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No matter where in the world you are, just know there are 10 travel tips you can use anywhere to get the most out of your time there. Make it the best experience imaginable! Don’t look back – after some time – saying, “I wish I had done this and that”.

For this reason, we have created a checklist of things to do for an in-depth look at customs and culture even if you don’t have a lot of time.

Here is our list of 10 travel tips you can use anywhere at every destination.

Let’s go into detail. We’ll use Mexico as an example, as we’ve been living here for several months now! But really, no matter what destination, if you do these 10 things your stay will be so much richer.

1.  Learn the Language

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to become fluent in all the languages of the countries you visit. Just enough to make a connection with the locals.

Learn to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’. Maybe learn how to introduce yourself, and how to order a beer (or anything else). You will see that locals open up whenever you make the effort of communicating in their native tongue!

Sometimes the local people don’t speak English, and communication can be quite challenging. What to do? Break the ice in their language to build rapport, and bust out Google translate to bridge any remaining communication gaps.

Wait, can we have two number one must tries?

The restaurants at tourist destinations are often overpriced, and have all kinds of food on the menu – just not the real deal. To really get to know the local cuisine you have to visit a restaurant that only locals frequent. How do know you’ve arrived? A place where the menu is not be written in English is a good sign. Another clue would be a slight feeling of being out of your comfort zone. I can promise it will be a great experience!

“What is your favorite restaurant” or “Where do the local families go for dinner”? These are our go to  questions when we are chatting with locals. Want a fancier dining option? Just ask, ‘Which restaurant(s) do the locals go to when they want to celebrate’. We suggest you add these Q’s to your arsenal, as well, if you are keen on trying some good, and local food.

3. Visit a Local Market

Go where the locals go to buy their groceries. Look at all the things that might be different from what is sold in your country.

In Mexico, go to the market (not the supermarket) to do your groceries, the produce is fresher and (so much) better priced. You’ll also find delicious meals ready to devour at the market and get a real look at local life. Just go, and try everything.

Apprehensive? That’s fine! Remember, they, you, and I have been carried through our respective markets – sometimes kicking and screaming – by our parents. You don’t have to call them mom or dad, but I am positive you can find an AirBnB Experience or tour guide to help calm the nerves. That’s how we got our feet wet with Mercado de Abastos in Oaxaca, Mexico (a 15 block street market known for its variety of goods, and petty crime). Now we feel at ease at any market even though we stick out like a sore thumb!

4. Use Public Transportation

To get to know a city use public transportation, like the locals – busses or Tuk-Tuks or the Metro whatever the popular mode of transport is, use it.

You will have the opportunity to learn how locals move about their city and in many cases navigating a city by yourself helps you get to know the place better.

Sometimes using public transport can be scary at first, but I promise it will be a worthwhile experience. It can be quite complicated too if you don’t have a good grasp of the language (see point one) and really is an experience in itself.

For example:

The public transport in Mexico is vastly different depending on where you are but colectivos (a.k.a Combi: a kind of shared minibus or shuttle) are popular in many small-size cities. They are the perfect (and sometimes only) option for intercity travel between smaller towns. For long distance trips (major intercity or interstate travel) you can travel ADO (the Greyhound of Mexico) at a much less expensive cost than flying – best if you don’t mind slow traveling.

5. Visit a Religious Site

At every destination you visit, there are religious sites. Get to know the culture, a little better, by visiting at least one. It can be a temple, a church, a shrine, or even a religious pilgrimage site.

In Mexico, you’d have to be trying pretty hard to not make your way to a church. Wait, what? Almost every town or city is centred around a church, but each is unique – from the architecture to the religious practice. See our post here about the indigenous villages of Chiapas

6. Participate in a Cultural Activity

​​Most everyone knows, ‘When in Rome’. So, if you have the chance, wherever you are, definitely participate in anything the locals do. Why? Well, it’s best to ‘Do as the Roman’s do’, when the goal is expand your cultural horizons! You know, not only learn and grow, but to blend in.

It can be anything from learning their dancing style to participating in ceremonies like building an altar for Dia de Muertos. Or Zen meditation, tantric yoga, and/or their go to local sport. Cultural festivals will give you a glimpse into the heritage and traditions – don’t miss out!

If you only visit the tourist sites, I am sure that will be a fun trip. But we want you to repeat the traveller’s mantra, “DMO (Don’t Miss OUT)!”

Ask around. The locals will know what kind of places are really worth a visit, and which places might not be.

