How to visit Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia

You started to plan your trip around South America or you’re mainly interested in visiting Bolivia because of its beautiful salt flats. Then my friend, you are in the right place!

Bolivia was one of our destination during our 3 months trip to South America and we did not get disappointed.  We visited La Paz and  did a 3 days trip to Salar de Uyuni finishing in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. I can say for sure that Bolivia’s salt flats was one of the highlights of our adventure.

You probably have million of questions about how to get there, which tour company you should go with, how much does it cost, where you should stay, how to make the most of it and so on. In this post I’ll make sure you have all those questions answered and that you have an amazing time visiting the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.

How to visit Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni – Bolivia

Read too Top 5 amazing things to do in La Paz – Bolivia

What you should know before you go to Salar de Uyuni

The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is the largest salt flat in the world and is located in the southwest of the country. Besides being in a remote location, you can fairly easy reach it by travelling to its closest city – Uyuni. It can be quite warm during the day, but you better be prepared for the chilly nights ahead. Also, because of its high concentration of salt, you may have some stains on your shoes and clothes. Don’t worry it does come off eventually, but I would advise you to either use wellies or flip-flops if you’re up to put your feet in the water.

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How to choose the best tour operator to visit Salar de Uyuni?

The first thing you have to know when deciding about which tour operator go with, is what you are going after? Is it price, is it a luxurious experience, is it safety? All these questions are very important when talking about South America, standards are very different than the ones in Europe and North America, therefore you have to be careful as you will end up having what you’ve paid for. I would strongly advise going with the most experienced company, especially during rain season as you can have some 4×4 not crossing over the flats because of getting stuck.

How much you will pay for a tour will depend on few factors: how many days are you going for, are you crossing all the way to Chile? Are you staying in a private accommodation? Do you want to have a private bathroom? Due to the amount of options available, the price range can be anything from £50 to £250 per person.

Here you can find some of the most known tour operators for the Salar de Uyuni with all details you need. Although these are very well known companies, we have done our tour with a different operator recommended by a friend. Andes Salt Expeditions offers budget to luxurious tours and have very experienced drivers. During our time crossing the flats we did see couple of other groups not being able to go and our driver was one of the few who made it through. Even tough we haven’t had a great experience with food, we would still recommend them.

How to visit Salar de Uyuni Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni – Bolivia

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What’s the best time to visit Salar de Uyuni?

The amazing giant mirror you see in the Salt Flats doesn’t happen throughout the entire year, so if you are dying to see that, you have to book your trip wisely.

The dry season happens from May to October, during this time you wont be able to see the mirror, however you will have better road conditions and will be able to visit Cactus or Fish Island.

The rain season goes from November to March, that’s when you can see the the sky reflecting in the salt flat. Road conditions at this time is a little rougher but it’s totally worth it.

How to visit Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni – Bolivia

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How to get in Salar de Uyuni?

So after choosing your tour operator, deciding when you’re going, now is time to know how to get there. As I said before, Uyuni is the closest city to start your tour to the salt flats. Uyuni is a very small town where you can find plenty of operators with the most variety of tours you can imagine. To get there, if you are based in La Paz, you should look for a bus company called Todo Turismo. Although I am sure there are many other bus companies going to Uyuni from La Paz, we did find Todo Turismo very reliable and extremely comfortable. We booked our tickets online, but if you are spending couple of days in La Paz and have some flexibility, you can buy it in the bus station too. This company has a night bus leaving at 9pm arriving in the Uyuni around 7am; it costs BS250 one way per person, including dinner and breakfast. Choose the VIP option to have some space and a very comfortable bed-seat.

If you are going to Uyuni from any other destination you can have a look at this website for buses and trains.

If you are in Peru, here is our list of Best things to do in Lima

Bonus tips

There is no real need to book accommodation in Uyuni, I would recommend you to stay in La Paz, get the night bus from there and start your tour as soon as you arrive in Uyuni. The tours normally leave around 10am allowing you plenty of time to even grab something else to eat. In La Paz we’ve stayed at York B&B which was very well located and easy to reach the bus station.

Make sure you have plenty of water on you and if possible stay on dry food only. Also bring some stomach medication, your hygiene products and head torch. There’s no grocery shops during the tour, the food is brought over from Uyuni and you only get fresh cooked meal during dinners.

Get dressed with couple of layers as during the night can get really cold. Bring swimming suit with you, if you planning to go to the hot spring.

Be aware that depending on your accommodation choice shower may be cold and all the hotels options work on power generator.

How to visit Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni – Bolivia

Check our top 5 amazing things to do in La Paz – Bolivia

Hope we could help you figure out how to visit Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, please let us know if you have any other question by commenting this post. See you soon!

Top 5 amazing things to do in La Paz – Bolivia

Bolivia is often in the route of any backpacker traveling around South America, however there’s not that much information on why you should visit it and what to do besides Salar the Uyuni and the Death Road.

We only had 3 days in La Paz, that by the way isn’t really Bolivia’s capital; the capital is Sucre. During our time in Bolivia we realized that we could easily spend a week around the country to make most of it, but since it was too late for any rearrangement, here’s a list of the 5 amazing things you could do when visiting La Paz:

Wonderful La Paz sign in an avenue at La Paz city centre
La Paz, city centre

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1. Watch Cholitas Wrestling

What the heck is Cholitas wrestling? Cholitas Wrestling my friend, is the most peculiar and awesome local thing to do in La Paz. The show is in a non-touristic area of the city, so I would highly recommend you to book a tour – most Hostels will offer that.

So, you are still wondering what is that and why you should go?! Hold on, I’ll tell you! Cholas are how in the past people use to call the Bolivian native women in a pejorative way, nowadays its considered a crime to discriminate them and the Cholitas, how they kindly call them now, are free to go around and visit places that they weren’t supposed to go before.

They use a specific type of outfit; long puffy skirt, braided hair and a British male hat. If you are walking around the city centre you probably going to spot few of them.

Basically the Cholitas wrestling are those women fighting dressed traditionally. It’s definitely the coolest, weirdest thing you going to see in La Paz.

The tours run every Thursday and Sunday night, please go on Sunday as you going to experience that together with locals. It really is worth it!

Cholitas in traditional outfit wrestling in a ring
Cholitas Wrestling, La Paz – Bolivia

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2. Visit one of the largest flea markets in the world

Within La Paz district, the expanding El Alto neighborhood became its own city; at a higher altitude than La Paz, El Alto is considered one of the most dangerous places in Bolivia. So, why should you risk and explore it? Well, you definitely shouldn’t do it on your own, but when visiting El Alto you will be able to see one of the largest flea markets in the world.

The market starts as soon as you drop off from the cable car; if you do decide to go on your own, please remember to not have any valuable object on you, it’s recommended to not have even your original passport in this area as people can pretend to be police officers to steal from you. They also try to distract you in all possible ways, so they can “pick pocket” you. Greg was one of their victims; they spitted on him, so he would take his hands out of the pocket giving them free access to it, however we had been advised by our guide that this could happen and fortunately, Greg kept his hands where were and nothing was stolen.

You can find all sort of things at this market, from car’s parts to underwear and you sure can see how the local life is in here. Towards the end of the street there’s another witches market, bigger than the one in La Paz; if you are doing it with a tour they will tell you both, cool and creepy Bolivian traditions.

We’ve done it with the Red Cap walking tour, where we combined El Alto and Cholitas Wrestling on the same day. We had a great time with them.

