South & Central America 5th September 2022

Prior to travel to the Americas it's vital to check the Covid entry requiements, the FCDO website is a good starting point. Most countries require proof of double vacinnation and the completion of a health entry form. 

Crossing borders by lands has been difficult but is now improving.

The cost of living crisis has also hit the Americas with rising inflation and many street protests, mnost notablyin Ecuador.

We advise against all travel to Venezuela, the country is currently very unstable with mass protests against the government, food shortage and general chaos.

In Brazil there is a significant risk of being mugged in the big cities and in some cases where the victim is marched to an ATM machine. The current poor economic situation, further damaged by Covid, is leading to a significant increase in crime. There have been many cases of mass robberies of people on the beaches of Copocabana and Ipanema beaches in Rio. If you are mugged, you MUST comply to demands and hand over some cash. It’s worth carrying some mugging money!

The general poor economic situation in Argentina and street protests may continue.  Relations with the UK over the Falkland Islands (known as Malvinas Island in Argentina) have improved, but all British visitors should have some knowledge of the conflict of 1982, especially the sinking of the cruiser Belgrano by HMS Conquerer. There are high levels of crime in many Argentinian cities, especially Buenos Aires, so avoid taking high value items onto the streets and never resist a robbery, always comply. The economic has resulted in a slide inteh value of the Argentinian peso making the country cheap for foreigners to visit. The infalton rate reached 70% in August 2022.

Chile due to its geography, offers a huge range of outdoor and cultural options from the stunning Lake District in the south to the northern Atacama Desert. Crime levels in the cities are higher than one might imagine. The Peso has dropped significantly in value, but generally it’s a fabulous country with the nicest of people. Chile held a referendum on 4 September 2022 with regards to accepting the new constitution but voters rejected it by a significant margin and one suspect more political unrest will follow.

Colombia is certainly safer than it was three or four years ago but jungle areas near both the Ecuadorian and Venezuelan border should be avoided. The FCDO Travel Advice website has a good map showing areas that MUST be avoided. The rebel grouping FARC signed a historic ceasefire deal with the government on 13 November 2016.  The other smaller rebel group, the ELN, also declared a ceasefire in September 2017 but this ended in mid-January 2018, with an attack against the Army.

For those wishing to understand the background the civil war in Colombia, Tom Feiling's book "Short Walks from Bogota" is a good read. So Colombia is much safer than a decade ago, is a wonderful destination but caution is required, there are high levels of crime in many urban areas.   

In recent months Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador have experienced some civil unrest, generally related to worsening economic situation. Ecuador has been subject to a wave of gang warfare killings in 2021 and in June 2022 the country descended into chaos wiith wide spread disorder prompting the FCDO to put a travel advisory notice in place. In early July 2022 the situation improved and unrest has abated but the country is likely to remain volatile.

In Peru & Bolivia, the bus company Cruz Del Sur is recommended, we have received some very positive reviews on service and reliability.

The crime rate in Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras is of particular concern. Travellers need to be prepared to minimise the chances of becoming a victim of crime but also be prepared to get mugged - just comply. Crime level have risen as a result of Covid.

Costa Rica is more expensive than other Central American countries but is stable with superb national parks and opportunities for adventure activities. Many people have found a visit to El Salvador very rewarding.

The whole of the western coast of South America is vulnerable to earthquakes, travellers should seek advice from the locals as to what to do in the event of a earthquake. On 16 April 2016, a large earthquake hit North-West Ecuador, killing over 440 people and a powerful quake struck the Chilean Lake district in mid-December 2016. Mexico was hit by two powerful earthquakes in 2017 and two smaller ones have occurred in 2021. The west coast & some central areas are an active earthquake zone.   


  
Diseases

Since 2014, there has been a rapid increase in cases of Chikungunya Fever across Central America and Caribbean, caused by day-biting mosquitos. Chikungunya has similar symptoms to Dengue Fever which is also a continued risk in Central and South America, The WHO is now advising visitors to Sao Paulo state to have a Yellow Fever vaccination and Bolivia has seem some cases so check whether you need a Yellow Fever certificate before departure.

The Zika Virus, spread again by Aedes mosquitoes, is infecting many across the continent. Brazil suffered from a serious outbreak in 2016, the situation has now improved but the threat of infections remain. Any women planning to get pregnant or who are pregnant should seek medical advice and may wish to avoid the regions. For most people however, the symptoms are mild and much less severe than Dengue or Chikungunya Fever but the long-term consequences of the diseases are still being explored.

A number of travellers visiting the Amazon areas of Latin America have tried the local Ayahuasca (known as Yage in Colombia) drug. This is a tribal hallucinogenic drug which we strongly advise not to be taken. It was very powerful and has unpredictable side effects, (of note, it's never given to tribal youngsters) and led to the death of a British traveller in 2014.

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