If you prefer a more guided option, we highly recommend an AirBnB experiences over tour companies as you’ll usually be dealing with/having your experience with a person wanting to show you their slice of the world.

For example

In Merida, Mexico Cenotes (crater filled with water) are a popular activity but if you visit the known cenote sites you are likely to be climbing over people to get in the water – ask around, and blaze the trail less taken.

8. Walk Around Aimlessly

One of the best things you can do to really get to know a place is to walk around, and see where your feet take you. If you only go from tourist attraction to tourist attraction you will miss the most important part: The people living in the place you are currently visiting.

An additional bonus: It’s completely free! Walking around is one of the best and cheapest ways to get to know a place.

Another one of our favourite things to do when we get to a new place is take a free walking tour. Try booking on Guru Walk.

9. Ask About the Daily Routine of a Local

Not only will you have a perfect reason to start a conversation with a local, you will also probably learn something about the culture of the place in the process. Just ask your host or any random person you meet in a bar or on the streets.

A wise post once noted, ‘Get them talking about themselves and their is no limit to what you can learn’ – don’t miss out!

10. Capture all Experiences in Pictures and Text

To wrap up our 10 travel tips you can use anywhere, our advice is to capture all you memories. We write a blog about our experiences, but you don’t have to. You could just write a diary, or use an App. Or fill a scrapbook.

If you do these 10 things at every destination, your trips will be awesome and memorable.  Why? Because you didn’t leave anything undone!

What other things should people do at a destination? Tell us in the comments!

Don’t get bogged down with how many different Authentic food experiences you can have. We were in Oaxaca City for 4 weeks and have tried some of the best restaurants on offer – also many nights of Little Caesars – and hope our experiences help inform yours!

Itanoni – Gotta family-sized appetite?

Great food for the family! The food is affordable,  nearly American-sized portions, and delicious. Best of all, you get a complete view of the kitchen – perfect for authentic Oaxacan IG/TikTok clips! I would say this place is perfect for eating delicious Oaxacan cuisine – on a budget!

Levadura de Olla Bold with a dash of quaint

We went here on an AirBnB Experience and it was the highlights of that tour! This place is all about reviving traditional Oaxacan Recipes and invigorating them with modern flavors. You must try the Stone Broth Soup!

Pan:am – Consider it Brunch’d 

  • Waffles w/berry jam: good & tasty  – 🍓 Jam put it over the top!
  • Molletes w/cochinita pibil (marinated pork): As delicious as is simple. 
  • 🍊Orange  Juice
  • Limonada 
  • Latte
  • Total: $364pesos ($17.85US)
  • Atmosphere: Music reminds me of the kind 60s rock you’ll hear in a diner. Hip! The spacing is well done, but you will always see people in your peripherals – yeah, there are a lot of people. True sign of a good restaurant, right? The food is good and well priced. Not all that hungry? Most meals have the option to cut the standard portion in half w/significant reduction in price.

Boulenc – Absolute must attend!

  • Shakshuka: The sauce was sweet, the bread perfect, and cream cheese put it over the top.
  • English Muffin: this is a sandwich, and the highlight here is the bread. Don’t get me wrong the eggs and cheese 🧀 are tasty as well.
  • Bahn Mi: don’t let the fact it’s completely vegetarian deter you – it’s perfect. The pickled carrot 🥕 makes this sandwich a crunch fest.
  • x 2 Dos Equis
  • Limonada Mineral
  • Total: $364pesos ($17.70US)
  • Atmosphere: This place is packed – Always! But there is a good use of space. I’d say the vibe is hipsteresque: You will see all types of people – mostly tourists – and the music is as cool as it is current, yet somehow not mainstream. Making the above scrumptious meal is just the side-hustle. They make delicious bread (pan) 🍞 first and foremost. In fact, their bakery (next door) has even more customers!

Zandunga – Dinner is served!

  • Grilled vegetables: quite nice 
  • Beef Empanadas: nice and crunchy👌
  • Red & Black mole chicken enchiladas: highlight of the meal – mole was smooth and rich!
  • x 2 Agua Tamarind
  • x 2 Ixtepec Cocktail (jarabe especiado, pineapple 🍍 juice, lemon 🍋, and mezcal)
  • Total: $755pesos ($37.46 US)
  • Atmosphere: Great. Smartly dressed beautiful people. The music is lively – even the rendition of Drake Hotline Bling instrumental was thoroughly Mexican! The food arrived ASAP. The staff were attentive, but knew only a little English.

