From Latin America

How To Haggle Like A Pro In Any Latin American Market

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on December 19, 2010

Roll your sleeves up, it’s time to make some purchases on your Latin American vacation! It could be a market stall, back-street shop or wandering vendor. Whatever the custom in your country, you are practically expected to haggle for prices or pay much more than you should. Here are some tips to help you have fun and get a good price.

Getting your haggling head on

First of all, expect prices to be flexible and don’t feel worried about asking for a discount.

• Vendors will try their luck and ask for a much higher price than normal, so you should try your luck and ask for a much lower one!
• Remember that negotiating is not arguing; you’re not aiming to get into a screaming match, but trying to find a fair price for the item that is acceptable to both parties.
• Don't be embarrassed about asking for money off! Being price savvy is not being cheap.

Preparation

As with any good negotiation, you shouldn’t walk into things cold.

• Work out how much you want to spend; haggling is the process of getting the best possible value for that amount of money.
• Research the product you want to buy – typically Latin America markets and shops are full of the same items, so you can do a price survey in a couple of other locations.
• If you can, bring someone with you who speaks the language.
• If not, bring a calculator to show numbers (the universal language) and do conversions if you are not totally familiar with the local currency
• Dress down and don’t give the impression of someone with a lot of money to spend.

Beginning the negotiation

A much as you may want to discuss price, never jump straight into it…

• Build rapport with vendor, and show an interest in their business, life and country whilst remaining polite and positive.
• If you notice something you like, never show interest. During the haggling process never appear needy and be prepared to walk away empty handed (sometimes this even helps as part of the negotiation).
• Price-wise, what is good for one is good for all – out of respect for the vendor negotiate quietly so no-one else can hear and don’t shoot off at the mouth about the deal that you just got.
• Allow the vendor to sell their product – this will relax them.
• Make sure the vendor makes the first offer, no matter how much they ask you for the opening price!

Getting down to business

OK, the first move has been made. Now comes the fun part!

• Establish their baseline price – go as low as possible in your counter-offer! Expect a dramatic response, as it’s all part of the haggling game…
• At no point in the negotiation should you mention your budget!
• Have an excuse to walk away if the haggling gets too intense – maybe you’ve got to meet friends or your tour group is waiting.
• Don’t say anything after your counter-offer until the vendor replies – silence is awkward, but golden.
• Check the quality of the product – if you can see any flaws, angle for an extra discount!

Closing the deal

It’s all agreed – counter-offers have gone back and forth and you’re both finally set

• At this point you should really commit to purchasing to honor your verbal contract. Many Latin America vendors are poor and it is unfair to commit to a price without purchasing.
• However, when the final price is fixed, there’s no reason not to try and go for low-value extras or accessories to throw in with your purchase. You should try to do some research into these before you begin your negotiation as well.

Do you have any other tips for haggling in Latin America? What are some of your haggling experiences?

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America


 

10 Reasons You Need A Latin American Vacation Right Now

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on December 19, 2010

If you’re reading this, you are struggling with a decision. You want a vacation, probably to Latin America, but there seem to be a hundred reasons not to go. Maybe you are worried that there’s not enough money in the bank, or you are concerned about losing your job in the current economic climate if you “slack off”.

At a time like this, you need a motivator! Instead of focusing on reasons not to travel, turn things on their head. Lets look at ten great reasons to book your Latin American vacation and start getting excited!

1) For starters…having something to look forward to
It’s good to be excited in anticipation of something. Preparations, speculating what will happen, the impending freedom and escape…it will make the last couple of weeks as work so much easier!

2) Be able to step back and look at the bigger picture
A vacation is a break – a pause from routine, a chance to get away from regular life. If you leave on vacation with a problem or decision that has been bothering you for ages, you won’t have the distractions that normally prevent you from getting some head-space. With time for yourself, the decision or solution to your problem will come much easier.

3) Get the health benefits
Countless studies have proved that people who use their vacation time enjoy the benefits; reduced chances of heart attack, depression, mental fatigue…the list goes on. Think of it as a more pleasant alternative to a grinding gym routine or chewing salad for the rest of your life.

4) Come back from your vacation a different person
On vacation you’ll be exposed to countless new experiences, places and people. If you open yourself up to Latin America, it has the potential to change your world perspective. From spiritual retreats in the Sacred Valley of Peru to fireside discussions with indigenous Guatemalans, you’ll see a side of life you’d never get close to in an office cubicle.

