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August 5, 2013

Seasonal tips for how to enjoy New York on a budget

 

New York is a city for all seasons and a very budget friendly city.

Here are my top tips for having a good time in New York on a budget, covering all seasons without busting the bank.

 

Winter in New York

 

New York on a budget in the Winter

 

New York dazzles in all seasons: there is no best time to visit.

Around Christmas, Fifth Avenue sparkles with window displays, the tree at Rockefeller Centre sparkles and my favorite thing to do is to watch the colorful skaters on the ice rink.

There are Christmas markets at multiple locations in the city, notably the ones at Bryant Park and Union Square.

I love drinking hot chocolate in a bowl with a huge marshmallow at the City Bakery to defrost frozen noses and toes.

Museum hopping is an ideal way to keep warm while being intellectually stimulated.

TOP SEASONAL BUDGET TIP

Remember to visit during pay as you wish hours: each of the museums has this option with the Metropolitan Museum having suggested entry AT ALL TIMES.

Treating yourself to a showing of the Nutcracker Ballet at the Lincoln Centre is also an unforgettable New York tradition.

 

 

New York on a budget: Spring

 

Spring is the time that New Yorkers become one with the few expanses of nature that the city holds.

The New York Botanical Garden- the jewel of the Bronx is aflame with a riot of spring flowers. Daffodils, magnolia and cherry blossom make this trip a fragant memory.

TOP SEASONAL BUDGET TIP:

Admission to the Botanical Garden grounds is free on Saturday mornings and Wednesdays.

Spring in New York is a runner’s paradise: people are out and about in Central Park, along the East River and Hudson Riverside promenades. The water bodies in Central Park gently thaw and red little robins and sparrows are heard twirping again.

It’s an ideal time to explore different parts of the city when temperatures are not extreme.

 

Summer in New York on a budget

 

Sun deprived New Yorkers go crazy on an average sun-drenched day: it’s not unusual to see beach towels and bikini bods in nooks and corners of Central Park.

A wonderful day out is to pack a picnic hamper, a travel pillow, blanket and a good book, to seek the shade of a tall green tree and watch the world go buy.

TOP SEASONAL BUDGET TIP

There are a number of excellent free summer concerts at Summerstage, Central Park.

Summer is incomplete without a trip to one of the beaches along the Long Island Coastline.

A daytrip to Jones Beach or Long Beach is possible with the aid of the Long Island Railroad.

An overnight trip to Montauk or the Hamptons on the Hampton Jitney is also an ideal way to sample the Atlantic sea air and a cup of clam chowder.

 

Autumn in New York on a budget

 

 

Fall is the most beautiful season in New York and the New England Region.

New York is the ideal base to travel north for a couple of days of leaf-peeping to either New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The Hudson River Valley, Bear Mountain State Park in New York are rampant with flaming fall colors.

Visit different Fall Festivals on Manhattan street corners, beat the summer crowds and walk the Brooklyn Bridge or see the Statue of Liberty on the free Staten Island Ferry.

TOP SEASONAL BUDGET TIP 

The Metropolitan Opera also starts it’s season during this time. If you book early cheaper tickets can be obtained otherwise standing room only tickets are available at discount prices the day of the performance.

Whilst it’s possible to scrimp and save on many experiences on New York and still have a great time there are some things that are not worthwhile missing as they are once in a lifetime experiences.

 

MY TOP NEW YORK  TIP

In my opinion the most wonderful thing to do in New York is to climb to the top of a very tall building (The Empire State or the Top of the Rock) just before sunset and watch the sun go down over the Hudson River and watch very slowly Manhattan light up with a thousand glittering lights.

The serpentine sight of a gold trail of city lights along Fifth Avenue is a dizzying, breathtaking spectacle.

 

WHERE TO STAY- TOP TIP

If you are visiting New York with friends or family, the best idea to rent an apartment.

Given how expensive it is to stay in Manhattan, your best option is to stay in Queens in the Woodside area which I found to be very safe with convenient access to local public transport.

