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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

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Ella Jameson

Freelance writer

Travel Hacks To Stay Safe While Backpacking Five Travel Hacks To Save Money in Latin America

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

1. Exercise Daily

It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

3. Acknowledge Your Limits

Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

The basic nutritional advice includes:

  • Eat unprocessed foods
  • Eat more veggies
  • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
  • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

    5. Watch Out for Travel

    Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

    This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

    If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

    6. Start Slow

    Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

    If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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    7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

    Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

    My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

    If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

    I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

    Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

    More Tips on Getting in Shape

    Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

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