As something a little different from my 48-hour series, I thought I would share with everyone my preparations for my trip to some parts of South America. It is the only continent I had never been to, and I decided impulsively to go to Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, and stop at Mexico and LA/San Francisco on the way back to Sydney. I guess you could call it a whirlwind trip. Let me tell you now, preparation was pretty stressful, due to a few factors as below.
First of all, I made a last-minute decision to go there, so I purchased tickets to travel three short weeks away from a travel agent. I quickly realized that going to South America is not as straightforward as some other countries. Not only are tickets ridiculously expensive, there are very few direct flights from Australia, with stop-overs in many various cities. It is very time-consuming to try to mix-and-match different locations, so giving yourself enough time to plan ahead is helpful. I planned my flights in a very short time, though I would not recommend it unless you can be very organised. Because I don’t work a nine-to-five job, I had pockets of time to run errands relating to my travel.
Although I had quizzed the travel agent who sold me the tickets (to Brazil) about visa requirements, the mistake I made was assuming what they told me was correct. Always do your own research regarding visas. After paying for flights which were due to depart two weeks away, I soon found out that I needed a visa to enter Brazil (one of the original countries I had wanted to go to), which takes the local embassy a minimum of one month to process. Therefore if I had not realized this, I would potentially have landed in Brazil only be denied entry. Fortunately early realization meant that flights could be changed, and the travel agent redirected me to Chile instead of Brazil (which would have to wait for another trip).
This is extremely important if travelling to South America. As I recently discovered, there are a plethora of vaccinations required for travel to South America, some of which are compulsory should you wish to re-enter your home country, such as yellow fever. Depending on where you may travel to, one might also need vaccinations for typhoid, Hepatitis A and B, Cholera, and Malaria. After three frustrating visits to doctors, all of them imparting different information, I have discovered that not every clinic is eligible to administer these vaccinations. Your best bet is to visit the Travel Doctor to receive all you need in one visit.
Common advice for going to South America is that one should be careful with what you eat, and to only drink bottled water. Feeling slightly paranoid already, I decided to take paracetamol (for general use), Imodium (for stomach trouble), and Diamox (for possible altitude sickness).
One more thing I have been told is to bring a money belt, which is something I NEVER travel with. I will test this theory on whether they are safer, though I will feel more clumsy with it I think. More to come regarding solo female travel once I arrive there!