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My Top Tips for Keeping Safe in South America

By Vicky Lessen

Last updated: 16th May 2014

Prior to Gap 360 I went on a fabulous 4 month mini gap trip around South America. It was incredible… I saw a lot of Peru then went on to Chile, Argentina & Brazil (with beaches to die for)!

South America is notorious for its crime, however this shouldn’t put you off at all… I came back with all my belongings and memories that I will never forget.

If you are heading to one of these super countries and are slightly worried, or maybe you just want some advice to pass on to a concerned parent, I have some top tips I picked up:

1. Plan your route

Although this is fairly fundamental, it can often be forgotten. The one thing you don’t want to happen is to end up jumping off the bus at your stop, late at night and not a clue where your hostel is. That’s when you could get into a dangerous situation.

Always know roughly where your hostel is in relation to the bus stop/taxi rank so you can ensure you are going the right way (you aren’t being taken on a wild goose chase and down some back alley far from where you want to be) and you can avoid looking lost.

2. Learn the lingo

Spanish is the main language of the majority of countries in South America. In Peru for example the old language, Quechua is still commonly used in villages with Spanish a second language. Knowing even the basics of the language can be a great help and is usually appreciated with the locals.

If you are lost, nowadays it is so easy to tap into your high end mobile device and use your sat navigation app to find your destination. However if you are going to wave your iPhone about in certain places of South America, it’s a welcome invitation for a mugger. So you are going to have to ask for directions… vis-à-vis you will need to know the basics of the lingo.

You can take a language course before you travel where you can live with a host family and really begin to integrate into the culture. Alternatively get your hands on a good phrase book.

Lucky for me my other half is Spanish speaking, so I had a permanent translator.

3. Avoid carrying valuables

If you can avoid carrying phones, large sums of cash & any other valuables with you when out exploring please do! If you must take out a cash etc. keep it hidden.

Although highly unpopular (although I do see it creeping back in festival fashion looks) the bum bag/fanny pack is super useful at keeping things out of sight (under your clothes) and hidden. It also means you don’t have to lug a bag around – added bonus

4. Get advice from your hostel

Your hostel will give great advice and will know the safest routes, taxis and areas to explore. The staff at your hostel will have heaps of information (after all they live there!) and often they are able to book you safe taxis, tours and excursions.

5. Don’t be stupid!

This is fairly obvious. The main thing when travelling is to have your wits about you and be aware of a dangerous situation.  Don’t give strangers the location of your hostel you are staying at (remember ‘Taken’… most Dad’s aren’t like Liam Neeson… although how amazing would that be!).


If you are concerned about travelling or need any tips for staying safe abroad please feel free to contact a Gap 360 Trip Advisor: 01892 527392.

Gap 360 also offer a fantastic Safety Course which is located in London run by the travel guru to the stars; Charlie McGrath.

Stay safe!!

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