Sunday, January 8, 2012

Travel Lessons Learned #1

We've only been on the road since 12/29 or 10 days, but there are already plenty of lessons I'm happy we've learned early on. I thought I'd share with you:

  • Get into a city during the daylight hours - We got into Panama at night, and our first impression was "what is this scary place?". However, the next morning the city looked quite welcoming. It also made finding a place to stay when our hostel had given away our room very challenging.
  • A hostel is only as good as it's location - Our hostel in Panama city was safe and mostly clean, it even had a hammock and a kitchen. However, it was in the middle of nowhere, so we had to travel any time we wanted to see anywhere. Next time I'm looking at the sights/activities as much as the hostel's reviews.
  • Have a map - We have a travel guide on our Nook, but nothing beats the paper map I got for free in Sucre. I've pulled it out constantly to get oriented, find activities, etc. We didn't have one in Panama, and that made getting around tricky.
    • Get an e-reader - I'm super happy with our Nook, it saves a ton of weight of carrying books - which I expected. But what I hadn't thought of was how useful the search feature was going to be in a city guide. No more wondering where I saw that info about that restaurant.
  • Ask the locals - After we got ripped off by a taxi, we talked to locals to get ideas of how much things should cost. From then on we felt more empowered to push back on the taxi driver because we knew the real price. With that said, there's also going to be the gringo tax, but I expect it to be 10-20% (ex. paying $6 instead of $5, not $15 instead of $2.50). 

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