Packing for your trip to South America can be a daunting task, especially if you plan to backpack. Whether you´re going skiing in the Andes or trekking in the jungle, here´s a list of essentials for any South American packing list.
If there´s one thing you forget, don´t let it be sunglasses! I would recommend buying several pairs of cheap sunglasses at your local discount or dollar store, because if you lose a pair on your adventure, you won´t be heartbroken and you can still afford backup pairs. These are helpful, not just because the north and central areas of South America can be hot and sunny, but also because bus travel is one of the cheapest ways to get around. When you´re trying to sleep on the bus, you´ll be thankful you brought those sunglasses to dim the movie or the bright lights. Another thing that I didn´t expect when I first arrived in Buenos Aires and Santiago was the city pollution. My contact lenses hurt from the bus exhaust in both cities, and I was grateful that I added cheap sunglasses to my packing list to save my red eyes.
South American isn´t necessarily unsafe, but it´s best to take precautions. You can buy a simple dial lock from any hardware or warehouse store, and you´ll be glad you did. The ones with keys are annoying because you have to remember to put the keys somewhere, and they are often tiny and easy to lose. This will come in handy for your backpack when you are walking around the cities, so if anyone tries to unzip the compartments, they´ll have to go through the lock first. You can also use it in hostel lockers to keep important documents like your passport, license, or other identification safe.
This may seem like a strange addition to your South American packing list, but I can´t tell you how many times I was glad to pack my pashmina. It´s basically an oversized scarf, and scarves are popular fashion acessories in South American cities. In airports, trains, and buses, air conditioning can be a mixed blessing. I used my pashmina as an extra layer on one bus trip through Chile, and it easily fit in my backpack when I folded it up. Also, if you visit old churches, you may need to cover up in more conservative countries. A pashmina will cover your shoulders so you won´t have to miss out! Lastly, if your hostel charges you to use towels or facecloths, it is totally acceptable to dry off with your pashmina instead!
Multiple wallets (and sock)
It´s always a good idea to keep money in different places. This way if someone pickpockets you or you happen to get mugged, you will still have access to money. Keep one credit card in one wallet along with the majority of your cash, and stash a little cash and another debit or ATM card in a different wallet. You might also considered stashing a bit of cash in a sock in the bottom of your backpack. Just don´t forget where you put it!
Good luck on your travels to South America, and I hope this list of packing essentials helped!