Recommendations for booking central/south america?
August 17, 2008 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Trip for 2 to central/south America. I'm lost.

I'd like to plan a trip for 2 to central or south america (considering: Peru, Costa Rica, Belize). I'd like to book a trip online, but I'm overwhelmed by the number of sites and trying to figure out if they are legit or not. Have you booked a trip online that was a reasonable deal, with reasonable accommodations? I don't need five star, but I don't want to be somewhere sketchy. Really looking for information on the website more than specific recommendations (but I'll take those too).

If it matters: budget is around $2500 (not including air), not interested in cruises, 5-7 days.
posted by dpx.mfx to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What are your interests? What do you want to see? Are you trying to hit multiple areas or stay in one place?
posted by greta simone at 6:43 PM on August 17, 2008

5-7 days seems too little time to get to and around Peru and get back, but Ecuador is far smaller and probably a lot easier to get around. Costa Rica and Belize are pretty great choices, too - compact enough for a few different environments to explore. I wouldn't worry too much about sketchiness other than your usual keeping-an-eye-out stuff; both of these countries really really depend on tourism for a lot of their income, but not in a Tijuana kind of way, if you know what I mean.

TripAdvisor is a website with thousands of customer-reviewed places all over the world and uses a system sort of like stars; it's possible to have a 5-dot beach cabana, a 5-dot bed and breakfast, or a 5-dot all-inclusive resort. I've used the site a lot and have been happy with where I've ended up every time. And they've got reviews of all kinds of places, too, not just on-the-beaten-path megahotels. Here's the number-one place in Otavalo, Ecuador, which I have never visited but looks really cool.
posted by mdonley at 6:46 PM on August 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Greta: We're interested in everything, really. I'd like a couple days on a beach; he'd like a couple days of hiking. We like the city, we like the ourtskirts. We prefer to visit countries in areas/at times where they aren't completely overrun with american tourists (but we'll deal for something that's can't miss, like, say machu pichu). I'm happy to go one place and use it as a home base, or move about. But I'd prefer to book it all at once somewhere.

We could push the 7 days to 10, probably. Timing is flexible.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:53 PM on August 17, 2008

But I'd prefer to book it all at once somewhere.

Ah, I didn't quite get that part. A few suggestions:

- Local Spanish-language travel agencies might have the inside line on destinations and itineraries, since the communities they serve are not just vacationers. Check your local Spanish-language media (you're looking for "agencias de viajes"), or just take a drive through a part of town with a large Latino community.
- Places like Travelocity and Expedia can book your flight and hotel together pretty easily. Look for "vacation packages".
posted by mdonley at 7:40 PM on August 17, 2008

I just booked a trip to Peru through Adventure Center: They have TONS of different options for South America, many of which fall into your budget and time constraints. I haven't taken a trip with them yet, but I have friends and family who have used them all over the world. My brother and father did a 2-week trip to Costa Rica with them and loved it. The trips aren't super posh, but they're safe and you have local guides with you the whole time. Many offer a combination of city and trekking, with some adventure stuff (horseback riding, kayaking) thrown in.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 8:38 PM on August 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I love, love, love Ecuador and Peru, but I don't think of them as beach places - Lima tends to be cool and foggy, and Guayaquil is muggy (though, of course, it's winter now, so it's not so bad).

Manu National Park in Peru is great if you want to see the rainforest.
posted by lukemeister at 8:48 PM on August 17, 2008

On your list, Belize would probably be the best. It's got beaches and it's got hiking, but not in the same areas of Belize. Short flight from Miami (you don't say where you are located). I loved Caves Branch and tubing into the caves, hiking around, etc.

Placencia is one of the lesser touristy beach spots, so small that hordes of tourists can't possibly stay there. You'd be close to the Blue Hole, one of the premier diving spots in the world. Beaches are nice, not spectacular. Sand flies can be a bit pesky. And most people speak English, if not in the local patois.

Peru / Machu Picchu is out for your timeframe - you need time to acclimatize yourself to the 13,000 ft. Andean Mountains where Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu, is located. You'll need a minimum of 6 days in country to do that, but that's doing it rushed.
posted by HeyAllie at 11:59 AM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

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