Help! Critique My Itinerary
I’m planning my first extended trip. Longest so far was only one month – backpacking and WWOOFing with three others. I’m thinking between three and four months for this trip. (Probably late 2013)
I’m a 26 yr old female and I’ll be traveling alone. Never gone anypIace where it was difficult to find English speakers. I can speak a tiny, tiny bit of French and want to learn Spanish.
1. Mexico City – 3 or 4 days?
I’m pretty sure I’d like to start in Mexico City but I’m a little concerned about safety. Truth or stereotype?
If I do go to Mexico City first, is it worth a trip to the Yucatan for Tulum or Chichen Itza? How hard is it to get to Tikal from Yucatan? You have to go through Belize or something? I think Tikal might be enough.
2. Guatemala (Tikal) - 1 week
Fly into Guatemala City ….I haven’t found much reason to stay in Guatemala City, so I’m thinking I’d take a shuttle to Antigua and spend 2-3 day there before going back to Guatemala City and either catching a bus or flying to Flores for Tikal. I want two full days at Tikal and I think I’ll stay at one of the three hotels right there in the jungle.
The other option would be to fly directly to Flores and skip Antigua.
3. Peru (Machu Picchu) – 7-10 days
Fly into Lima and spend a few days there. Fly to Cusco. Train from Cusco, through the Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes. Two days to explore Machu Picchu. Train back to Cusco and fly out from there.
I’m curious about the elevation and altitude sickness here. Is it worth it to plan a few days in Cusco to adjust before going to Machu Picchu? Just in case I get sick.
Is it better to go to Lima AFTER Machu Picchu since it’s so much lower?
I’m also interested in opinions on where to stay for Machu Picchu. Aguas Calientes?
4. Buenos Aires – 5-6 days
I also considered Santiago and Rio, but Buenos Aires seems the most interesting. Thoughts?
5. New Zealand – 10 days? 2 weeks?
Visit a couple different spots, traveling overland. Maybe I can find a short WWOOF stay.
6. I’d like to insert another stop here, but I’m not sure where. Kuala Lumpur? Bali?
7. Siem Reap, Cambodia (Angkor Wat) – 3 full days, five nights
8. Maybe go to Bangkok or Dhaka or Bangladesh? Or fly straight to Delhi?
9. India “Golden Triangle” – 7-10 days
Fly into Delhi and spend two days there. Take a train to Agra (Taj Mahal) and spend one day/two nights there. Travel to Jaipur, stopping off at Fatehpur Sikri and spend two days in Jaipur. Take a train back to Delhi and fly out.
10. Egypt – 7-10 days
Three days in Cairo, three days in Luxor, side trips to Aswan and Abu Simbel.
Not sure how to do this.
Fly from Delhi to Luxor, hit Aswan and Abu Simbel, go back to Luxor and up the Nile to Cairo?
Or fly from Delhi to Cairo and move south, finishing at Abu Simbel – then how to get out? From Luxor?
11. From here I’d like to visit Morocco but haven’t begun too much research on where yet. Maybe Casablanca? Marrakesh? Tangiers?
I'd highly recommend just focusing on one area (South America if you want to learn Spanish perhaps- you could spend a few weeks in a school and then go on from there), but at maximum pick two geographical regions. A globe is perhaps deceiving but Mexico City is really not just next door to Peru which is not next door to Buenos Aires- there's a several hour flight between each segment- and seems tragic to head all that way down to Argentina just to see BA which is a nice city but just a city nonetheless when there are so many wonderful things there (look up Iguazu Falls and pictures of Patagonia if you don't believe me). Also it's just an awful/expensive connection from there to NZ- lovely country but seriously far from everywhere, and certainly worth more than 10 days for that distance- and I swear you'll be dead tired and not enjoying all the traveling much after that at the pace you're planning.
So yeah, pick one or two regions at maximum and go from there. You will have future trips, I promise.
The rest of the world will still be there for the next trip. You can likely find a deal to fly from home to NZ cheaper than from either BA or Santiago.
- too much
- too fast
- too tourist attraction focused.
Four months isn't very long, and hopping from one corner of the earth to another will eat up a lot of your time and money on flights, and mean that you won't have much left over to take in some of the more expensive things that are very worth doing.
I'm more agnostic about where you actually go, but focusing on one area is definitely the best way to manage a 3-4 month trip. Obviously if learning Spanish is on the to-do list, Central or South America is the place to do it, and you won't pull it off in 4-7 days per stop. Settle in somewhere for a month or so, do the homestay thing that lots of Spanish schools organise. Enjoy.
Get off the beaten track. The highlights you've picked out are fabulous (at least the ones I've seen, and I imagine the rest are, too) and you should go, but if they're all you see, you'll get a very skewed view of what most of the world is like. Skewed towards "people try to hawk crap to you and scam you out of your money everywhere you go." Which isn't exactly the most flattering light in which to see the planet. It's just a fact of life when you visit tourist hotspots in countries where even the most frugal of backpackers is very wealthy (and in some places unimaginably wealthy) by local standards.
If you do make it to Egypt, see some things outside of the Nile region. The western oases are great, I've heard the most remote (Siwa) is particularly worth visiting. The Sinai also has some attractions worth seeing, and there's a generally lower hassle level there than the tourist central part of the country. From what I've heard, the golden triangle vs the Rest of India offers a similar contrast.
Other countries along the eastern Med are generally more rewarding than Egypt itself, and I'd suggest them over hopping across the continent to the next tourist haven on the list in Morocco. Jordan and Turkey are fantastic, and Cyprus is probably worth a look, too (though I haven't been there). I'm depressed to have to remove Syria from the list, but if things calm down there before you go, it certainly was amazing before the war, and I hope it will be afterwards.
As a girl I went camel riding in Jordan with said, "Petra kicks the crap out of anything in Egypt." Don't miss it if you're in the area.
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