5 Types of Travelers You Meet in South America


This is in no way a complete list nor is it meant to criticize any type of traveler. It is simply a quick review of some of the many travelers I have encountered on my nearly 3 year long journey traveling and living in South America.

The “Local”

These travelers can be found all over South America but seem to be most prevalent in beachy, tourist towns or big cities. They have settled down to live in South America long term, though you’ll occasionally find some claiming the title of expat or “practically a local” after little more than a month or so in one spot. They fund their long-term expat lifestyle in a number of ways, from English teaching to internet businesses. Some are just lucky trust fund babies while others are on long-term volunteer gigs.

On the positive side, this type of traveler knows plenty of good, local hangouts and can usually give you seriously valuable tips on what to see/miss. On the negative side, they have likely already “seen and done it all” so if you are interested in actually visiting a few of the local sites, don’t hang out with them too long.

The Tour Group Traveler

This type of traveler, usually found as part of a group tour to Machu Picchu or occasionally to Buenos Aires, feels quite proud of themselves for making it to South America. They have likely planned this trip for years and have everything mapped out for them on their 5-7 day tour. If you are a typical backpacker traveler, you probably won’t ever meet the Tour Group Traveler as they stay in the nice hotels and are carefully herded around by guides.

These travelers might know everything there is to know about Machu Picchu/Tango in Buenos Aires/The Galapagos Islands (or wherever else they happen to be touring) but outside of their well mapped itinerary, South America is a bit of a mystery. They are a nice group overall though and usually eager to hear stories about more “off the beaten path” places if you happen to run into them “after touring hours.”

The Scheduled Traveler

This traveler is trying to do it all, see it all, experience it all… with a very short deadline. They are most often students on summer break or someone who has been saving up vacation days for years. They have a plane ticket home and know exactly how many days, and even hours, they have until then.

These travelers can be the most difficult to travel with simply because they are traveling at a breakneck speed and have very little room for flexibility. That being said, if you are in a hurry to get someplace or only have a few hours in a new city, they are the best people to ask for advice. They know the quickest bus routes in every country, the most recommended sites in every city, and usually have a guide book packed with additional notes, tips, and advice.

The Top to Bottom Traveler

These travelers also come in the Bottom to Top variety but either way, they are planning to see South America in all her glory. From the tip of Patagonia to the Colombian coast, these travelers usually (hopefully!) have at least a few months to their trip and are much more relaxed than the Scheduled Traveler. They sometimes can be found doing epic road trips along the Pan American Highway on bikes, motorcycles, in cars, or occasionally hitchhiking.

For the best travel tips and advice, find one of these travelers going in the opposite direction of you. Sure, you can get your travel tips from a guide book or from an internet forum from someone who went “last year” but for up to date facts, the “Top to Bottom Traveler” is your best bet. Fair warning though, this type of traveler is also more prone to “my trip is more amazing than your trip” bragging than other traveler types.

The Party Animal

You are traveling the world, free from work, a career, family, and all other responsibility. Of course you are going to celebrate but please avoid turning into a full out Party Animal Traveler. You do want to remember this trip right? Well constantly being drunk, high, or hung over isn’t going to help any.

These travelers are almost always spotted on a beach partying (the beach bum variety) or stumbling home after an all night party. They can be great fun and if it is your birthday or you have reason to celebrate, find a few of these travelers before you head out. I’m sure they will make your night more interesting. That being said, this type of traveler is also more likely to get themselves into a less than pleasant situation.

Couple Travel Tips

  • Try not to fall into another of the traveler categories – The Drama Couple. It can be hard to travel as a couple but if you and your partner are fighting, please don’t drag the rest of the hostel or your travel group into the drama.
  • Before writing off a certain category of traveler, spend a bit of time with them and you’ll realize even the most annoying travelers sometimes have a few good qualities… or if not will at least give you a few good stories for later.

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