Pitiona – Go for the vibes; stay for the food!

  • Tostada de Jaiba (crab 🦀 taquitos): Crunchy and the crab was succulent. Dynamite appetizer!
  • Gorditas de Tripa: Thick, grilled and crunchy corn 🌽 tortilla with the “filling” piled on top (instead of inside). The filling was thinly shredded, fried and chewy intestines. Delicious, but may not be for everybody!
  • Tacos de Lechon (pork taco 🌮): It was perfect! Thick cut of pork w/chopped chicharrón (aka crackling) sprinkled on top and a hint of guacamole. Truly the dinner’s highlight; personally, a bit more guacamole would have cut through fat. Unfortunately, this was part of a taco of the day option – I’m not sure this meal will be available on your visit.
  • Albondigas en pipian (shrimp 🦐 meatballs on a bed of mole): The mole was new to me and not my favorite, but I do not want to dissuade you from trying. To be clear, I loved its rich flavour, but could not appreciate the gritty texture. The huge chunks of shrimp and thinly sliced zucchini was the saving grace. 
  • Gasnate: Both my wife and I loved it. Very sweet but not overbearing. Only negative, small portion – it’s not the best option for sharing.
  • x 1 Beso apasionado: 
  • x 1 Limon 🍋 Margarita: 
  • x 2 Limonada 
  • Total: $1,426 Pesos ($70 US)
  • Atmosphere: This place feels fancy, and the people are dressed to impress. And it should, this is one of the most aesthetically beautiful restaurants I‘ve had the pleasure of dining at in Oaxaca City. Whether you eat inside or on the terrace, you will enjoy light music and feel the intimacy – spacing was well done here. There are several different areas on the terrace that provide a different view of the city as well as a sense of VIP, but all areas have a magnificent view of Templo de Santo Domingo!

Casa Oaxaca – Night of laughter and merriment

  • Squash blossoms filled w/ricotta: light, fresh and tasty! Small dish that will leave a powerful impression.
  • Paddle cactus 🌵 and watermelon 🍉 salad (Nopales Salad): beetroot was earthy, and the watermelon clashing w/citrus flavors were spot on!
  • Yellow Mole (vegetarian): Scrumptious! Veggie patties perfect for absorbing the flav-tastic sauce, the veggies were perfect but the broccoli 🥦 stole the show.
  • Suckling Pig 🐖: The veggies, pork, and mole were cooked to perfection. 
  • x 1 Xocontstle Cocktail (pineapple🍍, tuna, mezcal)
  • x 1 Verde es Vida Cocktail (cucumber 🥒, mint, mezcal)
  • x 1 Dos Pasiones Cocktail (passionfruit, apple 🍎, mezcal)
  • x 1 Limonada
  • Chocolate Sierra: A mountain of chocolate well worth the climb – chocolate crisps, rich chocolate ice cream, crunchy cacao nibs, and mint flakes
  • Total: $1,523.00pesos ($74.00US)
  • Atmosphere: we recommend you make a reservation. We were seated immediately, but it seems like you may have a sincere case of FOMO if you’re after a joyous social night. We were seated away from the lively music 🎶 and jubilant laughter coming from the area upstairs. However, this may be a blessing for those seeking a more intimate evening. People were spaced far enough away to be outside our peripherals! The staff were attentive, created a salsa at our table, and spoke English well. 

Los Danzantes – Did somebody say Je Ne Sais Quoi? 

