South American countries begin opening for travel


Though South American governments have been careful to keep the air industry grounded for almost six months, we are now seeing some countries on the continent opening up their borders.

In Latin America, there are currently only a handful of countries that have fully opened up for tourists – though more are on the way. Here, we take a quick look at the options becoming available for adventurous travelers:

Brazil

With heavenly beaches, world-famous carnivals, and a treasure trove of pristine wildlife, Brazil lifted entry regulations on 29 July (though tourists must have medical insurance coverage, written in English or Portuguese, and minimum coverage of at least US$5,600).

Still, any trip to Brazil is primed as an adventure to remember. Few places compare with either the idyllic golden bays of Buzios’ coastline or the infectious Samba spirit of Rio de Janeiro and Afro-Brazilian customs in Salvador de Bahia. This is not to mention the natural delights of Lençóis Maranhenses, the Amazon Rainforest, or Pantanal Wetlands. This enormous nation (the largest country in South America at 8,516 million sq. km) is brimming with opportunities to explore, learn, and party like the locals.

Brazilian destinations of particular interest:

  • The Brazilian Amazon: Remote adventures that minimize human contact can be had through Brazil wildlife safaris in the one-and-only Amazon rainforest. Here, in the most delicate of ecosystems, fantastic sustainable eco-lodges are run by highly knowledgeable guides. Some are truly luxurious too, meaning unforgettable excursion after unforgettable excursion in search of monkeys, insects of all varieties, thousands of bird species, Caiman, and Pink River Dolphins, to mention only a few.

  • Iguazu Falls: A highlight of any trip to Brazil and indeed South America more widely, the Iguazu Falls are a mighty marvel to behold, whether from the safety of an elevated observation platform or – for those brave enough – an adrenaline-packed socially-distanced boat ride that takes you behind the falls themselves! With tours available to both the Brazilian and Argentine sides of the Iguazu River, wildlife and birdwatching walks and off-road explorations, as well as a handful of superb boutique hotels, it is quite simply a region of Brazil not to be missed.

Bolivia

On September 1st, Bolivia has reopened air borders and is once again allowing international commercial flights to operate (though passengers must have a medical certificate with a negative result). Though not as well known as its South American neighbors, Bolivia beguiles any visitor with a dazzling blend of sublime scenery, architecture, and pre-Columbian heritage.

A Bolivian destination of particular interest:

  • Uyuni: The Uyuni Salt Flats is undoubtedly the most well-known destination in Bolivia, and certainly among the most famous in South America. This is for good reason, as the sheer vastness of the crusted salt floor stretches far into the horizon for thousands of miles, making for an epic panorama that prompts the dropping of jaws every time. Yes, the snow-white landscape of the Salar de Uyuni is a much-cherished stop on journeys in South America.

Ecuador

In mid-August, the Ecuadorian government announced that travelers arriving in the country would no longer be required to self-isolate if they show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

This has opened travelers to the country’s incredible biodiversity. Considered one of the world’s most biodiverse places, the Ecuadorian Amazon teems with awe-inspiring flora and fauna from top to toe – all condensed into one small but amazing country.

Ecuadorian destinations of particular interest:

  • Galapagos: The Galapagos Islands are now open, though visitors are required to wear face masks and comply with safety protocols.

The magnificent Galapagos Islands, found more than 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, continue to enthrall travelers with their magical blend of epic scenery and unparalleled biodiversity. The jewel in Ecuador’s crown, the Galapagos Islands are teeming with mind-blowing endemic species of flora and fauna that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, not to mention totally unique volcanic landscapes.

