Honeymoon Part 1 of 3: Santiago, Chile

As indicated from my last post, I thought I would write a segment of each place we visited during our honeymoon.  The first place we visited was Santiago, Chile, followed by Easter Island and Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Since we booked airfare flying out of Tijuana, we were able to reduce our costs by about $2k.  Total airfare was $3412 for the both of us, with Easter Island taking up about 38% due to its remote location.  It took some time to come back from the border, but we only spent $20 for a taxi from the airport to the border, and $5 for the San Diego trolley to home.  If anyone is interested in good things to know about flying out of Mexico (as we paid a penalty fee for not having a departure form), just let me know!

Anyway, here’s some highlights and good things to know about Santiago:

Reciprocity fees – we learned early on if one is flying into Santiago, that we don’t need a visa but we needed to pay reciprocity fees at about $160/person (the same fee Chileans would need to pay to enter U.S.).  Well call it perfect timing, because as of late February or early March, U.S. citizens no longer have to pay the fees since Chile is now part of the Visa Waiver Program!

View from our lodging

View from our lodging

Housing – we used AirBnB to rent a room in someone’s places, since hotels are pretty pricy (the Holiday Inn Express a few blocks away was $300/night!).  This was my first experience with AirBnB and our hostess set the bar really high – homemade breads and breakfasts, two adorable kitties that we played with and made us subsequently late for some outings, cool views of the Andes, and laundry service before we left.  It did at times feel like we were being intrusive since we shared the space with her, but this was our own feelings as she made us feel extremely welcome in her home.  Total cost for 5 nights was $415.

Transportation – our Air BnB hostess advised us the most economical way to leave or arrive to the airport is to use Transvip, which is a group shuttle service, versus taxi.  We were able to reduce our costs by half, though we did have to wait around 45 minutes or so for the shuttle to be full (or leave extremely early for our departure flights).  To get around town, the subway system is pretty efficient (around $1.50 USD one way), plus if you don’t mind walking then it’s a pretty walkable city.  But oh my goodness, avoid subways if you can between rush hour from 6 to 8 p.m. if you want to avoid getting pushed and having to feel people’s sweaty backs since you’re all smooshed in together.  Total cost for transportation (including 4 transvip trips since we flew to Easter Island and then returned): approximately $112.

Tours/Excursions – we took advantage of a free walking tour in Santiago where you give voluntary tips at the end, and Felipe was awesome and super informative.  During the tour, you get a feel of the different areas and history of the city, plus it’s great exercise.  Since Santiago is pretty small, we also did two half-day excursions – one to the Andes which we didn’t think was really worth it and wish we would have visited the museums instead, and one to a vineyard which was pretty cool since you could go to the yard and taste the different types of grapes, go through the cellars, and of course have wine tastings.  We also took the gondola up to San Cristobal, which has great views of Santiago, and visiting San Lucia was free.  Total cost for tips and excursions: $240.

Currency – since Santiago has a pretty stable economy (though a huge disparity between the rich and the poor), it was pretty easy to use ATM’s if you don’t mind the $5 surcharges, and credit cards are really easy to use (at most places especially restaurants, they bring the machine with them, which I think the U.S. should definitely get on the ball with since it was really efficient).  We unfortunately became victim of counterfeit money, though, since I didn’t know how a $5000 CHP (approx. $10 USD) looked like until we tried to use it to pay for beers.  In hindsight, it was easy to spot since the seams of the transparent part weren’t clean and it felt more plastic than usual, so heed caution.

Food – food in Santiago is pretty pricey, and comparable to San Diego prices in my opinion.  The best place we went to came from a recommendation of an old resident, at Tiramisu.  It’s Italian and not Chilean food, but I had the BEST and freshest calzone I’ve ever had, with shrimp inside.  A very popular drink there is the Pisco Sour, and I’m not a huge drinker but had that at every meal since it was so good – be careful, though, the buzz kind of sneaks up on you, and 1.5 drinks was more than enough for me.  We also went to dive bars and noticed that beers there are huge bottles (1 liter?), to be shared amongst friends.  We didn’t get a chance to visit night life, but didn’t feel we necessarily missed out.  Food and drink cost for 5ish days: approximately $600 (this was divided with Easter Island, but this is a reasonable guesstimate).

