Where to go in Latin America -- some restrictions apply
December 28, 2006 12:17 PM   Subscribe

What are the most affordable, non-touristy places to travel in Latin American for someone who has already spent considerable time there?

This coming April my girlfriend turns 25 and I want to taker her on a big vacation. She is fluent in Spanish and loves Latin America, so I was thinking of taking her somewhere in Central or South America. However, I have never been anywhere south of Cleveland (that's a joke!) so I'm not sure what country/city/etc. would be the best. I would love suggestions from MeFiers, but keep in mind these important restrictions:
  • She has already spent considerable time in Latin America, including a semester in Chile and time in Nicaragua, Mexico and Argentina. None of these are out of the question for visiting again, but expanding to other areas may be best.
  • We are both slaves of the non-profit social service world and are both currently planning to attend Graduate School next year so money is VERY TIGHT...especially for me because, well, I'd be paying for most of it.
  • Neither of us are in to the "sanitized-for-Americans" touristy crap. We both like to see the real character of a country, not some stupid resort that is just Daytona Beach in Mexico.
  • As I already said, her birthday is in April (end of the month). It would be nice to travel between mid-April and Mid-May. But since we'll both be quitting our jobs around th end of next summer to go back to school, traveling in July or August is not out of the question either. Whatever is most affordable.
Ok, I think those are all my restrictions. Any suggestions?
posted by jk252b to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I spent last winter teaching English in Costa Rica and if you stay away from the big cities and touristy spots it is very cheap. I was in San Marcos which is mountainous coffee picking region and a great place to get a taste of the real Costa Rica and practice your spanish. Meals were about one or two dollars and my rent was thirty a month.

I know you said travel and not live somewhere...it is hard to travel around Costa Rica without spending a fair amount of money as it is pretty americanized...but if you are interested in staying put I would recommend there. It is about 45 minutes to Quepos and Manuel Antonio (beaches) and 2.5 hours to San Jose. If you want some contacts or more info, give me a shout.
posted by unreasonable at 12:35 PM on December 28, 2006

not some stupid resort that is just Daytona Beach in Mexico. HEY!!

How about Belize? Good friends just spent their honeymoon here, and they loved it.
posted by LoriFLA at 12:38 PM on December 28, 2006

Guatemala strikes me as a good choice: not particularly expensive, distant, or inaccessible, lots of indigenous culture, not a stream of college students pouring in for Spring Break. And it's smaller than Tennessee!

One thing: you say you want to take her on a "big vacation," but I imagine that the more you travel around and the more ground you try to cover, the more expensive it will be. Perhaps limit yourself to a few weeks and plan a bigger trip when you can afford it, rather than feel miserable on your super-fun trip because you're constantly scrimping.
posted by mdonley at 12:52 PM on December 28, 2006

Belize is packed with tourists, as is a great part of Costa Rica. El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua are the least touristy Central American countries. I've spent time in Honduras and found it to be cheap and beautiful. And as long as I avoided Copan or the islands, I could go weeks without running into another tourist.

Might want to think about Bolivia also. Colombia is a stunning in its beauty but you've got to watch where you're going.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:57 PM on December 28, 2006

The Dominican Republic is fairly cheap to fly to (250-300 with all taxes) from the east coast, and is also quite cheap (both to get around and to stay)

Tourists? DR has a lot of resorts - especially a lot of all-inclusize resorts, but these are located in select areas of the country (the huge resorts complex by Puerto Plata, Punta Cana, Sosua, Cabarete). The rest of the country is virtually empty of them.

But you won't be there - stay at regular posadas, hotels, etc and you'll find that you run into hardly any tourists at all. Beautiful country and beautiful beaches to boot as well.

That being said, the cheapest place i ever have spent time in Latin America was Bolivia. Like $5 for a decent hotel cheap, and 50 cents for a taxi. You could travel cheaply for weeks there...of course, getting there is somewhat pricey.
posted by jare2003 at 1:43 PM on December 28, 2006

No specific recommnedations as to place, but give the gift in April, and do the travelling when you both of tons of free time.
posted by Amizu at 1:55 PM on December 28, 2006

Check out Uruguay, especially Montevideo. Very nice, laid back and cheap.
posted by racingjs at 2:29 PM on December 28, 2006

(please excuse a short interruption)
unreasonable: Your email isn't in your profile, but I'd like to hear more about your experience in San Marcos. I'm going to Costa Rica myself in February and am trying to scope out schools. My email is in my profile.
(thank you, please carry on)
posted by ecrivain at 4:09 PM on December 28, 2006

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