Thursday, February 25, 2010

Making Your Travel Dream a Reality, Part II: Money Matters

Today I'm bringing you another installment in my series on making your travel dreams a reality. As I started roughing out my ideas I realized there was way too much to discuss in one post, so in this one I'm going to focus entirely on money: saving for a trip, how much to save, and traveling on a budget. The series will stretch into at least one post beyond this, and possibly two. I'm not sure why the first part of this series is out of order and behind my last outfit post, but if you haven't seen it yet you might want to start reading here.

A church on the Snæfellsness peninsula, Iceland

Now that I've debunked some of the most common excuses for putting off travel, I'm going to go a step further and provide you with some tools for dealing with each of the very real challenges that travel can present. Today I'll talk about the single biggest challenge for many people, money. La Historiadora de Moda stopped by yesterday with this very valid comment:

"I don't want to be a bah-humbug because in general I do think that people should travel and make an effort and sacrifices to achieve their dreams. However, I have to say that in some cases Excuse #1 is valid for many people. Considering the unemployment rate and the fact that many people are really struggling to make ends meet, I wouldn't necessarily recommend that they travel before they pay off their credit cards, especially when banks and credit card companies are often hiking up interest rates and charging extra fees."

This is absolutely true. I would NEVER advocate running up more expenses if you're already in debt or struggling financially. But I will say this: Americans in particular often suffer from a spectacular inability to see any but the narrowest of possibilities for their lives. I've met many an Australian or Canadian in my travels who, upon graduation, took off for 6 months to a year and traveled the globe before settling into grown-up life. These were not rich kids living on trust funds; they lived on shoestring budgets and often stopped somewhere for several months while they earned enough money to continue their travels.

If a recent college grad can do it, perhaps someone who has recently found him or herself unemployed can pull it off too. Even a hardship can become an opportunity, because it might be just the kick in the pants you need to start thinking more creatively about your options in life.

I'm not saying you ought to sell all your worldly possessions and go traipsing around the globe until the economy recovers, I'm merely pointing out that there are often many other options than our narrow ways of thinking will allow us to see. Maybe you could teach English in Japan for a year; perhaps you could find seasonal work on a ship in the Mediterranean; and yes, perhaps you could sell everything you own, pay off your debts, and get the hell out of dodge for awhile. Why not? I can guarantee that there is no thing you can own, even the most fabulous pair of shoes, that will ever equal in value the amazing memories you will make while you're traveling. So at the very least, think about it before you dismiss the option of traveling, whether it be for weeks or years or anything in between.

The ruins at Pompeii, Italy

Saving for Your Trip

There are literally thousands of ways to save money, and in the end it's probably not going to be any one thing you do, but several. Here are just a few money-saving ideas off the top of my head:

  • Cancel your cable or magazine subscriptions and put that money aside every month
  • Sell off items you don't need anymore on eBay
  • Take the bus instead of driving and put aside what you'd have spent on gas. Better yet, sell your car if you don't need it and save on insurance money too.
  • Ask family and friends to donate to your travel fund instead of giving you gifts for your birthday or holidays
  • Set up a free Fat Wallet account and use your cash back rewards towards travel (obviously, don't buy stuff just for the rewards unless you were going to buy it anyway!)
  • Cut out your daily Starbuck's fix and brew your coffee at home
  • If you're undisciplined at saving, it's wise to set up a separate savings account that makes the money more difficult to get at. If you don't mind a bit of risk, try turning your savings into a reasonably stable stock, which can create additional earnings. ETrade and Ameritrade are both easy to use, even for the non investment savvy. And no, I will not give you stock tips!
Obviously it's easiest to put aside money that you're already used to living without, so cutting an expense and then squirrelling that money away is easier than telling yourself you need to save so many dollars per month on top of your current expenses. As a last resort, there is also the option of working a part time second job until you've saved enough. That's a pretty big step, so don't jump into it lightly; your life, your relationships, your sleep may suffer if you're already working full time. Be careful with this option, but consider it if need be. Students in particular have lots of options here; grading papers, tutoring, lab assistant positions, the campus bookstore, and so on.

