Solo Travel to South America (including 7 countries you can’t miss)
A Guide to Solo Travel in South America
South America is home to some of the most dramatic landscapes on earth.
The misty mountaintops of Peru and Patagonia, bold Brazilian beaches, and the glistening salt flats of Bolivia attract travelers from all over the world looking to experience something a little different.
It’s one of the most popular continents for solo travel even if the sheer magnitude of South America and its diversity can be daunting.
I’ll break it down into bite-sized pieces for you. Whether this is your very first solo adventure or you’re already a seasoned solitary globetrotter, this guide will cover everything you need to know about solo travel to South America.
What to Expect Solo Travelling in South America
In short, phenomenal food, friendly locals, and striking landscapes.
What more could a person ask for?
The food culture in South America is heavily influenced by its many indigenous groups and relies heavily on corn flour, potatoes, and generous helpings of meat. Although each country has vastly different traditional foods and food preparations. Don’t expect to find the ubiquitous taco of Mexico here.
Latin cultures are often warm and much more friendly than their Northern neighbors. You can expect to meet locals regularly and to be treated with nothing but kindness and generosity.
And if you’re looking to meet other travelers on the road, you’ve chosen the perfect corner of the world to travel to. For those who are hesitant about solo travel in South America just follow the well established “Gringo Trail”. The trail cuts through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina and hits the major tourist stops along the way. You’ll never be far from a network of like-minded travelers to link up with.
As far as sights go, South America is as diverse as they come. From wandering the pastel-hued Caribbean cities of Colombia & sky-high bustling metropolis’ in Peru, trekking in the Patagonian mountains or verdant jungles of Venezuela, to wildlife spotting in the Ecuadorian Galapagos, there is no shortage of awe-inspiring attractions.
No matter your reason for choosing South America, you won’t be leaving the continent disappointed.
Tips for Solo Travel in South America
What exactly do you need to know before you visit South America Solo? Here are a few tips to make your trip a breeze.
1. Prepare Vaccinations & Travel Insurance
Certain countries and regions have different vaccination requirements. Yellow Fever is present in South America & some countries require proof of vaccination for you to visit the Amazon Rainforest.
Travel insurance is always a good idea. Especially if you plan on partaking in any adventure activities like paragliding, trekking, or diving. Make sure you choose a travel insurance company that covers those kinds of activities though.
2. Look Up Visa Fees
Visa fees vary wildly across South America depending on your nationality. The fee for a U.S. citizen getting a visa to Bolivia or Paraguay is $160, while countries like Venezuela only charge $30.
3. Brush Up On Your Spanish
Although every country has several different locally-spoken languages, you’ll be able to get by with a rough knowledge of Spanish in South America.
English is not widely spoken and for first-time solo travelers, this can be overwhelming at first. If you struggle remembering common Spanish phrases it can be helpful to carry a phrasebook.
4. Altitude Sickness
South America has some of the world’s highest cities. Many sitting above 10,000 feet. Be prepared to take it easy upon arrival and be extra careful not to overindulge in alcohol.
5. Expect to be Offline
In many places in South America Wifi is unreliable if not non-existent. Be prepared with plenty of podcasts for long bus rides and offline maps for exploring cities.
But don’t worry too much about it. Many places will have Wifi. Just intermittently.
6. South America is Built For Backpacks
Even for the boutique traveler, there are benefits to traveling with a backpack in lieu of a suitcase. Those picturesque cobblestone streets become an obstacle if you’re reliant on wheels.
Solo Traveller Looking to Make Friends?
Fortunately for you, it’s easy to make friends while traveling in South America.
1. Stay in Hostels
Sleeping in hostels is one of the easiest ways to meet people in any country. In South America, they are budget-friendly and comfortable.
2. Facebook Groups
Search ‘South America Travel Groups’ on Facebook and you’ll find communities of former and current travelers to South America. Not only can you link up with others but it’s a great place to ask for up to date travel advice.
