4 feet 2 mouths

walking and eating our way around the world

Search Results for: “Pierinos

Costs of Travel #1 – Blowing Up a Budget in South America (by Nathan)

4feet2mouths Costs of Travel Bar Chart – Country Comparison

Travel is expensive! Yes, but it does not have to be.  Exploring the world is a dream that many of us have, but in Carmen and my case we went after it.  There are just too many beautiful places to see and too much awesome street food to eat.  There was a clear point in our lives where travel had to happen, no matter what the cost.  That intense excitement led to a thrilling exploration of South America and eventually the world.  Through trial and error we did learn how to travel cheaply. In our explanation of how to finance a trip around the world we must first discuss our failed budget when we went to South America. I’ll detail some of our mistakes and hopefully we all can become better travelers from it.

We set our original goals at $10,000USD for 3-1/2 months in South America.  We had some experience traveling in Asia and Europe; we reviewed some guidebooks checked out some prices and $50 per person per day seemed like a plausible goal.   We had an excellent trip to Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia and Peru and we saw some fabulous things.  We kept track of our finances, we had thought (cough) we were on track, but when we returned home that summer we found that we had spent twice what we had planned. Ouch! And our end expense exceeded $98 per person per day.

4feet2mouths Costs of Travel Pie Chart – Category Comparison

We mapped out all of our costs to shine clarity on the culprit of this over expenditure.  We divided costs into 10 categories. Eating, sleeping, shopping and flights are obvious ones.  “Transit” describes buses and taxis within a city while “Get In” refers to the regional transportation costs of traveling between cities by long-distance bus.  A night at a club, entrance to a museum or winery, or drinks at a bar are part of our “Fun” category, but multi-night treks would be considered a “Tour.”  The category of “Visas/Ins/Fees” refers to the inescapable costs of travel- entry visas, travel insurance and the bank fees are impossible to avoid in the midst of a 4 month trip across South America.  Miscellaneous costs include toiletries, internet cafes, travel memberships or batteries.  What stood out as the burden to our budget?  All of it!  South America is expensive and to make it cheaper we would have to change our whole travel style.  Our budget goal would have been impossible provided all the fun that we had and the speed and diversity of our travel.  But we still took away some key lessons that we worked into our later travels.

One example: entry visas.  In South America we spent over $1,100 just to enter into these countries. That is over $5 per person per day.  In many ways these are unavoidable, but we learned the valuable lesson that next time we will make the visas worth it by spending more time in the countries.  When you are trying to determine how many days to travel in a country a good goal is for a visa cost to be in the range of $2 per day. The visa for Bolivia was a pain in the ass, but we got through it, Brazil was paid for ahead of time, but two countries could have been avoided entirely with the proper planning.  Here’s how: the Buenos Aires and Santiago airports charge a reciprocity fee of $140 per person.  They can be avoided by arriving by land or boat.  In hindsight we would have bused to Santiago from Mendoza and boated from Uruguay to Buenos Aires and we could have saved $560.
4feet2mouths Costs of Travel Pie Chart – Argentina

The food was not all bad in Argentina: Pierinos was some of the best grub we had!

The food was not all bad in Argentina: Pierinos was some of the best grub we had!

Argentina was where we thought we would save, but it turned out to be much more expensive than we thought.  We lived in Buenos Aires for three weeks.  We took Spanish classes, explored the city’s best restaurants and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves in that wonderful city.  Later in our trip, we explored central and northern Argentina in depth with wine tastings, canyon tours and days at the spa.  Looking back on it, we were not traveling with a budget in mind.  We were using a guidebook that was three years old and already the prices of everything had doubled thanks the country’s infamous economy.  The challenge with Argentina is that the food really is not that good.  We were spending European prices for ok steak and crappy salads.  We had a handful of excellent meals, but after six weeks of traveling in Argentina, we should have learned our lesson: cook more when food is expensive.

