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Travel Splurges Worth Making

Michael Stressed

Feeling stressed out on the road is multiplied. It doesn’t help that I probably don’t speak the local language, I don’t know anyone, and the closest friends I have I met an hour ago. There’s been many times I was super stressed out and just needed a good day of splurging to feel better again. I don’t need to feel stressed out to do them either. It’s just what I enjoy and makes me happy.

Anything to do with food

I’d say most of the time when I’m stressed out, it’s because I’m hungry. Even if it’s not, it’s hard to get mad at anything with a full stomach.

I’m willing to go out of my way to have a fantastic meal even if it’ll cost extra to get there or the dish is expensive. I love food and discovering new dishes which is why we created Eat The World.

Although it doesn’t cost much, I usually go out of my way to find a good locally brewed beer as well.

Asado in Argentina
Asado in Argentina

Stay in a luxurious apartment or house rental

I caught a bad cold in Santiago, Chile the minute I got there. I didn’t care about sightseeing the city. All I wanted to do is rest in peace. That would have been in impossible in a hostel. I ended up staying in a rented apartment for 10-days and just relaxed the entire time. I felt bad I didn’t discover as much as I would have liked to of Santiago but I knew pushing myself would make me feel worse.

Sometimes I need some quiet time too whether I’m sick or not which hostels don’t always have. Hotels are sometimes too expensive and since I travel slow, I don’t mind booking a week long or more for an apartment so I can relax. It’s often cheaper to get a vacation rental than a hotel.

Apartment in Chile

Last minute getting out

Stephanie and I were in Ecuador super exhausted from traveling. I couldn’t imagine getting on another bus. I was also insanely behind on work and was running out of money unless I stood still for awhile somewhere to recover my funds. So we booked a flight to Buenos Aires for the next day. I never booked a flight so late minute before. Buenos Aires is my second home. It’s familiar to me and I have a lot of family there. We ended up getting an apartment for three months in Buenos Aires. By the time we left the city, we were energized and ready to keep on traveling.

I had a similar breakdown in SE Asia and decided to change my flight for the next day to go to Australia instead of India so I could visit friends. It cost me a lot but it was worth it to see my friends.

Comfort on buses

I can deal with chicken buses when I don’t have a choice but if it’s going to cost me $10 extra to ride in a better quality overnight bus, I’ll take it. Argentina and Peru are known to have high quality buses from regular seats to VIP seats that fold back into a bed and come with wine and steak. I don’t need VIP but middle class is perfect for me (semi-cama) especially on buses that last longer than about 8 hours. If it’s overnight, I definitely need a minimum of semi-cama or better. I’m useless when I’m tired so I’m better off going for comfort and getting a good nights rest or as good as it’ll get on a bus.


What’s worth splurging on during your travels?

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Hostel Hell

Hostelling in Paris

Choosing a hostel is a gamble. If you’re like me you cherish the memory of the two or three amazing hostels you’ve been too, where everything comes together as if God himself wanted you to have a life changing social and cultural experience.  The sort of hostel that functions as the UN should, with people of numerous cultures cementing their newfound friendship deep in drinks and conversation late into the night.  If you are like me you also, somewhat paradoxically, go for the sort of cheap hostels where you find yourself beyond the bus station in a cold dirty dorm with no bed-sheets and no chance of meeting a friend.  If you’re like me, in some weird way, you cherish the memories of the worst hostels too.

Hostelling in Paris
By Chris Lancaster on Flickr – Creative Commons

We’ve all been to the dingy, dark, Dickensian squalor hostel; the comfortable spotless yet unsettlingly hospital-like hostel with no character and cold social scene; the hostel with bedbugs or no heat in winter; the hostel that sold you with the words “Free Breakfast” and only delivered white bread and Nutella.   I once spent a night in an Oslo hostel where they charged me extra for everything except oxygen.  To spite the owner I used my own laundry as blankets, towels and a pillowcase.  The only other person in the dorm was a young man who looked like hobo-Jesus, arose in the night to pace circles in the darkness while muttering, and occasionally called his mother on the phone and made crying sounds.  I kept my knife under my pillow all night.