People at El Alto flea market
El Alto, La Paz – Bolivia

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3. Go to the public cemetery to see the best graffiti in the city

Bolivians are very attached to their family and although majority of population is catholic, they do believe in life after death.

The traditions around a funeral are enormous, from burying their beloved ones with all sort of things they used to like in life to not keep paying for their mausoleum after 5 years of the death, so the family member can finally move on into his next life.

So, with so many mixed and rich cultural values, the public cemetery in La Paz is definitely a must see “attraction”.

I believe this cemetery is different than most of the ones in other countries: it’s rather festive than a sad place. The government promotes a street art contest and the winners get a wall over there to present their best job. Instead of dark graves you will find a very colorful place. You can’t miss it!

Skull graffiti and flowers at La Paz cemetery
La Paz cemetery – Bolivia

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4. Hike the former highest ski station in the world

Here’s where you realize global warming is a real threat. Chacaltaya mountain is at 6,000 meters above the sea level and used to be the highest ski station in the world.

All the snow that used to be there has melted and the ski station is now abandoned. We didn’t have to hike from the bottom of the mountain to its top as cars can go up to 5,500 meters leaving you with just a short distance to go by foot.

Because of the altitude, hiking can be harder than you think, so make sure you have plenty of water and either Coca leaves or floral alcohol to help you on the way. Going slow is also advisable.

The view from the top is surreal and if you manage to get there in less than half an hour make sure you go to the next stretch. The guide normally recommends people to stay no longer than 45 minutes around the mountain because of the lack of oxygen.

If you lucky, you may get to see a Bolivian celebration over there.

Bolivian celebration at Chacaltaya mountain
Chacaltaya mountain, La Paz – Bolivia

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5. Check out the place Neil Armstrong compared to the moon

The first astronaut to stomp on the moon visited Bolivia and while golfing, saw, what he said looked like, the surface of the moon. Since then, La Paz is base of the Vale de la Luna – the moon valley.

You can visit this place on your own as public transportation will leave you there, the entrance fee is 3BS and the circuit to go around the cool sort of canyon shaped walls lasts about 40 minutes.

Besides the place, on your way there you will notice the wealth difference between the downtown and this area as the moon valley is located in a rich neighborhood.

There’s not much to see, but what there is, is totally worth it.

Canyon and giant spires at La Luna Valley in La Paz, Bolivia
La Luna Valley, La Paz – Bolivia

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Why the death road is not on our list?

You may be wondering why we didn’t add Death Road to our itinerary in La Paz; well, we actually did.

We had the tour booked and everything ready to go on the infamous Death Road in Bolivia, however just 4 days before we had planned to cheat death, a fatal accident happened right there.

We were in La Paz during the rain season and the Death Road is more tricky than usual. We actually didn’t believe that accidents could really happen since is one of the biggest tourist attraction in the country …until it happened!

We opted to cancel our tour for 2 reasons:

1. Dying was really a possibility

2. We wouldn’t enjoy ourselves as much as we would like

Why do I say that? Because after knowing that somebody lost their life in a tour that was supposed to be fun, you realize that you may be so scared, that won’t be a pleasant experience at all.

We did hear from other travelers that it was a good tour and that few people actually fell during the time, but nothing worrying. We also heard that there’s more deaths than what is out in the media. We obviously can’t confirm whether it’s true or not.

For us, the safest option was not to go, do I recommend it? If you are confident enough with your bike skills and if the weather permits, yeah sure! Otherwise I think it doesn’t worth the risk.

Let me know if you need any other tip!

Best things to do in Peru – The ultimate guide

Peru is a big country and when planning to visit, it may be difficult to decide what to do or where to go. You shouldn’t limit your trip to Cusco and Lima, I can assure you there is much more to see.

In this ultimate guide, I’ll tell you what are the best cities to visit in Peru and the best things to do in each of them.

On our trip around South America we spent 18 days exploring the Land of the Incas and I have a lot of useful information to share with you. Here we go!

Getting around Peru

Best things to do in Lima

Best things to do in Paracas

Best things to do in Huacachina

Best things to do in Arequipa

Best things to do in Cusco

Machu Picchu

Overview of Cusco mountains and orange tile roofs
Cusco overview

Getting around Peru

As I mentioned before, Peru is big and it’s not cheap or easy to get a plane from one city to the other; therefore, we found this great company that combines transportation with local tours, Peru Hop. It isn’t the cheapest option, but for sure gives you good value for money and a big plus – safety. We started using Peru Hop in Lima and went all the way down to La Paz; yep, there’s also a Bolivia Hop and they have just started the business in Ecuador as well. If you use their services, in most of the cities you have a hotel pick up and drop off and many discounts for tours, restaurants and accommodation.

Tip: you’ll get an information booklet via email once you buy your tickets; check available discounts before booking accommodation.

If you would like a 10% discount for Ecuador Hop leave your email in the comments and I’ll happily send it over to you

Peruvian reddish colonial buildings in Lima old-town
Lima old town, Peru

Best things to do in Lima

You definitely don’t want to skip the capital of Peru and that’s definitely not what we want you to do, so we have put together a detailed article about it and the cool things you can do while visiting the city, however I’ll tell you the best things to do in Lima over here as well:

1. Walking tour

We booked our tour with the Incan Milky Way and it was a great experience; using local transportation and learning the history of the city is a great way to start exploring Lima.

2. Watch the sunset from Larcomar shopping mall

Larcomar is a sort of underground shopping mall in Miraflores neighborhood. It’s a really fancy place with a beautiful view towards the Pacific Ocean. It has a park at the top where you can relax and see a beautiful sunset.

3. John F. Kennedy park area for food

Miraflores is an up scale district of Lima, where most of hostels/hotels are located together with shops and restaurants. Around the Kennedy park area you will find a cool street full of nice places to eat, pick one and have a great Peruvian lunch/dinner.

Wondering how much it would cost to visit the Galapagos island? Check our Galapagos on the budget article

Couple holding hands in Paracas Desert at the National Reserve
Paracas National Reserve, desert

Best things to do in Paracas

The advantage of using Peru Hop is that they have a route that goes exactly through the great cities you can visit in Peru, Paracas is one of them. A small coastal village close to a National Park, it’s a one night town that is still worth seeing.

1. National park tour

Getting the tour to the national park with Peru Hop is a great way to see the desert plus beautiful views along the way.

2. Mila beach

It’s the nicest beach in town, most of locals prefer to spend the day over there rather than the main beach in Paracas. It’s a crowed place as you can imagine, but great for a relaxing afternoon or early morning. You can either get a taxi or go with a tour.

3. Dinner at Miski

It’s not a restaurant with all the Peruvian dishes, in fact, it’s a pizza place that only opens for dinner, but the atmosphere over there is great and you may get some live music too. Discounts available via Peru Hop.

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Couple at the top of buggy car in Huacachina oasis
Huacachina, Peru

Best things to do in Huacachina

Huacachina is an oasis in the middle of the desert, a tiny village surrounded by sand. There’s not much to do here, but you can’t skip that!

1. Buggy tour + sandboarding

It’s an obligation to do the buggy tour, it’s adventurous, fun and you even get to sandboard. The tour with Peru Hop starts at 4pm and last for about 2 hours. Plenty of time for really cool pictures.

2. Mosquito rooftop bar

Mosquito bar is a nice restaurant with a rooftop where you can enjoy the view and the food. Make sure you put repellent on!

