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Old 07-27-2013, 06:08 AM   #466
stevie88
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Originally Posted by stevie88 View Post
Actually posted by Rexbuck.

Thanks for the kind comments folks. Glad you enjoyed it.

Sorry, I just realized I had some post- trip comments that I had written but apparently never posted. I wrote the following shortly after I got home:

Itís great being home, seeing Mrs RB and all but, I have to admit I am missing being on the road, having a new place to stay every night or every few nights and, above all, seeing the spectacular scenery and meeting the great people.


What a wonderful experience I have had. It seems somewhat surreal now, almost like a dream but as I think through different areas I visited, I can still see in my mind the roads, the scenery, the people and recall the multitude of new experiences. And, the food! Damn, I do miss the food.

As would be expected, much of the area I travelled through was nowhere near what I had envisaged in my mind. The roads, the mountains, the towns, the people . . . different than what I had imagined and, usually better. Rarely was I disappointed.


When experiencing different places, a huge part of the fun is the sensory overload of new sights, smells and sounds. The cultures, old and new, the people, the mountains, deserts, jungles and beaches. Strange new animals and strange new food. Latin America is a sensory delight.


There were places I missed in most countries I visited realizing you canít see everything. I guess that is the sign of a successful trip when you leave wanting to stay longer. I rushed my last few weeks in South America and have a lot that I would like to visit or re-visit. This is a seed for another trip - maybe the other way around in a year or so.

Now that Iím home, itís just like I never left, well except for the absence of the hustle and bustle of preparing for a trip. Some would say it is nice be back to civilization but I realized that is not a correct characterization. I found these countries very civilized, maybe not as technologically advanced, maybe not as wealthy but very warm and friendly people. I probably felt more comfortable and as safe or safer more often there than I do travelling through some areas of North America.

Iíll post some random observations about different aspects of travelling next
.
I was having hell reading that black on grey.

Thanks for the fantastic trip report. I'm green with envy, ya bastage. Well done.
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Old 07-27-2013, 09:10 AM   #467
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Originally Posted by O'B View Post
Right on Dude!
Thanks

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunday Rider View Post
Well said RB.

Where next.....
I'd love to go back to South America and finish where I left off and revisit some places I liked.

Quote:
Originally Posted by OtterChaos View Post
Excellent thoughts! I really got immersed in your reports, this one and the Mexico one. I will use them for ideas on my trip planning as you traveled and stayed in great places that I would like to see.
I'm glad you found some useful stuff there for your own travels. Look forward to reading about your adventure.

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Originally Posted by stevie88 View Post
I was having hell reading that black on grey.

Thanks for the fantastic trip report. I'm green with envy, ya bastage. Well done.
Sorry about the color thing. Fixed.

Glad you all enjoyed the trip.
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Old 07-27-2013, 05:35 PM   #468
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Accomodation

Some very random observations about travelling will follow in the next few posts. These are intended as a reference for others and as a reminder to myself for future trips . . . combating the less cooperative memory function of my somewhat addled brain.
If I ever get my shit together, I may someday compile these and more into a website.


Accomodation




I stayed mainly in hotels and the odd hostel. While I had camping gear with me for emergencies, I really never used it.
  • Hotels - My costs were usually in the range of $15 to $30 per night. On occasion I was up in the $65 range Ė the highest being $110. My cheapest night was $8. I tended to look for and find middle of the road accomodation when I could and when I had the patience to look around.
When I check in, I had 4 questions I always asked:
Do you have a room?
Do you have secure parking for my moto?
If yes to those two questions, ask for price and if ok then:
Do you have WiFi?
Do you have hot water?
  • Camping Ė While I had a sleeping bag and tent with me, I didnít camp but a lot of guys do. Some campgrounds, some wild camping.
  • Hostels Ė Usually located in more touristy towns. Usually cater to backpackers and budget oriented travelers. Some can be pretty inexpensive. Usually lots of English speakers around Ė that can be good and not so good. Some hostels offer higher-end accomodation and prices and are really quite nice with lots of amenities.
Good and bad of hostels
Good, itís nice to have someone to talk to in English. Sometimes more homey
Bad, you will get virtually no local culture in these places Ė because most people there speak English (or German), they seem to be insulated from the local culture outside the front door.
Finding a room.
Other ride reports and other travelers are great sources. Sometimes the people running a hotel/hostel you are in will know someone with a hotel in the next town.

