When it comes to traveling from the US, South America is the place to go! It is relatively close without the jetlag feeling and a loss of a full day both ways for traveling. Even more important, there are so many gorgeous places with many different cultures to experience. The beauty is just incredible. Again, you can do the lounge on the beach thing and stay at an epic resort, if you want. But immersing yourself in the culture and enjoying the activities, are what makes the trip!
Adventure sees no end in South America. There is so much exploring that can be done. There are also so many ancient civilizations you can learn about. South America as a whole just feels more authentic to its individual country culture. Yes, you have the new age cities, but the small villages and towns have not lost its original charm.
What I also love about South America is how vibrant everything is. Rainbow colors are everywhere you look. There is an ambiance of genuine happiness which is spectacular. Embrace it. Allow this vibe to make your heart feel light.
Most people we have come across are also extremely nice and inviting. They love that Americans are coming to see their way of live and embrace their culture. Be kind, be generous, remain humble. We have so many luxuries we take for granted that do not exist in these people's lives. Remember that as you travel. Many locals live very hard lives, lives that you and I couldn't even comprehend. Take a moment to imagine a day in their shoes. You're eyes will be opened.
Overall, things move slower in South America. There is not the punctual hustle and bustle that we are used to. Timetables are a little more loose. Don't be surprised if your guide is a little late or your transportation a little slower. It's just how it is. As long as you are on time and meeting where you need to be, you will get there.
Currency and Language
Each currency by country is different. Make sure to take out a good bit of cash in the local currency. Unlike the US, many places and people only accept cash as payment. You will also be doing some tipping here and there as well. Remember, there will always be ATMs in towns/villages where you are staying, but they do have fees. Use your no foreign transaction fees credit card where you can; your hotel, some restaurant, booking activities etc. That way you have more cash for when you need it.
Primarily, people in South America speak Spanish or Portuguese. Native dialects do vary, however. I would suggest that you brush up on your Spanish a little bit before you go. In high tourism areas will have quite a bit of English speakers. In villages, throughout your journey, and interacting with locals, knowing a little bit of Spanish will definitely help You just need enough to get by. Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank You, How are you, How much, Where is the bathroom, etc. The basics.
You will get your Latin American Cuisine fill for sure on your trip! It really puts our Americanized versions to shame. Many rice, beans and meat dishes with unique spices that pair nicely. Lots of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables. Enjoy amazing coffee and various sweets. You will also have a chance to experience some local delicacies. Things you would never imagine trying. Some, I'd pass on trying haha, but others that are a little less risky are actually pretty good.