After a few nights of such places I’d think, “Screw it, I’m paying more for a better location and higher reviews on Hostel World!”  I’d research and settle on one of those places with a reputation for fun.  These usually have flashy names like “Gringo Bill’s Backpackers” or “The Purple Parrott” or my personal favorite, Prague’s “Hostel Elf”.  I’d be at check-in with wide eyes, thinking that the place seemed too good to be true, with beautiful people everywhere, drinks in hand, music blasting, only to find that they are in fact casual backpackers out for a week long trip and a mind to turn their exotic location into an endless college frat party indistinguishable from back home.  Trying to talk about backpacking or travel with people who are only interested in jury-rigging a beer pong game is disillusioning at best.  (I love beer pong but it always fascinates me how some travelers arrive in a foreign country and immediately set out to turn it into home, find the local Irish bar, or map out the local English speaker’s hangouts.)  Finally there are those hostels with the PERFECT everything except people. My experience in Dublin was one of these.

Barnacles Temple Bar House / Dublin Hostel / Ireland
Barnacles Temple Bar House / Dublin Hostel / Ireland by Barnacles Hostels on Flickr

It was my last night in Europe after backpacking for four months.  I was going home the next day, and was feeling reflective and in need of one final adventure.  So while my two traveling companions stayed for cheap in Trinity campus housing, I splurged on myself and found a hostel by O’Connell Street just across the river Liffey from the Ha’Penny footbridge.  It had the sort of hip look and perfect location that I figured would draw people like me.  It was spacious and clean and well managed.  Its common room was perfect. However, the place was frequented by anti-social, dour characters.  Most were male, all looked hung-over and reflective, and a few looked quite dangerous.  I sat for a while in the lounge, trying to mingle, incite conversation, or perhaps mount an expedition against the local pubs.  It was quickly apparent that I would spend my night alone in silence; this was not the sort of crowd that talked, mingled with others or painted the town.  Time passed slowly.

Eventually I retired to bed.  I had an early flight the next day and had arranged for a 5:30am wake up call for bed #17.  Hostel dorm rooms are an adventure in themselves.  I’ve passed nights wanting to smother snoring neighbors.  I’ve smothered myself to keep out the sounds of people hooking up a few feet away.  I’ve counted the minutes as drunks try to find their way to bed in the dark.  Heck, I’ve even been robbed by fellow patrons.  Retiring to my dorm room that night in Dublin, I discovered somebody else in my bunk.

I considered this shadowy figure silently for a bit, checking and rechecking my bunk assignment before deciding to assert myself.  Starting with a polite poke in the back, and finding it ineffective, I then graduated to the sharper jab in the spine, which had always worked wonders in the past.  The man was a stone.  I withdrew, scratched my head, and tried a different tack.  Laying hands on his shoulders, I shook him, pleaded with him, and with a final flourish for the benefit of anyone watching, kicked the mattress.  He did not wake.  I seethed with anger.  This drunk in my bed had clearly been too lazy to climb up to his top bunk, and now I had no bed to show for the 22 Euro I had shelled out for 5 hours of what would no doubt be shitty sleep anyway.  In some places, where concepts of order and assigned seating border on fanaticism (Scandinavia, Northeast Asia, et al.) I may have complained to the night watchman and had the man taken away.  But being tired, I simply threw his things on the floor, stole his bed for my own, and quickly passed out.

