Are you looking for the best South American cities for solo female travelers? Good thing I have blogger friends all over the world that can make recommendations. Female travelers who have spent time in – or even live in – these cities and places and are able to provide useful information to help other females travel the world. With that being said – here’s where to go in South America.
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Best South American Cities For Solo Female Travelers
Traveling alone can be a bit overwhelming and at times – challenging. To feel comfortable traveling solo in a city or destination, it must be safe, it must be easy to get around in and bonus points if the people are friendly and the currency is easy to use. The places on this South American list check all of those boxes. Which city will you visit first?
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Contributed by Erin at SolSalute.com
Buenos Aires is a lively metropolis and the capital of Argentina (both politically and culturally). It’s an ideal location and one of the best South American cities for solo female travelers with its endless activities and excellent network of fellow travelers and expats. Hostels like Millhouse downtown have large social areas to mingle and meet fellow solo travelers yet the rooms are set far enough apart to be quiet for rest.
To get to Buenos Aires, most international flights into Ezeiza International Airport (EZE) are overnight, allowing you to arrive rested – hopefully – from a night’s sleep on the plane. The local currency is the peso. Check the exchange rates before traveling because at times there exists a black market rate that is much more advantageous than what you’ll get from ATM’s (to access this rate try Western Union transfers). The language is Spanish but it’s a unique version called Rioplatense Spanish, heavily influenced by its many waves of immigrants in the 20th century.
Once here, explore the many Buenos Aires neighborhoods. Rather than a checklist of landmarks, it’s the different neighborhoods that makes Buenos Aires special. Wander through Palermo Soho to window shop, see the city’s best street art, and people watch from sidewalk cafes. In Recoleta, visit the cemetery and admire the city’s biggest mansions. In San Telmo, wander through historic colonial streets with a bohemian feel.
There are a number of walking tours for street art, wine tasting, and restaurant hopping that are great ways to meet fellow solo travelers as well. Much of Buenos Aires’ charm is hard to find on the surface and tours with a local are highly recommended.
Check out these Buenos Aires hotels:
Contributed by Megan at PackingUpThePieces.com
One of the best South America Cities for solo female travelers is the Imperial City of Cusco Peru. Step back in time, wander the charming cobblestone streets and see relics left behind by the fascinating Inca Empire. This must-see city has its own airport and has a major public transportation hub that connects to domestic and international South America bus terminals. Be mindful of the altitude, Cusco sits at a staggering 11,152 feet.
Cusco is easy to navigate with a slick public transportation system, frequent collectivos (vans) departures, and both short and long distance buses. Peru uses the currency of Sols and is a Spanish speaking country. In Cusco, you will hear some English, but not in the local markets or neighborhoods. Since it is a popular tourist destination, tours companies always offer English speaking guides. As you move away from the city, it’s possible to hear Quechua, the language of the indigenous people.
There are so many awesome things to do in Cusco. Visit the impressive Inca sites. A majority are included on the popular Cusco Tourist Ticket, but curious travelers can hike in the towering hillsides to appreciate the many free Inca ruins that are rarely frequented by tourists. Cusco has a plethora of bustling markets, a charming bohemian neighborhood, San Blas, cute cafes, inviting plazas, interesting museums, and a fun culinary scene. Casa Rivero has private rooms a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas and is the perfect base to explore Cusco.
Cusco is the gateway to the famous Machu Picchu. Adventurous travelers can tackle a multi-day trek to see the “Lost City,” but there’s also trains, buses, or tours. No matter which method you choose, all roads lead to Machu Picchu.
There’s also nearby attractions like the Rainbow Mountain, Lake Humantay, and the unmissable Sacred Valley. The Sacred Valley is home to sprawling Inca sites, salt mines, and adorable villages. Travel deeper to the over-looked South Valley, which is portal to the breathtaking Ausangate Trek and the hidden Waqrapukara ruins.
Cusco is such a tourist friendly city, but also has so much to offer those looking to “get off the beaten path.”
Check out these Cusco hotels:
Contributed by Carly at HomeToHavana.com
Home to Latin America’s largest and best-preserved historic center, soaring mountains, and an incredible cultural heritage Quito has so much to offer travelers – including solo female travelers. Increasingly a hub for backpackers, expats, and digital nomads, it is easy to meet potential travel companions or new friends along the way. Ecuador’s official language is Spanish and the country uses the U.S. dollar, making it particularly easy to visit for travelers from the United States.
A trip to Quito isn’t complete without exploring the historic center, including the presidential palace, Iglesia de San Francisco, and the incredible Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus, famous for appearing to be completely covered with gold inside. The best way to enjoy the views of this city’s streets and buildings creeping up the mountains and hills in the valley is by heading up the clocktowers and spire at the Basilica. Complete your time here by visiting the Equator at Mitad del Mundo.
