Category Archives: Travel Trends

What’s hot and happening in the world of travel.

A New Guide of Walking Tours in Quito

A copy of Tyler Burgess’ Quito, Ecuador Townscape Walks landed in V!VA Travel Guide‘s office. The small, paperback guide has instructions of 12 routes in the Old Town, Mariscal and New Town, with hints on what cafés, plazas, museums, churches and other sites to know in Quito. Leafing through the hand-illustrated booklet, I became intrigued. In all of my years of visiting Quito, Ms Burgess proposes places I’d never explored.

Quito, Ecuador Townscape Walks by Tyler Burgess

I decide to undertake the three walks in the Centro Histórico. The first, from Plaza Grande to La Basílica (4 kilometers / 2.5 miles), which will visit not only the Basílica, but also the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Museo Sucre and the Catedral de Quito.

The Old Town walks begin from Plaza Grande. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

The second route will take me from the Plaza Grande, to the Centro Cultural Metropolitano and the Compañía church, up to Iglesia de San Francisco and its museum, and finally down to La Ronda (2.75 kilometers / 1.7 miles).

Another trek, again beginning at Plaza Grande, has the goal of Iglesia de San Diego and its cemetery, and the top of El Panecillo (7.7 kilometers / 4.8 miles).

Next week I shall share one of the adventures here in this space.

Quito, Ecuador Townscape Walks is not a guide with descriptions of each site. It is only a collection of a dozen circuit maps, with suggestions of places to visit. Throughout, Tyler Burgess weaves in several handy features, like where to stop for a fresh fruit juice or where there are bathrooms. The booklet is illustrated with sketches of things you’ll see along the way. She takes her fellow walkers into the back streets of Quito, where few tourists ever venture, to see the daily life of Quiteños behind the façade.

Some of the routes are through neighborhoods that, after dark, do have some security problems; but as long as you hoof around during daylight hours and use common-sense security measures (keep valuables back at the hotel, don’t flash your camera, take only the money you’ll need and go with another person), you should do okay. An additional map of the city is also handy. The walks, none of which are more than 8.5 kilometers (5.2 miles), can be quite aerobic, taking on Quito’s many hills.

And this is not a surprise, considering Burgess’ life. Born in 1950 in Wyoming, she spent her adult years in Montana and Oregon. She has always been an outdoors enthusiast. In her 40s, she played soccer, performed triathlons and undertook solo backpacking trips. She coaches marathon and fitness classes. Burgess also organizes walking tours across Ireland, England, Italy and Morocco, as well as in several US cities. A few years ago, she was a Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim, walking the 880-kilometer (550-mile) route alone.

Ms Burgess has written Townscape Walks for Seattle, Oregon, Eugene and Portland. This is is her first one in a foreign land. If you are interested in learning more about the books, visit www.walk-with-me.com.

On the Road – Colombia: Cyclists, Families & Other Travelers Just Like You …

Every trip begins with a dream to see another land, its natural wonders and cultures. The future traveler goes to the local library to check out a V!VA or other travel guide and spends hours exploring the country on paper.  Perhaps a friend has gone, or knows someone who knows someone that has, can tell about his or her exploits.

Many types of travelers are coming to Colombia these days. Recent university graduates taking a break, before entering the “real world.” Polish workers on two-week vacations. The retired US-European couple, passing the Mediterranean yachting off-season in the warm climes Colombia has to offer. But these run-of-the-mill tourists aren’t the only ones coming to know this country.

In Cartagena, I met many bicyclists that had just sailed down from Panama. We sat around the hotel’s patio, talking about how they planned for just a trip. They told me about the websites past and present bikers have written. Ronald and Esther of Holland said one of the best is Iris en Tore op reis, of another Dutch couple’s 2001-2003 sojourn. Although it is a bit dated, it has excellent travelogues and maps in English. Panamericana on a Recumbent Bike lists reports and altitudes for all points between Alaska and Ushuaia.

Erin, Alan and Dolores getting ready to hit the road. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Several thousand bicyclists post their journals on Crazy Guy on a Bike. Casa de Ciclistas is a network of local bicycle enthusiasts providing homestays and logistics for bikers. Ronald said they don’t have a central website, though. Just search the term and city, and you’ll find contacts’ information.

