3 – Trip Info
Information is posted here in reverse chronological order (newest information at the top). The review information is also posted in Category 99 – South America Reviews.
(Review added February 16, 2008)
Name: Donde German Hostel
Location: Pucon, Chile
Address: Note: as of February 2008 the address is 590 Las Rosas. The Brasil Street address given on their website is incorrect…though I think they’re moving back there eventually.
E-mail: none that I can find
Review: Hostel Donde German is a really nice and super, super clean hostel on the outskirts of the village of Pucon in Chile. There are double rooms as well as dorms available and both the kitchen and the communal living room areas are spacious and immaculate. The place is run by a Chilean couple named Maria Elena and German and while I didn’t see German much Maria Elena is very helpful when she’s around.
The confusing thing about this place is that I believe it used to be on Brasil Street (in town) and is now on Las Rosas (a 10 minute or so walk out of town). The problem is they never updated their website so lots of people go to the Brasil St. address where there’s a big sign redirecting you to Las Rosas. It’s confusing and a little annoying but since the new place isn’t too far it’s not so bad. It is at the very end of a residencial street so you often wonder if you are going to the right place.
As I mentioned, everything is really clean and the common area looks like a page out of the Pier 1 Imports catalog. There are two computers with free Internet which is awesome for checking on stuff and not having to run back into town. Some annoying things though are that the desk isn’t always staffed so you are never quite sure who you should go to with a question (usually Maria Elena but sometimes the cleaning staff as well). Also…you’re only allowed to eat in the kitchen and outside which is sort of hard to remember but I guess is probably one of the reasons the place is so clean. The outside grounds are beautiful and spacious as well with a few tables and a view of the mountains.
Maria Elena and German also run their own travel agency (can’t think of the name but one of the offices is at the hostel). I didn’t do any of their tours (except they arranged transport to the thermal springs for us) but some others at the hostel did the climb to Volcano Villarica with them and said the service was good. You can also rent bikes directly from the hostel for a reasonable price.
Would I book with them again: Yes though I’d probably look for a place closer in town
(Review Posted February 6, 2008)
Name: Hostal Portobello
Location: Valparaiso, Chile
Address: Artilleria #115, Valparaiso, Chile
Phone: 032 2118834/09 85153707
Review: This charming bed and breakfast in Valparaiso is located high up on a hill in Cerro Artilleria within two minutes walk to the Artilleria Ascensor. The views from the rooms in front are absolutely amazing and the rooms all tastefully decorated and very clean. There are four rooms of various sizes (ranging in price from $24 to $60 per room per night) and on the main floor is the common area which has comfy couches and information about Valparaiso as well as an Internet computer (not sure if this is available to guests or not as it wasn’t offered to me).
The owners…a young Chilean couple are extremely helpful and Alejandro speaks very good English. Definitely talk to him about the various self-guided walking tours through the old neighborhoods that he has information available for. The location is extremely convenient to the Naval Museum and the local artesan fair plus one of the most popular viewpoints of the bay in the city.
A nice breakfast of coffee, tea, freshly made juice (the plum juice was amazing!), bread, ham, cheese, yogurt and muesli is also served in the common area from 8 am to 11:30 am and is included in the price. There are bookshelves for browsing (mostly Spanish titles) and information on all sorts of services in Valparaiso. A truly relaxing and recommended place to stay.
Would I there again: Yes, definitely.
(Review Added January 9, 2008)
Name: Manu Adventures
Location: Cusco, Peru
Address: Plateros 356 – Cusco – Perú
Phone: +51 84 26 16 40
+51 84 22 41 00
Review: So you want to go to the Peruvian jungle? If you’re in Cusco…or going to Cusco…the standard two jungle options are to take a plane to Puerto Maldonado and then go by boat up the river. Or take a bus through The Sacred Valley of the Incas descending through the cloud forest and ultimately into the rainforest of Manu National Park. The basic difference between PM and Manu is that there are more people in PM and better (read: more luxurious) lodges. Manu, on the other hand, is less visited and therefore you are more likely to see animals such as birds, monkeys and snakes.