  • Mogo Mogo (fried plantain stuffed w/stew): Rich tomato 🍅 sauce. The beef and plantain combination made for a sweet stew. It cut through the sauce’s creamy richness. Playful!
  • 🥥 Coconut Shrimp w/rice in sweet and source sauce: The shrimp 🦐 was huge! The shrimp 🍤 was crunchy! The shrimp was strong with the coconut 🥥! Personally, I thought the sweet and sour clashed with the coconut shrimp, but it completely compliments the rice 🍚. An absolute pleasure!
  • New York fillet (400g) w/potato 🥔 terrine: It was Medium Rare, and my wife ordered Medium Well. So, I ate it. Yeah my cholesterol is uh terrible! If we talk about what we ordered: definitely loses a point because she doesn’t like her steak pink or bloody. If we are talking about what we got: Succulent! The accompanying potato terrine and salad 🥗were good.
  • Pork ribs in a bed of apple 🍎 & plantain puree: very nice! Loved the tenderness of the meat 🍖 – talking fall off the bone. The apple-plantain flavors made everything spot on – not too sweet, not too smokey. Don’t let the look fool you – it’s good!
  • Chocolate cascade (lava cake): Decadent! Great sharing portion. Vanilla ice cream 🍨 mixed well with the berry jam. Together they blended well with the gooey chocolate and cake.
  • x1 Elegant stranger:
  • x1 Limonada
  • Total: $1,828 Pesos (~$91 US)
  • Atmosphere: This was the 2nd or 3rd most expensive place we ate in Oaxaca City – it is perfect for a dinner date, or small group for after work drinks. The food, vibes and décor make for a perfect place to get dressed up and unwind. Spacing was well done, but there will be people all around you – couples dressed up and groups dressed smart. I suggest you make a reservation – almost guarantee it will be packed. We didn’t, but were able to leave a name and number. We were called 15 or so minutes later. Are you a tourist? I recommend requesting Omar as your waiter. He was delightful – whether anecdotes about Mexico; meal choices; or future tourist destinations!

Criollo – Now that’s smancy. No! The epitome of Fancy.

  • Ground beef garnacha w/picked onions: Crunchy! Deliciousness! Wish I could have had more!
  • Cheese ball on a bed of jalapeno puree: My wife was over the moon when this arrived. Basically, a deconstructed jalapeno popper – the cheese 🧀 cut right through the spiciness!
  • Lentil soup 🍲 w/tomato 🍅 and crispy potato: Great! Potato was crunchy and loved the flavors.
  • Cochinita Pibil: the empanada crust was crispy, and the marinated pork left a lasting impression!
  • Soft Shell crab 🦀 w/chickpea puree: Highlight of the night! The puree was creamy except for a few un-mashed chickpeas, which provided a balancing texture. I’m a seafood junkie and the crab did not disappoint!
  • Plantain and chicken smothered in yellow mole: All three make for a winning combination – great blend of sweet and savory! 
  • Chocolate cake w/chocolate ice cream and bananas: Good. Aside from the presentation, nothing really stood out.
  • x1 Tangerine Margarita
  • x1 Grapefruit Mezcalita 
  • x1 Limonada
  • Total: 2,580 Pesos (~$120 US)
  • Atmosphere: This place is fancy – best fine dining experience in Oaxaca city!  Beautiful and open courtyard – be sure to dress warm during the winter months – on a clear night you will be sure to see stars 🌃. Speaking of attire, dressing smart is the way to go! Criollo has a 7-course tasting menu that changes daily. This means there are at least 7 new reasons why you should dine here; although your reasons will be different than mine, you can still look forward to intimate music, an attentive wait staff and a dynamite drink menu. Yes, the price is steep! That’s why I recommend this place for an expensive date, family celebration/special occasion, or tourist must do! Remember, the meal will be unique, and the experience unforgettable.

Honorable Mentions

Everywhere we go we are told the places you just have to try. These are the places we just could not get to, but hope you try!

  • Tacos de Lechon – small shop that makes the best street-style pork tacos!
  • Marco Polo – A seafood lover’s delight
  • Memela Ladies – The stand is unnamed. It’s called this because sisters have been making dynamite Memelas for 3 generations. Street stand near the San Augustin church
  • La Hormiga (The Ant) – Tortas stand. Makes the best sandwiches in Oaxaca City!
  • Quinta BravaDelicious food!  We took a cooking class and it was a fantastic experience. Dedicated Chef! The restaurant is under construction currently. 

Places you can skip

El Destilado – Intimate Setting w/beautiful decor. The bar food was a miss. Best for a drink!

Gozobi – The food was good, but not great. There is a large terrace, but facing the wrong direction. Decent drink menu. You will have a nice meal. It’s just, nothing WOW’d me here – even the prices were middle of the pack. 

MezzaLuna – Big swing and a Miss!

  • Pesto Fettuccini: the flavors were not right and it was cold
  • Lobster Ravioli: tasty and creamy, but cold as well.
  • Caesar Salad: good. Nothing to write home about.
  • Margarita
  • Limonada
  • Total: $854pesos (~$41US)
  • Atmosphere: This place has a beautiful atmosphere. There were few highlights of this dinner outing: The terrace view was great.  The staff were kind, attentive, and spoke English well. The music was that kind of café jazz that adds without being intrusive. Sadly, our experience failed to live up to the reputation. 

