Travelling around South America: Packing Tips For Girls

Preparations for travelling is very difficult, saying goodbye to friends, boyfriends and family is one thing but packing is another. It’s hell. It is safe to say I found packing for backpacking around South America very difficult.

All of the blogs I read before I left were too earnest and geared towards proper travelling in deepest darkest places with no electricity, or hiking with all your stuff. In my opinion you can’t hype up what you’re doing too much – travelling is just a long holiday, only with less spending money. This guide is for normal gals doing normal travelling.

I went to South America for three and a half months and I wanted to share some of my wisdom as I now question many of the things I brought with me (a sequin crop top doesn’t come in handy very often). So here are my top 12 packing tips for travelling if you’re not taking it too seriously.

1.  Get a great bag – a backpack/wheely combo is the one I envied the most. This Osprey Sojourn 60 litres is the perfect size. Everyone I saw who owned it looked very smug and comfortable.

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I had a 55 litre Osprey Farpoint bag, which is light and has a detachable day bag. However, every backpacker  in South America seems to have it so you may need to add some sort of appendage so you don’t take someone else’s.

2. Packing cubes are the best. I would have literally lost my tiny mind without them.

3. You don’t have to have a backpack to be a backpacker. This is something that no-one told me. If you’re only going for a few months and want to bring a suitcase, then just do it. Ignore all of the travelling snobs who assume you’re ‘on holiday’ rather than travelling. Travelling is obviously expensive and it can be annoying to spend £££ on a backpack you may never use again. You can always leave your bags in hostels when going on hikes/trips for a few days and bring a smaller backpack with you.

If you’re going trekking with all of your stuff then please ignore this, as having a suitcase will probably ruin your entire trip.

4. Don’t bring your best things. You’re going to lose things. They just disappear into the ether. Or in other people’s laundry. My friend acquired a rather racy pair of leopard-print pants in her laundry that she is now regularly wearing. We lost a sense of whether this is disgusting or not.

5. Don’t bring too many clothes – you are going to stop caring about how you look. It is very liberating.  You’re going to wear the same thing one million times and sometimes look very odd when you cobble together your only clean clothes into a passable outfit. I met a girl who wore her gym leggings and top out to a club for St Patrick’s Day. She only realised it wasn’t totally normal when she uploaded a picture to Facebook. I saw the picture and thought she looked great, so there we are.

Anyway, I filled one big packing cube with clothes and think that was enough.

6. Don’t pack all of the ‘travel essentials’. They are not essential – it’s a conspiracy. It’s probably not a conspiracy but you’ll probably never use them and they take up a lot of space. I rarely used my headtorch, ziplock bags, first aid kit or top with hidden zips in.

7. Bring things you actually like: If you usually wear cargo trousers and fleeces – please ignore/don’t be offended by this. Pack what you’d usually wear as otherwise you’re not going to feel like yourself in your cargo trousers and hiking sandals. If you bring what you usually wear, it takes a lot less time to get ready. No one can make a fleece look stylish quickly or effectively. Saying that, I never thought anyone wearing one looked awful, they just looked warmer and comfortable than me. They win.

8. Pack the actual essentials: Don’t worry about getting your stuff stolen. I didn’t bring a good camera or laptop as I was worried about them getting stolen, but I wish I had brought them regardless of my fears. They might get stolen so backup and insure – obvs.

  1. Moneybelt/Bumbag
  2. Little day bag – this one has a zip to stop people rummaging around.
  3. Hat to protect your lovely face.
  4. Universal Travel Plug/Adaptor
  5. Laptop – This Asus notebook is perfect for travelling.
  6. Laptop/iPad undercover sleeve.
  7. Camera/GoPro (not the original GoPro – for Hero 2 and above you can use the app)
  8. iPhone leads (someone will steal one)
  9. Travel wash for those times when you are too poor or cannot find a laundry service.
  10. Locks – bring two or three.
  11. Deet – this one is the best as it’s above 50%. No-one wants Zika.
  12. Eyemask and earplugs (see no.12 below)

9. Buy big bulky things at your destination: We bought hiking sandals when we were in Chile as for the first 6 weeks we didn’t do any hiking. They were only £20 and we didn’t feel guilty about getting rid of them.

10. Throw stuff away: My parents are moderate hoarders so I have gone in the opposite direction where I have almost no attachment to material possessions. When travelling you have to dispose of the things that you will not use again, as otherwise you will not be able to acquire anything new. It’s also very satisfying to throw out an item you’ve used so much, and you begin to hate this inanimate object in a way you never thought humanly possible.

11. Buy enough make up and toiletries to bring with you before you go: You will not be able to find your favourite brands when travelling. Some local brands are brilliant, but some are not. You will have to use unfamiliar replacements, that may make all of your eyelashes stick together. Alternatively, you go to the MAC shop (they’re everywhere) and buy it there, but suddenly spending £30 on a bronzer doesn’t seem quite as sane as it did in London.

12. Protect your sanity: Bring an eyemask and loads of earplugs. If you’re staying in dorms these items will transport you into a peaceful dimension away from the shagging and vomming.

