e.g. Peru, where there is sometimes a reluctance to accept travellers cheques and in remote areas there are no banks with ATMs, so be sure to get some of your currency in small denominations ($10.00 and $20.00) for those unforeseen expenses prior to exiting each country.
Jungle Trekking - If you plan on adventurous jungle trekking, it warrants some special advice with regard to things to take. Wear long-sleeved light-coloured clothing with athletic shoes and socks. Remember to tuck pants into socks. Take a plastic raincoat/poncho, swimming costume, binoculars, small flashlight, camera and dark glasses. During your visit to the jungle it is advisable to carry a small overnight bag having stored your big luggage at the hotel. Insect repellent will keep the bugs.
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