With my graduation from university on Sunday afternoon, and the preceding mudslide of exams, it’s finally time to escape. Next up is a trip to Latin America, starting a week from tomorrow when my flight touches down in Belize. Most of my planning routine is making lists and executing them, with a focus on what to bring & where to go within the country, and then getting more specific. Since I’ll be backpacking for most of the two-and-a-half months that I’m gone, in the end some of the stuff on my list may have to go, but compiling the list is the first step. Compiling the stuff is usually trickier.
I have also done research on what dishes I might want to try from the region, where I want to go and when, as well as where to stay in each city, choosing such places while considering the events happening around that time. For example, in Belize their National Chocolate Festival falls in the same time frame as when I’ll be there, so I’m attending it, and in Cuba I’m going to the island’s Carnaval-like Festival de Santiago de Cuba.
Had I not looked up what’s going on in the area beforehand, I’d have likely regretted missing out on this stuff when I heard about it after the fact, like when the owner of Mindo Chocolate told me in an interview that he had just gotten back from Ecuador’s National Chocolate Festival. I hadn’t even known of its existence, and now I’ll definitely be going back for it!
In addition, a budget must be made and hopefully stuck to, though I have learned that you should always add in some miscellaneous money just in case you run into the unexpected. For Cuba, just to be sure, my budget for one person for five weeks is about $1750 in euros, plus what I spent on airfare. So to review, before you go somewhere, the most important things to figure out are:
- Flights/Boats/Rides to get there & a place to stay in each location.
- Where you’re going and why you’re going there specifically (What activities do you want to do? How much time do you want to spend in each region of the country? Slow travel or fast? Are there friends you want to meet up with or visit? Is each place known for a specific food or dish?).
- How much money you’ll need to set aside for the trip (See above question for ideas of what you might spend $$ on).
- What kids of scams you should look out for, so that you know what/where to avoid. Seek out bad reviews of a country & culture, because they’re out there and you need to remind yourself that as amazing as it might be, your trip will never flow as smoothly as you want it to. Planning for the good and bad can preempt disappointment.
The internet has immensely helped in figuring out the logistics of this trip, particularly with Cuba. How else would I have known about the two different currencies or the surcharge to change USD to Cuban pesos or the system of peoples homes (casas particulares) in which you can stay? Tune in next time to read about my arrival in and travels out of Belize City… I’ve read that it’s dangerous, but I can’t imagine anything equaling Guatemala City, and I stayed in the nice part of Guate.