Top TEN things we saw in South America (well one in Central)

„What did you like the most?” is THE question everyone asks us. So here we go, our top 10 of South America (and a tiny bit of Central). And all of these ten places we loved differently but equally as strong.

1. Off the beaten track to Choquequirao

That hike was absolutely the number one among the hikes for us. It was hard, painful but truly magical. While Machu Picchu is a beehive full of tourists, where you can’t walk around freely, it’s noisy and you can forget about peeing for some time, Choquequirao is peaceful and mystical. There are almost no people and the site is way bigger then MP so we could walk around freely and we saw just 3 people during the whole 1.5 day of walking around (yeah that’s how long it takes to see it). It’s also for only 40% excavated so the stones and terraces disappear in thick vegetation. When I even start to think about it I would like to go back and do it all over again.

2. Omnipresent ice in Calafate

The immense glaciers in Calafate were definitely one of a kind. The tourist attraction number one, Perrito Morreno, was breathtaking, huge and looking at the pieces breaking off was better than a football match. And it’s not so touristic in the winter…:) The Titanic-like pieces of glaciers floating around were just surreal to see, a bit like islands of blue ice in the middle of nothing. And hikes near Chalten where you could just walk around and see dry glaciers just like that was stunning!! I even miss the cold when I write it.

3. Under and above water wonders of San Andres and Providencia

Well, in San Andres we didn’t see any wonders except for garbage and general chaos. But Providencia was all we were hoping for and more!! Gorgeous beaches, water in 50 shades of blue and FOOD!! Everything we tried there was absolutely delicious and it was definitely the best we ate during our trip (except for super fancy restaurants in Lima). The best of it all was the diving: sharks, stingrays, crabs, families of fish and all just sooooo close and soooo many.

4. Warmth of the people and originality of the coast of Uruguay

Without a doubt people from Uruguay were the most educated of all nations we met. They knew so much about history of any country including Poland that I wish I could send all my future babies there for school. Not to mention people were genuinely interested in us and wanted to talk and talk and talk and … drink mate:) The coast has obviously stunning beaches with mostly hippie architecture (recycle houses, Heineken bottle floor etc) and cute little penguins and sea lions. In September you can also spot whales.

5. The Lost City of Tayrona

Simply incredible! When I googled it I was really not impressed but live, it’s another story. It’s immense, breathtaking and magical:) it’s so surrounded by thick vegetation that it gave us a feeling of a hidden place worth all the sweat and pain during the hot, dusty trek to it.

6. Charming little frogs and nature in “Mouth of the Bull”- Bocas del Toro

From Bocas we didn’t expect much since it’s very touristic. But we were positively surprised. Our hostel was so cute, charming and comfy, food was delicious and little red-dotted frogs stole our hearts. Not to mention we saw a huge boa and stunning green forests everywhere. And that’s just because we didn’t stay on the main island but went to Bastimentos.

7. Lakes and mountains around Bariloche

Even though when we were there it was covered in ash after a volcano exploded in Chile, it was an amazing region to see. The town itself looks just like a Swiss mountain village so nothing too special. But the surroundings!! Insane!!! Lakes and mountains everywhere and really many! In between them forests. Pure nature.

8. Kayaking adventures in the Amazon

That was probably the craziest thing we have done. Observing crocodiles not even from a distance actually:P fishing piranhas all the time, getting bitten by all those crazy mosquitos and all that accompanied by noise from all types of monkeys. To fall asleep in that chaos of nature with stars above our head and fireflies was really one of a kind. Just priceless.

9. Wine drinking and colorful mountains in the North of Argentina

If we lived in Cafayate we would become alcoholics! And that drinking different wine every day (yep there is plenty). Not to mention really close from the wine there are colorful mountains and canyons.

10. The villages in the coffee region

Those stole our hearts. Calm, colorful, green and the locals were as colorful as the houses. Warm and friendly. We found one of the best hostels to volunteer in and definitely the best Airbnb. We made friends that hopefully we will see again. We even started drinking coffee :).

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El Valle de Anton, Panama

How much does it cost to travel in Panama? Our budget and tips

In Panama we spend 1070 euro for 24 days so 22.30 euro per person per day. Although it's not visible in the budget, it's not a cheap country compared with Colombia or other South American countries. But we saved a lot of money by volunteering for 2 weeks.


Where did we go?

In Panama we visited Bocas del Toro region, Valle del Anton and Panama City.

How did we travel?

Long distance travel we did by buses but in Panama City we used mostly Uber both for transport and a nice conversation 🙂 in the area of Bocas we had to use boat taxis. All of that fun transport costed us 92 euros.

Example: Bus from Almirante (mainland next to Bocas del Toro) to Panama City costed 13.9 dollar (round 12 euro) per person and it was  an overnightbus. Uber taxi from our hostel in Panama City to the Canal (which was the most expensive fare ever because we stopped in a few places and saw the Canal from a lot of viewpoints) was 16.11 dollars (around 14 euro) and a ride from our hostel to the city center or other parts of the city was about 3-5 dollar (around 2.8 - 4.4 euro). Boat taxis in Bocas were around 3-5 dollars (2.8- 4.4 euro)

Where did we stay?