So there we are. Hope it helps someone out there having a mare. Travelling is great and will only be enhanced by feeling like you’ve got what you need and want.

I will do a little packing guide of clothes I wish I had brought next.

 

Rio de Janeiro in 5 Days

Rio is great, you don’t need me to tell you that. We were there during Carnival season so we were a bit distracted by that. We did manage to squeeze in some tourist things before immersing ourselves in the Carnival.

This is a bit of a basic bitch guide as we didn’t really stray from the tourist trail. We spent between 100 – 200 Brazilian Real a day (£20 – £40) to pack all of this in.

  1. Lunch at Parque Lage

We hired bikes and cycled around the park and along the river. The cafe at Parque Lage was probably the most beautiful lunch spot I’ve ever been to. Just look at it.

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2. Sunset from Ipanema Beach

Spend the day here and then clamber across the rocks to watch the sunset. This was taken with my crumbling iPhone but you can still see how banging this sunset was.

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3. Sugarloaf Mountain

Get the cable car to the top in time for sunset and enjoy a delicious beer while cheering for the sun as it goes behind the mountains. I like cheering for sunsets – feels very Pagan.

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4. Go to a Churrascaria

Porcao and Fogo de Chao are both very good. We accidentally spent £45 each on dinner after foolishly not asking for the price. At least we ate about 300 servings of meat each so we definitely got our money’s worth.

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5. Christ the Redeemer

Get one of the little vans up to the top rather than walking, otherwise you will go mad.  Then get someone else to do the pose so you don’t feel like a fool. I got The Rock to do it instead of me.

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6. Lapa

We were told that this area was really dangerous but it felt completely fine in the day. Do the free walking tour around the area to make sure you see all of the best bits and get the history. I cannot recount the history of this area as I have forgotten it. Selaron built the stairs though and then his wife died so some of the stairs are dedicated to her. I have a history degree, I’m sure you can tell.

Go to the restaurant on the corner beside the Escadaria Selaron and have some delicious feijoada – a rich pork and bean stew.

Here’s The Rock again. I prefer to take pictures of him at the landmarks rather than myself.

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I LOVED Rio. I would definitely return. It didn’t look quite ready for the Olympics, but if I learnt one thing about Brazilians, they’ll make it work somehow.

Brazil: Rio de Janeiro Carnival 2016

Brazil is mad. Brazil during carnival is something else. It’s hard to describe the atmosphere – it’s frenetic. It doesn’t feel dangerous – it feels like there’s the very real opportunity for 24 hour fun.

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We had no idea what to expect and were a bit clueless before heading to Rio. So here is my helpful newfound wisdom about it while it is still fresh in my mind.

Things to know for Rio Carnival

Carnival is expensive and chaotic. Those are the only bad things. We stayed in a hotel as it was much cheaper than an Airbnb or hostels during carnival season. I’d really recommend the Hotel Santa Clara in Copacabana. Try to book your accommodation at least three months before you go to Carnival as EVERYTHING will book up.

Be on time for Blocos. We actually missed a lot of Carnival as were late for the start of them and then just found the trail of people following them rather than the actual Carnival. The location can also be confusing. We downloaded an app called Rio Carnaval 2016 O Globo to find the locations and the ones with the best music.

Everyone becomes a lot more friendly – the best bit of carnival is all the other people. It felt like the ultimate people watching opportunity. We saw fights, dance-offs and very scantily-clad men. Here’s just a small collection of our new friends. I use friends in the loosest term of the word – people who I took pictures of when they didn’t realise might be more accurate.

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Wear fancy dress – there is no theme – you can be anything. Everyone wears it so you’ll feel like a right fool if you don’t wear anything. We only had a gesture of fancy dress and envied those who went all out. Don’t put on something that requires face paint as you’ll sweat it all right off. My favourite fancy dress of the Carnival was a woman dressed as a bunch of grapes using purple balloons. However, I saw her later and she was rather deflated and didn’t look quite as grapey.

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The kissing game – we’d heard about this but were not prepared for the reality. The reality is that Brazilian men will try and kiss you if you catch their eye. This means that if you look at someone, it’s akin to pointing and beckoning someone over. Unfortunately we all had boyfriends so could not immerse ourselves in the game. Everyone who tried to snog us looked under 21 so at least we kept it legal.

Thieves – they are around a bit more during carnival. We didn’t have too much trouble – someone tried to steal Jen’s sailor hat and someone had their hand in my bag in Lapa. I only had a doll of The Rock and a disposable camera in there so it wasn’t exactly a treasure trove. I saw their hand in there and just let them rummage. We did hear of quite a few muggings, so don’t go out looking too bling at night.

Everyone is smashed – this is probably not a surprise. We were on a budget so we mixed together Cachaça and Sprite and made our very own street Caipirinhas from a water bottle. Very classy gals. There are people wandering around the crowd who sell drinks from a warm drinks cooler. We kept buying something from an innocuous looking can called Skol Beats. They are surprisingly strong – we were drunkity drunk drunk after two. I know that is nothing to boast about, sorry Mum.

So that’s all I can really remember. Too many Skol Beats. It was the perfect start to the trip and if it’s all like this, that would be very very good.