South America is a fascinating continent to visit especially for families from Europe and the States. Although most of the South American population originates from Europe and has similar traditions like the United States and European countries, we as Americans did notice some things that were surprisingly different. Here are six main things we suggest those traveling to South America should watch out for when visiting with family.
Recycled Plastic Water Bottles
Some countries like Uruguay recycle bottles multiple times. This fact is great for the environment but less for the customers since after a while the bottles don’t open well. When we bought a bottle and could not pry it open even after hitting it against a tree, the vendor did not want to replace it. We ended up throwing it in the trash. Parents should open any water bottles they plan to buy in the store before they finalize payment to avoid paying for a faulty product.
Many places in South America do not garden the same way as in European or North American locations. Plants in many areas are allowed to grow freely and untrimmed, even in city parks and urban areas. As a result, travelers need to be aware of cracked sidewalks due to tree roots and weeds everywhere. There is also a risk of allergies, especially during the spring season. Parents should pack plenty of allergy medication, especially if anyone in the family suffers from allergies to plant pollen.
Cab drivers in many countries often overcharge their customers when they realize they are tourists. Cabbies can take passengers for a long unnecessary ride to beef up the meter cost, as many tourists don’t know the area. They will also use the tourist’s ignorance to their advantage by switching between the Argentinian and Uruguay dollar. Parents should negotiate a fixed price for their taxi, especially if their driver either doesn’t have a meter or refuses to turn it on during the trip.
Old-fashioned pickpocketing has taken a different turn in places like the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires. There, thieves work their act in pairs. One person spills some form of liquid on the victim while the second jumps to help them wipe it off. In all that hoopla, the victim’s wallet magically disappears.
The best thing is for parents to wear a money belt under their clothes. This way, the money is not readily available to quick hands. They should also bring along another set of clothes to change into on a day trip, so they don’t have to stay in dirty clothes for the rest of the day. Also, travel vests like scottevest can be helpful and safe and offer hidden inside pockets to keep passports and wallets or cash.
Peddlers Walking on Freeways
The first time we visited Rio de Janeiro, it shocked us to see sellers walking freely along the freeways, sometimes in the middle of the highway, selling merchandise. Especially during rush hour time when the roads get congested and the traffic stalls, this can be quite unnerving. According to a friend of ours, this is pretty much standard practice.
Those planning to drive in certain countries in South America should prepare themselves to not only see things like that but to make sure that all doors are locked, and the family remains safe in the car with valuables out of sight. They should also be careful when driving to make sure they don’t accidentally hit a pedestrian on the freeway, a risk that travelers from the United States often don’t need to consider.
Most tourists travel nowadays using a combination of credit cards and cash since the era of traveler’s checks is coming to a close. Unfortunately, the majority of visitors don’t know that torn bills of any sort, especially American dollars, will not be accepted in most stores. Parents need to take only crisp and untattered bills and make sure that they lay flat in the money belt.
Have you visited any of the South American countries lately? Do you have any tips to share with our readers?