Avianca Flight Pereira – Bogota

I had originally planned to do this trip by bus for the scenery but when I stumbled onto a big sale on Avianca’s website, I couldn’t resist booking the two one-way tickets for under $100 AUD!  I had run out of Lifemiles but you can also book domestic Colombian flights for 3000 Lifemiles.   It turned out to be a good thing as my husband was feeling the altitude sickness and Bogota is lower than the Central Andes Paramo region.

We were dropped after the Fuertes Parrot Quest at Pereira Airport.


I was surprised at how good the facilities were – lots of eateries, shops and seating space for a small domestic airport.dscn3485

Just the thing to cheer me up after the “Curse of the Cloud Forest” – Cinnabon!  It’s a more limited menu than you find in the USA but still yummy!dscn3486

Flights were going out on time.dscn3487

Waiting roomdscn3488

Standard garden-variety all-economy Avianca plane.dscn3489

Two People To The Colombian Amazon Rainforest For Under $600

Avianca has some really good deals going on right now that can get 2 people from Miami to Leticia in the Colombian Amazon Rainforest for less than $600!  If you don’t live near Miami, then use Avios on AA for a shorthaul.  Here’s a sample booking.

Leticia1 Leticia2 Leticia3Once you get there, find a nice eco-lodge and enjoy the birds!  Here’s a couple I found online though I haven’t stayed at either myself, they do look really good!

Amazonas Jungle Tours

Yoi Ecotours

This is a really good opportunity for those in the USA who can take advantage of it, I know I’d be jumping on it!


Flight Review, Taca: Flores – Guatemala City – San Jose, Costa Rica

Many people on FlyerTalk are members of Avianca-Taca Lifemiles due to some very generous promos such as the buy/give/share 100% bonus promos.  Most people are collecting the miles to redeem on Star Alliance awards so very few have actually flown on Taca so I hope this post will be of interest.

This route is a special bargain whether you are using Lifemiles or United Mileage Plus.  Look how much it would cost to buy the tickets.  Before you get too excited about “business class” remember these are only small planes so there is no business class unless you connect again in El Salvador.


You can choose from a daytime connection that gets you to SJO in the evening or an overnight connection in GUA.  If you go for the morning connection, you would need to spend the night in Flores.  We did the overnight connection so we could maximize time at Tikal, arrive in San Jose at a decent hour and use Club Carlson points for a free night at the Radisson.



Using Lifemiles more miles/more money toggle you can bring the cost of these flights down to 3500 miles plus $45 (plus tax).


Using United Mileage Plus it’s still a pretty good deal, especially if you have the usual credit cards.  The $51.50 is the tax added on to the flights, you have to pay this on Taca as well.  Scroll down if you want the overnight connection because UA lists flights by duration of travel.


There are no lounges in the Flores airport, there is a United Club at Guatemala City.  This is the first plane from Flores to Guatemala City, all economy seats but a very short flight so who cares?

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Arriving in Guatemala City is strange because you have to wait in line at customs even though it is a domestic flight.  We had our boarding passes out ready to show that we were on a domestic flight and they waved us through once we got to the front of the line.  Luckily we had carried our backpacks on so we avoided further delay.  This was relevant as we found the Radisson’s shuttle waiting for us and one other couple.  The other couple didn’t show up so the shuttle took us to the hotel, then the driver got a call that the other couple finally made it out of the airport and were looking for the shuttle!



Next morning, waiting to board plane to San Jose.





Guatemala City airport does have some pretty cool shops which take credit cards without a surcharge.  I succumbed to the temptation!



Gateway: Flores, Guatemala

Flores is a very attractive little town and if it weren’t for the fact that Tikal is so amazing, we probably would have spent a night here.  The good news for Star Alliance (especially Lifemiles) members is that Taca has flights to/from Guatemala City twice daily making it very easy to access this charming town.  Use the Central America award chart to see how many miles you need.  The alternative is an overnight bus to Guatemala City and while I have done this in my younger days (and even last year in Brazil) I would really prefer a good night’s sleep!  Linea Dorada and Autobuses del Norte operate this route for around $25-ish.