Most know Tequila as something you shot before a wedge of lemon and salt but few realise that it’s also a scenic town in the Sierra Madre Mountains in western Mexico – 52kms out of Guadalajara.  

Tequila is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site; and a Pueblo Mágico.  

Mexico’s pueblos mágicos programme was developed by the tourist board in order to promote the rich cultural heritage and history of Mexico through smaller, once overlooked towns. 

Read more about the program here.

So what is Tequila

Tequila – in order to be called tequila it has to be made from Agave Tequilana Azul Weber – the plant AND it has to come from a specific area of Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoacan, Guanajuato, and Tamaulipas. 

If it was made somewhere else, it’s not tequila. 

Jalisco is the most important producer and the best tequila comes from the cities Los Altos de Jalisco, Tequila, Amatitlan, Arandas.

It also has to contain 35- and 55-percent alcohol.

To make tequila the agave has to grow for at least 5 years in order to produce enough sugar to produce fermentation on its own. If the plant produces enough sugars it will be called 100% Agave, if not it will be called Licor de Agave.

Once the plant is ready, a Jimador – the person that cuts the leaves,  leaves what looks like a huge pineapple. 

These pineapples are taken to huge steam ovens and are cooked and crushed to obtain the juice. The juice is then fermented and passed through two distillation processes before producing a final product. This is Tequila Blanco or white tequila. This is that the stuff that’s used in your margaritas – it’s not super high quality but good enough to mix. 

To produce a higher quality, more flavoursome tequila, once it reaches Blanco point, rather than bottling it for sale it can pass through an aging process in oak barrels to make either: 

  • Tequila Reposado – aged between 2 – 10 months or 
  • Añejo (12 – 24 months), 
  • Extra Añejo (more than 2 years).

The wood gives the colouring that comes with añejo as well as a finer taste of course a higher price tag.  

Ok so what about Mezcal? 

The plant used in Mezcal is also an Agave, but a different variety. Mezcal is not limited to one type of agave like Tequila but the most common or the ones that produce the best Mezcales are Agave Espadin or Agave Weber. 

Mezcal can also be produced in any state in Mexico but the most popular comes from Oaxaca and Tamaulipas.

The big difference between Tequila and Mezcal is its production, Mezcal is more of a craft drink – like the craft beer or tequila. In general Mezcal has a much greater range of possibilities because it’s not limited to one type of agave, it can be a blend. 

Each Agave Plant has to obtain maturity for 6-8 years, then leaves are cut and it is cooked just like tequila. But other than the lifting of some of the restrictions that tequila has to be made under another major difference is the cooking of the pineapple. Using a large fire and volcanic rock, once there are only ashes and the rock has gotten hot enough temperature the pineapples are thrown into the fire to be cooked, that is where Mezcal gets its smoky flavours. Then the pinapples are crushed to obtain the juice and it is fermented and distilled just like tequila.

At the end of the day tequila is a variety of mezcal but there are some branding and legal aspects that say they are different. It sounds like Tequila lucked up and is the famous cousin but Mezcales is the more interesting in general. 

Because of its handcraft process, Mezcal is a more refined and expensive drink in Mexico.

How to drink? 

No, you don’t want to take a shot with lime and salt. This was a process that was sold to people to disguise the horrible taste of poorly produced, cheap tequila. 

Good tequila can be sipped on its own and won’t give you a nasty hangover if you drink it straight but there is a technique – Tequila Yoga. 

  • Pour a small about into a glass, (by the stem), raise the glass to eye level and look at the tequila’s color. Is it white? Get your shaker you’re having margaritas!
  • If it’s a light to deep brown give it a swirl, just like wine and look for the ‘legs’ or the ‘string of pearls’ AKA the liquid clinging to the walls of the glass. If it sticks you can proceed with your sipping.
  • But first! Take a deep breath and exhale all the air out of your mouth, take a small sip, enjoy the flavours and then breath out. 
  • Pour about one ounce of tequila in a tequila glass or snifter. Hold the glass at the stem (not the bowl), raise the glass to eye level and look at the tequila’s color.
  • Swirl the tequila gently in its glass. Note how the tequila clings to the walls of the glass, looking for the “string of pearls” effect.[2]
  • Take a small sip, swishing the tequila around in your mouth for about 10 seconds, letting the alcohol travel over different parts of your tongue.
  • Swallow and repeat! Fancy, huh?

Salud!

