10 Things I WON’T Miss About South America

10 things I will not miss about South America

I love South America, it has a vibrancy to it that I’ve never felt before. It has a way of taking hold of you, and pushing you to places you never imagined you’d go. I’ve now spent a year wandering its cities, jungles, and mountains, and although there are a thousand things I will miss, there are only 10 things that I won’t.

1. Speed Bumps
I understand the concept of speed bumps, they slow vehicles down in areas where vehicles should be traveling at a slow, cautious pace (places such as playgrounds, schools, and busy residential areas). But this concept only really works if people actually slow down for them. In South America, in particular Ecuador and Colombia, the roads are studded with speed bumps every 150 or so meters. The drivers find every means of getting around the bumps without actually bumping, or slowing down. And the drivers that do slow down, only do so at the last minute with a heavy foot to the break; then as soon as the front tires are past the bump the heavy foot switches to the gas sending the back end,

Don’t touch the Salad!!!

along with anyone sitting in the back seat, flying up into the air. Listen South America, you have millions of police officers on the street, if they enforced a ticket instead of taking a bribe, maybe there would be no need for the bone rattling speed bumps that have become the bane of my existence.

2. Being scared of lettuce
The Lettuce in Latin America is rarely cleaned, and if it is cleaned it’s cleaned with water from the sink which can be laden with bacterias and parasites (with the exception of Chilean water which is generally clean). Lettuce can’t be peeled and, thus, must either be washed properly or avoided. When ever a sandwich comes out one should peel the lettuce right off the bread and leave it on the side of your plate. In South America, lettuce can be more than a little bit dangerous; lettuce can be evil.

3. Bus rides
I’ve been in South America for 365 days as of today, one year. On average I’ve been on a bus every 2.15 days; which means I’ve spent 170 days at least partially on a bus. The average time I spend on the bus is 5.6 hours. Which means that this past year I’ve spent 952 hours on various buses from Colombia to Argentina. That’s nearly 40 complete 24

Bus without it’s wheel

hour days. That’s over a month that I have spent staring out of a bus window at a world as if I was caged. It’s true that I don’t mind bus rides, you can sit and watch the world go by, but they do start to get old. It just takes one read of The Colombian Rodeo: Buses in South America to understand the two sides of the battle with buses; but I have to admit, I will enjoy spending sometime free off their wheels.

4. Restaurant food
It’s not the food, not at all. What I’m not going to miss is the process that is involved going to restaurants. Especially in Latin America there aren’t a whole lot of options for fast service. You end up spending at least an hour waiting for nearly every meal: breakfast, lunch, and supper. The process is so nauseating at times I have skipped meals just so that I wont have to deal with it. I am really looking forward to a time where I can just reach into my fridge and pull out a couple slices of meat, some cheese, and some veggies, then attach it to some bread with some mayo and have a sandwich in 5-10 minutes.  The time involved in waiting in restaurants combined with my time in buses doesn’t leave much free time for other things.

5. Toilets without toilet seats
I’m not sure why they do this in Latin America, but quite often I’ve encountered perfectly put together toilets that are lacking the lid and seat. I have my ideas for the reasons, they don’t want people using them to drop a deuce, for one, or maybe it’s because they want to give men with a wayward hose a bigger bull’s eye to aim at. To any extent, men may have found the perfect excuse as to why they haven’t put the seat down: there isn’t one.

6. Being treated as a dollar sign
I think that this has probably happened everywhere I have traveled, so maybe it’s not a complaint against South America, but tourist destinations in general. But anyone who has ever tried to walk through the famous plaza in Cusco, Peru without being hassled has failed miserably. They approach you in turn selling everything from massages to Inca-

Cusco City Center

dressed finger puppets. “No” has never been accepted as an answer in Cusco either. Generally the follow-up answer to no is “why not?” Even if you say you don’t have any money, they’ll gladly show you where the nearest ATM is located. Truth be told, I’m not sure that there’s an answer they would take and leave peacefully with.
7. Slow Internet
With the Exception of Chile, the internet is embarrassingly slow everywhere I go. I understand that the internet might not be up to the same capabilities as we have in North America, but I just want to put a couple pictures up on Facebook, I shouldn’t have to shrink them. Also, I love my sports, and love streaming them live online. But this is in possible, and instead my sports events look more like robotic basketball.

8. Lack of hockey, or anything non-soccer related
Other than the Olympic gold medal game – do i need to remind the Americans how it went – I haven’t heard, seen, or

My Guinness

read a word about hockey. I knew how to skate before I knew the difference between your and you’re, it’s in my blood. Please give me my hockey back!

