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Friday, May 13, 2011

Frugal Guatemalan Adventures 5.11.11

This installment of the Frugal Destination Series has us going to Guatemala, another fun Central American country where you can stay and eat for way cheap and also get a lot out of your trip. The great part about this is that there are so many things to see and do in Guatemala that it won’t hurt your budget to go back and everyone who goes will have a completely different kind of trip than others. I love places like that, as you well know. I love the Mayan ruins and culture, which Guatemala has in abundance. You can also find many free and inexpensive things to do on your visit, so even though I will list plenty to fill several itineraries, it’s by no means the final list or even the best things to do for everyone.

Antigua Guatemala is a real hotspot for tourists, because there are so many things to do and see in one area and it is way safer than Guatemala City. Brush up on your Spanish and pack your rain jacket, bug repellent and warm weather clothes and start looking for airfare deals!

Climb an active volcano! Pacaya Volcano is a continuously-erupting volcano near the city of Antigua. It is all hiking and much of it is not for the casual hiker, as you will have to hike a decent portion over lava rock. The hike to the "top" is around 1.5 miles, but if you're up to it, you will see amazing views and get to experience standing near an actual lava flow!

Shop, shop, shop in Chichicanstenango - On Thursdays and Sundays you can take advantage of the famous markets in K'iche. You can purchase just about anything: pottery, flowers, food, textiles, clothing and more. It's a fantastic place to get reasonably priced souvenirs and yummy food for lunches or dinners. Next to the market you will also find the Church of Santo Tomas. 400 years old and a major tourist draw.

This place is in RUINS - Ruinas Tikal are Guatemala's largest Mayan archeological site. You can reach Tikal National Park by a short flight and bus ride or you can go straight by bus. You can take a 1-2 day tour (or longer) here, as the drive from Guatemala City is 7 hours. If you choose to go it alone, you can get in on a guided tour once you get to the ruins. Here's some more info.

Visit “Central Park” - You must visit Parque Central in Antigua. It's the center of town where everyone passes through at one point or another. There is awesome people watching as well as historical buildings and a wonderful selection of restaurants. (It's FREE!)

Go jump in a lake - Lago Atitlan is said to be the deepest lake in Central America. 30 miles outside of Antigua, the lake is a volcanic formation and a great place to go swimming or go for a boat ride. It's surrounded by great little villages you may want to visit as well as volcanoes and farms producing corn, onions, squash, chile verde and other produce. Visitors have declared this lake one of the most beautiful places on earth. When you visit, you can decide if you agree. (It's FREE!)

Have a religious experience - There are many ancient churches to visit. You can enjoy the history they have to offer and also the amazing architecture. They generally have a tomb of someone notable and some offer a museum as well. See the tomb of Hermano Pedro in Iglesia de San Francisco, photograph the ornate facade of the Iglesia el Carnen and take a self-guided tour of Convento de Santa Clara. This is just a few of many churches (both standing and those not open to the public) that you can visit on your trip. (Some are FREE!)

Get cultured - It would be a shame to visit a place like Guatemala so steeped in culture and totally skipping any of there multitude of museums devoted to the Mayan people and other history.

Hit the bricks  - Does it seem weird to remind people to walk around the city and take in things around them? There's no better way to experience a city than to go by foot and see as much as you can. You'll have time to really be able to check out the colorful colonial home-fronts, walk the cobblestone streets and see the views of the water and volcanoes in the distance. (It's FREE!)

Do chickens take the bus? - If you're planning to travel anywhere outside of the city, you can save money by taking the Chicken Bus. You won't have any personal space and you'll really get to know your seatmate(s), but it can be a fun way to travel around and do it on a budget.

Are you nuts? - Take a trip to the Valhalla Experimental Station which is home to the organic Valhalla Macadamia Nut Plantation. Nuts fall to the ground when ripe and are harvested by hand. Stop by the farm and sample nuts, chocolates and beauty products and then stay for a meal of macadamia pancakes or other food from the menu (including sandwiches and breakfast dishes). (Tour is FREE!)

