There’s never a bad time to travel to Latin America.
Travelers have flocked to Latin American countries such as Mexico during the pandemic due to some of the easiest entry requirements in the world.
If you’ve never been to Latin America, you’re in for a treat. Awesome food, beautiful scenery, and friendly locals await. But here are some tips to help you make the most of your trip.
Learn a Little Spanish (or Portuguese)
Look, I’m not saying you need to get fluent in Spanish before your vacation in a few months.
But it’s not hard to learn the basics, especially with all of the resources that exist today, from smartphone apps to audio courses.
Just 30 minutes a day during your downtime or commute is enough to get some elementary Spanish under your belt. And even that will go along way.
Not only will it help you navigate and communicate, finding hidden gems and making friends, there are some more subtle benefits that you might not even notice at first.
Be Wary of Scams
If you’re traveling in the developing world, someone’s going to try to scam you at some point. That’s just a fact you have to deal with.
And it’d take a whole other post to lay out all the things you need to look out for and avoid.
Fortunately, most scams are rather petty, like charging you a few extra bucks for an item or service. And you’ll start to get a sense for them as you travel more.
But just maintaining a general awareness will put you on the right track. Yes, the locals are friendly, but some of those seemingly “friendly” people are actually trying to get one over on you. So, be wary when someone approaches you with an offer or “deal”. This even applies to police officers.
Taxis are another common source of scams in Latin America. Make sure they use the meter. If it’s “broken”, find another taxi. Pay attention to the route they take, and try to have small bills to pay with.
Don’t Carry Too Much Cash
Crime is another unfortunate reality of traveling in Latin America.
But just like with scams, you can greatly reduce your risk by exercising some general awareness and caution.
For starters, don’t walk around with big wads of cash in your pocket – and don’t flash all your cash at once. The same goes for your $800 smartphone, jewelry, or other expensive items that might attract pickpockets or muggers.
Don’t go wandering around at night or through random, sketchy neighborhoods, especially not alone. And try to get a sense of the areas to avoid, whether it’s from a tour guide or the locals.
Following the tips above will make you unlikely to fall victim to crime. But if you are mugged, just give them what they want. It’s a scary experience, but usually you’ll just end up losing some money or a few of your belongings.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Don’t let the stuff about scams and crime frighten you. Chances are, you’ll be fine.
And hey, one of the main reasons for traveling abroad is experiencing new things. So, don’t fall into the traveler’s trap of spending your whole trip in a gated resort, eating hamburgers or pizza, and only visiting the pre-approved tourist attractions.
Get out of your comfort zone a little. Try new dishes, wander off the beaten path, flex your rudimentary Spanish at the local market, and maybe do a little salsa dancing, even if you have no rhythm.
Befriend the Locals
And don’t just stick with your group either!
Not only is interacting with locals fun and educational, you may find yourself getting better deals, finding new sites or restaurants, or even being invited to dinner.
The people are part of what makes a city or country what it is. So, explore a village, haggle at the market, take a cooking class, or just chat it up with the waitress at that hole-in-the-wall restaurant.
Respect the Local Culture
Like I said, you should cut loose a bit on vacation.
But that doesn’t – and shouldn’t – have to come at the cost of a place’s culture. No, you don’t have to go fully “local”, or wear a sombrero.
Just keep in mind that you’re a guest here. Have fun, enjoy yourself, but try not to get too belligerently drunk in public, dress inappropriately, litter at or cause damage to historic sites, or other silly things like that.
Buy Travel Insurance
It’s always worth buying travel insurance before an international trip, especially if you’re into more adventurous activities, like hiking, surfing, or paragliding. But even just eating out or swimming at the beach could carry a small chance of illness or injury when you’re in an exotic country.
And insurance is even more important during Covid. In fact, many countries now require tourists and other travelers to have insurance before they arrive.
Do Your Research
By reading this article, you’re already following this last tip. Kudos.
But hopefully, your research doesn’t stop here. Because there are so many things to discover, from where you’ll go and stay and what you’ll do there to the visa requirements at your destination(s). Just like insurance, this is especially important now because of the current Coronavirus restrictions.
Other things you might want to research are exchange rates, weather, and local customs.
But don’t get too carried away. You’ll never be able to perfectly plan everything in advance. And adapting and improvising during your tip is part of the fun of travel!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com