Twitter Travel Feeds Can Lead To Savings

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Organizing those we follow on Twitter into lists can help us sort relevant information on just about any travel topic. Helpful and engaged sources that work their Twitter feeds can add value to the time we spend online too. Grouping Twitter users into categories like “Fun,” “Movies” or “Sports” puts a focus on topics we find important. When it comes to travel, that same theory applies, as users can find the most current information, contacts to tap when problems come up and some of the best savings possible.

Here are some great travel feeds to follow on Twitter along with some recent tweets.


@Airfarewatchdog

Commonly tweeting savings and super discounted fares throughout the day via their Twitter feed, @Airfarewatchdog brings some amazing fares that travelers can’t find elsewhere. That’s because real people work there to find the best fares.

Still available: to $446 rt w/tax

@Airfarewatchdog also alerts followers to sales they might not otherwise know about, like this one posted recently:

New spring sale from Southwest

@TravelEditor
Travel tips and news from the editors of Independent Traveler flow freely from @TravelEditor with advice on saving money, as well as making the whole process of travel easy. Just yesterday, we saw:


A few tips for saving money on your next car rental:

For best results, avoid these 5 foods before flying:


@Wanderluster
Seattle’s Beth Whitman is founder of WanderTours and the Wanderlust and Lipstick, a website packed with inspiration and tours to exotic destinations for those who aim to be good world citizen.

Travel Hacking New Zealand: Finding Cheap Accommodation & Activities via

@ViatorTravel
Viator is a tour operator that understands the value of having a trusted resource you can rely on to help you find, research and book some of the world’s best travel experiences.

One of the qualities to look for in a viable Twitter source is frequency. On the hour, @ViatorTravel tweets money-saving tips. Some feature tours they sell, which stack up nicely compared to other tour operators, and some are simply budget-minded tips we can count on.

If you’re on a budget in you’ll have no problem finding free things to do (via )


@KidTravel
Nancy Schretter is founder and editor of the Family Travel Network and a mom of two. Via @KidTravel, she shares practical information on making family travel budgets work, where to go, and what to see with first-hand reports from destinations around the world.

Looking for a cool spring break trip? Round Up the Family for an All-Inclusive Ranch Vacation:


@Travelzoo

Tweeting some of the best travel deals worldwide, @Travelzoo alerts us to discount pricing on everything from hotels to car rentals, cruises and entertainment packages found on the Travelzoo website.

Take your stay up a notch. Luxe hotel for $90 off reg. rates.


Twitter's New Embeddable Timelines Put Twitter on Any Website


[Photo Credit- Flickr user joelaz]

Money in Ecuador: How far can $1 get you?

Ecuador is one place where a little money really does go a long way. Not only does the country use United States currency, but it’s amazing how many things you can purchase for just one dollar. Whether you are looking to drink an oversized beer at a pub or feast on 20 fresh bananas (just try to scarf them all down before they turn brown!), it comes as no surprise that Ecuador repeatedly makes the list of budget-friendly places to visit–as well as our top picks for adventure destinations in 2012.

Start the day with a cup of coffee–or four. Most cafes will give you your caffeine fix for 25 to 35 cents a cup. Just don’t be prepared to get Starbucks-style java: in Ecuador, coffee is usually a cup of hot water with some instant coffee served on the side for you to stir in. If that’s not up your alley, you can get a large party-sized cup of made-to-order juice for just a dollar at a fruterias, or fruit shop. They let you choose any mix of fruit of vegetables your heart desires, and no sugar or water will be added. Don’t be afraid to try a fruit you’ve never seen or heard of before, either: I tried guanábana, maracuya, naranjilla and tomate de arbol while I was there, and still find myself craving them all. On the other hand, if you simply prefer soda or bottled water, it’s also sold at a reasonable price: 30 to 60 cents depending on the size. Most of it comes in glass bottles, too-a fun game to play is to see how long your bottle has been in circulation; my record was a bottle that dated back to 1994.Being introduced to new flavors and climates doesn’t always agree with out bodies, but in Ecuador it’s no bother. If you are having altitude sickness, a stomachache, or a mild allergic reaction, just drop by a pharmacy where there is no need to buy a whole box of medicine-pills are sold individually and they’re usually cheap. Buy what you need, and if you don’t feel better the next day just come back for more. You can also buy a lot of medicines you would need a prescription for in the U.S.-but that’s a whole different story.