Mail call - Outside the servant's quarters of Casa Popenoe, a beautifully restored Colonial Mansion, you can see the pigeon loft, which provided the previous occupants with mail service. The house itself is a fantastic snapshot of what domestic life was like in Colonial times. The house was built in 1634, went into ruin and then was meticulously restored starting in 1932. (Super cheap!)

With all the free and cheap things to do in Guatemala, you will mostly just be paying for lodging and food, which will be pretty inexpensive as well. You will spend the most on airfare, but even so, it may be one of the most affordable vacations you've ever taken!

Join me on the awesome new Savvy Living Community sponsored by Ebates. Not only will you learn how to save money by better utilizing Ebates, but you will also be able to read Savvy blog posts and join in discussions and live chats with Savvy Leaders (like me!) to learn how to save money on all aspects of your life. With 21 bloggers who are experts on everything from travel to family life, you're sure to learn a lot of new information, find some great new blogs and even make some friends along the way. I will be conducting my first live chat on the new community with the three other great bloggers below on Tuesday May 17 at 5-6pm PST. We'll be discussing Saving on Summer Travel.

Are you all about being frugal in your life? Travel isn't the only thing we need to save money on these days...and the more you save on one thing, the more you can save on something else you think is more important. Fun maybe! From here on out you will see Shereen Travels Cheap featured on Frugal Focus. You'll see travel deal posts, but you will also see fantastic freebies and coupons as well as tips and articles on living a more affordable life. Frugal Focus takes tips and deals posted by the web's best "frugal" bloggers and puts them all in one place for you. Check it as much as you like or save time by subscribing to the newsletter. Also, find a great list of frugal blogs and useful money-saving websites to help you live more frugally!

Happy Birthday to Ebates! They are 12 years old this week and they are celebrating by giving their Facebook fans gifts! 4 lucky fans will win a $250 Philosophy Gift Bag. Make sure you "like" the Ebates page and also go and join Ebates if you haven't already, because they are super awesome and give you cash back for buying things you already planned! Besides, what other websites PAYS you just to sign up AND to tell people about it? Get $5 for signing up and an additional $5 for each person you refer that signs up and makes a purchase. Plus, the more people you get to join the bigger prizes you can earn, including store gift cards and an iPad.

There are several giveaways I have going right now, so don't forget to sign up to win each one! Here are the details:

Win a Carry On Caddy bag full of travel-size organic toiletries. The bag clips to your carry-on and helps you whiz through airport security by enabling you to have your 3-1-1 bag at your fingertips. No more rummaging in your bag or repacking after the conveyor. You already have to put your shoes back on and stuff your laptop back into your bag. Make this one less thing to worry about. Enter to win on my Facebook page HERE. You can also get a second BONUS entry by subscribing to this blog via GFC or Networked Blogs and then leaving a comment on any of the posts. Enter by 5/15

Shereen Travels Cheap is sponsoring a $10 Target Gift Card on Free Samples 2 Fill Up Your Mailbox's Big Giveaway on Facebook. They were kind enough to let us enter the giveaway after it had started and we've gotten a lot of new fans and page participants (which I love!). You can find out the rules on how to enter HERE. Enter by May 23rd.

Win a $25 Travelocity Hotel Gift Card here on my blog by following me via GFC or Networked Blogs. You can earn more entries by liking my page on Facebook, following me on Twitter, tweeting and/or posting about the giveaway. You will find all the details on how to enter HERE. Enter by 5/21.

Our next giveaway will be that celebrating our 2,000 fan mark. While we aren't there yet, we hope it will be soon and are going to be offering a big travel prize pack with several sponsors (including Travelon, Humangear-GoToobs, SoakWash and more). There will be a lot of ways to gain entries, including referring friends to the Facebook page. When you enter, the form will have a spot to enter the person who referred you to the Shereen Travels Cheap page. This goes back to the very beginning, so start/keep referring people, because the more you refer and the more entries you'll get into this giveaway!

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