 

rsz_large

3 bedroom apartment, Woodside. Queens. Note: Image courtesy of Housetrip.com

 

I stayed in a really nice 3 bedroom apartment in New York , courtesy of Housetrip.com

The apartment was clean, comfortable with lots of natural light.

The neighbourhood itself is very handy and multicultural- you have a cool Irish pub right on the doorstep with excellent live music nights and an excellent Korean takeaway just 5 minutes down the road beside the subway.

 

 

3 bedroom apartment,  New York. Queens.

Kitchen in my 3 bedroom apartment rental, Woodside. Queens. Note: Image courtesy of Housetrip.com

 

 

There is also a bunch of grocery shops just 2 minutes walk away if you are looking to cook in the apartment ( kitchen is huge and excellent as you can see from the picture)

The other cool feature about the apartment is that the subway (7 Train) is a 5 minute walk and just 3 blocks from the apartment.

7 train has a regular service and drops you off in Manhattan in just 15 minutes.

Fresh linens and towels are provided by Nouredinne, the owner who was really helpful and answered all our questions.

The apartment can host upto 8 people , so based on the rental rate of $169 a night, works out to be just over $20, per person, per night which is great value for New York.

It was perfect for me and my family which included a little baby of 2 years old. Peaceful at night. Perfect.

 

Disclaimer: Hope you found this article useful which was made possible by the kind support of Housetrip.com If you are interested in discovering more options for apartments in New York, I recommend popping over to their site.

September 17, 2012

Cheap Eats Guide to Philadelphia

 

cheap-eat-guides

 

 

Longtime Philly residents Michael and Larissa Milne recently sold everything to travel the world. You can follow them on their blog, Changes in Longitude. Here are the good, cheap eats they miss from their home town:-

 

To Market, To Market

 

Head to the historic Reading Terminal Market for lunch right in the center of town.

 

Awesome cheap Philly eats: Dinics Roast Pork Sandwich

 

Start with a sandwich of succulent, slow-roasted pork at Dinic’ss, followed by a freshly baked Pennsylvania Dutch soft pretzel that has been lovingly dipped in melted butter before baking (and how could THAT be bad?).  Explore the fresh fish and produce stalls before satisfying your sweet tooth with some ice cream.

 

 

Bassett’s- America’s oldest ice cream counter

 

Belly up to the marble bar at Bassett’s—America’s oldest ice cream counter—for a dish of one of 30+ super-creamy flavors, including a personal favorite, pistachio.

 

Go South and Go International

 

South Philly has always been an area filled with immigrants, which means great cheap ethnic restaurants. The area that was once almost exclusively Italian still boasts plenty of “pasta and red gravy” spots, but in recent years a thriving Asian community has emerged. The neighborhood around 11th and Washington Sts. sports several Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian and Lao eateries.  They offer differing degrees of formality, from simple pho-slurping spots to slick restaurants, but all are a good value.

Our go-to place is Le Viet, a swanky spot where at lunch 20 different meals that are all huge, exceedingly fresh, and absolutely delicious are available for only $5

 

 

Steak-out a Sandwich

The Philadelphia Cheesesteak has become our global culinary ambassador, but the city offers so much more between the bread. In 2010 Philadelphia Magazine dedicated almost an entire issue to great sandwiches in town. Grab a Banh Mi at one of the Vietnamese delis, on funky South Street enjoy a creatively dressed “dog” at Hot Diggity, or one of a dozen meat or veggie creations at Jake’s Sandwich Board in Washington Square West. Good cheesesteaks can be chomped throughout the city, but for the truly sublime, head to John’s Roast Pork (yes, they do cheesesteaks too) near the waterfront.  And for heaven’s sake, do not get it with Cheez Whiz!

 

Take it to the Streets

Street food has long been a part of Philly culture, and this is raised to an art form in the University City neighborhood just west of the central business district. Kitchens-on-wheels prepare all sorts of delicacies in the streets that thread through the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University campuses.  Along with the standard hot dogs and sandwiches you can get great Greek, Chinese, Indian and the freshest fruit salads.  There’s even a truck that parks outside Drexel’s library at night and serves freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and milk!  If you’re not sure which food truck to try, simply look for the one with the longest lines out front. Penn Food Trucks provides the most up-to-date listing of which trucks are where.

