Central & South America - 9 min read

Do’s & Don’t’s in South America! Solo Female backpacker

Is it safe to travel in South America as a…

Town and Tourist

Town and Tourist, Updated August 26, 2023

Is it safe to travel in South America as a Woman?

So your Solo female and want to travel south America? First some background, South America’s has a bad reputation in terms of safety and not all is unfounded! There is plenty of  terrible stories about violence, although theft scams are more common!

It’s true parts of the continent are dangerous for backpackers. But, the vast majority places you’ll likely visit when you’re traveling around South America is generally safe. Fear of Harassment can be a worry for alot of women. However, if you know the Do’s and Don’ts while your there your trip will be alot more enjoyable and a whole lot safer!

Here is some quick advice and info on an experience from a Blonde Backpacker – (Source LonleyPlanet)

(Jorge Daniel Barchi): 

 “I travelled in Argentina for a month a couple of months ago. I am a cautious traveler, and I had no safety issues and never felt uneasy. The harassment by men on the streets was very low. Most men paid me no attention, only a few comments here and there as I walked by, and no hissing. I was surprised and relieved. “

Here thoughts were harassment can be more prevalent in Peru.

“Women get hassled more in Bolivia and Peru than in Argentina. Ignore it. I cannot say any more than that. You cannot stop it so just pretend you have not heard and keep going. If you are actually face to face with an unwanted conversation, politely but firmly ask the man to go away. If he does not ( he will probably express astonishment that you are offended ) move away yourself, if possible towards a family or older woman. “

Generally, thefts are the big biggest issue, so it helps to know what to Do and what to Don’t do in order to reduce your chances of being targeted! Can having blonde hair cause you to be targeted? Check out this great article to discover if so. Blonde in South America, Am I Safe?

Female Hiker | By Stephan Vance via Wikimedia Commons

Scams to Avoid in South America.

The Bird Poop Scam. (Ewww indeed!)

That’s correct, there is a scam involving bird “poop”. Here’s how it goes you are backpacking along enjoying your day looking touristy and like a perfect Target. Then suddenly you will feel aload of  bird droppings or even mustard fall on you! Then a “do gooder” shows up offering to help, while his accomplish steals your belongings.

The Cash Find Scam

This involves a pile of cash being ‘found’ on the street, whereby the good samaritan tries to return it to you! Meanwhile during the drama, your actual cash is stolen!

The Plain Clothes officer Scam 

There have even been stories of “Fake” police issuing ‘on-the-spot fines’ . Be especially wary if one or more ‘plainclothes’ cops demand to search your luggage or examine your documents, traveler’s checks or cash. Insist that you will allow this only at an official police station or in the presence of a uniformed officer, and don’t allow anyone to take you anywhere in a taxi or unmarked car. Thieves often work in pairs to distract you while lifting your wallet.  Stay alert, if in doubt attract attention and retreat to nearby public place such as reputable restaurant where you have witnesses and people who can confirm in Spanish.

South America Do’s & Don’ts: Solo Female Guide

1. Don’t – Travel with valuables such as jewellery.

Leave your bracelets, necklaces, expensive earring and watches in a safe place like hotel the safe!

Tiffany Necklace | By Walters Art Museum via Wikimedia Commons

2. Don’t – Photograph locals without permission.

3. Don’t – Be offended if a South American stands too close while talking.

It part of their culture. But still try and keep your personal space without offending. Really be aware of this important one, on our list of Do’s and Don’ts.

4. Don’t  – Accept drinks from strangers. Deny respectfully.

Man and woman at bar together | By CSIRO via Wikimedia Commons

5. Don’t – Take public transport unless absolutely necessary!

Especially buses and train on lonely secluded routes.  These are very common places to  get mugged. Call taxi, if you can through a hotel or nearby restaurant.

5. Don’t – Carry too much cash.

If you are going out for a trip, just carry enough cash to cover daily expenses and your credit card.

6. Don’t – Take unlicensed taxis  

Taxi’s with a red and white taxi sign on the windscreen. Take licensed yellow taxis. If no meter is on, negotiate fares before moving or getting in.

South American Taxi | EurovisionNim via Wikimedia Commons

7. Don’t – Feel offended if you are referred as “Gringo”

That is a common phrase for tourists. Dario has a great post on What I learned Solo Traveling. and Solo Travel in your 20s.

