Now is the Time to Visit South America. Here’s What You Need to Know to Make it the Trip of a Lifetime
South America is calling you! You’ve probably been cooped up at home for the last year and a half, but now you are vaccinated and ready for a grand adventure. There are many places to consider visiting in the world, and South America is a destination you should consider. It offers amazing views, unbelievable food, gorgeous weather (and it’s practically in your backyard compared to other overseas destinations). South American people are extremely friendly, proud of their home countries, and want to make sure you have an amazing experience when you visit.
Before jumping on an airplane, though, you need to remember that there are new COVID-related restrictions and rules to consider before traveling to South America. Here is some important information, steps to take, and things to consider before booking your trip:
Before You Go
Even with all of the restrictions and new hoops travelers need to go through, visiting South America now is still guaranteed to be an amazing experience. The wildlife and fragile ecosystems in the Galapagos have been left practically untouched for the last year. Capacity levels are low, so tourists can visit Machu Picchu and experience it with few other travelers. It’s important to remember to plan in advance and have all of your logistics, including train and entrance tickets, coordinated.
Don’t be surprised if COVID safety protocols are different in each country you visit. While many of the common safety protocols in the U.S. are also implemented in South America, some are different. For example, many restaurants, shops, and other public spaces require mandatory temperature checks and the use of hand sanitizer before you enter. Even if you have just put on hand sanitizer before entering the restaurant, they will likely require you to reapply it before seating you. Some restaurants have implemented an ozone tunnel to fully disinfect the exterior of all of the guests before they are seated. Shoe disinfection is also common with certain businesses and restaurants.
It is essential to stay up-to-date on entry requirements. Don’t assume that if you are vaccinated that you are all set. In some cases, travelers will be required to complete additional paperwork, affidavits, etc., or present negative COVID-PCR or Antigen test results online before checking in at the airport. This is in addition to presenting documentation upon arrival in a South American country. Allow enough time to fill out the forms, as some are only available in Spanish.
If you have designed a multi-country itinerary, make sure you allow enough time to get a COVID test when traveling from one South American country to another. For example, if you decide to create a Galapagos and Machu Picchu itinerary in the next few months, you will need to add an extra day in order to secure COVID testing in Ecuador prior to departing for Peru.
It’s important to remember that turnaround times for test results vary greatly from country to country. Some labs in South America conveniently offer hotel service and will come directly to your hotel’s lobby to take the swab sample. This can save a lot of time and is less disruptive to your itinerary. However, these appointments must be carefully coordinated in advance to ensure availability.
Staying Informed While Traveling
If you plan to stay in an Airbnb, you may need to find a local source for updates on travel restrictions or other information. Hotels will provide up-to-date information as part of their service, while Airbnb guests can end up being left in the dark about local rules, which can vary from city to city. The vaccine rollout in South America is much slower than in the U.S., and some countries still have certain restrictions in place for locals and visitors alike. For example, curfews that do not allow people to be out of their homes, hotels, or residences between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. are still common.
Don’t be overconfident just because you have received the vaccine. Consider purchasing trip insurance to cover you for unforeseen events or mishaps. Even before COVID, it was strongly recommended that tourists purchase trip insurance to protect against the need to cancel the trip. The insurance can also protect you during the trip if there is an interruption due to sickness, a canceled flight, an emergency medical situation, or trip evacuation.
Your dream vacation awaits you in South America, and going now will provide the opportunity to experience the unique beauty of the landscapes and cultures of our neighbors to the south. All it takes to guarantee a flawless, memorable trip is to connect with an experienced travel professional who can help you prepare for any COVID-related regulations as well as anticipate any hiccups that might disrupt your itinerary. With the right plan in place, you can enjoy the many breath-taking experiences South America has to offer and make memories that will last a lifetime.
About The Author: By Damon Corkin, Founder and Travel Director, Andean Discovery