3. Paddle boat

As I said, there isn’t much to do around the village, but if you still need something else to do, hiring a paddle boat to go around the tiny oasis in town would be a great option.

With Peru Hop, you will also have the opportunity to do a quick stop at Nazca and check all the huge drawings in the ground and be wondering who actually did it. There’s nothing much around Nazca, so that’s why this is just a passing by stop.

Haven’t considered visiting Cali in Colombia? Read our post, it will change your mind!

Market stalls with pots and seeds at Arequipa witch's market
Witch market, Arequipa – Peru

Best things to do in Arequipa

Arequipa is one stop before the famous Cusco! Here you can start to feel the altitude and would be a great city to cope with it. There’s also few things you can do around Arequipa, check it out:

1. Walking tour

As you can see, we love walking tours. It’s truly the best way of knowing the city you are in and then decide where you want to spend more time. We’ve done this tour with Free Tour Downtown Arequipa.

2. Witches market

Apparently in South America it’s very common to have, sometimes even more than one, witches market; it’s not as scary as you would think and nowadays is more like a local market than anything else, however in Arequipa when walking around it, you can still see people telling somebody else fortune. Worth a visit!

3. Visit Mundo Alpaca

Mundo Alpaca is the most famous company to buy real alpaca clothing. It’s real and expensive, but besides shopping you can go around and see amazing textile exhibition done by locals for a competition, see and sometimes feed the alpacas and also watch how locals do the so detailed textile frames.

Tip: I know you probably want to eat something local and immerse in the amazing Peruvian culture, but there’s a pizza place in Arequipa called Da Giancarlo, the owner is around and make you feel so welcome; I won’t even start to tell you how delicious our pizza was. Go give it a try!

Bonus tip: We haven’t done it, but there’s also the Colca Canyon in Arequipa, if you are into hiking, check this tour in the agencies.

Patio with yellow colonial building and llamas in Cusco old-town
Cusco, old-town

Best things to do in Cusco

1. Walking tour

the Incan Milk Way tour also happen in Cusco and it’s very informative, so make sure you book it online and get to know this Incan city better.

2. Visit the Incan Museum

If you love history and after the walking tour would like to know more about the Incas, the Museo Inka is a great way to start. It’s walking distance from the main square and cost only P/10.

3. View the city from Cristo Blanco

If you are looking for a viewpoint other than the famous Cusco Hotel, go to the Cristo Blanco, a statue of Jesus Christ on the top of the hill. You can either go walking which would take you around 40 minutes to 1 hour from the main square or just get a taxi for P/60 return.

4. Hike the rainbow mountain

Don’t miss it out, although most of the pictures online don’t show the true colors of the mountain, it’s still an amazing thing to see. The hike is a bit sharp due to the altitude – once you get to the top you will be higher than 5,000 meters above the sea level. They do offer horses ride in the beginning of the hike which I honestly do not recommend. I unfortunately had to do that in the last bit of the mountain and it broke my heart as the horses get as tired as we do. Go slow on your pace and be in peace with your conscious. We’ve done it with the agency recommended by Peru Hop, it was USD 30 including breakfast and lunch. They also have oxygen tank to help you out if needed. They were pretty professional which make our day a great experience.

Welcome to Machu Picchu sign at Aguas Calientes, Peru
Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu’s base town

Machu Picchu

I know you are looking for all the information to get to one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. Machu Picchu is amazing and was definitely one of the highlights of our three months trip around South America. There are few things you need to be aware when visiting:

1. You don’t need to trek if you don’t want to.

2. You can do it on the budget.

3. Aguas Calientes is the base town of Machu Picchu, not Cusco.

4. From Aguas Calientes you still have to climb up, but it can also be done by bus.

5. It can be tricky to buy the right tickets.

Because of that, we have done an ultimate guide to visit Machu Picchu on the budget. All you need to know before heading to the most famous Incan ruins; how to buy your tickets, how to get to Aguas Calientes, how to make most of your day in Machu Picchu and more.

We hope you have got enough information to start planning your trip to Peru. If you have any question, please leave a comment here and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

Take care!

Machu Picchu on a budget all you need to know

If you’re planning to see this particular wonder of the modern world, but you’re afraid it’s going to be too expensive, it doesn’t have to be! Below, you’ll find tips on how to visit Machu Picchu cheap. This trip involves taking a bus, van and walking; you’ll find plenty of agencies selling it in Cusco centre, but not much can be found online – the tour is called Machu Picchu by Car. We didn’t pay for the full tour, but just for transportation as we wanted freedom of choosing our accommodation and length of stay. To make this guide easy to read, I included short breakdown menu:

Before you book your trip to Machu Picchu

Is it safe to go to Machu Picchu by car

When to go to Machu Picchu

How to buy tickets to Machu Picchu

Which ticket to Machu Picchu should I buy

How much will it cost to go to Machu Picchu by car

Before you book your trip to Machu Picchu

This is the cheapest way to visit Machu Picchu, but before you start planning and booking your trip there are few logistic considerations. Here is all you need to know to get to Machu Picchu on a budget.

cusco-to-macchu-picchu-by-car

Cusco is the closest, major city to Machu Picchu and the one Tours By Car originate from. There’s an airport here, but you’re most likely arrive by coach from Lima or Arequipa. Aguas Calientes is the closest town to Machu Picchu and it’s not accessible by car, only on foot or by train. Hydroelectric Station is where the road to Aguas Calientes ends and the van from Cusco leaves you (around 3pm). From here you’ll walk on and around train tracks to reach the town of Aguas Calientes. It takes around 8 hours on the van and 2 hours walking (3 hours if you count photo stops). The trek is mainly flat, but I recommend you take hiking boots, as it can be muddy; plus stomping on little stones around train tracks will be painful. You should reach the town around 6pm.

As I said, Aguas Calientes is the closest town to Machu Picchu and the one you’ll need to book accommodation in, for at least one night (if you buy the entire tour, not just transport, accommodation will be included). From here, you’ll need to take a bus or walk up to the entrance of the site. Bus costs $12USD one way and takes around 10-15 minutes.

Drivers do not sell tickets; an office is located just around the corner from the bus stop and you can pay by cash or card. If you choose to walk instead, it is steep and will take around one and a half hours.

Is it safe to go to Machu Picchu by car

Accidents don’t happen often, but they do happen. Part of the road is unpaved and in some places very narrow (see video below). Paved part is a single carriage in both directions. Often, the carriage closer to the mountains has obstacles, like fallen rocks and mudslides. Most of the road is full of sharp curves and you’ll be told to take a motion sickness pill not to vomit on the way (buy and take the pill, trust me!).

Around 15 vans went on the day we did. We survived and I would do it again, but if you ask Sara, she probably wouldn’t. Undoubtedly, the train ride will be safer, more comfortable and much more expensive. The choice is yours.

When to go to Machu Picchu

During wet season (December – March), in very extreme circumstances when rain is persistent and heavy, the site may be completely closed. The risk of closure is really small, but nevertheless it can happen. We did it in January and our experience was a little scary – due to heavy rain, a bridge on part of the paved road collapsed a few days before and the van had to cross a river/waterfall. On top of that, we were asked to be at the meeting point to go back to Cusco an hour earlier than normally. The driver explained that the water on that river is “higher” later in the day and it may not be possible to cross, if we go as previously planned.

