South America Basic Information
With 13 countries in total, there's a lot to know about South America. Over 12 major languages are spoken here alone (although, for the most part, Spanish and Portuguese will get you through) and then there are the numerous currencies, cuisines and indigenous cultures. To help ease the confusion, we've mapped out some basic information that will come in handy on your South America holiday.
Visa requirements vary between countries in South America. For some countries, like Brazil, Australian tourists must apply for the correct visa before they travel, while in Argentina and Chile, Australian tourists don't require a visa but must pay a reciprocity fee. Please be aware these visa requirements and travel conditions can change at any time. For more up-to-the-minute information, please refer to the country's closest embassy or consulate.
Currency in South America changes at every border. For the most part, the majority of South America uses a peso denomination, while others, like Ecuador, use a dollar as currency. With so many differing currencies it is important to have the right cash with you at all times. For the exact information on your destination's currency, check out our currency section.
From hearty steak in Argentina to empanadas in Peru, South Americans love their food. Considering the many cultures that make up the continent, cuisines in South America are incredibly diverse. If the food of Latin America has one just combining factor though, it would be its combined love of protein, best sampled by ordering a red meat platter called a parrillada. Meat, and steak in particular, is a popular meal in many South American countries where barbecues and grills are literally the hot spot to be. South America is also fantastic for seafood with fresh tuna, lobster, crab and the raw fish dish called ceviche all irresistible highlights. Other locally beloved ingredients include potatoes, corn and cheese, best savoured in the ball-shaped cheese bread called chipas. You'll also find some quirky regional specialities like cuy (guinea pig) and suri (weevil larvae) in Peru.
For all its jungles and remote villages, South America has its fair share of wild nightlife too. The continent's self-proclaimed party capital would have to be Buenos Aires, where the festivities start late and keep going after sun rise. Rio de Janeiro is also a worthy contender with bars boasting ocean views and clubs pulsating with Latin music into the wee hours. For more party times, the Peruvian mountain town of Cusco is an unexpected frontrunner with regular club nights, student-friendly prices and Machu Picchu travellers letting off some steam.