My time as a tour guide in South America was definitely one of the most exciting jobs. I seem to be a repeat offender and will do one of these adventures again. I traveled to one of the most hostile areas in the world – the northern region of Chile around the Parque Nacional Lauca.
The north of Chile is a pure adventure and I take you to a way to travel the world as a rock climber.
Since 2010, I have been touring Latin America for at least a few weeks each year until today, 2017. Since 2016, I’m now fasting in Mexico and Central America, previously it was only the South American continent. For the first time I traveled in Peru in January 2010, discovered there the world of the Andes while I completed three months of instructive hours in the Spanish language, from there it went on to Bolivia and ended there as well. But that was in 2010 and the South America Adventure ended there at first. The abstinence lasted one year and I came back. But I first went back to Peru; it took a long time to make a detour to Chile. What is there to do except adventurous outdoor activities in and around Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia?
At first, there is so much to do. Otherwise it may be because I was welcomed with open arms.
But this was exactly what made it very easy for me to travel in Chile despite their very fast Spanish.
Since Chile itself is quite expensive as a country and is now almost comparable to many European countries, I searched on my way through the country a breathtaking opportunity of free travel. At least it should as far as possible spare my purse. I found it on the internet via a page called Forum Andersreisen. On this page there are many internships in the international working environment especially for German speakers. Especially Spain, Greece and other European destinations belong to the range. By the way, a look at the site is always worthwhile, just as a little hint from me;)
Why work as a tour guide in South America?
One argument at first: South America is probably the most diverse continent of the world and apart from the big distances it is easy to travel there as well.
You do not need a visa for a single country, stays of up to 3 months are easily possible in almost all countries. It looks even better in Peru, where you can stay for up to 6 months without a visa, visa extension is easily made if you go for a couple of days in any neighboring country. If you speak Spanish so far, traveling is no problem. But you should be able to communicate in this common language, since English is rather precarious away out of the tourist centers. Otherwise you will find in South America the largest rainforest areas of the world, the most beautiful tropical beaches on the Pacific, Atlantic and Caribbean coast, lost cities, festivals, a vibrant nightlife. There are many reasons for South America, and in recent years the region has become increasingly safer, travel- and even working options are much easier.
Especially as a tour guide you have good chances. While many South Americans are increasingly looking for jobs on cruise ships hiring at the ports of the continent, overseas travelers are looking for jobs in the countryside. Especially in the Andes Region there are many travelers, as well as many tour operators.
During our blogstory we will probably come back to Peru a lot, the most heavily visited tourist destination on the continent.
On the other hand there is Chile, an exemplary role as the number one economic power on the continent. But apart from Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, the Atacama Desert and its capital Santiago de Chile just relatively few travelers are to be found in this country.
Maybe because of high prices that put you off. Or a lack of great local cuisine, as it is currently found in the northern neighbor of Peru or even more in Argentina. At least I must say that I was not convinced by the classic streetfood hot dog with its excessive mayo cream on top – something local typical that you’ll find in every second or third corner of Santiago de Chile. But there are many other reasons why you should especially travel or work in Chile.
Anyone who does not end up with a coveted promotion job in Chile, with whom he or she can discover the country from a company, should ask for a work and travel visa.
Because apart from Australia, New Zealand or Canada, Chile also has one of these agreements with many countries where young people could work and travel for at least 12 months in the country searching for options to earn experience in jobs. But despite the relatively high cost of living, it may sometimes be a little difficult not to find the job in the beginning that covers all costs from a financial point of view. That’s why I get that kind of AHA effect, like me. As a tour guide one can move around the country and earn some money at the same time as well. Also it’s a job that make me passionate about when speaking in front of groups. It’s a job you really have to love but it is an option as well that can help you to get around.
Reasons to work as a tour guide
Food and lodging is usually provided, you often do not have to drive a car yourself, and personal expenses are usually paid back by the companies. If you are employed as a freelancer, you usually get a basic salary. Sometimes the payment is not necessarily as low as one might expect – at least if you look for the small organizers rather than the big ones.
Yes, I have not committed myself to this. Because I have just noticed that large companies which then also interact with their tour offers worldwide, often pay very little.
