THINGS TO KNOW 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

PASSPORTS AND VISAS

You must be in possession of a valid passport with at least six months validity.Visas are required for most South and Central American countries; the majority of these can be obtained through Consular representatives in Australia. Some must be obtained en route.

CLIMATE

Being such a large continent South America has very distinct weather patterns but the seasons are very similar to Australia on the whole. However, things to remember are that in the Altiplano region, where it would normally be summer, it is the rainy season between December and March, and that Rio de Janeiro has a major rainy season from the end of February through March. Above the Tropic of Capricorn,which runs on a line through Antofogasta to Rio de Janeiro, the climate is hot and sultry most of the time, with coastal areas of Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and the Amazon jungle being extremely humid. South of Puerto Montt around the Tierra del Fuego area the best season is literally from September to April. So when asked for the best time to travel, we reply anytime, depending on what you want and where you want to go.  

SOUTH AMERICA AVERAGE DAILY MAXIMUM TEMPERATURES  

CLOTHING 

-  Comfortable hiking boots for those planning on hiking (used prior to trip)

-  Washable sneakers (on camps)

-  Heavy jumper or jacket

-  Waterproof parka or poncho

-  Cotton long and short-sleeve shirts

-  Warm shirt

-  Long underwear (For hiking and Southern Patagonia)

-  Cotton/Drill/Cargo pants

-  Socks (cotton and wool)

-  Sun hat

-  Beanie

-  Wool gloves

-  Short or swimsuit

 LUGGAGE

The airline baggage allowance is:

International sectors:  (Trans Pacific) piece concept.

First Class/Business Class:  2 Pieces:  Total dimensions* of each bag must not exceed 158cms (62 ins).  Maximum weight per piece of luggage is 32.

Economy Class:  2 Pieces:  Total dimensions* of the 2 pieces must not exceed 270cm (100in) with no one piece exceeding 158cms (62 ins).   Maximum weight per piece of luggage is 32.

*Total dimensions are measured by adding together the width, height, and depth of the bag.

 Domestic sectors:  (within South America) are on Economy Class 20/30kgs, Business Class 30kgs and First Class 40kgs (depending on carrier).  Cameras, coats, umbrellas and a reasonable amount of reading matter carried separately are not weighed.  Please ensure that your luggage does note exceed this limit or otherwise excess baggage charges will be payable.  Also your individual arrangements normally includes porterage of one suitcase only, and we therefore request that you limit your baggage to one suitcase and carry-on bag

PERSONAL

-  Small towel (if hiking)

-  Sunglasses

-  Extra prescription glasses

-  Toiletries

-  Belt or pouch for valuables

-  Watch/clock (with alarm)

-  Extra shoelaces           

FIRST AID KIT:

- Prescription medicines

- Water purifier

- Sunscreen lotion or cream/chapstick

- Band-aids and bandages

- Insect repellent

- Vitamins

- Aspirin

- Alka-Seltzer

OPTIONAL ITEMS:

-  Lightweight binoculars

-  Notebook and reading material

-  Fishing gear

-  Favourite and special snacks

-  Musical instrument

-  Small gifts (Pens, pencils, or  

    balloons for children)

-  Small torch and batteries
CURRENCY/MONEY

A new form of carrying money is Visa Travel Money that works as a keycard on your travels around the continent (please ask agent for more details).  You also have the option of Travellers cheques; we recommend that you carry these in small denominations.   A supply of US dollar notes is also recommended as every country in South America readily accepts them and you may get a higher exchange rate for cash.  Cash is also beneficial as in some countries, e.g. Peru, where there is sometimes a reluctance to accept travellers cheques and in remote areas there are no banks with Automatic Teller Machines, so be sure to get some of your currency in small denominations ($10.00 and $20.00) for those unforeseen expenses prior to exiting each country. However, be aware that cash does not have the same replacement advantages as travellerís cheques or Visa Travel Money in case of loss or theft.  When cashing travellers cheques, keep the cashier's receipt as this may be required when you leave the country and wish to change your pesos etc. back to dollars at the airport bank.  Do not try to cash more money than you need as it is often very difficult to exchange local money into other currencies.