If you’re looking for where to stay in Quito, consider The Secret Garden both for dorm beds in a hostel and private rooms. This friendly hostel is the perfect mix of social and relaxed to cater to all kinds of travelers. Even if you don’t plan on staying in the hostel, visit the rooftop for a sunset drink – the views of the Historic Center are truly spectacular. After staying at The Secret Garden Quito, head to their sister hostel, The Secret Garden Cotopaxi, for a retreat in Cotopaxi National Park at one of South America’s most stunning hostels.
Check out these other hotels in Quito:
Rio de Janeiro
Contributed by Victoria at GuideYourTravel.com
Rio de Janeiro is often overlooked by solo female travelers but is actually a beautiful and unmissable city. While there are certainly more dangerous neighborhoods, a large part of the city is very tourist oriented and great for solo travelers.
To be safe use these travel safety tips and avoid going out in the evening by yourself and stay in a hostel if possible to make some friends and go out for drinks. Rio de Janeiro has a large international airport so it is easily accessible from all around the world.
A must-do when visiting Rio de Janeiro is going to the famous Copacabana Beach as well as the nearby Ipanema which is just as nice. The Christ the Redeemer Statue is another fantastic place to visit as well as Sugarloaf Mountain. Since Rio is built in between lush forests and hills there are plenty of viewpoints to enjoy and gorgeous vistas of the city and nearby ocean. The islands close to Rio de Janeiro are also a great place to visit, especially as a day trip. Ilha Grande or the Governador island can easily be reached by ferry and there are plenty of things to do and see.
The official language in Brazil is Portuguese and the real is the main currency where one US dollar is close to 5 Brazilian real. If you’re looking for a safe and social place to stay in Rio de Janeiro you should look into either Ipanema Beach Hostel or Cabana Copa Hostel which both have great locations.
Check out these hotels in Rio:
Contributed by Megan at PackingUpThePieces.com
Oftentimes a highlight of South America, the colonial city of Cuenca is the perfect city for solo female travelers. Cuenca, Ecuador has a small airport and is well connected with a navigable bus terminal. The city also boasts a state of the art tramway, the Tranvia. The city also utilizes a modern city bus system via the Movilizate card. Each ride costs 30¢. Cuenca is tourist friendly and the historic center is easy to maneuver.
Conveniently, Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as their currency. Spanish is spoken, but in Cuenca you will hear some English, but rarely in the local markets. As you move into nearby artisan villages and communities, expect to hear Kichwa, the language of the Indigenous People. Cuenca is a tourist hub and there are many English speaking tours.
There are many worthwhile things to do in Cuenca Ecuador. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Center and is filled with abundant marketplaces, inviting plazas, and artisan shops. Four rivers flow through the city and provide ample biking and walking paths lined with colonial buildings. There are tons of museums, many of them are free to visit. Don’t miss a sunset at the Turi mirador, which offers sweeping views of the city surrounded by the Andes mountains. Relax in the nearby Baños de Cuenca, curative hot springs that are a short taxi ride away. Stay at the sustainable Pepe’s House Cuenca Boutique Hotel in the heart of the city.
Cuenca also boasts a diverse range of day trips. Hike in the otherworldly and high-altitude Cajas National Park. Visit the popular El Chorro Waterfall or spend the day browsing the nearby authentic villages. There’s both Inca and Cañari cultural sites to discover. All of these places can be explored independently, or with a guided tour.
Cuenca is a delightful place to visit and one of the best South American cities for solo female travelers.
Check out these hotels in Cuenca:
Contributed by Carrie of PlanesTrainsandTukTuks.com
Medellín has emerged from its dark past to become one of the most pleasant cities – and one of the best South American cities for solo female travelers – not just in South America, but in the world. The city exudes a joyful energy. The weather is amazing. People are friendly. If you spend a few days in Medellín, you’ll inevitably start to imagine yourself moving to the “city of Eternal Spring!”
Dive into Medellín’s ancient and modern history with a Real City Tours walking tour. Your guide will explain the city’s humble origins as a coffee trading center, the terror of the Pablo Escobar era, and the revival. The tour is short on sights, but the guides are so engaging, you won’t mind. Real City Tours takes you to parts of the city that aren’t entirely safe for independent travelers – making this a safe way for solo women to explore the downtown.
Next, ride the cable cars into the hills. You’ll see, hear and smell local life out the windows as you climb into the surrounding mountains. If you want to stretch your legs, ride all the way to Parque Arví, where you can go for a quick hike.
Other Medellín activities include street art tours, playing tejo – a local game in which you drink beer and throw rocks at gunpowder-filled sacks – and visiting the museums. If you have a spare day, don’t miss a trip to nearby Guatape – one of the most colorful towns in South America.
