There are many misconceptions about traveling solo in Latin America.
I spent the better part of a year in Central and South America, and there were many things that surprised me about traveling solo in this part of the world.
I’ve traveled to 11 countries in Latin America, spending anywhere from a few days to a few months in each country.
Here are the most surprising things I discovered while traveling solo in Latin America:
1. It’s Safer Than You Might Expect
One of the biggest misconceptions about Latin America is that it’s extremely dangerous and you’d be crazy to travel there alone, especially as a female traveler.
But after traveling extensively throughout Central and South America, I can say that I’ve never once felt unsafe. I hardly ever experienced street harassment in Latin America like I did in places like Paris (where I used to live), Rome, or Athens.
Of course, you should still exercise caution while traveling in Latin America, and there are definitely certain areas to avoid. You should also be vigilant about common travel scams (which can happen anywhere in the world) but overall, Latin America is much safer than you might think.
2. It’s One Of The Most Diverse Regions In The World
Since most countries in Latin America have Spanish colonial history and speak Spanish as the primary language, you might think that the region is very homogenous.
But far from being a monolith, Latin America is actually one of the most diverse regions in the world. There is a rich history of indigenous culture that stretches from the Aztecs and Mayans in Central America to the Incans in South America (and many more.)
In Latin America, I’ve surfed in tropical beach destinations, explored historic colonial cities, discovered ancient ruins deep in the jungle and high in the mountains, hiked volcanoes, and experienced otherworldly desert landscapes.
3. It’s Perfect For Solo Travelers
I’ve traveled extensively in Latin America and Europe by myself, and by far, I’ve found Latin America to be better for solo travelers.
The backpacker trails of Central and South America draw lots of long-term travelers, so it’s easier to meet people and make travel friends. There are lots of great hostels in Latin America too.
In most countries in Latin America, the tourism infrastructure is well-developed and it’s easy to organize activities and tours where you can also meet other travelers.
4. It’s Great For Digital Nomads
Latin America may not be the first region of the world you think of when it comes to digital nomad hotspots, but it’s actually one of the fastest-growing destinations for remote workers.
Some of the best places for digital nomads in Latin America include Antigua, Guatemala, Quito, Ecuador, Medellin, Colombia, and Panama City, Panama.
5. It’s Very Helpful To Know Spanish
Finally, I was surprised by how much you really need to know Spanish in some parts of Latin America. I was lucky that I had studied Spanish for years in school, but I encountered many travelers who struggled because they didn’t speak a word of Spanish.
While you can get by not speaking any Spanish in popular tourist destinations, it’s really helpful to know at least the basics. It becomes even more useful if you plan to travel around Latin America long-term or go off the tourist trail.
I spent several months studying Spanish in Guatemala, which is a great way to learn Spanish quickly. It’s extremely popular, so there are dozens of Spanish schools to choose from in places like Antigua and Lake Atitlan, and it’s also very affordable.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com