Visiting a tropical rainforest promises to be a memorable experience. Rainforests house around half the world’s plant and animal species and are home to indigenous people who live in ways quite unlike those in the western world. However, a visit to the rainforest is not a trip fit for everyone. Rainforests can be hot and humid, are often difficult to reach and insect-ridden, and have wildlife that is relatively hard to see. To help you prepare and plan for a trip to the Rainforest, here’s a list of tips to consider.
What You Need to Know About Traveling to the Rainforest
Get a complete set of vaccinations before you travel to the Amazon rainforest. Vaccinations for a host of common diseases including malaria, yellow fever, meningitis, hepatitis, rabies and dengue are all worth considering. These illnesses can cause serious problems, especially when you are in remote sections of the jungle with primitive medical facilities and limited transportation infrastructure.
Consult with a travel doctor/nurse about what vaccinations you will need for your trip. We took anti-malarial pills, and received shots for yellow fever, typhoid fever, and hepatitis a for our trip to Brazil’s Amazon Rainforest.
Get Your Visa Early (Brazil)
If you’re traveling to Brazil to visit the Amazon, start looking into getting your Visa now. No, right now. We made the mistake of not looking into the process of getting a visa to Brazil (or that we even needed one in the first place) until only a month before hand. Little did we know, the process is arduous and can take months. From scheduling an interview weeks in advance, to getting all your documents together, and then leaving your passport with them to eventually receive it back with the visa, the process is not short. Make sure you have at least 2-3 months between your trip and starting the process to ensure you get everything back in time.
As we realized we were in hot water for getting our Visa (and desperate!) we found a local company that can get you a visa within weeks. And thank god we found them! Within less than 3 weeks from sending our documents, we had them back in our hands visa and all. If you’re reading this and are just now realizing you’re in the same hot water we were – this is the company we worked with: Aardvark Brazil Expeditors. They saved the trip for us and we were super excited at how fast and professional they were.
Use 100% Deet Repellent
The mosquitoes in the Rainforest are like no other. They are 3x the size of a normal city mosquito and are more than capable of biting you through your clothing. Most mozzie repellents do not work on these mosquitoes. The only thing that works is 100% Deet. Yes Deet is terrible, but the mosquitoes are worse. Trust me on this one. Most of the mosquito bites I got were where I didn’t have deet on (under my clothes). Mosquitoes can carry malaria and dengue, so it’s imperative that you limit the number of bites you are exposed to while traveling in the Amazon.
Travel with a Professional Guide
I would not advise “winging it” for your first visit to a rainforest. Showing up in a country like Brazil and then figuring out how travel to the Amazon can be a little daunting especially if you are under time constraints. It is usually a good idea to have a guide. Chances are you will not see much wildlife on your own or you might hurt yourself or get lost.
While there will be local operators, it can be a little tricky finding the best options unless you have done some research beforehand. Check the authenticity and reputation of the guide you choose to travel with. If trouble does arise it is nice to have someone local to contact and an operator generally provides such a possibility. The jungle is a dangerous place and you want to make sure you’re going to be safe.
We traveled with the Amazon Riders in Brazil and had an absolutely fantastic time and wonderful experience. Our guide was constantly on alert for our safety and there was never a time when we felt we were in danger. Despite that, our trip with Amazon Riders was as down and dirty as it got!
Check to see whether your health insurance covers you overseas. If not, buy supplemental travel health insurance if you think there’s a risk or want to be on the safe side. Medivac is a good idea for some countries and locales.We almost never use travel insurance but this was definitely one of those times we splurged just to be safe. There are some countries you don’t want to spend a lot of time in the hospital.
While we didn’t end up needing it, it was better to be safe than sorry. Not to mention, some tour operators even require it. We used Square Mouth to help us find a good insurance at a good price.
Wear Loose Fitting Clothing & Cover Up
Tight clothing is bad in the jungle for two reasons. First, it’s hot and humid making tight clothing sticky and uncomfortable. Second, the mosquitoes can bite through clothes, so you’re better off making sure you have an extra pocket of air to protect you.
Also be sure to wear pants and a long sleeve shirt when going into the jungle to protect your skin from insects bites and other potential rashes from contact with certain plants.
Treat Your Clothing with Permethrin
Since the mosquitoes bite through clothing, you’ll probably want to treat the clothes you do bring, or use pre-treated clothing. Permethrin insect repellent does not harm fabrics and is odorless after dried. Use Permethrin on clothing by itself or with skin-applied repellents to create the ultimate protective, armor-like insect barrier. Not only does this product repel insects, but will actually kill them since it’s a contact insecticide – killing mosquitoes or other insects when it comes in contact with them.
Here’s a short list of packing tips for the Amazon Rainforest. If you want to see exactly what we packed, check out our complete list of things to pack when traveling to the Amazon Rainforest.
- Passport & Visa – Don’t forget these! If you’re going to Peru, no Visa is needed. If you’re going to Brazil start getting that Visa now! It takes a while and can be a huge pain.
- Rain Jacket/Poncho – It’s the rainforest – you’ll soon understand why it got its name.
- Loose-Fitting Clothing – The mosquitoes in the Amazon bite through clothing. Loose fitting clothing is not only more comfortable in the heat, but will save you from the mozzies.
- Jacket – It can get a bit chilly in the evenings, or if there’s a downpour. Bring a lightweight jacket just in case.
- Plastic Bags – Garbage bags and/or ziploc bags ensure your stuff stays dry.
- 100% Deet Insect Repellent – The mosquitoes were by far the worst part of the trip. 100% Deet is the only thing that works on these super mozzies – you were warned!
- Sunscreen – It’s hot and sunny.
- Sun Glasses – Don’t want to forget these!
- Toiletries – Odds are good wherever you’re staying will have a shower. It won’t be warm, but you’ll be able to wash off every day (you’ll definitely want to).
- Flashlight – At night you’re going to need a flashlight – headlamps are the way to go. If you’re camping in the jungle, it’s a must have.
- Water Bottle / Reservoir – You’ll be hot and thirsty, don’t forget to bring something to carry your water.
- Camera – Too many beautiful memories to capture not to bring one! And make sure to bring spare batteries – you won’t have electricity for four days, and you’ll be taking hundreds of photos.
- Extra Set of Clean Clothes – you’ll be filthy by the time you’re leaving the Rainforest, and you’re going to wish you had something to clean to wear as you re-enter civilization. Trust me.