The Poblado neighborhood is the tourist center in Medellín. It’s completely safe, day or night. While you’ll see plenty of gringos here, locals also eat and drink at the excellent restaurants, bars and cafes. The neighborhood is also home to Black Sheep Hostel – the cleanest, safest and friendliest budget guesthouse in Medellín.
Tip -Backpackers looking to party should head elsewhere – the vibe at Black Sheep is “10 pm quiet time”.
The main language spoken in Medellín is Spanish, and it’s a good idea to brush up before you visit. The currency is Colombian pesos – ATM’s are widely available and it’s a good idea to keep small change on hand for the Metro system.
Check out these hotels in Medellín:
Contributed by Disha at Disha Discovers.com
Another one of the best South American cities for solo female travelers is Santiago, Chile. Surrounded by the Andes Mountains, this modern metropolis is dazzling, with plenty of unique things to do.
Santiago is brimming with activities and attractions. There are great restaurants, bars, and nightclubs in the city, and there are also plenty of things to do outdoors, including hiking, skiing, and more. The city also has a rich history and culture, and there are plenty of museums and galleries to visit.
Chile is often touted as one of the safest countries in South America for those traveling alone. This is especially true for its capital city, Santiago. As a solo female traveler, you can feel confident and safe exploring all that Santiago has to offer.
Getting to Santiago is easy. You’ll fly into Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport, which is located around ten miles away from the city center. From there, you can take an Uber or use the city’s excellent public transportation.
When in Santiago, visit Cerro San Cristobal. Cerro San Cristobal is a large hill in the center of the city with great views of Santiago. There is a funicular that takes you to the top of the hill, where there is also a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Next, explore Barrio Bellavista. This is one of Santiago’s most vibrant neighborhoods. It is home to many restaurants, bars, and cafes. There are also some great street art murals in this neighborhood.
Plaza de Armas is the main square in Santiago and is a beautiful spot to relax or people-watch. The square is surrounded by colonial buildings, including the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral.
Other fun things to do in Santiago include taking day trips to nearby natural landscapes, such as Valle Nevado Maipo Canyon, and Quinta Normal Park.
The currency is the Chilean pesos and US Dollars are very rarely accepted in Chile, unlike other neighboring countries. Spanish is the official language of Chile, but English is common in Santiago. Santiago Marriott Hotel is a great place to stay as it’s centrally located.
Check out these hotels in Santiago:
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Contributed by Lisa of Tour the Galapagos
The Galapagos Islands have always been a bucket list destination but they are also one of the best South American destinations for solo female travelers. The archipelago is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and fully 97% of the area is designated as National Park lands. For this reason most visitor sites require that you be accompanied by a National Park Certified Naturalist Guide.
The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador and the official language is Spanish although in this tourist mecca you will find many people speak English. The currency and the current are both American, meaning you can use your dollar bills and plug your American phone charger right into the wall socket.
While cruising is very popular, island hopping gives you a lot more flexibility regarding budgeting and activities and is the best way to interact with both the local people and the local wildlife. There are four inhabited islands where you can find accommodation ranging from small hostels to boutique luxury hotels and resorts. Santa Cruz and San Cristobal are the most populous and the only two accessible via airline directly from the mainland. Isabela and Floreana, the more natural, less populated, are reached via small ferry boats from Santa Cruz.
The Galapagos boasts several endemic species among them, the Galapagos Giant tortoise, the Galapagos penguin, and the marine iguana, the only swimming iguana in the world. Many visitors are also excited to see the blue-footed booby – only seen in specific areas of North and South America – especially adorable if you catch the males in their mating dance. Snorkeling and hiking are among the most popular day trips and the islands boast some incredible scuba diving locations.
The entire archipelago is very safe for all sorts of travelers and choosing where to stay and how to spend your time depends entirely on your personal preferences.
Where to stay in the Galapagos Islands:
Best South American Cities For Traveling Solo
Are you ready to pack your bags for one – or several – of these best South American cities for solo female travelers? Here’s a few of my favorite websites to help you start your planning.
- For flight info and tickets prices for these South American cities shop Skyscanner.com.
- To book a package with a flight and a car all at once use Expedia.com.
- My absolute favorite website for hotels, hostels and even some long term stays is Booking.com.
- To check out home stays and long term places try VRBO.com.
- For cars and vehicle rentals – Rentalcars.com.
- See real reviews and what other travelers are saying at Tripadvisor.com.
- For local tours & experiences use the helpful Viator.com
- And finally, one of the most important items in your travel plans is travel insurance. Browse a variety of coverage options at TravelInsurance.com.