You might be wondering what sacrifices I make for travel. The biggest one is that I opted not to own a house or condo. Although many people will tell you that owning a house is better than renting because you can write off the interest, you're really just spending a lot to save a little if your mortgage is significantly more than rent would be. For me, owning even a small condo in San Francisco, where the monthly interest portion alone would exceed my current rent, just didn't make financial sense to me. And then, houses can be a huge money-suck in repairs and maintenance, none of which you can write off. So I opted not to be house-poor, which allows me both the luxury of traveling every year, and living a pretty fab life the rest of the time too. It works for me, because I've owned a home before and found I didn't much like the responsibility and burden of it.

The Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles, France

How Much to Save

This depends greatly upon where you're going, for how long, and at what time of year. You will first need to do some research on whatever city or country you're considering and find out what the average daily expenditure is. It also helps to prepare a travel budget; try these free online calculators to get started:
Saving For Travel
Independent Traveler
Budget Your Trip

It also depends heavily on where you're willing to cut costs and where you're not. If you're locked into traveling in high season because of the kids' school year, then you'll have to contend with higher airfare and lodging costs, and that may mean cutting back on fancy meals and shopping. If you're willing to go in the off-season then you'll be able to save more on the major expenses, not to mention the fact that things will be less crowded. Personally I prefer to travel in the shoulder seasons, when things are slower but not entirely dead either.

A good starting point would be about $3000 per person for a 2-3 week trip, but believe me you can do it for even less. Bethany and Isaac commented yesterday that she and her husband took a 3-week trip to notoriously pricey England, France, Italy, and Greece for around $2500 apiece including airfare; it takes a bit of creativity, but it can be done. Which brings me to the next topic of traveling on a budget.

A local tango band plays for onlookers at the San Telmo flea market; Buenos Aires, Argentina

Traveling on a Budget

Your two big-ticket items on any trip are going to be airfare and lodging, so let's start with those. First off is the airfare. I generally like to book my airfare well in advance, so that it's all paid for by the time I leave for my trip. And by thinking about my trip many months before I'll take it, I have time to shop around for the best fares. Sometimes you can get a last-minute fare at a discounted price, but remember that you might pay for it in other ways; for instance, affordable lodgings might be all booked up. Keep that in mind as you're searching for fares.

Finding the best fare:

  • Travel in the off season, or in a shoulder season. You will undoubtedly pay less if you don't travel around major holidays or in the height of the tourist season.
  • Pay attention not only to your own national holidays, but those in the place you're traveling to. Holidays and festivals almost always mean higher airfare as well as more expensive lodging.
  • Sign up for email alerts from your preferred airline, or set up a saved itinerary on multi-airline search engines such as Kayak, Expedia, or Orbitz. The website will alert you when your fare reaches a certain setpoint or changes in price. For maximum coverage, set up alerts on several different sites and with multiple itineraries.
  • Don't forget about airline miles. Air travel isn't the only way to earn miles; many credit cards offer airline miles, as do hotels, car rentals, and even certain retailers. Check with the particular airline to find out how to earn miles.
  • You don't necessarily need to earn enough miles for a free ticket; many airlines offer reduced fares when combined with miles, which means you need to save up fewer miles to get the benefit.
  • Be flexible with your itinerary. Traveling on weekends can often increase the fare, so be sure to check prices of itineraries a few days before and after your target dates.
  • Consider flying into and out of alternate airports. It might be significantly cheaper to fly into a nearby city and take the train to your final destination. Sometimes those nearby cities can be destinations themselves, so you can always build in a night or two at your arrival point.
  • For the greatest flexibility, consider changing your destination altogether. Make a list of the top 4 or 5 places you'd like to visit; compare airfares, currency exchange rates, and lodging to make your final decision. Assume that you will travel again; you'll get to the others the next time!

Tall, narrow houses along an Amsterdam canal

Saving money on lodging:

Lodging often ends up as the largest expense for travelers, and it really doesn't need to be. It's just plain madness to drop $200-300 a night on a hotel room that you really should only be in while you're sleeping and getting dressed. Hostels, guesthouses, and other budget lodgings are the way to go. Here are a few things you might not know about hostels:
  • They're not just for youth anymore; many hostels no longer carry age restrictions of any kind.
  • Many offer small private rooms, some with private baths.
  • Most have communal kitchen areas where you can store and prepare your own food, which is yet another way to save money.
  • Most offer lockers for your luggage (you need to bring your own lock), or even lock boxes for valuables.
  • Many do not have curfews, and I haven't seen any where they kick you and your luggage out every day like they did back in the 60's. If you're booked for several days, all your stuff stays there for the duration.
  • Many offer free Internet services, and some also have free breakfasts.
  • They're a great resource for finding out about free walking tours and other fun things to do on the cheap.

