Solo Travel in South America
Solo Female Friendly Star Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Budget: $30 to $90 a day
Most Expensive: Uruguay & Chile
Safest Country in South America: Uruguay
Most Dangerous Country in South America: Venezuela
Languages Spoken: Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English (in the Falkland Islands and British Guyana), French in French Guiana.
About South America
South America is made up of: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, British Guyana, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Falkland Islands, French Guiana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.
South America is a melting pot of cultures and dance, from samba in Brazil to the Argentine tango, this continent has soul with a Spanish flavour. It has everything from the world’s driest desert to tropical rainforests, snow-capped mountains, volcanoes and colonial towns, and is one of the most bio-diverse continents, with many high-altitude cities and towns.
The Amazon runs through seven of the thirteen countries, including one of the largest, Brazil, with a harbour fit enough to be one of the Seven Wonders. Soak up some rays at Copacabana Beach, go bohemian in Santa Teresa, dance to Brazilian beats at Bahia or just marvel at Iguazu Falls, which are higher than Niagara.
Then there’s Easter Island. The world’s most isolated inhabited island, known for its giant moai statues and named after the day it was discovered.
Wherever you choose to go, solo travel in South America and you can expect to return home with more than a few new dance moves.
If you're planning on taking a South America trip or backpacking South America, below is a summary of each country to help you choose the right destination for you. Click on the images at the end for the solo destination guides. For a more detailed guide, read: Related Post: How To Travel With South America
Solo Travel in South America
South America is a continent that’s popular with backpackers and many women travel here without any problems. It’s mainly a macho society, so expect attention from males, whether it’s just shouting “linda” (meaning beautiful) from afar or asking you to dance. If you travel to rural areas, they may not be used to seeing a woman alone, so expect even more attention of the flattery kind.
In the more-developed cities, such as San Jose or Medellin, you can dress how you like so there’s no need to dress conservatively. Crime is the biggest issue here, so be careful of your belongings and if you go off the beaten path, buddy up with other travellers or take a tour.
Travelling in the less-developed countries of Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador will be a culture shock, especially in Bolivia. First due to its poverty and second because of its altitude. Travelling to neighbouring Venezuela is not advised due to the economic and political situation at present.
Travelling Around South America
Unlike Central America, South America has vast distances and flying from country to country is not the cheapest method to get around. Although airlines operate within many countries in South America, the routes are not generally direct. Costs can be expensive compared to flying internally within countries. A good tip here is to cross the borders by bus, then fly within the countries to maximise your time away.
Although bus travel is the cheapest method of travelling around the continent, you need to be cautious on some border routes, which are popular with robbers. Travel during the day and check travel forums if you have to travel overnight to make sure that your route is safe. If you do travel by bus, expect some routes to be windy if you’re going through a mountainous pass.
Hiring a car isn’t really advised as the traffic can be chaotic and you don’t want to be driving anywhere off the beaten track alone. There is also the chance of being stopped by corrupt police, so use other methods of transport if you can. If you have time, taking a river cruise through the Amazon is a unique way of getting from country to country.
But if you travel from Colombia to Brazil, for example, you’ll need to allow a few days to get there. Some islands here are too far to travel by sea, so if you want to visit San Andres, Easter Island or the Falkland Islands, you have to fly.
Below is a summary of the countries and how to get around.
Solo Travel in Argentina
There is more to Argentina than the leg-flicking tango and the Falkland Islands. The Argentines enjoy good wine and steaks, and have a passion to be proud of, not to mention stunning fjords and lakes within the Patagonia region, which they share with Chile.
There is a good travellers network in Argentina and friendly locals, especially the younger generation, who are open to mixing with travellers. Just be careful of the stray dogs that hang around some of the bus stations.
Travelling Around Argentina
Argentina isn’t that cheap to fly around, although there are airlines which offer domestic routes, such as Aerolineas and LADE. Be prepared that travelling here will eat into your budget. There are many bus companies for long-distance travel and some with fully reclinable seats. If you can’t afford a seat that goes all the way back, then take a semi- cama instead, which is cheaper and still comfortable.
There are tourist trains which operate along La Trochita and the Tren a las Nubes, which take you towards the Chilean border. Avoid the trains otherwise, and in towns opt for shared taxis, which operate on fixed routes and leave when full. Boats on the Patagonia side will take you into Los Glaciares National Park and Nahuel Huapi National Park.
Solo Travel in Bolivia
Bolivia may be poor, but it is rich in scenery and has the highest capital in the world, Death Road, the witches’ markets in La Paz and the blinding sight of the Uyuni salt flats. Although there is crime, Bolivia is still one of the safest places in South America and being the cheapest, it’s popular with travellers, so you’ll find plenty of others here.
