Archive for September, 2014

Comfy Colombian Hostels That Fit into Every Backpacker’s Budget

Posted on September 30th, 2014 by Dusty Fox in Uncategorized | No Comments »

With its warm people and colorful culture, it’s no wonder an increasing number of adventurous travelers are packing up their bags and heading to the beautiful country of Colombia. From the colonial charm of Cartagena to the picture-perfect beaches of Providencia Island, whatever your idea of the perfect vacation may be, it’s likely you’ll find plenty to swoon over as you travel through the country. And if you’re interested in saving a few dollars, I can’t say enough about the option of staying at hostels versus traditional hotels. While they certainly don’t offer luxury resort amenities, they provide everything you need to get a good night’s sleep. Here are a handful of my top picks that I encourage you to check out if you’re planning a Colombian vacation:

Cartagena [Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, Norma Gomez]

Cartagena [Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, Norma Gomez]

Hotel El Viajero in Cartagena

Conveniently located in the heart of Cartagena’s historic district, you just can’t get any closer to all the action. The rooms are simple and clean–the essentials when it comes to any good hostel. They even have air conditioning, lots of shelf space, and flat-screen TVs, plus many have private bathrooms. The rooms and bathrooms are tight on space, but the tidiness and affordability of the place make it a non-issue. A small onsite computer room is available to guests along with free coffee service throughout the day. The reception is open 24/7–a big perk for backpackers who may be arriving on a late bus.

Hostal Mar y Mar in Isla San Andres

You’ll want to spend all your time on the beaches while visiting Isla San Andres, so why pay a fortune for a hotel? The Hostal Mar y Mar features a white-washed, contemporary design, and spacious rooms come furnished with air conditioning, mini fridge, and microwave. Private bathrooms even have warm water showers–a luxury not always guaranteed in this corner of the world! The beach and downtown are both just a 5- to 10-minute walk away, and the hostel offers airport pick-up for about 6 dollars.

Medellin [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, seth pipkin]

Medellin [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, seth pipkin]

Urban Buddha Hostel in Medellin

Brightly colored murals and an eclectic collection of artwork set the scene at this energetic and welcoming hostel in Medellin. If you need a place to meditate or decompress after a few busy days on the town, grab a siesta in the peaceful garden, complete with pond, hammocks, and plenty of greenery. The helpful staff is always on hand to set you up with tours or offer advice on where to go next.

Hostal Encuentro in Cali

First, it’s worth pointing out that dorm rooms at the Hostal Encuentro feature individual beds laid out in an large rooms. No bunks, which means no worrying about whether you’ll get the top or bottom bed! But the real selling point of this homey, family-run hostel is the rooftop terrace, which offers fantastic views of the city and surrounding mountains. The location is ideal for walking around Cali and discovering its beautiful parks, restaurants, shops, and more.

You’ll quickly discover the warmth and hospitality of Colombian people after arriving. To make the most of your trip, we invite you to sign up for private Spanish classes. Being able to communicate with front desk staff, taxi drivers, and other locals will open new doors and lead you to even more exciting opportunities to learn about the local way of life. Call or email us today!

3 Places to Visit in Chile That Will Leave a Lasting Impression

Posted on September 13th, 2014 by Dusty Fox in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Quick, list 5 facts you know about Chile.

If you’ve never been to the South American country, this simple task probably sounds astonishingly difficult. And that’s truly a shame, because there is so much to love about this incredible place. An attractive location along the southwestern coast of South America extends more than 4,000 kilometers in length, which means the terrain is varied–and extreme. In the north, the Atacama Desert has the distinction of being named the driest place on Earth. To the south, stunning glaciers and vast mountain expanses dominate the landscape of the Torres del Paine National Park. Any vacation to Chile is bound to be rewarding, but if you’re looking for the most awe-inspiring destinations, these 3 top spots make an excellent starting point for your research:


Valparaiso [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, Javier Rubilar]


Let your desire to “Go! Go! Go!” fall to the wayside as you visit the casual and almost bohemian town of Valparaiso, located just 70 miles north of Santiago. It’s a vertical town, but fortunately there are plenty of charming spots to stop and rest in between all the walking. Visit Paseo Gervasoni and admire the oversized artwork that adorns the buildings and perhaps buy a few fresh watercolor paintings that artists sell along the streets. No visit to Valparaiso is complete without taking a few rides on the colorful Polanco or El Peral ascensores, or funiculars, which take you to greater heights where you’ll enjoy lovely views of the town and harbor.


