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How to Stay Safe and Healthy on Your South American Adventure

From the mysterious Amazon rainforest to the golden beaches of the Rio, South America offers travelers a variety of spectacular adventure opportunities.

From the mysterious Amazon rainforest to the golden beaches of the Rio, South America offers travelers a variety of spectacular adventure opportunities. The diversity of landscape and culture captivates travelers and lures them back year after year. But seasoned travelers will warn you that there are special precautions to take when making your way down south.

There is no need to be paranoid when traveling to South America, but you should be aware of potential risks. Here is the latest information to keep you safe and healthy on your big adventure.

Research and Prepare

Whether you are planning a trip to the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro or have mapped out Machu Picchu, it’s necessary to prepare before you even step foot on the plane. Don’t try to wing this one. Carefully consider which countries you will visit. Uruguay, Argentina, Chile and Ecuador are all considered the safest countries on the continent, with Chile having the lowest crime rate. But even these countries have bad neighborhoods.

Thoroughly research your travel locations. Look for necessary vaccines and travel notices in effect, and learn about the food, water, terrain, people and tourist areas.

Have Your Wits About You

The key to being safe in any foreign country is to pay attention to your surroundings and adopt an air of confidence (even when lost). Opening a big map in the middle of the street immediately makes you a target. Take a more bohemian approach and go as minimal as possible to blend in, taking just the bare essentials on your daily explorations. Limit your alcohol consumption too, because it is easy to rob a drunken tourist.

When taking transportation, choose a bus over any other method. Taxis pose a safety risk, as often they are not legit. Don’t climb into unmarked vehicles; instead, select modern, licensed taxis and buses from reputable companies.

Protect Your Belongings

Don’t be careless with your belongings. Being travelers, you know not to expose your handbag or keep your wallet in your back pocket as you are just asking for pickpockets to strike. And they will, especially in the less safe areas of Peru and Brazil. Here are some tips to make you less vulnerable to thieves:

  • Carry a lockable, side-opening backpack.
  • Wear a money belt under your clothes with important documents, credit cards and cash.
  • Don’t store bags in overhead compartments on buses.
  • Be discreet with your camera and conceal valuable electronics.
  • If you don’t need it, leave it in the hotel.
  • Loop your bag around your leg when eating in public places. Never leave items on the floor or draped over the back of your chair.

Bring Essential Gear

With the dynamic landscape of South America comes a mixture of weather conditions that can drastically change from coast to coast. Bring essential gear necessary for any location at any time. Because South America has some of the strongest UV rays on earth, skin protectants like hats, long sleeves, sunscreen, bug spray and sunglasses with extra lenses are crucial on any adventure.

Vaccinations and the Zika Virus

The yellow fever vaccine is required for entry into many countries in South America, while malaria tablets should be taken if entering a malaria hotspot.

The Zika virus has been in the news as of late and for good reason. Over 30 countries have reported Zika outbreaks, so it’s especially important to be vigilant when it comes to avoiding mosquito bites. Apply sunscreen before DEET repellent and cover up with long sleeves and pants. The effects of Zika are mild for most, and the majority of people who contract the virus are asymptomatic. However, pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant should avoid the area due to serious risks of birth defects associated with the virus. The CDC regularly publishes updates on affected areas of the Zika virus.

Generally, South Americans are not out to get you. They are hardworking people who often rely on tourism for their livelihood. So, tango the Brazilian night away, but stay alert and be careful.