But honestly, the best part about hostels is that they're FUN! Although I could afford hotels, I much prefer the vibrant, lively environment of a hostel, where travelers congregate in common areas to share travel stories, show off their photos, or just drink beer and play cards. Sure, most of the people I meet in hostels are a lot younger than I am, but I've never felt like an outsider even in a hostel full of college-age travelers. I've also seen people much older than myself joining in the fun, so don't worry about fitting in. That said, I do avoid places that bill themselves as a "party hostel" because even though I do like to party, I don't want to do it 24/7. Be sure to read the reviews of each hostel before you book; many of the reviews include the reviewer's age and other information that'll help you determine if they have the same priorities as you.

A dorm bed in an average hostel can set you back as little as 10 bucks a night. Ten bucks! That's very likely cheaper than what you pay for rent at home. Even in pricey Paris, I only paid $30/night for my lodging, and that was in a very new, modern hostel in a great part of town. I enjoy the dorm rooms because they're another great way to meet people, and I'll tell ya, I prefer the mixed dorms over those for women only. Here's why: a college-age gal will stagger in at 3 am, flip on the lights, rifle through her bag of toiletries, and then proceed to march in and out between the room and the bathroom half a dozen times before she finally goes to bed. A college age guy will stagger in, fall into bed fully clothed, and pass out. The next morning, guess who's up at the fucking crack of dawn, marching in and out of the room again, and who rolls out of bed fully clothed and heads off to breakfast just before the kitchen closes? Bring on the male dorm-mates any day.

Now, here are a few hostelling sites to get you started:
Hostelling International

Be sure to get yourself a Hostelling International membership; you will save money on hostel rates, and they also offer discounted travel insurance (including some health coverage), savings on international phone calls, and all sorts of other great benefits. Another way to save money on lodging is to bring your own travel sheet or sleep sack. Many hostels provide pillows and blankets but have an additional charge for linens; your sleep sheet is like a thin sleeping bag that covers you and your pillow so that sheets aren't necessary. The silk ones are the lightest and most comfortable, and are worth the investment if you're going to do a lot of traveling.

The garbage "truck" in Montevideo, Uruguay

Other ways to save money while traveling:

  • I've heard tell that rail passes can be a great way to save money on ground transportation, but I haven't found that to be the case because I'm too loosey-goosey a traveler to be sure I'll use my rail pass enough times to make it worth it. If you plan on doing a LOT of rail travel then it's probably the way to go, but I personally like to park myself in one spot for awhile and savor the culture, rather than do a whirlwind tour. I could go either way on this one.
  • Save money on food by hitting the local markets and preparing simple breakfasts and lunches yourself. But remember that you'd be eating at home too, so this isn't necessarily an additional expense of traveling.
  • Your hostelling card will get you discounts on museum admissions and so forth, so check the benefits before you go.
  • If you're not from the EU, don't forget to take your VAT (Value-Added Tax) refund when you leave Europe! Be sure you're familiar with all the steps; the refund is substantial (up to 25%!), so look for stores that have the Tax-Free sign in their windows when you shop. Read more about the process here. It's not nearly as troublesome as it sounds.
  • The Rick Steves and Lonely Planet guidebooks and websites offer all sorts of tips for budget-minded travelers. I prefer to buy a travel book ahead of time and read through it before I go, so that I'm not trying to search for information on the fly.
  • Packing light will help you avoid both excess baggage fees as well as a sore back. For tips on packing, see my previous series here: Beauty Products Parts 1 and 2, and Clothing Parts 1 and 2. Take light layers that can easily be washed in the sink and that will air dry overnight, which will help you avoid spending money on laundry.
  • Make sure your credit card doesn't charge foreign transaction fees. You'll have to read the fine print to figure it out, but it's worth it because the fees can be as high as 3%. Consider getting a card just for travel; many credit unions offer cards with no foreign transaction fees. Aslo, find out what your ATM withdrawal fees will be, and consider transferring money around if you have an account with lower fees.

The Mayan ruins at Tulum; Quintana Roo, Mexico

In the remainder of this series I'll talk about destinations for families, planning for time off, and other considerations for traveling. Be sure to read the comments to these posts as well; there's some good stuff here!