5) Challenge yourself and become tougher for it
Travel is hard. Well, as hard as you want it to be. Everyone has their own comfort level, and travel helps you push that – maybe you never knew you could dance the tango, or could do a four day trek. You’ll come back from vacation a stronger person for the challenges that you’ve faced.

6) Put your Spanish lessons to good use
Been struggling with Spanish for a while? There’s no better motivation to practice than using your language skills in a conversation with someone who doesn’t speak English…

7) Be the envy of your friends
Don’t deny it; there’s always a kick of satisfaction when people ask you about your vacation…and you have some incredible stories to tell them. It also helps that while you were away exploring Latin America, not a great deal changed at home!

8) Get closer to the friends or family that you travel with
Real life sometimes takes away the time that we’d otherwise spend with friends and family. If you decide to travel with other people, it’ll be a wonderful opportunity to re-establish a bond. The relationship will grow from your shared experiences.

9) Discover the beauty, ridiculousness, surprise and variety of the world
Be inspired, get creative, laugh at the craziness of Latino life that you’ll encounter. Things certainly won’t be the same as your home country…

10) Return to everyday life refreshed
With all the things that your vacation has to offer, you’ll be going back to life at home feeling refreshed, energized, ready to take on the coming months – quite different from the person who left a few weeks previously!

Are you struggling with the idea of cutting loose and booking a vacation? What are your concers? What other benefits have you got from vacations in the past?

Author: Gary Sargent – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

 

 

 

Stories from the Escape Artists – The Hall Family's Inca Adventures

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on December 14, 2010

Altitude and children in Cusco!  A heady mix…

“It’s not altitude its attitude,” my youngest says, as he runs up the narrow streets with me out of breath lagging behind.  Both Him and his sister have been quite taken with the people and culture of the Andes. Their sheer excitement for adventure has made the trip varied and memorable for us all, particularly our stay at Machu Picchu.

It is as magical and captivating as I imagined, although my mental image never featured the steep terracing around the site with no barriers! Nonetheless the children were smart and cautious with a little encouragement from the grown ups.

On the second day at the site the children wanted desperately to walk to the Sun Gate steps, the entrance to the city from the Inca Trail. My son with boundless energy at 7 years led the way, followed closely by his 9-year-old sister. Towards the top of the trail many people passed us surprised to see the children let alone on this high path that clings to the mountain. It was only a matter of time when we realized why, the last section being precariously narrow with steep steps and a handrail!

“Stick to the wall and slow down!” I shouted, ever the voice of parental control.  Meanwhile under my breath it was a different story.  A constant muttering of, “Easy girl, you can do it” calmed my jangling nerves until we reached the top.

Our reward was a spectacular view and a gratifying sense of achievement, the children mesmerized whilst sitting on the edge of the high terrace and asking a million questions about this ancient city and civilization.  If only they took this much interest in history classes at school…

Travelling with a family can be a challenge at times, but the benefits that I know the kids will get from our experiences make the effort worthwhile.  I have to say that things would have been much harder without the assistance of Escaped to Latin America – they took care of all the logistics, leaving us to enjoy our vacation.

5 Latin America Visa Nightmares And How To Avoid Them

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on December 10, 2010

 

 

There’s nothing like a pile of paperwork to take the joy out of a dream Latin American vacation.  

No, correction – there’s nothing like realizing that you haven’t completed a pile of paperwork, too late on to do anything about it.  No-one likes having to do it, but you need to make sure that you’ve got your visas covered.  Take heed of the 5 nightmare scenarios below to make sure you don’t get caught out at the airport before your Latin American vacation has even started.

Wait, what’s a visa?
A visa, if you’re not sure, is a stamp that goes in your passport (yes, you’ll need a passport…) which allows you to visit a country for a specific duration with a specific purpose.  Like tourism, for example.

Nightmare scenario number 1
You’re an American that wants to visit Brazil.  Surprise!  The Brazilian Government doesn’t like you…speaking in paperwork terms.

How to avoid the nightmare: Some countries will make you jump through flaming hoops in order to be able to get a simple tourist visa, whilst others will just let you show up at the airport.  The rules are changing all the time, so your only option is to check out requirements for your specific vacation destination on your government’s website.  It is also worth getting in touch with the embassy of your vacation country to check the latest requirements.  A call or email should do it.

