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Everyone scams tourists. It's one of the rules of nature; if you are a tourist you WILL GET SCAMMED. As a native New Yorker, I find waiting in queues be especially ass throbbing in Europe on a hot day, especially while you're getting prodded by 30 other tourists taking their millionth picture on a selfie stick. So how, may I ask you fine ladies and gents - just how did I (and you can too) manage to walk by entire lines of mere mortals? See below for some of the places I managed to get ahead with.
GETTING INTO THE LOUVRE IN LESS THAN 5 MINUTES
5 MINUTE WAIT FOR ME / 3 HOUR WAIT FOR EVERYONE ELSE
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.
DOUBLE WHAMMY! CUTTING THE LINE AT THE VATICAN + THE COLOSSEUM
THE INTERNET IS YOUR BEST FRIEND
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.
HIKING TO MACCHU PICCHU ON A BUDGET
THE ONLY TIME SHOWING UP UN-ANNOUNCED IS A GOOD THING
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!
FLYING IN SOUTH AMERICA ON THE CHEAP
It's very 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.
NEW YORK CITY
CUTTING THE LINE AT THE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
The Museum of Natural History is probably one of my favorite places in NYC. I remember coming to class trips here in second grade, holding hands with my partner and looking up in awe at the mystical, massive Blue Whale lunging down at me from the ceiling. Seeing the free frame animals in their natural looking habitats from Africa to North America kept me hypnotized and imagining that I was a fly on the wall, seeing for a split second what the "Real World" really was like. For those of you who aren't New Yorkers, you may be turned off by a few things. A. Cost, the tickets are a $22 suggested price. B, Crowds. There are a ton of slow moving school children here. C. Distance. It is so far uptown, on 86th street. D. The lines are so fucking long.
It's come to my attention, that for every museum with a maze like line, there is always an alternate and shorter route that most people don't know about. It just takes a little bit of research to find out.
For the Museum of Natural History - Instead of entering through the subway entrance, or the main entrance - take a quick walk to 79th Street and Amsterdam. There is an alternate entrance that is mainly for the Planeterium, but go through and you'll find a near empty ticket line waiting for you to just skip the line. Now how about the prices? You should know that for almost every museum in NYC, The Cloisters, The Museum of Natural History - the prices listed are only SUGGESTED. This means that you can pay whatever amount you have. In JHS, I once paid $1 in quarters. You can let the tourists pay the full price, but I am always looking for a deal.
The best time to come? Definitely NOT the summer. Try a Sunday or weekday if you can get off work during the fall. A rainy day is a perfect day for the museum, but with a brisk fall day you can go for a walk afterwards and head over to Jacob's Pickle for a bite to eat. My favorite is their Chicken and Pancakes with a Bloody Mary BLT that comes with a slab of Bacon, hard boiled egg and a sliver of lettuce in your drink. To Die For.