Before doing South America as a solo traveler, I was just a dreamer.
I never thought I’d be writing about my experiences and inspiring others to start their own journeys in Latin America.
Being alone can have lots of advantages and disadvantages while traveling! Everything from deciding where to go and how much it’s all going to cost.
Oh, and the thought of being lonely.
But believe me, travel to South America alone doesn’t have to be lonely.
Many people ask themselves, is it sad to travel alone, when really…
Traveling alone is a unique experience.
My idea was to design an article to help you get out into the world and discover solo travel in Latin and South America for yourself.
Solo Travel South America
Before we get started, if you’re interested in learning about the safest country in South America, click here to see my thoughts and the factual data explaining it.
Each solo travel, from start to completion, has a great element of uncertainty.
I’m going to share with you some South American travel tips that I’ve learned, which gave me the courage to make my dream of traveling South America solo a reality.
See my South America itinerary if you’re looking for more specific solo travel routes.
Remember: Solo travel can be and should be challenging.
To start this solo travel advice article, I’m going to show you five ways you can start your solo travel adventure with practical follow-up actions.
Learn to hang out by yourself
If you read my favorite travel quotes, you’ll see how backpacking through South America can be very inspirational.
Backpacking alone can help you learn how to hang out with yourself.
I learned early on via my solo backpacking trips that I’d rather be alone exploring South American cities than in unhappy relationships.
I know this may sound sad to some, but I assure you this is not easy to do, even more so when you’re used to being around people.
Practicing being alone is what I’m talking about.
I know staying in a party hostel every once in a while is cool. But, if you’re thinking of doing solo travel in South America, remember that the more you travel alone, the more you get to know yourself.
Here are some things you can try:
- Mix hanging by yourself with visiting new places
- Find a class or a place where individual participation is required
- Read inspirational books
- Take mini trips of growth to places outside your hometown or city
Traveling South America alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely. Mix it up with different friends.
For example, I like to arrive at places a little earlier and explore at my own pace. I do this because I know others in my friend group won’t appreciate that.
So, while planning a trip to South America, bear these things in mind; get creative and understand that you will thrive knowing that you’re in control of your own journey.
Create a plan or itinerary
Nothing inspires me more than planning solo travel.
For me, using my VPN to search Google for the best places to travel in South America and planning is a fundamental piece of the solo travel puzzle.
Just imagine the stories I got from people the first time I traveled to Mexico back in 2014 about it being mega dangerous and how it wasn’t amongst the safest places to travel in Latin America and how I should avoid it.
I just booked a one-way ticket to Mexico City with no idea of where I was staying or exactly for how long.
By the way, I highly recommend you do this…
Try buying a plane ticket based on only a price you can afford with a rough location in mind. It’s random, but if you’re on a tight backpacker’s budget, it works.
Or maybe even search for some of the cheapest countries in South America to do solo travel in first.
Being location independent allows me to work out dates, times and availability later. That is one of the greatest freedoms that being a travelpreneur offers you.
If you don’t currently have this type of freedom, you’ll need to monitor sites like Skyscanner regularly to find flights to places in South America that are offering flight deals.
Can’t decide where to go? In the past, before I had the idea of strategic travel, if I couldn’t decide on a place, I’d just book a ticket to a country that I never imagined I’d go.
For example, I did that with Colombia and just worked out the rest when I got there. Actually, Colombia turned out to be the best place to visit in South America for me. I loved it.
Sounds silly after talking so much about strategic travel, but you have to start with random travel to be able to work out a travel rotation that works for you.
Also, I’ve found random travel a great way to put myself outside my comfort zone, and it forces me to be a more responsible backpacker as a result.
Some simple things you can try:
- Buy a one-way ticket and plan later
- Search skyscanner to find the cheapest possible flights
- Plan with sites like trello to create activity boards
- Pin locations with google maps to get a feel of new countries
If you find yourself constantly asking the question, is South America safe, I suggest you skip the largest country in South America, which is Brazil, for example, and look for smaller more manageable destinations.
