Packing Guide: South America Edition

Packing Guide: South America Edition

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Ancient history and modern marvels come together on the continent of South America. It’s a destination where your mornings can be spent exploring ancient ruins, towering waterfalls, and wonders of the world, while your evenings may find you embracing the vibrant cultural rhythms of its cities and dining in world-class restaurants. The continent is as diverse as the countries that inhabit it. Spend enough time in South America, and you’ll discover everything from tropical rainforests to colossal glaciers — and amazing photo opportunities at every turn. 

When it comes to visiting South America, there is no better way to see the continent than by cruising. After all, South America is a vast continent full of varied terrain that can make traveling long distances by car or bus a challenge. When you cruise with us, we take care of the transportation while you enjoy life onboard

Are you joining us for an upcoming voyage to South America? You’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for the trip of a lifetime! Here are our best tips for planning and packing for South America.

When is the Best Time to Travel to South America?

Aerial view of Rio De Janeiro. Brazil in South America with statue of Christ the Redeemer

Because South America is so large, the average temperature and weather can vary from one destination to the next, but in general, the best time to visit is from November through March. Seasons in the southern hemisphere occur at different times than in the northern hemisphere, which means this time of year roughly corresponds with the South American summer and autumn. With that in mind, it’s also worth remembering that South American topography plays a significant role in temperatures across the continent. Where you decide to go can be just as important as when you decide to go when it comes to packing.

Plaza de Armas in Santiago de Chile, Chile

The further south you travel in South America, the more likely you are to find seasonal climates. In fact, southern Argentina and Chile have more in common with weather patterns in countries like Norway and Sweden than they do with their closer neighbors to the north. So while in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil you may encounter January and February temperatures that range from 75°F to 92°F, destinations such as Punta Arenas, Chile, will range from 60°F to 44°F.

The folks at South America Backpacker have done a great job breaking down the best times to see individual countries across the continent, which we encourage you to check out. The important takeaway is this: be prepared for different weather at every stop of your voyage.

What to Pack for a South American Voyage

Machu Picchu on a warm sunny afternoon.

When you cruise to South America with us, you’ll have opportunities to partake in unforgettable experiences. You can swim in the waters off Patagonia or learn to surf on the beautiful beaches of Buzios, Brazil. Of course, if wine is your passion, you’ll find an endless assortment of wineries (complete with tastings, of course). There’s incredible architecture, from the beautiful churches to the mysterious and magnificent Machu Picchu. And if natural wonders call to you, they don’t get any louder than Iguazu Falls — the largest waterfall in the world. 

What does this mean for your luggage? Well, it means the weather (and experiences) in South America vary from port to port. Your best bet is to pack clothing that is light, breathable, and easy to layer — so no matter the temperature or location, you’ll be comfortable. Make sure you have durable luggage that is easy to organize — this will make packing even more manageable. We recommend the Bellagio 28" Steamer Trunk from Bric’s.

A lightweight jacket is essential for your trip to South America, especially if you’re planning on trekking through national parks or visiting the penguins of Magdalena Island. To make sure you’re always comfortable and protected from the elements, we like the Ascender™ Hooded Softshell Jacket for men, and the Heather Canyon™ Softshell Jacket for women — both from Columbia. And since the temperature in some parts of South America can cool off at night — both onboard and on land — consider packing a casual jacket or sweater for warmth, like this Mistic Well Tunic from Pana or the Expeditionist Jacket from Lulu Lemon.

Iguazu Falls near the border of Argentina and Brazil.

If exploring is on your itinerary — be it on hiking trails or around South America’s urban centers — we recommend packing a quality, temperature-regulating base layer. This will keep you dry when the weather gets warm. Patagonia offers comfortable, stylish base layers — including the Capilene® Lightweight crew for men and for women. For chillier areas of South America, consider the Men’s Vigor Full Zip or the Women’s Vigor Quarter Zip, both from Outdoor Research. Made of cozy, warm, and wicking grid back fleece, these thermo-regulating zips will keep you comfortable as you make your way through South America’s diverse and quickly-changing climates. As an added benefit, these long sleeve tops can also protect you from the sun’s rays. Plus, they’re thin, which means they won’t take up much space in your luggage.

Hikers will also want to make sure they bring proper hiking footwear for South America. Depending on the type of trails you’re planning on hiking and your experience level, there is perfect footwear for you. To help you learn more about choosing the proper hiking footwear, The Adventure Junkies have put together this invaluable guide that we can’t recommend enough. 

The Basilica Cathedral of Lima at night,

Of course, it’s also important that you pack basic travel-friendly clothes for going ashore to visit South American cities and towns. Classic cotton tops (like the Pima Curved Hem Tee from Buck Mason or the Knit Summer Striped Long Sleeve Top from Rag & Bone) are easy to layer up depending on the temperature and your destination. That makes them your friend in South America. You’ll also want to pack comfortable walking shoes like the New Balance 847v4 shoes for women or the Scarpa Mojitos for men for exploring cities and towns. Remember, if they’re new, make sure they’re worked in!

Don’t worry about packing too light, as your Azamara ship includes complimentary self-service laundry facilities that you are free to use throughout your journey.

Portrait of Two lamas and smiling Senior woman

While it’s easy to take one look at Carnival in Rio and think anything goes when it comes to South-American style, much of the continent — especially outside of the major cities — tends to dress fairly conservatively. It’s worth keeping this in mind when you’re packing. 

Finally, while entirely optional, we always like to encourage guests to pack some fancier clothing as well. It’s always fun to dress up for a nice dinner out (or onboard your Azamara ship!) and to get a photo of yourself and your travel companions dressed to the nines for your photo album.

Family celebrating in South America

You can find helpful additional packing information for your cruise here.

Are you ready to book your trip to South America? Start by browsing our upcoming South American itineraries here.

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