As you can see, there are some risks associated with wet season, but on the other hand, there are fewer visitors and that will add to the comfort of sightseeing and availability of tickets and transport. We don’t have the experience of dry season, but we read online that tickets are sold out months in advance and queues for Aguas Calientes – Machu Picchu bus are so long, you need to wake up at 5am to be able to get there for 7am. The ride takes 10-15 minutes, so we’re talking about an hour and a half of waiting in line.

Again, the choice is yours.

machu-pichu-by-car-all-you-need-to-know
Machu Picchu, Peru

How to buy tickets to Machu Picchu

Tickets can be bought online, directly via Peruvian Ministry of Culture’s website – https://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/inicio.

First you reserve your tickets and are given a number; after that you need to redirect your web browser to payment page, retrieve your reservation using the number you were given and finally pay. Tickets are date and name specific and you’ll need your passport to prove your identity at the entrance. You do not need to be part of a tour, nor do you need a tour guide to visit; everything can be done independently. The website is in Spanish only and we couldn’t pay with Mastercard (Visa only). I’m not sure if Mastercard isn’t accepted at all or this was just a problem we encountered.

Which ticket to Machu Picchu should I buy

There are three different types of tickets available:

Machu Picchu – single entrance to the site of ruins only. Once inside, sightseeing follows a circuit which leads outside the complex. You may take as much time as you wish, but going against the circuit’s direction will not be possible, so no coming back. Once outside you will not be allowed to re-enter.

Machu Picchu with Waynapicchu mountain – two entrances are allowed on this ticket, one to visit the mountain and the other to visit the ruins. When buying this ticket, you’ll need to choose entering Waynapicchu between 7-8 or 10-11 in the morning. Both slots are limited to 400 visitors. Earlier slot will not allow enough time to see the ruins before the mountain climb, so you’ll need to come back. Later slot will allow enough time to see the ruins before the climb, but it is said that the complex is more quite in the afternoon, so it may be a good idea to climb the mountain first and re-enter to see the ruins after. The climb and the view are truly amazing and well worth extra time and money.

machu-picchu-by-car-all-you-need-to-know
View of Machu Picchu from Huayna Pichu mountain

Note: If you choose to add the mountain to your visit, it will be difficult (may be impossible) to go back to Cusco by car the same day – you may not make it back to Hydroelectric Station in time for pick up. Additionally, you’ll need to organize baggage storage. In this case it’s better to spend another night in Aguas Calientes and not rush your visit.

Machu Picchu with Machupicchu mountain – we did not get this ticket, so I can only assume that same rules, as in case of Waynapicchu, apply and you’ll be able to enter twice; however, this is only speculation. Entrance to this mountain is also restricted to 7-8 or 10-11 in the morning and 400 visitors per slot.

How much will it cost to go to Machu Picchu by car

Machu Picchu + Waynapicchu mountain ticket = US $60

Van from Cusco to Hydroelectric Station = US $23

Lunch on the way to Hydroelectric Station = US $5

Motion sickness pill = US $1.20

2 nights accommodation for 2 people, with breakfast in Aguas Calientes = US $34.48

1 way bus from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu = $12

1 course meal for 2 people with drink = $16.97

This is the cheapest way we found to travel and see Machu Picchu, but there are certainly other options available. Please come back to see what else we did on our 3 months trip around South America and if you have any questions, send us an email.

Best things to do in Lima

Are you going to spend some time in Peru? Wondering what are the best things to do in Lima? What to see and where to go? Below you’ll find my recommendations of what not to miss in the City of Kings.

As a tourist, you should be based around historic centre of downtown, or upscale district of Miraflores. We’ve chosen the second option and we would do it again, if ever coming back. The neighborhood is safe to walk around, even after dark; there are also plenty of restaurants, bars, etc. You’ll be within walking distance of the Pacific Coast, so make sure you watch at least one of the spectacular sunsets here! As usual, we started with a walking tour, as we would in any city. Here’s a list of best things to do in Lima:

Free Walking Tour

A walking tour will provide some basic information about the city, country and culture, but it will also give you an idea on where to go and what to see. Moreover, guides often share tips, interesting facts, rumors and recommendations not available online. I can highly recommend this particular company – Inkan Milky Way. They have two meeting points (Miraflores and downtown Lima), but both groups will merge into one in the historic centre at the beginning of the tour.

Kennedy Park (Miraflores)

Here you’ll find shops, cafes, bars, restaurants and even young Peruvians battling in rap contests. It’s unofficial centre of the district and a lot of “life” revolves around this place. It used to be famous for the large population of cats living here, but nowadays you may spot only one or two, as authorities removed the animals.

Larcomar (Miraflores)

This huge shopping mall is located on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There is a pleasant seating area/park on the roof, which (because of the location) is at street level. Bikers, skaters, pedestrians and even dogs can find a spot to enjoy this place and you can watch a beautiful sunset here. Apart from shops, there are many cafes, bars and pubs and your regular big brands are all here too: Burger King, KFC, GAP and Sunglasses Hut among many others. Sort of a “home away from home”.

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Larcomar shopping centre, Miraflores – Lima

Plaza De Armas (old-town Lima)

The most important square of the city, with the Presidential Palace, main Cathedral and few other impressive and important buildings around. There’s a lovely fountain in the middle of the square and if you’re lucky enough to be here on the 4th Sunday of July, water is replaced with Pisco (Peruvian national alcoholic drink) and you can get drunk for free. Sounds great, doesn’t it?!

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Plaza de Armas, Lima – Peru

Basilica and Concent of Santo Domingo (old-town Lima)

A beautiful church, with amazing history, just few steps from Plaza De Armas. As an added bonus, you may climb to the top of the Bell Tower for panoramic view of the city. Entrance is possible with a guide only and you’ll need to pay 15 Soles. You’ll also need to wait for the next available tour, but I assure you it’s worth it!

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Downtown, Lima – Peru

If you like great views from atop, you’ll love cable car in Bogota. Check out our post about this awesome city here.

Magic Water Circuit (Parque de la Reserva)

After dark, Parque de la Reserva comes alight. Synchronized water fountains, sound system and colorful lights are teamed up to perform a great show for you. Tourists and locals, kids and adults, couples, singles and families quiet down to enjoy 30-45 minutes of extraordinary “ballet”. Some cool pictures can be taken here too! Shows start at 7, 8 and 9pm, every day. Entrance is 4 Soles.

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Magic Water Circuit, Parque de la Reserva, Lima – Peru

For an even better light show, visit Medellin during Christmas. You can read all about it here.

Basilica Nuestra Senora Del Rosario

Some disagree, but nevertheless, this church is considered the smallest in the world by many. Mainly due to the fact it has all the features of a regular sized church. It’s not really a tourist attraction as such, but if you’re in the historic centre of Lima, you may as well have a look, as it’s certainly interesting.

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Basilica Nuestra Senora Del Rosario, Lima – Peru

That’s all for the City of Kings, but be sure to come back soon and read more about Peru. It’s coming soon!

Galapagos on a budget – the ultimate guide

Galapagos isn’t really a destination, which many people would consider cheap and in fact for most of us, including me and Sara, it’s pretty expensive. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most exciting destinations in the world, especially for wildlife; after all it’s claimed 50% of archipelago’s land species and 20% of marine species cannot be found anywhere else in the world. We spend 5, truly magical days here and below I share the most valuable travel tips on how to visit Galapagos on a budget.