Another cycling couple I met was Erin and Alan, young newlyweds from Wisconsin. They spent several years planning for their big adventure. Then in June 2010, they set out on their tandem bike, Dolores, to begin their journey from the mouth of the Mackenzie River in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, Canada to Ushuaia. Their adventures can be followed on their blog, 2 to Tango.

In my ramblings through the breadth of Colombia, I met several families traveling. Team T, as they call themselves, is a Vermont family with a three-year-old son and five-year-old daughter. They just spent five months getting to know the sights between Peru and Colombia. They relate their adventures in Team T International Blog.

So, no matter what kind of person you may be—if you have that dream, do not be afraid to come to Colombia or any other part of Latin America. Anything is possible. Begin reading, begin scaping odd cents together, begin packing the knapsack. And perhaps Rocinante and I will bump into you someplace on this great continent.

Editor’s note: Lorraine Caputo is one of V!VA’s longest-tenured writers. These days, she’s back on the road, updating our 2011 edition of V!VA Colombia. Check the blog for more of her updates from the road.

2010: Latin American Nations celebrate Bicentennials

2010 will be a big year in Latin America for Bicentennial Independence celebrations. Several nations will celebrate 200 years since the beginning of their independence movements. Here are some:

  • Mexico: on September 16, Mexicans will celebrate 200 years since the “Cry of Dolores” of Father Miguel Hidalgo rallied thousands of peasants to his side to begin the fight for Independence.
  • Venezuela: On April 19, 1810, Venezuelan patriots in Caracas gathered to declare provisional independence from Spain, which soon became a complete break with the mother country.
  • Argentina: On May 25,  1810 Argentina also declared a provisional independence from Spain which became official in 1816.
  • Chile: Chile celebrates September 18 as its independence Day. It was on this day in 1810 that Chilean patriots formed an independent government in Santiago.
  • Colombia: On July 20, Colombia will celebrate 200 years to the date of their first declaration of independence.

If you’re going to be anywhere near one of these countries on one of those dates, be sure to look into the festivities, which promise to be grand!

Free! Free!!

Let’s shout it loud from the rooftops of the great Latin American cities: Free! Free!! Indeed, budget travelers, these metropoli bulge with free things to go check out. From architecture to culture, you can pack your days with tons of things to do. All totally GRATIS, except perhaps for the occasional trolley fare.

 

The most obvious free attraction is the churches. From white-washed colonial chapels to towering neo-Gothic temples, these monuments are a fascinating window onto the merging of indigenous and Spanish cultures. On the façades of some, native craftsmen slipped symbols from their own religion. Interiors are decorated with naïve wood carvings and elaborate gilded altar screens. In cathedrals are buried the city’s most famous citizens.

Another Eiffel creation: the steel cathedral in Arica, Chile. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Another Eiffel creation: the steel cathedral in Arica, Chile. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Unfortunately, many of Quito’s finest churches charge an entry fee to non-mass attenders, though La Compañía does offer free tours once a month. Parts of Latin America are yet very conservative about church attire: no shorts, tanktops or minis. In small towns, women commonly cover their heads when entering a holy place. And men, please take the ball cap off.

 

Catholics aren’t the only ones to open their spectacular spaces. In Panama City is the brilliantly white Bahai’i temple, a dome perched atop Motaña del Dulce Canto. Mosques in Maicao, Colombia, and Tacna, Peru, also welcome visitors.

 

The merging of cultures and styles are also reflected in secular architecture. Glance up while strolling through Buenos Aires. Some Presidential Palaces have free guided tours (take your passport). While in Buenos Aires, check out the Casa Rosada and in Quito Carondolet, also known as the Palacio del Gobierno.

 

While the politicos are wheeling and dealing in the Palaces, the common folk are doing their trade of daily life out in the markets. Even in large cities the sound of folks haggling prices mixes with the colors and smells of the typical village mercado – only on a mega-scale. Bucaramanga’s four-story-tall Plaza Central is said to be Colombia’s largest public market. For its sheer size, nothing can beat Mexico City’s Mercado de la Merced. The few blocks on the southern edge of this market are dedicated to traditional shamanic necessities. Such traditions are limited to just Mexico, though. On La Paz’ steep streets is the fascinating Witches’ Market.