8. Don’t – Be nude at beaches or in tourist spots.

“The charge, read out in court, was that at 6.45am on 30 May in the vicinity of Mount Kinabalu they carried out “obscene acts in a public place under 294 [a] of the penal code”. They were also accused of “excessive noise and ignoring the advice [of their guide]”. All four avoided trial by pleading guilty.”

They spent three days in jail and were each fined £860 each. 

Although Latin America is not as strict as Asia, it could still cause you Unnecessary attention.

What you should  Do as a Solo female?

1. Do – Be friendly, smile and be humble.

2. Do – Dress simple  and respectable.

Wear casual, comfortable clothes, if you wan’t to blend in don’t wear really short shorts.

3. Do – Try and learn some useful phrases in  Spanish and Portuguese.

Spanish phrases | Day Translations Team via Wikimedia Commons

4. Do – Bring mosquito nets, insect sprays etc.

Essential if you plan to sleep outdoors or in rustic accommodation.

Search the Travel Accessories Page to get the best price online.

5. Do – Bring insect repellant to prevent illnesses like dengue or malaria.

A backpackers favourite is Repel insect repellent (40% DEET) and Repel 100 bug spray. There is also natural formulas and home remedies which can work for some people. This is definitely one of the top Do’s and Don’ts in South America. Check out our Travel Accessories.

6. Do – Keep a spare paper map of the local area.

As cell phone signal and GPS can be bad in remote regions.

7. Do – Ask for directions if you are lost.

Best to ask inside a shop or restaurant. If there is nothing close by ask a local but confidently without letting them know that you are lost. This is one of the major Do’s and Don’ts being confident in South America, if you are lost! See 8 lessons learnt Solo Traveling

8. Do – Wear a hat, long sleeved shirt and pants If going into the wild to avoid mosquito bites!

9. Do – Be careful when using ATMs

When taking out money, try to do it during daylight and if possible in a proper bank or at least in a closed building. Be aware of anyone watching you, put your money quickly in your pockets and be extra careful while walking back to your hostel or hotel.

10. Do – Tip if the service is good.

Rule of thumb is 10-15% in restaurants and 20% in bars.

11. Do – Bring a Small Padlock for Valuables.

Padlock with keys | By Tomasz Sienicki via Wikimedia Commons

12. Do – Drink Sealed Bottled water and Ensure that the street food you eat looks clean. 

13. Do – Keep your valuables safe.

As with most countries an increase in tourism is directly proportional to a rise in petty theft! Having your valuables go missing can be a real nightmare especially your passport & cash!  In busy places like Argentina keep you bag away from the road side while walking to avoid drive by bag snatchers on scooters!
I don’t travel anywhere in asia now without my money belt which tucks neatly under my shirt and out of site from prying eyes.

Get yours now a our Essential  Travel Accessories shop

Money belt | Mattes via Wikimedia Commons

Sanbar moneybelt

Great Secret money belt for emergency cash…

Innovative Secret Money Belt. Great for smart travellers!

Do’s and Don’ts for a Solo female in South America – Final Thoughts.

If you keep your common sense while traveling in South America and follow the rules above you will have a fantastic time, whether blonde, brunette or whatever!

Insider Tip:

-Invest in a quality Travel Camera! 

Capturing the Memories of your adventure is essential!

You will be able to show your friends, family and even grand kids all the wonderful photos captured.

For more info see, our recommend Travel Photography Gear

Photography Gear

Make sure you are equip with some great Photography Gear!

A high quality Tent & backpack can also be great investments to help you cut costs and have more of an adventure while traveling!

Important! Are you insured?

Be aware that you will need separate travel insurance if you are traveling to South America!

If you get ill or have an accident it will be a very costly experience!

All travellers to South America should have a robust travel insurance to avoid paying out thousands of dollars.

I always recommend World Nomads, I’ve used these for years,

they are the best and most reliable insurance, they also provides an unlimited medical budget!

Travel Insurance

Getting hit with a large hospital bill after getting sick or injured, could really add to your worries! Get some Travel Insurance


For more info see: Why you NEED Travel Insurance?

Other Travel Essentials  (Things You can’t travel without!)

To learn about our secret Hotel Hacks check out: How to find the Best Hotel Deals??

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