Complete Guide: Copán to San Salvador overland border crossing

Traveling from Copán to San Salvador is a very long journey, especially when dealing with the inefficiencies of the Honduras/El Salvador border and taking public transportation. As part of my overland adventure across Central America, I completed the journey myself and this is a comprehensive guide to on how to travel from Copán and San Salvador as easily and economically as possible.

After visiting Copán in the morning, I walked back to the hostel where I desperately wanted to take a shower but the water and electricity was cut. I packed in the darkness, and headed out to the bus station to head to San Salvador. I got a 1pm bus to La Entrada (L70) and arrived at 2:35pm. That was followed by a quick connection to a bus to Santa Rosa de Copán (L50) at 2:40pm along a very poorly maintained and bumpy road arriving at 3:55pm. That was again followed by an immediate connection on a packed bus to Ocotepeque (L90) arriving at 6pm, just as the sun was setting.

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Complete Guide: Tikal to Copán by public bus

Tikal and Copán are two of the most impressive Mayan archeological sites, one for its impressive scale and the other for the intricate carvings, but getting between them may be somewhat of a challenge. There are expensive tourist shuttles and you’d have to backtrack through Guatemala City, so the cheapest and possibly fastest way is public transportation. I completed the journey myself and this is a comprehensive guide to on how to travel between the two sites and cross the Guatemala/Honduras border as easily as possible.

After touring Tikal for 4 hours after sunrise, I felt satisfied and wanted to leave to avoid the crowds and hot mid-day sun, so I packed up and left on a colectivo for Santa Elena (town outside Flores) at 11:30am, the cost was Q50 and took about 1.5 hours. There are hourly colectivos from Tikal to Santa Elena throughout the day with diminishing frequency by 4pm. Continue reading “Complete Guide: Tikal to Copán by public bus”

Complete Guide: San Ignacio to Tikal border crossing by public bus

This is a step-by-step guide for those who want to travel from San Ignacio, Belize to Tikal, Guatemala by public transportation. There are many tour operators that offer transfers for $80, but I wanted a cheaper option and a more local experience. There’s a lot of outdated, incorrect, and ambiguous information so I hope that this guide will serve as a better reference.

I started the crossing at 7:30am from San Ignacio and shared a hired taxi ($25 USD total) to wait for us at Xunantunich and then onwards to the Guatemala border. If you want to go straight to the border, you can either take a taxi from San Ignacio ($5 USD) or take a local bus to Benque and then a taxi from the bus station to the border.

It made sense to see Xunantunich since it’s on the way and pretty famous. To get to Xunantunich, we had to cross a hand cranked ferry and then drive up hill for about a mile. Xunantunich (entrance fee $10 BZD) was very impressive site with a very tall singular structure. We were the first ones there when the site opened at 8am and had the whole place to ourselves. Continue reading “Complete Guide: San Ignacio to Tikal border crossing by public bus”

Overland expedition of Eastern Europe Part 3: Dubrovnik

Dubrovnik is known as the Pearl of the Adriatic and for good reason. It’s impressive white wall fortification has stood the test of many centuries and offers a step back in time to a day when merchant ships roamed its ports and cannons protected its freedom. Highlights for me include a walk along this ancient wall to get an amazing perspective from above this beautiful city, a ferry ride to nearby Lokrum Island, and convenient day trips to Bosnia and Montenegro.

From Split, where I left off, Dubrovnik has regular bus transfers. The journey took about 3 hours (125 HRK) with a brief rest stop in Neum, a narrow strip of Bosnian coast. The interesting thing about this bus ride was the necessary border crossings into Bosnia & Herzegovina to get to the other side of Croatia. What I learned about these two borders (one for each side) is that depending on the officer’s mood, your passport may or may not be stamped. In my case, it was stamped departing Croatia, but not stamped returning into Croatia. Interestingly, there were no Bosnian border officers. The bus terminates at Dubrovnik’s main bus station and to get to the old town (Pile Gate), you take city bus 1A or 1B (12 HRK).