3. Go Out at Night
The nightlife scene in South American cities is booming. Do your research and find an expat or traveler friendly bar in the area and go mingle.
4. Join a Tour
From walking tours to food tours & cooking classes there are plenty of social activities you can sign up for. Joining a group tour is a great way to find a handful of like-minded travelers.
Travelling Safely in South America
For most solo travelers safety is the number one concern. & rest assured, South America is a relatively safe place to travel alone. But here are a few rules to live by if you want to err on the side of caution.
1. Avoid Nighttime Transport.
Night buses can be a convenient and cheap way to get around in South America, but being dropped off in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar city can also be a recipe for disaster. Check what time the bus arrives before you book.
2. As they Say in Colombia “No Dar Papaya”
Theft is the most common criminal activity in South America, although that shouldn’t deter you from traveling here. High levels of poverty lead people to drastic measures. “No Dar Papaya” simply means not to temp thieves by wearing flashy clothing or accessories. Dress casually and don’t flaunt your wealth.
3. Drink in Groups
This is where hostels can come in handy. Drinking heavily can make you an easy target. If you plan to really hit the town it’s best to go with a small group to look out for one another.
Planning a Solo Trip to South America
As you’ve probably noticed, South America is massive. Unless you have 3 months (at the absolute minimum) you’re going to want to narrow your focus. Pick destinations where the culture fascinates you, where the food scene excites you, and include any bucketlist-worthy destinations you can’t miss. For many trekking to Machu Picchu makes the cut.
Solo travel is deeply personal and one of the greatest benefits of solo travel is that you have no one to answer to but yourself. You can go anywhere your heart desires.
Whether that be a long-term trip around the entire continent or simply a few weeks in a single country the choice is entirely up to you.
Here’s a look at some of the best countries to visit solo in South America.
(Read Also: Solo Travel vs Group Travel)
One of the most diverse countries in South America. Colombia offers Caribbean beaches, lush jungles (including the Amazon), & Andean mountains. In fact, it’s home to nearly every ecosystem on earth.
A typical itinerary to Colombia will include the vibrant Caribbean town of Cartagena, the jungle town of Minca, a weekend savoring the idyllic shores of Tayrona National Park, and sampling coffee in the pueblo of Salento. The major metropolis of Bogota is gritty and grungy while Medellin is a digital nomads paradise.
If you’re looking for a great trekking opportunity, the ancient Lost City tucked into the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is comparable to Machu Picchu.
The most romantic destination in South America. Filled with tango, salsa (dancing that is), & of course wine. You might think Argentina is the last country a solo traveler would want to find themselves in. But you would be wrong.
Argentina is an extremely geographically varied country. You can spend weeks trekking in the snow-capped mountains of Patagonia, sink into the city life in Buenos Aires, or marvel at the jungle surrounding Iguazu Falls. But you should probably do a healthy mixture of it all. The Perito Moreno Glacier is an absolute must-see.
Often overlooked by solo travelers, Bolivia is a great country to make some friends. Group tours heading out to the reflective salt flats of Salar de Uyuni and the flamingo-filled Laguna Colorada are the perfect way to meet fellow travelers and check some items off your bucket list.
If you’re looking for more of a cultural hub, the sprawling city of La Paz is the place to be. But the serene laid-back vibes of Samaipata and Sucre are towns popular with expats and travelers you could lose yourself in for a bit.
Solo travelers visiting Peru should visit Cuzco– the capital of the ancient Incan empire, Lima– the culinary king of South America, trek through the Andes in Huaraz, make the sacred pilgrimage to one of the seven wonders of the world- Machu Picchu, and explore the traditions of the Uros people in Lake Titicaca.
Peru is also one of the gateways to the Amazon Rainforest. Most wildlife enthusiasts would recommend the Peruvian portion for the best chance at spotting exotic fauna.
Be sure to try some Peruvian Ceviche and Pisco Sours during your visit.