After hearing the speeches of numerous touts we were ultimately convinced that Manu was the place to be despite the fact it was a 10 hour bus ride in each direction. No worries…I actually enjoy bus rides as you get to see a lot of countryside while en route to your destination. OK, so next we needed to pick a tour group and by far the best presentation (which included pictures of what we’d be seeing) was at Manu Adventures. In addition, Manu is considered to run the most physically active of jungle programs out of Cusco including mountain biking, white water rafting and a canopy tour (ziplines to most of us). Lots of agencies in Cusco will book this Manu package but I think it’s best to book directly with them…their office is on Plateros just like everyone else so stop in and check it out.
Manu National Park in Peru is considered to be one of the most diverse in terms of species of both flora and fauna in the world. There are 3 zones to the park: cultural (where our tour took place), reserved (very remote and thus very expensive to get to) and the intangible zone (no tourism allowed to protect indigenous communities and only a very limited number of scientists are let in per year). The standard tour consists of 4 days/3 nights which will not be enough if you’re really into jungle species and enjoy taking extensive walks. For most of us, 4 days/3 nights would do it.
The first day consists of a longish-drive to the first lodge including several interesting stops along the way. The second day starts with an early viewing of the famous Cock of the Rock birds followed by an optional mountain biking tour. Those not mountain-biking will do an hour-long hike ultimately meeting up with the bikers in a nearby village where the whitewater rafting takes place. You then do a short rafting tour (speed depending on the level of the river) and ultimately take a boat to the final lodge, Erika Lodge.
For the next couple of days you’ll take several hikes (including at least one at night), a boat tour to see the parrot clay licks and of course do the canopy tour (ziplines) through the jungle. The lodges are both pretty basic with proper toilets and cold, freshwater showers. The food was, again, excellent and plentiful. There is also ample time for just relaxing in the hammocks and under the protective roofs watching the river go by. Our trip proved to be quite adventurous mostly in the transport as our vehicles broke down in both directions. My only complaint with this company is that I wish they would do better maintenance on their vehicles and/or provide their guides with cell phones for situations that go array. Otherwise, a great tour and a good time was had by all. Our cost in December of 2007 was US$375 for 5 days/4 nights all inclusive (except for guide/worker tips).
Would I book with them again: Yes
(Review Added January 9, 2008)
Name: Peru Treks
Location: Cusco, Peru
Address: Calle Garcilaso 265, Office 11, 2nd Floor, Cusco, Peru (2 minute walk from Plaza de Armas)Telephone: 00 51 84 505863 (from overseas), 084 505863 (from in Peru), 505863 (from in Cusco)
Review: When looking for a company with which to do the guided Inca Trail it becomes overwhelming very quickly. Certainly the Machu Picchu Inca Trail has become much more expensive over the past few years but do you really want to scrimp on price? After doing a bit of research I decided that while cost was, of course, important what was most important to me is the treatment of the many porters that do all of the hard work on the trail…and to that end, the company doing the best work for porters’ rights is Peru Treks.
True, Peru Treks isn’t the cheapest company in Cusco (nor is it the most expensive) but it’s reasonably priced (under US$400 in 2007 though the price appears to have gone up for 2008 largely due to the weakening dollar). I slept better knowing that the Peru Treks porters were being paid the union contract wage of 164 soles per 4 day trip (about $50). Yeah, I know. That is practically nothing by Western Standards but as the information on the website states, including tips a porter going on just 4 trips a month is making nearly the same as a college educated teacher in Peru…and is working fewer days. The worst thing is that it is estimated that only 20% of the companies operating on the Inca Trail pay the required wage. Why don’t the porters complain? Well, this is Peru and things don’t run the way we’re all used to. Most of these uneducated porters are happy to have any job at all so tolerate the unfortunate conditions under which they work.