To make thing easier to navigate, below is a small menu:

How to get to Galapagos

Getting around Galapagos

Where to stay in Galapagos

What to do in Galapagos

Cost

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Playa Loberia, San Cristobal – Galapagos

 

How to get to Galapagos

There are no international flights to the Galapagos and even if you buy a ticket originating abroad, your final flight to the islands will be from Quito or Guayaquil and you’ll go through immigration and customs in those cities. To get the best deal, we use a combination of 3 flight search engines: Momondo, Skyscanner and Google Flights.

Tip: If you’re traveling with a partner, searching for and buying two single tickets, as oppose to searching for and buying two tickets, may be cheaper – if only one ticket is available at a cheaper price you will not be able to buy it (or even see its price) if you perform a search for two tickets.

If you have some time to spare in Quito, check out Sara’s post: One Day in Quito

Before your flight

Checking in online will not be available at all and prior to doing it at one of the airports in Ecuador you’ll need to obtain the Transit Card ($20 per person). There are designated booths at the airport, where agents issue these cards. Official rules require you to have proof of return flight, accommodation and travel insurance. Although we were asked only for the proof of return flight, I do recommend you have insurance and accommodation booked, as you never know how strict these checks will get in the future. Our stay was via AirBnb with a local host and to make sure there are no problems entering the islands, we also booked a hotel, which we canceled once we got through entry point at the airport. Booking.com is pretty good at offering free, last minute cancellations and this is one of the options I recommend. Tip: hold on to the transit card, as you will be asked to present it when leaving.

Arriving in Galapagos

At the time of writing this post, there were only two airports you could arrive in Galapagos from mainland Ecuador – Baltra and San Cristobal. On arrival, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee to the Galapagos National Park: $100 for foreigners from outside of South America and $50 for foreigners from inside the continent (when arriving in Isabela Island you’ll need to pay additional $10).

Baltra is an island where only an airport is located and it’s connected to Santa Cruz via bus and ferry (you cannot avoid taking neither bus nor ferry). Once on Santa Cruz island, you’ll need to take another bus or taxi direct to your accommodation or to one of the towns – unless you have plenty of time and money, Puerto Ayora should be the only town you consider for accommodation, as this is where all tours and boat transportation originate from. Cost: bus from the airport to ferry terminal in Baltra- $5; ferry from Baltra to Santa Cruz – $1; bus from Santa Cruz ferry terminal to Puerto Ayora – $5

Although we did not arrive in San Cristobal, airport is just a short distance from the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and taxi will cost you only $2-$4 (if the driver asks for more, he’s likely taking advantage of you).

Tip: choose Santa Cruz (Baltra) as your arrival point to and San Cristobal as departure point from the Galapagos. That way, you will not need to come back to Santa Cruz, just to fly back to mainland Ecuador, saving yourself ferry ticket ride.

Getting around Galapagos

Walking

You can easily walk from one end of the town to the other in 30-45 minutes. This is true for all three major towns in all three islands on which you can stay: Santa Cruz – Puerto Ayora town, San Cristobal – Puerto Baquerizo Moreno town, Isabela – Puerto Villamil town.

Taxi

In towns and within close proximity, a taxi should not cost more than $2-$3 per ride. As example, I’ll give a ride we took from our accommodation in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal) to Playa Loberia – $3. Tip: always agree the fare before getting in, as taxis do not have meters.

Bus

As mentioned earlier, on Santa Cruz Island, a public bus runs from the airport ferry terminal to Puerto Ayora through towns of Bellavista and Santa Rosa – you may decide to take it, if visiting tortoise reserve – El Chato (details in “What to do in Galapagos” section). On San Cristobal, a bus runs from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, all the way to the highland town of Progreso – there’s nothing of interest there, so you’re unlikely to take it.

Ferry

Most inter-island travel takes place by boat, which takes around 25-35 passengers. A trip costs $30 one way from Santa Cruz to Isabela and from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal. There are no direct ferries linking Isabela and San Cristobal islands. Both trips take two to two and a half hours and departure twice a day: Isabela to Santa Cruz 6am and 2pm; Santa Cruz to Isabela 7am and 2pm; Santa Cruz to San Cristobal 7am and 2pm; San Cristobal to Santa Cruz 7am and 3pm. There are plenty of tour agencies on each island, from which you can purchase the tickets.

Taxi boat

Small boats offer rides within the port area and cost from $0.50 to $1. You will need to take one of these to get to your ferry boat, when doing an inter-island travel or a tour.

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Port Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz – Galapagos

Where to stay in Galapagos

My recommendation is to stay, AT LEAST, 2 full days in each of the three habitable islands: Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobal. This is the minimum you’ll require to appreciate what each island has to offer and it will be difficult to experience it with tours originating from just one island. If you still choose to stay on one island only, Santa Cruz in the middle of the archipelago, will give you the most options in terms of tours.

Residents offer rooms with shared or private bathroom with kitchen facilities, so you can make your meals yourself and not overspend. For even cheaper alternative, there are plenty of hostels, which should have kitchen facilities too. Markets are available in each city you’ll be staying in: Puerto Villamil (Isabela island), Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz island) and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal island).

Tip: AirBnb, Booking.com and Hostelz are your best options for finding accommodation.

What to do in Galapagos

Isabela island

You could probably spend two weeks in this island and not be bored, but let’s stick to budget; here, you’ll find one of the best snorkeling/diving opportunities in the world and I suggest you take full advantage of it. As we did not stay here, we could only do a tour originating from Santa Cruz and little snorkeling we did, resulted in sighting of a sea turtle and few colorful fishes, so don’t make the same mistake we did! Stay in the island, go on a snorkeling/diving specific tour and give yourself a chance to see sharks, manta rays, sea horses and turtles, which are seen by tourists on regular basis.

If you can spare some extra time and money, a boat tour of the harbor area will give you an opportunity to see Blue-footed Boobys and, if you’re lucky enough, Galapagos penguins.

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Tintoreras, Isabela – Galapagos

Tip: there are many other activities available in the island, but similar stuff can be done on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal – these are slightly cheaper to stay and go around.

Tip: at the time of writing this post, there were no ATMs nor a bank in Isabela, so withdraw all the cash you’ll need in Santa Cruz or San Cristobal

Santa Cruz island

As this is the main hub of the Galapagos and most centrally located island, tours from here depart to all other destinations in the archipelago.

Charles Darwin Research Station and Visitor Centre

Located around 10-15 minutes’ walk from Puerto Ayora’s harbor, it’s a work place for many scientists, who are trying to preserve plant and animal spices found in the Galapagos. You’ll find giant tortoise in breading enclosures, here. Entrance is free.

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Charles Darwin Research Centre, Santa Cruz – Galapagos

Playa de la Estacion

On the way to Charles Darwin Research Centre, it’s a rocky beach with just a short stretch of sand, but if you go early enough you beat the crowd, it should be quite pleasant. Its also a good spot to watch the sunset.

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Playa De La Estacion, Santa Cruz – Galapagos

Tortuga Bay

A long (around 1200 meters), beautiful stretch of peaceful, sandy beach. There’s a small, very shallow, sea water enclave, where snorkeling is possible and we managed to see an octopus here. You may walk here from Puerto Ayora and it shouldn’t take longer than 40 min. We took a boat and it was $20 per person to go and come back, plus $0.50 per person, each way for the taxi boat.

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Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz – Galapagos

El Chato

A tortoise reserve located near the town of Santa Rosa. It’s like a big park and these giant creatures are totally on the lose! While completing a walking circuit, you’ll also enter three, short lava tunnels. There are no paved paths, but if it’s wet and your shoes are not suitable for this, you can borrow rubber boots here. Please remember that you’ll be entering home of these animals and act respectfully. Authorities of Galapagos recommend to keep a distance of at least 2 meters to any wildlife. Entrance is $5 per person and you’ll get free organic tea or coffee with that.

