Even experienced travelers sometimes find South America intimidating: it's enormous and has a historically bad reputation when it comes to crime. Those who take a closer look though will realize that this diverse continent is quickly changing. It is absolutely possible to travel through South America safely as a solo female traveler, and many women do so every day. Here are some tips to help you stay safe.
The first step for a safe trip to basically anywhere is to thoroughly research your destination. Recognize that different parts of South America have different safety concerns, and that some parts are much safer for solo travelers than others. Colombia, Chile, and Uruguay for example are considered quite safe while travelers in Bolivia, Brazil, or Venezuela run greater risks, particularly for robbery.
This isn't to say you shouldn't travel to these countries, just that extra security precautions may be necessary. Within countries, and even within cities, there are usually areas that should be avoided or visited only during daylight; learn these ins and outs before you hit the road.
Wherever you're going in South America, it's wise to take out travel insurance to protect your health and belongings.
Traveling through South America requires a certain level of vigilance. This doesn't mean you need to be constantly afraid or on guard, but it is important for solo travelers to be aware of their surroundings at all times. Predators thrive on the oblivious and unaware, particularly when it comes to crimes like pickpocketing.
One of the key tenants of traveling safely is to blend into your surroundings as much as possible. In most of South America this means wearing dark colored, more conservative clothing. Not only does this deter potential thieves who target tourists, it decreases the chance you will attract unwanted attention from men who get their kicks harassing women on the street.
Similarly, you can avoid becoming a target by keeping expensive items out of sight. Don't tempt would-be thieves by flaunting expensive cameras, jewelry, or cell phones. Carry only as much cash on your person as necessary. Keep valuable items locked up when you leave your room, or better yet, leave them at home if you won't need them.
Arriving in a new city after dark is an extremely vulnerable moment: you have to get your bearings, figure out where you're going, and maybe take a taxi or public transport to get there. Try to avoid these situations by arriving only during daylight with plenty of time to figure out where you need to be.
Unfortunately, many bigger cities in South America are plagued by unofficial taxis that are not regulated and bound by the rules of the city or a company. Getting in an unlicensed taxi could lead to robbery or worse. Avoid these issues by learning the colors and insignia of official cab companies and only using those services. When in doubt, most hotels and hostels will happily call a cab for you.
If you follow these precautions and keep your wits about you, you should have nothing to worry about while exploring this amazing and exciting part of the world.
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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