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Having a small backpack will help you with all of the outdoor activities when you travel to South America.

13 Essentials to Pack When You Travel to South America

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Packing is a big to do to begin with. Travel to South America is quite different than when traveling through Europe or North America. As the best spots to hit are in nature as opposed to big cities, there is much more to keep in mind.


With so many different climates and landscapes, there is a lot to think about when getting ready for a trip through these countries. Check out some travel essentials particularly for when you travel to South America.


Essential for Travel to South America #1: Altitude  Sickness Pills

The altitude in certain places through South America is no joke. Nothing is worse than getting sick, and if you aren't used to high altitudes, it is much better to be proactive than reactive. Get altitude sickness pills and take them right before you arrive, because if you take them after, it may be too late.


High altitudes usually take a couple of days to get used to, so make sure you are taking them regularly until you are well adjusted. Coca leaves and Mate de Coca (tea made from leaves of the Coca plant) are also good to take throughout the day.

mate de coca, essentials for travel to South America

A great way to help altitude sickness is by drinking Mate de Coca.


Essential for Travel to South America #2: Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is useful in so many different ways! Because of how the weather fluctuates in South America, skin can get really dry, and coconut oil is a nice fix for dry skin and hair. It can also tame frizzy hair with those humid temperatures, and strengthens the ends to keep your hair shiny and smooth.


This oil is also great to have if you want to cook in a hostel, but don't want to buy an entire thing of cooking oil, (it is also a healthier alternative). We suggest bringing small containers and seal them well, as although it is solid in cool temperatures, it liquifies when it gets warm.

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Essential for Travel to South America #3: Hand Sanitizer

When we traveled through South America, the one thing we had wished we brought that we didn't was hand sanitizer.


Whether its to stay clean during those long bus rides, or for when nature calls, its really handy to keep with you. Not to mention, there are so many bathrooms that don't have soap, and no bathrooms on those long hikes.

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Essential for Travel to South America #4: Toilet Paper

It may sound silly, but while you travel to South America toilet paper can be difficult to come by, even in restaurants or hotels! Grab a roll to have just in case you come across a place that doesn't have it, or wants you to pay. Believe it or not, in Bolivia and Peru we went to more places without toilet paper, than with.

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Essential for Travel to South America #5: Face Wipes/ Baby Wipes

With all of the crazy hikes you'll be doing, combined with the high temperatures, things can get pretty sweaty. Have face wipes on hand to freshen up, when nature calls, or if you happen to get dirty along the way.

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Essential for Travel to South America #6:  Brazilian Canga

The canga is our absolute favorite travel essential, and for a good reason. This thin Brazilian blanket is good for having a place to sit on those long hikes or at the beach, can protect your electronics, be used to dry off, and so much more. Cangas are lightweight, so they are easy to carry, and can be used in so many ways.


Investing in some Brazilian Cangas made our travel to South America so much more pleasant and practical. If you do plan on visiting Brazil, these will be very easy to find, costing around $5-10 USD.

Canga- dry yourself

Cangas are light and can be used for a number of things.


Essential for Travel to South America #7: Bug Spray

South America has a lot of nature and rainforest, which means a lot of bugs. Certain areas where there are jungle or it gets to be extremely humid, require tons of bug spray.


Before you travel to South America, we suggest investing in a good bug spray. There is nothing more annoying than getting eaten alive while doing a few day trek.

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Essential for Travel to South America #8:  Vaseline

Vaseline was somethign we ended up using more than we though we would. Due to temperature changes, and long hikes, our skin, (particularly our feet and lips) got extremely dry. We used vaseline to put on the heels of our feet and as a substitution of chapstick overnight so that our skin could heal through the night.


Essential for Travel to South America #9:  Reusable Water Bottle

With all of the hiking that there is, and hot temepratures, it is more important than anything to stay hydrated. Skip the plastic and invest in a water bottle that you can refill and use along the way. 


There are awesome water bottles that hold the temperature, which are extremely helpful, and some water bottles with filters, which are particularly good in South America due to some places not having drinkable tap water. Head to Amazon for some great deals on these.

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Essential for Travel to South America #10:  Travel Pillow

Because South America is so spread out, places are actually further than they seem. Our favorite way to travel around was to take overnight buses from one place to another. This way we could save money and time. Comfort is key, so make sure that you have a small pillow to keep those long rides as comfortable as possible.

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Essential for Travel to South America #11:  Small Backpack

Whether its a 4 day trek through Machu Picchu, or just a day trip to some waterfalls, there is always adventure  when it comes to travel in South America.


Ditch the purse and bring a small backpack to bring your travel essentials in. The backpack will be much more comfortable and practical, and make those treks a lot easier.

Machu Picchu trek, travel to South America

Having a small backpack will help you with all of the outdoor activities when you travel to South America.

Essential for Travel to South America #12: Plenty of Cash

ATMs are very hard to come by in certain areas of South America and credit cards are not accepted widely through these countries, especially if you aren't in a big city. Make sure you always have plenty of cash on you, so you don't run into any problems.


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Essential for Travel to South America #13:  Poncho

The weather can be pretty unpredictable when you travel to South America, and you never know just when it might start raining.


It can be complete sunshine, but once you hike up that mountain it can start to pour. Ponchos are great because they are light and don't take up much room, but can save you and your belongings from getting wet.


Travel to South America is super exciting, but if you are not prepared, you can find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Make sure that you either bring some of them with you, or purchase them when you start your travels in the larger cities. 


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