Fawlty Tours: 7 Games Tour Companies Play

Machu Picchu trekking group, Peru

We began this piece by writing a narrative tracing the hiccups in our Salkantay to Machu Picchu trek in Peru, but soon realized that our lessons learned go beyond Peru’s tourist-laden Inca corridor.

So what happened? Our guide got drunk two nights in a row, tried to pinch us for more money with unplanned and overpriced transport, didn’t buy our Machu Picchu tickets in advance, missed our meeting on the day of Machu Picchu by two hours, and mismanaged our return train and bus tickets to Cusco.

Not bad, eh?

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Travel and Value: What Can You Buy For $0.66?

Value: a topic of great debate, perhaps nowhere more so than in the world of travel.

We've had friends rave about inns in Costa Rica that are a “great value” at $300 a night. At the same time, we've met travelers who do the “bad value” balk when accommodation anywhere runs more than $3.

Call one a spendthrift. Call the other cheap. Value is in the eye of the beholder.

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Machu Picchu? Not Yet. A Slideshow of the Other Peru

As much as anyone else, we enjoy visiting world-famous tourist sites and embarking on adventure trips. Peru has been no exception. In fact, in just a few hours we depart for a five-day trek to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu by way of a mountain pass at 4650 meters/15,500 feet.

But there’s almost always another side to the countries we visit. And sometimes we disappear into the hills for weeks to find it.

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Microfinance Diaries: Seeing is Believing in West Bengal

The driver carved his way across northern West Bengal through territory unknown to most, including the mapmakers. Our SUV eventually rolled to a stop at the end of a dirt road where a group of village women dressed in their best and brightest saris were seated in a semi-circle on the ground. They had been waiting for hours.

And they were waiting for us.

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What India Taught Me: A Taxi Nightmare and Where Lost Baggage Goes to Die

First Trip to India, What to Expect

To say that you’ve seen the world before seeing India is like saying you know yourself before taking a good long look at your naked body in the mirror.

Author's Note: As we begin to write about our last visit to India in greater depth, I’m reminded of my first trip there — also my first trip abroad that I took solo in 1997. Those were the days of traveler’s checks, thick stapled wads of Indian rupees, and exorbitantly priced, poor quality phone calls booked from telephone wallahs on the street. The ATM machines, internet cafes and easy-to-purchase mobile phone SIM cards of today’s India seemed only a pipe dream back then.

This chronicles the bizarre experiences and lessons – about India, travel and me – that first visit imparted. No other trip since has affected me in quite the same way.

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Central America: Immigration Stories

As we travel, it's common for locals the world over to ask us where we are from. In Asia, the response “The United States” was usually sufficient. In Europe, they didn't ask; they assumed.

Not so in Central America. People were curious to know the states and often the towns and cities where we grew up, where we have lived. After sharing our details, it wasn't uncommon to hear: “I had a cousin who lived there“, “Oh, I lived [nearby] for 15 years” or “My brother lives there.”

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Life Happened on the Way to the Piñata Factory

The other day we broke down in Guatemala City — in front of a piñata factory no less.

I helped push the stalled PT Cruiser whose motor had knocked, pinged and spoken of better days. Back then forward, we rolled the car out of traffic and into a parking lot.

Guatemala City is notorious for guns, violence, drugs, blighted neighborhoods and danger lurking around every corner. And there we were in a sketchy little parking lot in the middle of the city at dusk.

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Guatemala: 10 Days, 10 Impressions

With growing curiosity and a healthy double-edged dose of excitement and apprehension, we set off recently for the next segment of our journey: a new region with its own story, unfamiliar cultures with their own features, and distinct cuisines with their own flavors.

We share ten impressions from our first ten days in Guatemala – from chuchitos to proselytizers to contradictions – as we begin to absorb and comprehend an entirely new cultural panorama.

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