The biggest mistakes I made in South America and how to avoid them

South America was an amazing trip for me. I went solo for part of it, and with a tour group for the rest.  I traveled throughout Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. For the most part, I had an amazing time in South America but I definitely learned a few things and make some mistakes. Here are a few of mistakes I made while in South America, so hopefully you can learn from them.

Eating Raw Veggies at a Questionable Restaurant

I was told many times to not eat any uncooked fruits or veggies while on my trip because they often wash them with dirty water.  The only problem was most of my diet consists of fruit and veggies so this was just not an option for me.   I made the mistake of eating a fresh salad at the first restaurant we came to after our 4 days trek across the salt flats, I just wanted something that crunched so badly…. This salad ended up costing me 4 days in bed, 2 doctor visits with serious parasites that just wouldn’t go away. Unfortunately, this sickness also happened to coincide with the much anticipated Inca trail trek so I missed that too.

Not Doing What I Wanted to Do

I love horseback riding. There is nothing more liberating than just galloping with nowhere to be.  So when the opportunity presented itself to go I should have said yes… Instead, I opted to do what the rest of my group wanted to do… A wine tour.  Don’t get me wrong I had a blast but I always think about what it would have been like, to this day.  Make you made your adventure yours and do the things you really want to do.  You will be happy you did.  

Over Packing

I brought wayyyyyy too much stuff to South America, I had a huge bag that probably weighed 50+lbs.  It was heavy, awkward, and honestly annoying. Every time we traveled to a new location I had to lug the giant bag. It hurt my back, made moving around more difficult, and frustrated the crap out of me.  The first couple of days in I met a girl from Australia who was throwing out some of her clothes.  I was shocked and couldn’t understand why (because her bag was too full she said but it was half empty in my opinion) needless to say by the end of the trip, I totally understood and wish I could have made myself do the same… 

Buying ‘Alpaca’ Clothes from Street Vendors

I would say a solid 90 % of the vendors throughout South America sell what they call alpaca wool.  I am not entirely sure what it actually is, but it is definitely not 100% alpaca wood.  When I was in La Paz, Bolivia I found a store selling 100% alpaca wool sweaters, scarves etc. I immediately realized the sweater I had bought was not alpaca wool.  The alpaca items in the store were at least 5 times the price but oh man was there a huge difference in quality and feel, so soft, so well made.  The stuff I bought off the streets quickly becomes itchy and sheds everywhere.

I’m not saying don’t buy anything from them just know… It’s not real alpaca although they will tell you it is. When you find the real stuff be prepared to spend at minimum $50 for a scarf and $100 for a sweater… likely more.

Paying to Take Pictures with Dressed up Alpacas

You’ll see them everywhere you go, alpacas dress up with traditional clothes, generally, you will see kids as their handlers.  Paying to take these pictures not only encourages kids to not go to school but their parents to send the kids out. It is not fair for the alpacas either, they are forced around town on the concrete or stone roads instead of in the fields where they belong.  But I got sucked in and paid to take an adorable picture. The worst part my memory card got destroyed so I don’t even have the picture!

I hope you can learn from some of the mistakes I made.  Is there anything you did in South America that you would do differently next time? Leave a comment below!

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