OK, speech over. Aside from the importance of porter welfare in their operations, the trek itself was very good and well organized. We had a full group of 16 persons (plus 22 porters/chef and 2 guides). The tents and sleeping bags were of high quality and the food was excellent. Anectdotally we heard that the food in other companies was terrible but we felt like were eating gourmet…it was truly amazing what the chef could prepare with just a single gas burner.
Our main guide was good and spoke excellent English. Our second guide was less good and spoke almost no English. Which is fine…except they advertise both guides as English speakers and the second definitely wasn’t. In fact, we couldn’t quite figure out what his function was as he didn’t do much at all near as we could tell. Aside from the second guide, the trip was great. I can’t recommend Peru Treks enough for their Inca Trail service. Pay a little extra for the good of humanity and have a great trip. Oh, and hire an extra porter to carry your stuff…it will make the trip so much easier and more enjoyable. Also, bring small change and coins in soles for the tips at the end…makes everyone’s life slightly easier in a process that could use some improvement.
Would I book with them again: Yes, definitely
(Review Added December 23, 2007)
Name: Hostal Rumi Punku
Location: Cusco, Peru
Address: Choquechaca Number 339; Cusco, Peru
Phone: 00 5184 221102
Review: Rumi Punku is a very nice mid-priced hotel located very near both the Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Blas in Cusco. The hotel sports its own original Inca doorway which opens into a lovely courtyard where you will find 30 comfortable and spacious rooms. There is a sauna, jacuzzi and a lounging area on the third floor with tables and chairs and a beautiful view of the mountains surrounding Cusco.
Each room has a heater (included) and an amazing shower in the bathroom with hot water 24 hours a day. The rooms have a lot of character and are charming and comfortable. In the center of the courtyard is the reception desk where an English-speaking staff member is always present. There is a safe, luggage storage and travel information as well.
A good continental breakfast is included in the rate: bread, fruit, cheese, ham, eggs, tea and coffee (real coffee not instant!!!). The breakfast room is very nice with a fireplace, large dining area and some couches for lounging. An additional great bonus in this hotel is the free Internet access (fast!) offered with the two computers in the breakfast/lounge area. The staff is very attentive and very helpful. We paid $40 US per night for a double room in the low season (it goes up to $60 in the high season) which was very reasonable for this highly recommended hostal.
Would I book with them again: Yes, definitely
(Review added December 23, 2007)
Name: Hostal Marani
Location: Cusco, Peru
Address: Carmen Alto 194, San Blas; Cusco, Peru
Review: Hostal Marani is a delightful mid-priced hostal in the lovely part of Cusco known as San Blas. There are around 20 rooms built around a nice courtyard with tables and chairs for relaxing. There is also a small cafeteria (known as the Cafetin) where breakfast is served (choice of 3 breakfasts…the basic continental is included in the daily rate) as well as snacks and light meals. The people working in the hostal are charming and helpful and there is always someone around who speaks good English.
The rooms are very clean and spacious with hot water 24 hours a day in the bathrooms. It can get quite chilly in Cusco so you can rent space heaters as needed (we didn’t) for $5 per day. There is laundry service available as well as a safe, free luggage storage and assistance with travel plans. An additional benefit of staying here is that some of the profits go towards a charity that helps Peruvian children in need of health and education services.
The regular rates for 2007 range from $25 US for a single room to $60 for a quadruple room though we were able to negotiate a discount for a double room to $31.50 (normal rate of $36) during the low season month of early December. All in all, a very nice place to stay in Cusco for a moderate price.
Would I book with them again: Yes, definitely
(Review added December 5, 2007)
Name: Happy Gringo Travel Agency
Location: Quito, Ecuador
Happy Gringo Travel
Lizardo Garcia E7-11 y Reina Victoria
La Mariscal, Quito
Review: There is lots of advice going around the travel circuit about the best way to book your Galapagos tours. It’s generally accepted that the cheapest way to do so is to wait until you arrive in Ecuador and book a last minute special. This works better if you’re traveling alone and willing to share a cabin with a member of the opposite sex. Of course, waiting until the last minute limits the available boats and if you’re going to spend a large amount of money for a once-in-a-lifetime-experience do you really want to get stuck with what you get stuck with? I opted for the second best option…using a travel agency based in Ecuador (rather than an agency based in North America or Europe) and can very happily recommend the Happy Gringo agency in Quito.