Paddy's Palace Hostel
Paddy’s Palace Hostel by DraXus on Flickr

Going to bed early in a hostel often proves pointless, and I wont begrudge people for staying out late or coming home a bit tipsy.  But what happened on this night bordered on torture.  I will remember that night’s “sleep” for the rest of my life.  During the first hour drunken Spaniards continuously came and went from the room, always slamming the door and leaving the light on (the light was 2 feet from my face).  Then, just as I had entered the stage where I could feel myself rapidly slipping into sleep the door flew open and two French drunks crashed through the room, one yelling loudly, the other whispering loudly, telling him to be quiet.  A torrent of “fuck fuck…. (insert inaudible French)…fuck” flew from the kid’s mouth. I imagined that it probably translated loosely as “Fuck those people and their sleep”.  This was followed by a disgustingly audible gulp of wine.  In the end he belched loudly, threw the bottle in the trash and climbed into his bed.  Seemingly this was the end, but then he pulled out his cell phone (which was turned up to maximum volume).  He harassed his girlfriend, mother, or some irate woman for a time, before finally passing out on his back, which in my hostel experience is almost always a portent of the snoring to come.  These guys of course left the light on, so it was left to me to jump down turn it off and climb back up to my bunk.

For the next 2 hours I slept in 20-minute increments, woken by snoring, the light going on, and a group of American girls who sat outside the door and discussed how they like getting stoned.  People speaking in loudly in any language are bad enough, but when it is your own language, no matter how stupid the conversation, it is often impossible not to listen. Theirs went something like this:  “Sometimes I put smoking a bowl on a list of things to do for the day” one said.  “Oh my God!” said another, “Me too! It’s like, take the dog for a walk, go to the store, smoke a bowl!”  An hour after this, my French friends sprung into action again, whispering loudly, throwing on the lights, and fumbling with zippers and crackly plastic bags.  As I waited them out, I angrily considered how I might be the only person on earth who uses a mini-flashlight, or tries to muffle his motions while in a dorm at night.

Backpackers Bar, Pentonville, N1
Backpackers Bar, Pentonville, N1 by Ewan-M on Flickr

I concluded that hundreds of people across Earth owed me some sort of thanks.  Perhaps a small plaque or medal with the words “Most Courteous Hostel Patron, Europe 2007” chiseled in brass, to be awarded in Brussels by an official in a sash.  I lay there grinning inanely, lost in my fantasy.  The BBC would be there of course, a sharp dressed junior correspondent perhaps.  I could see her steadying her microphone; “Mr. Quinion how ever did you manage, in over 30 countries, to not wake up a single patron, or slam a single creaky door?  What tips do you have for our younger readers seeking solutions to the problematic ‘top bunk with no ladder’ quandary?”  I’d reply modestly; “Well its an old Iroquois trick you know, you walk on the balls of your feet…”  In my delirium I imagined these very French kids bowing and acknowledging my thoughtfulness while respectfully admitting that such behavior was, lamentably, far beyond them.  Needless to say, two hours later the French engaged in another one of their drills, and while they frantically went through the motions I opted to take the opportunity to relieve my self of several pints of Kilkenny.

Being a hostel, even a simple piss is not guaranteed to go smoothly.  In my case, the bathroom door would not open more than a few inches, and seemed to be butting up against something soft and heavy.  After a few hearty shoves I gave up on a traditional entry and instead sidled through the small gap I had created.  There on the floor behind the door was a man sprawled on his back asleep, or as it appeared, dead.  As I switched on the light and first considered calling for help, his eyes opened and struggled to take stock of their surroundings.  They spun in their sockets.  His face contorted.  He blinked once, tried to focus again, and took on that peculiar detached look Daffy Duck used to have when hit on the head with a blunt object.  He looked at me.  I looked at him.  Not a word was spoken.  I mouthed the words “are you alright” but I am pretty sure I did not say them, such was my shock.  Suddenly one arm shivered and rose up, its hand opened towards me, and a low and heartbreaking groan echoes across the tiles.  Have you ever seen a possum caught in a trap?  It looked like that.  I didn’t know whether to help this poor creature or call the Hostel manager to get a gun and put it out of its misery.  I looked around the room, finally noticing the vomit streaked walls, and slowly backed out through the crack which I had come.  Nothing but time could help him.  After this I slept reasonably well for a few hours, the night had apparently settled into its routine and all seemed quiet.