Small towns, just drive around and/or ask some locals. Usually just a handful of places to choose from so, not difficult to sort through them.

Cities, I check Google, Trip Advisor, Hostel websites and local hotel websites. I usually made up a list of three to five possibilites and then went looking for them. Sometimes your choices may not suit what you want but you will find something better near some of the places on the list. Certainly not all places end up with internet listings. Sometimes they are on Spanish only sites.
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Old 07-28-2013, 10:28 AM   #469
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Money

Currency

Virtually no merchants accept credit cards or travelers checks. Never tried it but I understand Travelers checks are very difficult to cash in local banks and impossible at a merchant. Some large hotels in larger cities will accept credit cards.

Cash is king, particularly local cash.

I obtained virtually all of my local cash from ATMs. Having said that, I occaisionaly had difficulty getting cash from some ATMs, many times on Sundays and usually in small tourist towns. (My theory is that the ATM was running low on cash and they were limiting withdrawals to their own customers)

Plan your currency needs ahead Ė I wound up on a couple of occasions very low on cash and no way to get more for at least a day. Stash some extra local cash for such emergencies. Just make sure you use up that extra cash before crossing into the next country.

Take a Visa card (or Mastercard), you will use it the most to get cash from ATMs. Bank cards (Debit cards, ATM cards) are many times not accepted in their ATMs. Take a second Visa card in case your main Visa is lost - DAMHIK. The card I used most I got specifically for this trip and had it set up with a $1000 limit in case it was compromised. I could go to my Bankís online Banking and pay it off right away before it ran up a bunch of interest.

Using your credit card leaves you dependent on your bank for your currency exchange. Towards the end of my trip I realized the exchange rates my bank was charging was up to 9% plus their $5 fee for withdrawal from a foreign ATM plus the fee (if any) charged by the ATM bank. That 9% was arrived at by taking half of the buy/sell spread the bank shows on their website. Once you add the fees in, costs of some currencies became quite expensive.

I donít necessarily begrudge the banks for hosing us for these exchange costs it isnít very efficient for big banks to have to purchase small amounts of some obscure currency to cover our small withdrawals. In hindsight, I probably could have saved a bunch of money by getting more US$ when I could. I could then go to the local money changers and have them exchange US$ for local currency. From the posted rates I saw at many places, they werenít bad. US$ can be obtained as an alternate currency at some ATMs in many countries and of course, easily in countries using the US$ (Panama and Ecuador)

There is always a trade off in how much cash to carry vs security. Initially I rarely had more than a couple hundred dollars worth of local currency at any time and even that was split between different places. Later I bumped that up a bit just so I wouldn't be caught short. I always had US$400 of emergency cash hidden on my bike. On a couple of occasions I had to get a big whack of cash (bike shipping in Panama and Buenos Aires) and tried to be as discrete as possible when doing so.

Money changers at the borders give a lousy rate but are a convenient way to get rid of the currency of the last country and pick up a bit for the next country. I tried to have as little currency to exchange at the border as possible.

Argentina Ė This country has currency controls which means nobody can sell you US dollars legally. When I was there the official exchange rate was 5.2 pesos per US$. My bank was giving me 4.6 pesos per US$ after fees. The money changers were giving me 8 pesos per US$ - probably could negotiate slightly more with larger amounts. Unfortunately I didn't arrive in Argentina with any extra US cash. Since I needed a lot of cash to ship my bike home and to cover expenses for my over 2 weeks in Argentina, doing all the exchanges at the "official rate" cost me a lot.

What would I have done different? I would have accumulated more US$ cash in Peru and hidden it on my bike. Probably enough to last until I could get to Uruguay. Take a short (or long) trip to Uruguay, get the US$ you need for bike shipping and for the remainder of your stay in Argentina and get back to Buenos Aires and exchange it on the Black Market.
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Old 07-28-2013, 10:57 AM   #470
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Travel Tips

Long time lurker of both your ride reports. Just wanted to say thanks for all your efforts. These travel tips are extremely helpful. I hope to travel south on my trusty DR650 in the near future, so trying to absorb any info.
Mucho Gracias Keep on riding & writing.
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Old 07-29-2013, 08:25 AM   #471
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Really got lost in your RR! Excellent pics and words. I also enjoyed your information about money, ATMs etc at the end. I hope to be doing this ride in October of this year, starting from Los Angeles with a friend. Your info has been very valuable.