Take a look at countries like Uruguay or Chile, which are said to be the safest countries to visit in South America, and start by exploring those to get a feel for the continent.
Both countries are considered the safest countries in South America.
Find your Purpose
After my first South America solo travel trip, I wrote about my comfort zone challenge and the idea of traveling with a purpose.
Know what you want to achieve from backpacking solo and consider the results upon return, anything from learning a new language to meeting a new partner or becoming a better friend.
Here are some practical things you can try:
- Find new methods to develop your ideas
- Share one of your challenges with someone you trust
- Learn a language. This will give you a lifetime worth of inspiration
- Set up a online business or do freelance travel jobs online
But, I find that it quickly becomes frivolous, so I suggest you make your travel to South America about something more meaningful.
Connect with Like Minded People
I can tell you that backpacking through South America alone isn’t as hard as you think. I realized this because meeting new people is easy.
However, meeting like-minded people isn’t.
Social networks and online communities are great tools for connecting with the right people.
Be a travel hero
I wish I had done more of this early on. You can do it from the start.
Some of my best solo backpacking trips have been made memorable because of the interactions I made along the way.
As a man backpacking solo in South America, I would say that you can connect with both men or women as easily as you would in your hometown, if not even easier.
Here are some things you can try:
- Find people via meetup searching groups online
- Ask questions to people you know who have traveled before
- Look for co-working spaces and meet other digital nomads or travelpreneurs
- Chill in coffee shops and use the internet to help you connect with others
- Use all methods both off and online whilst doing solo travel South America
When I travel alone in South America, I’ve noticed how like-minded people tend to stick together in their own groups.
Bear this in mind when trying to connect with new people for the first time.
When you finally do decide to travel alone to South America, remember this; it pays to be in the right place connecting with like-minded people.
Whether it’s hiking in Arequipa or sunning in Colombia’s Caribbean coast, connecting with new people is something that you can control.
Learn how to talk to strangers
Talking to people in the street is an idea I love, but before I started solo travel, it was a major challenge for me.
It’s through solo travel in South America that I have become more social.
I highly suggest connecting with locals by confessing your love for their country as a good place to start when on the road.
I suggest you get into the habit of doing this before you travel to any new place.
Here are some things you can try:
- Get comfortable talking to more people whilst in your home town or country
- Approach new people who seem interesting you
- Create small talk with new people on the street
Traveling solo and learning how to be alone is a challenge. If you’re a social person in your everyday life, you won’t have a problem meeting new people in the world.
Accommodation In South America
I know I said that this was supposed to be expert travel advice, so believe me when I say that the key is to find the best places to visit in South America for you and stay there.
Where you stay while you’re backpacking South America is an important topic of discussion. It’s the key to your success.
Depending on how much you pay can also be a massive factor that will contribute towards your safety.
Consider this when weighing up the best South American country to visit. I have found some of the best hostels in South America by being picky.
For all you budget backpackers out there, you’ll be glad to know you can travel freely whilst maintaining smaller budgets.
I’m talking like, $10-$20 per day and, in some cases, even less.
Honestly, while South American solo travel can cost a little more, and travel with friends can make it cheaper, don’t let that be the reason why you dismiss traveling solo.
Solo Travelling South America – Pay less
You have to remember that the less you pay, the higher the chance of being subject to some kind of petty theft or perhaps a health-related issue.
Yes, bed bugs exist in South America.
This is why when backpacking South America you must be smart. Most beginners who start backpacking love the idea of staying in hostels.
Me too – I loved it – in my first few years of traveling alone in South America, all I wanted to do was meet people and have fun.
When I became wiser and more refined in my adventures, I realized there were other options, although I still stay in hostels from time to time.
Staying with Locals
But I find that mixing it up with staying with locals and renting my own apartment all over South America gives me a more rounded experience.
I mention more about this strategy in my Travel Bible. No doubt, you’re looking for the best hostels in South America, but I assure you some of them are not cheap.