Avoid taking any jungle tours alone, and watch for petty thieves within markets and bus stations. Be careful at night and in Oruro, and on any border crossings. Steer clear of El Alto, as it is not the safest place for tourists, with robbery and pickpocketing.
Getting Around Bolivia
Bolivia does have a poor road system, but the best way to get around the country is still by bus. Taking tours, especially those on a 4×4, is the best way to see the stunning landscapes in Bolivia, and necessary if you’re travelling overland from Bolivia to Chile through the Atacama Desert. There are trains here, but they’re generally slower than buses and flying can be quite costly. Consider taking a tour if you don’t fancy a rough bus ride.
Solo Travel in Brazil
Brazil is huge and has so much to see. If you’ve ever wanted to see the Christ the Redeemer Statue, take a cable car across Sugarloaf Mountain or witness the stunning Iguazu Falls, then Brazil should be on your solo bucket list. Other popular destinations apart from Rio de Janeiro and Iguazu Falls are the beach destinations of Bahia & Salvador, Fortaleza and the tropical beaches of Recife.
In a country the size of Brazil, you may not find many other travellers outside the main tourist destinations and cities. You do need to be careful here, as it has a high crime rate, so don’t walk around with any valuables on show and be careful at ATMs.
Take caution if you go off the beaten track, especially if you take a jungle tour with a male guide. Look for larger groups or team up with fellow travellers if you want to explore lesser-trodden routes. Brazilians are really friendly, but having some phrases of Portuguese will help you to get by.
Travelling Around Brazil
Brazil offers air passes to make the most of flying around the country. You can buy tickets within the airport or even shopping malls with Latam. Trains offer a more scenic route than some of the bus journeys, which can be up to 36 hours in some places, but you can get different classes on buses. If you’re on a budget, take an economy bus or a deluxe bus if you prefer more comfort.
British Guyana & French Guiana
Both British Guyana and French Guiana aren’t really tourist destinations. Georgetown, the capital of British Guyana, has a high crime rate and although the city has some colourful colonial architecture, you probably wouldn’t want to be solo here.
The rest of the country offers community-based tourism, birdwatching and wildlife. Minibuses and river taxis allow you to travel through the small country of Guyana, as well as 4x4s and hire cars, but if you do visit here, you may feel more comfortable with an organised tour.
Travelling Around Guyana & French Guiana
French Guiana is a territory of France. Tourism infrastructure is difficult here and you could find yourself waiting hours for a minibus from Saint Laurent du Maroni to Cayenne, the capital. Boats take you across the river from Saint Laurent du Maroni to the border of Suriname. The biggest attraction here is the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou, but you do need to book ahead for a tour (in French). Hire a car if you come here.
Solo Travel in Chile
Chile is a beautiful country. You have the Atacama Desert, the cosmopolitan capital of Santiago surrounded by the Andes Mountains, the colourful port city of Valparaiso, the Lake District, Northern Patagonia and Torres del Paine National Park.
It is a popular destination with solo females, so expect to meet others, especially in the funky area of Bellavista in Santiago. Relax on the endless stretch of Chile’s northern beaches, visit a vineyard for a Chilean Blanc or experience the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world where you can also meet others.
Travelling Around Chile
Chile has good overnight buses and internal flights. You can even try to get a discount on your bus ticket if you see a bus half-full. Locals hitchhike here, but like anywhere, follow your gut instinct if you decide to do it. Getting to Patagonia, however, is a different story. There is no direct road from Chile, so taking a flight or a boat is the only option. Although once you’re there, you can sail around the fjords. Chile can be combined with Argentina if you have time.
Solo Travel in Colombia
Colombia, once declared too dangerous to travel to, is now a magical realm for tourists, with Caribbean beaches, coffee plantations and the Amazon. It has come a long way in the past decade. Medellin, Bogota and Cartagena are among the most popular destinations here, with the Pacific Coast lacking in tourism infrastructure.
Although Colombia gets a bad rap in the press, the majority of areas are fine for a solo female. Safety has improved over the past decade in Colombia, but if you walk around with valuables on show, you are more likely to be robbed. Avoid certain areas, especially the more remote areas, and avoid hiking alone. There are cases of buses being held up, so avoid night buses on particular routes, such as Bogota to Quito, and opt for travelling during the day instead.
Only carry as much money as you need, and don’t carry all of your credit and debit cards with you. There is still guerrilla activity within parts of the Amazon, so avoid exploring by yourself. Colombia is a beautiful country, with the friendliest people, but you do need to be street-wise here.