 

Go Early, Get Happy

When you’re up for something a little fancier, consider an early dinner via Happy Hour. Philadelphia restaurants get very competitive for business between 5 and 7pm, and lure customers with great deals on food in the bar area during this period.  The most popular offering is ½ priced appetizers from the regular menu, try Farmacia in the Historic District or Table 31 in Center City. But some spots also have dedicated specials, such as the $2 “Slider Menu” at Caribou Café: gourmet mini-sandwiches such as smoked salmon or sliced filet of beef.  Check the Philadelphia Weekly for a current list of the latest and greatest.

 

 

 

August 13, 2012

Cheap Eats Guide: Boston

 

Cheap Eat Guides: Discover cheap eats from across the world, every Monday on the BudgetTraveller

 

 

Our latest serving of awesome cheap eats comes from the city of Boston courtesy of  Tom and Meg Rulli: the duo behind the travel & food lifestyle blog: Landing Standing .

 

Meg and Tony

 

Tom and Meg left their jobs in January 2012 to go RTW and try out the whole location independent thing. They are aspiring entrepreneurs & digital nomads that blog about travel, food, and anything ridiculous.


Introduction

 

Tony and I are true fat kids (at heart!) and love all things food.  It had been a joy travelling around the world sampling all the local cuisines, but we often miss our favorites from back home.  Our home city of Boston, MA was the place where our passion for food really kicked into full gear.

 

Being a huge university town, Boston is a city where you can find a wide variety of quality eats on a college student’s budget. If you live in Boston or are travelling to “Beantown”, be sure to check out all the great affordable dining hot spots – It’s a great way to see this historical city, warm up in the cold Boston winters, and fill up your stomach before a night bouncing around the famous pubs!

Here are five of our favorite cheap eats in Boston.

Let us know if we missed any and please share below your top picks!

 

1. Anna’s Taqueria

Type: Mexican

 

Tony at Anna’s Taqueria

 

With six locations spread throughout the greater Boston area, Anna’s is a religion in Beantown.  Anna’s is famous for serving up GINORMOUS made-to-order burritos (and other Mexican treats) with the freshest of ingredients… Which obviously means they are healthy, right?!

For roughly $5 a burrito, you can stuff yourself silly with Mexican goodness.

My personal favorite is the Chile Verde with LOTS of hot sauce.  In recent years, Anna’s has also started serving up breakfast burritos. I haven’t tried them yet, but a warm tortilla filled with eggs, sausage, potatoes, beans, cheese, and salsa sounds like a perfect way to start any morning!

 

2. Quincy Market

 

Quincy Market ( Source: Wikipedia )

 

Type: Everything!

Quincy Market is a landmark in Boston… And for a good reason. Constructed in the 1820’s as an indoor pavilion of vendor stalls, Quincy Market is a Historical building in the heart of Boston that offers up a wide variety of affordable food stands that will please anyone’s appetite. Indian, Italian, Chinese, Seafood stands… this market has it all!

Quincy Market is also conveniently located right next to all the wild bars in Faneuil Hall, so it is a great place to fill up on cheap eats before a night on the town.

 

3. La Verdad for Taco Tuesday

 

la-verdad-taqueria-mexicana

La Verdad Taqueria Mexicana

 

Type: Mexican

Every Tuesday, select Mexican restaurants around the city open their doors for Taco Tuesday.

What is Taco Tuesday you ask?

Taco Tuesday is the one fine night each week where you can get tacos for $1 a pop.

Roughly eight restaurants in Boston participate in Taco Tuesday, but I have only been to La Verdad.

Since it’s only $1 a taco, you can go wild and sample a variety of kinds.

I always opt for a mixed batch of Carnitas, Cochnita Pibil, or Tinga (chicken).  Your meal will only set you back a few dollars, so be sure to spend your extra cash on a much needed post-work margarita!

