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Canadian traveler Yvone Ivanescu has spent an extensive amount of time living and traveling throughout South America including Chile, Panama, Brazil and Argentina.
After spending one year living in Santiago de Chile she was inspired to start her blog Under the Yew Tree . She dreams of one day backpacking across South America but until then plans on finishing her travel memoir, carry on travel writing and continue to experiment with social media here.
Yvonne shares packing tips for traveling to South America:
6 Packing Tips for Traveling to South America
South America is known for its crazy temperatures. Travelers should bring LAYERS including a waterproof jacket, especially if traveling to countries during their winter seasons. I can’t stress this enough: LAYERS, LAYERs and LAYERS!
Cities such as Santiago can get cold in the wintertime (May – October) and many of the buildings lack a central heating system. This means that there is NO heating inside many restaurants, hostels and stores; at times it can be colder inside the building than outside!
Every traveler should at least pack a good pair of merino wool undergarments and socks just in case.
Many of your favorite beauty products can be found in major cities in South America. Once I arrived in Santiago I noticed that I could get everything I loved, including LUSH dry shampoo and even my favorite Burt’s Bees products. My advice is to bring miniature bottles of the essentials and stock up when you arrive at your destination.
Editor’s Tip: major transit cities and airport shops around the world are usually a good place to find international toiletry and makeup brands making it easy to re-stock on your travels.
I noticed that many countries didn’t have my favorite over the counter drug brands, including Advil and/or Tylenol. Obviously each country has their own versions of these products and their effectiveness can vary depending on what you’re used to. Consequently, travelers should PLAN AHEAD.
If you are prone to certain medical problems such as reoccurring headaches, cramps and/or yeast infections and are particular about your medicine preference then pack a mini-medical kit with your essentials.
Many Latin American countries are quite conservative, so if you plan on being sexually active than bring an adequate amount of birth control and a “just in case” emergency contraceptive pill (morning-after pill). The morning-after pill can be controversial and it may be hard to obtain without a doctor’s prescription in some countries while other countries have banned its sale completely.
One thing that I noticed in Latin America is that the men can be aggressive. I often noticed that this behavior is exacerbated when women (specifically foreign women or “gringas”) dressed a little more risqué.
In short, leave the flashy or revealing outfits at home if you would not like unwanted attention.
I would strongly recommend that women pack in terms of functionality rather than style. I distinctly remember taking my adorable red Furla designer clutch when I went to Santiago. I was thinking in terms of style instead of practicality and didn’t realize that clutches are extremely snatchable. The robber had no problem and slipped my clutch off my wrist before running away with my wallet, camera and phone.
When traveling to South America, try to blend in. Avoid flashy clothes or accessories as they tend to label you as the rich tourist. Leave your expensive jewelry at home, especially any dangly earrings as robbers tend to rip them off if they think they are valuable. Travel with a cross body purse with a zipper.
What are your packing tips for traveling South America?
Please visit these pages for more packing tips on Latin America:
- South America Packing Lists
- Central America Ultra-Minimalist Packing list
- What to Pack for a Year Traveling Latin America
Suggested travel resources:
- Lonely Planet South America on a shoestring
- Lonely Planet Latin American Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary
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