Getting around in Ecuador is cheap, too. A taxi will take you up to a mile for just a dollar, while the city bus will take you anywhere around major cities like Quito and Guayaquil for just 25 cents. Buses run all over the country, and as a general rule the cost is $1 per hour-making the uncomfortable 10-hour bus ride from Quito to the coast totally worth it.

As for food, you might not be able to get a complete dinner for a dollar–but choclo con queso, or corn on the cob served with a chunk of cheese, will hold you over for awhile. Some more familiar menu options for just a buck include pizza, fruit cups, and foot-long hot dogs, which are sold in parks and on streets from vendors. Just keep in mind that hot dogs are served with some unfamiliar options like mayonnaise, tomatoes, and crushed potato chips.

Drinking in Ecuador might be one of the best deals to be had. A large bottle of beer is just a dollar at many pubs, and if you search hard enough you might be able to find mixed drinks like cuba libres and rum and coke for the same price. Don’t leave the country without trying a canelazo, a traditional drink made with fruit juice and sugar can alcohol, served hot. And if you smoke when you drink, you can get a cute half-pack of ten cigarettes for just a dollar.

When it comes to souvenirs, a dollar can get you a few things. At Quito’s Mercado Artesenal, handmade bracelets, earrings, coin purses, and finger puppets can be picked up for a dollar or less. Take a short bus ride to the famous Otovalo Market, the biggest bazaar in all of South America, and you can get even better deals.

Although the deals sound great, take my advice: if you plan on visiting bring a roll of quarters and the smallest bills you can imagine. Nobody in this country seems to have change, and very often convenience stores would rather refuse selling you anything than change a $10 bill. The horror stores of cab drivers chastising people for using “enormous bills” when trying to pay a $3 cab far with a $5 bill are true-and if you find yourself with a $20 bill, be prepared to have a panic attack.

[Photos by Libby Zay and Andres Felipe Mena]

LAN Airlines surprises restaurant-goers with free tickets to South America

Courtesy LAN Airlines

Last night, LAN Airlines surprised nearly 200 unsuspecting patrons at Nuela restaurant in New York with free round trip tickets to South America. The Oprah-style giveaway kicks off the company’s Only in South America campaign, a multi-year effort to promote travel to the region.

In the midst of busy dinner hours, guests at the South American restaurant in Manhattan’s Flatiron district were directed to look under their tables for a major surprise. Moments later, everyone in the restaurant was holding a voucher for a ticket to any LAN destination in South America, including destinations in Argentina, Chile, Ecuador and Peru.

“It was a genuine pleasure to see the restaurant full of dinner guests enjoying South American dishes all of a sudden receive the unexpected news that they were getting the chance to travel to where our cuisine originates, just because they were at the right place at the right time,” said Chef Adam Schop. Schop was recently awarded Star Chef’s 2011 Rising Star award, and New York Times touted his arroz con pato (duck paella) “best tasting dish of the year.”

Those who weren’t lucky enough to be gifted with tickets can still enter an online sweepstakes to win tickets to Quito, Guayaquil, Lima, Santiago or Buenos Aires by following @LANAirlinesUSA. The contest ends October 13th.

Ecuador: Your guide to the “new Costa Rica”

With the Galápagos Islands, Pacific beaches, Andes Mountains, and Amazonian jungle, Ecuador is a little country that packs a big punch. And travelers, always on the look-out for the hot new destination, are starting to flock there in droves. One backpacker has even dubbed the small South American country the “new Costa Rica.” Okay, that was me.

Anyway, here’s a quick-and-dirty rundown of the highlights and lowlights of Ecuador’s three regions– East, Central and West.

East

To hear the reputation of the city of Guayaquil, you’d think that calling it a cesspool of crap would be insulting to all those plucky little bacteria out there who survive on human excrement. The truth is that, despite Guayaquil’s dismal reputation, things are rapidly improving, and lots of fun can be had in this port city of three million. There’s a casino downtown if that’s your thing, and the Malecón area on the riverfront is brand new and always packed with people. Head to the Urdesa district for some great restaurants and to the Kennedy Center for vibrant nightlife. For sightseeing, try the hilltop neighborhood known as Las Peñas, where you’ll see a colorful slice of colonial Guayaquil.