Nightmare scenario number 2
You’re leaving in a week – your tickets are booked and everything is arranged.  That should be enough time to sort out your visa, right?  Oh.  It isn’t.  And you can’t get a refund on those tickets, or re-book your holiday…

How to avoid the nightmare: Check the requirements for your destination country before you book anything!  Time-frames vary for applications, and with thousands of people applying each week in some cases, your application could be delayed in a paper-storm.  Avoid the stress, and simply apply for the visa in good time.

Nightmare scenario number 3
You’re at the airport with a nice fresh visa pasted into your passport.  But they won’t let you board the aircraft because your passport is about to expire…in a few months?!

How to avoid the nightmare: Believe it or not, you need to make sure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of return from your trip. If the expiry date is too close to your vacation date, apply for a new passport.  Make sure that you allow a few weeks for that application as well.

Nightmare scenario number 4
Ok, all set for that Brazil vacation again.  You’ve got the visa, a good passport…and the accompanying paperwork?  Sorry Sir/Madam, for a one-way flight you need some other proof that you’ll leave the country.  We’re going to have to keep you in custody until you can produce it.

How to avoid the nightmare: Some countries go beyond needing a visa. Check requirements for all accompanying paperwork with the relevant foreign embassy.  Hot topics to affect your entry could include:

  • requiring an onward flight ticket from the country you are entering
  • stamps from previous visits abroad affecting travel to new countries
  • medical conditions and taking medicines into a country
  • previous criminal convictions affecting entry eligibility
  • travelling with children of whom you are not the legal guardians

Nightmare scenario number 5
What a great vacation!  Until you return to the airport…and a very large fee for an expired visa.

How to avoid the nightmare: Get the absolute maximum duration for your visa to avoid any problems – you can check this maximum with the relevant foreign embassy before applying.  Make sure that the visa fits with your dates of travel!

Do you have any nightmare visa stories?  Does any visa advice for Latin American vacationers come to mind?

Author: Jon Clarke – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

How Your Latin American Vacation Could Change Your Life

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on December 10, 2010

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With the global economy forcing us all to cut back on spending, it’s often vacations that are the first thing on the chopping block.  This is a huge shame – travel is a life changing experience, recognized as one of the best ways to spend your time.  Especially if you are escaping from the doom and gloom of home!  

If you need a little nudge to be convinced that booking that next Latin American vacation is a worthy investment, check out the following stories of some previous clients that I’ve arranged trips for.

Realizing what is really possible
David was a nervous person, but in a moment of madness his friends persuaded him to book a mountain biking tour on Bolivia’s infamous ‘Death Road’, a couple of thousand meters descent around narrow perilous switchbacks overlooking sheer drops.  

Egged on by his speedy companions and the reassurance of his bike guide, David actually ended up really pushing himself even though he was trembling like a leaf from the adrenaline.  By the end of the ride he realized that the only thing holding him back was his own attitude.  

I received an email from David after his return home, telling me that his trip had finally given him the boost he needed to quit his job and start a business – inspiring stuff!

Getting in touch with your spirituality
Sandra and Mark had both been struggling with their lives since their kids left home, and decided to book onto a  spiritual retreat in the Sacred Valley near Cusco.  The retreat was a challenging 10 day experience in an isolated setting, and both of them confronted tough personal issues as a result of the process.  

However, it turned out to be worth the effort – they left the meditation centre with a much clearer idea of what they wanted from the next stage of their lives.

A journey that you finish as a different person
Pilgrimage has been around as a religious journey of self-discovery for thousands of years, but you don’t have to commit to a religion to get the benefits.  

Carlos and three of his friends booked a cycle tour around the vineyards of Argentina.  They had a great time travelling between some of the best vineyards in South America, but also got to know much more about themselves as a result of reflective thinking time on the road.  

Friends and family were quick to notice the difference when the guys got back, and the group has since booked onto another cycle tour to allow for time away in reflection every year.

Seeing another side of life
The favelas of Rio De Janiero are known as some of the worst areas of poverty in Latin America.  Julie was determined to give her time and effort to help out some of the families in the slum areas, and I arranged for her to volunteer as an English teacher as part of her vacation to Brazil.  