An alarm exploded into my dream and I awoke somewhere in the darkness.  Remembering where I was, I noticed the wall clock, which read 4:50am, just 40 minutes shy of my wakeup call.  It was a phone alarm.  For the longest time, I was the only person seemingly wakened by the blaring noise, and I sat up trying to find the source.  It was the French guy.  Eventually he, his friend, and 3 never before seen kids got up, switched on the overhead lights and started pulling zippers, dragging furniture about and talking loudly.   I noticed one or two other people, staring groggily down at these oblivious and inconsiderate fools.  Eventually a full out argument broke out in their group and two of them stormed out of the dorm, slamming the door upon exit.  They returned twice more to shout a bit more before they all left for good.  At 5:10 the room once again went dark and I fell into thankful sleep.

I woke for good at 5:30 to the sound of the night watchman imploring and thrashing with somebody to wake up. A flashlight beam danced across the ceiling.  Rolling over I watched with glee as the night watchman shook the kid in bed 17 (my bed) and advised him: “Your wake up call sir.”  There was silence from bed 17.  The watchman tried again:  “You ordered a wake-up call?”  He leaned over and began handling the kid a bit more roughly.  Finally a low voice pleaded mournfully: “uhhh…stop…what…no, no…I didn’t”.  I lay there smiling.  Once I judged my revenge over the bed thief sufficient, I sat up and cheerfully interjected “That’s me thanks!” to the astonishment of both.  The kid stormed off to the bathroom, and the watchman, annoyed and confused, shuffled out, turning at the doorway to exclaim: “you’re in the wrong bed” before disappearing back to his post.  As horrible as waking up at 5:30am is, it was worth it to see a lazy jerk get his comeuppance.

Once I accepted the absurdity of the night’s events, my mood lightened.  I had booked a hostel in the hopes of sharing one last interesting experience with people of different cultures.  I had certainly gotten that.  Hostels are always a gamble.  They are unpredictable.  You never know what you will get, and in that is the fun.  When I am older and find myself (God forbid) in nice, clean, quiet hotels, I know I will miss even the worst of my hostel experiences in some way.  As with other adventures that seem terrible at the time and gather idealism only in retrospect, even a simple terrible night sleep can begin to take on the characteristics of a good memory.  As I stumbled out into the rainy, cold, Dublin morning with a cumulative 2 hours of sleep in me and the prospect of dragging luggage through bus stops and numerous airports, I found myself smiling.


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Breckenridge, Colorado Will Always Be Special To Us


Breckenridge will always be a special place for Stephanie and I because it’s where I proposed to her. Thanks to Breckenridge Lodge and Spa, our stay in the area was perfect. Everything worked out so well and the skies were bright and sunny for us for all the four days we were there.

I honestly wish there was a place like this near our parents house on the east coast to get married at. It’s affordable and the views straight out of the bedroom window are great. The staff was super friendly (as most of locals in Colorado were). After all, they pretty much helped me plan the whole proposal. It wouldn’t have worked out so well without their help.

Breckenridge Lodge and Spa is located over 10,000 feet / 3,000 meters high so we had some difficultly with the high altitude but luckily other than going up a flight of stairs, it’s a super relaxing place. It’s outside of the main strip of Breckenridge so I’d recommend renting a vehicle to go out and explore. You’ll want to anyway since the surrounding area is beautiful with so much to see.


  • The restaurants on the main strip can be fairly pricey compared to Denver. The quality is great but eating out three times a day can get expensive. There’s a supermarket in town I didn’t notice until much later. Our mountain view room had a basic kitchen although no stove. You’ll save tons going to the supermarket. Still, it’s nice going out to the restaurants at least once in awhile.
  • Definitely rent a car. There’s so many great scenic views in the surrounding area.
  • Take Boreas Pass all the way up the mountain. That’s exactly where I proposed. If you’re staying at Breckenridge Lodge and Spa, it’s just a 5-10 minute drive up the road.
  • At over 10,000 feet high, prepare yourself for the high altitude. See how to deal with high altitude.
  • It’s only around $100 a night at the Lodge and Spa at Breckenridge!

