1. Travel
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Common Sense Safe Travel in South America


Traveling, exploring new places, discovering ourselves is a joy and a learning experience not to be missed. Being open to adventure and off-the-beaten-path travel is part of the experience. And yet, it's only common sense to know what to expect and take some cautionary steps. Some of these suggestions apply to travel anywhere, and some only to South America. Enjoy your travels, but be safe!

When away from home, there are some basic safety tips:

Documents and Visas:

  • Carry them with you. If you are stopped or detained by the police, you will need to prove who you are. If you're worried about having your passport stolen, carry it in a hidden pouch under your clothes.
  • Copy all your documents and leave a copy at home.
  • Email all your details, itinerary, passport number, name of embassy and visa, to your own email address, so if you lose anything, you can visit an internet café, log in, and get your details.


  • Travel light! Unless you are going on a cruise and will unpack once for the entire duration, you are better off with a smaller amount of baggage.
  • Pack what you can carry yourself.
  • Pack with the expectation that you will acquire more during your journey.
  • Pack your own luggage and do not let it out of your sight.
  • Do not ask other people to watch your luggage or agree to watch someone else's.
  • Never, never, never carry packages for someone else.
  • Make sure you know what you've packed in each piece of luggage. Place your name, address and telephone number inside each piece.
  • Use luggage tags, but make sure they are covered.
  • Invest in travel insurance. You may not like the cost, but if you need it, you'll be glad to have it.
  • Consider using one or more of these Travel Safety Items and Accessories.


  • Leave most of your credit cards at home.
  • Know your credit card numbers: whom to call if lost or stolen.
  • Use traveler's checks.
  • Carry your cash in different pockets, or in a hidden wallet on your body. A money belt is a good investment.
  • Do not put your wallet in a fanny pack, a backpack, or in a purse hung over a shoulder. These are very popular with pickpockets.
  • Don't count your money in public. Have a small amount in a convenient pocket for cab fare, bus fare, tips, etc.
  • Be cautious when using automatic teller machines. If you use an ATM in a public area, pick a well-lit machine and be aware of anyone who may be watching you.

    Keeping in Touch:

  • Decide on an itinerary in advance and leave a copy with family and friends.
  • US citizens can register their travel plans with the Department of State either before they leave or during their travels. U.S. embassies and consulates assist nearly 200,000 Americans each year who are victims of crime, accident, or illness, or whose family and friends need to contact them in an emergency. When an emergency happens, or if natural disaster, terrorism, or civil unrest strikes during your foreign travel, the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate can be your source of assistance and information. By registering your trip, you help the embassy or consulate locate you when you might need them the most. Registration is voluntary and costs nothing, but it should be a big part of your travel planning and security.
  • If you're going to be in a country for more than two weeks, register with the nearest embassy or consulate. If a search is needed to find you, this will be the place authorities contact.
  • Keep in touch along the way. Let people know of changes to your itinerary.
  • Use email, text messaging and the telephone.
  • If on an overnight or longer stay away from your hotel, let the front desk know your stops, expected time of arrival and departures.

    Arrivals and Departures:

  • Try to arrive in daytime.
  • Choose your own taxi. Do not be cajoled into accepting a ride from an unmarked cab.
  • In an airport, where possible, check in, go through whatever security measures and go to your boarding area.

    Staying in Hotels and Hostels:

  • Your choice depends on your budget and personal preferences, but choose sensibly.
  • Take a rubber doorstop to use on your side of the locked door.
  • Ask for a room near the elevator or stairs.
  • Check for fire detectors in public areas, hallways and sleeping rooms.


  • Keep them hidden.
  • Leave your good jewelry at home.
  • If you must take some, check it into the hotel safe. Don't wear it while touring.

    Medications and Prescriptions:

  • If you take prescription medicine, get a note from your doctor stating the medication, doses and a refill prescription.
  • If you are diabetic, make sure you carry a note on your person with instructions should you need help.
  • Do not try to take extra with you. Many customs and police officials might consider this drug trafficking.
  • Take your own first aid kit. In addition to bandages, topical ointments, sanitary needs, condoms, etc. painkillers, antiseptic wipes, etc., take along motion sickness remedies.

    Read page 2 for Personal Safety Suggestions.
    Read page 3 for Specific Country Information

    1. About.com
    2. Travel
    3. South America Travel
    4. Plan Your Trip
    5. Safety Issues
    6. Common Sense Safe Travel in South America

    ©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.