From the very start, Eva at HG was extremely efficient and helpful. It was a bit unnerving to send large sums of money via wire transfer to a faceless person in a foreign country but Eva and HG made it very easy by providing all of the required information and even having a U.S. bank to wire the money to. This simplified the transaction considerably (and the transfer was cheaper to a domestic bank). Eva kept in constant contact regarding the status of my tickets, a change in flight itinerary and was generally very helpful. I can highly recommend this agency for your Galapagos booking (and I’m sure they do a great job with their other tours as well).
I booked the Nemo II catamaran in large part because it is one of the few boats with a complete 8 day itinerary rather than two 4 day itineraries pieced together. The boat was very comfortable with a spacious dining area, private bathrooms in the cabin and they arranged a female roommate for me as I was traveling alone. The food was fabulous and our guide, Juan Carlos, was very enthusiastic about the islands and conservation as well as speaking excellent English. The itinerary was also good and when we had a minor mechanical problem with the boat the crew was able to quickly adapt and make sure we got to see all of the promised species (in particular the giant tortoises).
The boat has 7 double cabins for a capacity of 14 but two people on our tour had single cabins so we only had 12 people. This was a great size group as you get to be comfortable and close over the week and it’s easy to get around with a small group. I definitely recommend a catamaran for people who may be prone to sea sickness as it is less “wobbly” than some of the other yacht-type boats in rough seas. There are ample places to sit and enjoy the scenery, both shaded and unshaded, and the crew of 7 (including guide) go out of their way to make sure you have a good time.
The only slight downside to this boat is that since its considered one of the nicer boats in the islands, it tends to draw an older crowd (I was the youngest on board at the old age of 30). This was fine for me as we had a great group of folks but for someone looking to travel with a more active and younger group I would probably book in the tourist or tourist-superior category. Otherwise, Nemo II is highly recommended.
Would I book with them again: Yes, definitely
(Review Added November 24, 2007)
Name: Hosteria Izhcayluma
Location: Vilcabamba, Ecuador
2 km. south on road to Zumba
Telephone: 07 2640095/09 9153419
Review: About an hour south of Loja in the Andes of Ecuador is the little village of Vilcambamba. This village has become a regular stop on the Gringo Trail for those heading south to Peru due to its beautiful scenery and amazing climate (allegedly people live longer in Vilcabamba than anywhere else in Ecuador). For a tiny village, Vilcambamba has quite a few choices of good accommodation, but for sure the best place has to be Hosteria Izhcayluma.
Izhcayluma is run by a couple of German “former-travelers” who were interested in creating a resort-quality place to stay at backpackers prices. They have definitely succeeded. The grounds are gorgeous flowering gardens set up on a hill above Vilcabamba with a view of the village below. They have a lagoon style pool, human-size chess game, a bar, fabulous restaurant and lots of hammocks to relax in throughout the grounds. You can also schedule high quality massages that are super cheap ($12 for 45 minutes, $18 for 75 minutes or other packages).
The menu in the restaurant is huge and includes lots of European specialities. Breakfast is included and there are several items to choose from….fruit, crepes, scrambled eggs, fresh-squeezed juice (of course), etc. The restaurant is open all day though it does close at 8pm which is a little early. Lots of people show up thinking they can eat and are disappointed.
The room options are nice and varied ranging from a $9 dorm room through double private cabins for $34. There is hot water 24-hours a day (really!) and the bathrooms and rooms are nice and clean. The accommodations are spread out over the grounds so it is always nice and quiet though one set of rooms with shared bath is close to the road so a bit louder (rooms 10/11/12). Overall, very high quality and good value for $9 to $17 per person.
