Saturday, 8 February 2020



BRING NICE CLOTHES/JEWELLERY! In the UK, I always wear my nanny’s gold chain and signet ring. I haven’t taken it off in well over a year so when I arrived at Gatwick airport, I asked my mum’s opinion on whether I should take it.

“How much is it worth?” My dad said, as always taking a statistical viewpoint.

“You don’t take it off at night, so you won’t lose it!” Mum offered.

I knew the second dad asked how much it’s worth that I had to take it off. It’s not necessarily the most expensive piece of jewellery but it is priceless to me. I am so glad I left it behind, as sad as I was to take it off because it’s just one of those things not worth risk losing or being stolen. South America is not somewhere you want to be flashing wealth around; watches, rings, earrings, or nice jackets are probably best kept at home. It's not uncommon to be stolen from. *If this happens, just give everything you have and walk the other way. (This is where insurance comes in to help).

I’d also suggest leaving any clothes you like behind, not only to be streetwise but also because washing machines and tumble dryers aren’t all that tech-savvy. They all have one, albeit thorough, setting: hot. Everything that makes its way to the laundrette will undoubtedly come back two sizes smaller and a different shade. Best not to get teary over your fave t-shirt. Top tip:*bring light clothes that you can layer so they’re appropriate for all weather!

RELY ON THE WEATHER APP. This was a bitter pill to swallow for a militant planner like me. Though the forecast for the day is generally accurate, creating a weeklong schedule (as was my mission in Rio) is impossible when the weather app changes it’s mind every few hours. As in, it will say it’s sunny with no clouds on Wednesday, so we save Copacobana for Wednesday. But the next time we look, it’s tropical storms, so better do Copacobana today and the museums on Wednesday. And really, Wednesday is just cloudy, so we probably should have gone on that hike. The best advice I can give is: scrap the app, and instead of working out when is best to go to the beach, or to go to a museum: if it’s sunny, just get outside and do something while you can.

BRING TOO MANY CLOTHES. Enough clothes for a week will be perfect weight-wise in your backpack. You may be surprised that Haze and I only brought two tees and a few strappy tops! Somehow, we’ve managed to make our Instagram look as though we aren't wearing the same clothes for days in a row. We didn’t do this on purpose, I promise – but maybe it just shows you how 10% of your wardrobe is enough. I was going to add to that sentence “enough for three months…” but to be honest, you could go years without needing more than 10% of what you have! If you bring less, you will also have backpack space to pick up a few cute items along the way. Our traveller-pro friend, Rosie, gave us the advice to “buy one thing in every country”, that way you have a souvenir from each place you visit and don’t overbuy. (Thanks for that golden nugget, Rosie).

EXPECT PEOPLE TO SPEAK ENGLISH. Most travellers our age can speak English, so bailed us out several times in terms of translating for our waitress or taxi driver. But these were lucky occasions, more than once we relied on the Google Translate app, which isn’t very effective in a No Service zone. Sometimes even hostel staff can’t speak English. Polish up on your basic language skills before travelling, especially if you’re going alone. Alex and Georgie’s basic Spanish genuinely saved us from sleeping on the streets when we arrived in Iguazu!

WALK AND TALK, GET TO A WALL. This advice can be applied for any city you visit – I use this safety tip when I’m in London too – try not to talk on the phone whilst you navigate a street you don’t know, even if you’re using headphones to do it. If you’re going to look something up or use the maps app, go into a shop to use your phone or find a space on the wall to lean against. That way you can see who’s in front and either side of you. You are also more aware when you are stationary; nobody can come up behind you and catch you out. Sounds basic but our friend recently was mugged by a cyclist, he yanked the wire of her earphones as he was cycling past and the phone, attached, went with it. Be careful!

ASSUME HOSTELS HAVE COOKING FACILITIES. It may seem like a good idea because it’s much cheaper than the other hostels, but if you can’t cook in a hostel because they don’t have a hob or microwave, you can add an extra £10 onto your daily budget whether you like it or not. More often than not, it’s more economical to pay an extra few pounds and then be able to eat in!

MISTAKE DULCE DE LECHE FOR PB! Dulce de Leche is several countries in South America's version of British jam. They use it in cakes, pancakes, on toast; it’s sickly sweet and comes by the jar in supermarkets. It’s basically a sweeter, runnier, pastier version of caramel and easily mistaken for our humble friend, peanut butter. It wasn’t until we bit into our sandwiches halfway up a mountain in Rio that we realised the peanut butter was exceptionally sweet. Dulce de leche sandwiches aren’t all that bad after all…


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