Monthly Archives: February 2012

Hola!

I apologize for my delay in posting anything. Wi-fi is REALLY difficult to find so I have been taking notes in a notebook and writing on my laptop. But hard to get the wi-fi to load the posts. And when I find wi-fi, I need to sort accommodation!

Also, I can’t post photos because I forgot to pack the cord that loads photos. So need to wait til A and C get to Chile and bring the cord to me (the boyfriend will mail it to A)….yes, I forgot some important things and have been unloading other things.

New posts to follow shortly documenting my trip thus far. Have been taking many notes and there are a lot of stories to tell. Currently in Mendoza, Argentina and will start from the beginning.

We’ll talk soon. Just know the blog will be three weeks to a month behind…

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Buying Travel Insurance

For something that caused me so much stress and had me doing so much research, actually clicking ‘purchase’ for travel insurance, was strangely simply.

So simple that I had to triple check that I wasn’t missing a step.

You could buy in increments of weeks or months. But the way they count the month, my return would count just over two months. Like just over, as in a day. I decided not to risk it and purchase enough to cover myself for the duration of my trip, even if it was to cover that extra day. It actually worked out cheaper to buy three months, than to buy two months and add a week.

For something so important, it’s really reasonable. Let’s just hope it’s a purchase I never ever have to use. Ever.


Setting up a second bank account

After reading this, I realized I would definitely need a second bank account.

My biggest concern was fees. I didn’t want to pay a fee from the US bank, a fee from the foreign bank and that dreaded foreign transaction fee.

My current US bank has agreed to waive their fees until April. I had to go up the food chain for that agreed waiver. But I will still have to pay the foreign bank fee.

What I find amazing is that my primary US bank partners with several foreign banks – but none in the countries I will be traveling. I was told if I find those banks in my travels, they cannot be sure the fee will be waived as the partnerships are identified on the website for those banks in specific countries. We shall see how that works out.

Needless to say I realized I wanted to have a bank that had actual branch locations in South America. I visited many, many banks to find the right one.

I had even received a suggestion to check out Bank of China. I did and they don’t link their accounts outside of the US.

I visited Capital One, and even though they have few fees, making them a key bank for international travelers, I had heard from several people, Katie included, that their customer service from outside the US is sub-par. And customer service is huge for me.

I eventually went with Citibank. They have locations in most of the places I am going and if I lose my card (please think good thoughts that I don’t) they can issue me one at the local branch, wherever in the world I may be. 

This is a huge plus as most banks will only send a new card to a US address, which would ultimately be problematic for me, since I wouldn’t be in the US.

And the guy who set my account up was super friendly, super helpful and most importantly, he answered all of my questions.

So, we’ll see. I’m hopeful.


Visiting the Consulates

Being based in NYC, I have access to various consulates. Unfortunately there are no tourist boards based in NYC for most of these countries, so I used the consulate as my tourist board. Some were more helpful than others.

To be fair, they offer services to their citizens and it’s not really their role to provide tourist services. I wanted them to talk about their favorite places. Only Ozzie from the Peru Consulate took the challenge 🙂

Uruguay Consulate: The woman I met recommended Colonia, Punta del Diablo and Cabo Polonio. She also recommended Tas’ de Viaje hostel in Punta del Esta because Aco and Juan, the owners, are her friends, and told me to tell them that she recommended me if I made it that way.

Address: 420 Madison Avenue 6th Floor

Bolivian Consulate: I learned that if I want to get my Bolivian visa in advance I will need to provide a police report from my local police station noting that I am an upstanding citizen. 
 
Address: 211 East 43rd Street Ste. 1004

Ecuador Consulate: The woman at the window seemed shocked that I wanted information and found me a bunch of worn-in brochures that looked like they were stuffed in a drawer for a few years. When I asked about her favorite places – she gave me the name of one beach.

To be fair, the Ecuador Consulate was the most crowded. I had to take a number and wait to be called. In the meantime I chatted up the security guy to see if I could get additional information. I wanted to find out what he loved best about his country (thinking he was from Ecuador), and he told me that he was from Nicaragua. So our conversation went something like this.

Me: It’s supposed to be a beautiful country. Do you know much about Ecuador?

His reply: No.

And then my number was called.

Address: 800 2nd Avenue (at 42nd Street)

Chilean Consulate: She told me that the wine region is great (duh) and in South Chile there’s a town called Chiloe that’s worth visiting. It’s pretty far south and I won’t be heading back that way during this trip.

She did send me away with some brochures.

Address: 866 UN Plaza #601 (48th Street and 1st Avenue)

Argentina consulate:

I had gone to the Argentine consulate before our trip last year and also not very helpful. Just brochures.

Address: 12 West 56th Street

 

Peru Consulate:

Ozzie, my new best friend, gave me his thoughts based on when his friends go for normal US vacation – so take the days in mind when you know you will be there longer.

Address: 241 East 49th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Avenues)

 I received tons of info. We talked for nearly twenty minutes. He told me:

  • LAN is best airline within Peru
  • Lima – 2 days is plenty
  • Arequipa – canoeing and chocolate and v good food – spend three days here
  • Mancora – beaches, there is an airport and you can get a bus to Ecuador from here
  • Piura – I don’t remember what he said but it’s next to Mancora in my notes and I have a big star and a box around the name – so clearly was good recommendation.
  • You can get from Tacna to Cusco from Atacama or from Calama (Chile) to Arequipa by air
  • Cusco – 5 days. You need one day to adjust to the altitude. Go shopping but take it easy.
  • Drink coca tea and don’t plan any tours that first day.
  • On the third day in Cusco plan to go to Machu Picchu – if you are not hiking you will take a bus, a train and a van at various intervals of the journey
  • Avoid Puno and Lake Titicaca – big protests happening.

But I say keep an eye out on the political situation because those floating islands look amazing. And where would they even protest here?