On accommodation we spend 296 euro spending 4 days in a private room on Bastimentos (Bocas del Toro) and
the rest in cosy dorms in El Valle and Panama City.

Examples: private room on Bastimentos was 45 dollar (around 39 euro) per night per room and a bed in dorms were around 15 dollar per night (around 13 euro) although we volunteered for two weeks so we didn't pay for our cosy bed during that period.

What did we eat?

As usual we mostly cooked ourselves but really good food, we are not instant noodles type of people:) that's how we spend 343 euros. Unfortunately fresh vegetables and fruit is not cheap in Panama, it also didn't help that the closest supermarket in Panama City was kosher.... (yep it was a shock for us too).

On Bastimentos we didn't have a kitchen so we had to eat out and we also treated ourselves with a nice meal in Panama City so all of that resulted in 266 euros. Few of those euros came with ice cream so necessary in such a warm country:)

How expensive are museums, tours etc?

On tourism we spent 66 euro taking a tour on Bocas del Toro to an idyllic beach of Isla Zapatilla. Except for that we did mostly hikes and the nature we saw was for free:)

What else did we spend our dollars on?

6 euros went on peeing in public toilets and putting stitches on JD's head.

Our tips to save money in Panama:

  1. Cooking on your own is the best way to save money. It's healthier, often more delicious and almost always cheaper
  2. If you don't want to use public transport in Panama City, use Uber! It's easy, fast and very safe. And it's not very expensive especially if you travel with the 2 of you or more.
  3. Volunteer! We did that and it not only saved us some money but it gave us the opportunity to meet incredible people and stay longer in places. We used workaway to volunteer in El Valle in Panama.

P.S. Exchange rate used for the overal budget 1 USD= 1.11EURO
If you have any questions or you would like to take a look at our spreadsheet, let us know:)

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Panama City, Panama

Where the modern meets the old – Panama City

Panama City is most certainly not like any other city we saw in Latin America. First of all it's really clean, we could walk around in our flip flops without having to jump between mountains of poo. There were way less homeless people lying on the streets. We didn't have to look around anxiously while running through the pedestrian crossings because the drivers were really stopping on red!! And not only a red light would stop them, every time I was taking a picture, they would stop not to destroy my shot. Panama City was definitely a whole other world compared to other cities in Latin America. Rather peaceful, cheerful people and... It was actually really pretty! We are both not particularly city people and for sure we are not in love with cities that we saw so far. But Panama City was so vibrant, colorful and organised. The old city town was charming, full of soul, hip cafes and restaurants and undisturbed by skyscrapers. It was visible that someone thought about the city before building its new part which is completely separated from the old part. They didn't think too hard though as in the middle of the modern part of the city they placed a Donald Trump tower but well ... It still has it's charm. For those who want to drive through the city but skip the narrow streets of the old there is a road that goes above the water. It's faster and it offers incredible views of the old & new.
Honestly we both thought The Canal was the least impressive of all that Panama City had to offer. It was massive but it was nothing special. Big ships passing through a big canal that's pretty much it.
Below few pictures from lovely Panama City:)


Pancakes for a bed- voluntourism

“Where do you come from?” and “How do you pay for this?” are two of the most common questions we get. For the second I’m often tempted to say that I earned it with my body working in the red light district. But let’s face it, with the look that we have now, no one would believe it anyway so we just have to answer with the truth- we saved it. But what if we didn’t have the money…

We met a lot of fellow travelers that focus their backpacking around voluntourism, so volunteering while they are travelling. And we actually spend 2 of our precious months volunteering as well. It saved us money but more importantly we got to stay longer in one place, we felt needed, we learnt a lot and we met amazing people. We had time to actually get to them and understand them and that is the best thing you can get while travelling- new friends.

But how do you do it? Where do you find the spots and what do you actually have to do?

What kind of volunteer opportunities can you get?

What can’t you do would be a shorter list. You can work in a hostel, in any type of wildlife preservation, with kids, with people from the slums, you can teach people yoga, you can heal them. Whatever floats your boat.

How did we find our volunteering opportunities?

Our first volunteering experience was in Argentina on a farm and to get that we used WWOOF.P1030959~01
It’s mostly made to find farms although you can also find teaching opportunities and possibly other things depending on the country you
search in. We don’t use it anymore because every country has its own chapter which means different rules per country, totally different web page each time and obviously a brand new fee as well. It ends up being expensive compared to other communities out there. Unfortunately, the Argentinian chapter was unorganized, the web page was unbelievably terrible to search through (the idea of wordpress still hasn’t occurred to them), the list of the farms was not actualized so we were sending emails to people that had long forgotten what WWOOFing even was. And if they had new farms you actually first needed to contact WWOOF to get their details to write directly to them. That I am not going to mention that there was no feedback about the places so the hosts could write you would sleep in a mansion with a pool and a spa for teaching English for 3 hours and no one would even verify if it’s true.

