South America is a BIG continent! As travel consultants, we know that proper planning is essential to creating an enjoyable trip. If you plan to travel to South America in the next couple years, this guide can help you make sure that every box is checked for a safe, fun and successful adventure. Items covered below include: flights, hotels, tours, passports, visa and reciprocity fees, travel insurance and more.
Hotels & Tours
Let’s start with a couple items that are both easy and fun. Deciding where to go and what to do is probably the best part of planning to travel. It’s also what we here at SouthAmerica.travel specialize in. We focus on creating a customized land package for your trip, allowing us to maximize your time so that you can see as many sights as possible. Once you choose your destinations and activities, simply select the class of hotel you prefer to stay in. We offer 3, 4, and 5 star hotels, resorts and lodges. >> View Recommended Hotels
Travel Tip: Save your 5 star stay for a big city or special event like Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. Then save some money by booking 3 or 4 star accommodations in places like the Amazon or Pantanal, where the emphasis is on exploring nature.
Flights are a critical part of the booking process because availability and price can change by the day. As a traveller, you have several options for securing airfare. SouthAmerica.travel works with flight consolidator Exito Travel, a company that specializes in South American flights. Their pricing is tough to beat and they often have access to internal flights (within South America) that the average consumer does not.
Many people contact us asking if they can use air miles or points they’ve earned. While we are not able to work with air rewards, we often recommend that you save those valuable miles for future travel and take advantage of our expertly priced airfare. Another option is to use your air miles to book your international flights to and from the continent, then rely on SouthAmerica.travel and Exito to find the best internal flights.
The One Year Rule: Flight information is typically only available 11 months from the current date. Thus, if you know the dates you plan to travel, just do some quick math to see which side of the rule you’re on. If you’re within one year of your desired departure date, it’s time to contact us and start receiving quotes. If you have more than a year to go before your trip, simply download our free, interactive travel guide to start planning your destinations and activities. Of course, we’re happy to create your customized land package more than a year out, but our travel consultants will explain that your flight quotes will have to wait.
Passports, Visas & Reciprocity Fees
There is nothing worse than planning a big trip, waiting for departure day to finally arrive, then finding out along the way that there is a problem with your paperwork. While easily the least exciting part of the process, it is so important to have all your paperwork in one place and ready to present, should it be requested. Nothing brings a dream trip to a screeching halt more quickly than being held back at a security checkpoint.
Passports – if you call in to speak with one of our travel consultants, this will typically be the first question asked. If you are planning to travel but do not have a passport yet, go get one! Once you have your passport, there are a couple pieces of information that our consultants will request. The first will be the full name of each traveler as it is listed on the passport. This is particularly important when booking flights. Second, a passport is typically good for 10 years, but we like to pretend that it’s secretly nine and a half. The reason for this is that some countries will require your passport to be good for at least six months from the date you plan to leave. Though this seems like a strange rule, one of our very own consultants was held back at a checkpoint recently because his passport was one day short of being good for six months from the day he planned to leave the country. Do some quick math and make sure that your passport is good for the duration of your trip, as well as six months after.
Visas – a travel visa allows the country you’re visiting to know where you plan to be and for how long. The cost and method of acquiring a visa depends on your nation of origin as well as the countries you plan to visit and the duration of your stay. Please refer to our Tourist Visas page for more information, and remember that only the consulate of the country you plan to visit will have the most complete and accurate information. As an example, an American citizen visiting Brazil will need to acquire a visa from the nearest US-based consulate in advance of the departure date. However, the same person traveling to Bolivia can purchase a visa at any entry point to the country, as well as from a local consulate. >>Recommended: Travel Visa Pro
Reciprocity Fees – don’t feel bad if you’re unfamiliar with this term. Even experienced travelers contact us with questions regarding this tax. As the name suggests, a reciprocity fee is charged to a foreign citizen visiting a country when citizens of that country are charged a fee to go the other direction. For example, an American citizen visiting Argentina will be charged USD $160 because Argentines are charged the same fee when they visit the United States. Alternately, Americans do not have to pay a reciprocity when visiting Chile because the United States dropped its tax on visiting Chileans in early 2014.
Travel Insurance & Health Preparation
South America is a place to expect the unexpected. That is part of the excitement of traveling, after all. Our travelers write in all the time telling us of the delightful surprises they encountered on their trip. The flip side of unexpected occurrences can include bad weather canceling a tour or flight, lost or damaged items, or falling ill. Thankfully, travelers have a wide range of affordable insurance options to cover unforeseen circumstances.
Insurance – purchasing just a small amount of insurance before your trip can really ‘pay off’ in the end, should your trip not go as planned. Need to delay your trip, or cancel entirely? Insurance can help you recover payments made that might otherwise be partially or non-refundable. Did a big storm cancel a connecting flight, causing missed tours and activities the following day in your next destination? Insurance can help make sure that you get back what you missed out on when there was nothing else you could do. >> More on travel insurance
Health – as a travel agency, we are not able to give any ‘official’ medical advice regarding travel to South America. Only your doctor or a medical professional can properly help you prepare. However, we are able to share a few insider tips to steer you in the right direction. For example, many customers have concerns over altitude sickness, which doesn’t affect everyone but is noticeable at altitudes over 8,000 feet (2,500 meters). Several cities in the Andes mountain range can literally leave your head spinning. Cuzco, Peru and La Paz, Bolivia are both over 11,000 feet above sea level. The good news is that proper travel planning and acclimatization can ensure your comfort. >> More on altitude sickness
See Yourself in South America!
If you’re ready to travel, complete the below form and a member of our Travel Team will contact you within 24 hours to begin working on a customized itinerary.