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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 August 15, 2018

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion. Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.

Video Summary

Why is it important to train up our core strength?

There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.

This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.

Also they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However for them to be most effective you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.

In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.

One Exercise, multiple benefits

There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.

By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.

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When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.

Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.

In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.

What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.

What will happen when you start doing planks every day

    1. You’ll improve core definition and performance: 

    Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominusthe external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:

    • Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights.
    • Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
    • Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
    • Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.

    2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column

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      Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.

      Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.

      3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism

        Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).

        4. You’ll significantly improve your posture

          Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .

          A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.

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          A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.

          On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.

          5. You’ll improve overall balance

            Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!-  but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.

            6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before

              Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shouldersshoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.

              7. You’ll witness mental benefits

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                Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.

                How to hold a plank position

                1. Get into pushup position on the floor.
                2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
                3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
                4. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
                5. Hold the position for as long as you can.
                6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
                7. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.

                Watch the video if you have any doubt!

                Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:

                  How to improve your plank time gradually

                  1. Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
                  2. Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
                  3. Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.

                  Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.

                  Who Should Be Cautious Doing The Plank?

                  You need to be cautious doing Planking exercises if any of these risks apply to you:

                  • Prolapse
                  • After prolapse surgery
                  • Pelvic pain conditions
                  • Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
                  • Previous childbirth
                  • Overweight

                  Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.

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