Preparing for a Backpacking Trip to South America

Preparing for a Backpacking Trip to South America
  • Opening Intro -

    When you're a student, there's no greater experience and rite of passage that compares to a backpacking trip.

    You can do a short-term backpacking trip on a school holiday or during the summer.


You can also opt to do a backpacking trip as part of a gap year, or following graduation and before entering the so-called real world.

There are plenty of destinations to choose from in the world, and a lot of students opt for South America.

South America is a good backpacking destination because its inexpensive, and all of the countries are so unique and distinctive from one another. The following are some tips to keep in mind as you’re preparing for one of these once-in-a-lifetime trips.


First and foremost, it’s important to think about the financial aspects of the trip you’re taking. South America has very different countries, and the costs are going to vary between each, but for the most part, you can plan a budget-friendly trip here. Within South America, the least expensive countries are Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru.

Columbia is considered somewhat in the middle in terms of affordability, although if you get there and run out of money, you can always ask your parents to send you money using Remitly.

The more expensive South American countries are Argentina, Brazil, and Chile.

Within countries, some cities and areas are more expensive than others as well. For example, Cartagena is one of the most expensive cities in Colombia, and it’s where the most tourists go. If you’re going to be moving around a lot within countries, that’s going to add to your costs as well.

Most backpackers who have gone through South America recommend budgeting around $1,000 a month, but you may need more or less depending on the specific countries you’re going to.

What Kind of Trip Are You Taking?

The term backpacking trip can take on many different meanings, and you’re going to have to decide the general type of trip you want to take. For some college travelers, backpacking may mean that they’re traveling around without a lot of planning or structure, and just taking what they can carry on their back.

For others, it might be more of an actual backpacking trip with a lot of hiking and camping.

The option you decide for is going to play a big role in planning. You may have to plan for places to camp versus hostels you’ll stay at. When you’re camping, you have to think about a whole myriad of other issues, such as safety, hygiene and how you’ll have access to clean water.

If you’re going to be doing a lot of hiking and camping, you’re probably also going to have to pack quite a bit more than you would otherwise, so going abroad to do this might not be the best option.


So if you aren’t planning to rough it so much on your South American adventure, you’ll probably try to find hostels and dorms for the most part. There are some chain hostels in certain countries like Peru, and you can also look at places that are connected to the VIP backpackers’ network.

When these options aren’t available, however, you’ll have to consider alternatives. Most student backpackers end up staying in guest houses because they’re cheapest but prepare yourself because you’re probably not going to have a lot of amenities.

You will probably also just have to come across these options because you’re not likely to be able to get online and book these in advance.

Check the Weather

A lot of backpackers will head to various places in South American thinking that it’s hot everywhere and that’s the case year round.

It’s not true, and you need to do some research on the specific destinations you’re planning on going to. The weather can vary significantly from country-to-country, and even in different destinations within one company.

For example, Southern Chile and Argentina can be cold and snowy even in summer, and a few hours later it might be sunny and hot. There are also plenty of places where it’s hot in the day and cold at night.


Finally, while thinking about safety might be the least glamorous part of your trip planning, it’s essential. You shouldn’t take anything expensive with you, and you will have to be careful about going out at night, but that’s true in many places in the U.S. as well.

Also be very careful about drinking too much, because you can quickly find yourself in a risky situation. Make sure you plan ways your family can reach you while you’re away, and think about setting up a time every day or week that you get in touch with them, so they know where you are and that you’re okay.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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College Campus reference:

TIPS: state-by-state travel guides

Bestseller No. 1
Lonely Planet South America (Travel Guide)
  • Lonely Planet
  • Lonely Planet
  • Edition no. 14 (10/15/2019)
SaleBestseller No. 2
Lonely Planet South America on a shoestring (Travel Guide)
10 Reviews
Lonely Planet South America on a shoestring (Travel Guide)
  • Lonely Planet
  • Lonely Planet, Regis St Louis, Sandra Bao, Celeste Brash, Gregor Clark, Alex Egerton, Brian Kluepfel, Tom Masters, Carolyn McCarthy, Kevin Raub
  • Lonely Planet
Bestseller No. 3
Lonely Planet Best of South America (Travel Guide)
  • Lonely Planet, Regis St Louis, Alex Egerton, Anthony Ham, Brian Kluepfel, Tom Masters, Carolyn McCarthy, Kevin Raub, Brendan Sainsbury, Andy...
  • Lonely Planet
  • Edition no. 1 (11/19/2019)

Last update on 2020-03-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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Categories: Traveling Student