 Make sure that you exchange all the local currency that you wish to (you may want to keep some as souvenirs) in to US dollars prior to returning to Australia, as local currencies cannot be exchanged once back in Australia, and US dollars are easy to exchange once in Australia. 

HEALTH PRECAUTIONS

Yellow fever vaccinations and anti-malaria tablets are required for people travelling to the Amazon Basin. Full information on health should be obtained from your travel agent or Destination Holidays, or by contacting the Medical and Vaccination centre in you capital city, as medical requirements change regularly in these areas. 

 

 

 

  

 

 

CAN I DRINK THE WATER?

In most major cities this is fine, however consult your local guide. Bottled water is also available in all areas. However, it is unwise to eat salads or fruit that cannot be peeled, except in better known restaurants.When diarrhoea strikes (Inca quickstep/Montezuma's revenge), eat sparingly, and constantly drink bottled water, canned fruit juices, or flat carbonated soft drinks, also be wary of ice blocks, unpeeled fruit and salads unless in better class hotels and restaurants. Local remedies can be bought directly across the counter in pharmacies in South America. 

  

WILL THE ALTITUDE EFFECT ME?

Altitude sickness is a non-discriminatory problem which generally doesn't affect the healthy. However, if you are affected, you will feel nauseous and have headaches; you are advised to relax, and not to wrestle with your luggage or undergo undue exertion. In most of the high altitude areas frequented by tourists, hotels have oxygen and medication is available. Remember also that radiation from the sun is more intense in the unpolluted and rarified atmosphere of high altitudes. As a last resort there are excellent clinics in most centres throughout South America. Insurance is strongly recommended.  

LANGUAGE

English is not widely spoken in South America; Spanish is the official language of the majority of the countries in South America, with Portuguese the official language of Brazil. We suggest you obtain a small phrase book or dictionary in both Portuguese and Spanish, and also recommend that, if you are planning to undertake a sojourn in South America, you book yourself into a Spanish language course or borrow language tapes from the local library. With a little bit of preparation and a few Spanish words you can go a long way. Often, it is these little things that make the difference between a good holiday and a great experience. For further information, please call your travel agent or Destination Holidays.  

MEALS

Meals included are specified in the itineraries as follows:-  

B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner  

Meals marked with asterisks (*) indicate meals in flight. All meals indicated are subject to change without notice. One of the better reasons for visiting South America are that continent's gastronomic qualities: contrary to popular perception, South America is not hot bubbly Mexican style food, your basic fare is steak, chips and salad. However, although regional dishes vary greatly from country to country, meals in better restaurants are based on international cuisine adapted to South American tastes. Dining here is an interesting adventure.  

Remember the main meal of the day is usually lunch, and quite often dinner is not begun until late in the evening. When ordering drinks in a lot of these countries, locally produced whiskeys, rums and brandys in most areas are very good and about a quarter the price of their extremely expensive imported counterparts. Countries such as Argentina, Chile, Peru and Brazil have excellent national wines. Great beers are available and don't forget to try the local favourites in each country: Caiparinga in Brazil, Pisco Sours in Chile and Peru, Shoofly in Bolivia, and Aguardiente in Ecuador and Colombia, You won't forget the power of some of these in a hurry.  

WHAT ABOUT TIPPING?

You are visiting the America's (South and North) - two continents where tipping is a way of life. Waiter's chambermaids and others in the tourist/hospitality industry are paid minimum wages as it is expected their income will be subsidised by tips. It is normal practice to tip 10-15% in restaurants in the United States or Mexico.  In most South American countries, the service charge is added to the bill; so it is only necessary to leave the small change, however, please check your bill prior to paying.

Note: In some countries in South America the price on the menu does not include a service fee of up to 16% or Government Taxes of up to 24%, so be prepared for the extra cost.

