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Five Travel Hacks To Save Money in Latin America

Five Travel Hacks To Save Money in Latin America

The Internet isn’t short of money-saving travel tips, but unfortunately some of them just aren’t feasible for long-term travel. One of the joys of long-term travel is the flexibility it affords you: no one wants to be boxed in by booking a bus two months in advance or having to stake plans around being in a certain city at a certain time to stay in that budget hotel you booked – no matter how much it might save you.

If you suck at math and the idea of doing a budget tracking spreadsheet every night is your idea of a nightmare (even with all those new budget tracking apps),[1] fear not. There are several travel tips that are workable and easy to utilise, and really will save you money. Here are five ways to save money in Latin America – by someone who’s been there and done that – but didn’t buy the T-shirt.

1. Always Take the Chicken Bus

If you have a long, arduous journey in front of you, it’s incredibly tempting to pay that bit extra for a swankier bus service or shuttle. But travel on the local buses (or chicken buses) and you can save inordinate amounts of money. Sometimes the price difference for shuttles can be up to ten times what you’d pay on local transportation. Chicken buses may not be fast or luxurious, but they’ll get you from A to B for under a dollar, and have the added benefit of giving you an authentic experience too.

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2. Skip the Tours and Hire Bikes Instead

Now admittedly, there are places and attractions you can only visit with an organised tour group. But do your research, because forking out $60 for an overpriced tour aimed at tourists isn’t always your best bet.

For example, exploring Luna Valley in Chile’s San Pedro de Atacama desert is a must for anyone on the backpacker trail – but because you’re in a traveler hotspot in one of South America’s most expensive countries, your time in this little town could become a budget breaker. Skip the tours of the valley that cost a lot and hire bikes to explore instead. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also get away from the crowds, be able to do it on your own time AND you’ll get some exercise – a rarity for a long-term traveller.

3. Eat at Menu del Dia Restaurants

After a few months on the road, the thing I found I missed most was the availability of international food. When you finally hit up a big, developed city and see international restaurants, it’s almost impossible to stop your brain conjuring up images of your next meal possibilities: Fresh bowls of Vietnamese pho! Aromatic Indian curries with soft nan bread! Fragrant Pad Thai and succulent dumplings! I know, I know. While it can be hard not to run to the nearest restaurant, don’t. Gringo food comes with gringo prices, and you can easily spend what amounts to a day’s budget on a quick meal.

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Instead, head to the local restaurants where you can choose from the ‘menu del dia’ and enjoy a two- or three-course meal for around $2. There’s soups, salads, pastas, fish, meat, rice and beans… You’ll leave full to burst and with plenty of change in your pocket. Save the international food for when you’re back home – or for a very special treat.

4. Cook in Hostels (And Make Tupperware Your Friend)

It goes without saying that if you’re on a budget you should try to stay in hostels with kitchens. These are invaluable for your budget, so where possible, always choose accommodation where you can prepare you own food. But, even if you have accommodation with a kitchen, after a while hostel cooking gets incredibly monotonous. And that’s skipping over whether your hostel will actually have any cooking equipment bar one bent, sticky frying pan and a few blunt knives.

If you’re lucky, the hostel might have salt and pepper left from a previous traveler. But actual spices and herbs – basil, chilli, paprika, basil, oregano – are usually out of the question. It may not seem like a big deal, but having your own mini spice rack on hand can be invaluable. After more than a month of flavorless rice and beans or bland, overcooked pasta, you will likely lose all faith in hostel cooking. THIS is the crucial point when you think to heck with it: I’m heading to the nearest international restaurant and scoffing myself silly. I deserve it.

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You do, but there’s no faster way to fritter your budget away than on food. Fresh herbs and spices are expensive in Latin America – sometimes unbelievably so. I began compiling collected spices, herbs and condiments (collect ALL the sachets in restaurants when you can!) in a little tupperware box. Then whenever I was cooking what would be a bland and uninspired meal, I had a wealth of spices and flavors to put in. Need some spice? Fine. Garlic? Whack it in. Such a small thing to do with such a big return.

5. Plan Your Flights Properly

Point one might suggest always getting the chicken bus, but admittedly, that doesn’t always work. It’s fine for Central America, but South America is so vast it just isn’t always feasible. If you’re heading to far flung places like Patagonia, flying is often the only real choice, unless you know you can spend five days on a bus without going insane (I can’t). If you know you’re going to have to book a flight, plan this in advance.

No matter how cheap an airline is, don’t make the mistake of heading directly to their site to see the best deals (which so many travelers still do…) In my experience the best flight comparison site is usually Google flights, but Skyskanner also advises you on the cheapest times to book a flight. November is 12% cheaper, and December is 20% more expensive, so booking just a week or two earlier can save you a lot.

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Do you have any travel hacks for Latin America?

Featured photo credit: Ihor Malytskyi via unsplash.com

Reference

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Ella Jameson

Freelance writer

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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