Costs that we thought were unavoidable were bank fees.  Argentina is the worst because the max withdrawal limit is $200, then there is a fee by MasterCard, the local ATM fee and my bank’s fee.  That’s $12 for every $200, ouch again!  Four months in South America seems even more expensive when $300 is lost in ATM transactions.  Here is the solution: get an internet bank account to significantly lower fees.  We use Scottrade, and they cover the local ATM fee of any ATM anywhere.  We only pay the 1% fee to MasterCard. That means on our next 7 month trip we spent $75 in fees, twice the trip and a quarter the cost.

4feet2mouths Costs of Travel Pie Chart – Chile

4feet2mouths Costs of Travel Pie Chart – Uruguay

Similar to Argentina, Chile and Uruguay are not cheap destinations for travel.  The countries are very progressive, modern and exciting to visit; the food, lodging and entertainment are all similarly priced to what we pay for things in San Francisco. Don’t expect any deals. (Note: Uruguay sleeping costs were covered by Carmen’s parents, whom we were traveling with at the time.)

4feet2mouths Costs of Travel Pie Chart – Brazil

Brazil stands out as one of the most expensive countries we have visited in all our travels this past year.  Yet the country is beautiful and worth every penny!  From Iguaçu, to beaches, to samba and tropical fruit, Brazil is exotically wonderful.  It is a challenge to get affordable housing, hence the favelas; food is similarly priced to the US, and regional transit between cities is quite expensive.  My next visit to Brazil will include more economic adventures, like chilling on the beach.

4feet2mouths Costs of Travel Pie Chart – Bolivia

Bolivia is the most poor (affordable) and underdeveloped (adventurous) country in South America.  We can say it a million times, but Bolivia is the one place everyone should go and see.  The scenery is majestic – abnormal even – the people nice and the Spanish easy to understand.  Our most expensive activity was a four day jeep trek across mountains and canyons to the Salar de Uyuni.  It cost a whole $220 per person for food, lodging and the tour.  If you fly into La Paz, you can avoid all the challenges of a land crossing along the border.

Trekking with friends below Salkantay

Trekking with friends below Salkantay

4feet2mouths Costs of Travel Pie Chart – Peru

Everyone that goes to Peru is going to see Machu Picchu.  The tickets are expensive and the permits to walk the Inca Trail come with the price of a tour group.  We took an organized trek for six days with our friends.  It was well worth the cost of $800 per person and we saw the rustic mountainous ravines of Peru alongside the expected hordes of tourists.  Peru does not have a visa cost, so I encourage travelers to see more of the country to lower your overall travel expenses in South America: we particularly enjoyed Arequipa and Colca Canyon.

Flights are a huge cost to any trip.  Our flights alone to South America break down to about $12 per person per day which in retrospect was a lot. We believe that getting that cost under $10/day is a better goal for travelers on a budget.

Splurge day at a thermal spa, well worth it at the time.

Splurge day at a thermal spa, well worth it at the time.

Splurge hotel overlooking Lake Titicaca - so worth it!

Splurge hotel overlooking Lake Titicaca – so worth it!

There is a difference between vacation and long-term travel. Without a job and only a savings account a budget must always be considered.  This took months for us to adjust and during our time in South America we leaned more towards the vacation end of things.  I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed our spa day, shopping splurges, high-end dining experiences, bottles of wine and private hostel rooms instead of dorms but we realized that in South America we needed to moderate it more.  In many ways, South America was as expensive as Europe! But because we had a preconceived notion that it wasn’t we didn’t try as hard to save.

Even with the outlined changes, we would not have achieved our original budget. But we could have made it hurt a little less:

  1. $560 saved by rearranging our entrances into Chile and Argentina
  2. $260 saved by having a better bank account for traveling
  3. $580 saved by cooking just three more meals per week in Argentina & Brazil
  4. $800 saved with moderation of “splurge” purchases, dining and lodging.
  5. $300 saved by Couchsurfing in cities where hostels were expensive

All that cutting and what does it save?  A whopping $11.5 per person per day.    Not a whole lot, but it is a start.  Even at our best South America would still cost $86 per person per day. And $2,500 goes a long way when traveling.  The lessons are valuable: travel slower- enjoy the places, eat the food (cook from markets) and take the time to meet the people (Couchsurf).  Banking and entry visas require advanced planning, but it is an easy way to save money. And the biggest lesson: moderate the time in the expensive countries with the ones that are cheap.  Traveling for $50 per day cannot be done in South America alone, but mix in a little South-East Asia or Central America and your trip may be a budget success!

