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Crossed by the equator, most of South America's area is in the Southern Hemisphere. From the 1530s, South America was invaded by European conquistadors, first from Portugal, later from Spain, who divided it into colonies. Therefore, South America has a very distinct flavor for the mixture of African, Indian and European influences. South America has lots of marvelous attractions, including science, nature and history exhibits throughout the continent as well as a host of natural attractions, from volcanoes to cold glaciers and strange animals.
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Most of South America is near the equator, making the winter and summer the same mild temperature. In the Amazon and Colombian Pacific Coast, for example, it is common for it to rain everyday, but traveling there would only be hampered if the roads get washed out.
The climate changes from the tropics when you get into the high altitudes of the Andes. If the humidity of the tropics is too much for you, the cooler, spring-like weather of the highlands are close by in some regions. The "Southern Cone," which consists of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Brazil, has more changes in temperature than the tropical regions. Their seasons are similar to the northern hemisphere but occur in reverse.
International Flights: Many airlines travel to South America from the US and Europe, including American Airlines and United Airlines. Major cities like New York and Miami have many flights to South America.
Domestic Flights: Most Latin American countries have flights within the country and if you plan to cover large distances, flying is a relatively inexpensive and fast way to get from country to country.
Long-Distance Buses: Many Latin Americans use buses as a means of travel on extended journeys. In more developed countries the buses are modern and comfortable and with few delays, but in poorer countries a bus ride can be exasperating or adventurous, depending on the traveler.
Trains: On some train rides, the journey is the best part. Some of the best train rides are Cusco to Machu Picchu, which is the only way to get to this ancient lost city without walking the Inca trail. The route from Uyuni to Calama will take you through the dramatic landscape of the high Altiplano and through snow-capped volcanic peaks. The Copper Canyon Railway runs through the 2,000m deep Copper canyon, then to the mountains of Sierra Madre, and finally to the city of Chihuahua. The Old Patagonia Express is a classic South American train route, complete with an old steam train that slowly chugs through the beautiful northern Patagonia region.
Boats: Most often boat rides are more inexpensive than flying and in some places it is the only way to get around. Some of the best boat trips are on the Amazon River, the Panama Canal, a Galapagos cruise, and the boat ride to the San Rafael Glacier.
Some countries only require a passport if you are from the US, Canada, or the UK. However, some countries now require visas. Check the appropriate consulate or embassy before your departure. Most countries allow visitors to stay for a maximum of 90 days. If you want to stay for any longer you can apply for an extension at the nearest immigration office.
Vaccinations: Most countries don't require vaccinations. Though if you plan on venturing into the Amazon or other high-risk areas you might be required to get vaccinated for yellow fever, malaria, and other diseases. It is best to get vaccinated three months before your trip.
Money Matters: ATMs machines are widely available in most towns and cities in South America and credit cards are also commonly accepted at stores and restaurants. Just in case, it might be a good idea to bring a few hundred dollars in cash for when you first arrive.
What to Bring: Especially if you are on a trekking trip, it would be advisable to travel lightly. Personal items are available at most pharmacies, but it might be more convenient to bring your own.
After planning your perfect vacation, take a good guidebook with you. A book that has a language guide will be extremely helpful if you aren't fluent in Spanish or Portuguese. Also, try to pick one that chooses restaurants and hotels that are close to your budget.