What’s good to know before you go

Southamerica might be a completely new world for most of us when coming to this continent for the first time. You’ll get used to it really fast, though, and knowing some things, some are necessary some are only recommendations,  before you leave will definitely make it easier:

  1. The most important thing is to not be afraid! Some people and books create an impression of this really dangerous continent, it is not, at least if you follow the most simple rules like not taking a cab when it is dark outside, carrying your personal belongings in a fanny bag, avoid the more risky parts of city (like everywhere else) but most crucially, don’t loose your common sense! If you trust your good judgment, you’ll be safe most of the time.
  2. Depending on where you’re from you will have to get used to a different mentality. Everything will be more relaxed, everything works slower, don’t worry that much, just go with it, maybe it’s good for you, too, to leave the stressful environment at home.
  3. In case you plan on traveling around, pack light and functional! You won’t need that many clothes, and especially nothing uncomfortable. Be prepared to layer as the weather can change really fast some times.
  4. Coming from more western countries, we always assume that the price we’re told to pay for something is fix. It’s not. Most of the time, especially because you will look like a tourist, there’s space to bargain: with taxi drivers or tour guides. But attention, it is inappropriate to negotiate the price of food!
  5. Talking about touristic tours: don’t book them online and in advance, it will be significantly more expensive! Just go to that place and visit some tour operators. Do some research on how much a tour like this should cost, we’ve been on tours where we’ve paid a fourth of what other people had to pay!
  6.  Looking for accommodations, I would always go for AirBnBs. If you’re not alone, it is really cheap but most importantly, you get to live like the locals, which brings you closer to the culture.
  7. If you haven’t already noticed, buses are the way to get around, but they work differently than at home. Basically, they stop whenever you want them to stop, no matter if you want to get on the bus or get off. It can be confusing at times, you may always find the right bus to use but you never know when to get off. That’s why I’d recommend you to download an offline map (I was incredibly happy with maps.me), so that you can follow along.
  8. A great way to save some money is changing of where and what you eat. Many restaurant have special promotions, if you follow those, it will be way cheaper. But especially, don’t shy away from food trucks or old ladies cooking in the streets. I had my best and most traditional meals eating at places like this, sometimes for not even 1€!
  9. You cannot throw the toilet paper into the toilet!!! And you should always carry some with you, as it’s not provided everywhere.
  10.  And one last recommendation for all the German volunteers: In case you don’t have a credit card yet, go for the DKB Visa. You can use it everywhere without having to pay fees for the card itself. Once you’ve arrived in Arequipa, there are banks that won’t charge you anything with this card!

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