Browsing Posts tagged Peru travel

Frida Mexican money

Don’t look now, but you just got a little richer. There’s just one catch: you have to go traveling.

Trying to explain why the U.S. dollar is going up or down is something even experienced economists have trouble with, so I won’t bother trying. Just know that it involves the perception of our economy’s health, the relative strength of other economies’ health (especially Europe and China), and what’s going on with the corresponding economy of the currency it’s trading against.

The bottom line is, we’re in a golden period right now where the dollar is relatively strong, which is good news for travelers. It takes a little sting out of the most expensive places and makes the cheaper ones even cheaper.

Here are a few key places where you’re better off now than you were a year or two ago.

Argentina

I discussed this one in detail already recently, so go check out my cheap Argentina post. Today the “blue rate” is 14.7 to the dollar, compared to under 9 for the official rate. Take lots of cash.

living in Salta

Mexico

I arrived at the Guadalajara airport a few nights ago and laughed as I saw the exchange booth giving a rate of 10.9 pesos to the dollar. I walked over to an ATM and got 13.4 to the dollar. This is a great time to be in Mexico, but unlike in Argentina, don’t come with a briefcase full of cash. There are exchange restrictions and in most areas you’ll get a worse rate than just taking money out of your own bank account with a debit card. If you can find a CI Banco machine, they have the lowest fees. BanNorte has the highest.

Thailand

This country has been a political mess for a while and that is (probably temporarily) pushing down the value of their currency. Right now the official rate is 32.4, which is 10% better than where it was in late 2012. Avoid the protest zones in Bangkok and enjoy.

Thailand travel

Hungary

The first time I went to Hungary the exchange rate was around 215 forint to the dollar, the second time it was around 240. That approximate 10% move made a significant difference in how cheap it felt for a beer, a meal, or a locally priced hotel. It’s back up to that point again, so this is a good time to spend a few days in Budapest and then hit the countryside.

Peru

This time two years ago a U.S. dollar got you 2.6 new soles. Now you get 2.9. Peru can be an expensive place if you go during high season and you’re on the tourist trail shared by people with loads of money checking something off a bucket list. Take a side trail though or go between October and April and your soles will go a long way.

Peru travel

Chile

This is not one of The World’s Cheapest Destinations by any means, but when I wrote this post about how expensive Chile was when I was there two years ago, a dollar got you 480 Chilean pesos. Now a dollar gets you 590. That’s a 23% increase in purchasing power. It’s still going to be more expensive than it’s neighbors, but it won’t feel so out of whack as before.

Other Countries

The swings are less than 10% in the following in 2014, but right now the dollar is at or near a two-year high in Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua, Morocco, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania, Turkey, and Egypt. I expect you’ll see most of Africa’s currencies plunge in the next few months because of the ebola effect, even if they’re 2,000 miles away from the outbreak.

If you’re a traveler and you want to keep up with exchange rates, there’s an app for that. I use one called Exchange Rates on my Android phone and one called Currency App on my iPod Touch. In either you can set up which currencies to follow and it’ll update when you refresh.

budget Galapagos tough

A bit over a year ago I wrote this post on building splurge money into your shoestring travel budget. Sometimes you have to throw that $40 a day budget out the window. While I’m a big advocate for going to cheap destinations where you can get a lot more for your money, even in those places you have to drop some serious dough sometimes if you want to get the full experience.

I got an e-mail last week from someone who was flabbergasted at how expensive lodging was in Cusco and the Sacred Valley. But he was going in July, the peak of the peak season, and going to the most popular spots in Peru. I gave him some advice on shaving costs here and there by staying in some towns that wouldn’t be so mobbed, but there’s only so much you can do. It’s the same story in Ko Pha Ngan, Agra, Bali, or Pokhara if you come at the very peak. That may be a good time to be there weather-wise or event-wise, but understand that the laws of economics still apply.

There are other cases though where you are paying a lot because the place or experience just plain costs a lot. Because of a writing assignment, I just took my second trip to the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. If you search around on the web, you can find articles on how to “do the Galapagos on the cheap,” but really it’s all relative. You have to spend a few hundred dollars to fly out there in the first place, you’ll pay $110 in fees after arrival into a conservation fund, and then virtually everything on Santa Cruz Island is going to be twice the price as the mainland while you’re lining up a tour.

marine iguana

Once you do get some kind of bargained-down tour, it’s still going to cost you north of $150 a day per person most likely to just take short jaunts to see the nearby islands. That’s cheaper than going with a well-known tour company where people are happy to pay $500 to $800 per night, but it’s not exactly shoestring travel territory. That’s because of a lot of good regulations that are in place to keep the environment from getting degraded. Guides must be trained and licensed, plus only around 100 ships are authorized to ply these waters with passengers.