This is probably the least-commonly traveled country on this list. But Uruguay has a lot to offer a solo traveler.
For one, it’s one of the most LGBTQ-friendly countries in South America. (Although, South America, in general, has become much more accepting over the years.) Add to that its Gothic/Spanish Colonial architecture in metro-centers like Montevideo, the cobblestone streets of Colonia del Sacramento, and the now Instagram-famous ‘hands in the sand’ on the lovely Punta del Este beach. You’ll have plenty to see in this off-the-beaten-path destination.
Tiny country. Big attractions. Ecuador is packed with quaint colonial cities, wildlife experiences to top any bucketlist, and ancient Inca ruins. You can trek up active volcanoes like Volcán Chimborazo or even hike to glaciers nestled in the Andean Mountains. Quito & Cuenca are both UNESCO-Heritage recognized towns that are beyond beautiful.
The real highlight of Ecuadorian travel, however, lies off its coastline. The Galapagos Islands are some of the most ecologically diverse in the world. Come see 150-year old tortoises, penguins, and all kinds of animals endemic to this iconic chain of islands.
The country stretches across the entire east coast of South America offering glittering golden beaches and also adventures into the Amazonas region. If the great outdoors is your cup of tea the massive cascade of Iguaçu falls can’t be missed.
Solo travelers will spend the majority of their time in Rio de Janeiro. A city made world-famous for the wild celebrations of Carnaval and the iconic views from the Christ the Redeemer statue and Sugarloaf mountain. The modernized metropolis of Sao Paulo and the colorful facades of Salvador should also make the list.
Feeling Adventurous? Try one of these Off-the-Beaten-Path Solo Travel Destinations
Travelers who have been to Venezuela often name the country in their top 10 favorite countries of all time. Whether it’s the hospitable people, budget-friendly prices, or simply the added joy of venturing where few travelers before them have gone.
Intrepid explorers will have the opportunity to see Angel Falls, sun-drenched beaches, and of course have a little history lesson on Simon Bolivar in the modern cultural hub of Caracas. Venezuela is filled with national parks boasting gushing falls, thick jungles, rolling deserts, and sky-high viewpoints that offer breath-taking views of the country.
As far as cities go Santiago, the cultural capital, and a truly beautiful South American city and Valparaiso, are the most popular choices for travelers.
But Chile offers travelers looking to leave the city behind and immerse themselves in nature plenty of opportunities to do so.
Chile is home to wilderness still so raw and untamed it draws adventurers from all over the world. Torres Del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region is the most accessible for solo travelers looking to live an ‘Into the Wild’ fantasy. Or if the desert is more your fancy Valle de la Luna in the Atacama desert will give you a taste of unspoiled Chilean beauty. Lauca National Park is home to Chile’s trademark llama’s set against a backdrop of snow-capped volcanic peaks.
What Are You Waiting For?
South America has so much to offer a solo traveler today, no matter what it is you’re looking for. Plan a cross-continental trip that takes you through all of the countries above or a short jaunt to a single country of your choosing. Either way, you’re bound to fall in love with the continent and its patchwork of rich cultures and likely to meet some travel companions or lifelong friends along the way.
(Read Also: Group Travel in Your 30s & 40s)
Solo Travel to South America With Like-Minded Travellers Aged 25-45
We’re Other Way Round Travel and we bring together groups of solo travellers aged 25-45 for immersive & authentic trips to South America. Here’s some of our most popular South America trips.
12 Days in Brazil. Admire street art in São Paulo, trek rainforests in colonial Paraty and marvel at the madness of Rio de Janeiro. See Itinerary
12 Days in Peru. Cook ceviche in Lima, sail the Amazon, hike to Machu Picchu and become awestruck by the Sacred Valley. See Itinerary
15 Days in Colombia. Dance salsa. Meet coffee farmers. Sail tropical islands. Hike lush jungles. Taste the finest Caribbean rum. See Itinerary