Latin America is a hugely diverse place, and every person’s experience will be different. There are so many different cultures embedded in the various countries, and you can have a great time on a very small budget. Far from the dangerous place it is often made out to be in the media, Latin America is brimming with rich culture, and wonderful people. It is one of those places you simply must visit, because once you’re there, the experience will never leave you. If you decide to book a ticket to up and leave, here are some tips to make the most of your time there!
(or Portuguese if you’re planning on spending a lot of time in Brazil!). It doesn’t have to be a lot, just a few lessons before you head over, or when you first arrive. Guatemala is particularly awesome for Spanish lessons. Most locals you encounter won’t speak a lot of English, but if you put in the effort, they will too. With basic pleasantries, numbers, directions and types of food, you should be able to muddle your way through most situations. And you will be able to pick up a lot more as you go along.
Get Off The Gringo Trail
In Latin America there is a fairly distinct Gringo Trail, the path through the countries that most tourists tend to take. It is possible to party your way down the continents, bumping into the same people over a tequila shot at each hostel bar. But for a more authentic look into local life, try and get away from this by going somewhere off the beaten tourist track or getting to know local people by doing a workaway or some Couch Surfing. This will also really help you to improve your Spanish!
Strap On Your Valuables
If you’re attached to something, attach it to yourself. While tourists are rarely the victims of violence, pick pocketing is rife, especially on buses. Bags under the bus can get rummaged through and even a bag that is literally sitting on your lap can be cut into by your seat buddy and your valuables can be removed without you noticing a thing. The skills of these professionals are truly amazing, and you can constantly fall back on your theft story when conversation is lagging, but if you want to avoid the inconvenience of trying to replace your passport in a country with no Australian embassy, stay vigilant!
Get Involved In The History
Perhaps the most fascinating thing about Latin America is its rich cultural history. The more you know and understand, the more you can get out of your travels. Most major cities have a free walking tour, which can give you a good understanding of the background and is normally super worthwhile, even just to help you get orientated in a new city. Try to read local literature while you’re over there as well to further enhance your experience.
For Veggos: Download Happy Cow
If you’re not looking for vegetarian food in Latin America, chances are you won’t find it.. Happy Cow, an app that locates nearby vegetarian and vegan restaurants, is a real blessing for the vagrant vegetarian (or vegetable-enthusiast!). Happy Cow might lead you to a tiny market stall run by a 70 year old Peruvian lady, who is an ethical vegetarian and feeds you three hearty courses for just $3, or it might take you to a tucked-away, trendy treasure that reminds you of home (which after months on the road can be exactly what you need).
But the biggest tip is just go! You will get overwhelmed by the beautiful landscapes, moved by the history and you will have new experiences that are good and some that are bad, but whatever happens, it will be a unique trip and you can turn it into whatever you want it to be.