Packing for Latin America

Luggage

Baggage handling in Latin America is neither worse nor better than anywhere else in the world. Remember that you will probably accumulate luggage as you travel.

It is best to pack light, and with spare capacity. Otherwise, as well as having the inconvenience of carrying around a couple of plastic bags full of articles acquired en route, you are also more vulnerable to losing things.

We recommend a sturdy suitcase, or soft-sided resilient backpack / hold-all (depending upon the nature of your trip).

You will also need a daypack (which should be taken as hand luggage, if it falls within the permitted dimensions).

You will NOT need a clean set of clothes for every day of the trip, as all good hotels have laundry facilities if required. It is useful to have luggage that can be locked.

For the latest information on luggage restrictions for your flights, please check online and plan accordingly.

Luggage Transfers

If any of your flights involve a change of plane, there is always the possibility that you and your checked luggage will arrive separately.

Try to use distinctive baggage that will be easier to describe, if it goes astray, and label your bags clearly with your name and hotel destination. If you are moving fairly quickly on to your next port of call, add this information to the luggage label. Place a duplicate label inside each piece of luggage.

Pack strategically by carrying some essentials as part of your hand luggage:

Travel documents including passport, itinerary and any important contact details, essential medicines for the journey, wallets or purses with money and credit cards, any medication and one full change of clothing.

Baggage Allowances

Baggage allowances vary from one carrier to another. Infants have no baggage allowance, but parents are allowed to carry reasonable accoutrements for the baby, free of charge.

Children (aged 2-11 years inclusive) have full adult baggage allowance. Club and First Class passengers have a higher baggage allowance than Economy Class, usually at least 30kg in total.

Hold baggage allowances in late 2006 were fluctuating according to the varying rules over cabin luggage – check with your airline, whose websites normally have up-to-date information. Some airlines are now charging for checked baggage. Now in 2019 the trend for baggage allowances continues so please double check.

As a very general rule, most international carriers as well as domestic carriers in Latin America allow a maximum of 23kg in Economy Class, for both internal and international flights. Aerolineas Argentinas may only permit 15kg hold luggage on domestic flights on certain routes.

The charges for excess weight can be substantial, so please make sure that you are aware of baggage allowances before beginning your Latin America tour. See airlines’ websites for information on large or unusual baggage.

Document Checklist

Check you have the following in your hand luggage before departure: • Airline tickets • Final Travel Document & confirmed itinerary • Cash and travelers checks. (Please refer to section on travelers checks) • Credit / Debit cards. (Please see section on Credit Cards) • Insurance documents • Passport plus a photocopy of the pages of your passport containing personal information, and any relevant visas (Please see section on visas) • Vaccination certificates. (Please refer to section on Health and Vaccinations)

We strongly recommend that all the above be kept in your money belt – worn inside your clothing. Please keep separately any travelers checks purchase slips, a copy of the relevant pages of your passport, and any relevant visas.

Essentials

Money-belt – containing those items stated in section Document Checklist, above.

Medical kit – Anti-diarrhea tablets and Dioralyte or similar sachets of re-hydration salts – Antiseptic / antibiotic cream – Insect-bite ointment / insect repellent (please see section on Malaria) – Lip-salve & sunscreen (high factor with protection against UVA and UVB rays) – After-sun lotion, sticking plasters, painkillers

NB: All these items and many more can be purchased over the counter in pharmacies throughout Latin America. 

Clothing

When embarking on any of our Latin America tours, the following clothing list may be useful as a guide to what you will need to take:

For warmth it is usually better to wear several thin garments, rather than one thick one. Altitude means that temperatures can change quickly and often as you travel, so layers are best, so you can put on and take off as required.

So if your route takes you to both the high Andes (where it is often very cold at night) as well as to the Amazon jungle or very hot regions, then three or four shirts / t-shirts and one medium-weight jersey is a much better combination than one shirt / t-shirt and one thick jersey.

If travelling to Brazil, Yucatán, Belize, Venezuela, Galápagos Islands or the Caribbean and lowlands of Central America you will need to adapt your clothing for primarily hot weather. Pack light cotton t-shirts, shorts, skirts and trousers.

For travel to Patagonia, and high-altitude regions, you can expect some days of severely cold weather, especially in the Chilean / Argentine winter (June to October) and the Bolivian or Peruvian Altiplano. For these trips, it is advisable to bring thermal underwear and good quality outer-shell clothing, including gloves, hat and scarf.

Equipment for Special Destinations:

Amazon & Mato Grosso / Pantanal Trips

Take several changes of light shirts or t-shirts – it is hard to get clothes dry owing to the high humidity. Pack light-colored, long-sleeved shirts / t-shirts to protect yourself against biting insects (brightly-colored clothes tend to attract them), particularly during rainy seasons.

You should also pack one pair of safari trousers for the walks during the day, and shorts for the evening back at the lodge.

