Tips for Travelers

How much does your bike cost?

Ever since we got to Mexico we've had to deal with the question in every little village: "How much did your bike cost?" It's embarrassing and difficult. Our bikes are ordinary mountain bikes, middle-of-the-road affairs, but they cost around US$1000, which is more than a year's income for a Guatemalan family. It's more money than most campesinos in the countries we've ridden through will ever see. So if we say "1000 dollars", they go into shock. I don't think it makes the bikes more likely to be stolen, but it's just a terribly uncomfortable thing to discuss.

In the past we tried: "About 2 weeks' salary" (very unsatisfactory to all, since it's an honest and open question. Some friends suggested lying and saying "$200" or something. That doesn't seem too good either. We've tried "It was a pre3sent; I don't know." Also unsatisfactory. Everybody knows we know.

But recently one answer has been very successful. We say "It's our custom not to talk about prices and expenditures." They immediately nod their heads and drop the question. Es nuestra costumbre no hablar de precios. Since I was raised not to talk about such things, it's absolutely true. And people really respect it since they're used to respecting other people's customs. Anyway, a recommended response!

Toll Roads and Cyclists in Latin America

Cyclists occasionally ask us about our experience on toll roads in Latin America, so I thought I'd give a little overview. We've ridden on many of them without trouble.

Throughout Latin America roads have been "privatized", giving a concession to a private company to operate them for a period of years. In general, this means better maintenance on the roads.

We have never been asked to pay a toll on any of the roads we've traveled from Mexico to Argentina. However, we have heard of cyclists being required to pay on some roads in Mexico.

Also in Mexico, we avoided the toll roads but occasionally took them. (We find that the toll roads there are fast and fancy, but you get no sense of the culture of the country.) There was one road (from Pueba to Oaxaca) that was rumored to exclude cyclists. Also, the road from Tijuana to Rosario in Baja California is supposed to rigorously exclude cyclists, forcing them onto a very dangerous, narrow alternate.

In our experience, though: We haven't been excluded from any toll roads, and we haven't been charged tolls.

On occasional, in Mexico and again in Peru, there were specific procedures they wanted us to take when approaching a toll booth. They did not want us to go through the auto lane (because we'd register on a camera?) but rather go completely around the toll booth installation. One time in Mexico, not understanding this, I approached too close and the guard did raise his gun for my benefit.

Latin American Highway Etiquette and Cyclists

Nancy riding with the big rigs
Nancy riding with the big rigs (View on flickr)

We've heard many people complain about motorists in Latin America, we we haven't had a lot of trouble. We actually have quite a lot of respect for the drivers, especially the professional drivers, as they seem to know what to do with us and often do it with courtesy.

However: The more you stay on the busy roads, the more complaints you will have. For example, we often say that there are two experiences cyclists have in Mexico. Those who come down the main highway on the west coast feel like Mexico is one big, busy, ugly highway. Those who mosey down the small roads in the interior of the country feel like it's a wonderful, welcoming, interesting country with reasonable highways.

Here are some of our observations about highway etiquette and getting along on the roads in Latin America:  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Safety: Riding on Sunday

Drunk guy at Sacapulas
Drunk guy at Sacapulas (View on flickr)

One thing we heard repeatedly in various people's blogs: "Sunday is a big drinking day in Latin America, so you should avoid riding on Sundays".

Well, they were certainly right about Sunday being a drinking day for the men. Wow, have we seen a lot of blasted men on Sundays. And I'm sure some of those men were driving.

But most people in Latin America do not drive private vehicles, and there is far less traffic on the road on Sundays. So our experience, over and over, has been that Sunday is a great day to cycle. It's also the day that the local sports-cyclists get out and ride. It's the perfect day for cycling.

Putting Your Bike on a Bus in Latin America

We have now used buses in Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Peru, and Bolivia, and have used the train in Mexico and Bolivia.

In the US it's quite a lot of pain to transport your bike by bus or plane - they want you to disassemble it, put it in a box, etc. It's a big deal. But we've had generally good and easy experiences.

  • The size of the bus's storage compartment is often the biggest issue. If the bike won't fit, it will have to be disassembled. On a dangerous road in Costa Rica we decided to bail and take a bus and we had to wait overnight for a larger bus with a larger storage compartment.
  • Sometimes the bike goes on top. In that case, we try to supervise how it's fastened down. But they seem to be experts. However, it's our bike, and therefore our responsibility. We care about it more than anybody else does.
  • Sometimes they have charged us a bit for the bikes, which seems reasonable. It is generally negotiable. Sometimes we haven't been charged at all.
  • There is some risk of damage to the bikes, as they rattle around. Normally they come out with some scratch or something that they wouldn't have gotten otherwise. On a couple of dirt roads they have gotten extraordinarily dusty.
  • Sometimes when things are very busy you may have to make advance reservations and wait, since baggage compartments may be all full.

Overall, our experiences with buses have been quite satisfactory and easy.

Syndicate content