More on our stay in Colorado:


Our view from outside our window in our room
Breckenridge Lodge and Spa on the top
Breckenridge Lodge and Spa
Breckenridge Lodge and Spa
View from my window
View from my window
Breckenridge Lodge and Spa
Breckenridge Lodge and Spa
The town of Breckenridge
The town of Breckenridge

Thank you Breckenridge Lodge and Spa for hosting Stephanie and I and for making our stay perfect and memorable.

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Budget Accommodations in Belize: Conch Shell Inn on Ambergris Caye

While traveling through Belize in general can be quite affordable by many backpacker and budget traveler standards, the line begins to blur when you look at some of the more popular island stops in the country.

Caye Caulker is regarded as the backpackers’ island of choice in many instances, though its overly laid back atmosphere leaves some travelers longing for more.  If you are hoping to just get lost on a small island and completely unwind, Caye Caulker is the perfect spot for that.  Whether you spend a day relaxing at “The Split” or renting a bicycle and cruising around the tiny dirt roads, you are not likely to find a place more chill than Caye Caulker.

Lazy Lizard at The Split on Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker’s bigger and more well-known neighbor Ambergris Caye has more nightlife, bars, and restaurants to choose from, but it is often skipped over by budget travelers due to lodging costs.  The island has definitely seen a boom in luxury resorts, a few with per night rates exceeding the monthly travel budget for many long-term travelers.

However, the island’s main town of San Pedro is home to a hostel, Pedro’s Inn, which is a happening place to be not only for tourists, but also as a regular hang out for many locals. Unfortunately, during high season, rates at the hostel may fluctuate so you may find that for just a bit more, you can get a beachfront standard private hotel room.

If you are looking for an affordable hotel option in Ambergris Caye, consider the Conch Shell Inn, which is right on the beach, and conveniently located near dive shops, the water taxi dock, and many of the town’s bars and restaurants.

The Conch Shell Inn on Ambergris Caye, Belize

The Conch Shell Inn offers 10 rooms, each with a shared verandah or patio.  It’s a no frills place that has a loyal following from many divers, one of the main tourism draws to Ambergris Caye.

During off-season, April 15 to November 14, you can snag a room on the ground floor for $64 US a night, or an even better deal is to book for five or seven nights for with more of a discount.  Five nights is $288 (savings of $32) and seven nights is $381 (savings of $67).  All rooms feature one double and one twin bed, which can make it comparable to many hostels elsewhere when split between two or three people.

All rooms at the Conch Shell Inn have a double and one twin bed

While air conditioning is available (for $10 US per night), the ocean breezes that blow through the large ocean-facing windows make it unnecessary.  All rooms include wireless internet (free), mini fridge, television, and Tempur-Pedic beds – a huge upgrade from most hostel and budget hotel beds.

The hammock on the second floor is the perfect spot to relax in the afternoon while catching up on a blog post or two, and there’s no shortage of people watching opportunities from the verandah.

With its ideal location right in town, popular bars and restaurants are just steps away. Next door is Cholo’s Sports Bar, a popular locals’ hangout, and just around the corner from Conch Shell Inn is one of my favorite spots, Lola’s Pub.  Kayleen (one of the owners) and Trevor (one of the bartenders) are the people to chat up as they have the scoop on what’s happening around town and can share some of the island’s “must visit” spots.

If you are a morning person, the Caribbean Sea facing side of the island offers stellar sunrises and the Conch Shell Inn provides a great spot for photographing them…if you can drag yourself out of bed at 5am after a night of partying.

Shared verandah looking out on the beach — great for sunrise photos!