The best-slash-only beach I went to in Ecuador was in Montañita, which is about two hours north of Guayaquil. The town is really chilled out and uber-friendly to backpackers, with plenty of places to eat and sleep (and smoke funny-looking cigarettes).

Shameless plug: A friend with whom I visited Montañita moved back there recently and opened a watering hole called Nuestrobar. Mention my name there and receive 50% off. (Warning: This deal may come as news to the owner.)

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Central

Starting from the top, Quito, the capital, is a must-see destination. Quito’s Old Town is a refined, dignified queen, full of majesty and grace. Explore her curves, and take her picture. Go ahead, she likes it. The New Town (especially the Mariscal area) is an ageless whore, a seductress, a vixen. She’ll do anything for a buck, and she’ll give you the best nights of your life.

There are a million-and-one places to go out in the Mariscal, but take taxis at night because the area can be a little dodgy. The Secret Garden hostel in the Old Town is highly recommended for its spectacular balcony view and lively backpacker atmosphere. It’s the best budget place to stay in Quito by a lot. Make a reservation, as it’s endorsed by Lonely Planet and therefore often packed.

Visit the cable cars known as the Telefériqo for a panoramic look at the city. Go early, as heavy fog tends to block the gorgeous view any time past noon.

For a challenging hike just a few hours from Quito, hire a guide and head to the world’s tallest active volcano, Mt. Cotopaxi. At 19,347 feet, the climb will kick your ass unless you’re in good shape and have spent time acclimatizing to the altitude. Still, it’s possible to have a good time even if you prefer donuts to dumbells, and you don’t make it all the way to the top. (I know from experience.)

Heading south from Quito, spend some time in the town of Baños, so named because of the existence of several thermal baths created by the nearby Tungurahua Volcano. Baños is where I stayed for about six weeks, so I might be biased, but it was just about the best Ecuador has to offer. It’s nestled beautifully in the mountains, there is tons to do– mountain biking, rafting, hiking, soaking in thermal baths, bungee-jumping off bridges, drinking, dancing with girls who are probably too young.

If you go, I recommend staying at Plantas y Blanco and eating at Casa Hood (great used book selection), and Cafe Hood. And yes, there are two different restaurants with the word “Hood” in the name– it’s a long story.

Taking the bus south from Baños, you’ll come to the beautiful old colonial city of Cuenca. It’s where I met the most beautiful girl in Ecuador, and for that reason, it will always hold a spot near and dear to me.

In the southernmost region of the country, you’ll find the small gringo-hippie-retiree town of Vilcabamba. If you enjoy talking about your chi and saying things like, “The energy in this room just doesn’t feel right,” this is the place for you. Head to the Madre Tierra spa/hotel for the full effect.

West

The Amazonian jungle. I went for about a week, and it was certainly a experience I’ll never forget. It costs about $40 a day to hire a guide, which you must do. Going into the jungle is just like it sounds– lots of fascinating plants and animals, but lacking in creature comforts such as air conditioning, WiFi, and buildings with doors. Go if the preceding sounds appealing.

Note: When your jungle guide introduces you to a shaman who offers you a psychoactive tea called ayahuasca, politely refuse– that is, unless you’re looking to writhe in agony for hours while suffering from temporary psychosis and acute diarrhea. Or so I’ve heard.

Final Thoughts

If you have extra money, go to the Galápagos Islands. It’s about the one thing in Ecuador I didn’t do, but wished I had. It’ll cost US$1000 to go for a week, but it’s cheaper if you fly to the islands and explore on your own rather than joining a pre-arranged tour.

For more info, consider picking up an Ecuador guidebook or make your own Frankenguide.

Finally, and most importantly, ignore most of the advice above and just find your own places to go and do your own things. Traveling is about making it up as you go along. Somehow things always work out, no matter where you go or what you do.

Got questions? I never get tired of talking about Ecuador, so leave it in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer it. Happy travels!