Cheers,
Steve in So Cal
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Old 07-29-2013, 10:23 AM   #472
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Originally Posted by Slickrick View Post
Long time lurker of both your ride reports. Just wanted to say thanks for all your efforts. These travel tips are extremely helpful. I hope to travel south on my trusty DR650 in the near future, so trying to absorb any info.
Mucho Gracias Keep on riding & writing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by AdventurePoser View Post
Really got lost in your RR! Excellent pics and words. I also enjoyed your information about money, ATMs etc at the end. I hope to be doing this ride in October of this year, starting from Los Angeles with a friend. Your info has been very valuable.

Cheers,
Steve in So Cal
Thanks for your kind comments guys. Glad you enjoyed.

I'm really happy you are finding some useful info for your trip planning. Hope both of you have great trips and look forward to reading about them.
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Old 07-29-2013, 10:37 AM   #473
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Security and safety

This is the first thing most who have not travelled to these countries ask about. Surprisingly, I really felt very little danger from others.

Opinions about traveling in Latin America are like belly buttons . . . everybody has one but they are really quite useless. I was frequently admonished before I left about the dangers of: Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru . . . . and on and on. When I would tell people in Mexico I was going to Colombia, their eyes would get big as saucers and they would go on and on about the dangers there . . . even avoiding it if possible. When I mentioned to Colombians that I came through Mexico, their eyes would get big as saucers and they’d be amazed at how lucky I was to have avoided being robbed, mugged, kidnaped or beheaded. The news, like my 99 year old Dad’s dementia, creates their own reality and unfortunately for those who consume that news, that reality bears little relationship to what is really going on in these countries.

Having said that, I tried to be careful and follow a couple of rules.
1) If possible, don’t ride after dark;
2) Don’t make a habit of hanging out in local bars late at night;
3) Leave the big camera with its fancy lenses locked up when in a town or around a lot of people – stick to the pocket camera or SmartPhone;
4) This might seem obvious but don’t carry big wads of cash;
5) Don’t wear much or any jewelry

Be aware and use common sense. That doesn’t mean being paranoid and fantasizing that there is a bad guy in every doorway or in every shadow. If you think somebody is paying too much attention to you, change what you are doing – go into a store, take another street, turn around, find a crowd. 99%+ of the people you come across are good people, are elated you chose to visit their country and will do whatever it takes to prevent tourists being victimized.

Be careful with bags, purses and backpacks. These are prime targets in places where lots of tourists hang around. There are lots of stories of people having their daypacks with their documents, wallets, cameras and fancy phones disappearing at congested tourist attractions and bus stations.

Cash and documents. I usually keep enough cash for the day in one or two pockets. The rest of the cash is hidden on the bike and in my luggage. My passport is always in one of my pockets (pockets in a mesh jacket are not great for passports in a rain storm . . . DAMHIK). Throw-away wallet. I have an old wallet with my low limit Visa Card, a couple of useless cards and a fake drivers liscence in it. The theory is that if you get held up, give this to the bad guys to limit your losses. Never held up so never had to use it for that purpose.

Rely on the advice of locals and local knowledge. Locals are many times aware of any bad guy activity and will tell you roads or places to avoid.
This is a huge topic that is widely discussed. This brief discussion is by no means complete and surprisingly the odd person may disagree with some of what I’ve said. It works for me.

Most parts of Latin America are no more dangerous than North America. No place in the world is 100% safe, there are bad guys everywhere. So, be aware, be smart, use common sense and enjoy your trip.
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Old 07-29-2013, 10:47 AM   #474
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Index

By the way, I have updated the index on page one to help quickly get to a specific place in the trip.
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Old 07-31-2013, 05:09 PM   #475
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Language

The more of a foreign language you can learn, the richer your experience will be when visiting that country. You can get along with virtually no Spanish. However, unless you are sticking to tourist areas where there are usually some English speakers, you will be in many places where there are virtually no English spoken. Simple things like asking for a room, ordering meals, buying things, asking directions, dealing with border officials, etc are possible but are a chore. As you learn more Spanish, these day to day functions become easier and you can start to have conversations, understand tour guides and generally become more immersed in the culture. That’s where the experience starts to be enriched.