A day trip from the seaside town of Puerto Vallarta to visit Talpa de Allende and Mascota is a must!

First stop before we really get on the road to visit Talpa de Allende and Mascota is Panaderia Carmen’s Bakery to pick up some breakfast. This is a must-do on the way to San Sebastián, Mascota, or Talpa. Carmen’s is located just before the Progreso Bridge.

You can not go wrong with any choice you make here. They make the. most delicious fresh baked bread and pastries filled various fruits, one with delicious vanilla filling, another warm sausage, or meat. The bakery is a garden oasis where you can sit, relax, and enjoy your break. Each item was roughly $25MXN pesos or $1.15USD

We have stopped here twice and would go back again in a heartbeat.

Talpa de Allende is a municipality and magical town in the state of Jalisco

Talpa de Allende is home to the Virgin of Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Talpa, housed in the magnificent Cathedral built in 1644  and visited by pilgrims from all over the world. Founded in 1599 the town of about 10,000 people sits in a valley, surrounded by mountains. Most of the visitors here are religious pilgrims from Mexico, who travel to Talpa to visit the Virgin, not to play. But Talpa is a beautiful place and a great experience with or without participating in religious ceremonies. We surprised (and pleased) to see the art line streets juxtaposed to the traditional buildings and religious feel of the town.

On the way into Talpa de Allende you’ll pass the Cruz de Romero by the Talpa sign (pictured above). From here you can climb to the top of the monument up some winding stairs for the most incredible view of the mountains and the town below.

Like most Mexican towns the center of Talpa is the plaza and the Church. The town is very walkable so just park up or jump off the bus in the town center and start walking.

We visited the Church and were blessed by the bishop and received a diploma to verify our first pilgrimage to Talpa de Allende, despite neither of us being Catholic we appreciated the experience and would recommend anyone visiting to embrace it and take the time to gain some understanding of the main religion in Mexico. There is a museum just behind the Church (this is also where you pick up your certificate) where you can learn more about the history of the town and the Virgin of Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Talpa.

The plaza itself is the social center for the town, and you will see all ages of people gathered there during the day and into the night. It is flanked by shops and restaurants. We recommend heading into the main market for Birria at Birrieria El Gran Chivo for a cheap, authentic meal. It was $320MXN / $15USD for lunch for and drinks three people.

The farther you get from the plaza, the more varied and modern the architecture. The walk from the Church up the main street (Independencia) out to the large arch just where you enter Talpa follows La Ruta del Peregrino, which is the route of the pilgrims who walk through the countryside on a pilgrimage to see the Virgen de Talpa.

When you are finished exploring the Church and town center you can take in the scenery further up the hill, at the statue of Christ the King. The views from the statue, overlooking the town and the valley, are remarkable, and worth the climb.

On the way back down from the lookout, you’ll pass through the beautiful callejones (alleys) filled with murals, be sure to take your time and check these out – it was a highlight for us.

Mascota

Fun fact: The name (Mascota) is not Spanish (where it would be translated as “pet”), it is from Teco and means, the place of deer and snakes.

When you drive into Mascota you immediately notice it is a beautiful and picturesque town like you’ve traveled back in time, to a quiet, peaceful period, you’ll also notice that the air is cooler here especially if you compare it with Puerto Vallarta.

There is, of course, another beautiful church and town square to see in Mascota but the real gem here is the Unfinished Temple de la Preciosa Sangre (Temple of the Precious Blood) The temple is an unfinished ruin of a church that was to be built in the late 1800’s. Its entrance is framed in a Roman arch; its neoclassic altarpiece is one of the best in the region. There is also an active church on the property. The bougainvillea in the gardens provides vibrant color on the stone background.

We booked a private driver for the trip, less risky than a group tour with Covid-19 still an ongoing issue. a similar price to a group tour and gave us a lot more freedom to see what we wanted. We used Jose from Xplore with Chamaco who we’ve now booked four times because he’s the best.

For a 12-hour day, it cost us $4500MXN / $200USD plus $500MXN / $22USD for our food, coffee and beer, and snacks for the day.

If you’re excited to get back to traveling again, you’re not alone. The locals in the places you visit can’t wait for you to arrive. Bearing that in mind, your visits can help a place become even better when you find ways to give back during your travels.

Wondering how you can give back during your travels to help the communities you visit thrive again while caring for the environment? These 6 tips will give you a better travel experience while bettering the world.