Getting Around Colombia
In the cities of Bogota and Medellin there is a good transport system, with both having metro and bus services. If you take a taxi, use a taxi app in Bogota and avoid hailing one in the street. In Medellin, you can take a taxi from the street. There are also collectivos, which are minibuses. Instead of taking a bus across the country, look at Viva Colombia for internal flights. Some of the roads are mountainous, so you may prefer to fly if you suffer from travel sickness.
Solo Travel in Ecuador
Neighbouring Ecuador is also diverse. From the colonial town of Quito to whitewater rafting in Tena, there is much to see in this Land of Eternal Spring. Visit the Galapagos Islands for cloud forests, active volcanoes and unique wildlife. Some solos combine Ecuador with Peru or Colombia and travel overland.
Don’t miss the Equator Line, which runs through the country. You can visit this touristy spot to say that you stood at the ‘middle of the world’. Banos is absolutely stunning and is for the adventure solo, with whitewater rafting, paragliding, canyoning and bridge swings. The area is lush with waterfalls. Trek the Quilotoa Loop for beautiful views of a crater lake, surf in Montanita or visit the Equatorial Amazon.
Ecuador is relatively safe, but avoid certain areas of Quito at night. Theft does happen on the buses, so be careful at bus stations and keep your belongings close to you. The Galapagos Islands are welcoming to travellers and have a laid-back attitude, but be prepared for some friendly attention.
Getting Around Ecuador
Buses are incredibly cheap in Ecuador and follow a certain route. If you want to get off the beaten track and visit a corner of the country, then you may find yourself spending hours on a bus having to backtrack. Keep your valuables on your lap in the buses too, as they are known for thieves.
If you aren’t taking a cruise around the Galapagos Islands, fly to them instead. You can take a flight from Guayaquil or Quito, and fly into Santa Cruz and fly out of San Cristobal. Once you are on the islands, you can island hop with the boats. Santa Cruz is the main hub. From Loja there are night buses down to Peru.
Solo Travel in Peru
Peru is a country steeped in fascinating history, with lush scenery and colourful traditions. Many solos visit here for the culture and mountains. Peru also has good surf, with Mancora and Huanchaco attracting young, adventurous solos.
Learn about the Inca Empire in Peru and visit Machu Picchu, the most famous Inca ruin of them all, before visiting the ancient capital of Cuzco and Lake Titicaca. There are so many ruins to see here that you need at least two weeks to see just some of the country. Then there is Rainbow Mountain, Arequipa and the Nazca Lines to explore. If you spend time in Peru, stay in Miraflores, which is less hectic and more comfortable than the rest of the city.
The north of Peru does not have that many tourists and parts of the country are out of bounds, so check FCO advice or use a tour company if you are unsure of where to travel. Not all indigenous villagers will welcome you; some remote Andean villages which live in complete isolation are not keen on visitors, so stick to the tourist route when travelling alone or hire a Quechua-speaking guide.
You may find that Peru is not as friendly as other South American countries and begging is increasing within the tourist destinations. As a solo, you may encounter stares from the locals. As in any other city, be careful with your belongings in Lima and don’t walk about at night (Cuzco is much safer). You may experience altitude sickness here, so take altitude sickness tablets with you and tell others if you feel unwell.
Travelling Around Peru
The buses in Peru are fantastic. Because of the long distances they have overnight buses, which include a meal and sometimes breakfast. Sleeper buses have either semi-cama or cama seats, so you have the choice of half-reclining or completely flat. The buses are comfortable and safe to travel on.
You may prefer to fly internally if you’re short on time. Be careful if you fly from Lima to Cusco, as you could experience altitude sickness when you arrive. Allow a couple of days longer here to acclimate. The best way to see the Nazca Lines is by plane. Flying to Iquitos, then taking a boat, is the easiest way to explore the Peruvian Amazon.
Solo Travel in Suriname
Suriname is a Dutch colony and is popular for its eco-tourism. The capital, Paramaribo, is known for its wooden colonial buildings and is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. You can follow the sugar trail, experience the Moengo cultural traditions or just wander around the Mosque Keizerstraat, one of the most beautiful historical monuments in the country.
Most people come here to experience the Amazon way of life and stay in an eco-retreat along the river. This country is abundant in nature and when you are ready to see the countryside, step outside the capital and take a boat trip along the Amazon River.
The country attracts Dutch and European tourists because of the Dutch language. If you do venture into the villages along the river, be prepared for people to stare at you. The capital isn’t a very comfortable place to stay, due to the attention of the local men, who think that you are here searching for a Caribbean lover. If you can ignore the constant purring, then come here independently. If not, consider taking a tour.