9. Where’s my Guinness??
I love a nice pint of beer, and kind really. But nothing beats a nice pint of that black magic poured properly right out of the tap. In South America lagers are a plenty, but any dark beer tends to have a nutty or sweet taste. I need a Guinness please!

10. I need proper cheese please!
In our supermarkets back home there are aisles just for dairy products. They are lined with cheese of all kinds. In South America, your choice of cheese is narrowed down to cheese in a package or cheese that’s been sitting out. The white spongy cheese tastes like rubber, and I’ll never miss that.

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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  1. Great stuff! I will be posting something very similar next week about the things I won’t miss about Brazil (tied to my previous post “10 Things I Love about Brazil”), so I can totally relate. Even the food, which I loved at the beginning, is getting old. Travel is like that– we have to take the good and the bad because the comforts of home are always missing.

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  2. All of these are great. But, being Canadian, of course #8 hits home. And what’s up with the cheese?

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  3. Wait when were you there? I heard Internet was relatively good. Central America has been surprisingly amazing.

    Also is the lettuce situation like Central America or much worse? I eat the lettuce here because I need the vegetable content.

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    • Haha… the internet is bad compared to North America, but Chile is really good.

      As for the lettuce, it is terrifying, even the locals don’t eat it when they go out. There are safe restaurants though…. Again Chile has European standards so the lettuce is fine to eat there!

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  4. This was a refreshing travel article. Too many times travel articles don’t point out any ills in the topic country, but every traveler knows there’s always something – or sometimes there’s 10 somethings.

    Even on a two week trip to the UK, I couldn’t wait to get back home and eat a proper salad. They just don’t do salads in pubs, and that’s where we mainly ate because it was cheaper than the restaurants.

    It’s great to travel ( I LOVE to travel ), but travel writers often overlook one of the best parts of travel – coming home.

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    • agreed Heidi… but I’ll be honest in telling you that making a 10 dislikes list is way harder to write than a 10 likes list!

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  5. I have yet to go to South America so I can’t say much, although a lot of these things I can relate to from Africa/Asia. I totally agree with you about the Guinness though. My favorite beer, and after drinking copious amounts of it in Dublin, you discover that anywhere else in the world, Guinness is just plain ordinary. You must go drink some in Dublin, if you haven’t already. Delicious!

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  6. I’ve experienced a few of these in my time in Peru, Brazil and border towns in Mexico but the only thing I wouldn’t really care for is the hockey. Luckily sports aren’t my thing unless I’m at a game and have a beer in paw.

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  7. I can tolerate the lack of toilet seats in public restrooms, but I will never understand why even some hotel bathrooms lack them. It’s amazing how much I appreciate modern plumbing now.

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  8. You mean your supposed to slow down for those bumps? Wow, I learned something new today…

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    • Hahahah I know Nick! Right!?

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  9. Lack of good bread and cheese did suck. Bad. But if you think the internet in South America is bad — you are REALLY going to hate Africa, and shockingly, Australia and New Zealand. Amazingly bad (and expensive).

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  10. Bummer to hear about the lettuce and also about the cheese. SE Asia sucks for cheese too 🙁

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  11. Oh you really got these points on the mark. I was warned to be careful with the salad just before leaving home – someone we knew had been in hospital for weeks in Cusco with stomach parasites – and I’ve been afraid of lettuce ever since. We end up visiting more touristy restaurants that wash things properly in mineral water. I’ve never craved green leafy food as much as I do here.

    The absence of decent cheese is a real issue – and being English we really miss fresh cows milk for a nice cup of tea!

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    • I got the parasite too, from Cusco. I eat the lettuce anyways… I can’t go a year without lettuce!

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  12. We have only travelled to Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay so far but I haven’t bothered avoiding lettuce and it’s been fine. We are vegetarian so without salad we’d have even less options. The internet has been variable but generally good – I am sure Bolivia and Peru and going to be much worse though.

    Yes we miss good cheese. There is a fairly decent range in Argentina but still haven’t found anything to compare to a good cheddar. We were happy to find the Armenian delis in Buenos Aires and buy great feta though.

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  13. Great post! We recently moved back to the US after 2.5 years in Brazil so I can definitely relate. I seriously second the speed bumps and Guinness!