 

4. Il Panino Express

Type: Italian

 

Prosciutto Caprese- Il Panino

 

Located directly across the street from its daddy (the original Il Panino), Il Panino Express caters to those without the time or budget for a sit down meal in one of Boston’s most famous neighborhoods, The North End.

Inexpensive Italian meals served in larger than expected portions while still being tasty?

How could an intrepid traveler pass up such an opportunity?

Bonus: The famous bakery Mike’s Pastry is right down the street, but if you want to avoid the lines there, stop in next door at Vittoria Caffe for some of the best Cappuccino’s and Tiramisu Boston has to offer.

 

5. When Pigs Fly

Type: Bakery

 

When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly

 

“When Pigs Fly” is a carb lovers heaven.

This bakery has three locations in the Greater Boston Area, and while it sells cookies, brownies, muffins, and coffee, it specializes in its all-natural bread that is jammed packed with anything grown under the sun – Think Mango, Pineapple and Raisin bread with Toasted Sesame and Ginger – NOM!

 

Each loaf goes for roughly $5 a piece, but is dense and filling enough to last for days… Unless, you have the appetite of a baby dinosaur, like myself (Tony and I have been known to consume one loaf in a sitting).

 

Top tip: What is great about When Pigs Fly is that they offer unlimited samples of their bread in store.

 

You can taste these breads to your heart’s content without shame or eye rolling from the store attendant.  Tony and I love going there on empty stomachs and stuffing ourselves silly with all the free samples… Of course, we always are polite and end up buying a loaf (or six) to show our appreciation.

 

 

July 12, 2012

Visit St Petersburg -Florida’s hidden gem

 

 

 

St Petersburg was something of a revelation.

This is not the image of Florida I had in my head.

 

St Pete’s tranquil palm tree lined avenues with its stylish residents, chic boutiques and great outdoor cafes are the perfect antidote to the adrenaline filled madness of Orlando and Disney.

You almost could feel that you’re somewhere on the French Riveira.

 

I had lunch at the Cassis American brasserie.

It’s May but it’s already hitting the 30’s .

 

I’m keeping cool with an ice tea on the sidewalk , nestled under the shade of huge yellow umbrellas.

For starters we order a plate of oysters.

I know.

Not the most budget friendly thing but if you’re here with friends or family, order a plate.

Some of the freshest and juiciest oysters I’ve ever tasted.

For mains I tuck into the Cassis Burger with caramalised onions and swiss gruyere cheese.

This comes with some awesome French fries. Cost: $11.50

 

Chihuly Collection

 

After lunch we meet Wayne Atherholt the charismatic curator of the local Chihuly Collection.

I was kinda surprised when I learnt that there is a museum dedicated to Dale Chihuly in St Pete’s.

 

Chihuly: Ruby Red Icicle Chanderlier

 

 

It is the only place in the world devoted to a museum-like permanent installation of Chihuly’s works.

Inside you can find 5 galleries and 4 smaller “vitrines” contain installations and his amazing glass sculptures. All of Chihuly’s signatures are here: the Chandeliers, Mille Fiore and Float Boat, each containing hundreds of individual pieces.

 

Dale who?

 

I hear a lot of you say.

Elton John called Chihuly, the ‘Pablo Picasso’ of glass art.

When you see the pictures, you get an idea of the guys amazing artistry and talent.

 

 

I have some sort of a historical connection with Dale Chihuly.

In 2001, when I was 20, I went to London for my summer internship.

It was not the dream internship.

I was selling advertising for a trade magazine about the International Glass Trade.
That too commission based.
I know. I don’t what I was thinking when I accepted the job.
Poor salary. Sales. My degree was in Economics.
Plus I had no passion for the Glass trade,

I did a learn a lot about sales.

Plus about the glass trade and Dale Chihuly.

 

Before I quit my job I was actually trying to get an interview with Dale Chihuly organised.

So finally getting to see his stuff was a big deal for me and kinda emotional remembering how much my life has changed since that summer all those years ago.

 

Dali Museum

 

Stunning- Dali Museum is a must see if you’re visiting Florida

 

 

After visiting the Chihuly Collection, I got the chance to visit the stunning Dali Museum.