Jennie said...

Another great post, Audi!

Regarding lodging: have you tried bed and breakfasts? Rick Steves is always talking about the benefits of B&Bs, so on my trip to Europe my friends and I tried a smattering of different lodgings to see what we liked. We tried a hostel, a few hotels, sleeping on the train a couple times(this is a great way to save time AND money if you have a long way to travel -- just catch a night train to your destination and you have a built-in hotel!), and a bed-and-breakfast. By far, the B&B stands out in my mind as the best lodging experience. It was much more affordable in comparison to the hotels we stayed at, way nicer, and so much more cozier. We were basically lodging in a "mother-in-law" unit behind this guy's house in Paris, so it was awesome to feel like we had a "home" in Paris. I loved it. PLUS, the owner of B&B gave us tons of tips of things to see that only a resident would know. He was also pretty flexible with us -- we had like 4 hours to waste between checking out and when we needed to be at the train station, so he let us store our bags in his house while we continued our Parisian tour. Next time I head off to Europe, I plan on sticking with one city, lodging in either a B&B or hostel, and taking day-trips to see cool stuff.

Esz said...

Fantastic post!! I share your sentiments about owning a home vs renting. Here in Australia we have much of the same 'pressure' to buy a house...I often get the "you're paying off someone else's mortgage" when I know I couldn't buy the amazing house I rent without paying 3 times more per month.

It's all about priorities really - and making the right sacrifices. Your tips on where to save are great...putting a few dollars away here and there in a high interest account will have you enough cash in no time.

You're right about attitudes too - Here in Aus, finishing uni and heading off to Europe/London for a year is almost a pilgrimage that many kids do. Even if they don't go as far as Europe, pretty much everyone's been to Bali or some other cheap Asian beach destination by the time they hit 21.

Just have to get out there and do it!! :-D

Sheila said...

Awesome post, Audi! My husband and I (and my mom) are going to London in a couple of months. We are fortunate in that Mom is paying for the flights (with her airmiles!) and the B&B, and hubby and I pay for all the food. It actually evens out quite well.

One of my travel tricks, is that I plan my travel wardrobe around clothing and shoes that are near the end of their life (either getting worn out or I'm tired of them). When it's time to leave, I either throw them out (like underwear, holey socks, old tights) or leave them behind with a note: "free! please donate or keep". It means you never have to worry about having enough room in your luggage when you re-pack coming home!

What we four say said...

Just what I needed to read today. I have been dying to travel again, my last big trip was to Italy in 06, which my mother paid for. I am trying to be better about not spending so much money on things I don't need. i'm getting better all the time. It's great to be reminded that it CAN be done! Thanks!

Erica said...

I couldn't agree more with you! Being from Brazil, having lived in England and now a permanent resident of Canada, I can only confirm that it CAN be done!
I just wanted to add that camping was the way my parents found to travel on a budget with me and my sister when we were little. I have fond memories of these times, so much so that, while living in Europe, camping was my choice of lodging. That, along with Ryanair airfares, was what made our dream travels possible back then.

Anonymous said...

Audi, I always love your blog, but this series is brilliant. Thank you so much for taking the time to think about this and write it down.

Studying abroad (and traveling during term breaks) was still one of the best things I have done in my life. I found a way to do it without putting myself into any debt (and this was pre-internet!). It's totally, 100% possible. It takes time and research, sure, but it's so worth it.

When my husband and I spent two and half weeks in England, Wales and Ireland (for our honeymoon), we spent a total of around $2500. We used miles for airfare, stayed in B&Bs, went to the local market and bought our lunches (which made it feel more real, like we were experiencing something different in each town, and was pretty darn cheap), saw tons of sights... It was wonderful. Took lots of planning, but it was worth it.

Thanks again for this, Audi!

Rad said...

Thanks for this, Audi! What a great inspiration.
Another great option is the There are folks who register rooms and access to bathrooms for a fixed rate. It's slightly more than a hostel but less than a hotel, and you can get deals on weekly or monthly rates. And there are reviews like on Yelp too. It can be shady but you just follow your instincts. My friends have had great luck (New Yorkers love airbnb as a way to make money).

Jess/Daytime Night Owl said...