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  14. I was in Mexico during the Stanley Cup playoffs this year, and was checking the internet daily…it got pretty ridiculous. I tried to search out somewhere I could watch the games on TV, but gave up pretty quickly. You’re a much stronger person than me, cause there’s no way I could do a year without hockey…haha.

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  15. True that Dustin! I just had cheese (mediocre cheese) the other day for the second time in over a year in SE Asia and I forgot how good it is! I want some real cheese! Luckily, if we go out to eat in Bangkok the average wait time is probably about 1.5 minutes…

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  16. I don’t get it why they serve food so slowly. Don’t they want to make money? If one client sits in the restaurant for 2 hours instead of 1 hour taking the seat of some other client, aren’t they just loosing money?

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  17. We were sick many times in South America. Couldn’t agree more about the lack of hockey! We were there during the NHL playoffs and couldn’t find a sports bar that showed games anywhere, even in big cities. Don’t miss those crazy bus rides in Ecuador either!

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    • Hahaha… I love the crazy bus rides in Ecuador! I love how from Quito to Tena they think it’s ok to pass going down hill around bends with 200m drops to the sides! lol

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  18. Speed bumps: brilliant, really. I learned to love them (intellectually) living in Mexico. Drive too fast where you shouldn’t and instead of dealing with some fatass in black with a taser and mirrored glasses, you pay the fine directly to the local economy by way of the repair shop.

    Being scared of lettuce: I live in Uruguay. We wash it with the potable tap water.

    Bus rides: you’d be a little more honest to classify this as ‘something I won’t miss about overland travel by bus,’ no?

    Restaurant food: you mean eating in slow restaurants. Did you not see street food almost everywhere?

    Toilets without toilet seats: agreed. Did you by chance wander into a store to see how expensive they are? (for sure here)

    Being treated as a dollar sign: again, be honest: this has nothing to do per se with South America…more to do with being a pink person from a wealthy country amongst short brown people, many of whom are poorer than you can imagine being.

    Slow Internet: sucks in Uruguay, but didn’t keep me from watching the streaming world cup

    Hockey, Guiness: I’ll pass 😉 But compare the setting and equipment ($$$) required to be able to play hockey and American football to what’s needed for soccer: it’s brilliant

    Cheese: excellent cheese in Uruguay, but no cheddar, which expats make a big deal about. Why, I have no idea.

    I look forward to seeing more of South America now that I live here. Once I left the US, there was no more ‘back home’ for me.

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  19. The speed bumps are something that I’ve been dealing with here in Mexico for the past year. Rarely are there warning signs and even worse, there is no standard type of speed bump. On the main road in the town I’m living in, there are at least a dozen different versions.

    At least in some areas the locals actually go out in the middle of the night and chip away at the speed bumps so that there are two spaces for tires to pass through at full speed!

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    • The speed bumps drive me crazy, but what drives me equally as crazy is how all the drivers do everything in their power to avoid them, which just ends up making it more uncomfortable/ hahah

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  20. hahaha ia ia esta muy lindo el articulo!!!!! pero y que cosas vas a extranar<<<<<<<???

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  21. Had never thought of lettuce being such a danger, good to be forewarned. Perhaps a few travelers will take this a fair reason to neglect their greens, perish the thought.

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  22. Thats wat i was looking for…thanks for sharing your wonderful thought. The most interesting among them is Toilet without the seat. :):)

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  23. nice post – I’m currently in Brazil with my boyfriend having arrived a few weeks ago – we are travelling around SA for a few months. Have encountered the speed bumps and was wondering about them – overjoyed to hear that we have more of them to come in other countries.
    The toilets are not so bad – much better than some I encountered in Laos and Cambodia a few years back.
    I think the lettuce (or some other food) may have hit my boyfriend – at present he is writhing around in pain with stomach cramps and earlier today I had to clean up his vomit from the floor of our hostel with a dirty rag….oh joy!

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  24. Did you spend much time in Colombia? I’m actually finding it to be a great place to regain a sense of normalcy.

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    • Ya, I love Colombia, it’s probably one of my favourites in all of SA… right up there with Uruguay!

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  25. Just got back from a week in Dominican Republic and have travelled Peru and I’d have to add beef and milk to your point on cheese.

    You can really taste the cow’s b.o. in the beef, the cheese is like squeaky rubber and all tastes chemically like swiss cheese. And the milk is just something weird all it’s own. Funky flavours.

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    • You’re right Dan… I have spent a lot of time in Peru, and I always complain about the cheese. I don’t drink milk, so no biggie for me. And the reason I never mentioned meat was because I think that Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay have some of the best meat in the world.

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