I just finished my first block of exams this semester, and I’m already looking forward to my next escape from the US (3.5 months!). Since I finally have time to think about something other than working out and studying, here are a few tips for pinching pennies while traveling!
Tips for Budget Travelers
- Figure out what your bank/credit card company charges for foreign transactions and withdrawls from foreign ATM machines
- Pay attention to exit and entry taxes. Charges in customs can add up! Also, ask for a receipt. Sometimes employees will tack on a “surcharge” that goes in their own pockets. A receipt can prevent this practice.
- Take public transportation! It’s a fraction of the price and a great way to get integrated into local culture.
- Get the most updated guidebook for a country. Prices for recommended hotels, restaurants and travel options change all the time so you’re less likely to be surprised if you have a current edition.
- Be careful when exchanging money. Look up the exchange rate online and shop around. As a rule, banks offer the best rate. I’ve also had good luck with money changers at the border if you bargain. Airports tend to be a rip off. As long as the surcharge is resonable, ATMs are also good.
- Eat off the main path. Comedors and small local run places give a ton of food for a great value.
- Travel with earplugs. You’ll stand a much better chance of getting a good night’s sleep in that noisy dorm or budget hotel overlooking a busy street.
- Learn a few phrases in the native language to help your bargaining skills. My favorite was learning to say “Ana abuya Masry” which means “I have an Egyptian father.” Being blonde and blue eyed, I don’t look very Egyptian so this always got a laugh when we were shopping at the marketplace.
- Don’t fall in love with an item. The ability to walk away from something increases your negotiating power. Be willing to call the shopkeeper’s bluff. In any case, you can always return later and say you changed your mind!
- Don’t buy a Fodor’s guidebook. I tried Fodor’s on my trip to Central America and was dismayed by they budget offerings. They actually suggested that flying to one of our destinations was our only option when a public bus could get us there in about 6 hours for a few bucks. I love Rough Guide and of course the Lonely Planet series is a close second.
- Love Chinese Food. Always bottom dollar and enough to split with a friend or save some for later. I’ve had cheap Chinese food everywhere, from London to Belize.
- Run. Running is a great (free) way to see your destination. And burn off all that Chinese food!
When I was visiting the Brooks Headquarters in Bothell, Washington last summer, the product development team told our group about DNA, a new shoe technology that adapts to the individual runner based on weight and impact. It’s now available in their Spring 2010 line and this brilliant video was created to introduce the concept:
Even if you’re not interested in Brooks shoes, the video itself is clever and very well made. It’s definitely worth checking out!
It makes me with I hadn’t just stocked up on two pairs of Glycerines in December! I’ve definitely got a few hundred more miles to put in before I can pick up the new model!
Timetrials for the UW team for USAT Collegiate Nationals are less than a month away I really need to step up my training to get my butt in shape! We have a talented group of women this year and I can’t just assume I’ll qualify like last year. In addition, my first collegiate cycling race of the season is only 5 weeks away.
I’ve definitely been slacking on the biking and swimming since school started in August. My classes and studying take up a ton of time and a lot of days I just haven’t had the energy to even think about a workout!
It’s time for Spring Training!!!!
To celebrate my renewed commitment to fitness, I’m posting my workouts from last week and my intended workouts for this week!
Saturday: 6 mile run with interval workout, 45 minute core workout
Sunday: 1.5 hour trainer ride, threshold booster workout, 3000 yard swim
Monday: 8 mile run
Tuesday: 1.25 hour trainer ride, including 10 minute power test
Wednesday: 3 mile tempo run@ 7:15 mile pace, 45 minute core workout, 3100 yard swim
Thursday: 6mile run with speed workout, 45 core workout
Friday: morning yoga, 1 hour, 3000 yard swim
Saturday: Rest day!
Sunday: 1.25 hour trainer ride with interval workout
Monday: 3000 yard swim, 45 minute core workout, 3 mile tempo run
Tuesday: 1 hour trainer ride with interval workout
Wednesday: 3000 yard swim, 45 minute core workout, interval run
Thursday: 1.5 hour trainer ride, 6 mile run with speed work
Friday: morning yoga, 1 hour, 3000 yard swim
Saturday: 9 mile run
It feels good to be getting back into the the swing of things!