This series of posts came along at the perfect time. I was just feeling guilty about going on a weeks vacation thinking I could use the money to buy a new bed or some additional furniture instead, but these opportunities don't present themselves everyday. Though I am only going to Cabo, my lodging is free and I just couldn't pass up the opportunity especially since I have never been.

I, too, love the comment about renting versus buying. I am a renter and, at 31, everyone else thinks I should be buying my own home. I really see no need to give into the so-called American dream of owning a home. It really is a lot of work to maintain a home and a yard and it is costly. Where I live now, someone plows the drive, shovels my sidewalks, mows the grass, maintains the pool, gets my mail when I'm away, and repairs are only a phone call away with next day service and NO COST. How can one beat that?

I came across a new site while researching airfare for Cabo and I found the best price on it and I thought I would pass it along as well.

Great posts! Looking forward to more.

E! said...

Audi, this post was just fantastic. I am always freaking out about money, and I once mentioned to some family members that if I travelled, I would stay in hostels and they flipped out so I simply put the idea away. Your post inspired me to look up hostels in random cities and I was so impressed with what I saw! Thank you so much for these posts!

Anonymous said...

Amazingly timely post-just when I have been itching to travel! Thanks for the boot in the arse!

Anonymous said...

Great tips! My boyfriend and I are planning a road trip to the Northwest Territories this summer, and I'm so excited for the adventure. I've already been planning for our finances, and will definitely use some of your tips.

Emily Kennedy said...

Smart advice Audi. Let me chime in and say that my hubs and I stayed at a hostel in Amsterdam in '06 and like you, we left our stuff there overnight during a multi-night stay; no problems, no lockers. It was great!

Can you give some advice on how far in advance you purchase your airline tickets? It seems like 3 months is a general good rule from my experience. Many online sites don't offer anything beyond a year, for some even 6 months out is problematic. I do know that once you get within 2 weeks of your departure date, the fares will be at their highest.

I love your travel posts. Even for people who have traveled quite a bit, these posts can be a helpful way to get mindful about ways and habits.

Ali said...

I stumbled across your blog recently and just wanted to thank you for such an inspiring post. Now I just need to start saving (again)!

I just wanted to ditto that you don't have to break the bank. I don't travel as much as I'd like, but I manage to take long trips when my "normal" life takes its natural detours every few years, i.e. I'm between jobs, I'm moving etc. Last year, for example, I was waiting for my next job to begin and planned to move to a cheaper apartment. In the interim, I put everything in storage, and I spent a month and a half in Asia for the same price it would cost to barely survive here in California. In the end, I didn't sacrifice a dime more than I would've spent had I not gone. And I got an incredible experience in return.

Looking forward to more posts! Thanks again! I love being reminded that we can be creative with our time and money.

Bets said...

Thanks for this timely post! I just finished filing my tax returns this afternoon, and was mulling over what to do with the money I'm getting back. Your post has made up my mind--that money is going into a savings account for future travel. That, plus kicking my latte habit, should add up to a nice trip sometime next year!

Anonymous said...

This is still going to be unrealistic for people like me. $2500 per person per week? A two week trip for two would be $10,000? Good god. It would take me years and years to save up that much money, and if I could save up that much money I would probably pay off my student loans first, or actually buy a car. I'm already doing all of those money saving ideas just to pay my power/heating bills - no subscriptions, no cable, I already sell off stuff regularly so my gas doesn't get turned off, I rent my apartment, I don't own anything of value, I never eat out and make everything at home, etc. This is just totally unrealistic.

I was interested in hearing about what kind of work you can do overseas to finance a trip, but if I was going to do that I might as well move there, for all the work time I would miss at home...

It's interesting to read travel tips and all, but understand that it really, really isn't possible for a lot of people who are already scraping to get by.

(Even your fashions are basically a fantasy for me, your boots are my grocery budget for a few weeks. LOL)

Audi said...

Anonymous: Heavens no; $2500 should get you a 2-and-a-half to 3 week trip, including airfare. That said, I appreciate the fact that there are people out there who really and truly can't put anything extra aside for travel. In my younger days I was there myself, so I know how it can be. But if I had it to do over again I'd probably have taught English somewhere rather than waiting for years until I started traveling, or else I'd have studied abroad while I was in college. Even traveling on an insanely limited budget is better than not doing it at all, when travel is as much a passion as it is for me.

Traci said...