After visiting the Dali Museo in Figueres visiting his house in Port Lligat last year coming here was continuation of my Dali pilgrimage.

 

The museum’s collection was donated by Cleveland industrialist Reynolds Morse and his wife, Eleanor and represents a 45-year friendship between the Morses and Dali and his wife, Gala.

 

Modelling Dali’s shoe hat with the eccentric and wonderful Janice (left) and the equally crazy and funny ‘English Mum’ ( right)

 

I was guided by the eccentric and wonderful Janice who is wildly passionate about Dali.
I have never been a fan of guided tours but with Janice, Dali came alive in my eyes. Everytime I see a Dali painting I see something new –there are so many hidden layers and meanings in each of his works which makes it fascinating to see.

 

The collections are arranged in chronological order which makes it easy to see the pattern and development of his work. Works exhibited here are from every period of Dalí’s career, highlights including “The Average Bureaucrat” (1930), “The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory” (1952-54) and “Portrait of My Dead Brother” (1963)

The perfect place to end the tour and my day out in St Pete’s is enjoying a glass of Spanish rose at the museum restaurant ¬¬- Café Gala.

Named in honor of Salvador Dali’s wife Gala, the eatery offers visitors a café menu with a Spanish theme focusing on Spanish Tapas, wine, salads, coffee and pastries.

World class art and awesome gastronomy- this was a side of Florida that I did not expect was a total revelation. It comes as no surprise to find out that St Petersburg was voted by American Style magazine as the number one arts destination amongst medium sized cities in America.

So next time when you plan your trip to Orlando, remember there is much more to Florida than just Disney.

 

 

Essentials

 

To plan your trip to St Petersburg, check out their website and also have a peek at their Facebook page for updates on events.

 

Starting at £949, I spent seven nights in Florida and Orlando with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick or Manchester direct to Orlando.

This included two nights accommodation at the 5V Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, two nights accommodation at the 3V+ Sunset Vista Beachfront Suites, two nights at the 5V Longboat Key Club & Resortand one night at the 5V Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Hotel, all on a room only basis with car hire included starts from £949.

 

Prices are per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a standard room, price includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are based on departures 12 – 14 Nov 2012.

To book: www.virginholidays.co.uk , 0844 557 3859 or visit one of our 90 stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide.

 

November 7, 2011

2012 Bucket List Ideas: Winter in Patagonia on a budget

 

 

 

 

With 2011 winding down , we start presenting a series of budget themed, fun trip ideas for your 2012 bucket list.

Today’s inspiration is for those looking for an alternative value for money ski destination to the usual haunts in Europe.

Why not consider a Winter in Barlioche, Patagonia next year?

Regular guest contributor, Andrew McHarg gives us the lowdown of how to enjoy winter in Patagonia on a budget.

 

 

Winter in Patagonia offers great snow sports, excellent food and stunning vistas everywhere you look at an affordable and value-for-money prices.

Once you overlook the relatively high flight costs (on average between £600-800 from London to Buenos Aires, via Madrid) you can get an arguably superior experience to European winter destinations at fractional costs.

 

 

Bariloche, Patagonia Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/33037982@N04/

 

 

Bariloche is the best ski centre in South America, and attracts people from all over the continent. Situated in the province of Rio Negro in the foothills of the Andes, getting there will take a while.

Be prepared to take on a 20 hour bus journey from Buenos Aires.

However, I saw this as more of an event, as for £90 each way, one can relax in a fully reclining seat/bed complimented by 3 meals, a personal video screen and headphones topped off with a glass of Champagne!

 

MarcoPolo Inn Barlioche- Inexpensive accomodation option in Barlioche

 

 

Once arrived in Bariloche, accommodation can be had for dirt cheap prices, with a double room 300m from the ski lifts at £30 per night at the MarcoPolo Inn.

 

There is an endless array of thing to do in Bariloche, from hiking through the Nuahel National Park, skiing or snowboarding (£200 for a 7-day pass, £120 for weekly rentals) or just feasting on food.