My South America Favorites + Returning “Home” (by Carmen)

17th century map of South America

Our South America trip was better than I could have ever expected.  I loved practicing my Spanish, scouting out local cuisine, imbibing lots of caipirinhas and red wine, and observing the mix of old world and new world traditions.  One thing I hadn’t quite expected was the jaw dropping natural beauty, from jungles and beaches to arid, bushy plains; from huge cacti growing out of red rocks to stark Andean mountainscapes.  It was a collection of unforgettable experiences.

With that in mind, I thought I would get through some FAQs.  These generally begin with “what was your favorite…”.  So here are a selection of my favorites from my fifteen weeks down south.

Cafe Tortoni in Buenos Aires

Nathan grilling up some lomito

Sifones used to store soda water

Fútbol fanáticos

Favorite City: Buenos Aires.  The city has a special lived in elegance to it.  I enjoyed the cafe culture, the pretty parks, and the slightly rough around the edges feel to it.  And the Argentinian accent, which uses a lot of soft “j” sounds, was incredibly endearing.

Cafayate View

Last rays of sun in the Cafayate canyons

Favorite Town: Cafayate. Good wine, yummy empanadas, an alfajores factory, a spacious main plaza, beautiful scenery and wine flavored ice cream…Cafayate instantly welcomed us.

Pasta, wine, yum…at Pierinos

Quinoa salad at Market in Rio de Janeiro

Artemisia in Buenos Aires

Favorite Restaurant: Pierinos.  I love pasta.  This is the third time I’ve mentioned it in this blog but the slow cooked sauces Pierinos slathers on its homemade pasta steal my heart.  Other favorite eats include Artemesia‘s mostly vegetarian fare, the fresh salads and smoothies at Market, any buffet in Brazil, and fresh ceviche in Peru.

Delicious fried trucha

Chicharron sandwich stand in Arequipa

Favorite Hole in the Wall: Trucha stands on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. So simple but so good with the fresh caught trout fried to perfection in garlic and oil. El Cuartito served my favorite pizza in Buenos Aires.  The lomito sandwich in cordoba wasn’t much to look at but was delicious and big enough for the both of us.  And then there was the chicharron sandwich Arequipa. Fried pork with spicy coleslaw is always a winner.

The spectacular Salar de Uyuni trip

Nathan and me enjoying Bolivian scenery

Nathan the mountaineer on Salkantay

Favorite Sight Salar de Uyuni and Salkantay Mountain. We saw so many beautiful sights but it is the people you share it with that make it even better.  Therefore it’s a tie between the non-stop excitement of the salar de uyuni trip and the first view of Salkantay with old friends from San Francisco. Oh and Iguazu Falls too!

Wine and Cheese in Tafí del Valle

Schwarzwald beer hall in Curitiba, Brazil – I loved the mini stein in the big stein!

Favorite Drinking Experience: Wine and cheese in Tafí del Valle.  We brought a wonderful Malbec from Mendoza, sliced up some local cheese and sat on the porch of the historic villa we stayed at. Heaven.  I also loved collecting mini beer steins at the convivial German beer hall Schwarzwald.  And the most delicious caipirinhas I tasted were made by a Peruvian at Pepe’s Bar in Foz de Iguazu.

Bossa Nova in Rio de Janeiro

Marching band in Copacabana

Favorite Live Music: Los Tabaleros performing at the hidden restaurant. The chef and his friends played the show at the secret restaurant my classmate’s roommates hosted.  I’m still happy I won the cd! Also enjoyed the classic bossa nova in Ipanema and the parade music at Copacabana’s festival.