Captains also have to be licensed and must undergo training on, among other things, how and where they can dock and send passengers to shore. They don’t really have a say in their itinerary. For good reasons, you can’t just hire a fishing boat captain in the harbor and say, “Show me some boobies!”

Galapagos OwlThat guide you’ll get at the low end will be the kind of guy who can’t get hired by any of the real tour operators paying a good salary to real naturalists. After he struck out with all of them or got fired because of a string of guest complaints, he has ended up with you. It’s a pretty safe bet he won’t be able to lead you to the hard-to-spot creatures like this owl who hunts in the daytime. He probably won’t be able to explain why this bird is so strange and how it got that way.

I’m using this fragile Galapagos ecosystem as an example, but all around the world there are spots like this where governments have in purposely put hurdles in your way for a good cause. If you want to go to Bhutan, be prepared to pay $300+ per day. There’s no budget tour to Antarctica. Visiting Petra is really going to cost you, so suck it up and overpay. If you want to go deep into the jungle almost anywhere, be it the Amazon, Borneo, or Sumatra, you’re probably going to have to pony up some cash to do it right.

If nothing else, this is all a good reminder than you don’t have to cram everything in on your first trip around the world. You can do that river cruise down the Danube or the Amazon later when grandma is paying for it. You can do that tour up the coast of Brazil when you’ve got a good job later and are making the big bucks. You can go scuba diving on the barrier reef of Australia when you go there as a vacationer rather than a backpacker.

Traveling on a budget means understanding that you can’t do it all, whenever you want, wherever you want. You’ve still got a thousand things to pick from. Save the most expensive ones for later instead of trying to do them half-assed on a limited budget. Even with climate change and economic growth going full-tilt, those experiences should still be waiting for you…

There’s a lot of chatter in the publishing industry right now about how independent, self-published authors are totally kicking butt and realizing that they can do a lot better on their own than they ever could have done with a traditional publisher. Part of this is because they don’t put all their efforts into a first-week launch and then move on to the next thing. Most of their sales come well after that because they’re still visible and as many have said, “A book is always new if you’ve never read it.”

So in that spirit, many of these books are not brand new and are not stacked by the dozens at the front of Barnes & Noble, but they’re as great as when they first came out. The last one two are new though, if you want to get something hot off the press.

Last Days of the Incas

Inca empire PeruI put off reading this 2007 release for a long time because it’s a really thick, heavy book and I thought it would be a tough slog. I was oh so wrong about that. Last Days of the Incas has all the pacing and character development of an epic novel. It just happens to all be true. Meticulously researched but written by someone who is great at telling a story, this is one of those tales that would seem completely unbelievable if someone made it up.

It’s the story of how a motley band of 168 greedy, low-class Spaniards managed to rout an entire Inca empire that stretched 2,500 miles from northern Ecuador down to the bottom of Peru. Solely because they had horses and steel weapons, they were able to hold off an army of more than 10,000 rebels that tried to take back Cusco. Full of strategic blunders, fateful egos, and double-crossing, it’s the greatest movie you’ve never seen. Here’s an interview with author Kim MacQuarrie if you want to learn more.

Going Clear

While at a resort in Zihuatanejo, I found this on a book exchange shelf and figured I’d educate myself about the wacky cult based in my sometime home of Tampa Bay. Going Clear was even wackier than I expected. It starts with L. Ron Hubbard’s self-embellished, odd life history, then the growth of his “religion,” to the secretive, exploitative compounds and control mechanisms the organization now uses to keep everyone locked in and financially feeding the beast. There have been a few brave books like this by authors who soon get harassed and sued over and over again afterwards, but this one benefits from interviews and stories from very high-ranking officers who left the organization, despite the great personal risk and isolation that entails. This book is fascinating in the same way as a Stephen King book—a terrible horror story you’re glad you can view from a safe distance.

Getting Out & The Expat Guidebook

Moving abroad bookI’ve finishing up my latest book, A Better Life for Half the Price, about cutting your expenses in half by moving to a cheaper place to live. (Get on the notification list here.) To make sure I haven’t missed anything fundamental, I’ve been getting a gut check by reading two in-depth guides to moving abroad. Getting Out makes the case for moving away just to, well, get out. So it’s not focused on costs so much as a better quality of life. And better health care–which you get almost anywhere else you would move to from the USA.

