5 Travel Myths About Latin America

Friday, May 27, 2016

Sole Sister Adi has been traveling all over Latin America for months and is debunking myths and sharing her personal truths from her experiences in the region.

1. No one speaks English

It’s true that most people don't speak English, or more accurately put, people will expect you to speak Spanish. So you basically have two options - try to learn enough to get around on your own, or don’t veer off the Gringo trail (discussed in #3).

The best option is to make a real effort to speak enough Spanish so that you can get around hassle-free and maybe even bargain a little. Carry a Latin American Spanish phrasebook with you wherever you go and practice everyday! People who live in the cities and work for the tourism industry may have different levels of comprehension and will be able to carry conversations, so you’ll still be able to make some local friends.

Misconceptions on Traveling Latin America3

2. It’s dangerous as hell

Not really. Just like lot of places in the world, petty crimes do happen and you'll have to be more careful in crowded places. So take the usual precautions. Don’t carry a lot of valuables, don’t wear flashy jewellery, and keep your cash on hand to a minimum. Avoid looking like a clueless tourist on vacation. Don’t wander around alone late at night.

Whenever I travel in public buses or trains, I never let my backpack out of sight and I always wear a money belt around my waist, under my clothes. I stick my passport, ATM and credit card in there too for extra peace of mind. I’ve traveled Central America and South America only taking public buses on my own. They play movies in Spanish so it’s a great way to learn. They’re not so bad!

Read more: 5 Tips to Stay Safe as a Solo Sister in Central America

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3. You will get kidnapped

Trust your instincts. If you are a solo female traveler, it’s best to stick to what they call the Gringo trail to play it safe. These destinations are the usual points of interests, visited by foreigners on a regular basis. These places are protected by the tourist police patrolling the areas. I sort of broke this rule when I sailed next to the Darien Gap, a dense impenetrable forest infamous for its drug cartel trade. It’s still one of the most dangerous places in the world, but a company called San Blas Adventures have been safely sailing from Panama to Colombia and vice versa for the past few years in the heavily patrolled marine border. It was quite the adventure and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

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4. There are drugs everywhere

This is so true. Drugs are everywhere and they are cheap! But that doesn’t mean you have to try them. Never express any interest in taking drugs or getting involved in prostitution. Guys, make sure your Tinder date isn’t going to ask for money when you leave her the next morning. Always be sober enough to be aware of what’s going on around you and know how to get home safely. Even some of the most sacred Ayahuasca ceremonies have ended up badly, leading to overdosing, rape and even death.

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5. It’s too expensive

This is subjective depending on each country as well as which part of it you're in.But to simplify things and give you a general idea, I’m going to compare Costa Rica, the most expensive country in Latin America and Colombia which shows us about the average in South America.
Please note that the following are the average estimated costs for a typical backpacker in US Dollars in the year 2015 - 2016.


Hostel Dorm Bed
Costa Rica/ Central America - 10 USD  
Colombia/ South America - 8 USD

Hostel Cooked Breakfast 
Costa Rica/ Central America - 4 USD
Colombia/ South America - 1 USD
Cup of Freshly Brewed Coffee Costa Rica/ Central America - 3 USD
Colombia/ South America - .60 (cents) USD

1 Litre Bottled Water Costa Rica/ Central America (Potable in most places) - 2 USD
Colombia/ South America - (Potable in bigger cities) - 1 USD

Lunch at a Cheap Local Place
Costa Rica/ Central America - 8 USD for a Casado (A plate of rice, beans, salad, meat & patacones)
Colombia/ South America - 3 USD for a Bandeja paisa (A plate of rice, beans, salad, meat, arepa, fried egg & avocado slice)

Dinner at a nice restaurant
Costa Rica/ Central America - starts at 12 USD
Colombia/ South America - starts at 6 USD

Local Beer
Costa Rica/ Central America - 3 USD
Colombia/ South America - 1 USD

Bus Fare (per hour)
Costa Rica/ Central America - 8 USD
Colombia/ South America - 2 USD

Daily Total (Average)  
Costa Rica/ Central America -  Around 50 USD
Colombia/ South America - Around 22.60 USD

To save money in Costa Rica, I volunteered at different yoga retreat centers to save on accommodation and meals. In between jobs, I traveled to different parts of the country and couchsurfed or stayed in hostels. Though they were pretty affordable, it’s the meals that took a lot out of my daily budget so I ended up making a lot of vegetarian dishes. I basically had to restrain from any kind of alcohol.

I came to Colombia wanting to do the same when I realized, “Oh my gosh, I can actually afford to eat out three times a day here!” Obviously, making your own meals can save you loads of money if you are staying a couple of days in one place. Lately, we’ve been taking turns cooking sumptuous meals at our hostel and are more than happy to share. So basically, Colombia is so cheap you can choose to have a nice meal at a restaurant or cook for eight hungry backpackers!

Here’s a quick guide to help you get around Latin America:

Misconceptions on Traveling Latin America2

Off to the next adventure,
Sole Sister Adi

Sole Sister Adi escaped from the corporate world so her life now happily revolves around yoga and travel. She lives a simple, eco-friendly lifestyle and inspires those around her to do the same. She shares her AntiGravity and yoga practice everywhere she goes and dreams of building rustic Secret Spot hostels in beautiful tropical destinations. She just came back to the Philippines after a long term backpacking trip across Latin America. Follow Adi's adventures on Love the Search and on Facebook and Instagram.

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1 sole trails

  1. I've never been to Latin America but I would looove to visit soon!


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