Top Tips for Staying Safe in Latin America
There are lots of horror stories which could put you off travelling in Central and South America but you shoudn't let anything hold you back. This continent is incredible with amazing cities, sights and beaches but you just need to take precautions which can really help your experience travelling in this region.
Every country in the world has issues and Latin America isn't any different but travelling here doesn't have to be scary. Check out our top tips for staying safe and healthy in this amazing region of the world and get ready for one of the best experiences of your life.
Vaccinations + Packing Advice
Check any vaccinations you might need prior to departing, you could visit your local healthcare centre to have a chat to the travel nurse. If you need to take specific medication try to get a note from your doctor explaining what the medication and condition is.
We recommend packing a first aid kit, tissues and wet wipes with you, not all public facilities have toilet paper and also you might need plasters or other healthcare things in emergencies. You should always carry condoms with you, you might meet another traveller or local people who takes your fancy and its best to be safe to avoid any contracting any illness or disease. You might also want to pack hand sanitizer, bug spray and water purification tablets.
Buy Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is an extra cost which you might not think is needed but having peace of mind when travelling is essential and it is important to be covered just in case of any emergenices or issues. We recommend buying travel insurance with WorldNomals:
South America is a safe place to travel but you should always research where to go and get informed about local customs and traditions before arriving. Every country, city and town is different and it is good to be prepared before arriving so you know what to expect. You will need to find what interests you e.g. sightseeing, culture, history, cities, beaches or activities.
Some places in Latin America have people living really below the poverty line and sometimes this can be quite shocking to see. Some countries are poorer and more dangerous than others. Whilst others are less touristy than others which can make them more unsafe. Popular cities like Rio de Janeiro have dangerous areas which should be avoided - don't try to be brave by wandering off the beaten track - it isn't worth the risk.
Book Accommodation in Advance
Choose hotels and hostels with a good safety rating, lockers and good reviews. Use comparison booking websites to search the best places to stay:
For hostels, check HostelWorld:
For hotels, we recommend Booking.com:
Learn the Language
Turning up in Latin America and not knowing any Spanish or Portuguese is a bad idea - it will make getting around, buying goods and booking accommodation more difficult. You could try to pick up the basics before departing by learning online or buying a phrase book. You could also also take a classroom course on arrival. View our guide to the best Spanish schools in South America or find Portuguese language schools in Brazil.
Book a Structured Experience
Travelling as part of a structured experience e.g. on an organised trip or package you will get an experience guide, local staff and other be placed in a group. These types of experiences are also a lot of fun where you will make new friends and do exciting things.
Popular options include:
- Central America tours / South America tours
- Central America volunteer programs / South America volunteer programs
We highly recommend trying to meet other people by chatting and being friendly. Its safer, easier and usually more fun to travel in a group and people whether local staff or other travellers will be able to offer latest up to date advice. Try to choose social places to stay like hostels so this will increase your chances of meeting new people.
Tips to Prevent Robery
Try to be streetwise - don't get involved with drgs or drinking too much. Wondering around by yourself especially at night in new foreign surroundings isn't the best idea. Try not to flash valuables like a phone, laptop, tablet in public, be discreet, sometimes in countries your laptop might be worth more than local people earn in over a month and so it is an easy target.
You should always keep an eye on your belongings when travelling on public tansport, theft if a problem especially on public transport, as a tourist you are an easy target. You could also store other things in the main cargo section of the bus and make sure you have a good lock or cover for your bag / suitcase. When you arrive at a destination always try to get an official taxi, most places have a professional taxi rank and sometimes when people approach you for a lift you will usually get charged more or you might be put at risk.
We recommend arriving in new destinations in the morning or afternoon, sometimes it can be difficult and dangerous arriving in a new place late at night or in the dark. When sightseeing or wandering around you should always be more aware after dark too. Use common sense, if you feel unconformable in a situation try to get out, and always try to let people know where you are going.
Always get official taxis at airports and even on the street - this limits the risk. You will find most local people to be extremely friendly but always be wary of people approaching you or offering you services. If something seems to good to be true it usually is.
Tips for Female Travelers
Latin America is an amazing region of the world to travel in and it is very rare to hear or violence or similar things against female travellers but always chat to locals and travellers for advice. Avoid drinking alcohol, or just not drinking too much as sometimes this is the cause of a lot of problems. Be dubious of people offering you drinks too, even other travellers. Try to dress conservatively, walking around in a bikini for example is going to attract unwanted attention. If you don't feel safe in a dorm room ask to change, try to get a female only or mixed room.
Now go book your next adventure in Latin America and don't let anything hold you back.