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FLYING IN SOUTH AMERICA ON THE CHEAP

Cartagena, Colombia

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Oh. South America is massive. And inter-travel between the countries is still mostly on the back burner with the exception of buses. I flew throughout South America since traveling by bus usually takes entire DAYS not just hours. (My friend took a bus for 72 hours from Buenos Aires to Lima) I happened to be on a tight timeframe, but if you aren't - the buses are actually super badass, clean and safe. They're like VIP, first class plane seats on the bus. 

Anyway - you can imagine my surprise when I learned HOW EXPENSIVE flying is in South America, especially when you are traveling from country to country. (Intraflying tends to be a little cheaper) It doesn't matter how many sites you use - Orbitz, Skyscanner, Momoondo etc.. plane tickets are worth your soul down there. What you can do..and this is a bit of a specific hack - is to use Colombia's version of Ryanair... VIVA COLOMBIA! Their flights are super cheap. A $600USD flight from Lima - Buenos Aires on TAM would be $176USD on VIVA COLOMBIA. The only catch is that you must purchase the flights in Colombia. Or have someone purchase it for you from there, be aware that they charge you up the ass for everything. Including baggage, ticket print outs.. 

KEEP IN MIND: Most South American countries require proof of exit/ return when you enter a country. Before you get on a flight for Colombia, for example, you MUST show some sort of proof to the staff that you have some sort of transportation/itinerary that you will leave Colombia as well. 

So for you one way ticketers like myself..listen up. If you don't have any proof - they will make you BUY A TICKET AT THE AIRPORT. This tends to be very expensive. On a particular hairy situation, with 20 mins left before my flight, the staff REFUSED to let me check in without an exit ticket. Even if you check in online, they will still need to see your passport and ticket. Instead of paying for a $500 flight to some random city at the airport, I bought a ticket with my credit card on Orbitz.com with my phone. They have a free 24 hour cancellation period, and I never got charged. I showed the itinerary to the lady at the gate and she let me through. 

Win. Win. Situation.  

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HIKING TO MACCHU PICCHU ON A BUDGET

THE ONLY TIME SHOWING UP UN-ANNOUNCED IS A GOOD THING

Cuzco, Peru

One of the more spontaneous things I've done in the spectrum of my whole trip was not planning out my hike to Macchu Picchu, considering the fact that my entire trip stemmed from wanting to hike to Macchu Picchu.

What I had read and heard from many travelers was to buy your hike in Cuzco. If you've got a little room to breathe time wise, I highly recommend booking in person with an agency, UNLESS you are going during peak season (July/August). Nothing wrong with online, but you can get much, much cheaper prices in person. I did the 5 Day / 4 Night Salkantay Hike (including meals, porters, guide, train ticket) and when I looked online, the cheapest I could find was $400. Prices ranged anywhere from $6-800 otherwise. When I arrived in Cuzco, and started walking around the different agencies...I saw prices starting at $230. Ya dig? And here's the clinger... everything is almost exactly the same! All the different agencies use more or less the same Trekking company. The trekking company in turn combines all the people from the different agencies into the same group. (Tour guides are freelance w/ KB Treks) You're on the same route. I ran into friends I met who paid more, on the exact same route, having the exact same food, doing mostly the exact same things! (FOOD is amazing by the way). The only difference is you pay for a smaller group, maybe a better sleeping bag and you have a porter for the very last day as well as opposed to carrying your own things the last day. (Not difficult) I was in a group of 10, and it was SO much fun getting to be with that variety of people.

I paid $300 for everything including walking sticks, sleeping bag rental + zip lining and a better train ticket and I had an amazing time. Sometimes there are a few differences, but nothing too significant that I think justifies paying $2-300 more. Click here to read more about my experience! 

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DOUBLE WHAMMY! CUTTING THE LINE AT THE VATICAN + THE COLOSSEUM

THE INTERNET IS YOUR BEST FRIEND

Rome, Italy

Ok, so sometimes a travel hack involves just doing a little research. Why people don't do more research, I don't understand. When you walk by all those terrible, minging faces standing in line as you strut by gloating, you can't help but think to yourself..."why the hell didn't you use google?"

Or if in the very least you don't like to use Google, ask a local! Or someone at your hostel, hotel or airbnb. I stayed with a friend's mom's B&B in Rome, and Adele was an incredible host. I told her where I wanted to visit and she told me all the hacks. ORDER ONLINE AHEAD OF TIME. You can do this up to 60 days in advance. Yes, you do have to pay a few euros more (4) - but in the end it's worth it entirely! I walked by the equivalent of a block long line to cut to the front for my 1pm slot time and walked right into the Vatican Museum. I went during "off season" in Rome, so I was able to order the tickets about an hour and a half before. You can use visit the site by clicking here. Make sure you have to print the voucher out ahead of time. 

After checking out the Vatican, you can just take a 5 minute walk over to the Basilica. The only line longer than Chipotle on a weekday lunch hour - but it moves fast. It didn't move fast enough for me though, so I just walked up confidently to about 1/3 of the way pretending like I was walking through the line, and then just stood there. This worked for me cause I was solo, but it might not work for a larger group. Try blending in with people that look like you. I do it all the time with Asians. "Hey, Can I backskip you?"

SIDE NOTE: If you forgot to buy your ticket online first, you can always wait on the shorter/ faster line for the Basilica. When you leave, there should be a little booth selling tickets to skip the line to the vatican. I'm not too sure about details - so check it out yourself. 


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GETTING INTO THE LOUVRE IN 5 MINUTES

Paris, France

MY MOM always tells me I'm special, but by no means does this mean that I can skip 2,000 sweating tourists without having some sort of backlash or revolt. (Hold down the serfs) So, as you've probably heard - getting into the Louvre is a big ordeal. It's a whole day thing. The line to get tickets is super long and takes somewhere between 2-3 hours and is a shit show. BUT what most people don't know is that there is actually an alternate place to buy tickets that never has a line..

As you are walking towards the Louvre, there are two large statues. They flank the walkway on both the left and right sides. Behind them, you will find two staircases. These staircases lead you to the downstairs "shopping area" of the Louvre. There's McDonald's, some random stores, a macaroon stand (highly recommend these by the way, much shorter line than the one at Champs D'ylesse) and the Museum Gift Store. It is located on the second floor next to the Hertz car rental store. (If you can't find it, just ask for Hertz). There is a sign that says- "Louvre Tickets". When I went, there was one other guy on line. I bought our tickets (12 Euros/ SAME PRICE) and we got "Priority Access". This means that not only do we get to skip the entire line outside to buy tickets, but we also get to skip the shorter "pickup line" outside of the pyramid. We literally walked by EVERYONE. It took less than 5 minutes. I assume this is how Beyonce feels like every time she wakes up in the morning.

So there you have it. 5 minutes to get in. But beware - it's CRAZY CROWDED. 

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