Splurging On Travel Comforts – Yea or Nay?

Eco-tourists are a breed apart yet the one thing we have in common with “normal” travelers is the decision to be frugal or splurge.  Conde Nast Traveler has their suggestions but do they work for us?

1.  Checking a bag – I say nay.  We don’t really need a big wardrobe for birding.  Who’s going to be looking at us when there are so many stunning birds to look at?  Besides, who wants to risk having a bag go astray or waste time at the carousel?  I never bring more than 3 days worth of clothes and wash along the way.  I can fit everything I need plus camera gear between the eBags Motherload convertible backpack and my Scottevest

2.  In-flight Internet – I say nay.  There’s enough to keep me amused while in-flight with the airline’s AVOD and I can always keep a few movies or eBooks on my tablet.  Or just get some sleep!

3.  Out-of-Hotel Breakfasts – Usually necessary due to birder’s hours unless it’s a transit city stay.  If breakfast is included in the rate, I’ll take it.  Birding lodges will have breakfasts served at birder-friendly times.  Otherwise, we grab something at a supermarket and bring it along.

4.  Taxis – I say mostly nay unless there is a safety issue.  I wouldn’t want to walk around some town late at night with my gear.  Plus there is just something wasteful and un-green about taking a taxi if there is safe public transport available.

5.  One lavish meal – I’m not a foodie so easy for me to say nay on this one.  Birding lodges usually provide meals in the package.  If birding from a city with short drives into the bush such as Panama, we are happy to just grab takeaway and bring it back to the hotel.

6.  Souvenirs – I say YEA!  But only if they are locally made items, preferably by people who are honoring their native wildlife in the artwork.  Always support local communities to encourage eco-tourism!  Molas from Panama, numerous paintings, batiks, statues and arpilleras from Peru’s Amazon have all found a place in our home and serve as wonderful memories of our trip!

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Top 10 Cheapest Countries For Birding

I used the recent Price of Travel list “124 World cities ranked from cheapest to most expensive: Backpacker Index for 2014” to figure out which countries are the cheapest overall to go birding in.  The lower cost of living translates into cheaper public transport, accommodation, food and guide fees.  Of course that doesn’t mean there aren’t more luxurious and expensive options in these countries as well, but it’s nice to know you can go birding with a backpacker budget!

  • 1.  Nepal
  • 2.  Vietnam
  • 3.  Thailand
  • 4.  India
  • 5.  Laos
  • 6.  Bolivia
  • 7.  Ecuador
  • 8.  Sri Lanka
  • 9.  Indonesia
  • 10. Peru

The good news is that you can use miles to get to all these countries.  See my guides on South-east Asia, Central Asia & Peru for rough ideas.

Scoring The Best Possible Seat On The Plane

With devaluations and miles becoming harder to earn, it’s getting more difficult to snag a coveted business class award.  Some airlines simply won’t release them to partners at all anymore!  (Air New Zealand, I’m looking at YOU!)  Others like Singapore Airlines are starting to hold back business class until a couple weeks before travel which is bad news for eco-tourists since we usually have to plan ahead.  The lady in this video describes a few tricks I use, especially about researching the plane and seating maps and trying with the check-in agent.

Another trick for couples is to book the window and aisle, leaving the middle seat vacant.  If people have a choice, no one will choose a middle seat between two strangers.  I’d say at least 80% of the time, Ina & I have gotten lucky and not had anyone choose our middle seat.  If the flight is full, then I will offer the stranger my window seat and scoot over as we prefer to have easy aisle access.