This one goes without saying. Check all visa and entry requirements of every country you visit well in advance! Regulations have changed A LOT after COVID-19 and many countries now follow different processes when it comes to foreign entry. Although the Australian passport is strong, there are still some restrictions. I learnt this the hard way after realising that Chile requires an E-Visa for tourism only a few weeks before my departure date. This takes about a month (or more) of processing time, and you may be required to submit several documents. My visa was approved only a few days before my flight. Suffice to say, this is stress that can, and should, be avoided!
If you have any doubts or questions, take a look at the following website: SmartTraveller.
Once on the SmartTraveller website, simply select your destination from the list to check the following:
The age-old question is, do I take a Taxi or an Uber? When traveling to Latin America, you will undoubtedly be faced with this dilemma, especially when arriving at the airport. The first thing to keep in mind is whether or not Uber is legal in the country you're visiting - as this isn't always clear. Don't be shocked if drivers ask you to sit in the front seat to avoid fines from the police (this happened a lot in Ecuador). The idea is that you will play the role of a 'friend' rather than a client to avoid trouble for the driver.
Moreover, there is a distinct rivalry between taxis and ride-share apps, however, in terms of safety and reliability, it is recommended to use Uber/ride-share apps over Taxis. This is because the price is fixed (taxi drivers often change their prices based on traffic, location, and whether or not they know you are a foreigner). Uber also has built-in safety features to report drivers and track locations.
Now, take a look at some specific tips for both modes of transport:
The Metro is your friend! It's cheap, reliable (mostly), and is a great way to help you feel competent in the city. You can usually buy travel cards at kiosks in the stations or single passes. Traffic in many countries can be terrible, so the Metro provides an efficient way to travel while spending a lot less money. Many countries offer Metro cards that also function for other transport systems - so it can go a long way (literally!). Keep in mind, you'll find a lot of different people in the Metro stations and on the trains, just like anywhere in the world! It is very common to have buskers or people selling little goods on the Metro. If you don't want to buy anything, be respectful. A 'no, gracias' will suffice. However, be aware, in places like Santiago, it's forbidden to give money to vendors/buskers on trains.
This is perhaps my top tip for anyone traveling to a new city for the first time! There are loads of free walking tours that run in major cities all over Latin America. A tip is usually expected, so bring a little cash to give at the end. These tours are great for learning about the different areas of a city. It will give you a good idea of where you are, as well as an introduction to the rich culture of your destination! The guides will also be able to highlight the great spots to visit, and the areas to avoid. Listen to them!
This can also be a great way to make new friends - these tours are usually advertised in hostels, so be prepared to meet people from all over the world! If you're feeling up to the challenge, you can also take the tour in Spanish ;).
Here are some of my favourites:
This one is important. If you can get a bum bag, do it! Not only will this allow you to keep your items close to you at all times, but it can also help to keep pickpockets away in crowded places. Wear the bag crossbody and in front of you. This is particularly important in crowded plazas and on public transport. Try not to bring a backpack, and if you do, keep it in front of you. You can also get smaller and thinner money-belt bags to go under your shirts and pants - these are great for keeping your most valuable items out of reach.
The internet can be unreliable and limited. When you go to a new country, it can take a while to set up a SIM card, you might have limited data or no reception. Other common issues include low battery or trouble loading your GPS or Google Maps. I personally had my phone on aeroplane mode for most of the time to save battery. I highly recommend downloading an offline map of the city you are in on Google Maps. It's super simple. Just open your map and head to the Offline Maps section, choose your destination, and download. You will need wifi to do this, so it's great when you first arrive at the airport or the accommodation at your destination. You'll still be able to see public transport routes and private vehicle routes. It's also handy for tracking Uber and taxis.
When preparing to travel to a new country, Google, blogs, and internet research can help - but nothing beats the knowledge of locals. This is the best way to not only enrich your travel experience but also a chance to really get immersed in the language. Ask your waiters about their favourite place to eat, chat with vendors and staff at your accommodation, and ask your driver what sites are the most interesting to visit. They will have some amazing recommendations! One of my favourite experiences in Mexico was when I went with the staff at my hostel to get street tacos and then came back to watch some classic Mexican cartoons! They had so much to tell me about their country, it's an experience you don't want to miss. Locals also have very handy tips on the safety of different areas and what to do to enjoy your trip in the safest and most fulfilling way so take the chance to get to know them!
Moreover, group tours are by far one of the cheapest and easiest ways to see new things and meet people in a new country. There are many ways to find these tours. Hostels usually have them advertised, and sometimes even run them, so keep an eye on their notice boards. You don't even have to be staying there, and most places are usually more than happy to refer you to their associated travel companies or invite you on their tours. The app/website GetYourGuide is also great for finding tours. I joined many of them and met amazing people from all over the world. Get out of your bubble and try new things, you won't regret it!
This one is great if you're an independent person who likes to explore and try new things by yourself. It can add that extra layer of security you need to feel safe and comfortable. When travelling with friends, I like to give everyone an airtag. This is great for meeting up at places when you're unfamiliar with the neighbourhood or unsure of where you are. We've all had those "where are you?" conversations that seem to never end, this way you can meet up without all the hassle. It's also great for going out to markets or bars/clubs and making sure everyone gets home safely (especially as a female traveller).
A personal favourite of mine, and one that admittedly took a bit of practise, was to just trust your gut. If an area doesn't feel right, leave. If you think something is a bit off, acknowledge it. It can be hard to differentiate this from nerves, especially when travelling to a new place for the first time. However, I have never once regretted trusting my gut. Take your time and listen to yourself. This will help build your confidence not only in the country but in yourself. You got this!
Solo travelling as a woman can be daunting and nerve-wracking. But it can also be empowering, envigorating, freeing, and downright amazing! It is definitely possible and something all women are capable of. Myself and many other women have done it. So, if this is something you see yourself doing in the future, don't hesitate to come and talk to us at reception. We've got so much to share and are happy to chat with you about any queries you might have. You're always welcome to hang around before or after class, or even shoot us an email or give us a call!
Feeling ready to explore the Spanish-speaking world after reading this guide? Take a look at our courses to equip yourself with the last piece of the travel puzzle - some Spanish!
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August 12, 2023
Easy! Surprise your Spanish-learning friends, family or colleagues with a Gift Voucher. This voucher could be used toward a course fee or even texts. Please note that you will need to contact El Patio (phone…