ELECTRICITY 

The current varies from country to country, so we suggest you obtain dual voltage hairdryers and shavers if you require them. Basically Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela have 110V AC whilst most others have 220V AC. However, always check before using any appliance. If unsure, set voltage to 240 and avoid burnouts.  

SINGLES WISHING TO SHARE

We will do our best to match single persons prepared to share with another tour member. However, if at 45 days prior to departure we are unable to find another person of the same sex wishing to share, you may be required to pay a single room supplement.  

SECURITY

A wise precaution is to carry a record of your passport number and the numbers of your travellers cheques, in some place quite apart from your tickets, documents and money. For a couple it is a good idea for each to carry the other's records.  

As in most Third World countries where there is a large difference between the lifestyles of the rich and the poor, one tends to find the pickpocket syndrome prevalent; these precautions could avoid a lot of problems in case of loss or theft.  

SHOPPING HINTS

South America is a mecca for bargain hunters. Leather goods, gold and silver work and precious stones are perhaps the best buys. Bartering in large department stores is normally not acceptable, but one should certainly bargain in the smaller shops and stalls. Match the seller's ridiculously high price with your ridiculously low price and then haggle a compromise.  

Peru and Bolivia are well known for Alpaca rugs, sweaters and blankets and handicrafts of all kinds, just as Ecuador and Guatemala are known for their colourful textiles. For these purchases you can use US dollars or local currency (often dollars will give you an advantage). Do not expect to use personal cheques; credit cards will only be accepted in larger cities and better stores.  

AIRPORT DEPARTURE TAXES

Apart from the mandatory Airport Taxes not already collected on ticket. In South America it is common for even domestic air sectors to impose Airport Departure Tax and some need to be paid locally for the airport departure tax, for both domestic and international departure. EG: Peru, Bolivia & some in Argentina to name a few. It is recommended that for this reason you hold on to some local currency prior to your flight, in most cases US dollars will also be accepted, however, you may not received the best exchange rate. If on a tour your local tour host should advise you upon arrival of the Departure Tax amount and to hold this aside for your departure, and in the currency required. 

 

JUNGLE VISITS

These warrant some special advice with regard to things to take. Wear long-sleeved light coloured clothing with athletic shoes and socks. Remember to tuck pants into socks. Take a plastic raincoat/poncho, swimming costume, binoculars, small flashlight, camera and dark glasses. During your visit to the jungle it is advisable to carry a small overnight bag having stored your big luggage at the hotel. Insect repellent will keep the bugs away and carrying your own favourite liquor will ensure that you have it in case it is not available at the lodge.  

PHOTOGRAPHY

Carry a good supply of film as it may not be available. The film and your camera should be inspected manually at security checks, as x-ray equipment may damage the film. At high altitudes, in the Andes, there are more ultra-violet rays which are not read by your light meter. As a result your pictures are likely to be overexposed and you should compensate for this by setting your camera lens or using appropriate UV filters.  

PLANNING YOUR TRIP

This site is designed so you can get the best out of this unique continent. You select the modules that you want, but bear in mind that air schedules in some areas are not frequent, which may mean slight alterations to the proposed travel plans. If what you require is not covered on this site or you have your own ideas, please call your local travel agent or Destination Holidays for hints and ideas, as it is a good chance that we have been there and done it before and can offer the best advice for your situation.  

 

BEFORE YOU GO

Before you leave home be sure to photocopy airline tickets, passport identification pages, credit cards and other identification which are being taken with you. Leave one set at home with a relative/friend; and do the same with travellers cheques serial numbers. Leave a detailed itinerary of where to address mail and for those who may wish to get in touch with you. Pay current bills and arrange for payment of those falling due while you are away. Take security precautions to protect your home: advise the Post Office what to do with mail, cancel daily newspaper deliveries, turn off gas pilots, unplug TV and electrical appliances and possibly utilise a time switch on certain lights in the house. Leave some old washing on the line. Advise Police/Neighbourhood Watch and your insurance company.