Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Bunch of Random Schtuff

  • When you visit ruins such as Machu Picchu (Peru), Copán (Honduras), or Tikal (Guatemala), there are normally guides at the entrance that you can hire. They will walk around the ruins with you giving explanations of all manner of things, such as dates, rituals, habits of the people, religious practices, etc. Hire them! They are worth every penny. You will come away with far more knowledge and appreciation of what you've seen than if you walked around by yourself guessing at what's what.
  • The bus station in Panama City is unique. You will see literally hundreds of school buses, all pimped out—wild paint jobs, lots of chrome, and other decorations. Kind of funny, kind of crazy.
  • In Copán, Honduras, I was bitten by far more bugs while visiting the ruins in one day (and on the island of Utila, Honduras where I stayed for the week before that—sand flies) than on the entire previous ten-and-a-half months of my trip. Bugs can be very annoying. My ankles and feet itched for days.
  • Currency in Latin America—this is both from experience (to the best of my recollection) and from what I've heard.
    • Ecuador's official currency is the US dollar.
    • El Salvador's official currency is the US dollar (I was told this by someone else).
    • All other countries in Latin America have their own currency.
    • All Central American countries that I have been in (Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala) accept payment in US dollars, but give change in the local currency.
  • I stayed at a hostel called El Hostal in Antigua, Guatemala. I recommend it. It was nice, clean, the staff was friendly, the breakfast (included) was great, and they have WiFi. The one caveat is that the mattresses are lousy.
  • I stayed at a hostel called Los Camellos in San Cristóbol de las Casas, Mexico. It's cheap, clean, and they have WiFi. No breakfast included, but breakfasts at these places usually aren't great, anyway, so just go out for breakfast. Recommended. I was going to stay at Las Palomas, but it was full. I showed up and talked to the lady, though, and it looked really nice. Plus, they have WiFi, so if you have a laptop, consider it as an option.
  • The farther north you travel, the smaller the modes of transport seem to become. In Argentina, it was double-decker buses. In northern South America and some of Central America, it was single-deckers. Then in northern Central America it became mini-vans. The company I went with to get from Copán, Honduras to Antigua, Guatemala was Plus Travel Agency. The vehicle was in horrendous condition. The transmission sounded like it was going to explode. A CV joint went out an hour into the trip. The driver was strange. He may have been drinking. Not sure. Regardless, he was off somehow. There are only two agencies in the town that drive this route. I would try the other one next time.
  • From Antigua, Guatemala, there are tons of travel agencies you can use to get to San Cristóbol de las Casas, Mexico—or any of a number of other places. To get to San Cristóbol de las Casas, Mexico, most of them charge $60. I found one that charged $40, but I was very skeptical of the service I would get. I took them anyway. The vehicles were excellent and the drivers very professional. I told the second driver he was the best one I'd had on my entire trip. CAT rent a bus. CAT stands for Centro America Travel. They've got an address in Copán (I just noticed) so they may be the other agency there.
    • Antigua address: 6ta. Avenida Sur No. 10C
    • Copán address: Barrio El Centro (it's a small town—if you walk for a minute, you can find it)

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