TRAVEL TIPS

 

South America offer travelers a rich combination of natural wonders and cultural treasures, making it one of the world’s greatest destinations.

Visitors will need a sense of adventure and the drive to discover for themselves the smallest details as well as major attractions, and above all the ability to get the most out of every experience.

Please bear in mind the following advice when traveling in South America:

 

Travel Documents

Travelers entering in most of the South American countries must carry a valid passport. Visas are not required for travelers from the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Europe and Mexico. Any way, we kindly ask you to revise the updated regulation in your country just to double check you have all your documents in order.

Before arrival, make sure you pack a photocopy of your passport (the page containing your photograph and personal information), so you won’t have to carry your passport with you at all times, except for the Machu Picchu tour, in Peru. For your comfort and security, the rest of the time you can keep your passport in the hotel safe box.

In Peru, there is a special tax regulation for hotel services provided to visitors, so as soon as you enter in Peru, you will be given an immigration form known as the Andean Immigration Card (TAM for its name in Spanish). This small piece of paper may seem unimportant, but in fact it is extremely important because it will mean you will not be subject to payment of sales tax on your hotel accommodation. The TAM will be requested by all the hotels you stay at, so you can be exempted from this tax. If you lose your TAM, you will have to pay sales tax at every hotel, as well as a fine when leaving the country. Keep your TAM in your passport (please use a paperclip so you won’t lose it).

 

Time Zone

We will take Peru as an example of the referential times you should take into consideration when traveling to South America:

Peruvian time is 5 hours behind Universal Time, sharing the same time zone as Eastern Standard Time (EST) in the United States.

Time in Peru Time zones around the world
12:00hs 10:00hs in Mexico City (Mexico)
12:00hs in New York (United States)
13:00hs in La Paz (Bolivia)
14:00hs in Santiago (Chile), Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Buenos Aires (Argentina)
18:00hs in Madrid (Spain)
02:00hs in Tokyo (Japan), the following day
03:00hs in Sydney (Australia), the following day

 

Altitude

If you are visiting a destination situated at sea level, you will not have to worry about altitude problems.

Altitudes are a health challenge for some people and some of the main attractions in South America are located in the high lands like:

  • La Paz, Bolivia: 13,323 feet (4,061 meters), above sea level
  • Juliaca – Puno, Peru: 12,546 feet (3,824 meters), above sea level
  • Puno, Peru 12,531 feet (3,819 meters), above sea level
  • Cusco, Peru             11,151 feet (3,399 meters), above sea level
  • Huancayo, Peru 10,754 feet (3,278 meters), above sea level
  • Huaraz – Ancash, Peru: 10,006 feet (3,050 meters), above sea level
  • Ayacucho, Peru:   9,009 feet (2,746 meters), above sea level
  • Cajamarca, Peru:   8,923 feet (2,720 meters), above sea level
  • Arequipa, Peru:   7,660 feet (2,335 meters), above sea level

A change of environment implies a change in your body’s barometric pressure and in the concentration of oxygen you are breathing. These changes have two different effects: on one hand, your body’s cells swell, making you feel uncomfortable, which you can fight by drinking plenty of fluids; on the other hand, since the oxygen is 15% less than at sea level, your body begins to produce more red blood cells.

Altitude sickness is characterized by small headaches, nausea or maybe vomiting, or something more complex, including pulmonary or cerebral edema. This can be avoided. A period of normal altitude adaptation occurs on the second day, so at this time we recommend low physical activity, resting and drinking plenty of water.

Please eat lightly. When you eat a lot during your first days at high altitudes, your system requires more oxygen to process the food, which is taken from your muscles. That’s why you feel fatigue and headache. If you don’t overwork your body, altitude sickness should not be a problem.

Follow the tips and your stay in South America won’t have any setbacks.

 

Safety Measures

Most of South America is a safe region; however, like anywhere else in the world, travelers are recommended to take normal precautions to avoid setbacks during their visit.

  • Only carry with you the cash you will need, together with your credit card.
  • Try not to exchange currency with street money changers; exchange bureaus can be found in all main tourist cities and are much more reliable.
  • Never lose sight of your credit or debit card when engaging in a transaction (most businesses have wireless terminals), and try to avoid using credit cards in small establishments (carry cash with you for smaller purchases).
  • When withdrawing cash from an ATM, use machines located inside banks, hotels or shopping malls. Avoid ATMs that are not protected by cabins. ATMs have language options. Do not accept help from strangers you may see around ATMs.
  • If you have valuable items with you, use them discreetly.
  • Please remember that it is not a good idea to wear jewelry in busy areas. It is best to leave valuable objects like jewelry, passports and other items in the hotel safety box.
  • Carry your camera, documents and mobile devices in a bag positioned in front of you at all times.