 

El Boliche de Alberto

 

 

Chocolate is a surprising speciality of the city, and steaks are in no shortage. El Boliche de Alberto is a renowned steak house, where 4 people can gorge on steak, sausages, wine and dessert for £70 total, not per head.

Be sure to sample the Provelone Mista (melted Provelone cheese mixed with roasted vegetables) an Argentinian favourite.

On the pricey end of the spectrum is El Refugio de Aerlauqen, where for £100 per person you can dine on cheese and chocolate fondue. This is not your typical fondue dinner though; you will be enjoying it 1,300 metres up a mountain with panoramic views all around. It starts off with a platter of Argentian cured meats at the base of the mountain with champagne, wine, beer or a soft drink.

You then get on a snow mobile (one per couple) and drive to the top to enjoy your fondue, whilst heated by the enormous fireplace, and inebriated by unlimited Champagne, wine and beer, before descending the mountain on the snow mobile.

I personally ensured that all alcohol is unlimited and despite being met with an astonished “more?” it was never denied.

So there you have it, winter in Bariloche provides an opportunity to save money, but also splash out at the same time, with very little difference between “budget” and “luxurious”.

 

Definitely a value destination when compared to luxury European destinations.

 

September 16, 2011

Buenos Aires: Hotel Milan Review

 

 

 

A great budget hotel in the heart of Buenos Aires

The hotel is within the bustling downtown area

 

Location


The first thing to mention about Hotel Milan is its great location. Just metres away from the centre of Avenida Corrientes, where many of the theatres, cinemas and restaurants are located, it is ideal for culture-lovers or anyone who wants to be close to the heart of the city. The hotel is in the ‘microcentro’ district and it’s here that you’ll find many of the main sights of Buenos Aires, such as the Obelisk and the Casa Rosada. The upmarket district of Recoleta – home to the famous cemetery, the resting place of Evita – is also within easy walking distance. Subte (underground) stops are handily located nearby for anywhere else you want to get to.

 

A standard single room in Hotel Milan

 

Rooms

There are double and single rooms available. The rooms are simple but pleasant, with a light and airy feel. There is adequate storage space, a safe, a TV and that all-important free WiFi access, a real plus. The ensuite bathrooms are small but perfectly formed, with everything you need. The only downside is that the street-facing rooms can be quite noisy – that’s the tradeoff you get for the great location, so consider packing your earplugs.

 

Computer area in the lobby

 

Service


The really outstanding thing about Hotel Milan is the service.

 

Every member of staff that I came into contact with during my stay was professional, friendly and helpful. This approach never faltered, even when I forgot the code I’d programmed into the safe – they simply sent up the maintenance man to sort it out right away!

 

The buffet breakfast included with the room price is the standard continental fare but it is plentiful and fresh and there’s enough hot coffee to get your day off to a good start. There are two computers available for use if you don’t have your own device with you. The staff at the front desk are always ready to answer any questions or requests you might have, although some have better English than others.

 

You can book your stay at Hotel Milan on www.budgetplaces.com, where rooms with breakfast included start at 30 euros per night.

 

Disclosure: My stay at the Hotel Milan was sponsored by budgetplaces, but all opinions are my own.

September 8, 2011

La Paz on a Budget

 

 

 

 

Right in the heart of South America, La Paz is a city like no other.

 

In defiance of its name (meaning ‘peace’), it beats with a rhythm of barely ordered chaos, where insanity and perfection collide at every corner. It can be an overwhelming place at first, but if you make the effort to get to know this city, rather than just passing through as so many travellers do, it will reward you richly. Here’s how to make the most of La Paz.

 

 

Live the local life


While the first stop for any visitor is likely to be the central zone between Santa Cruz and Illampu, where tourist shops and markets abound, take the time to see more than just the alpaca socks and hats you can get anywhere in South America. For a true local experience, jump into one of the public minivans heading towards the cemetary and get out at the markets where you can buy anything your average Bolivian could ever need. From soup pans big enough to drown in to the bling jewellery necessary to enhance your Andean dress, this is where the locals come to shop while the tourists are buzzing around the knitwear stalls and it makes for a much more eye-opening experience.