The two other times we volunteered we did it via Workaway, it’s a much better idea because it’s worldwide so you pay only once for 2 years. And you can have a couple account so if you travel with the two of you, you don’t have to have an extra account. And the places have feedback so the chance that you will end up with a psychopath is much lower. Workaway offers any kind of work really, farms, hostels, construction, schools etc. We also subscribed for Helpx, which is practically the same as workaway and many of the hosts are actually on both.

What do you get for your work?

That’s the question you always need to ask to your potential host. Because it depends. Typically for working in a hostel you can expect a free bed in a dorm (that’s what we got) and maybe a breakfast (we had it in one of the hostels). When WWOOFing it is more common to get also other meals. With other projects it varies, sometimes
you get a bed, sometimes a hammock, sometimes not even a place on the ground. So always ask!


When we were first thinking about volunteering we thought people would wait on us with open arms and everybody would respond to our messages just because we want to help. Nope, there are plenty of people who want to volunteer also many freeloaders who want to stay and take advantage of the fact that something is for free. wpid-img_20150418_141132.jpgIt’s a big business from both sides so some people don’t even respond or places are booked few weeks in advance. So to be sure you get something you always have to write to a few hosts and always a few weeks before. Don’t forget that some people earn money off the “volunteers” by for example charging a fee. So you have to pay to actually be able to work for free, because you cost money, because they need money for the food and for animals. Sometimes it’s true but many times it’s just a way to earn money off the naïve ones. We realized that when we were going through volunteering options of Volunteer Latin America and some were costing seriously thousands of dollars for a month and unless they are planning to ship you food from home or built a zoo from nothing, it doesn’t cost that much. Volunteer Latin America claims that they also have many other projects that they don’t put online and you need an upgraded account to reach them so we did that and then the only thing they did is to ask many questions about what you’re eager to pay and bla bla bla and then they only send us a list of emails that we could write, from which most of the projects were with a super high fee that we obviously didn’t want to pay. What’s more many of the hosts they have are on Workaway anyway so… 🙂

For those of you who plan on volunteering but didn’t know how, I hoped I helped. If anyone would have any questions, it won’t be hard to contact me to ask them

Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro, Panama

In “the Mouth of the Bull”- Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro is THE destination in Panama formed by a group of islands. Going on a boat to get there in pouring rain, we couldn’t see anything, except for water under and above us. Soaking wet and cold we reached our hostel and we reminded ourselves of the cold winter in Europe as soon as we entered our frozen room (AC!! :O) and a freezing shower didn’t help.

We knew Bocas Town was THE place in Bocas del Toro so we decided not only to not stay in the city but also not on the main island and it wasa good decision. 15 minutes from there it was idyllic and green. Although it might change if they don’t start to pick up their garbage. As soon as we woke up and the sun came through we saw our Bastimentos, charming little island with stilt houses and just behind them, the green almighty jungle. Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro, PanamaIt even had idyllic beaches, one of them called Wizards Beach probably because you would disappear swimming there as the waves and currents were insane even to look at. But there was enough to do above water. Green hikes, bird watching and the cafes!!! There was this amazing café situated in the middle of the greenness. The food and the atmosphere were really worth the hike up the hill so we spent a few hours there going through their books, talking to the staff and other hikers. And at some point I saw a pictures of a red frog, really pretty with black dots. “Do you ever see those here?” I asked to one of the waitresses, “Yeah, strawberry poison- dart frog, they're here all the time”.

And she left everything to go for a search with us. She explained what the sound is that they make and where to search for them. Afterwards we were seeing them everywhere!! And all of them were eager to pose for a picture.

Too bad the boa that we saw on a hiking path was not as friendly.
It scared us probably as much as we scared him and then he ran away. Thankfully he was not that shy and so he didn’t ran away too far and with a bit of effort we managed to take a picture of him hidden in the bushes.Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro, Panama

The islands were truly wonderful for us, just so much variety in nature and so much to do. When we wanted nice hikes, we had them just next to us, when we wanted to chill out on a peaceful island there was Cayo Zapatilla. Just the underwater was disappointing, low visibility and even if it was high, well there was not much to see.

And the way back was a nightmare, we went on a small boat back to Bocas Town to take another boat to get to the main land. And as usual, the boat was small, the life jackets were nowhere to be found and the captain was super chilled out and way above the acceptable speed. Out of the sudden we were covered by a huge wave that he didn’t see as he was too chilled out to see anything. Almost we capsized, we got soaking wet and so did our backpacks. At least my first instinct was to grab the small backpacks and push them above my head to save all the electronics. The captain woke up quite fast to throw all the water out of the boat as his only source of income was about to share Titanic’s fate. Well at least it was a free ride and we were “only” going on a night bus soaking wet. Let’s say we have seen enough boats for a while…