Our contributing writer travelled through South America for his grad trip … and loved it!
Planning on an exchange programme? You should definitely do it. It is six months of independence, immersing yourself in new cultures, and making lifelong friends spanning the globe! When it comes to destinations, what springs to mind are the popular cities like London, New York, and Paris. These places are indeed vibrant and have some the best schools. However, you should not overlook countries like Brazil, Peru, Argentina, and Chile. These places have one of the friendliest people, the best nightlife and will not let your wallet take a huge beating. All the boxes checked for the needs of a student in a foreign land. I had the best adventures during my time in Brazil.
Still not convinced? Here are 5 reasons why South America should be your choice:
1. It’s Not As Dangerous As You Think
Of course, you have the standard advice to not use your phone in public (even the locals say this!), keep valuables close, travel light, and so on. Keep these basic tips in mind. Most importantly, do not flaunt your wealth and be really aware of your surroundings. For example, if you feel someone creepy is of possible threat to you, get yourself into a more crowded area. Even if it means a detour via a subway station which is 30 minutes away on foot. This actually happened to me. It was 8pm and I was in the old downtown area of Sao Paulo and was supposed to take the bus home. However, when I realised the bus stop was too dark and occupied by a haggard-looking man, I made a U-turn for the metro.
Then again, low crime doesn’t mean no crime. Of course you’ll want to travel as much as possible, but find out from the locals what some of the “red zones” are. In many major cities in Latin America, the old downtown neighbourhoods and a few others are usually associated with being a tad less safe . Use all your senses to detect the telltale signs – such neighbourhoods typically have very run-down and poorly maintained buildings (sight), people usually talk louder and in a less civil manner (hearing), and there may be bad smells around, usually of human waste (smell). Nonetheless, many cities’ historic charm lies in such areas. The rule of thumb is, visit in the day with company and avoid visiting in the evenings at all costs.
2. It’s Cheaper
I went to Brazil so this may not really apply. The same goes for Chile – food in Sao Paulo and Santiago costs about the same as Singapore. But if you happen to end up in Peru, Argentina, Colombia, or Mexico , chances are your wallet won’t get burnt that easily! As an average tourist, the typical day in Rio de Janeiro may cost about SGD80 to SGD100, while Buenos Aires can easily be half that amount (Disclaimer: this, of course, depends on whether you eat at high-end restaurants and types of activities you do!).
In the meantime, consider starting to plan your finances early! Try downloading an app to help you manage your budget before and during your trip.
3. Strangers Become Friends, Instantly
We always hear our friends having problems settling in during exchange. None of that happens in South America – where everyone – from the shopkeepers to taxi drivers to local students, are all ready to talk to you and help you feel at home in whatever way possible. New friends and no homesickness! Chances are, when you make your first local friends, they’ll take care of you all the way, which, of course, includes bringing you to what they call festas or baladas (okay, partying in general). But fun aside, probably due to a more laidback, open, and no-holds culture compared to Singapore, locals are happy to help you out with almost everything and anything.
This article is an excerpt from ZALORA Community. For the full article, click here.
13 Jan 2017