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5 Tips for Planning a South America Vacation


South America is a land of soaring mountains peaks, dipping canyon depths, and miles and miles of white sand beaches. The 13 countries that make up this continent are extremely diverse, yet all united by vibrancy slightly different from anywhere else. This spark makes South America a great vacation destination. If you’re thinking about taking a South America vacation, here are some tips to help you start planning.

1. Choose your destinations.

South America is big. It is diverse. You won’t be able to see all of it at once, so you’ll need to first narrow down your options. Do you want to take a Machu Picchu tour to the top of the Inca citadel in Peru? Do you want a South America luxury vacation where you‘ll sit back on the beach and sip cocktails (Brazil might be good for this!), or do you want to see stunning wildlife during a Galapagos cruise? Figure out what you want to do and where you want to go before you do anything else.

2. Remember the season.

If you’re coming from Europe or North America, it is important to remember that the seasons on the other side of the equator are opposite. That means in January it is warm, and in July it is cold (relatively). There are also massive weather differences according to region. For example, the Amazon has a distinctive wet and dry season, and each one has its pros and con. Research your destinations before you book anything.

3. Know your budget.

It used to be that South America was a budget destination. This is still true in some places, but in other you’ll find prices comparable to New York City or London. Brazil is one of the most expensive South American countries, and budget travelers will have to work hard to find a deal. Countries like Bolivia with relatively few visitors are cheap, if you’re will to explore on your own. A Peru tour package is one of the best value South America travel packages, because you can easily travel on a budget, or alternatively glam up your trip and make it Machu Picchu luxury tour. This is doable because Machu Picchu is so well known that quality tourist facilities have been established and well maintained.

4. Find a tour company.

Unless you’re backpacking on a shoestring, it is easier to travel with a South American tour company. There are pros and con to all types of travel companies, however, and you should know what kind of vacation you’re looking for and what you’re willing to spend before you book with anyone. Large international companies often charge a higher markup, but you’re usually guaranteed quality in terms of Western standards. Local tour companies will be cheaper, but their quality and language levels can be questionable. The best thing to do is find a neutral ground. International tour companies with offices abroad and in-country can be a great compromise in terms of lower prices but with in-house expertise.

5. Be prepared.

Finally, remember when you travel to South America, you’re traveling to a different part of the world. Things will be different. You’ll have to put toilet paper in the trash can rather than in the toilet. You won’t be able to drink water from the faucet. People will have a different idea of personal space. These are all the challenges and excitements of traveling abroad. Make sure you talk with your travel company representative or consult your guidebook before heading off. It is always better to be prepared!