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5 things that surprised me the most about traveling alone in Latin America


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There are many misconceptions about traveling alone in Latin America.

I spent the better part of a year in Central and South America, and there were many things that surprised me about traveling alone in this part of the world.

I have traveled to 11 countries in Latin America, spending anywhere from a few days to a few months in each country.

These are the most surprising things I discovered while traveling solo in Latin America:

woman in cartagena

1. It’s more secure than you might expect

One of the biggest misconceptions about Latin America is that it is extremely dangerous and it would be crazy to travel there alone, especially as a female traveler.

Of course, you still need to be careful when traveling in Latin America, and there are definitely certain areas to avoid. You should also be on the lookout for common travel scams (which can happen anywhere in the world), but in general, Latin America is much safer than you might think.

Young tourist woman with a backpack watching a waterfall in a natural environment, Costa Rica, Central America

2. It is one of the most diverse regions in the world

Since most of the countries in Latin America have a Spanish colonial history and speak Spanish as their primary language, you might think that the region is very homogeneous.

But far from being a monolith, Latin America is actually one of the most diverse regions in the world. There is a rich history of indigenous culture stretching from the Aztecs and Mayans in Central America to the Incas in South America (and many more).

In Latin America, I’ve surfed in tropical beach destinations, explored historic colonial cities, discovered ancient ruins deep in the jungle and high in the mountains, hiked volcanoes, and experienced otherworldly desert landscapes.

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A stunning photo of Peru's most popular attraction, Machu Picchu, a 15th century stone citadel perched on top of a mountain.

3. It is perfect for solo travelers

I have traveled extensively throughout Latin America and Europe on my own and have by far found Latin America to be better for solo travelers.

The backpacking trails of Central and South America attract many long-term travelers, making it easier to meet people and make travel friends. There are also many great hostels in Latin America.

In most Latin American countries, the tourist infrastructure is well developed and it is easy to organize activities and tours where you can also meet other travelers.

woman in nicaragua

4. It’s great for digital nomads

Latin America may not be the first region of the world that you think of when it comes to digital nomad hotspots, but it is actually one of the fastest growing destinations for remote workers.

Both Central and South America have tons of big cities that are perfect for digital nomads who want to enjoy a lower cost of living and still be in the same time zone as the United States.

Some of the best places for digital nomads in Latin America include Antigua, Guatemala, Quito, Ecuador, Medellin, Colombia, and Panama City, Panama.

View of Medellin Colombia

5. It is very useful to know Spanish

Finally, I was surprised at how much you really need to know Spanish in some parts of Latin America. I was lucky to have studied Spanish for years in school, but I ran into many travelers who struggled because they didn’t speak a word of Spanish.

While it is possible not to speak any Spanish in popular tourist destinations, it really helps to know at least the basics. It becomes even more useful if you plan to travel in Latin America long term or go off the tourist trail.

I spent several months studying Spanish in Guatemala, which is a great way to learn Spanish quickly. It’s extremely popular, which is why there are dozens of Spanish schools to choose from in places like Antigua and Lake Atitlán, and it’s also very affordable.

Arch in Antigua Guatemala

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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com