The front desk is extremely helpful and can schedule all sorts of activities. There are many self-guided hikes in the area including the Rumi Wilco Reserve and Podocarpus National Park. Lots of people also do the hike to Mandango Mountain though they will always remind you its a bit dangerous…a woman who went by herself was recently raped and several people have been mugged in recent years. They will also set-up horseback riding…by the hour or a full day (including a hike to waterfall, lunch and riding the horses for $25).
Would I stay here again: Yes, definitely
(Review Added November 16, 2007)
Name: Hostal Macondo
Location: Cuenca, Ecuador
Tarqui 11-64 y Mariscal Lamar
PO Box 597
Telephone: (593-7) 282-1700
Review: Hostal Macondo is a great hostal in central Cuenca…close to the main square and attractions but on a quiet street. The building is a beautifully restored colonial house with a number of rooms…singles and doubles both with private and shared bath. There is a lovely garden courtyard and plenty of places to sit and relax with other travelers. The rooms are very charming with lots of brightly painted walls and interesting decor. The bed in my single room is extremely comfortable and there are plenty of blankets which is great since it gets pretty chilly at night in Cuenca.
A fresh-cooked continental breakfast is served every morning by the hard-working hostal staff. There is always fresh filter coffee (a rarity in Ecuador), fresh-squeezed juice, fruit and a hot item. The hot items vary everyday and have so far included: scrambled eggs, hot ham and cheese sandwiches and pancakes. The kitchen is also available to hostal residents who want to cook…as long as they clean up, of course. In the kitchen there are some board games, a TV with DVD player and just outside in the courtyard book rental is available (mostly English titles but some other European languages are included).
Rates for a single room with shared bath are about $14 and go up from there. A good value in a nice place that is one of the pricier locations in Ecuador.
Would I stay here again: Yes, definitely
Stacey´s Best Tips for Not Ending up Homeless and
Starving in a Foreign Country (posted November 12, 2007)
Always bring both Mastercard and Visa credit cards. In every foreign country I´ve been in it seems that frequently a store or hotel will only take one or the other. Or sometimes, one or the other network has been down at a time so if you only have Mastercard and that network is down you could have a problem. On this trip I brought two of each and keep them separate in case of theft. This proved to be fortuitous after I was pickpocketed.
Call your credit cards and ATM cards before you leave the country. Always call the CC and ATM companies to let them know you´ll be traveling and to not shut your card down. Sometimes even then the card won´t accept charges but it´s worth a try and it is certainly easier to call from home than somewhere foreign.
Traveler´s checks are obsolete. I haven´t carried a traveler´s check in more than 10 years and the reason is because they´re a pain-in-the-ass to convert into currency and frequently fetch poor rates. With the advent of world-wide ATM networks it´s much easier to just take cash from the ATM machine. The one time I would recommend TCs is if you need to pay for something fairly expensive in U.S. dollars and don´t want to carry a large amount of cash (eg. paying for a deposit or rent on a vacation rental in Argentina). TCs can be replaced if lost or stolen whereas cash clearly cannot.
E-mail yourself the phone numbers for your credit and ATM cards. The access phone numbers that you need are printed on the back of your cards though if you lose the card or it is stolen…no number. Compile the list of phone numbers and e-mail it to yourself…fortunately I did this and it was much easier to deal with the stolen cards.
Get PIN numbers for cash advances from your credit cards. Even if you think you will never do this (eg. you´re using your ATM card) get the PIN numbers for your cards several weeks in advance. In an emergency you can get a cash advance from the CC though the interest rates and fees are substantial. Unfortunately, I did not do this so was unable to get cash via the ATM machines after my ATM card was stolen. But no worries….here´s Plan B:
You can get a cash advance from any bank without a PIN. I did not know this until I arrived here in Ecuador that a person can walk into most any bank with their passport and a credit card and get a cash advance. The limits vary and the fees substantial (eg. my fee to pay for my Spanish classes was $27) but in an emergency who really cares.