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El Chato Reserve, Santa Cruz – Galapagos

Tip: if you have time and money, rent bikes in Puerto Ayora, take the bus to Santa Rosa (bikes can go with you) and come back by bike. It’s a really good way to visit this place.

Las Grietas

This is a series of three, pretty deep pools, within a narrow rock formation. Getting from one pool to another, requires crossing some sharp rocks, so I recommend you take your wet-shoes. When we got here, it was really crowded and felt more like a water-park with kids jumping in and screaming; we didn’t see many fishes. To get here, you’ll need to take a water taxi to the other side of Puerto Ayora’s port, which will cost $1 per person each way. After that you’ll need to walk for around 20 minutes, passing through a nice beach – Playa De Los Alemanes. It’s a short, but pleasant stretch of sand and you may spot some manta rays here.

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Playa Los Alemanes, Santa Cruz – Galapagos

San Cristobal

Playa Loberia

Located just 30-40 minutes walk from the port of Baquerizo Moreno, or a $3 taxi ride, it’s a rocky beach with good stretches of sand, as well. Big population of sea lions live here and the young can be very playful and curious. With your snorkeling gear, enjoy an underwater swimming show, but be extremely careful not to touch them, or let them touch you, as your scent can easily make their mother reject them. Some colorful fishes can also be seen in this area.

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Playa Loberias, San Cristobal – Galapagos

Playa Punta Carola

Some rocks here, but mainly sand and, if you’re lucky, you can be bumping heads with a sea turtle while snorkeling. When we were here, a group of 5 of them could be spotted, two at very shallow water, just few steps into the water! Located around 30 minutes walk from the centre of town.

Playa De Oro

This is another beach located very close to the centre of town (only around 10 minutes walk). You can spot some sea lions here and lay down on the sand, but if you short on time, the other two are far better.

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Playa de Oro, San Cristobal – Galapagos

Note: most open air, public beaches and swimming spots are open from 6am to 6pm and park rangers will excuse you after the opening times. Only beaches within town may be occupied after 6pm.

If you like exotic places, check out Sara’s post about San Andres in the Caribbeans 

Cost

Plane tickets – Quito-Baltra + San Cristobal – Guayaquil = $376.70 (per person)

Four nights, double room with private bathroom in Santa Cruz – $111.73

Two nights, double room with shared bathroom in San Cristobal – $43.57

Island entry fee – $100 (per person)

Transit card – $20 (per person)

Baltra airport bus – $5 (per person)

Baltra ferry – $1 (per person)

Santa Cruz bus to Puerto Ayora – $5 (per person)

El Chato tortoise reserve entry fee – $5 (per person)

One day bike rental – $15 (per person)

Bus from Puerto Ayora to Santa Rosa with bike – $1.50 (per person)

Breakfast in a restaurant (average price) – $15 (per person)

Lunch or dinner in a restaurant (average price including drink) – $30 (per person)

Taxi to the airport in San Cristobal – $3

Isabela island tour + ferry ticket – $120 (per person)

Ferry from Santa Cruz to San Cristobal – $30 (per person)

Water taxi from Puerto Ayora to Tortuga Bay (return) – $20 (per person)

Water taxis (per ride, within port area) – around $1 (per person)

Altogether, we spent around $1115 per person for 6 days and you may think that’s not really “on a budget” travel, but cruises of Galapagos start at $1700, excluding flights.

There are many more activities available on and around all 13 islands of the Galapagos, but I tried to stick to budget, so did not include most of them. I hope I gave you enough information, but if you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch, as I’m sure you will want to do everything just right here.

That’s not all we experienced in South America. Check out our posts about major cities in Colombia: Bogota, Cartagena, Medellin and Cali.

One day in Quito

You gonna have a stopover in Quito before heading to Galapagos or another place in Ecuador and wondering if there is anything to do in this city?! I’ll tell you right now, THERE’S PLENTY TO DO!

In fact, Quito is definitely not a one day city, but we didn’t know that, so had to combine most of the cool stuff in only one day.

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Plaza Grande, Quito – Ecuador

First things first, as I’m saying in most of our posts about South America, please make sure you are in a safe neighborhood and do ask at your hotel/hostel, if it’s safe to walk around at night.

We stayed at L’Auberge Inn, a nice hostel with a fair enough location. They have their own restaurant which is a plus, as you don’t need to go out during the night searching for food. The only downside is that you can hear everything in the room next to yours. Other than that, it’s a 20 minutes walk to the main attractions and it’s all good for a couple of nights.

What to do in Quito in one day?

We have done two tours in Quito, one after the other, the free historic walking tour and the middle of the earth tour, this last one is paid – $10 per person.

In the first tour we visited places like Plaza Grande, San Francisco Church, La Compania de Jesus church, Numismatic museum and Calle La Ronda; wandering around the city is great, but make sure you go on the top of one of these churches: Metropolitan Cathedral and/or La Basilica del Voto Nacional to have a panoramic view of the city. Having only one day, we didn’t manage to go, as we had to decide between lunch or the view. Well, I was hungry, don’t judge!

Middle of the earth is an hour drive from the city centre of Quito. It’s a park with guides and they will show you all the nice tricks you can do being on the equator line.

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La mitad del mundo, Quito – Ecuador

On your way back, if the weather permits, go to the teleférico (cable car), another nice view of Quito and the ride itself must be great.

There are other amazing things to do in Quito that we haven’t done, here’s a list of it, pick your favorite ones and have an amazing time in of the highest cities in the world:

  • El Panecillo (it’s recommended to go up there only by taxi)
  • La Capilla Del Hombre and Museo Guayasamín
  • Parque El Ejido
  • Parque Carolina
  • Walk up to Itchimbía (where Quito’s orange sign is)

Don’t forget to be hydrated and take your time to go around, as it takes a while for your body to get used to the altitude.

Christmas in Medellin

Known to foreigners mainly through its infamous drug lord, Pablo Escobar, Medellin has left its violent past behind, a long time ago. Today, it is perhaps the most modern city in Colombia, with the only rail based metro system in the entire country.

We happened to plan our South America trip arriving in Medellin on the evening of 23rd of December and leaving in the morning of the 25th, with only one day left for sightseeing. After trying to sort out some transit issues in the morning and taking the cable car ride from Acevedo metro station, all the way to Arvi Park and back in the afternoon, we had no time left for anything else, or so we thought!

When leaving the hotel to try to find some place to eat, our hotel’s night porter approached us pointing to three trucks (called chivas) adapted to transport passengers and said they’re going to see all the light installations around the city. At this point we’ve seen just a few of them and they were pretty nice, so we quickly jumped on the opportunity to join.

This was the first stop and the biggest concentration of these installations in the city; it was pretty impressive. On top of this, house lights in the communities located on the surrounding hills, made it look even more magical. We spent around 45 minutes here and the entrance was free.

There were few, less impressive places, which we didn’t stop at, but they were all worth seeing.

Marceliano Valez Barreneche Main Park

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Christmas Lights display – Medellin, Colombia

This was our second and final stop. Much smaller display, but also nice to see. There were quite a few street food vendors around, but not quite sure how safe the area was.

