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South America travel guide

From incredible natural beauty to extraordinary history, an amazing diversity of cultures, and cuisine that's the toast of the culinary elite the world over, there's so much to love about South America...

Visit ancient rainforests and massive rivers like the fabled Amazon, or set off in search of lost cities. You’ll never forget your first view of the majestic mountain-top citadel of Machu Picchu — its true purpose forever lost in time. Wander the historic colonial city centres of Cusco and Lima or relax on Rio de Janeiro’s flesh-pot, sun-worshipping beaches of Epanema and Copacabana. Explore the vibrant world cities of Santiago and São Paulo. Get on the trail of dictators and revolutionaries in Buenos Aires or learn to dance the Tango — the ultimate expression of passion!

South America travel guide
South America travel guide: Machu Picchu

That’s just a few of the highlights of South America. There are hundreds more — including some of the most awe-inspiring natural landscapes anywhere on the planet.

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South America travel tips

➲ Only got a limited amount of time to get to know a new city? Our Big Five City Guides can help. We break each destination down into culture, history, dining, shopping and relaxation must-sees and dos. Access our city guides here.

➲ Check the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website for travel advisories regarding your chosen destination, and always register your travel plans with Smart Traveller.

➲ There are huge variations in climate across South America and also within specific regions. Seasons correspond with Australia but check the average temperatures and rainfall carefully for all destinations you’ll visit. It’s best to pack for all eventualities!

South America travel guide
South America travel guide: Visit Rio de Janeiro for Carnival. Image: Bigstock

➲ South America is a vast continent and unless you are on an extended overland tour you will probably end up doing a lot of air travel in a relatively short space of time. It can sometimes feel like you are spending your entire trip in airports! Don’t underestimate how tiring this can be. Check your proposed itinerary carefully and decide how much air travel you can manage comfortably during your trip.

➲ Check with your doctor regarding immunisations for South America and pack a comprehensive First Aid kit. Some medications may be difficult to obtain in remote areas. Generally the standard of food hygiene across the South American continent is very good, but as always, exercise caution. If you choose to eat at roadside stalls or markets, check the general standard of cleanliness and that a supply of clean water is present. As always, freshly cooked is best.

South America travel guide
South America travel guide: See the presidential changing of the guard in Santiago.

➲ When travelling to mountainous destinations like Cusco, Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca in Peru, or La Paz in Bolivia, allow time to acclimatise to the higher altitude. Altitude sickness is fairly common and in some cases can require medical treatment. Consult your doctor prior to the trip about the various treatments available. Take things easy for the first day or two. Move slowly, consume small meals and drink plenty of water.

➲ South America offers a fabulously historic and cultural travel experience — and exploring local towns and villages will be an absolute highlight of your trip. Observe all local customs and always show respect for religious institutions and monuments. Remember that people are likely to be much more conservative in remote areas than they are in the bigger cities and towns. A friendly smile will always work wonders, even if there is a language barrier.

South America travel guide
South America travel guide: Buenos Aires

➲ While travelling in South America, be open to experiences but always be aware of your surroundings and personal safety, particularly in large crowds. Avoid travelling on your own by taxi, or on foot in isolated neighbourhoods at night. Abductions and muggings are not uncommon. If something feels wrong it probably is. Trust your intuition!

Browse all our South America destination stories and Big Five City Guides here.

Do you have any tips to add to our South America travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please send us a message.

Additional images: Bigstock


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