I felt my Spanish abilities sucked big time. I can get by with day to day functions and can have a conversation of sorts . . . if the other person is really patient. However, many times I just missed out.

To learn, I tried some software for awhile then got an online tutor and had a couple of one hour lessons a week for over a year along with some time to study and practice. I am a slow learner with languages and should have spent more time learning. When I start studying in earnest again, I will devote 5 to 10 hours per week with the tutor and correspondingly more time studying. Hopefully that will take me to the next level.

There are tons of ways to get edicated:

Local classes and tutors – Have never used these so don’t know the cost but I’ve seen some local ads at $50 an hour for a tutor. Classes obviously would be less.

Software – Certainly the best known is Rosetta Stone. I bought Tell Me More Spanish (similar reputation and price as Rosetta Stone) which was ok but didn’t work well for me . . . probably because I’m too lazy to stick with it. There are tons of others. You can spend anywhere from $30 for something basic to $500 for a full blown set.

Websites
I use www.SpanishDict.com which is free and offers a pretty good dictionary, a bunch of video lessons, forums, translator, verb conjugator and flash cards. You can build your own flashcard sets which I found really handy. A great resource website.

Google translate is one of the better translators but still sucks. Sometimes it nails a translation and sometimes it makes no sense. Best to actually learn the language.

There are tons of other websites. Some are free and some charge. I also used www.lomastv.com a bit – I think it cost about $5 a month and has some pretty good videos with transcribed Spanish and English translation (if you want) following along.

There are tons of Spanish speaking radio stations available as streaming audio on the internet – all the formats: music, talk, news. www.tunein.com has a huge variety of radio stations to choose from.

Also virtually every newspaper has a website and are a great source for written practice material.

Online tutors – My favorite way to learn at home. You can get a one on one Spanish Speaking tutor for $10 to $15 an hour. Lessons are by Skype so it’s almost the same as sitting in the same room with the teacher. Quite a few in Guatemala and some from Colombia and Ecuadaor. I am sure there are many others.

Spanish Schools in Spanish Speaking countries. I think this is the ultimate way to learn Spanish. You can find tutors and classes in just about any country. Guatemala is well known for lots of good quality tutors at very reasonable rates. Pick a cool little town like San Pedro on Lake Atitlan where you can hang out for a few weeks and pick one of the first class schools and fly at it. 4 hours of classes for 5 days a week should run you about $100. Even better, do a homestay which you can do for less than an additional $100 per week and includes meals. Learning Spanish could be the cheapest part of your whole trip.

Just like there are tons of different dialects and accents in English between countries and within countries, you will find the same in Latin America. The same language will sound slightly different from country to country but a basic understanding will get you by.

Maximise your learning . . . it will pay off.
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Old 04-08-2014, 09:30 AM   #476
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outstanding

late to the party - but simply outstanding !

a lot of food critics come down hard on places like La Estancia, La Chacra, and Las Nazarenas, but I love them, been to all three.

a visit to B.A. is simply not completed without the steak, wine, bread, small salad

well done !
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Old 04-09-2014, 09:00 AM   #477
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Thanks for that - glad you enjoyed it.

I sure am glad I was a strict meatatarian when I went to Argentina. Their steaks and their wines are amazing.
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Old 04-09-2014, 04:04 PM   #478
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Greatly appreciate the summaries, kind sir. Tips like that really help when considering how to plan for a trip. I can second that speaking the language and assimilating to the culture makes a huge difference!
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Old 04-09-2014, 05:50 PM   #479
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Greatly appreciate the summaries, kind sir. Tips like that really help when considering how to plan for a trip. I can second that speaking the language and assimilating to the culture makes a huge difference!
You are welcome.

These summaries are repeated plus more on my website which is still under construction. Look under "Reference" and "Road Tips" . . . there is more to come eventually.
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Old 04-10-2014, 06:43 AM   #480
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fantastic

This is a fantastic web site...Thanks for sharing you experiences....

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You are welcome.

These summaries are repeated plus more on my website which is still under construction. Look under "Reference" and "Road Tips" . . . there is more to come eventually.
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