In part of our interview series, talking to some of the most prominent bloggers who have travelled the breadth and width of South America, we’re talking to Lisa of Girl About the Globe to discuss her adventures around one of the most beautiful continents on the planet:
Are there any psychological aspects of travel that you would advise people to prepare for before they head off on a long trip?
Yes. Most of the time you spend travelling is simply amazing but there are those moments when you face challenges and you wonder what on earth you are doing. I’m a big advocate for solo travel which can be the most challenging.
You can feel homesick, constantly wonder what you are doing and get so freaked out with culture shock that you want to just go home. You get constantly tested with your problem solving serving skills and have to be so vigilant. Being with yourself 24/7 means that you really get to know yourself as a person. Not everyone can be alone. It can really test you mentally.
We love sending people to travel throughout South America, what would you say were the best ways to travel on a budget?
It can be expensive to fly from country to country in South America so look at travelling overland instead. Internal flights can be reasonable to see if you can fly close to the land border then cross into a new country by bus instead of flying internationally.
The buses in Peru are fantastic and taking a night bus to cover a long distance is ideal as the bus is basically your evening’s accommodation as well as your transport. You generally also get a meal included.
Do you have any useful safety tips for travelling in taxis in South America?
Yes. In Bogota, the capital of Colombia download an app such as My Taxi. Don’t get a taxi from the street as they have been known to rob people. Ask your accommodation or restaurant to call you a reputable taxi instead.
Don’t have any valuables on show. Keep your handbag between your feet on the floor of the taxi and wind up the windows so robbers can’t see any valuables. Make sure that you use official taxis from the airport and ask at the airport if you are unsure.
You’ve obviously travelled all over the world. What would you say were the biggest cultural differences between South American countries and others?
There are even cultural differences within South America itself. Suriname is a Dutch colony, Guyana was once colonised by the British, and French Guiana belongs to France. Even though they were once colonised by the Spanish, they are worlds apart in culture. Don’t expect the Spanish-speaking countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru. Bolivia, Paraguay, and Chile to be the same as places in Spain.
Instead they have their own culture of weaving textiles and sustainable living in the Andes mountains. There are also tribes living within the rainforest in Ecuador which can visit on a tour. As you travel from country to country, the culture differs even within the continent.
We love sending people to markets so that they can enjoy homemade foods and handcrafted materials. Do you have any unoffensive haggling tips that you learned on your travels?
Before I go into a market I have a rough idea of what I want to spend on something and only have that in my purse. When I am haggling and get down to my lowest offer, I can then open my purse and say “I only have this,” and show them.
If I go to pay and they see lots of notes in my purse then I don’t feel that’s very fair if I’ve just been bartering with them.
What one piece of food would you advise people to try in South America?
Each country has their own delicacies. If you are in Peru for example you should definitely try the ceviche. I loved Ajiaco Colombiano, the Bogota soup in Colombia. It’s a chicken and potato soup which is presented with bowls of avocado, cheese, and sour cream that you place inside the soup. It’s divine.
Try the empanadas too. They differ from country to country. They are definitely the nicest in Argentina and Uruguay.
A lot of people head to places in South America to enjoy historical attractions. Could you recommend one that would be slightly different from the norm?
Taking a survival trek in the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon is the second longest river in the world, and it snakes its way from the Andes to the sea. Sending time at the Amazon is one of the most magical experiences you can have in South America.
You can take a river cruise and spot Amazon dolphins, catch crocodiles and try your hand at piranha fishing whilst learning about the flora and fauna of the world’s most famous rainforests. I travelled to the Amazon through a tour operator in Manaus, Brazil, and also from Suriname. If you are in Colombia, Peru or Ecuador you can also reach the Amazon.
What would you say was the most interesting natural attraction that you enjoyed on your travels to South America?
Iguazu Falls in Brazil was the most amazing natural attraction that I have seen in South America. Having seen so many waterfalls around the world, I was blown away by these. I stayed in the city of Foz do Iguaçu, the first border city from Paraguay. Located in the South of Brazil, it is the hub for the falls.
Some say that seeing the falls from the Argentinian side is more spectacular so if you have time, cross the border on your trip to the falls to find out. Make sure to keep your eyes out for the South American coati too!