 

Internet

Internet access is widely available in South America’s major cities and popular tourist destinations.

  • Most hotels offer a free internet service or internet-connected computers in their business center or internet corners.
  • Most coffee shops and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi connections and in some cities free Wi-Fi access is available in parks and airports.
  • You will also find internet coffee shops on the streets, offering low cost services charged by the hour or quarter of an hour.

 

Electricity

Voltage in South America is mostly 220/240v 60 cycles.

Many hotels are also equipped with 110/120v sockets. Most sockets are of the equidistant two-pin type. If your devices have a different type of plug, ask at the hotel reception for an adaptor.

Hairdryers are available at most hotels (from 3 stars upwards) and are available for use in the rooms, only.

 

Religion

Most South Americans are Catholics however; freedom of worship is respected.

Many celebrations and rituals associated with the Catholic faith take place throughout the length and breadth of South America. In addition, a number of mystical practices associated with ancient pre-Hispanic cultures remain alive to this day, as the result of a unique and remarkable process of religious syncretism.

Colonial churches, monasteries and convents house extremely valuable and interesting artworks. Take the time to visit these sites and admire their beauty.

 

Currency Exchage

The market forces of supply and demand, determine currency exchange rates. There are many currency exchange bureaus in major cities and popular tourist destinations. You can check the daily exchange rate in newspapers or other news outlets, or ask the reception staff at your hotel.

Use of travelers’ checks is becoming increasingly uncommon. Those travelers who choose to use travelers’ checks should expect to pay a commission between 5% and 8%.

 

Shopping

Purchases can be made in local currencies or US Dollars.

  • Argentina: Argentinean pounds
  • Brazil: Reales
  • Bolivia: Bolivian pounds
  • Chile: Chilean pounds
  • Colombia: Colombian pounds
  • Peru: Peruvian soles
  • Ecuador is the only country in South America that adopted US Dollars as local currency, many years back.

Check the exchange rate, which may vary from day-to-day, before making any transaction.

Credit cards and debit cards are accepted by most businesses (hotels, restaurants and stores).

Small stores and handcraft markets tend to only accept cash. Fortunately, there are ATMs in all major cities and at most popular attractions.

We do not recommend bargaining. We suggest you to demand quality products which support sustainability and benefit the local economy.

 

Tipping

It is usual to leave a 10% tip for waiter service in restaurants and coffee shops. In common with other parts of the world, tipping is subject to the customer’s discretion and the quality of service received.

We suggest that tips are given in cash, so they will not be reduced by banking or administrative commissions.

Tipping of taxi drivers is not expected.

 

Weather

The geographic location of South America makes it one of the world’s most climatically diverse regions.

As an example, a total of 84 of the planet’s 112 climate zones exist within Peru’s borders, making it one of the most agriculturally rich nations on Earth.

Above the Equator, is is hot a humid most of the year.

Bellow the Equator there are two clearly defined seasons: the rainy season (during the summer months from December to March); and the dry season (during the winter months from April to November).

 

Clothing

Bellow the Equator, the temperature may vary considerably during the day.

At night and in the early hours of the morning it is often cold and can be windy. At these times visitors should use warm clothing (a rain jacket is recommended during the rainy season).

For excursions and during periods of sunshine, visitors are recommended to use long-sleeved cotton shirts or t-shirts that will also provide some protection when temperatures fall suddenly. It is a good idea to carry a light jacket as protection against winds.

Walking in the cities is a very enjoyable experience, and we recommend that you wear comfortable rubber-soled footwear.

It is very important to use sun block in all cities, particularly in high altitude cities in order to reduce the effects of sun radiation.

Travelers should use moisturizer for lips and hands, because the highland climate is dry. It is also a good idea to carry lemon-flavored candies to refresh the mouth.

 

Transport

No matter where you are staying, we suggest you to requests a map at your hotel and ask for some directions and take a first orientation walk upon arrival. That will give you a sense of location.

Whenever you have time, enjoy short walks, during which you can choose to stop and visit handcraft stores and galleries, or observe local life as residents go about their daily activities.

When returning to the hotel and depending on your physical condition, you might choose to take a taxi. We recommend that you use accredited taxis. Taxis are not expensive in small cities; in big cities taxis can be a little more expensive.

 

Water

Mains water is not recommended for drinking, although this is due to its mineral content rather than health concerns.

Mains water is fine for bathing and washing. Please stick to bottled water for drinking.

 

Address Peru:
Urb. Lucrepata E-16, Cusco - Peru
   
Telephone numbers:
CALL CENTER:  +51 84 231710
USA Phone:  +1 720 2120813

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