Church roof in Potosí

Potato peddlers in Sucre

Best Place to Go If You’ve Only Got a Couple Weeks: Bolivia.  The variety of the sights here is incredible!  You can enjoy lush jungles or cold windy mountains.  The people are friendly and helpful.  They keep the traditional culture alive and well.  And, importanly, it’s inexpensive to get around.

Chandelier in Argentina’s congress building

All the places we went and sights we saw, and there is still more to see.  I was sad to leave South America when there is so much more to explore. On the other hand, adventures in other parts of the world beckoned.

Dewy rose in Tafí del Valle

From Peru we returned “home” to California but that’s a tricky word for me.  If home is where the heart is, mine is rather split up. Immediate family in Southern California, close friends in San Francisco, extended family in Chicago.  And then there’s the part of my heart passionate about travel, which creates an itch to make a home in new places.

So the final and most popular FAQ, “What’s next?” Should we travel for the entire year? You’ll have to read the next post to find out.

Where oh where will we go from here?

Moving to Buenos Aires? (By Carmen)

4 feet 5 forks - we found these embedded in the sidewalk. Seemed appropriate :)

The question Nathan and I ask ourselves about every city is, “Could we live here?” BsAs has its pros and cons.  We´ve written about the highlights such as great markets, fanatic fútbol culture, tango, inexpensive transit and good food and wine (particularly pizza).  There are a couple other items we didn´t have time to cover:

Nightlife – A good night out isn´t hard to find in BsAs.  That is, as long as you can stay up late enough.  Things don´t really get started until 2am or so.

Antares Bar on a Friday night

One of our first outings was at Antares, a local microbrewery.  Because we were still jet lagged, the late night was easy! It wasn´t the best beer we´d ever had but the bar was hopping  and had a great atmosphere.

The marble bar at Million

Another night we went to Millon, an upscale bar in a beautiful setting and prices to match the name.  Friendly bar tenders, good cocktails, 2 for 1 happy hour.

La Bomba de Tiempo at the Konex Center

Every Monday there is an awesome drum show called La Bomba de Tiempo at the Konex Center.  This is one of the rare early nights in BsAs since the show is from 8-10pm.  It attracts a young crowd that jumps in rhythm to the 12 or so drums on stage.  You can´t help but want to dance.

La Peña de Colorado

On our final night we checked out the Peña de Colorado.  There we heard more traditional music with guitars, harmoicas and vocals.

Menu from the closed door restaurant

Blurry picture of me on the stage with my raffle winnings

Closed Door Restaurants – One of our favorite nights was at a closed door restaurant in the Almagro neighborhood. A classmate from the spanish school invited us to join in.  She actually lived in the house where the restaurant took place every Friday.  Her roomates were the chefs and the entertainment since their band also performed.  The food was great, the crowd was lively, the tunes were awesome.  I won the raffle too so I got a CD of their music!  After this night, I really started to feel comfortable in BsAs.

View of Plaza Congreso in Buenos Aires

Calle Florida

Architecture – Another great characteristic of BsAs is its elegant architecture.  This is probably what makes it feel most like Paris, the city it’s always compared to.  Beautiful buildings can be found on almost any street.

El Congreso

One of the landmark ones is the Congreso, where their national government meetings are held.  I highly recommend the tour of the inside.

Palacio de Aguas Corrientes

Another beauty was the Palacio de Aguas Corrientes (Palace of Running Water).  It was constructed to hold the city´s first water pumps.  Today it still has the pumps as well as a museum about plumbing.  Complete with old toilets.  Awesome.

So the question is, could we live here?  For me the answer is yes.  The city has totally charmed me.  There are definitely drawbacks.  For example, you can´t hurry an Argentinian.  You sit at restaurants for 20 minutes waiting for the bill you already asked for.  But at the same time, this pace of life forces you to relax.  And looking out the window of a cozy cafe in BsAs is a pretty great place to relax.  I’ll miss you BsAs!

