I love guidebooks. They’re particularly great for planning and getting excited about a trip. But of course, they can’t tell me everything I need to know once I hit the ground, and sometimes they miss out some of the tit-bits of useful information that travellers really need to know. I’m not talking bus schedules or hotel listings, I mean the other really useful tips and advice from a traveller or a local who’s been there, done that.
So here are my local expert tips for the places I’ve been in South America. And remember, it will be growing all the time!
One thing every traveller wants to know is where to lay their head each night. Even if it’s just for one night, we don’t want to get ripped off or be kept awake by lumpy mattresses, scuttling cockroaches or pounding techno music.
With the likes of TripAdvisor dominating the accommodation-booking scene though, I find their reviews unhelpful as guests harp on about how rainy it was when they stayed in that hotel; how the “staff don’t speak English”; or show how they clearly expect hotel standards in a hostel.
It’s all down to personal experience and expectations, or even turning up at the wrong time – I’ve moved from one floor to another in the same hostel to have a completely different standard and experience.
I’ve also found that guidebooks can faff around with their info on hostels and hotels – I don’t want to know what the décor is like!! Tell me the basic criteria that every traveller wants to know: how much is it; what are the showers like; does it have internet. And that’s what I’ve highlighted in my listings.
In Lima and Cusco I was solo, and then have had company for the stretch from Puno in Peru to Montevideo in Uruguay, so of course this affects the prices paid. If you can bare to share, it knocks the costs down significantly.
Breakfast included isn’t always a big deal breaker, I’ve found. The average case is, the hostel will lay out bread, pastries, teas and coffees for you to help yourself. When I thought about it after a while, I realised it wasn’t any help to my budget – I could easily buy these kind of breakfast bits cheaply from supermarkets, and often I wouldn’t have time or would oversleep the breakfast hours anyway.