Travelling Around Suriname
Suriname is expensive due to a lack of tourists, but there is a minibus system here and two local airlines. The best way to get around the country is with a tour company. Once you arrive at Paramaribo you can arrange tours from there. The private buses leave once they are full or you can hire a car instead. Boats take you along the river to eco-lodges and you can also take a minibus to the border of French Guiana.
Solo Travel in Uruguay
Uruguay is a small country on this continent which sometimes gets overlooked. If you’re travelling to Argentina then it’s easy to combine a trip here. Montevideo is the capital, and the city is a mix of the old and the new, with Independence Square dividing both parts.
Visit the Circus Palace, the Uruguayan walk of fame and the theatre before heading to the beach area of Punta del Este on the east coast. This area with its giant hand coming out of the sand, has good nightlife, resorts and beautiful beaches. Colonia is the oldest city in Uruguay and its attraction is its historic quarter, a gorgeous area that sits on the coastline with cobbled streets and colourful old stone houses.
- Related Post: Montevideo, Uruguay's Quirky Capital
- Related Post: Things To Do in Colonia Uruguay as a Solo
Travelling Around Uruguay
You can reach Uruguay by ferry from Buenos Aires and once you’re there, they have an extensive bus network. Avoid hiring a car, which can be expensive, and travel any long distances by bus. You can also reach cities in Brazil from here.
Solo Travel in Venezuela
Venezuela has the tallest waterfall on Earth called Angel Falls but unfortunately this country is off limits to travellers because of its current crisis. Travelling around Venezuela is currently unsafe, with any travellers only visiting Isla de Margarita. Outside of here there are virtually no travellers.
Attractions of South America
- See fjords in Patagonia
- Get inspired at Iguazu Falls – Argentina/Brazil
- Sample Argentina’s wines in a winery, Argentina
- Get spooked at the witches market in La Paz, Bolivia
- Watch wildlife on the Galapagos Islands
- Dance the tango in Argentina
- See the Moai figures on Easter Island
- Watch sea turtles in Guyana
- Explore Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
- See the salt flats (Salar de Uyuni) in Bolivia
- Go cattle herding in Uruguay
- Stay overnight in Tayrona National Park, Colombia
- Marvel at Angel Falls in Venezuela
- Relax on San Andres Island.
Seven Wonders of the World
- Harbour of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Christ the Redeemer in Brazil
- Machu Picchu in Peru
South America itineraries
South America Itinerary: 1 Week
Argentina & Uruguay – Buenos Aries, Montevideo, Colon. Colombia – Bogota, fly to Medellin, fly to Cartagena, Santa Marta.
Patagonia – El Calafate, Glacier National Park, El Chalten, Rio Blanco Base Camp, El Chalten, El Calafate.
South America Itinerary: 2 Weeks
Brazil & Argentina – Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, Paraty, Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro.
Peru – Lima, fly to Cusco, Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo, Inca Trail, Machu Picchu.
South America Itinerary: Three Weeks
Argentina to Brazil –– Buenos Aires, Colonia, Montevideo, Iguazu Falls, Paraty, Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro.
Peru to Ecuador – Lima, Paracas, Nazca, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Puno, Lake Titicaca, La Paz.
Amazon & Ecuador – Quito, Tena, Banos, Alausi, Guayaquil, Guayas River, Puerto Lopez, Machalilla National Park, Quito, San Clemente, Otavalo, Quito.
Colombia – Bogota, Villa de Leyva, Armenia, Calarca, Cocora Valley, Salento, Medellin, fly to Cartagena, Santa Marta, Taganga, Tayrona National Park, Lost City trek, Santa Marta.
South America Itinerary: 1 month
Peru to Brazil – Lima, Paracas, Nazca, Arequipa, Chivay, Colca Canyon, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo, Machu Picchu, Cusco, Puno, Lake Titicaca, La Paz, Uyuni, Salt Flats, Potosi, Sucre, Santa Cruz, Puerto Suarez, Corumba, Pantanal, Bonito, Iguazu Falls, fly to San Paulo, Paraty, Ilha Grande, Rio de Janeiro.
Cartagena to Quito – Cartagena, Santa Marta, Lost City trek, Taganga, Minca, Tayrona National Park, Santa Marta, Cali, Pereira, Manizales, Medellin, Bogota, fly to Quito, Cotopaxi, Otavalo, Quito.
Ecuador & Galapagos – Quito, San Cristobal Island, South Plaza Island, North Seymour Island, Chinese Hat, Las Bachas, Santa Cruz Island, Floreana Island, Espanola Island, Cerro Brujo, Kicker Rock, San Cristobal, Quito.
If I’ve inspired you to travel to South America, click on the photos below for the solo destination guide to help you plan a trip to that country.