5 things I wish I knew before traveling to South/Central America

1. Book your flight out of the country!

So after months of being excited for finally getting to South America; planning, packing and generally talking about it non-stop, we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. Upon completing check-in, we were asked to see proof of a ticket out of the country. It was at this point, we both freaked out as we realised we had just booked a one-way ticket and nothing else. It turns out that you can stay in each country for 3 months but you have to have proof that you are actually going to leave. We then had to book the cheapest bus ticket we could find out of the country, money we lost and money we could have saved if we had thought ahead. Now I’m sure you might be thinking that you don’t want to have to plan ahead, you want to be flexible; if that is the case then there are plenty of bus companies that offer full or 90% refunds (Busbud being one) and also if you book far in advance, there are airlines which will offer this too and so if we could do it all again, we would do this!

2. Bring back-up electrical goods

So being bloggers and daily users of instagram, electronic equipment is incredibly important to us, if we lose anything then we could risk the chance of us going days, weeks and even months without posting content. I know you might think “I’ll just go to the local store and pick up a cable, charger etc”, well think again! I typically (I say typically because I am a clumsy guy who loses a lot of things, just so happens Sophie is even worse than I am, match made in heaven!) lost our Canon battery charger in the first few days of being in Rio and just assumed we, in one of the most well known cities in the world, would be able to walk down the street and buy a new charger, well I couldn’t have been more wrong. After getting three Ubers to three different malls, we were finally told that were had to get a 45 minute cab downtime where they “might” sell them and luckily for us, they did! We also don’t have a spare memory card for our camera and after visiting numerous shops and buying the wrong things, we have found it impossible to find the correct memory card. So, my massive takeaway here is bring back-up’s of the essential items you can’t do without; it might be expensive in the short-term but in the long-term, it’s a life-saver.

3. Take 4-5 Portuguese lessons

So this is obviously applicable for Spanish too but I, being all smug, had taken a few Spanish lessons, assuming that people in Brazil would speak a lot of Spanish too and so I could learn as I went along, this was definitely not the case. I know enough 
Spanish to get us out of some difficult situations that you inevitably face when traveling but when faced with these in Brazil, we just looked like idiots typing on google translate. If you can’t afford lessons or just don’t have the time, then just download one of the apps, duo lingo being a main one, and learn the essentials. I promise you, by learning the basics, it will enable you to learn so much more!

4. Yellow Fever Vaccination Proof

So I actually found out about this the day before I flew but I wish I had known about it months in advance. There is a risk of yellow fever throughout most of South America and so when traveling from country to country, you will need to present proof that you have had the vaccination or that you can’t have the vaccination for medical reasons. If you can’t present this proof (along with proof that you have a flight out of the country), then you can’t fly! Luckily, I have a great Dr’s surgery that fast-tracked the proof that I couldn’t have the vaccinations on medical grounds, due to lyme.

5. Book last minute, don’t plan too far ahead.

So before leaving, we booked most of our accommodation weeks in advance and so had our time mapped out, something we thought would reduce the stress of traveling. Conversely, we have two friends that booked their first few days in Rio but then played the rest of it by ear. What we hadn’t realised that most places had an abundance of availability (don’t listen to booking.com or airbnb!!) and that if you booked last minute then you could actually negotiate on the price. Our friends ended up getting one place that was super cheap and the same standard as our apartment and then the next place was the same price but a penthouse! Also, you never know how you will take to place, you may love it, you may hate it and so having the flexibility to either stay or go with a few days notice is ideal!

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