Figure out the best way to get from Central to South America, when you should book your accommodations for Carnaval and local language school recommendations. If it's on South America, it's in this forum.

Safety for solo female


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  • Added on: January 2nd, 2011
Hey everyone,

I'm a 20-something petite blonde American female debating whether or not to backpack South America this summer (Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru). I'm not new to travel and have been around the block in Asia and the Middle East and been to Guatemala solo, but I'm a little worried about South America, especially Brazil. State Department warnings are always worst case scenario, but they make it sound like if you go to Brazil you WILL be robbed and might be kidnapped for ransom. I know these are mostly extreme and I know to exercise caution, but what's your take on this (for people who have been)?


Hein van Oosten

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Joined: March 19th, 2007

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  • Added on: January 2nd, 2011
As far as Peru is concerned, if you are an experienced traveller, just exercise the normal caution. There are a good number of solo female travellers plying the roads in Peru. And often you will not be alone and do stretches in company with others who you meet along the way. But always stay on your guard.


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Joined: May 24th, 2007

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  • Added on: January 2nd, 2011
My experience is mostly in Central America and I certainly met plenty of women who were traveling alone. One woman from France told me she felt safer in El Salvador (a country that supposedly has an "edge") than she did in some parts of Paris. As for Brazil, I've met several people who said it's one of their favorite countries in the world. And yet, they also said they never felt entirely safe there.
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Thorn Tree Refugee
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Joined: September 26th, 2009

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  • Added on: January 6th, 2011
(My advice as a female, often solo, in Brazil for over a decade with no bad incidents...)
Brazil does have a wide socio-economic spread, so it is a good idea to be vigilant at all times, especially in areas where the top and bottom end of the spread live within touching distance (major cities). But even the poorest backpacker is a rich gringo. So don't bring anything you would be sad to lose or would hesitate a split second to give up, in case. However, if you are not a rich resident of Sao Paulo, a soccer player's relative or a foreign executive (who the US State Dept deals with) or Brazilian one with a fixed schedule, your likelihood of kidnap is almost zero. If you dangle your camera, get too drunk or tired to pay attention, walk in deserted areas (or are just plain unlucky), yes, you might make yourself a victim of an opportunistic grab-and-run. A solo traveller, who is not likely to be screaming in English as s/he walks along, is actually less likely IMO to attract that opportunist though. The countryside and small beach towns are much more tranquil and relaxing. And women are not likely to be subjected to the sexual harrassment that they might find in some other countries. I would also add that a traveller who speaks some Portuguese is likely to make life easier for him/herself. At very least, bring a phrasebook; your Spanish will not get you far.
And relax and enjoy.


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Posts: 509
Joined: March 23rd, 2008

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  • Added on: January 6th, 2011
I traveled around Argentina a few weeks solo earlier this year and thought it was perfectly fine for solo travelers- and met a lot of solo female travelers who were going all over South America to boot, including as far up as Colombia.

I'd say the biggest thing to worry about is make sure you keep an eye out in areas like the bus station etc as it seems a common place for tourists to get robbed- don't let your bags out of your sight (sit with the backpack strap with your leg threaded through it sorta thing), only use a registered taxi, and don't let someone choose the taxi for you/ get in. Beyond that common sense solo travel stuff kicks in- no wandering through strange alleys at midnight, watch your drink, etc.


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Holds PhD in Packing
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Joined: October 1st, 2006
Location: currently traveling

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  • Added on: January 26th, 2011
My bf and I just returned from traveling in South America for 4 months. We felt very safe in Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina - however, in Rio de Janeiro, we were mugged by a young boy with an enormous butcher knife.

In hindsight, it was my boyfriend's backpack that probably got us the unwarranted attention... and it just had stupid stuff in it like a water bottle, suntan lotion, guidebook, etc. But the boy had no problem also removing the wallet out of my boyfriend's pocket and the sunglasses off both of our faces before taking off.

I'd like to think that had we not had the backpack, the incident would not have occurred. However, the crazy thing is that it took place in broad daylight in the Santa Teresa barrio where we were staying, right along a well-traversed path (the public tram goes right by) and we could see people walking around in the distance. A cab actually drove by and slowed down, but once he saw what was going on, sped away.

It was a terrible experience. We consider ourselves savvy travelers and truly did not expect something like that to happen- certainly not under the circumstances. People had warned us about how dangerous Rio was and we thought they were exaggerating. We don't define Rio by this incident, but my advice would be... don't carry a bag or backpack with you, stay around people day and night, and just be alert at all times.
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South America to SE Asia travels


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Thorn Tree Refugee
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Joined: September 26th, 2009

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  • Added on: January 27th, 2011
Sorry that happened to you. However, you should have been advised not to stay in Santa Teresa. I've seen people posting on other forums who ignore advice that it is at best a gentrifying neighborhood, with all that conotes, in their eagerness to stay someplace they consider charming and "off-the-beaten- path". In Rio, you are advised to stay away from deserted places, and in this neighborhood, they exist, even just enough so no one is quite within distance to see and help.
For any future readers.....Since it is not any more expensive to stay in Ipanema (if you choose accomodation carefully), why risk an iffy neighborhood in a city you don't know?


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Armchair Traveler
Posts: 28
Joined: January 30th, 2011

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  • Added on: January 30th, 2011
Just got back from a 10K road trip down there mainly Ecuador Peru and Colombia.Overall safe if
Careful for solo females.Backpacker insurance always wise keep your wits about you no bling
Expensive electronics buy your own drinks odds are great you will be fine. always wise to review for a heads up.

Venezuela is the dodgiest might skip that one until regime change.

Happy Journey,

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