South America - Volunteer, Gap Year, Tours & Activities

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 volunteer projects, adventure tours, gap year programs, Spanish language courses 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. Traveling 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 trips available.   



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South America Travel Guide

  • Number of Countries in South America - 12
  • Largest City in South America - São Paulo (11,500,000 approx)
  • Continent Area - 18,000,000 km2 (approx)
  • Population - 400,000,000 (approx)
  • Language Spoken - Spanish, Portuguese + Local Languages


South America Travel Highlights

  • Exploring the spectacular city of Rio de Janerio
  • Taking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru - possibly the best travel experience you can do in the world!
  • Visiting the spectacular Galapagos Islands and getting close to exotic wildlife
  • Making the trip to Patagonia in either Chile or Argentina
  • Travelling and volunteering in the Amazon region
  • Foz do Iguaçu Falls in Argentina and Brazil where you can see simply spectacular waterfalls which are now one of the New Severn Natural World Wonders
  • The Pantanal in Brazil or Bolivia which is one of the most diverse wetland watersystem in the world
  • Salar de Uyuni which is the worlds biggest salt flat located in Bolivia and here the earth and skyline seem to merge into one
  • If you are in Northern South America visit the Canaima National Park in Venezuela, you will get to witness up close the worlds tallest waterfall - Angel Falls
  • For old architecture Cartagena in Colombia is a recommended place to visit, expect a city full of colour and beautiful buildings


Getting Around

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.


Health & Safety

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 wetwipes with you, not all public facilities have toilet paper and also you might need plasters or other heathcare 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 expecially 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 flavelas 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 uncorforable 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.


Tips for Female Travelers

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 and learn 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 conservativly, 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.



Gap Year in South America

Gap Year in South America

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:

  • Rio De Janero, Brazil (explore this breathtaking city)
  • Easter Island, Chile (stunning scenery and famous headstones)
  • Machu Picchu, Peru (trek the Inca trail to one of the wonders of the world)
  • Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia (one of the world's largest saltflats)
  • Galápagos Islands, Ecuador (see the islands which inspired Charles Darwin)
  • Amazon Jungle, Brazil (amazing vast jungle)
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina (learn salsa or kick back in this great city)
  • Kaieteur Falls, Guyana (huge drop)
  • Cartagena, Colombia (stunning city to explore)
  • West Coast, Chile (travel up / down this beautiful coast)


South America Gap Year Programs 

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 voluntary 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. You can find paid teaching in Ecuador, or even visit the Galapagos Islands and volunteer your time and teach local communities.

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. 

Language - Learning Spanish in South America is recommended, there are lots of language schools in South America where you can take a language course and improve your Spanish / Portuguese. There are a range of courses included one on one which are tailored to the students needs to develop Spanish learning with confidence, itensive which will develop you language skills in a small interactive group environment and also combination and group classes. 



Backpacking in South America

Backpacking in South America

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 adventure trips 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! 



Volunteer in South America

Volunteer in South America

We help thousands of people every year plan trips to volunteer and on our website you can search NGO's, non-profits and international organisations who offer local projects throughout Latin America. There are summer and year round positions, you can also volunteer for free in South America by using our website. By participating you will be able to discover new countries, customs and cultures, meet new people and immerse yourself in local communities - we have enriching projects for solo travelers, familes and groups. South America is one of our top choices if you are thinking about volunteering abroad, each country is different and will offer new experiences. There are also some of the most exciting and rewarding programs where you can help wildlife, communities and conservation. Give back and make a real difference, if you are totally new to this idea or if you have thought volunteering in South America we hope our website will inspire you to do it.

Applying is a great way to do more than just your normal holiday, where you can mix and live alongside local people, improve your language skills, meet new people and try to have a positive impact. Placements can be challenging but allow you to be more than just a tourist. If you are a mum or dad, with an adventurous family, check-out our family programs - allow your family or group to - see the world with new eyes. Most organisations recommend you stay for a period of 4 weeks and longer, this is to give you time to really get to grips with a program and have the best impact.

Types of Prorgams

You can find rewarding South America volunteer projects in a diverse range of areas. These include community development, conservation and wildlife programs, humanitarian projects, educational and healthcare placements and more. Volunteer Projects vary depending on the country but some popular options include helping street children, preserving animals, working on sustainable projects in the Amazon.