You can send yourself money via Western Union on a credit card. I did not try this but it appears from the WU website that you can essentially wire yourself money by putting a certain amount of money on your credit card via the WU website and you can then go pick up the cash at a WU office (widely available worldwide). Fees again are substantial…to wire myself $500 would have cost about $50 dollars plus cash advance fees on my CC.
Carry U.S. dollars in small denominations and in good condition. When traveling in most places outside of Europe (especially in 2nd and 3rd worldish places like Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, etc.) always carry a supply of U.S. dollars in good condition in low denominations ($1 and $5) as often cab drivers and some small shops will accept both currencies. Also, when carrying cash in South America to convert to the local currency…always bring money in U.S. dollars in bills no larger than $20 due to problems with counterfeiting.
(Review added November 12, 2007)
Name: Hotel Bambu
Location: Canoa, Ecuador
North end of the beach
Telephone: (593) 052 616 370/ 099 263 365
Review: This is a beautiful hotel on the north end of the beach in the small surfing/fishing village of Canoa. There are a wide array of accomodation options ranging from camping on the beach and using the facilities ($4) to private rooms with balcony and hot water ($20). The grounds are gorgeous…a beautiful (and tasty) restaurant right on the beach, plenty of hammocks for lounging and a well-stocked bar (though it closes fairly early at around 11pm). There is a nice open-air common area with tour information as well as a book exchange, couches for relaxing and a ping-pong table.
While the grounds and the hotel amenities are great, I wasn´t in love with my single room with bath ($16 per)…room #3. There was a very persistent chemical smell that made for uncomfortable sleeping. The water was only occasionally hot so next time I might opt for the single room with shared bath. Room #3 is also right next to the bar and the ping-pong table so if you´re a light sleeper this might be a problem…it wasn´t for me but just an FYI.
The food is good at the hotel but there are several other places to eat as well including Cafe Flor (south end of the beach but several blocks off of the beach). There are also numerous bars open along the main road in town if you´re interested in partying a little later than eleven. It´s pretty quiet in Canoa this time of year (November) though Sundays are especially popular with the locals and is the time you´re likely to see the most activity on the beach. There is also paragliding and Rio Muchacho tours…inquire at the desk (which is actually the bar).
Would I stay here again: Yes, though I would opt for a room other than #3
(Review posted November 1, 2007)
Name: Hostal Crucita
Location: Crucita, Ecuador
Address: Big white building south end of the beach/Malecon.
Review: Hostal Crucita is a lovely place to stay on the south end of the beach (past the end of the paved road) in the little fishing/resort village of Crucita. Many of the rooms have a balcony view of the water and there is also a terrace on the 2nd floor with beach chairs for lounging. The hostal has spacious and clean rooms (cold water only) as well as a pool and a restaurant. A friend and I recently paid $8 per person, per night for a spacious triple-bedded room (though there were only two of us).
Raul, the owner, is an expert paraglider/hanglider and he takes people for tandem rides as well as gives lessons on flying solo. Raul is extremely helpful and friendly and speaks very good English (though only if he can´t stand hearing any more terrible Spanish). The cost of a 15 minute flight is $20 though a little extra tip for Raul is appreciated as he drives you to the top of the cliff in his car. The best times to paraglide are between about 11 am and 1 pm so be sure to arrive around then for the best flights.
Also, be sure to check out Raul´s brother´s restaurant Matumba about halfway down the beach. Both David and Raul have lived in the U.S. so speak good English and are knowledgeable people to ask about Crucita and surrounding areas.
Would I recommend this hostal: Yes, definitely.
