South America is a fascinating continent to visit, here you can see remarkable ancient cultures, enjoy the atmosphere of the worlds best carnivals or relax on tropical beaches. Our website features hundreds of backpacking adventures, gap year programs and activities in destinations throughout the continent. There are so many places you could visit but Machu Picchu is our number one attraction to see, other highlights include experiencing Carnival in Brazil, relaxing in Easter Island, Chile, visiting the Salt Flats in Bolivia, getting close to wildlife in the Galápagos Islands and visiting Patagonia in Southern Argentina. Travelling on a gap year in South America will be one of the most amazing experiences of your life and by using our website you can get inspiring ideas for what you can do and the types of options available.
There is an established bus transport system connecting the whole of South America, thousands of travellers use this service every year and there are usually no problems or issues. Take a book or some entertainment as most journeys last around 4 - 20 hours! Also we recommend aiming to arrive in 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 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.
To get the best value make sure you haggle at bus stations for the cheapest tickets, there are usually lots of companies competing and all will be willing to do business with you and offer you a discount to book with them. Also be wary of people approaching you at bus stations, this might sound pretty obvious but be wary if someone is close to your belongings or asks you to carry something. Some bus journeys are really long to be prepared, you might want to buy a blanket, pillow, food and drink. You might also want to wear a comfy pair of trousers instead of jeans, also carry valuables on you like your passport as you might need regular access on border crossing for example. You should always keep an eye on your belongings too, 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.
Check any vaccinations or medication 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 taking 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.
There are all the normal safety warnings for example don't drink too much and wander around by yourself, its best to always be safe and travel with someone especially in foreign surrounding. Try not to flash valuables like a phone, laptop, tablet in public, be discreet, sometimes in countries like Bolivia for example your laptop might be worth more than local people earn in over a month and so it is an easy target. Some places in South America have people living really below the poverty line and sometimes this can be quite shocking to see, you should also be more aware of your surroundings and be aware of any warnings about crime. Some cities like Rio de Janeiro have favelas and really poor areas which should be avoided. Generally you should always be more aware after dark too. Always 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. You will find most local people will be extremely friendly but always be wary of people approaching you. If something seems to good to be true it usually is.
There are lots of horror stories which make you be put off by travelling in this continent but don't let these hold you back. Every country in the world has risks and South America doesn't have any specific risks to put you off planning a trip here. Always research countries to get informed about local customs and traditions, we hghly recommend trying to meet other people by joining trips, programs or just chatting with other travelling in hostels for example. Its safer, easier and usually more fun to travel in a group. If you don't feel safe in a dorm room ask to change, try to get a female only or mixed room. Dress conservatively, walking around in a bikini for example is going to attract unwanted attention. We recommend 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. South America is an amazing continent to travel in and we would advice visiting, it is very rare to hear or violence or similar things against female travellers but always chat to locals and travellers for advice.
Plan a gap year to South America, search ideas and programs today. From trekking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu to exploring Buenos Aires, South America offers so many gap year travel opportunities. This is one of the most amazing continents to explore in the world where you can see remarkable ancient cultures, enjoy the atmosphere of the worlds best carnivals or relax on beautiful beaches. By applying for an experience through our website you will be able to sample the culture, mix with local people and get a totally different experience rather than just visiting places as a normal tourist.
Recommended must see places to visit on a gap year in South America include:
Paid Jobs - Finding jobs in South America can be difficult and the wages are quite low compared to Western standards. Some people work in hotels and hostels, sometimes gaining a work visa can be complicated, some places offer free board in return for work. You could also consider teaching, this is a great way to earn money whilst travelling although wages can vary. Lots of schools, orphanages and community projects throughout South America need English speakers to help.
Work Experience - We list gap year programs where you can help wildlife, communities, the environment, conservation efforts, communities, building and construction projects and more. You could teach English in Ecuador, coach cricket in Argentina, help communities in Brazil, work with wildlife and nature in the Amazon or gain work experience on medical, healthcare and media placements.
From short day options to trips which last over 6 months you will be able to join a small group trip to suit your needs and schedule. There are overland gap year adventures where you can visit a number of countries. You could join exciting trips deep into the Amazon, join a trek to see Machu Picchu in Peru or take a more laid back trip exploring a country like Chile. There are so many things you can do on a gap year in South America, we recommend visiting Rio De Janeiro, Galapagos Islands, hiking to Machu Picchu in Peru and visiting the stunning Amazon. We list lost of epic long gap year adventures which can last over 6 months.
One trip is a 12 week overland journey across South America with two thirds of the accommodation in hotels and hostels. The trip starts in Quito on 1st December and celebrates Christmas in the Inca city of Cuzco, New Year in Bolivia and Rio will be reached on 22nd February, in time for the biggest party in the world – Carnival! The duration is 63 nights (two thirds of the trip) in hotel and hostel accommodation – for those who want a few home comforts along the way! However, this is still an expedition by nature of its long duration and some of the remote places you visit so you must expect a degree of hardship, including some long drives on rough roads. The route takes in popular South America gap year destinations including Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, travelling through the Andes, across the Altiplano and Patagonia and passing deserts, volcanoes, glaciers and pampas grasslands. Your last 5 nights of the overland gap year trip are in Rio during Carnival so you can party your heart out – the end-of-trip night out on this tour will be a big one!