Graduation Trip Around South America: All Countries Checked ✓

By Owen / February 25, 2018
things to do in cusco

One year.

That's how long my #GradTripAroundSouthAmerica took.

In this one year, I managed to visit ALL countries in South America, spending a few months in some and a few days in others.

I do not visit a country for one day just to tick it off a list. I spend time getting to know the locals, have some local food, and actually explore the cities. In fact, I couchsurfed in the countries I spent the least amount of time in.

If that is not the best way to know a place, I don't know what is.

I've seen a lot, experienced a lot, and probably grown too. But that would be a post for another day. For now, let's have some fun.

Since this is my graduation trip, I brought along an inflatable graduation hat and took a photo in every country with an iconic point of interest.

Here we go!

watch this with the sound on!

Country 1: Brazil


Country 1/12 of #GradTripAroundSouthAmerica: Brazil.

This is where I started my year long graduation trip and now, have made a full circle back. I first came to Brazil 3 years ago and fell in love with the latin culture and knew I had to come back. It's amazing how one country rivals all the others on the same continent in terms of size, landscape and people. There's more Portugese than Spanish speakers from 9 countries on mainland South America! A challenging place to travel, this country is too big and has so much more left for me to explore.

Taken at Christ the Redeemer Statue, Brazil.

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Country 2: Uruguay


Country 2/12 of #GradTripAroundSouthAmerica: Uruguay.

I felt safe, relaxed and an overall nice vibe here. Even though I spent too little time in this small country, it was here that I met 2 Singaporean students who welcome me with open arms and later became a source of emotional support on this faraway continent. Thanks guys!

Taken at Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Country 3: Argentina


Country 3/12 of #GradTripAroundSouthAmerica: Argentina.

Argentina was the first place I spent a long time in, going from the icy End of The World all the way up to the otherworldly north, while visiting all UNESCO sites along the way. It is one of the more advanced countries in SA and you can clearly tell an Argentinian apart from other Latinos by the way they speak and how they look. Also made a couple of great Argentinian friends!

Taken at Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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Country 4: Chile


#GradTripAroundSouthAmerica Country 4/12: Chile.

I never knew what to expect before heading to Chile but this country has surprised me with its diverse landscape from the dry Atacama desert to the chilly fjords of Patagonia. Not to mention the magical Easter Island (and the best empanadas). Unsurprisingly, it has recently been named No.1 Destination to Visit by Lonely Planet. Definitely worth a visit!

Taken at Easter Island, Chile.

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Country 5: Paraguay


#GradTripAroundSouthAmerica Country 5/12: Paraguay.

My least favourite country; where I witnessed corruption and racism the day I entered. Also, I had to pay for a visa only to have the requirement removed a few months later. ? Although it's cheap, there's nothing much to do for a tourist. Not sure if I'd ever return. ​

Taken at Trinidad Ruins, Paraguay.

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Country 6: Bolivia


#GradTripAroundSouthAmerica Country 6/12: Bolivia.

Bolivia wowed me the first moment I stepped foot; with her incredible natural beauty, colourful lakes and the majestic Uyuni Salt Flats. Although it is slightly less developed than the other countries, the low cost of living makes it so tempting to stay for long. ​

Taken at Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia.

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Country 7: Peru


#GradTripAroundSouthAmerica Country 7/12: Peru.

My favourite country ❤ This country is so rich in history and has some of the most beautiful landscapes I've seen. I spent so much time exploring nature, chasing waterfalls, learning Bachata, improving my Spanish, eating local and partied a little too much. Cusco also happened to be my favourite city. Too much awesome in one country. Even this photo turned out best in the series! 

Taken at Machu Picchu, Peru.

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Country 8: Ecuador


#GradTripAroundSouthAmerica Country 8/12: Ecuador.

The furthest city from Singapore, the highest point on Earth, the Middle of The World...a country of many superlatives. Here I stand on Latitude 0, the line that separates the Northern and Southern hemispheres. If I wasn't rushing through, I believe Ecuador could've had much more surprises. Using USD though... Doesn't make it cheap.

Taken at Middle of the World City, Ecuador.

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Country 9: Colombia


#GradTripAroundSouthAmerica Country 9/12: Colombia.​

Beautiful people, beautiful women, beautiful country. Colombia is no longer that dangerous city the media portrayed it to be and definitely deserves to be on everyone's South America list. In fact, Medellin won the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2 years ago for its transformation from a drug-fuelled warzone to the thriving city it is today. That, alone, should be reason for more Singaporeans to visit!

Taken at The Lost City, Colombia.

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Country 10: Venezuela


#GradTripAroundSouthAmerica Country 10/12: Venezuela.

This country is like the forbidden fruit. People tell you not to go but it tastes so sweet once you're there. It has the most incredible scenery, that is different from everywhere else. Going here taught me: If you have the will, you'll find a way.

Taken at Mount Roraima, Venezuela.

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Country 11: Guyana


#GradTripAroundSouthAmerica Country 11/12: Guyana.