Certainly this may also be the case in well-heeled companies but I myself have put more of an eye on organizers who specialize in younger travelers. The little ones, however, often pay better, as everyone should at least earn a fixed rate as a tour guide.
The people in South America do not work this job part-time and on the basis of a mini-job for 400 euros a month. No, these people do this full-time.
In many cases they have even completed a previous course of study or direct tour guide training, which may take 3-4 years in those countries.
On the other hand, if you are from overseas, fit, able to guide tours with your knowhow, and also able to interact in another language that is interesting to the target audience, then you have good options for job prospects. As a beginner I received daily rates of $ 50. Of course, this is only lucrative if you are also in the tours with several weeks to cover up all your expenses.
However, options are there and from region to region there are other main season times.
Experiences that made me a Self-Survival Guide in Chile
Let’s move on to a very special country where I spend a lot of my time in 2014.
We are talking about Chile, the longest country in the world. It measures approximately 4,300 kilometers from north to south (excluding another 3,700 kilometers in the Antarctic), but is also the narrowest in comparison to the size of all the countries worldwide. On average, there are only 180 kilometers from east to west. This is approximately the east-west extension of the continent’s largest city (including suburbs) – or better known as the metropolis of Sao Paulo.
But within these national borders one goes through almost all climatic zones of the earth from the Arctic climate up to the Subtropics. With the Atacama Desert you’ll also find one of the driest places in the world in this country. In the hinterland of Putre, the Parque Nacional Lauca, I experienced further extremes that only a place like Chile has to offer.
Immens large mountains for hiking and climbing, vicuña herds, huge salt lakes with flamingos.
Next to this spectacular scenery there was a small hut, where I settled down with the people of the hiking tour after some amazing outdoor activities.
We all prepared food. And then I came in contact with chili in this remote mountain chalet in the mountains of Chile. I cut this small something but it came into contact with my eyes.
In such a hostile place as in the mountains of Chile and lack of water not necessarily of advantage, I guess. But that made the experience again, to have a challenge with luck and bad luck and to learn from such an experience.
Some circumstances put me to the test, but that was the fascinating thing. In addition to the appeal of my eyes was due to fatigue and the one time my passport, my wallet including credit cards and my entire backpack including camera, etc. were taken away. I was at the wrong time at the wrong place.
Consequently, I had to contact the Chilean police, who tried to help me from then on. Unfortunately, I did not get my important belongings back any faster and I needed to contact the German embassy in Santiago de Chile to apply for a provisional passport. But without money it is also known that travels seem to be hard.
At least if you should fall back on something in an emergency.
From then on family members had to temporarily transfer money via Western Union as well. Just on this way I was able to buy at least the bus ticket to Santiago de Chile and to get from there to the embassy. But how to finance the accommodations, how to transport, how to buy food when you have nothing?
You can probably imagine what went on in my mind first.
Due to the time difference, I was able to inform my mother at least.
At such moments, you also become aware of the importance of having a permanent contact person in your home country. But I also have to say that this is why this country was also so friendly and I have to say despite these small personal setbacks that the tour guide experience was worth so much more than any classic office job. For me it was the starting point of an idea of working and traveling,which I would realize and put into action again, if in South America or elsewhere.
So I took a closer look at life when you have to organize yourself from point Zero.
I think that’s very valuable.
I was in a situation without ID, with no way to cross legal borders, branded by the clutches of my important belongings. It felt weird when I did not have the most important basic things like cash cards, camera and ID anymore, but I was happy. Because I made a new life enriching experience and it did not blow me away.
In addition, despite missing belongings, I noticed that people helped me wherever they could.
Via Facebook and Co I contacted people in Santiago de Chile, thus saving costs for accommodation. At the place of the robbery itself, I lived there for an extra night in the police station and stayed there on the sofa while the dangerous small criminals with their handcuffs were punished.
It was a bizarre picture, definitely unforgettable.
After a transfer via Western Union from Europe, I was also got a signed permit from the police to continue from the small town of robbery in the middle of the Atacama Desert to Santiago de Chile. After all, I only came by bus to Santiago de Chile, the journey was long.
Do you also think such experiences as a travel guide are instructive and cool? Have you ever experienced something like this or gained experiences as a guide abroad? If not, what do you think of the idea in the future? Just write us or better: Just travel there on your own and experience something like that in charming Chile.