Buy local goods

No travel experience would ever be complete without souvenirs. When you buy them, choose authentic crafts made by the locals. It helps support the very people that live there and makes their community stronger. Besides, nothing is more unique than gifts you can’t get at any chain souvenir shop.

Dine locally too

When you travel far from home, part of the experience in other lands revolves around the foods the locals eat. Try their cuisine, stopping at the family-owned restaurants, cafés, and street vendors when hunger strikes. Avoid going to big chains you might recognize from home. You can eat there any time, but when else can you get home-cooked cuisine in the country you’re visiting.

Choose local accommodations

Big hotel chains will survive the world as it is, but those local independently-owned hotels need business. With travel shut down for so long, they can’t wait to host you. While it might be smaller than what you’re used to, you get a chance to make friends with locals and be a part of their world. Plus, they will know all the inside tips about what to see and do that will make your experience unique and real. 

Go green

If you do choose a local hotel, chances are it will be eco-friendly. But if you’re determined to stay in a larger chain, you can also reduce your carbon footprint by taking on a few green travel habits. Reuse your towels and sheets by selecting the card that comes with your room declining a change unless they become dirty. You should also bring a reusable water vessel to cut down on plastic waste.

Other ways to go green during travel are to use biodegradable or organic products that won’t cause damage to the environment. Don’t forget to bring your own shopping bags. Those canvas totes you use for grocery shopping are a great way to bring your souvenirs back from the local markets.

Look for ways to volunteer

Anywhere you go in the world, there is always a place in need of volunteers. Take a look before you book your adventure and find a way to help the locals. It could be a few hours or even a few days of your trip, but it will mean the world to the people you help and you’ll gain the kind of experience that will bring you fulfillment.

We’ve been volunteering at Vallarta Food Bank as Covid-19 takes hold of people’s livelihoods in Puerto Vallarta. Find out about the Vallarta Food Bank and how you can help here.

Submit your travel shots for sale to Our Paper Promises

Disclaimer: Our Paper Promises is our new initiative!

In a nutshell, creators from all over the world will be able to submit their photos/art for print. 20% will go to the creator and 25% to the nonprofit. 

Every month we’ll be supporting a different nonprofit around the world to give them exposure and much-needed donations.

Our mission is to make Our Paper Promises a way for creators to give back and also make some money on the side to fund their journey. 

Don’t stop traveling either. Tourism is essential for every economy and every one of them will benefit from our visits if we find the proper ways to give back during your travels you help the communities you visit to thrive.

1. Hablas español?

While you don’t need to be a fluent Spanish speaker it is a good idea to pick up some key phrases and make an effort to speak the language.

A few phrases we recommend learning are:

  • “hola” (hello),
  • “por favor”(please)
  • “buenos dias” (good morning),
  • “buenas tardes” (good afternoon) and
  • “adios” (good-bye) or
  • “hasta luego” (see you later)
  • “habla despacio” (speak lowly) or
  • “otra vez por favor” (once again please}

2. Be Polite

Mexicans are some of the politest and friendliest people you will ever meet and you should match that by using niceties, so at the risk of sounding like your Mother remember to mind your Ps and Qs.

Always greet people when you enter and use “Desculpe” (excuse me) before asking a question of or directions. It also pays to ask if they speak English before assuming they do and launching into a request.

Mexican communication is more subtle than a lot of tourists are used to and being too direct can come across rude or even aggressive. This is especially true of American communication and Kiwi’s probably lay somewhere in the middle with our direct-ness.

A good example of this is if a street vendor approaches you or offers you something, you should say “Buena Suerte” (good luck) or “Muchos Gracias Ahorito No” (thanks very much. not now) not ‘no gracias’ (No thank you).  It is kind of like the Kiwi ‘yeah, nah’, let them down gently.

3. Take it easy

In Mexico everything moves at a slower pace so you’re better off relaxing and accepting that before you arrive than getting your knickers in a twist. Getting frustrated is only going to get you labelled as rude and then you’ll never get anything done.

As a US citizen regardless of if you are in the country to not or paying taxes to another country, you need to file your US taxes while you are overseas.

After neglecting my US tax obligations for years while in New Zealand before we left New Zealand and hit the road I knew I had to take my head out of the sand and get it sorted.

I had been in New Zealand for over 5 years without filing. Luckily there is a process for Americans in this situation – the Streamlined Process so I’m guessing it’s not uncommon. It doesn’t come cheap but it allows you to catch up with your US tax filings without facing any penalties nor any undue scrutiny by the IRS.