When you do the maths, you’ll find that sometimes it becomes more cost-effective to rent out an entire apartment or even a hotel. I usually like to carry something with me to help break the ice with the new family.
It could be a board game or something from England that will serve as a gift but also a great talking point.
This is something for you to consider while you’re in your trip planning stage.
Is South America safe to travel alone?
The quick answer to this question is yes!
If you follow some of these travel tips, you’ll find yourself traveling with more purpose and reason, which will help you to avoid situations that can lead to danger.
We’ve all heard those popular solo travel quotes that say follow your gut instinct and take more risks, and there’s a good reason why they resonate with us in these moments.
We can’t account for every occurrence by just reading the best travel guides, or traveling more consciously and purposely alone. But by doing so, we are reducing the risk of danger by around 80%.
Personally, I have never had trouble or felt in danger while living or backpacking in South America.
I trust that your solo travel to South America experience will be a safe one. The people you’re likely to encounter while backpacking through South America alone (or with friends) should be very upstanding.
Especially if they know you’re visiting from a foreign country.
Here are some small tips to follow when you solo travel in South America:
- Stick to the popular backpacking routes
- Explore in well-trafficked areas
- Don’t flash your cash
- Keep exposure of gadgets to minumum
- Don’t get intoxicated in public places
- Avoid drugs and illicit substances
- Try not to get lost aimlessly walking
There are some unsafe places to travel in South America, just like any continent. This is why I always say to keep travel gear down to a minimum, especially when exploring the streets.
South America Travel Insurance
I always recommend backpackers and travelers (no matter who you are) use World Nomads Insurance for fully comprehensive cover.
If you are due to travel soon, you can get a Get A Free Quote by clicking the link or the image above and filling out your details – that way you’ll get instant cover from the exact date that you choose.
On many occasions World Nomads has provided me with reliable insurance cover for travel in Latin America and the rest of the world.
The tips I’ve noted may sound obvious but can be easily overlooked in most situations, especially when you’re in big cities, and you feel like you’re untouchable.
Buses in South America
Let’s talk about tips for those long bus rides in South America.
Firstly, there are a lot of myths about buses getting hijacked and people getting robbed by bandits.
Although it’s possible that you could get your belongings swiped on a bus journey, this has never happened to me while traveling solo in South America for the following reasons.
- I keep my bag with me at all times
- My bag sits on my lap or by my leg
- Nobody tells me where I should put my bag
- I make sure my bag is secured
- Listen to nobody that says I need to swap seat numbers
If necessary, I carry a large travel blanket to conceal my belongings and find a way to tie my bag to the seat in front of me.
I have always had a positive experience riding buses in South America and believe it’s 20% luck and 80% experience. Also, because I follow the protocols listed above.
💡 Smart Travel Tip
People who steal on buses work in syndicates. Never let anybody tell you where you should put your bag or where you should sit.
I have taken bus rides up to 21 hours long in many parts of Latin America. I assure you it’s very safe as long as you always pay for a 1st Class ticket. Scammers usually ride on the lower class buses and fish for the easier targets.
People generally lose their belongings because they’re careless with what they have, not because they’re in South America.
South America solo travel
If you have already done some travel by yourself or even with friends and are now thinking of doing solo travel in South America, I hope you’ve taken something away from this article and can implement these solo backpacking tips on your next trip.
Many friends ask why I travel to South America, and as I’ve mentioned before, my trips to Central America were the prequel to something I always dreamed of doing. I had to take a risk!
I literally had to learn how to travel alone to be able to build up the confidence to travel to South America.
Then I realized it was easier traveling to Central America alone, and in my cultural travel guides, I wrote about my experience.
South America turned out to be a lot more expensive and culturally diverse, but I felt that I had more access to tools I need to be able to make my trips more enriching.
I’m not advocating being a loner or having zero friends; I’m talking about getting more comfortable moving around the world by yourself.
These South American solo travel tips are tried and tested and have been developed over many years of solo travel
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