The one drawback to the Conch Shell Inn is you are not likely to just show up and book a room. With only 10 rooms and a pretty popular following, it’s often sold out, especially during holiday and peak periods. I was there during a sold-out week — Valentine’s Day, President’s weekend, and Carnaval.  So, if you have a firm time on when you plan to visit San Pedro, email for information and any other deals they may be running, or you can book directly online as well.

You may be thinking this is not very budget-friendly. Obviously everyone has their own definition of “budget “ based on their way of travel, but as far as island accommodations go, the Conch Shell Inn is a steal for its oceanfront location right in town. It’s one of the best deals on the island – especially when compared to many of the $300 and $500 a night options for larger beachfront resorts and luxury condos.

My stay at The Conch Shell Inn was complimentary as part of a media tour, but all views and opinions are my own. 

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Buenos Aires Apartment Rip Offs

I’m good at arguing in spanish and especially in Argentina. They love to get angry in Buenos Aires and I’m always calling them out on it. It doesn’t make the situation any better but it makes it better for me. Even when the situation doesn’t involve me, I seem to get involved. Once a guy hit the bell for the bus to stop one too many times and he got yelled at. I told the bus driver to chill out, be quite, and pay attention to driving. He wasn’t too happy about that. But unfortunately, I learned that this is what you need to do to survive in this city. You need be aggressive sometimes or they’ll run all over you.

Round 1

Two years ago I visited Buenos Aires and lived there for 4 months. I got an apartment in Recoleta for a decent price and gave them my deposit of $630USD as well. It’s one of the richest neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. I was happy about its location and the apartment itself was okay. It wasn’t fancy but it had everything I wanted.

Literately a week or so before I left, a pipe broke. I found out because my landlord called me that the neighbors below called that there was water leaking into their apartment. The water leaked from below the bathroom sink. A small tiny hole that continued to leak water throughout the entire day while I was out. As you can imagine, this flooded the entire apartment.

My first apartment in Buenos Aires. 13th floor view of Recoleta.
My first apartment in Buenos Aires. 13th floor view of Recoleta.

The landlord wasn’t too happy about it. There was nothing I could have possibly done to create that hole. I cleaned up the disaster for hours. The water flooded the bedroom and living room but those rooms had wooden floors. As the water dried up, the wood started to rise. It created uneven floors. I told my landlord and they said they’ll look at it later. Well check-out time came and I was about to leave for Salta. The landlord came and checked out the apartment. The uneven floors and water leaking from the bathroom made her angry. They never once since the event came to check out the apartment. She said she’ll give the deposit to my uncle who lives in the city and didn’t say anything else. I thought everything was okay.

Weeks followed and I never heard anything about my deposit. Apparently they were blaming me for the leak and the floor. They had to pay for an entire new floor and repairs that leaked down into the other persons apartment. I thought to myself, how would it ever be possible that I would cause a leak in the bathroom sink? I use it to brush my teeth and wash my hands, that’s it. I continued to try to call but they simply ignored me. I lost my deposit and gave up.

Round 2

Fast forward to now. We just finished having an apartment for 3 months in Buenos Aires that we found online located in the city center. Prices went up dramatically since two years ago but as normal, we put in our deposit. Only $500 for the deposit this time but nearly double the rent. We paid the deposit via PayPal but the rent in cash. We had a few issues with the apartment in the beginning like the chair and BBQ being broken before we even checked in and the place being a bit dirty but we went with it anyway. We had done all of our negotiations with someone hired by the landlord to take care of it all. We hardly ever spoke with Nora, our landlord.

Once we had a huge flood in the entire apartment because there was a hole in the window which caused water to come in when it rained. Having learned from my last experience, I must called a million times to both Nora and the other guy. Neither of them paid any attention to me. I stopped caring. If they wanted their apartment ruined, I’m okay with that because I tried calling them about their water leak. Nora continued to ignore us of any other issues we had with the apartment.