How much does it cost?

I’m sure it’s possible to do it yourself and save some coin but I chose to have an accountant do it which set me back $1,276 for the Streamlined Process plus the current years return.

Wondering if you qualify for the Streamlines Process?

To qualify for this amnesty program you must

  • File your last 3 federal tax returns
  • File your last 6 FBARS (Foreign Bank Account Reports), required in years when you had over $10,000 in foreign accounts
  • Pay any taxes due (often nil, once you claim one or more expat exclusions)
  • Self-certify that your previous failure to file was non-willful  (conduct that is due to negligence, inadvertence, or mistake or conduct that is the result of a good faith misunderstanding of the requirements of the law.

How does it work?

I filled out a quick form online at BrightTax! and scheduled a call with my assigned CPA to give them the lowdown on my situation, they confirmed I’d be eligible for the process and once I paid the 30% deposit (balance due on filing) we got underway.

I had to supply information for the past 5 years including:

  • Employer name and address
  • Dates of employment 
  • Income
  • Taxes paid
  • Deductions and expenses

I was a little bamboozled at first and reminded why I had put this off for so long but eventually figured out it was actually pretty simple and I could get all of my records from the NZ Tax service IRD and I was away laughing.

I happened to submit return during peak tax season in the states so it took close to six weeks for BrightTax! to complete but off-peak you’re looking at only 2 – 4 weeks to wrap it all up.

I was relieved to find out I didn’t own anything to IRS, phew!

What happens next?

The completed Streamlined paperwork needed to be mailed to the IRS in Austin, Texas. Being in Sayulita, Mexico where there is no post office and in the middle of a pandemic, this was the most difficult part. We ordered a DHL to collect the package for $33 on a 3-day delivery service. The next day we received a call from a lost driver, he couldn’t find our casa and didn’t speak English so we had fun trying to direct him to our location. Once he arrived we handed over the envelope and the waybill and he asked for some pesos, umm but we paid online? We showed him the receipt and whipped out Google translate to explain we’d already paid but he insisted that it hadn’t been. The transaction was showing as pending on our bank statement (in transit between our account and DHL’s) so we gave the driver the benefit of the doubt and paid, again to send the taxes to the IRS.

We’ve contacted DHL twice and not even an acknowledgment of the email so we aren’t holding our breath to get that money back.

Cost: Antelope Canyon Walking Tour
= $109 for 2 x adults, (1-hour tour)

This is one of those places that pops up a lot on Instagram with unreal looking photos and you can’t help but wonder if it’s just hype and clever photography – it’s not! It’s even more beautiful in real life.

Antelope Canyon is a ‘slot canyon’, a cave/tunnel formed in the red sandstone by seasonal flood rains and wind over. The narrow openings allow the light in, reflecting and illuminating the rock.

To take advantage of the best light for photographs in the canyon try and time your tour to fall between 11am to 1pm, from March to October.

The tour, which you have to take to get in to see Antelope Canyon, because it is on a Navajo Indian Tribal Lands is great, our guide was super knowledgeable about the geology, history, photography and loads more which made the experience even more enjoyable. The tour groups are small so you get a good run through, don’t feel rushed and get the space to take the dreamy IG pics.

There are loads of different tour companies available offering tours of both the upper and lower canyon. We used and highly recommend Dixie’s Lower Antelope Canyon Tours.

We took hundreds of photos, here are just a few highlights.

When we first started looking at traveling and working online one of the biggest questions we had was how much does it actually cost and how much do we need to earn?

Expenses vary country-to-country and even city-to-city so we have been keeping track of all of our expenses from beer to rent and documenting it to provide some understanding for anyone looking to go down this path. 

Below is a full list of all our expenses and income from 1 – 30 April 2020 in Sayulita Mexico. We are currently in quarantine due to COVID-19 so haven’t been able to do any tourist activities, eat out (other than a few delivery splurges) or travel this month.

April Expenses                                            

Rent – $389.00
Cellphone -$8.00
Groceries – $253.31
Alcohol and Cigarettes – $106.00
Toiletries – $22.00
Laundry – $21.36
Shortcut to Spanish Online Course – $116.00
Subscriptions (Spotify, Netflix, Gym) – $29.98
Laptop Repayments – $91.00
Other – $305.00

Total expenses  – $1,341.65
Income – $2,683.00
Saved – $1,341.35

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