It is important that you always keep at least one set of dry clothes for the evening.

The following items may also prove useful:

• Hat • swimsuit • trainers • sunglasses • waterproof jacket • torch • binoculars • insect repellent

It is often possible to buy a lightweight plastic poncho locally – more suitable for the jungle than a heavy waterproof.

For some excursions to the Amazon jungle and Pantanal lodges, you may find you are restricted to a maximum baggage allowance of 10kg (owing to limited space in canoes or light aircraft). In these cases, the local operator will provide secure storage of the remainder of your luggage.

The temperature generally ranges from 20 to 35°C (although it can get very cold at night in June). Humidity stays at around 90% in the Amazon, and rainfall is in the region of 118ins (3000 mm) per year.

Galapagos Cruises

Clothing requirements on board boats cruising the Galápagos Islands range from very informal to “smart casual”, depending on the grade of vessel. The smarter boats prefer you not to wear jeans, shorts or trainers for dinner.

Maximum luggage allowance for the flight to the Galápagos is 20 kg (one suitcase / bag). Among the essentials are two pairs of trainers or sandals, shorts, long and short-sleeved lightweight shirts, sunglasses, bathing suit, wide-brimmed hat, long trousers, wind-breaker or light jacket for the evening, high-factor sunscreen lotion, sun block and a large supply of camera film or digital memory cards and batteries.

At the luxury / first class end of the spectrum you can use credit cards, and there are clothes washing facilities. These facilities are not available on budget / tourist class vessels.

If you wish to snorkel, a lightweight wetsuit is useful from June to November – the water is colder than you’d expect on the Equator. (Some vessels provide wetsuits free of charge and a few hire out wetsuits on board).

You are recommended to take your own masks, snorkel and flippers, although there is some equipment (albeit well-used) available on board. (See section for guidelines regarding tipping on the Galápagos Cruises).

Footwear

A basic requirement is a pair of comfortable shoes or lightweight boots that will suit most occasions, and it is a good idea to carry a spare pair. If you are doing any walking in very wet conditions or difficult terrain, you will need waterproof boots or trainers that provide ankle support and have a solid sole.

Rubber boots are now provided, usually at no extra cost, by some of the better-quality jungle lodges, but there is no guarantee as to what is available in terms of size – above US size 11 / British size 10 is difficult to find.

Going Out

You will most likely have the opportunity to eat out at smart restaurants every now and again, and may wish to take along some smarter clothing. Tourists are very seldom subject to dress codes, you will often see tourists eating in casual clothing or even trekking gear in smart restaurants.

Camping

Clients might be interested in the following suggested equipment lists:

Cold weather camping

• 3/4-season sleeping-bag

• Sleeping mat / Thermo-rest (supplied locally for Inca Trail)

• Good waterproof jacket

• Waterproof trousers

• Fleece jacket or similar

• Sweater or sweatshirt

• Long-sleeved shirt(s)

• T-shirt(s)

• Shorts

• Thick socks (quick drying)

• Thermal underwear

• Gloves and hat

Hot weather camping

• 2-season sleeping-bag

• Waterproof jacket

• Hat

• Light jacket

• Sweatshirt or light jumper

• Long-sleeved shirt(s)

• Several t-shirts

• Shorts 

The following items are useful wherever you are camping:

• Water bottle

• Torch

• Swiss Army knife

• Spare shoe laces

• Washing line

• Small inflatable pillow

You must also take your passport on the Inca Trail (a copy will NOT do). Failure to do so may mean that you are not allowed to participate on the trek. (If you change your passport between booking and travelling please bring the old passport with you on holiday).

Internet & E-mail

Internet access is widely available in Latin America in cities and tourist areas, either in Internet cafes or from your hotel. Your local guide should be able to point you in the direction of the nearest Internet centre.

More and more hotels offer broadband connections, and usually provide cables if their service is not wireless (inalámbrica).

Electrical Voltage

110-120 volts: Mexico, Guatemala (mostly), El Salvador (flat pin plugs), Honduras (flat pin plugs), Nicaragua, Costa Rica (flat pin plugs), Panamá, most parts of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Belize, and Bolivia (outside of La Paz).

220-240 volts: Cuba (newer hotels), Panama (modern homes and hotels), Argentina, Bolivia (in La Paz), the North-east of Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay.

Laundry

Most hotels – except the very cheapest – have a laundry service, and they usually take between 10 and 24 hours to return your clothes. Hotel laundry services tend to be expensive, but can be more convenient and often offer a faster service than the cheaper launderettes which can often be found nearby.

Photography

The majority of travelers now have digital cameras. Memory cards (often expensive) and batteries can be bought at many of the principal tourist destinations, but do not rely on this – bring them from home. If you need to free up memory space, there are outlets in many main towns where you can download your images onto discs.

Film for old-style cameras should be purchased before you go if you use transparencies, as slide film can be hard to come by.