 

You will quickly find that La Paz is rather lacking on the supermarket front, so if you need to stock up on supplies, head to the bottom of Illampu, past the tourist area, to the fruit and veg market (by market, I mean women sitting on the ground with their produce laid out on the road in front of them) and to the mercado central for stalls selling just about everything else.

 

 

Indulge your spirit and soul in Sopocachi

 
When you have tired of the hustle and bustle of the markets, make your way down to Sopocachi, La Paz’s arty, cultured neighbourhood. Here, life is much more calm and relaxed. You can take refuge in one of the many cafes (you can even get WiFi access in some of them). Alexander Coffee is almost like a charming, Bolivian version of Starbucks, only with table service and hot breakfasts. At around 10 bolivianos for a cappuccino, it’s high-end by Bolivian standards, but it’s still cheap compared to Western prices.

 

Once you’ve had your coffee and internet fix, wander up the main 6 de Agosto road towards the university. Here, you will find an independent, arty cinema (as well as a multiplex) and possibly one of the best modern art museums in South America, if not the world. Housed in a pretty, blue, colonial building, it showcases works of contemporary Bolivian artists, which, rather than having that usual modern art aspect of offering some odd conceptual statement, actually display true artistic talent strongly rooted in the Bolivian psyche and culture. Entry is just 15b (about £1.20) and is well worth it.

 

 

 

Escape to the Yungas

 

After a few days in La Paz, the high-energy, high-altitude living might all become a bit much, at which point an escape to the countryside might be in order. It just so happens that three hours away – and a few thousand feet closer to sea level – are the oxygen-rich, verdant cloud-forests of the Yungas. Coroico is a small town in this region surrounded by the most jaw-dropping vistas and it makes the perfect retreat for a couple of days. You can go hiking, visit a nature reserve, take a tour into the jungle or visit the Afro-Bolivian community of Tocaña for a different perspective of Bolivian life. Or you can simply book into one of the many hotels with a pool and a view to die for (between 60 and 100b a night) and kick back and relax. Listening to the sounds of birdcall, breathing in the oxygen – which feels almost like a drug after being at an altitude of 4,000 metres – and gazing at the tropical mountains is an experience like no other.

 

To get there, you can either take a minibus for 15b (or a more comfortable shared taxi for 25b), or if you’re feeling up for an adrenaline rush, you can bike down the World’s Most Dangerous Road. Now that the road is closed to traffic, it’s not all that dangerous, but it’s quite a hair-raising choice nonetheless. If you decide on this option, this is one time not to cut corners with the cost. Expect to pay around $70 (US dollars). Much less than this and you may find that the company makes its savings on the quality of your brakes. Gravity Assisted Biking is the company with consistetly the best ratings.

 

 

Stay happy and safe


La Paz is not as dangerous as it’s often made out to be, but if you want your stay to be a happy one, it’s best to take a few precautions. Only take liscenced radio taxis (if you’re unsure, ask your hotel/hostel to call one or ask a member of the Policia Turistica to help you). Make a hotel reservation in advance if possible and don’t believe the taxi driver if he tells you it’s full or there’s a problem: some of them work on commission for particular hostels or hotels.

To have the best experience, choose where you stay wisely. If you want to meet other travellers, then one of the bigger ‘party’ hostels is a good bet, but if you want a quiet place to relax, then look for a guesthouse or small hotel away from the very central zone. Sopocachi and San Pedro are good alternative areas. You can get good, budget accommodation for around 50-60b per night.

 

If you’re unacclimatised to the altitude, take it easy for the first couple of days and bear in mind that La Paz is punishing in terms of its hills. Altitude sickness is random and can affect anyone, no matter how fit or healthy you are. Drink lots of water and coca tea and enjoy the excuse to have frequent cafe stops between tough uphill walks.

 

 

La Paz is a place really worth spending some time in; it’s crazy, beautiful and endlessly surprising. If you don’t simply dismiss it as a one-day stopover point, you’ll find that it has a lot to offer.


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