There are no chain hotels here so you can’t stay here on points.  There are all kinds of small, local hotels that looked pretty nice and would do just fine if you can’t/don’t want to stay in the Tikal park.  Trip Advisor has the best list, unfortunately I didn’t stay at any of them to make a personal recommendation.

When we checked out of the Tikal Inn, we used their free shuttle that lets people off at either the airport or at the edge of the town.  We loved the cobblestone streets, Guatemalan architecture and poking around the craft shops!

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IMG_9440We had dinner at this restaurant and the food was excellent!  I went for the pork tacos, my less adventurous husband stuck with a hamburger.

IMG_9451 IMG_9443 IMG_9446 IMG_9447 IMG_9449 IMG_9450After dinner, we hopped in a “tuk-tuk” to get back to the airport.  It cost less than $5 and took less than 10 minutes.

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Security was making everyone open their bags for a manual inspection so be sure to allow enough time in case there is a line.  We only had these little carry-on backpacks.

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I love that they had a conservation charity box to help wild birds in the departure area!  I put in most of our left-over cash, just keeping enough for a taxi to the Radisson in Guatemala City in case the shuttle didn’t show up.



AviancaTaca LifeMiles Award Chart Changes

HT:  Loyalty Lobby.  He already has charts up on his blog.  The changes mostly affect Star Alliance awards and they will upset the majority of people on FlyerTalk who have been collecting miles for this purpose.  So far the changes seem to affect Europe, Asia, South Africa, the Middle East/Africa and Others.  For eco-travelers, I have recommended collecting LifeMiles to use on intra South/Central American awards and these have not been affected.  See my main post for more about best uses of AviancaTaca Lifemiles.

Avianca-Taca LifeMiles & Best Uses For Eco-Travelers

Avianca-Taca’s frequent flyer program is one of the newest to the Star Alliance but given that it’s hubs are in countries rich with birdlife, it’s a program that all eco-travelers should get to know.


1.  First thing to do is join the program if you haven’t already.  LifeMiles has frequent buy/share bonus miles promos and they always restrict them to people who are already members as of the day the promo begins.  It’s free to join so no reason not to!

2.  You only need to have 40% of the miles required to redeem an award.  Then you can buy the remaining miles at $15 per 1000 miles.  For example in this flight from LAX to San Jose, Costa Rica; the normal price is 12,000 miles but if you are willing to pay $90, you can get away with only using 5000 miles.  You have effectively bought 7000 miles for $90 at a cost of $15.00 per 1000 miles.  (The price has increased to $15.00 per 1000 miles since July 2013.)  The technique remains the same is pictured.

3.  The normal price to buy miles is $30 per block of 1000 miles.  If LifeMiles is running a 100% bonus, this becomes $15 per block of 1000 miles.  You will only need to buy enough to get you to the 40% redemption level, then use the “More money” button to buy the miles even cheaper.

4.  The normal price to share miles is $15 per block of 1000 miles.  If LifeMiles is running a 100% bonus, this becoomes $7.50 per block of 1000 miles.  Bear in mind that the miles come out of your account and go into your friend’s account.  There is a maximum of 50,000 miles transferred per calendar year.

So let’s say you have 20,000 miles because you got the LifeMiles Visa card.  You transfer these miles during a 100% share miles promo to your spouse.  You pay $300 for the transfer of 20,000 miles and your spouse gets 40,000 miles in his/her account.  You have basically paid $300 to create 20,000 new miles (since you already had 20,000) so you bought those miles at $15 per block of 1000 miles.  Now your spouse transfers the whole lot of 40,000 miles back to you.  He/she pays $600 for the transfer.  Now he/she has 0 miles and you have 80,000 miles, so again you bought the miles at a cost of $15 per block of 1000 miles.

4.  You can kickstart your LifeMiles by getting the LifeMiles Visa (US Bank) with a bonus of up to 20,000 miles with first purchase.




For eco-tourists, the best uses of LifeMiles are to get you between airports in the birding hotspots of Central America and South America, or from the USA to Central/South America preferably on an Avianca or Taca flight.  Here are some examples, please note the difference in base price and the price when you spend 40% of required miles and add cash.


There is a special on business class which makes this the cheapest way from A to B if you are paying cash.