Second apartment.
Second apartment.

Check out time came and Nora came by to inspect the apartment. We were leaving to a new city that day so we had to catch a bus after. Nora told us everything looked good and that she’ll walk us down. Having learned from my last experience, I told her I just wanted to make sure the deposit is processed before I left since I won’t be coming back anytime soon. Her mood changed fast. She continued to look around the apartment but now more angrily. She starts to complain about ridiculous things. We did the best that we could to clean the entire apartment. We swept, mopped, and scrubbed, for hours just to make sure everything was perfect and exactly the way it was before. Apparently, it wasn’t perfect enough.

She started to examine things in more detail. Her first complain was that the couch had stains on it. Next it was that the bottom shelve of the oven was dirty, a part that we never used. She called the guy she hired that has our deposit and started to claim that the entire apartment was dirty. She said it in a way that made it sound devastating. It was apparently so bad that she would have to hire a maid to clean everything and also send the couch for cleaning. Throughout the entire experience, she only complained about two things being dirty but still only said the whole apartment was dirty.

At this point, I was furious. Every time I called her about her apartment flooding or a chair being broken, she didn’t care. All of a sudden she cares about her apartment? My theory is that because she knew I wasn’t going to leave until I had my deposit money, she was going to find things to complain about. Here’s why…

January and February are the hottest months in Buenos Aires. It’s unbearably hot. We had the air conditioner on for those days because it’s difficult to function or sleep in that kind of heat. We never left it on while we went out. It was only on while we were at home. Electricity has become expensive in Buenos Aires though. According to the contract, all utilities is covered by the landlord. Technically no matter how high the utilities bills were, it was to be covered by the landlord. It didn’t matter, she wanted to charge me more for the electricity usage. She knew I’d argue about the contract so she never mentioned it, only the guy she hired did. If I were her, I’d put a limit on the contract of how much could be spent and anything over would be paid by the person renting. That’d make sense to me. Instead, she charged me more by finding things wrong with the apartment so she can make up for the electricity bill she didn’t expect to pay so much for. What did she think, that I wasn’t going to put on the air conditioner during the summer months?

I continued to argue with her in spanish. She concluded that she’d have to get a cleaning lady and the cost would be $40USD. I tried fighting it but I didn’t care in the end. In the long run, it’s easier to just pay than continue this. $40USD is about 200 pesos. I put the 200 pesos on the table and said here’s the money. She wanted it in dollars though. This was my breaking point. Luckily the guy she hired (whom we had to keep calling because he wasn’t there) broke it up and told Nora to calm down and he’ll give her the dollars and take the pesos. That finished the argument and we waited until the guy sent us our refund via PayPal before we left.

The bedroom
The bedroom

The lesson

If we had left the apartment without waiting for the deposit to transfer, she could have made up any number she wanted to and charged us way more than $40USD. She could have claimed anything and possibly taken our entire deposit. Luckily because of my past experience, we waited until we got our deposit back before we left. She knew I wasn’t stupid.

Now you might be thinking this could to happen to anyone in any city and that’s true but to be honest, Buenos Aires has a reputation for this. The Travel China talks about her experience as well. I’ve heard similar stories about other foreigners that came to Buenos Aires and rented an apartment. Even my own father that was born and raised in this city has had numerous issues with renting apartments whenever he visits.

In the three years that I’ve been traveling, I’ve never had an issue with any apartment I’ve ever rented, hostel, or hotel stay. The two times that there has ever been a complain was in Buenos Aires.

Is it the economy that’s driving people to steal money from others? Is there more emphasis to the present rather than the future?

Have you ever had an issue with renting a long-term apartment in Buenos Aires?

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Impersonating Locals: Slow Travelling with Apartment Rentals

There are lots of different types of trips and types of travellers, but I’ll narrow in on two: fast and slow.

