Where to go and what to do in South America.
Everyone needs a break once in a while, and what could be better than going on an adventure? Besides, college is that time in your life where you’re not shackled to your current place by a job or family. You’re free to travel and explore – as long as you have your academic obligations taken care of.
So, when the thought “Ugh, I have to do my homework again” becomes too much, that’s a clear sign: it’s time to plan a trip.
Before diving right into the top 4 South American destinations for students, let’s get one thing straight. Nearly all destinations on the continent fall under the “low-cost” category. And that’s why they are so popular with students!
The only exceptions are Argentina, Peru, and the most exotic and popular places like Easter Island and the Galapagos Islands.
1. Quito (Ecuador)
Quito sits surrounded by the Andes mountain slopes, and it’s the capital that’s located the closest to the equator. This city’s geographic location means that the climate remains the same and the temperature doesn’t vary that much throughout the whole year.
But the gentle climate is far from the only thing that puts Quito on so many travelers’ go-to lists. Its old town is one of the most well-preserved historic sights on both American continents. Besides, if hiking and nature are your jam, the Andes’ trails are easily accessible from the city!
Quito’s must-visit spots:
- Museo Templo del Sol Pintor Ortega Maila – a recreated Incan temple at the outskirts of Quito;
- Teleferico Quito – a cable car to the top of Cruz Loma (4,100m);
- Basilica del Voto Nacional – the largest church in the Ecuadorian capital;
- Parque La Carolina – Quito’s own equivalent of NYC’s Central Park.
2. La Paz (Bolivia)
This is another capital on the list, this time located in a landlocked state of Bolivia. Like Quito, La Paz stretches among the Andes mountains at 3,650 meters of altitude.
Going to La Paz means taking a long flight, but it’s worth it. This city has a lot to offer: from markets and amazing landscapes to outstanding architecture and, of course, culture. The latter one is bound to astonish you when it comes to food, handcraft, and old-time mystic practices.
La Paz’s must-visit spots:
- Mercado de Las Brujas (The Witches’ Market) – a traditional market where you can find souvenirs and any ingredients needed for Aymara rituals;
- Mi Teleferico – a cable car that will take you to the top of El Alto;
- Valley of the Moon – a high-altitude geological wonder that is a joy to walk through;
- Mirador Killi Killi – a perfect spot to see the panoramic view of La Paz.
3. Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Of course, no list of South American destinations can be complete without the capital of the Carnaval. But don’t dismiss it just yet because it’s popular: if you don’t mind going to crowded destinations, this city has a lot in stock for you.
Rio de Janeiro is the city of samba, astounding beaches, Christ the Redeemer, and incredible nature. There are plenty of hikes and amazing panoramic viewpoints, too. And, what’s probably the most crucial for young people who come to Rio de Janeiro, this city has a thriving nightlife scene.
Rio de Janeiro’s must-visit spots:
- Christ the Redeemer;
- Botanical garden;
- Ipanema, Barra da Tijuca, and Copacabana beaches;
- Sugarloaf Mountain.
4. Cartagena (Colombia)
Sitting at the Caribbean coast, Cartagena (and Colombia in general) used to be considered “too dangerous for tourists”. That’s not true anymore: it’s as safe as a big city can ever be. And, there are plenty of reasons to visit Cartagena, dubbed the Jewel of the Indies in the travelers’ world.
What’s so enticing about Cartagena? Many things: sandy Caribbean beaches, a vibrant blend of cultures, well-preserved old town streets… The list goes on.
Cartagena’s must-visit spots:
- The Walled City of Cartagena – the old town itself, a lively area with beautiful architecture;
- Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas – a castle that’s also a great spot to see the panoramic view of the city;
- Barrio Getsemani – a neighborhood with plenty of murals, street art, and both traditional and unconventional cafes and restaurants;
- Plaza de La Trinidad – this plaza is the best place to experience Cartagena’s street food culture.
Being a student is synonymous with living on a tight budget. But that doesn’t mean traveling is off-limits for you. Here are a few tips that’ll help you keep your journey low-cost:
- Buy groceries at local markets. Fruits and vegetables are fresher and less expensive there, so it’s a win-win.
- Enjoy street food. It’s cheap anywhere in South America, so don’t hesitate to grab something for lunch in the street. It’s guaranteed to be cheaper than dining at a restaurant.
- Plan in advance. If you buy flight tickets at least a month in advance, they’ll be a lot cheaper. Also, consider combining a cheaper flight and a bus/train to get to your destination.
- Rethink your souvenir game. Don’t waste your dollars in a souvenir shop in the old town. You can find something to bring home at a market or local shop – and it’ll come without the “tourist” markup.
- Search for free walking tours. Tour guides will take you through the town at a “free” price. That means you can tip however much you want or can to the guide at the end of the tour.
- Avoid traveling during the high season. If you want to go to Rio de Janeiro, avoid the Carnaval time. Typical holidays are a no-go, too: accommodation and transportation costs will skyrocket.
- Learn to love public transport. It’s true, taxis are cheap in South America. But don’t waste your hard-earned cash on taking taxis every day.
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