Adventure Life Journeys will send a detailed, tour-specific packing list after you book your trip. In the meantime, below are a few travel essentials to get you started. In general, less is more. Set out everything you want to bring and then try to pack half that!

Packing Essentials

Note: Delayed bags are COMMON at many South and Central American destinations. Pack one change of clothes, two pairs of socks/underwear, personal hygiene items, passport, airline tickets, and emergency numbers in your carry on. Prepare as if you may not see your checked bags for two or three days just in case, but don't go overboard. You still want to be comfortable negoitiating around the maze of airports.

  • Online Gear Store: Check-out the Adventure Gear site for all of your packing needs and detailed, packing lists for any region, from the humid tropics to the cold polar regions.
  • ATM/ Debit card: In most cities and even smaller towns, you will find ATMs. Arrange for a fee waiver before leaving and save receipts in case there are errors.
  • Cash and/or Traveler's Checks: Pack a little US cash in small denominations for emergencies. Traveler's checks are a bit safer, but they are also more difficult to exchange.
  • Passport and Airline Tickets: Don't forget!
  • Copies of Travel Documents: Store copies of travel documents (passport, tour voucher, travel insurance, airline tickets) separately from the actual documents.
  • Address book/ Emergency numbers: Pack an address book with emergency numbers for friends/family, tour staff, credit cards, and travel insurance.
  • Camera, spare battery, and lots of film: Although you can buy film in most locations (even some Antarctic boats and Amazon lodges), prices are often considerably higher than home. Consider how much film you will need and then bring at least half as much again!
  • Comfortable Shoes: Slip on shoes work great for airports and casual walks around town. Bring durable hiking boots for trekking tours to minimize twisted ankles and don't forget water shoes (Tevas, flip-flops, or old tennis shoes) for trips to the Galapagos, whitewater rafting, etc.
  • Money belt for important documents, passport, and money. Do not use the kind that hang from your neck. They're not very secure and a pain to use.
  • Convertible pants: Light, fast drying, and the legs zip off to form shorts. Bring at least two pairs!
  • Fleece sweater and light rain jacket: Expect the unpredictable, even in tropical areas!!
  • Shirts (Long and Short Sleeve): Try to pack colors that you can mix and match to minimize luggage without having to wear the same combination everyday. Check out our Weather links for a 10 day forecast before you go. Synthetic, fast-drying fabrics are a real bonus in the tropics!
  • Swimsuit: You can find one there, but styles and sizes are limited.
  • Sunglasses and Hat to block the strong Equatorial sun. Consider buying the hat when you arrive. It makes a great memory of all of your travel miles.
  • Personal Items and Medications: Although you can find many travel essentials in South and Central America, you're unlikely to find your favorite brand of shampoo or deodorant. If possible, pack these in a small tote in your carry-on. Don't forget the insect repellant, antibiotics (for Traveler's Diarrhea), anti-itch cream, extra contacts/ glasses, sunscreen, and prescription medications.
  • Water Bottle: Minimize plastic waste by bringing a refillable water bottle so that you can buy larger bottles of water or fill up from hotel supplies.
  • Book(s): Remember that the pace of life is a bit slower in Latin America. Expect a few delays and plan accordingly.
  • Journal and Pens: You're bound to forget some of those subtle travel experiences once you return. What better way to pass the time, than to make a lasting record of your adventures!

Advice from a Traveler

It's amazing how much stuff people take when traveling to Latin America. A backpacker may be willing to take a cold shower, but she thinks she needs all of the amenities of a Roman bath to accompany the freezing water! Many travelers pack for South American journeys with the thought, "I won't be able to buy this down there. Better take it." It's only later, when buying stove fuel at Ace Hardware in Quito, that she realizes how wrong she was!

One of the pleasures of traveling is bringing home crafts and memories of the host country, so why miss out by bringing too many odds and ends from home! In Iquiue, Chile, I once saw two backpackers with four 100-gallon backpacks and a cat. I nearly lost my senses laughing and pondering, "What can be so important to kill yourself carrying it." As it turns out, the refrigerator-toting travelers had an intriguing story to go along with their packs, but I don't really think they needed the cat.

Surprisingly, all a South American traveler really needs is a passport and plane ticket. Everything else he can buy as needed in markets, malls, or from other travelers. And the price for items bought on the road? Let's just say it won't break your budget.

By Tiffany L. Murnan