We stopped for a few days in Tulum, Mexico to meet up with Francesco’s friend, Lou. Francesco had been raving about the beautiful beach in Tulum so I knew I would love it! Tulum is about 2 hours south of Cancun and is known for it’s ruins that are right on the cliff overlooking the ocean. We explored the ruins in the morning, which were definitely not as impressive as Copan or Tikal but still pretty awesome given their amazing location!
There were also huge iguanas everywhere! I don’t know what was more fun, running into these huge lizards sunning themselves or watching the tourists go crazy taking pictures of them! Given it’s proximity to Cancun, there were busloads of tourists checking out Tulum. There were lines of tourists taking pictures of iguanas on the cliggs that made me think of Disney World of tourists.
The afternoon was spent snorkeling and laying on the beautiful beach. Tulum is lined by part of the second longest reef in the world and the sand on the beach is amazing! It is very powdery and doesn’t get hot in the sun.
We celebrated our last night together with a few Sol beers at a restaurant in Tulum. Instead of bar stools it had swings! I also indulged in one last plate of tacos. There were 7 different options on the menu, so I ordered one of each! It was a ton of food but I cleaned my plate. Good thing I’m going to be working out a ton when I get back to the States!
The boys did some shopping and then for some reason needed a second dinner! Pizza!? Given that I ate twice the number of tacos than they did at dinner I definitely wasn’t hungry.
Tomorrow I’m off to Cancun to catch my flight home and Lou and Francesco are going to spend a week checking out the Yucatan Peninsula. I can’t believe I’m about to head back to cold Wisconsin!
Even though I was enjoying being in one place (even one country!) for a few days in a row, it was soon time to get back on the road to Mexico for my flight home.
We caught the morning ferry back to La Ceiba. It was still a rough ride, but this time the crew came around with the little puke bags before we got started. Luckily this time I didn’t need one!
We took almost the same route back to Mexico, minus the detour to Copan, but this time the trip went much quicker. Instead of trying to explain it all over again, I created a map to illustrate our journey:
You can see it bigger by clicking on it! It’s funny how hours and hours of time on a public bus can look so short on a map!
Every time a bus stopped, local women would come up to the windows and sell pretty much any food you could dream of. I saw hot plates of chicken and rice, cheese sandwiches, soda, fresh squeezed juice, fruit, and desserts, just to name a few.
My favorite funky-looking treat was Rambutan, or Mamón Chino as it is called in Central America. You bite off one side, squeeze out the fruit, pop it in your mouth and then pop out the pit when you’re done. It’s tart and tastes a little bit like a grape. Delicious and interesting!
The first night we made it all the way to Guatemala, where we spent the night in Puerto Barrios.
The next night was spent in Corozal, on the border of Belize and Mexico. In the morning we had time to explore the town a bit. We checked out the market and took a walk along the ocean.
It always makes me happy to run into a public health campaign when I’m traveling!
At one of the stops in Mexico the women were selling platters of tacos for 7 pesos ($.55) a piece. We were starving by this point and they definitely hit the spot!
I took advantage of the quiet morning after New Year’s Eve to do some exploring while the rest of this island was still asleep (hungover?).
I spent the afternoon relaxing on the dock of Cafe Mariposa, one of my secret spots on the island. The restaurant had recently closed so the dock behind it was the perfect spot for me to read and relax without disruption. Cliche vacation picture? Maybe, but notice the blood blister on the top of my second toe. Yes, I’ve been running!
Francesco and I took an afternoon walk to explore the lava tubes along one side of the island coast.
I also did an evening run to celebrate the New Year. 10 miles for 2010! The running in Utila was great. I found a dirt road that followed the coast and made a four mile loop back into town and another one that was a six mile loop. It was great to run on a soft surface and the views were amazing! Unfortunately, the shoes I bought when US Airways lost my suitcase turned out not to be the best fit for me so by this time in the trip I was definitely starting to feel some discomfort in my joints. Back to PT once I get home!
Francesco and I both fell in love with the Super Baleadas (This needs to be said in a certain voice to convey full effect. If you run into me at home, I’ll happily demonstrate for you!) that were sale at many of the comedors on the island. For a few dollars, you got a huge tortilla stuffed with scrambled eggs, black beans, sour cream, cheese, onions and hot sauce. They were amazing and something I’m going to continue to make once I get home.
The crazy Swedes definitely took their partying seriously. They were a ton of fun and were always up to some sort of adventure. Here’s Simon enjoying a rum and coke:
Don’t be fooled by the shirt though! When they do something especially outrageous they tell people they are from Switzerland so as to not give Sweden a bad name!