 

Major Latin American cities have centro cultural hosting free exhibits, concerts, films, theater and other events. In many burgs are foreign centers, like France’s Alianza Francesa and Germany’s Instituto Goethe. Keep an eye out for art openings (inauguración), an assured visual and gastronomic treat. (Yes, often hors d’ouvres and drinks are served.) These and literary readings also offer you an opportunity to meet the local artist community. My favorite centers are Quito’s Centro Cultural Metropolitano, which has monthly art openings, and the Alianza Francesa in Santa Marta, Colombia, which has not only good art shows, but shows great movies every week.

 

Exquisite architecture and culture isn’t just for the living. Latin American cemeteries are where you’ll find the famous and poor lying side by side. While in Buenos Aires, drop by to see Eva Perón Duarte in La Recoleta and Carlos Gardel in La Chacarita. Santiago de Chile’s Cementerio General hosts most of that nation’s Presidents, Victor Jara and victims of the military dictatorship’s repression. A small fee is charged to enter Havana’s impressive Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón. Here rest writers Alejo Carpentier and Nicolás Guillén, Buena Vista Social Club singer Ibrahim Ferrer, and Cuban Revolutionaries Celia Sánchez and Haydée Santamaría. A free graveyard in this city is San Yu Chun Wa, or the Cementerio General Chino.

 

Patzcuaro’s Day of the Dead celebration may be the most renowned, but the local cemetery in any small Peruvian, Bolivian and Mexican city is the place to be on Día de los Muertos, or Día de los Difuntos. Join in on the feting with the spirits of the dearly departed on these days when the fabric between the worlds of the living and dead opens. Food, drink and live music are all part of the party, which often lasts all-night long, or even for several days.

 

Clowning around in Villavicencio, Colombia. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Clowning around in Villavicencio, Colombia. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Of course, public plazas are THE place to peoplewatch (and if you have sixth sense, perhaps even spirit watch). Take time off your walking tours of the metropli, rest the doggies and have a flavored ice. The vendors will be giving their schticks on whatever product they’re selling, the kids will be chasing soap bubbles catching rainbows from the sun and clowns performing street theater.

 

Responsible Travel: Leave No Trace

Anyone who has spent a lot of time in the outdoors has undoubted heard the saying “Take only photographs, leave only foot prints”.  This saying goes to the heart of something that is both a movement and an ethic: Leave No Trace (LNT).

LNT began as an effort by the National Park Service, Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management back in the 1970s.  At the time, the prevailing ethic was woodcraft.  Supposedly, using natural resources in the backcountry was an effective counterbalance to the encroachment of technology.  To be sure, woodcraft is a great hobby, but researchers soon realized that such activity, even by those who meant well, was hurting the land.

Over time, the ethic shifted to one of having a minimum impact on the land.  People were encouraged to leave wild places in much the same way as they found them. 

Climbing in Cotopaxi National Park - One of South America's Great Wildernesses.

1)      Plan Ahead and Prepare. People who plan ahead and prepare make the right choices.  They bring the proper equipment and avoid situations where they need to need to impact nature. 

2)      Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces. We all know about this.  Stick to the trail and camp in designated sites.  If you can, hike on rock surfaces.   If you need to travel over a less developed area, then spread out.  Don’t create a new trail.

3)      Dispose of Waste Properly. This is sometimes described as “Pack it in. Pack it out.”  This includes food waste, like fruit peels or cheese rinds, which are unsightly and may deter animals from natural food sources.  Bury human waste, as well as soap or detergent in a 6-8 inch hole, and pack out your toilet paper (Ziplock bags are great for this.) 

4)      Leave what you find.  Rocks, plants, leaves and archeological remains all have a place.  Leaving things also allows others to share in the joy and sense of discovery that you are lucky enough to enjoy.  (Obviously, litter is something of an exception to this principle.)

5)      Minimize the Use and Impact of Fire. Use only wood that has fallen from the tree and scatter your ashes so that no one can tell there has been a fire there.

6)      Respect Wildlife. The best part about seeing wildlife is that they are wild.  Keep it that way.  A good general rule of thumb is to keep about 25 yards away from animals – at a minimum.  However, if they show signs of being aware of you (that includes aggression or moving away from you), give them more distance.

7)      Be considerate.  This is the big one.  Think of how you want to enjoy nature and be sure that you let other people have the same experience. 

Most of us come to the outdoors because we love it and care for it.  The best gift we can give to natural place is nothing.  For more information about Leave No Trace, please visit the Center for Outdoor Ethics Webpage.