(Review added October 29, 2007)
Name: Academia Surpacifico
Location: Manta, Ecuador
Avenida 24 y Calle 15 – Edificio Barre – 3er Piso
Telefono: (05) 2610838
Review: Academia Surpacifico is a private Spanish language school based on the coast of Ecuador in Manta. Manta is a seaport of about 250,000 people whose main exports are tuna and other seafood. Surpacifico is in a safe part of Manta and is within a 10 or 15 minute walk of most (if not all) of the host families. As seems to be the case in much of Ecuador, classes are one-on-one with a college-educated teacher and cost around $5 per hour. It is possible to have group classes only if you arrive with and are studying with a person at your same level of Spanish. In this case the classes are slightly cheaper. There is a well-equipped student apartment above the school but most students seem to stay with host families. Most people have good things to say about their host families though in one house they are reported to be a bit stingy with food and I seem to be the only person living in a host family who has hot water. The cost per day of a host family including laundry service and three meals a day is about $18. The student apartment is slightly cheaper but obviously does not include meals.
Manuel, the owner and manager of the school is extremely, extremely helpful and runs things very efficiently. He was able to change my arrival dates with very little advance notice after I was pickpocketed in Quito. I was also able to have my new credit/ATM cards sent to the school securely via Fedex. The school is small (about 10 students is a full house) and because of this, many of the planned activities don´t take place because we don´t achieve the 6 person minimum very often. There are special “Spanish+Surfing” and “Spanish+Kitesurfing” programs available as well as others (eg. medical Spanish, etc.) Surpacifico is probably best for someone looking to get away from the Gringo Trail and live in a non-touristy Ecuadorean city rather than a location (like Quito or Cuenca) where tourism is the mainstay. Manta is safer and friendlier than Quito though it lacks a bit in things to do. The beach and Malecon area are clean and safe though don´t bring anything of value with you to the beach. There are also many potential daytrips and weekend trips from Manta including paragliding/hangliding in Crucita (1 hour away), Puerto Lopez (the starting point for Isla de la Plata, 3.5 hours south), the eco-city of Bahia de Caraquez (about 3 hours north) and the nicer northern beaches of Canoa and Esmeraldas (north still of Bahia de Caraquez via a ferry).
Would I recommend this school: Yes, definitely.
Review Added October 24, 2007
Name: Chicago Hostel
Location: Quito, Ecuador
Los Rios St. # 1730 y Briceno St.
Website: http://www.chicagohostelquitoecuador.htmlplanet.com(information only)
Book via www.hostelbookers.com
Review: This hostel is located between the Old and New Cities in Quito though it is closer to the Old City and near the Plaza San Blas. I had a single room with my own bathroom for $9 per night. The room was clean and bright with a bed, chair, reading lamp, TV and occasional hot water. Rooms were cleaned every day and sheets changed every other day. There is also a safe available at the reception desk for your valuables. The price included a good breakfast on their rooftop terrace though it didn´t vary at all and became monotonous after a couple of days: bread, scrambled egg, fresh fruit and tea-coffee. The reception area is cozy (read: smallish) but includes a bar so you can relax with a beer or cocktail and not have to worry about being out after dark. The staff was helpful though not especially friendly and the Internet computer at $1 per hour was convenient. The hostel staff can arrange tours and I saw an Englishman had arranged some Spanish courses through the hostel. There are also three small grocery/convenience store shops near by for water, snacks, etc. It´s walkeable to the Old City during the day but keep an eye on your valuables as I was pickpocketed the first day while walking down Guayquil Street between the hostel and the Old City.
Would I stay here again: Yes
(Added: July 10, 2007)
After a trip to the travel doctor you will seriously consider staying home and remaining in your familiar, relatively sterile environment. It can get a little overwhelming to hear about all of the available bugs and calamities that can befall you but hopefully this synopsis will be helpful to those traveling to South America. Amazingly, much of this stuff was covered by my insurance so I’m posting the billed amount before the network discount and my co-pay. The Cipro and Diamox won’t be filled until right before I leave for SA in October so will update those prices as I get them.