“It was incredible,” she told me afterwards, “They were living in the worst conditions I’ve ever seen, and had nothing, but they were so happy and contented with life.”  

The experience changed her perspective dramatically.  “Even though it was a challenging experience for me, it made me think hard about what is important to me in life, and to be more grateful for what I have.”

What do you think is the common factor for life changing vacations?  Do you remember a vacation that changed your life, and what happened?

 

 Author: Jon Clarke – Escaped to Peru / Escaped to Latin America

10 tips on Driving in Latin America – Navigating Chaos

Posted in Uncategorized by escapedtoperu on December 10, 2010

The rumor is that people in countries like Peru, Bolivia and Colombia are poor drivers, not really paying attention to road rules and that the road conditions are chaotic, but is this really true? Absolutely!

Ask any local taxi driver and you will always hear the same thing, “Don’t drive here, it’s a nightmare!” If you don’t want to heed this advice and want to run the gauntlet I have listed 10 tips for staying out of trouble while driving in my favorite country; Peru.

1. Simple rule – the bigger your vehicle, the more priority you have.  In urban areas, and especially in the capital Lima, it is very common for people to turn left when they are in the extreme right hand lane (or vice versa), completely cutting across the traffic with no signaling. Public buses and cargo trucks are particularly good at this and no one raises an eyebrow. Just let them go!

2. Many of the cars are in very poor condition and often none of the lights or signals will be working, or they can´t be turned off at all! You may be waiting at a junction and a car is signaling to turn in front of you – do not move! The turn signal is probably broken, stuck on, or the driver too lazy or distracted to turn it off. Likewise don’t drive too close to the car in front (although the locals always do) as the brake lights are probably broken or have no bulbs.

3. Don't rely on your mirrors……other drivers don’t, and the system seems to work.

4. Get to know and love your horn! Not only when the traffic lights have changed to green one hundredth of a second ago, but also because all sorts of people just step into the street at any time and cars come out of side streets without looking.

5. It's worth mentioning the horn again…always be ready to honk the horn when driving in rural areas as absolutely anything can happen. At around 5pm all sorts of animals can invade the highway as they get herded back to the farm. Bulls, cows, llamas, alpacas, goats, dogs, guinea pigs, donkeys, ducks and small children are just some of the random hazards. Children tend to play football and volleyball across main roads in the countryside, so be aware when you go around a curve that you may drive right through a game!

6. Although road quality is much better than 10 years ago, there are many places where there will be huge potholes that you could lose an Inca down, speed ramps that you can’t see until you do a Dukes of Hazard maneuver, and dangerous “hidden” obstacles such as piles of rocks or construction materials in the road which you could easily hit at night, as there is frequently no warning.

7. Driving at night means that the problems multiply and tourists should try to drive only during daylight hours. Many cars are old and the angle of the old, battered headlights means that you will often be dazzled making you very tired, let alone frequently blinded. Driving at night also means you will get lost as maps of rural areas are poor and signs often misleading. A working knowledge of Spanish could be helpful, but then again it could confuse you further as people trying to be polite and send you down the wrong road rather than admit they don’t know the way!

8. Lane marking doesn’t mean anything! You will often have people cut you off, change lanes without signaling, weaving all over the place and trying to get 5 cars into 3 lanes etc. It can be chaotic to say the least but just go with it without losing your side mirrors (remember tip number 3!).

9. Make sure you know the distances and terrain before you commit to driving somewhere. The travel time from Cusco to Lima is around 60 minutes by airplane but at least 20 hours by road for example. Check the geography and road conditions before you set off. Ask a local expert or you could end up sleeping in the car.

10. There are probably 3 old radar speed guns and 10 traffic cameras in the whole of the country and they are most likely broken, so speeding has to be really blatant to become penalized. However, don't do it due to all of the reasons listed.

After saying all of the above, the strange thing is that there are fewer traffic accidents and road rage incidents than in the developed world as people don’t get irate if someone cuts them off for example, and as they are expecting to be cut off they don’t often crash into them.

I am not saying that you should never drive in Latin America; it can be a fantastic (and character-forming) experience in a beautiful region, but if you decide to leave the driving to a tour or transport company then you can just relax, sit back and smile at some of the crazy antics you see along the way, rather than adding an unnecessary dose of stress to your vacation.

Do you have any crazy driving stories from your trip to Latin America? Are there any tips that you can add to this list?

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