Finally, just for the fun of it, here are a few more pics we couldn’t fit in elsewhere:

View from the river in Tigre, a cute town on the edge of BsAs

The Recoleta Cemetary was one of our favorite sights in the city and has one of the best weekend markets outside its gate

The seal of Argentina can be found everywhere

Pierinos again! Delicious ravioli

Eatin’ It Up In Buenos Aires (by Nathan)

Bife de chorizo from El Desnivel

Traditional food in Buenos Aires revolves around meat.  Steaks are all that the guidebooks talk about with mouth-watering descriptions that insist that there is some magic to the Argentinean BBQ found nowhere else in the world.  We tried all sorts of steaks- at nice restaurants, corner shops and street food and I assure you that you have had better steak.  As Carmen mentioned, salt is often the only seasoning used in Buenos Aires.  It is ironic that the entire continent of South America was colonized in the search of pepper, yet pepper is not even used when grilling meat.

Parilla Mista

Parilla Mista

However, the variety of cuts available is great.  The most common is the bife de chorizo which is a sirloin steak.  One way to try several types is to order the parilla mista that includes sausages, short ribs, flank steak, maybe some kidneys and some chicken.  They usually say they serve 2 people, but expect it to serve at least 4.

Sandwich Milanesa

Sandwich Milanesa

A more balanced meal comes in the form of the sandwich milanesa.  We picked this one up at La Española in the Congresso neighborhood.  The easiest way to describe it is a beef schnitzel sandwich stacked full of veggies, cheese and flattened, breaded steak.

Assorted Empanadas

Assorted Empanadas

The empanadas have been a go to lunch food for Carmen and me.  Empanadas are found all around the city.  They are sold in tiny little standing-only shops and also sold from baskets on the street corner.  Every restaurant has empanadas and everywhere there are variations on the same regional specialties.  We preferred the empanada de salteña filled with ground beef, olives, hard-boiled egg and roasted peppers.  There were all sorts of variations that included cheese, chicken, spinach, tuna, sardines and corn.

Candied Apple with Popcorn

Candied apple with popcorn

We already discussed some of our favorite desserts – the dulce de leche ice cream and the alfajores are very good throughout the city.  At street fairs they offer candied apples coated in popped corn.  This gave it fun texture but is a bit challenging to eat.

Artemesia #1 - Veggie Platter

Artemesia #1 - Veggie Platter

Artemesia #2 - Quinoa Fritters

Artemesia #2 - Quinoa Fritters

Sometimes the meat heavy meals become too much for us and we need to eat something that digests easily and quickly and of course is stacked high with veggies.  It was so easy to go meatless in San Francisco and finding amazing vegetables here in Buenos Aires has been a real challenge.  A restaurant named Artemesia has been a stand-out as one of the best meals in Buenos Aires.  We ordered some delicious salads, veggie platters and even some quinoa fritters.

Bi Bim Bom from Bi Won

Bi Bim Bom from Bi Won

Traveling to metropolitan cities has its benefits in that food from around the world is available from the many immigrants.  Carmen and I could not pass up on this Korean restaurant named Bi Won.  We ordered Bi Bim Bop and Beef Bulgogi and it came with 30 or so small plates of different picked veggies and kimchi.  I was craving spicy food and finally I found it here.

Pierino #1

Pierino Entrance

Pierino #2

Roasted eggplants in tomato sauce

And the best restaurant of Buenos Aires…Pierinos.  Just as Italian immigrants found their way to New York, many also settled in Argentina.  Therefore, the amount and quality of Italian food available in the BsAs is really impressive.  It is easy to find Italian dishes on almost every menu and most neighborhoods have these amazing fresh pasta shops where you can buy your homemade pasta and sauce and bring it home to cook.  Pierinos served hand-made pasta and which you top with your choice of a dozen different sauces that were out of this world.  We mostly stuck to the slow-cooked tomato sauces although the carbonara was yummy too.  It tasted like pure comfort food.

Pierino #3

Fusilli in carbonara sauce

Pierino #4

Raviolis in pomodoro sauce

Overall the food scene in Buenos Aires is good.  There are tons of great restaurants.  But there are also a ton of restaurants serving up dish after dish of bland meals.  Carmen and I definitely found some misses, but it was worth it to find the winners.

Post Navigation