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March 1, 2006 – A journey to General Tips, Brazil in South America

A Few Tips In Traveling South America

- Internet cafes exist in every city/town I've been to in South America and are relatively cheap. This was a change, coming from the Far East/East Asia, where I found that they were hard to find.
- Likewise with ATM machines, they are prevalent everywhere. The only place I didn't find one was on the island of Ilha Grande in Brazil.
- Laundromats are everywhere as well. Most laundromats charge by the kilogram. I do suggest that if you want to save some money, bring some biodegradable laundry detergent in a bag, a clothesline, and a generic sink plug. Clothing with the quick-dry fabric obviously dries faster than other fabrics. Next is cotton.
- Note that most shops and businesses are closed on Sundays (South America is mostly Catholic).
- Local hotels are fine to stay over in. They're clean, comfortable, relatively safe, and much cheaper than the big chain ones. Many are close to the center of town, too.
- Buses are the way to go in terms of lengthy transportation (and if you don't want to pay mucho for flights). Rick and I took mostly buses to get around in South America. The long transportation buses usually have comfortable seats and are not the same as city buses (or the public transit buses you would take back home). Some of the night buses even have almost-reclining seats. I do suggest flying if a bus ride is longer than 12 hours. It's not worth getting bloated/cramped legs if it's any longer than that.

night bus, five stars!

- Take the metro if it exists. The metro is fast during rush hour and cheap. City buses are the cheapest, but can sometimes be slow, though, they are sometimes a great way to see a city. Taxis are relatively cheap, but not as cheap as public transportation. I highly recommend taking taxis in wary cities.
- Most of the time, I found wandering around cities, towns, etc. fine. Just as long as you don't stand out like a tourist (e.g., talk really loud, be drunk in public, be aggressive, basically, behave like your stereotypical tourist, etc.), you'll be fine. Try to blend in physically as well (i.e., don't bring a daypack, wear flashy jewelry/watches, dress like you're rich, etc.). I did notice that female foreigners will receive a lot of attention from male locals (e.g., whistles, catcalls, sometimes harassment). Most of the time it's due to the way they're dressed (e.g., short skirts/shorts, tight tops, high heels, etc.).
- Bring clothing in layers for all sorts of weather. It gets pretty cold and wet in the highlands in the Incan Empire (Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia) even in the summertime. It gets quite warm during the summertime everywhere else (Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil).
- Bring good walking/trekking shoes for all sorts of terrain and a pair of flip-flops (you can buy flip-flops there for cheap too).
- Definitely try the different local foods of each country. One snack that's prevalent in every South American country are empanadas. Try them! Note that they taste different in every country (in Bolivia, they are quite sweet and are called saltenas instead). For those that are accustomed to eating spicy foods often, I highly recommend bringing a small bottle of hot sauce or even a can of salsa.

a Bolivian saltena

- Try to pick up some Spanish and Portuguese - at least enough just to get around. Not everyone speaks English. Note that each country has their own accent and language speed.
- On buying souvenirs: in the Incan Empire, for quality, buy them in Ecuador and/or Peru. You can buy them for a somewhat lesser price but a tad lesser quality in La Paz, Bolivia. Buenos Aires, Argentina has excellent shopping areas everywhere - long streets of boutiques, malls, etc. The street markets in Brazil are a great place to bargain for things that are four times the cost in the stores there.
- The best nightlife I think is in Buenos Aires, because of the variety of options one can choose from - and when they mean nightlife, they really mean dinner at 10pm, and starting to party at 1am. Then Rio de Janeiro.
- Of course, try to immerse yourself in the local culture. I see many travelers sticking to their own kind and/or going to the country just to party. I have nothing against partying - go party, but don't just go to a country to ONLY party!
- Favorite countries in South America in order of preference:
*Peru - many diverse cultures and landscapes, plus the Inca Trail & Machu Picchu!
*Argentina - different from the rest of South America, beautiful country (Patagonia), best nightlife in Buenos Aires
*Brazil - diverse peoples, laid-back culture, beautiful country and coastline
- Relax and have fun, as always.

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