Where the Snowbirds Nest

Northern trees are just about bare, the leaves carpeting the ground, moldering to a dun brown. Winds now sweep from the polar region. In some places the first flakes have begun to sail. It’s time to pack the knapsack and head out on the southward breeze, to warmer climes. It is the Snowbird Season.

 

But where does the Shoestring Snowbird nest on these winter flights to the tropic airs? An RV is definitely out of the budget, not to mention luxury resorts. Camping is a possibility. But for those who don’t like pitching a tent and communing with Mother Nature or who don’t have the gear – or in countries where camping is not feasible for safety sake or lack of facilities – then what is the poor Snowbird to do?

 

Residencial, alojamiento, hospedaje – all names for cheap lodging in Latin America. These simple accommodations offer are the local travelers’ choices when traveling from market day to market day, or the temporary home for workers and families. Basically, they are just a place to lay your head. Sorry, no internet, breakfast of other amenities in these joints. Probably no-one will speak anything other than Spanish (just think of it as free lessons thrown in with the price). Choosing a room with a common bath is often much cheaper. In the tropics, not having a private bath is an advantage: no smell, no bugs, no humidity. Be sure to check the locks on the doors and windows before accepting a place. Also look for evidence of bugs and other creepy-crawlies. Avoid the mala muerte (literally, bad death) dives, as you are much more likely to end up with an adventure (like the prostitute in the next room getting into a fight with a client, or a rat rummaging through your gear). If you are staying for four days or more, ask whether a descuentico would not be possible. To qualify for a discount, you often will have to pay in advance.

 

Some travelers, though, might find hostels to be a more welcoming space. Hostales or albergues are becoming more common throughout Latin America. Often the staff is multi-lingual, making novice sojourners unfamiliar with the local language feel more comfortable and safe. Hostels are eager to help their backpackers find out what to see. (Some, unfortunately, do the hard sell on tours.) Free internet, WiFi, kitchen, breakfast and other bonuses are thrown in. You’ll meet many other foreigners here and future travel buddies. The disadvantages? You won’t be practicing a lot of Spanish or interacting much with locals, and a larger chunk will be taken out of your budget just for lodging. Websites like www.hostelworld.com, www.hostelbookers.com and www.hostelsclub.com list accommodations. Some organizations, such as Hostelling International (www.hihostels.com) and minihostels (www.minihostels.com), offer  discounts to card-carrying members.

 

An alternative growing more popular with young travelers is couch surfing. One website that lists people who open up their homes to sojourners for free is www.couchsurfing.com. If you are interested in staying put in a place for a longer while, check into renting a house or apartment outside of the high season. It is often possible to get a furnished dig for $50-100US per month. As a back-up, pack a hammock, too (or pick one up along the way).

 

Those winds are growing a might bit icier. Double check the packing list and the ticket. It’s time to head out. But no matter where a traveler’s roads wend through the Americas, the poor Snowbird will find a nest for the night.

Free!

This is every shoestring traveler’s favorite word. With much of one’s daily budget going for the necessities of hostel, food and transportation, it can be hard to find a way to enjoy the sights. Many have to choose: Iguazú Falls or hiking the Inca Trail? Rafting on Chile’s Futaleufú or scuba diving lessons in the Bay Islands? While many journeying to the Americas have enough savings to cover many of these activities and more, those on a budget can boast about being able to see this world through a different lens. Whether in relaxing in small towns or checking out the sounds of Latin America’s cities, there are plenty of places to visit, things to do that don’t cost a centavito.

Soaking at Balneario Hurtado. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Soaking at Balneario Hurtado. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Near many small towns are wonderful natural beauties to walk to. Waterfalls drape the countryside in most countries. Be sure to check out the ones near Baños, Ecuador, Coroico, Bolivia, and Nebaj, Guatemala. All over are free swimming holes and hot springs to laze in. While in Colombia, hit the cool waters of Balneario Hurtado near Valledupar and El Chorrerón hot springs near Güicán. Beaches provide not only free swimming, but also observing sea life in tidal pools, birdwatching and beachcombing. Shells found washed upon the sands make perfect necklaces, earrings or other gifts.

Low tide reveals the creatures of the briny depths. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Low tide reveals the creatures of the briny depths. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Latin American national parks charge high entry fees to foreigners. Some, though, are free. Parque Nacional Puracé in Southern Colombia has waterfalls, hot springs and condors. The north sector of Argentina’s Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, near El Chaltén, is gratis and has a hike for every day of the week.