|Prevents||Vaccine Name||Cost||Delivery Method||Becomes Effective After||Lasts|
|Malaria||Lariam (mefloquine) *||$35/mo.||oral (pill: 1/week)||2 weeks||continue 4 weeks after exposure|
|Typhoid||Typhim Vi||$59||4 pills (oral) taken every other day||1 week||5 years|
|Hep A & B||Twinrix||$142||3 shots (shoulder)||1-6 months||20 years to life|
|Tetanus, Dipheria, Polio||Booster||$65||1 shot (shoulder)||immediate||10 years|
|Yellow Fever||YF-Vax||$120||1 shot (shoulder)||immediate||10 years|
|Traveler’s Diarrhea||Ciprofloxacin||???||tablets||immediate||as needed|
|Altitude Sickness||Diamox||???||tablets||immediate||as needed|
I decided against the Rabies vaccine as it’s extremely expensive ($1000 for the 3-shot series) and still requires getting to a medical center within 24-72 hours. You can be sure that if I’m bit by a rabid dog or scratched by a bat that I will be returning home.
* The current options for malaria prophylactic include Lariam (mefloquine), Malarone (no generic yet) and doxycycline. Malarone is said to be the best choice with the fewest side effects but it is very expensive (approx. $35/week) for an extended trip as there is no generic available yet. Doxycycline is very cheap and well-tolerated but has the annoying side-effect of causing sun sensitivity. Since a significant portion of this trip is outside and I’ve been on doxy before, I’m going to try the mefloqine. There’s a fair amount of bad press about this drug as it causes nightmares, insomnia and other fun effects in 20% of people. In a very small portion of people (usually those with known history of mental illness) it is known to cause serious psychosis. I’ve opted to take a 4 pill regimen before I leave to determine if I have any side-effects. So far, so good…no psychotic breaks yet.
Stacey’s Tips For Getting the a Great Deal on Hotel Rooms via Hotwire.com (added July 3, 2007)
1. What – www.hotwire.com is a great website for finding deals on hotel rooms when you don’t care which hotel you stay in and are just looking for a great deal. To use it, do a hotel search by date and select the hotel you want based on the neighborhood, price and amenities provided. Remember, you won’t find out the name of the hotel until after you commit to it (though see my tip below on how to figure out which hotel it will be).
2. How – You’re usually pretty safe with 3 star and higher hotels though if you’re just looking for cheap, I find 2 and 2.5 stars to be adequate (eg. La Quinta or Holiday Inn Express). Hotwire definitely works the best in urban areas…in particular I’ve always had good luck in San Francisco.
3. Method – If you really want to be sure that you have a room, you should book in advance. However, Hotwire is used as a method by the hotels to sell unsold rooms at cheap prices so I’ll often wait until the day before or the day of my stay to get the best deals. Again, if you’re going at a busy time or want to be sure you get a room you should book in advance.
4. Try something new – Don’t be afraid to try some of the boutique hotels listed. These are usually in charming buildings and lack the formulaic feel of the chain hotels. For example, I got a great $80 rate on a bed and breakfast in Charleston that my friend Kim in Atlanta has informed me is the best place to stay in Charleston. San Francisco is also a great place for boutique hotels.
5. Bonus – How to figure out where you’ll be staying. If you just search the hotels you won’t see the name of the hotel until after you’ve committed. However if you search for package deals (eg. air+hotel) they do reveal the names of the hotels (but not the flight times). While the below method is not foolproof, I’ve been able to figure out which hotel I was going be staying in every time I tried it.
a. Open up two web browser windows.
b. In the first window, do a hotel only search for the dates that you’re interested in.
c. In the second window, do a package search (from any airport) using the same dates. The names of the hotels and their stars/amenities are visible.
d. Comparing the amenities listed from the hotel only search and the hotel+air search, you can usually figure out which hotel is being used. Of course this won’t work if there is more than one hotel with the exact same amenities but at least you narrow it down and can go read the reviews at www.tripadvisor.com to determine if those hotels might meet your needs. It’s not a foolproof system but I was able to figure out several times where I’d be staying in advance…eg. the Westin in Maui and the Omni in Montreal.