The American passport is one of the most powerful in the world (although all Western passports are more or less equal with only a relatively few exceptions). Americans can travel to around 186 countries and territories without a visa (or with a visa on arrival). South America is a stunning continent and one of the many good reasons why everyone should have a passport.

So if one would like to see the southern neighbor of North America - what do Americans need to know about visiting South American countries? Note that in this article we will be excluding Central America and the Caribbean as they are geographically North America.

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What To Know About South America

South America is made up of 12 sovereign countries, two dependent territories, and one internal territory. The countries of South America are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The two dependent territories are the Falkland Islands and South Georgia while the internal territory is French Guiana.

The continent is dominated by Latin American (with the Spanish and Portuguese languages) except for Guyana and Suriname which speak English and Dutch and are culturally more Caribbean.

  • Countries: 12 Sovereign Countries
  • Size: 17.8 Million Km2 or 6.9 million Sq Miles
  • Population: Around 423 Million

One should keep in mind that countries can and do change their visa policies all the time and one should check the most updated information before traveling. Failure to do so and not having the required visas and documentation can result in the airline refusing boarding or deportation once one arrives in the country.

Related: 17 No-Passport Required Destinations (11 Places We Will Never Be Able To Enter)

Going Visa-Free To South America

Visa Free Countries:

Americans enjoy visa-free travel to most the South American countries including Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, and as of recently, Paraguay. In all or most of these countries, Americans can enter for tourism purposes for 90 days or 3 months.

  • Visa Free Countries: Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, and Paraguay
  • Duration: Generally 3 months or 90 days

French Guiana:

The odd place in South America for touristic purposes is French Guiana. It is an integral part of France and so is part of the European Union and the Schengen Area. The currency is the Euro and Schengen rules apply. Americans can enter French Guiana for up to 90 days without a visa.

  • Visa Policy: Visa-Free (Schengen Area Rules)
  • Duration: Up To 90 Days

Related: Are You New To International Travel? Here's A Guide To Travel For Beginners

The Exceptions To The Rule

Bolivia:

Bolivia is an exception to the 90-day rule of thumb for South American countries. Beginning February 8, 2021 Americans need to obtain a tourist visa. These visas can be obtained before traveling to the country for free, or as a visa on arrival for a fee. The visa on arrival is valid for 30 days. Western European countries, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia remain visa-free (permitted for 30 days but can be extended for up to 90 days free of charge).

  • Visa Policy: Visa On Arrival (or Obtain In Advance For Free)
  • Duration: 30 Days

Suriname:

Another exception is Suriname. Americans need to apply for an online tourist card (costs $54). Once one has a tourist card one can day for a maximum of 90 days. The tourist cards previously could be obtained on arrival but that was canceled in 2019. The tourist card also applies to Canadians and most Western European countries. Irish, New Zealanders, and Australians can apply for an eVisa.

  • Visa Policy: Tourist Card Required
  • Duration: Maximum 90 Days

Venezuela:

The final exception is Venezuela. Americans must obtain a visa before visiting this South American country. Visa-free access was canceled for Americans in 2015 and for Canadians in 2019. Western European countries, Australia, and New Zealand continue to have visa-free access as of April 2022.

  • Visa Policy: Required For American Passport Holders

It should also be noted that as of April 2022 there is travel advice against traveling to Venezuela by American citizens.

Do not travel to Venezuela due to arrest and detention of U.S. citizens without due process or fair trial guarantees, or as a pretext for an illegitimate purpose; crime; civil unrest; poor health infrastructure; and kidnapping.US State Travel Advisory