Conservation Projects in South America

There are also various conservation projects available where you can working with remote indigenous communities, these volunteer trips are great if you are passionate about traveling and the environment. You might be working in teams researching and monitoring certain locations. Conservation programs really are for the adventurous traveler, there will be plenty of time to travel also.

Community Development Programs in South America

On our website you can search a wide range of teaching programs where you will be able to help people and communities. You could lead English lessons and help at schools, communities centres or at colleges, on some placements you will be able to work and live with a host family and in your spare time you will be able to help them improve their English skills.  You could literally help anywhere in South America, children will enjoy having you to help and if you have a passion for foreign languages and cultural learning experiences you will love these placements. Children in this continent are always eager to learn more and will really appreciate your help.



Eligibility & Accommodation

Most organisation will require you to be aged 18+ but there are opportunities for younger people including volunteering with your family or joining a specially organized trip. Depending on the placement you might also need to be in good shape and health, for example when working on building, contruction or programs which are in hot and humid places like the Amazon. The majority of programs do no require any previous experience but if you are joining a medical, healthcare or dental program you might need qualifications, a degree and work experience. Some people choose to stay with a local community and live with host families who provide accommodation, this is where you can enjoy the real South American experience but please know living conditions will probably be basic. 

Cost & How to Apply

We list over 500 volunteer organisations in South America and a lot of which offer free or low cost volunteer projects. There is a lot of choice and you can either apply direct with local projects and organisations which offer free opportunities or apply through an international sending agency who will charge a fee but provide placements, accommodation, transfers, meals and 24 hour in country support. You might be suprised to learn a lot of volunteer organisations in South America will charge a fee to particiapte, this includes grassroots projects and NGO's. Usually this fee or donation helps keep programs running which have no funding and also sometimes includes accommodation and meals. All placements are different so please research all before applying. 



Tours in South America

Tours in South America

On our website you can find different South America tours and also find international and local travel operators who will provide you with an amazing experience of your life. Exploring South America on an overland tour is highly recommended and there are so many places you could visit. With such diversity you could dive in the Pacific ocean, sail the scenic coastline or trek the Andes in just one visit. By joining tours in South America you will be able to immerse yourself in the bustling latino culture, brush up on your salsa moves, improve your Spanish and taste local cuisine. Our tours are open to solo travellers, couples, groups and families where you will get an authentic experience and travel like a local. Some trips last a day whilst others last over 6 months. Search adventure today.

Why Join a Tour of South America

Joining an organised tour is a great way to see places which might be difficult to get to solo, also everything is organised for you therefore taking the stress away from planning a trip. This is a huge continent and can seem quite daunting if you haven't been there before or don't speak Spanish and by joining tours in South America you will also get to meet and travel with other people which can make the experience a lot more fun. There are so many different tours available in South America, this is one of the greatest destinations to travel in the world. You can choose budget small group trips or if you have more flexibility there are lots of more expensive luxury trips. There are lots of different trip types too, including wildlife / nature tours, active and adventures, day and city sightseeing trips, hiking and trekking trips, cycling tours and family tours. 



Teach English in South America

Teach English in South America

South America is unlike anywhere else in the world, and teaching in this continent will allow you to experience a unique culture, facsinating history, friendly natives and also a lot of exciting places to visit. The official language in the majority of countries in South America is Spanish; one exception is Brazil where the official language is Portuguese. There is a great demand for English speaking teachers in South America and you can start a new career teaching in this exciting destination.

Schools in South America are very different to what you might have seen before, sometimes conditions can be basic and teachers lack resources which is where you can play a role by helping. Sometimes you might be working with classes which have around 30 students which will be a challenge but also a lot of fun. Local teachers will be very welcoming and also the students will apreciate your help. You might want to try to learn some Spanish phrases which might make the communication easier, no previous language skills or teaching experience is required though.

Most days you will work in the morning and afternoons helping with lessons from Monday to Friday. You might be helping children aged from 6 to 18 and helping them with their English or assisting with normal lessons like science, music, art, music and dance. You could be preparing lessons and activities, any ideas or creative games you have will be welcomed and integrated into class rooms.

Top Tips for Teaching in South America

  • Learn local Spanish words and phrases (or Portuguese for Brazil)
  • Know the best times and places to find employment
  • Research work permits in advance before departing
  • Work out how much you will get paid to what the cost of living is
  • Learn about local culture and etiquette
  • Consider un-paid positions to gain experience in the short term


Other Options