Hello. My name is Andreea and I am a Tripaholik. But I guess you my friends know that already. What does that mean? It means I need to see the world, all of it, as soon as possible. It means I get anxious and nervous staying in Romania more than a couple of days without planning the next escape. It means that traveling was my only goal in the past years, not houses, cars, kids and families. This disease might pass, or might not, but for the moment it’s like a thirst that needs to be satisfied.
So this is how I woke up one day with the idea of traveling around Americas for a while. I started to investigate flight tickets, cost of living, which countries I can see and how much time I should spend in each place. Also, I was lucky enough to have an understanding manager who agreed to let me travel while working, as realistically speaking I can’t really take 3 months off from work, without pay.
Traveling while still needing to work 8 hours per day is a bit tricky, but not impossible, and I want to write down some tips and tricks that I discovered while booking and during the first month of my adventure ( that’s right, currently writing this from Lima, Peru).
PLAN, Plan and Plan again! I know, planning sucks out the fun of any trip, but for an extended period in multiple countries, you need to do this. First of all you need to know how much money you would need, and how long do you plan to stay. Ideally you should start the planning having already some money put aside. I’ve discovered that Americas region is not as easy as Asia for example, flight tickets are pretty expensive if not bought early enough, and you don’t have that many good connections between countries. Ideally decide where you want to start your trip and where you want it to end, according to what cheap tickets you find from your home country, and then start investigating the available connections for the surrounding countries.
I’ve planned for a 3 months journey, starting end of October until end of January. I already know the end location, because I am meeting my friends for sailing in Martinique (lucky us Air France has direct flights from Paris in Martinique, with prices from 500-900 euros, depending when you buy the ticket), and the start location was driven by price and love of the country as well, Mexico. I’ve found good tickets (bought with miles) from KLM, via Amsterdam.
Since I am working while traveling, it’s a bit hard to move fast and see as many countries and places as possible, so eventually I have to settle just for a couple of countries : Mexico, Peru, Cuba, Belize, Guatemala and Martinique. Initially I wanted to see Brazil and Argentina as well, but they are huge countries with lots to see, and I wouldn’t have had enough time.
The main reason why I chose these countries was the flight connections and bus connections. Cancun is an ideal hub for flight changing, you have direct flights to Cuba and Lima. Also you have good bus connections for Belize and Guatemala (Mexican Bus system is amazing, either the ADO buses, or the colectivos- local buses, definitely recommend them). Martinique is actually pretty difficult to reach from the Americas, easier from Paris haha, but usually you have connections via Miami (some might require 1 night stay in Miami, so be careful with that if you don’t have an US visa).
Now, in terms of price paid for the flights, here are some examples, bought 2 months in advance (for an easier planning, might be useful to buy changeable tickets, even with a fee, because you might discover that what you planned doesn’t work, you might want to spend more time in a place, or less, so you would eventually save money by having this flexibility), mainly using Kayak (which sometimes doesn’t have all countries low cost airlines, so check first on whichairline) : I paid 64 euros to fly one way from Mexico City to Cancun with Interjet ; 200 euros both ways to fly from Cancun to Lima and back with Copa Airlines; 112 euros to fly with Interjet from Cancun to Havana. Internal flights in Peru can be bought with Star Peru or Peruvian Airlines, but the bus connections are also good and cheap, try this website here for more information. Rest of the trips are easier and cheaper done via bus: for example Cancun to Merida is a 4h bus with ADO (15-20$), from Cancun to Belize City is around 6-7 hours (here more details, around 50$), and from Belize to Flores (Guatemala) you can also take a night bus for 10-15$ (a good site to use for direction here).
For accommodation, I’ve extensively pre-booked and used sites like Booking, Airbnb, Agoda to find deals, mainly because I need good wifi and quiet for the working days, this translating usually in a bigger price. These countries are not as cheap as I would have expected in terms of accommodation, you usually pay around 35-50$ for a double room or an apartment , but if you would just travel without working, you can easily find cheaper places like hostels, with 10-15 dollars per night. I usually recommend just going there and find accommodation on the spot, but also take a look before online, to identify areas where you would like to stay (close to center, close to beach, close to bars, close to bus station etc), and also understand what is the price expected for a tourist to pay, to know where to start negotiating down fromJ. I’ll give examples of accommodation in the dedicated posts for each area.
Deciding what to see and what not is another work of research, read online as much info as you can, buy guides (Lonely planet ones are my favorite, I decided to collect them), not necessarily to do exactly what they say, rather form an opinion of what you would or would not like, and try to plan activities for each day( for me is even harder, as I need to do everything around my working hours, so I really had to look up how much time it would take me to visit something, can I do it during afternoon-evenings, and also during the weekend what can I see, choices choices).
In terms of Budget, I was lucky to start planning with some money already available, so most of the flights and some of the accommodation (Airbnb) I already paid for. After one month of traveling already, I can say that, as an average, for these countries, you spend around 80$ per day : accommodation in a double room in a good hotel, eating out most of the time, taxi’s, buses, drinks and partying. If you are not traveling alone, and you are not constraint to stay in good hotels, you can easily get as low as 40$ per day for a person. I do not carry cash with me ( with the exception of an emergency amount, ideally in dollars, 50-100$), ATMs are almost anywhere, and you can now pay in most of the places with a card, so that considerably eased the amount of fees paid to take money out ( in 1 month I think I only took out cash around 200$). Quick tip: take a bit of precaution with ATMs in any country, try to have more than 1 card with you when traveling ( separately kept), and try not to keep all your money in just one account, just in case it gets cloned, or stolen. On the account of the card I usually keep only money for a week’s travel.
Packing for these countries was a bit tricky: Mexico is either raining and hot, or just hot in this period, and Peru and Guatemala are a bit cold in certain areas in the mountains, so you need sweaters and a jacket. And for a 3months visit, with all your electronics and laptop and work things, you can’t really travel just with 1 backpack, so you need to be careful when you book flights, to understand the baggage allowance, so you don’t end up paying double the price of the ticket.
And… I think that’s about it for the moment. I will detail in future posts all the places I visit, but honestly I don’t know how some people manage to write while traveling, too many things to do and see, and not enough time to sleep, not to mention writingJ. I’ll do my best!