If you ask me... Singapore isn't the real epitome of a multi-racial, multi-cultural society. Guyana is. It is just not as well-known. Similarly, this waterfall is one of the most majestic falls I've seen but it is not well-known outside South America too. What an interesting country.

Taken at Kaieteur Falls, Guyana.

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Country 12: Suriname


#GradTripAroundSouthAmerica Country 12/12: Suriname.

My first impression of this country was the hundreds of Chinese supermarket as the car entered the capital, Paramaribo. The first shop I walked into was (unknowingly) owned by a Chinese, and my first words in this Ductch-speaking country was Mandarin. Yet you don't see Chinese on the streets or in the restaurants; only blacks, whites, Latinos, Indonesians and Indians. Humourously, the Chinese filled up the casinos. ? Travelling to unknown countries gives very interesting experiences.

Taken at Paramaribo, Suriname.

*Country 13: French Guiana


Surprise! #GradTripAroundSouthAmerica Country 13/12: French Guiana.

13?! Yes! Technically French Guiana isn't a country; it is a department of France. However, it has border crossings, visa requirements, its own government, different currency and language from the other countries on mainland South America, so it counts as a country to me. Besides, it IS part of a country. Can't visit all but leave out one yeah?

Taken at Guiana Space Center, French Guiana.

And now, it's your turn.

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Rowan Sims Travel Photography - March 7, 2018

Wow, impressive. I’m super jealous. I’ve only visited 2 countries in South America (Brazil and Argentina). Looks Iike I need to get back there and see the rest.

    Owen - March 7, 2018

    South America is amazing! You have to.

    Thanks for your comment!

Jyoti - March 10, 2018

What an amazing experience!! I wish everyone did that at your age. There’s so much to explore and learn from the world that cont be learnt in a classroom.

Tommy - March 11, 2018

Beautiful photos!

South America is one continent that we have not been to yet! 🙂

JY - May 29, 2018

Hey Owen!

I’ve just recently decided to backpack South America early next year and was reading up intensively on travel blogs and came upon yours! I’m really awed by the amount of tips, detailed information and all the effort that you took to write these all up for us!

I wanted to exclude travelling to the 3 Guianas initially due to the amount of hassles but thought that it would lose the whole purpose of going SA in the first place! And your Kaieteur Falls and grad blog post reinforces that! Would you mind sharing some tips during your time there? Thanks alot in advance! 🙂

    Owen - May 30, 2018

    Hi JY,

    Thanks for dropping by. It is true, travelling to the 3 Guianas is a hassle!

    Here are some quick tips, assuming you’re going from Guyana to Suriname to French Guiana.

    1) Know your visa requirements. You can google the nearest consulates to get your visa. For eg, I got my visa for Guyana at the consulate in Boa Vista, Brazil. It was a same day process. Once in Georgetown, Guyana, I got a tourist card for Suriname at the consulate.

    2) They check for yellow fever card at the border to Suriname, so make sure you have it ready.

    3) French Guiana is France, so it has EU requirements.

    4) I heard that the bus ride from Lethem (near the Brazilian border) to Georgetown is a bus ride from HELL. So I took a plane instead. It’s more expensive but it saves times and pain. Most guesthouses in Georgetown provide transport to the border with Suriname and onward travel.

    5) Travelling in the Guianas is EXPENSIVE! A Kaieteur Falls tour costs around $200. A taxi from Cayenne to the airport is 50 Euros. There are not hostels in French Guiana. Try couchsurfing and hitchhiking.

    6) Besides the rainforest, there’s nothing much to do in the Guianas. However, I’ve already been to the Amazons, and it is more expensive here so I skipped it.

    These are some on the top of my head. I might do a post about it if I have the time.

    Thanks again for dropping by.

      JY - May 30, 2018

      Hi Owen,

      I’ll taking the Boa Vista route as well from my first stop in Rio! Following the Gringo trail to French Guiana, and then from Macapa to Iguassu and continuing my SA journey through Paraguay!

      I have read up some of the experiences travelling via minibuses and I think I will actually do just that haha! It would be great (although hell-ish) to experience first hand how a Guyanese really gets by! (I’m asking for it I know) ?

      Thanks alot for the tips again Owen! It’s real awesome to come across another fellow Singaporean’s backpacking blog! ??

        Owen - May 30, 2018

        I don’t really understand. There’s no Gringo trail from Rio to French Guiana? The north of Brazil is generally off the Gringo trail haha (and barely any English).

        Oh you’re from Singapore too, cool! I’m glad to hear more and more Singaporeans going to SA.

        Lol when I was in Guyana I was too tired and weary of long distances buses. I just paid for the flight haha. Good luck!

          JY - May 30, 2018

          Haha it’s totally understandable lah a person who hasn’t done those bus trips yet raving about a long crazy ride versus one who has done almost a year of that!

          Perhaps I should rephrase the Gringo trail as the common route taken from Guyana to French Guiana!¡Perdón por la confusion jaja!

          And yes! It always up my excitement a little more each time I come across another Singaporean’s blog on their SA adventure! I’ve added you on FB too btw! And I hope to be able to connect with people like you sometime!


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