Make the vertical ascent up the Cerro San Cristobal on a sunny weekend morning and you’ll be surrounded by a pleasant mix of locals and tourists who are out to enjoy the beautiful weather. The views from the top are spectacular. If the weather’s less than pleasant, head downtown to one of the major museums, like the Museum of Pre-Colombian Art. You’ll feel like a more responsible and knowledgeable world citizen after spending an afternoon at the 4-year-old Museo de La Memoria y Los Derechos Humanos, which educates visitors on the devastating events that occurred during the 1973-1989 Pinochet dictatorship. End your time in Santiago on a high note by visiting the charming Barrio Lastarria, which boasts a growing number of cafes, casual restaurants, antique vendors, and artisans who sell their fares along the sidewalks.

Atacama Desert [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, Daniel Weiss]

Atacama Desert [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, Daniel Weiss]

Atacama Desert

You’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to a faraway planet as you explore the Salar de Tara, which is home to incredible rock formations, mysterious-looking lagoons, and the Reserva Nacional de Los Flamencos. Visit a geyser field for a fascinating natural show around you and then stop by a natural hot spring nearby to bring up your body temperature. Remember, altitude sickness is to be expected out here, so give yourself time to acclimate for a day or two before heading out for any major hiking or exploring.

Whether a vacation to Chile is in your near future or just a dream right now, learning Spanish is a great next step. Go ahead and send us an email to learn more. Our instructors are native Spanish speakers who offer both private and small-group classes. Whatever your learning style, they’re ready to help you master the Spanish language!

Learn Fact from Fiction When it Comes to Mexican Cuisine

Posted on September 1st, 2014 by Dusty Fox in Uncategorized | No Comments »

If you live in the United States and have yet to travel south of the border, you might think Mexican cuisine consists of tacos, chimichangas, chalupas, and burritos. And while that assumption isn’t completely off the mark, the food you’ll eat while vacationing in Mexico is a whole lot different than what you’re used to up here–and, it’s worth noting, a whole lot better, too!

Before I traveled to Mexico for the first time, my idea of a taco was a crispy shell filled with a little ground beef and a whole lot of toppings–mainly sour cream, salsa, and cheese. But when I stepped foot in Mexico, I saw that there was a whole lot more to the culinary scene than that. Salsa from a jar? No way! Cold tortillas? As if! Whether you’re planning on hitting up street vendors, upscale restaurants, or a combination of these equally inviting dining options, you’re in for a real treat when it comes to eating your way through Mexico on that upcoming trip. Here’s the scoop on what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to a northerner’s perspective on real Mexican food:


Chiles [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, Christopher Holden]

Myth: All Mexican food is spicy.

If you’re into spicy food, you’ll have no trouble getting your hands on some truly sweat-inducing, tongue-burning sauces for your meals in Mexico. Fortunately, those of us with a lower tolerance for heat have the option of skipping the hot sauce and still enjoying our meals.

Fact: Mexican food can make you sick.

This is a fact for many U.S travelers who head to Mexico and don’t play have a plan when it comes to eating safely. Here are a few tips to lessen your chance of getting a belly ache: 1) eat yogurt with probiotics on a daily basis for a week or two before you go on vacation, 2) avoid lettuce-based salads, and 3) drink plenty of bottled water every day. It’s probably wise to avoid street food for at least the first few days of your trip, especially if you’ve had gastrointestinal issues while traveling abroad before.


Fresh Tortillas [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, ProtoplasmaKid]

Myth: Tortillas are all the same.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you’ve never really had a tortilla if you haven’t had a freshly made, still warm flour tortilla served fresh off the press or griddle. Be prepared to have your mind–and taste buds–blown.

Tacos Carnitas

Tacos Carnitas [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, Jess Lander]

Myth: All Mexican food is the same.

Nope, wrong again. Mexico is a huge country, like the U.S., and unsurprisingly has a number of regional cuisines spread from coast to coast. It’s easy to find great seafood in popular coastal communities, like Cancun on the Caribbean Coast, or Acapulco on the Pacific Coast. In other regions you’ll find an eclectic mix of food including cream-based soups, stuff sweet peppers, grilled steak, and lots of other dishes beyond the traditional tacos and moles you’ll find nearly everywhere from coast to coast.

If you can’t tell your chapulines–toasted grasshopper with salt and lime–from your chilorio–simmered pork served in chile sauce, it’s time to brush up on your Spanish. Contact us today and we’ll get you set up in no time at all, whether you need small group lessons or prefer one-on-one language classes.