We’ve all done it fast: the whirlwind trip. You skid into town and visit a good cafe, an interesting church/temple/museum, a quirky market, sleep in a 5-40 person dorm, strap on the money belt and the backpack, and roll out again on an early morning bus between 24 and 72 hours later.

But what about the slow? Enter the “move less, see more” philosophy of long stay travel. You pick an amazing place bristling with interesting opportunities and settle down for one week, two weeks, a month. You can skip the city bus tours and find your own little hideaways and treasures. You can stop totting around the 10 kilogram daypack and pretend, for a little while, that this town is your town.

But where will you stay?

Some hostels are great, don’t get me wrong, but would how many would want to stay at for month? How many days in a central Paris or Buenos Aires hotel could you afford? There are lots of interesting options for long stay travel (couch surfing, WWOOFing, etc.), but how about holiday apartment rentals? Sites like Home Away and Airbnb are making it easier and more desirable than ever to step into your own pad almost anywhere in the world

What’s the appeal?

Renting all or part of someone’s home can offer unique opportunities to mingle with friendly locals and see locations that don’t always feature in guidebooks (and still get to see all the ones that do). Plus, you can’t go wrong with the price. A week in a Central Park apartment in New York, low season: $600 (high season is another story; be open to less central locations). That’s less than $100 a night for solo travels, and many places can cozily fit up to 8.


Is it for you?

Apartment rentals are not necessarily for everyone, so you might what to consider are few things:

Group or solo?

If you’re travelling alone, apartment rentals are not the easiest places to meet people. While you may get to meet your neighbours and locals over the course of your stay, unless you’re a confident, independent traveler, you’re probably going to have some lonely evenings. If you’re used to relying on meeting people in hostel common areas, rethink an apartment rental. However, apartment rentals are excellent options for groups and couples who are comfortable meeting locals and travellers when they’re out and about but happy to relax with their buddies back at home.

Independent: yay or nay?

Before choosing an apartment rental, take a good look at what type of traveller you are: do you rely heavily on the advice of other travellers or hostel staff? Do tips exchanged over the communal batch of spaghetti in the hostel kitchen make up the bread and butter of your itineraries? While you’ll still meet travellers while renting an apartment, it’s much more likely that you’ll have to decide what’s worth seeing and doing on your own. You can also appeal to the advice and knowledge of your host instead. The degrees of assistance here will vary, but you can always have some specific questions ready like their favourite restaurant in the area, a good street for shopping, or maybe just a general probe about distinctive features of the neighbourhood. If you know you can handle this more independent type of decision making and planning, go for it!
How long is your long stay?

Generally, apartment rentals will only be worthwhile financially if you’re staying for at least a week. A lot of places have a three night minimum, but they’ll probably charge by the night and this is rarely better than a hostel or budget hotel. There are always exceptions to this, of course, but budget-wise, apartment rentals make the most sense in sojourns one week or longer.

Location, Location, Location

Apartment rentals make the most sense in large cities but can also be excellent choices for relatively touristy, mid-sized cities (for example, Nice or Positano). They can also offer really interesting options in a very small towns and rural areas, but you might be better off in a B&B for the same price. Make sure you shop around for the average prices of hostels, hotels, and guesthouses before booking in an apartment—sometimes they’re not as much of a steal as we’d like.


Good Form and How to Give Back


Most rentals will have a cleaning fee incorporated into their rate, but that doesn’t mean you should be a slob. Remember, you’re probably staying in someone’s home: treat it with the respect you’d want given to your space and possessions. Don’t be shy about asking about any possible fee incursions too, for example if you break a glass or smoke in a non-smoking joint—these costs can be substantial and, on some websites based on recommendation systems for guests and hosts alike, might result in getting you blacklisted.

And how about putting your own place up for rent while you’re away? You can help cover your own trip costs and possibly help other travellers looking for the same experiences as you. Either arrange for your guests to arrive before you leave or have a reliable friend meet and see off guests while you’re away. Share and share alike, right?

Happy slow travels!