Whereas Machu Picchu takes a big bite out of the ol’ money belt, Peru has a surprising number of free archaeological sites. Many can be reached on day hikes and often do not require a guide. On the jungle side of the northern Andes are Macro, Ollape and other Chachapoya ruins. Huancabamba is the base for visiting Templo de los Jaguares. From Huamachuco, inland from Trujillo, you can walk to the pre-Incan sites Wiaracochapampa and Marcahuamachuco. Near Huaraz is Tumshukaiko.

The living culture of Latin America’s many nations can be experienced at the markets. These spaces resound with squawking chickens, the clicks and sshes of native languages. The morning air is scented with the aromas of hot tortillas and coffee. Guatemalan villages have their weekly mercados, as do many highland Ecuadorean and Peruvian pueblos. Northern Peru’s largest barter market occurs in Yerbabuena every Sunday. Southern Colombia’s indigenous roots are on full display in Cumbal, near Ipiales.

The Sunday market in Cumbal. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

The Sunday market in Cumbal. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

So, you may not have a lot of money – but much of Latin America’s uniqueness is available for free. The natural beauty and culture richness are often just a walk or cheap bus ride away. And they aren’t just limited to the pueblos and backcountry. The cities also have their gifts to the shoestring traveler – which will be revealed in the future. Until then, Happy Adventures and Safe Journeys!

Sustainable Tourism: Bus Travel in Latin America

You haven’t truly experienced Latin America until you’ve spent the better part of fours crammed onto a school bus next to a man who seems to be explaining the finer aspects of the two chickens on his lap. It helps if he is speaking in a language that you have never even heard of and if, according to his friend who speaks only a bit of English, he thinks you are fat.

For the sustainable traveler, public transportation is the way to go. The benefits are abundant. By using public transportation we can help protect the environment, support the local economy, and better understand the places we are visiting. Of course, traveling around Latin America is not without its challenges. Given the lack of train service, taking the bus is about your only option. The roads are often poorly maintained, traffic laws are treated more like friendly advice and driving schools seem to specialize in stunt driving. It is a safe bet that the local drivers are more familiar with the roads than you are, so if you are going to do any distance travel, the bus is a safer option.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of buses, local or city buses and long distance carriers. The local buses are a personal favorite. The buses might not be as well maintained as in western cities, but most of the people on the bus are people going to and from work, doing their shopping and visiting friends. City buses offer an opportunity to do something that is authentic and local.

In some more developed countries, such as Argentina or Brazil – the buses are some of the finest in the Americas. They come complete with movies, food, toilets and comfortable seating. On the other hand, you could easily find yourself on a “chicken bus” – often an old school bus that services many of the poorer communities in this part of the world.

It is hard to quantify the exact environmental benefits of taking a bus in Latin America versus taking a taxi or renting a car. Each bus is likely to have very different fuel efficiencies and emissions. While emission standards are not readily at hand, there can be little doubt that bus travel is better for the planet. Given the number of people on any given bus, it seems obvious that, mile for mile, bus travel produces significantly less pollution and uses less fossil fuel driving a car.

Of course, helping the local economy is another sustainable benefit of getting around by bus. Most bus companies are owned either by local governments or local businesses. On the other hand, most car rental businesses are multinational. While you might be spending less on the bus, that money goes to help generate jobs and support local finances.

Finally, taking the bus is fun. We travel to see the world from different perspectives and ultimately expand our own. The guy with two chickens who thought I was fat – that was almost ten years ago. During that trip to Guatemala I visited Mayan ruins, got to take part in a traditional Mayan ceremony, and even won a chili eating contest. Of all the memories – there was something special about learning about chickens from a man who didn’t speak any English or Spanish on a bus rumbling its way up the to the Guatemalan highlands.

The Polyester Mushroom Season

A crop of polyester mushrooms in Argentina

A crop of polyester mushrooms in Argentina

Spring has arrived in the Southern Hemisphere. Days are now longer and warmer. Soon forests of multi-colored mushrooms will be cropping up across the landscapes of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay as travelers pitch their tents.
 
In most of Latin America, carpas (tents) are looked upon with curiosity. Few can understand how rich foreigners can so innocently leave their belongings in something as flimsy as a cloth hut. It opens one up to theft – and possible worse – in the night. Luckily, though, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay have a culture of camping. Popular with local people looking for inexpensive vacations, camping is also the shoestring traveler’s best lodging option in these costlier countries and a safe one for solo women travelers. A few sites are open all year. Others begin opening in spring. By summer, the season is in full swing until the end of vacations in February.
 