I usually just lurk without commenting, but wanted to say that I love these posts! My husband and I were just in Denmark, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland last Aug and I'm ready for another trip already! I have to agree with so many of your comments about the excuses for not traveling - for example, the language barrier. We've found as you stated, that people are so nice and willing to help, even where you'd think the language would be a big issue - even in places such as Croatia we've had no problems. More and more people speak English, so we've never had any issues. I totally agree about hostels also - there's a fairly well-known hostel in Berlin (Circus Hostel) and they opened a reasonably priced hotel just down the street, so we thought we'd try it. While the hotel was great, we went in the hostel several times for internet access and it seemed even nicer - very lively atmosphere and nice staff!

Anonymous said...

Hi there, I am also usually a lurking non-commenter, but as travel is very important to me too, I wanted to chime in.

I am very lucky in that I occasionally travel internationally for work, so one of my money saving techniques is to plan extra time and a side trip on a ticket that is purchased by my employer. Not all employers allow this (some US govt agencies for example), but many do, and it can be a great way to get out of the States and use a stopover as a jumping off point for an exciting destination.

On the money saving topic, I like that you highlighted accessibility of savings as a potential issue. One obvious but perhaps underutilized technique is to set up an automatic withdrawal or payment to an account through one's employer that takes place before the check is ever cut or deposit made. A dedicated savings account could help, because it's not accessed for anything else, and the automatic deposit can accrue unmolested each 2 weeks or month.

As for cheap lodging, I don't know whether anyone in the comments on other posts has mentioned I'm not pro-couch surfing all the time, but many organized folks actually have an entire separate room and bed. There are checks and balances on the site - potential guests have to be in touch with hosts and must be approved, ideally with considerable lead time. I know folks that have hosted and used the service with great success. In my one potential experience, we crossed signals but we still had dinner though I had booked a hotel. The apartment where I would have stayed in Girona, Spain, was just lovely, and would have been nicer than the hotel.

One more suggestion for people worried about or interested in language (and/or nervous about checking out a new place without a game plan) - make language study a point around which to build a trip. Programs can help with reasonably priced homestays, and it's a great way to meet new people.

Anonymous said...

Also - great packing tips in your links to previous posts! I made the transition from 50lb suitcase to daypack when I spent 2 1/2 weeks in Turkey in 2006. What was amazing is that I missed nothing. We bought toiletries and paid for laundry. My wardrobe was almost entirely maroon and black, plus jeans, so less stylish than your collection in your packing post, but not a problem.

I did buy a duffel suitcase on site for around $20 to house my camel bag rug purchase, but for a souvenir like that, I was able to have the shop ship it back to our hotel in Istanbul where it waited while we completed our tour around the country. If you're operating from or returning through a central location, this could be an option for those that want to shop.

Eyeliah said...

so so helpful thank you. I am excited to think i maybe able to pull something to gether. I love the idea of booking my flight far ahead so I can look forward to it and pay for it ahead of time. I have some family in Amsterdam and the south of France so those two spots are red hot for me.

Clara said...

Audi, I've had your recent travel posts saved in my reader waiting for a bit of break to enjoy them, and that finally came today

I'll be traveling to Paris in June and hoping to stay in a hostel. Can you share the name of the one that you mention in your post? Thanks in advance!


Audi said...

BookGirl: Have a wonderful time in Paris! I stayed at St. Christopher's in the 19th Arr.:

Clara said...

Audi, thanks for the referral to St. Christopher's. It's encouraging to hear that not everyone who stays in hostels is in their 20s...

I've been enjoying your blog for months now. I also read your recent interview on Sal's blog, and appreciated your comments on having come into your style as you matured. I, too, find that my earlier personal style (although, in retrospect, it wasn't very 'personal') was all about fitting in rather than expressing my own taste and preferences.

Thanks for the time you put into your blog. It's a pleasure to visit.


karen mouse said...
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Lauralee Sourwine said...

I like to recommend It is a similar site to FatWallet. The only difference is donates to charitable foundations. Hope it can help you in your travels.

katty said...

Love your travelling posts Audi, and the tips come in handy. But, may I make a correction? The garbage truck in the Uruguay photo is not such thing. We have proper trucks, modern, nice, well painted. Those carts pulled by horses is just some people who live by picking cardboard or bottles and selling them.
I also saw the pic in Colonia. It is nice to know you visited!