First things first, happy birthday (Vesper’s) Dad and Lehar!
In the last month, we have taken five flights (with too many segments) and four long bus rides. We have traveled to seven cities in six countries including St. Martin, Panama City, Mexico City, Panajachel and Antigua in Guatemala, Bogotá in Colombia, and Quito in Ecuador.
After a month on the road, here are some of the things we have learned and observed.
Things we expected
- No free tap water or refills at restaurants.
- You usually have to pay for public bathrooms.
- Bathrooms do not always have toilet paper or soap, so be prepared and bring what you need.
Things we didn’t expect
- It hasn’t always been warm! We expected much warmer weather being in Central and South America, although so far we have been in cities with pretty high altitudes.
- Even when it is warm, Central and South Americans do not wear shorts or sandals. Laura finds the latter particularly annoying because she hates wearing anything besides sandals, but she already sticks out anyway with her blond hair, blue eyes, and pasty white skin.
- Airlines outside the US feed you on flights and it’s awesome! Even if the flight is only an hour, we were still given snacks with rolls, meats, and cheese. On longer flights you get fruit, warm sandwiches, and cookies! And to think on those same flights in the US we just hope to get free peanuts.
- Internet quality can vary wildly. While many places provide free wifi, we’ve learned to take advantage whenever we can find fast connections.
Other random observations
- Police with large assault weapons are common here. They are often stationed outside of government buildings, but it looks like any store owner can hire one to guard their shop as well.
- People drink a lot fruit juice. In the US, we tend to only have (processed) orange juice and lemonade on menus, but here it’s much more common to have a whole variety of fresh juices, including pineapple, mango, orange, etc. We’re guessing fruit is cheaper here and therefore easier to make into fresh juice.
- In addition to fruit juices, soft serve ice cream and ice cream bars also seem to be crazy popular here. In busy areas of town, there are soft serve stands everywhere - from the tiny cart on a park corner to McDonalds having separate counters exclusively for ice cream.
- Despite the Zika virus outbreak, we haven’t heard anything much about it… maybe that’s because we haven’t really had the chance to watch any local news. Plus we’ve been at higher altitudes, so mosquitoes really haven’t been a problem yet.
Some of the highlights of the trip
- Best street food: Barbacoa tacos on the highway in Mexico City
- Best Coffee: Anywhere in Guatemala
- Best Beer: Cerveceria Statua Rota in Bogotá
- Favorite City: Bogotá (Best beer too… coincidence?)
A note on our budget
- We decided to splurge a bit on our first stop in St. Martin. Our five days there alone account for about 40% of our total expenses this month.
- Flights are hands down the most expensive part of the budget, even though we have been using frequent flier miles as much as possible. We knew this was going to be the case, and we plan to bus through the rest of South America.
- Although we’ve found that street food is obviously the cheapest, it’s not as prolific everywhere else as it was in Mexico City. To save money on food, we look for hostels that include breakfast, we cook dinner in the hostel kitchen, and eat out for lunch so we can still try all the local foods.