Argentina is the best prepared country for camping. Even many small villages have their camping municipal. Local tourism offices keep lists of all public and private sites and their rates. Expect to pay a one-time fee for the tent or vehicle plus a daily per-person charge. Some additionally charge for showers. Solo Campings lists Argentine campgrounds www.solocampings.com.ar). ACA – Automóvil Club Argentino – operates good sites that are open to motorists and non-motorists alike (www.aca.org.ar/servicios/turismo/frame.htm).
 
Unlike its eastern neighbor, Chilean towns do not have municipal campgrounds. Privately owned facilities are more common in tourist-popular destinations. Many of the national parks have designated sites and allow backcountry camping for trekkers. Some parks also have basic refugios (check with the local Conaf office or ranger station about availability). In general, camping is more expensive in Chile. For more information on campgrounds throughout this country, check:

www.turistel.cl.

 

 

 

In many parts of Uruguay are double campgrounds.  At one locale is a public or private ground with complete facilities. Not too far away is another (usually free) that has no facilities (or perhaps only latrines). Guía Gambia is the most complete listing of campsites in the country. Many kiosks sell the printed guide, which can also be consulted at: www.guiadeturismo.com.uy/guiaweb/.


In all three countries, a rain-proof tent is needed, and in the Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, one resistant high winds is advisable. If you have one without a rain fly, you can use a rain poncho or tarp. If you have left home without a tent, pick it up in a cheaper neighboring place like Bolivia, as they are expensive further south. Another necessary piece of equipment is an insulation pad. The cold, damp ground robs your body of heat. Depending on how rough you’ll be going, you may need a camp stove. Gas canisters are easy to get in most areas. Open fires are prohibited in national parks. If sticking to established campgrounds, you can get by without one, as many places have fire pits or a quincho with kitchen facilities. By camping, you’ll find that polyester mushroom soon pays for itself with what you’ll be saving on hostels or hotels. 
 

Making the Great Escape

By Lorraine Caputo

This past Patagonian winter, guests were fixing their dinners around the hostel’s large kitchen table. Conversations wended from the our different day trips to the usual, “So, hey, where’re you from?” James* from NYC, lost his job on Wall Street. Sara from England, who became unemployed last year, decided to bike the Carretera Austral. She and her Spanish partner were the last to cross at Paso Dos Lagunas from Villa O’Higgins to El Chaltén before snows clamped the border shut. Chris, a recent university graduate, is exploring South America before striking into the tight work market. Many others, too, are refugees from the economic crisis gripping North America and Europe. Some have decided to just get away for a while and rest before going back to fight for the few jobs there are. Others have bought a six-month or one year ticket, or are just hitting the road with no return fare. They’ll try to wait the crisis out.

For years, these people were just aspiring travelers. If they were lucky, they had a few weeks of vacation a year, but never seemed to be able to take them. Or perhaps, with the employment uncertainty, they couldn’t dare ask for a vacation, even a short one. Others worked in whatever they could find, scraping pennies for the day when they could ditch that dead-end job and journey. Now with the economy the way it is, there’s the time–and a bit of savings. Now James, Sara and Chris have finally put aside the tale tomes of others and leaped out of the armchair. They’ve packed their bags, bought a ticket and headed off for their own adventures in another land.

Are these travelers fool-hardy, especially those delving into “exotic” Chile and Argentina, two of South America’s most expensive countries? Some of them may find they’ve gone through their money faster than they thought they would. They’ll have to end their trips early or rack up credit card debt to make it through to their fly date.

How can you travel, whether for a few weeks or a year, and yet have a bit of money to tide you over once you get back home? To travel on a budget, you have to be disciplined and ready to expand the boundaries of your comfort zone. You won’t be able to go to all the hot tourism spots, only a few of them. You’ll have the opportunity to break out of the so-called “gringo” trail and get a closer understanding of the countries you visit. That is the ultimate reward.

A few burnished veterans have kept the fine art of shoestring travel alive and are ready to teach a new generation of travelers. In V!VA Travel Guides’ new bi-monthly blog on budget travel, you’ll learn tips of how to travel with less money. Tell us any questions or topics you’d like us to cover. And until next time, Safe Journeys!

*Names have been changed.