The Expat Guidebook starts out as a diatribe, then offers a solution, then gives you all the answers to the nitty-gritty questions you’ll pose to make a transformation happen. The overall premise is that you can live much better abroad by escaping the consumer-driven rat race. By following author T.W. Anderson’s 568 pages of tips gleaned from living in two countries, you’ll be prepared for whatever the world throws at you.

Travels with Baby

I reviewed the first edition of Shelly Rivoli’s excellent book on traveling with babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers when it came out. My daughter, who once fit that profile, is now 13, so I’ve just been skimming through this to see how the new one looks. Susan Griffith has a detailed review of it in this month’s issue of Perceptive Travel though, so you can see more there. From what I have seen though, Travels with Baby is the most thorough, comprehensive book out there on the subject and it goes well beyond the little Ziploc bag tricks and Disney ticket advice things you see in most mommy blogger titles. Shelly’s a real travel writer who is out and about with her family more than most and she strikes a good balance between urging you to explore and staying safe and healthy along the way. Good solid advice if you’re a parent wanting to travel with little ones.

The Rules of Travel

Hobotraveler rules of travelI put this little pocket book last because I could be accused of being a little biased: I wrote the forward to it. The Rules of Travel is from my long-time buddy Andy Graham, the Hobo Traveler. If you’ve read the budget travel in Africa guest post he did for me earlier, you know he’s an opinionated guy who doesn’t believe in acting politically correct to keep from pissing people off. Whether you agree with every one of his rules or not, you’re sure to spend a lot less and be a lot safer when you travel if you follow even half of them. I don’t know anyone who has been on the road for a longer continuous period than Andy. Sure, that makes you a bit cynical after a while, but it also makes you wise.

This is not a book you’re going to curl up with in the hammock to keep you entertained for hours. It’s something to pick up, digest a chapter of, and then come back to later. When you’re finished, you’ll be more savvy than 95% of your follow backpackers out there circling the globe.

writer

I’ve got my head down trying to finish up a book called A Better Life for Half the Price, about drastically cutting your expenses about moving abroad. The problem with running your own show though, being an entrepreneur, is that you don’t just clock out at 5:30 and say goodbye to The Man. I am The Man. And I’m a really demanding boss.

So to take a break from coming up with all new material this week, here’s some stuff I’ve published lately and some interviews.

Here’s an interview of me that ran on the blog The Gift of Travel, talking about round-the-world travel, budget travel, and living abroad with a family.

Another in The Franklin Prosperity Report is about getting the most for your travel budget every time.

Here’s one in SmartyCents on how to travel on a budget as a family.

Nora Dunn gave a shout-out to my Travel Writing 2.0 book in this great article about how to earn a living while living abroad.

Machu Picchu

At Global Traveler Magazine, in April I had a feature story about Machu Picchu and in May one about what to do if you have a week in Nicaragua. The latter is still on newsstands, but click the link for the online version.

On Practical Travel Gear, I’ve been writing about travel tripods, carry-on insect repellents, and two under-$100 daypacks from Kelty.

While I go to work, two quick plugs: if you want to travel around the world, you ought to have a copy of The World’s Cheapest Destinations book. If you want to go all in and move abroad, sign up for the Cheap Living Abroad newsletter and I’ll help you make it happen.

It’s time for another collection of the best travel stories from wandering book authors. This month’s issue of Perceptive Travel (just crowned with another “best travel writing” award), journeys to Japan, the Maldives, and the Peruvian Amazon.

We’re happy to have Edward Readicker-Henderson back, spinning a tale that’s strange even by our off-kilter standards, looking back through a warped lens on his time teaching English in Japan. See Osaka in the End.

Michael Buckley has swam with whale sharks and gone paragliding with hawks in Nepal. This time he goes Freediving with Manta Rays. At the top is a video he shot with a GoPro.

James Dorsey has visited all kinds of people who find ways to connect to the world beyond ours. This time he visits a remote village in the Amazon jungle to find the female Shaman of San Regis.

As usual we run down some interesting new travel books you might want to put on your wish list (via William Caverlee) and some notable new world music albums you might find intriguing (via Graham Reid).

Tifosi travel sunglasses

Our regular readers always have a chance to win some cool travel gear and last month a reader from Ohio took home a Goal Zero Guide 10 solar charging kit that folds up and packs easily. This month we’re giving away some sporty sunglasses from Tifosi Optics. If you’re on the newsletter list, check your bulk folder if you didn’t see the message. If not, go follow us on Facebook and you’ll see the contest announcement with how to enter.

Get in on the action next time around by hitting that newsletter sign-up button on the right side of the home page.