Dubrovnik was the highlight of my visit to Croatia. I spent a day walking around the old city, exploring the narrow alleyways, passing through its three gates. I quickly realized why Game of Thrones was set in this picturesque walled city. Continue reading “Overland expedition of Eastern Europe Part 3: Dubrovnik”

Overland expedition of Eastern Europe Part 2: Slovenia & Croatia

Eastern Europe has a lot to offer in terms of history, architecture, and natural beauty. It costs a fraction compared to Western Europe and has  the mystique of being part of the former communist block. Given that it’s been almost 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the region has developed a great deal and fears of safety or totalitarian regimes should not dissuade you from visiting.

In the first part of this Eastern European expedition, I left off in Bratislava, Slovakia. Here, I’ll cover Slovenia and Croatia, with my favorite highlights being Lake Bled, Split, and Dubrovnik.
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Overland expedition of Eastern Europe Part 1: Czech Republic & Slovakia

Eastern Europe, home of many former communist dictatorships, deep history, and intriguing culture, has been a fascination of mine for some time. On this trip, I traveled overland by train, bus, and car across the former Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, covering the currents states of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro. In this first post of the series, I’ll go over the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

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Good ol’ fashioned Soviet architecture in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (formerly known as the Kirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic) is known for Soviet architecture in Central Asia, so I decided to walk down Bishkek’s main thoroughfare, Chuy Avenue (Чуйский проспект). From 1936 to 1961 it was known as Stalin Street, and from 1974 as Lenin Prospekt. This wide street, now dotted with modern shops and restaurants, once hosted Soviet military parades as they marched along side Soviet government buildings.
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Hacking the United Airlines Caribbean Hopper Award

United’s award chart has a sweet spot for the entirety of Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and Northern South America. They price a flight to and from any one of these locations for 10,000 miles in Economy. This means you can go from Mexico City to Quito for 10,000 miles. But it gets better. You can book it as a round trip for 20,000 miles and effectively turn the ticket into a hopper with a stop over and a double open jaw. For example, this is what I did: SXM-PTY-UIO (stop), UIO-BOG (stop & open jaw), MDE-BOG-SDQ for 20,000 United miles and $200.17 in taxes. The high taxes are due to the “departure/tourism taxes” from transiting so many airports. If I were to buy the tickets with cash, it would have cost me SXM-PTY-UIO $587 UIO-BOG $461 MDE-BOG $70 BOG-SDQ $657, or $1775, which means I got ~7.87 cents per mile – an amazing value.
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Qatar Airways Al Safwa First Class Lounge Doha Review

Qatar Airway’s Al Safwa First Class Lounge in Doha is perhaps the most incredible First class lounge I’ve been to. There I said it. I know it’s quite a statement since I’ve been to both Cathay First Class Lounges in Hong Kong, including the recently opened Pier, the Qantas First Class lounge in Sydney, the Japan Airlines First Class lounge in Narita, and many more. After a long awaited opening in October 2015, it is clear that the designers looked at every aspect of a lounge and made it as extravagant as possible. Dining is five star – you can have breakfast with a glass of Krug. Feeling tired? You can book a day suite, which is essentially a hotel room. Want private duty-free shopping? The lounge has its own store. Feeling in the mood for a gigantic floor-to-ceiling water fountain? Well, I did say extravagant didn’t I?

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Qatar Airways Free Doha City Tour Review

Qatar Airways offers a free Doha City tour and I was really excited to take advantage of it during my long layover at Doha Hamad International Airport. It gave me the opportunity to check off another country on my list without having to pay for the expensive Qatar Visa. The tour is about 4 hours long and covers the essential parts of Doha. The itinerary includes the Museum of Islamic Art, Katara Cultural Village, the Pearl-Qatar, and finally the Souq Waqif.
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