Locations of light installations change slightly every year, but you can catch the tour on the corner of Carrera 70 and Calle 47D. Displays are truly worth seeing, but maybe more importantly, for a brief moment at least, you’ll get to feel like a local, walking among whole families from Medellin. If you’re here during festive time, make sure you don’t miss it.

We finished back in front of our hotel on Carrera 70 and local pubs and bars were still full, with people dancing, eating and drinking. We did some people watching, had our “dinner” (you can hardly call a tuna sandwich a dinner) and went back to the hotel to catch some well deserved sleep.

I would say this was one of the most extraordinary Christmas days in my life and certainly a one to remember. I hope you enjoyed reading about it and will come back for more tips for your trips.  

San Andres Island – The ultimate guide

Everything you need to know when travelling to San Andres, Colombia.

When we start to think about going around South America, San Andres was always in my dreams. Turquoise water, Caribbean vibes and affordable prices was one of the few things I got excited about.

The island is small, therefore I didn’t do too much search before going, but it would be really useful if I did so. Since you are smarter than me and are here, searching for everything you need to know about San Andres, I’ll make sure the information is concise and useful to you. Let’s start!

How to get in San Andres

Getting around San Andres

San Andres accommodations

Where to eat in San Andres

Best things to do in San Andres

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Johnny Cay beach – San Andres Island, Colombia

How to get in San Andres

There are direct flights from the main cities in Colombia, as well as Panama City in Panama. We flew from Cartagena (1 and a half hour) with Viva Air airline and paid 183,600 COP per person; at the airport, at check-in, you will also need to pay the island entrance fee which in December 2018 was 109,000 COP (around £25) per person.

Getting around San Andres

Public transportation

There are public buses in the island, they’re not in the best condition but do serve the purpose. From the airport we took a taxi to our accommodation, because it wasn’t close to the city centre, but when going over there, we would take the coobus (that’s how buses are called). It costs 2,400 COP and stops anywhere you ask, there are no specific bus stops and when you need to drop off just yell “parada por favor”. Make sure you check at your accommodation what time is the last bus from the centre; ours was only until 8pm.

Taxi

Different than Bogotá I felt pretty safe getting official taxis in San Andres. In general you either go to a taxi zone (there’s one right next to the city centre’s beach) or ask at the reception of your accommodation or at the restaurant to call one for you.

As I said, taxis are safe in the island, however pretty expensive. From the airport to the city centre (no longer than 5 minutes’ ride) you will pay 15,000 COP; anywhere out of this zone, the price will start from 20,000 COP

Golf cart

Yep, in San Andres you can rent your very own golf cart to go around the island, how cool is that?! We rented ours next to a super market called La Estacion, not far from the Spratt Bight beach. A cart for the day costs 130,000 COP, I didn’t see any reason to have it for more than one day as there’re specific places for parking, but if you are too far from the buzz, it may be worth it.

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Golf cart – San Andres Island road, Colombia

San Andres accommodations

So, here’s the important bit. As I said before, San Andres is a small island, it won’t take longer than an hour and a half to drive around the entire thing, however everything from restaurants, boat tours and nightlife is in the city centre.

We were in the island for 5 days and the first 4 we stayed in La Loma; kind of in the middle, not too far from the city centre but not to close neither – around 20 minutes by bus. On the last day it was more convenient to change and stay in the city centre as we would like to enjoy our last day without a rush, before going to the airport.

Staying a bit outside of the centre will obviously drop the costs of your trip, but if you are likely to be going to the city centre for food, tours and night life you will have to add up the costs of transportation.

Coconut paradise lodge

This was our first accommodation, one of the oldest houses in the island, it reminded Greg of a Louisiana house style.

The house has many rooms; ours had a private bathroom. If you’ve never been to Colombia before, you may be surprised that hot showers and budget accommodation don’t come together. We didn’t have good water pressure nor hot water – but you have to remember, it’s 28 degrees during the night, you may enjoy some cold water. Although it isn’t the end of the world, I had hard time adjusting!

Janete is the manager of the place (perhaps the owner, not so sure) You will be amazed by her hospitality, she will do anything to make you feel at home; I do think part of the reason we stayed for the 4 days was thank to her.

The location of this place is a bit far from city centre, but only 15 minutes walking from one of the best beaches in the island – Rocky Cay. We would definitely recommend it if you not too much into boat tours or do not mind getting buses/taxi to go out. Everything happens in the city centre, have that in mind.

90,000 COP per night

Hibiscus house

We decided to have our last night in the city centre of San Andres. We looked for accommodation within walking distance from it, perhaps with a hot shower and affordable price. That was the Hibiscus House – a room with private bathroom in the heart of the Island, with the only downside being the noise. It’s very central and has a night club right next to it. We woke up few times with loud conversation outside, but it was definitely not a problem for us.

Other than that, it’s a very modern and clean room, with a giant bed, hot shower, small fridge, a toaster and a supermarket right in front. In terms of cost and convenience (and also, if it’s your first time in the island) this is the accommodation I recommend.

135,000 COP per night

Cocoplum hotel

I wish, but no, we didn’t stay in this sort of resort, but as we had lunch here on one of the days, I think is just fair to say, I loved what I saw from outside. It’s literally in the Rocky Cay beach and if you have money to spare, that’s a really nice treat.

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Coconut Paradise Lodge – La Loma, San Andres, Colombia.

Where to eat in San Andres

If you coming from Bogotá, you will definitely notice the difference of food prices here, after all it’s an island. There are for sure some budget restaurants around the island and the city centre, but we sticked to the medium to high budget ones.

Breakfast

Sea Watch

This is a high end restaurant in the Spratt Bite beach promenade. We had a difficult time trying to find a restaurant that had big portions, this one wasn’t so small, but the price was definitely high. I wouldn’t recommend just because of the price, but if you can treat yourself, go for it!

Coffee Break

A tiny coffee shop that besides breakfast, serves lunch and dinner. The price here was a little better than the previous one, 15,000 COP for a combo breakfast (main + juice/coffee). I had fajita mexicana and orange juice, nothing special, but pretty ok to start the day.

Gourmet shop assho

This restaurant is high end rated, however the breakfast wasn’t that expensive. I had a omelette, toast and orange juice for 18,000 COP and Greg had his with coffee so it was only 15,000 COP. There’s a nice decoration and the food is good, you should give it a go!

Market shop

This will for sure be your cheapest way of having breakfast in San Andres; you can also try to find some empanadas from the vendor carts (if your stomach is pretty sensitive to deep fried food, I would only try with a recommendation). Overall, if you have the facilities at your accommodation, save money on breakfast by buying some bread, cheese and ham in a market shop.

Lunch/Dinner

Miss Celia

Quite famous medium budget restaurant in the island, Miss Celia has a nice maritime decor and great traditional food! One main dish was around 40,000 COP.