Now if you don’t really care which class you are in, let’s compare with the price of the flight in miles and cash.

Depending on how many miles you have in your account, you can spend as little as 3000 miles plus $62 cash.  If you used the bonus promo above, these 3000 miles would have cost $45, so your total out-of-pocket is $107, rather than $307.


If you are enchanted by the blue-throated macaws at Barba Azul, here’s how you can get there.  First, the cash price-economy.

Now let’s see what it costs in miles.  The normal price is 9000 miles which during the promo would be $135 to buy the miles.   Or you can buy 4000 miles during the promo for $60 and another $66 for the remaining 5000 miles you need for a total of $126.  Nice savings over the cash price of $435!


$510 for the one way ticket using cash.

Now let’s see how much it costs with miles!  Normal price is 15,000 miles.  Using the 40% minimum to pay with 6000 miles plus $114 cash and $25 redemption fee we have paid (using a 100% buy/share bonus) $90 for the minimum miles plus $114 plus $25 plus $28 tax for a total of $257, about half the cash price!


It’s a fairly new program so there aren’t too many opportunities yet, though this may grow.

1.  Get the credit card and use it for purchases, get 1 mile per $.

2.  LifeMiles shopping portal.  They are having some problems with this and miles haven’t been posting while they work out the bugs.  Hopefully they will and this will become a nice source of LifeMiles.  Don’t buy things you don’t need just to get miles, but if you do need something, start at the portal and get free miles!

3.  Buy flowers or a gift at

4.  Transfer hotel points.  These are not the best use of hotel points but if you have some orphaned points you need to get rid of, it’s one option.

  • HiltonHonors: 10,000 HHonor Points for 1000 LifeMiles.
  • Best Western:  5000 Best Western points for 1000 LifeMiles.
  • Marriott:  10,000 Marriott Rewards points for 1500 LifeMiles.



1.  Best uses of LifeMiles for eco-tourists are on Avianca or Taca flights, or some partner flights like Copa.

2.  Credit card can kickstart your miles account.

3.  Wait for Buy/Share bonuses to buy miles at a discount.

4.  Only buy enough to get you to 40% of your desired award, then use the miles plus cash tool to buy the remainder at $12-13 per block of 1000 miles.

Anymore questions, please ask in the comments?  Does anyone have plans to travel to Central or South America and planning to use LifeMiles for a cheap ticket?

Mileage Earning Credit Cards – Asia, Latin America, Middle East And Africa Edition

There are probably locally based blogs for these areas which would cover how to earn miles from credit card sign up bonuses so what I will do here is create a reference for the major airlines so you can see who partners with what bank, then Google for a local blog that tracks special offers on these cards.  No matter which country you live in, always check with American Express as they have the Membership Rewards program available in most countries but the partners vary widely.

A good rule of thumb no matter where you live is to sign up for your local airline’s program (preferably one in Star Alliance or One World) to get credit card miles and any possible points from everyday living such as shopping, phone, internet, petrol, insurance, etc.   While you are looking at the credit card pages I linked below, always check for any other “everyday” promos.

Then join the 5 main programs I recommend for eco-tourists as I will be concentrating on these when I post special promos.  These programs have the best redemption levels to places where people usually want to go birding and offer the best promos throughout the year.


Asians will have a lot of choices as it seems that the main Asian based airlines have partners not only in all Asian countries but some have partners in Australia and the USA as well.  The links below will take you to the airline’s credit card page.  Also check on FlyerTalk in the airline’s forum as people will usually post any new signup bonuses there.  This blogger specifically caters to Indians with mileage earning credit cards and he would be more familiar with that market.

Cathay Pacific

Singapore Airlines

Thai Airways

Malaysian Airlines


Air China


Japan Airlines


Korean Airlines


Air India

Jet Airways


Kingfisher (currently suspended)


American Airlines (has many partners in Latin America and Caribbean)

Avianca Taca









Gulf Air

Kuwait Airways


South African Airways

El Al


Please feel free to add any other good airline credit cards you know of in these geographical locations or ask any questions in the comments.

If you live in the USA, please see Airlines, Hotels and Flexible Points

If you live in Australia, please see Part 1 and Part 2

If you live in the UK or Europe I have basic guidelines