An international family adventure that beats the beach
For decades, South America has been a travel hotspot for backpackers. But if you’re planning a family holiday, your first thought is about safety. So, is South America a safe place to travel for families?
For many parts of the vast continent, the answer is yes. But it’s not a trip to Disneyland. The key to having an offbeat family holiday that’s still safe, stress-free (and a lot of fun), is all in the planning.
Where should you travel, and what should you prepare for, on your adventure to Latin American? Here are some top tips.
3 safe (and fun) destinations to put on a South American family holiday
1. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Nothing beats the world-famous (and world heritage listed) Galápagos for curious minds, both young and old. With a vast number of unique species endemic to the islands, it’s no wonder this archipelago inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
A Galápagos island hopping tour around the 21 islands teeming with wildlife and volcanoes is sure to make a trip here both fun, fascinating and educational for every member of the family. It’s a natural history lesson the kids won't get in a geography class.
2. Machu Picchu, Peru
Also known as the ‘Lost City of the Incas’, Machu Picchu is a testament to the might and mysticism of this once powerful civilisation. At almost 2,500 metres above sea-level in modern-day Peru, its a site of archeological and cultural significance that’s unmissable.
Climbing to the site is part of the adventure, but this should be taken into consideration with young children (though it’s far from impossible). A Machu Picchu tour or a guided trek with an expert tour operator can help you get the most out of this fascinating place.
3. Patagonia, Chile and Argentina
Chile and Argentina are two countries in South America that boast great safety records. These countries are also home to vast natural wonders and landscapes, such as Patagonia’s soaring mountains, blue icebergs and golden grasslands sheltering rare wildlife.
For thrill-seeking families, a trip to Patagonia is brimming with activities, from kayaking, rafting, horse riding and boat tours. And while there is plenty of wilderness, there are many parts of the region, such as Torres del Paine National Park, that can cater to families looking for quality hotels and guides.
Top safety tips for travelling in South America
In addition to checking resources like Smart Traveller and booking with a trusted tour operator, there are some general tips for keeping safe in South America. So, add these to your planning checklist!
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance
Comprehensive travel insurance is a must for any overseas family holiday – from South America to South East Asia. A comprehensive travel insurance plan can cover everything from lost or stolen money and passports, to medical expenses. And be sure to keep a print out of your policy handy, in case of emergencies.
Use licensed taxis and guides
Keep stress-free and safe by using licensed taxis. At airports and hotels, there are often assistants to help you call a licensed taxi, ensuring there’s enough room for the family. And make sure you use only reputable and licensed tour guides, too. They will be knowledgable, speak fluent English – and importantly, won’t rip you off!
Keep your belongings close
Before you leave, remember to bring a spare credit card to use only in emergencies. In hotels, use safes and lockboxes to store passports and valuables. And while out and about or in walking among crowds, keep backpacks zipped up with a lock, and make sure money, cards and phones are not all keep in a single bag or purse.
Be prepared against sickness
Before you leave, check what vaccinations you and your family will need for the countries you’re visiting. Bring a kit with plenty of sunscreen, insect repellent, Imodium, bandaids and panadol. And don’t drink unfiltered tap water, even at fancy hotels. Instead, ensure you have a sealed bottle of water ready with you at all times.
Sleep and eat well
From dirt-cheap to luxury, South America has it all when it comes to hotels and eating out. And with prices at a bargain compared to Australia, you’ll get lot more bang for your holiday buck. So there’s less need to skimp on where you stay and eat. Opt for places in safe, clean neighbourhoods (and possibly with a pool to keep the kids happy).
Learn some Spanish phrases
Spanish is the language spoken in most countries in South America (with Brazilians speaking Portuguese). Before you leave, learn some basic words to make your trip comfortable, like ‘hello’ (‘hola’), ‘please’ (‘por favor’) and ‘thank you’ (‘gracias’). Write down and keep handy translations for common items (e.g. ‘agua’) and phrases to use in emergencies (or download an app with offline use).
Creating your perfect South American adventure
Like all adventurous family holidays, the key is in your research. To help with creating an itinerary that works with your family – from size, ages and tastes – finding a reputable tour operator can help create your perfect itinerary, from Machu Picchu to the Galápagos Islands.
So, ready for your next family adventure? Next stop, South America!