Beer Station

Greg and I came to this place couple of times, as some restaurants close between shifts, leaving us with just few options. You won’t find many traditional dishes here, but it will be a safe alternative when you don’t know what to choose. They have burgers, shared platters, fish and chips, chicken, onion rings; everything that you will definitely feel familiar with! The location is a plus – a deck at the sea with Johnny Cay view. They will have pop music going on and maybe a DJ during the weekend. Average price of meal + beer 35,000 COP

Bocca de Oro

I really like the Bocca de Oro restaurant, they had live music going on on Saturday. It’s a big place, kind of opened/terraced to an extend and food was lovely! Make sure you come here at least once. Average price for a meal + drink is 50,000 COP

Cocoplum hotel

If you are looking to have a nice meal on the beach, this is the place. I’ve talked about Cocoplum hotel before in the accommodation bit. Food here won’t be as expensive as you think and the view for sure pays it off. The service wasn’t the quickest, it’s not a huge meal, but it’s really tasty. We stayed here for more than two hours, drinking, eating and enjoying the view. If you decide to pay this place a visit, please do order a Pina Colada, I can’t even describe how great it was. Average price for a meal + beer is 50,000 COP

Hamburguesas El Corral

We came to this fast-food once, looking for something different than what we were eating for the last 4 days. They have huge burgers and nice salads, it’s right next to the Beer Station, so the location isn’t bad. Average price of a combo meal is 30,000 COP

Eat Alley

When we found this place, we were trying to down the price of our meals. It’s a mix of Italian and Colombian restaurant, not too far, but also not close to the beach. It’s hidden in between streets, you can eat outside and the pizza has a descent size. Pizza average price is 26,000 COP

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Lunch at Cocoplum hotel – San Andres Island, Colombia

Best things to do in San Andres

 
Now that you are all set for transportation, accommodation and food, it’s time to get some fun!

When searching about San Andres you will find a handful of amazing pictures with incredible beaches and turquoise water; and it is exactly like this! Have in mind you are in South America and infrastructure is still developing here, so you will find some disorganization on some tours. Every place has two sides, and if you not in any resort, you will see the poor side of the island as well.

These are the best things you can do when in San Andres!

Renting a golf cart

This was our favourite thing to do in San Andres, renting a golf cart and driving to the best spots in the island was priceless. We’ve seen amazing beaches and breath taking scenarios. Here are the few places we stopped when going around:

Rocky Cay beach

I’ve already told you, but why not tell you again: this is one of the best beaches in the island, a little bit less touristic than the city centre beach, nice for swimming with not too many waves.

San Luis beach

If you looking for the least crowded beach, this is the one. However the waves here were huge.

Hoyo Soplador

The Hoyo Soplador is a hole that depending on the size of the waves, sprouts water up. According to locals, if weather permits, you can also get inside the hole and slide to the sea. Pretty fun!

West View

A sort of water park, West View has some slides, a board to jump from and restaurants: it’s an open sea and it’s like a natural swimming pool, you can do some snorkeling here as well, they even give you some bread to attract the fishes. It’s 20,000 COP to get in and spend the day. We’ve been there for only an hour, but I’m sure you will enjoy much more if you go early morning and stay until lunch time. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to swim, for 5,000 COP you can get a life jacket.

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West view “swimming pool” – San Andres Island, Colombia

I love SAI sign (I love San Andres Island)

Right after you leave the West View, you will find the San Andres sign, nice view for a great picture!

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I love San Andres sign – San Andres Island, Colombia

Johnny Cay

20 minutes away from the main island, we have the beautiful Johnny Cay, a tiny islet. There’s no accommodation here, it’s a tourist attraction where you can see some wild life and some more turquoise water. The tours leave from the marinas in the city centre, you can find one that suits you the most. We’ve done it with Expedition tours and it was 50,000 COP for both of us, however we saw a cheaper one with the Cooperative. We didn’t feel particularly safe, but also didn’t have any problems. I’ve noticed that in all of the boats everyone is using a life jacket, that’s a plus right?! Over there they have some beach beds/chairs and kiosk selling food and drinks. We just had drinks and the price was similar to the one on the island. Not sure if there are days the sea is calm, but when we were there, the waves were strong. It’s a nice place to see, but it will be overcrowded!

Acuario

From the Rocky Cay beach you can see this other really tiny island called Acuario San Andres, over there you will have the opportunity to see tiny fishes or if you lucky like us, you can catch a manta ray swimming by. From the acuario, if the weather permits, you can walk to the neighbor island called Cordoba, really cool experience. San Andres acuario it’s another touristic spot, so as you can guess, really crowded as well! We’ve done it with expedition tour again and paid 20,000 COP per person.

There are many tours and water activities to do in the island, from jetski to kitesurfing, going around the island by boat, or simply going island to island in different days. You won’t get bored in San Andres. I’ve put together all the main activities and prices for things that a first time traveller should do when visiting San Andres.

If you need any specific tips that I haven’t mentioned in this guide, please do let me know by commenting on the post!

I hope you have enjoyed and have got enough information to prepare your trip!

One day in Cartagena

One of the oldest ports in the Caribbean sea, Cartagena De Indias is certainly worth a visit. Since we only had one day to explore the city, we opted for a free (tips expected!) walking tour and free food tour by Beyond Columbia, whose services we were familiar with, after tour in Bogota. If you do both tours in one day like us, you’ll have a break of 4 hours, from 12:00 to 16:00 and if you decide to have small lunch, we recommend Espirito Santo restaurant – tasty food with budget prices!

Historic part, which is arguably the only one of interest to tourists, can be easily explored in one day; however may not allow for detailed sightseeing, like San Felipe Fortress and certainly not excursions like to Praia Blanca! If you’d like to take full advantage of everything Cartagena has to offer, I recommend 3 days here.

FREE WALKING TOUR

Bolivar Plaza

Apparently every city in Colombia has a square, park or a plaza named after Simon Bolivar, so Cartagena couldn’t be different. It’s a plaesent place with street performers, handmade souvenirs and lemonade sellers and, of course statue of the man himself! Perhaps more interestingly, you’ll find pictures of every miss Colombia embedded into the sidewalk at Calle De la Inquisicion. As the name of the street suggests, “Palace of Inquisition” is on the same street – you’ll find out some horrific facts about, what took place behind its doors on Beyond Colombia walking tour.

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Plaza de Bolivar – Cartagena, Colombia

San Pedro Claver Plaza

At one corner a beautiful church of the man’s name, certainly deserving a photo and few minutes of your admiration. The story of San Pedro Claver and his work is even more admirable. His good deeds earned him the title of patron of slaves; he even became a Saint. His statue, museum of modern art and federal government office can also be found here; some pretty horrible things happen here, but I leave it to be revealed on your tour.

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Pedro Claver Church – Cartagena, Colombia

Peace Square

Monumental clock tower and the gate, make it feel like an official and only entrance into the old town – it may be official, but certainly not the only one. The place is a great photo opportunity, especially during Christmas period, when after dark, colourful lights make it even more picturesque.

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Plaza del Reloj – Cartagena, Colombia

“Camellon” of the Martyrs

Accros the street from modern, Cartagena convention centre, this is where you will meet your guide and group. Also, as the word martyrs indicates, nothing nice could have happened here in the past, but again, I’ll leave the details out not to spoil your future experience.

FREE FOOD TOUR

Ceviche Cartagenero

A sort of, well seasoned prawn cocktail from one of the oldest, street food vendors in Cartagena. It’s roof is decorated with a huge sombrero hat and it holds world Guinness record for Largest Seafood Ceviche. A minute’s walk from the old town, but it doesn’t look like many tourists get to eat here.

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El Sombreron Ostreria- Cartagena, Colombia

Exotic fruits

These were actually smoothies, with many fruits and mixes to choose from. You should definitely find something to satisfy you here!

Carimanolas

Deep fried savoury snacks with variety of sauces to choose from. Sara had a meaty one and I opted for cheese. They were delicious.

Plantain chips

Pretty common these days, even outside of South America; however they came with refreshing juice drink made of a kind of sour berry. Oh and by the way… you get to try the berry too.

That was our busy day in Cartagena. I hope you got some useful tips.