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Health & Safety

Hot water is a myth for most of the country, and hot water to shower in might raise a few eyebrows as you move away from city centres. Well, you wanted to be a hard core traveller. Water isn’t drinkable and mineral water must be bought. If you will be in the area for a while, it’s worth investigating how the locals are supplied: often, a bulk purchase makes it cheaper. Or just buy a kettle. If you want to retain control of your gut, wash everything you put into your mouth – and only eat where you see locals eating too.

Marijuana is easily bought and consumed. Police have a dubious and unfathomable relationship with these soft drugs users, and can usually be bought off with a bribe if you are caught and are not obnoxious in any way. It will help if you are caught with locals who have the know how of how exactly to deal with these men.

Coke and harder drugs are more hidden and are seriously jailable offences. Stay off the crack – if you are a foreigner caught for drug abuse or dealing, you are in the shit. Incidentally, if hippies fresh from the Peruvian coast offer you some home-brewed cactus juice, you are taking your life in your hands!

In the bigger cities, muggings are common – but don’t play the victim. Walking about late at night in small groups with valuable items is silly anywhere. Don’t carry loose note flapping the breeze in your hand – they will be snatched by the next gang of ten year olds roaming about. Regarding travel documents – photocopies on your person sounds neurotic (and is neurotic) but beats dealing with lascivious policemen who are more interesting in your marital status than your legal issues.

Condoms are an absolute must. HIV and STD’s are rife, and coupled with vague awareness and education (and promiscuity), are a reality. Condoms on the Galapagos Islands are not safe, so bring your own – and if you are of this stripe, don’t believe the myth that every prostitute on the islands must be tested before allowed to work. If the authorities can’t prevent eight year olds harassing the sea lions, their chances with enforcing rules on working girls (and boys) is slim to none.

Robyn Leslie

I am a South African, which means I like sunshine and sticky-tape coins together so no-one knows I have money in my pocket. An environmental scientist by qualification, I studied at the University of Cape Town. My years there taught me about the grand narratives of communism, neo-liberalism and post-modernism, and how shitty people can be when they can't find a spot to park their car. After that I needed a break and went off to South America, where I lived and worked for a year. Now I am freelancing as a writer and holding out for a job that combines a morally specific mission with valuable, practical development goals. With a salary. Hmmm. By the way, I was just being snarky before. South Africa is totally safe. Really. Come and visit.