  • The Ecuadorian Andes: Ecuador may be small, but what it lacks in size is made up for in variety! The unique environments that exist across the country lead to a boundless range of experiences, in some of the most picturesque settings imaginable. The locals are proud of their ancestral heritage and actively encourage visitors to safely participate in traditional customs, which have been passed down through the generations while the pristine landscapes serve as breathtaking backdrops throughout this adventure across Ecuador, the Andes, and its cultural heritage. The town of Otavalo, for example, is best known for its famous traditional market. For hundreds of years, people have come from all over the Andes to trade, and pick up locally produced goods such as pottery, garments, fruits, and spices from one of the many independent sellers at this most Latin American of bazaars. Today, the sprawling array of vendors, stands, and merchants are as much for the benefit of visiting tourists than for the indigenous Andean population, though it’s just as colorful and just as hectic!

Countries still closed:

  • Argentina: So far, Argentina has not established a reopening date.
  • Chile: As of September 11, 2020, passengers are not allowed to enter the country.
  • Colombia: Domestic flights have restarted; though international flights have no official date so far.
  • Paraguay: Airports are closed; there’s no reopening date, although there could be a travel corridor with Uruguay.
  • Peru: Domestic flights are allowed; though international flights could begin on 30 September.
  • Uruguay: International airports are closed, though transit passengers are allowed from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
  • Venezuela: As of August 13, passenger flights to Venezuela remain suspended.

(The IATA Travel Centre is the primary source for the information provided here.)

Alfonso Tandazo is President and CEO at Surtrek Tour Operator. Surtrek Tour Operator is a well-established firm, specializing in custom-designed luxury tours in Ecuador, the Galapagos and throughout the rest of South America.

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Comments (6)

  1. Leo says:

    I’d like to get to South America either late in 2020 or early in 2021. I’m thinking of it as the gap year that I never had but with a lot more more comfort than a gap year. Thanks for a good summary of how things stand at the moment.

  2. Rose Davies says:

    Whenever I see pictures of Iguazu Falls I’m always reminded of what Eleanor Roosevelt was supposed to have said when she saw Iguazu in full flow – “My poor Niagara!” I haven’t see either but I’d love the chance to compare them.

  3. Brian says:

    What seems a lifetime ago, between finishing university and starting as a wage-slave, with two friends I headed for South America. It was probably before the words Gap Year had even made it into the English dictionary.

    It was also before regular buses and flights. We spent a lot of our time waiting for transport that was often late and sometimes never arrived at all. But in spite of the problems we had amazing experiences.

    Reading this has brought back many memories. Sadly, I am of an age where I have to do some shielding but I hope to return to South America soon.

  4. Helen Evans says:

    I’d really like to go to the Brazilian rainforest one day, it would be so different to anywhere else I’ve ever been. Never would have thought of Bolivia though, I guess I’ve never really seen that much when it comes to touristy destinations. It’s interesting to see what different countries are doing with regards to the pandemic, especially with which ones are shut to the outside world. Can’t help but wonder whether we should have done the same months ago and maybe we wouldn’t be in the state we’re in now as it’s dragging things out for so much longer. I won’t be travelling for a while, but I’ll be very excited once the virus is over to pack my bags and get out somewhere that’s as far away from here as possible – the Galapagos would be top of my list I think!

  5. Wayne Lester says:

    I guess this is good news considering the state of some of the countries in Latin America right now when it comes to their active cases. It’s also great to see how the travel industry is recovering little by little because it is one of the most affected industries in our world right now. The danger of transmission is high in enclosed spaces like airplanes. And then travel destinations were closed to limit the influx of tourists or visitors. It’s only been last month when borders are beginning to open. Africa is welcoming tourists again to enjoy the wild safaris. And seems like South America is cautious, and understandably so. The danger is still there. I would love to see the improvement of the industry and how they can implement all the necessary precautions in order to protect everyone from the virus. I wish us all good luck.

  6. V. Klein says:

    More and more countries are reopening its borders and I hope I get the courage to go out and explore again. I really get anxious going out of the house just to do errands, much more visiting another country. I miss the outdoors but I am too scared to go out. Lastly, I am amazed by the picture of Iguazu Falls. And now I’m dreaming of really just going out and visiting new places. Wondering always if it is safe to travel now. I’ve heard different opinions and being a worrier, I really take everything into consideration. Can someone suggest how to cope up with this anxiety?

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