Souvenirs – B and I started a tradition where we would collect a piece of artwork for every country we visited (we have a picture from Japan and Thailand, and thought we’d keep it going).  We explored artesan markets (a good one is by San Lucia between 6 and 8), and we purchased a couple of copper plates with designs on them since copper is their main export.  Total cost: approximately $60.

People – the people in Santiago are incredibly nice and was a highlight of our trip.  If you stand around with a map, people will come up and ask if you need help, and waiters especially are patient and never minded every time I said “come se dice..?” 😉  The nicest guy we encountered not only walked with us several blocks when we were looking for the subway, but got his friend on the phone who spoke English to help us find our destination.  Talk about hospitality!

Overall, we really enjoyed our stay in Santiago!  A basic knowledge of Spanish is useful, but even with my low knowledge base we got around okay.  Let me know if you have any questions.  Up next – Easter Island!

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March Madness – half-marathon, honeymoon, and new job

Hi everyone – sorry I’ve been pretty MIA during March, but I’ve been gone for most of it on our honeymoon!  I thought I’d write a brief overview of what’s been going down lately.

1412442_10152004213774103_2140038726_oFirst off – a couple weekends after the wedding, I ran my first half-marathon as a Mrs.!  I was a bit worried about it since I didn’t run a long run for awhile, but despite the heat, time change, and big hill on mile 9 (which I mostly hiked up), I had a lot of fun!  B was there to meet me at the end, and while before I thought it would be my last half for awhile, now I’m on the hunt for a next one.

Also, we went on our honeymoon!  We ended up going to Santiago in Chile, Buenos Aires

Leia and Hans enjoying the Moai statues on Easter Island!

Leia and Hans enjoying the Moai statues on Easter Island!

in Argentina, and my ultimate “bucket list” destination – Easter Island!!  I’ll probably do a post on each three places since they’re all so different, and it might be useful for anyone traveling there in the future.  I had so much fun and even more motivated to continue with Spanish.  I also read quite a few “fun” books while here – The Husband’s Secret, What Alice Forgot, and The Rosie Project – all of which I really recommend.  Our aim was to spend about 50% of our gift funds and invest the rest, and I think we’re more on our way to meeting that target (knock on wood!).

And finally, I got a new job!  The day before we left, I interviewed for the position and they’ve notified that I was chosen.  I of course negotiated (I mean, all they can do is say  no, right?), and it’s a great promotion and opportunity at a different area, and I’m super excited about it!  Plus you know what this means – lifestyle inflation!!  Kidding, of course.

Anyway, I’ll write about the different honeymoon destinations soon (as well as posting money stuff including Argentina’s inflation, counterfeit money in Chile, and the cost of living in each place), but I hope everyone has been doing well and keeping up with their financial goals!  I miss y’all so much and can’t wait to catch up with each of you. 🙂

Wedding Highlights and Teachable Moments

Hi everyone – I hope life has been treating you well and that you’re staying warm if you live in colder climates!  Life for me has gone from boiling with a flurry of activities to a mellow simmer adjusting into married life, which has been quite a relief.  I do feel that in terms of personal finance, though, I started embracing the ‘we’ factor a lot more, which I’ll discuss more in a future post.  But before that, here’s some wedding highlights and teachable moments:

1) We lucked out on the weather!  There were quite a few storms these past four days, so we were all the more grateful that during our wedding weekend, it was gray on the actual day, but really sunny the day before and after.  This turned out to be great, since the photographer said that gray days are better for pics (better clouds, less glare), and our out of town guests got to experience Cali in all of its sunny glory!

1796833_10152229306722398_549120236_o2) The walk down the aisle was even more amazing as I thought it to be.  My parents walked me down the aisle, and it was an incredible experience not only seeing all the guests beam happily at me (I heard one kid say “there’s the princess!” haha), but my extremely handsome groom waiting for me at the end of the aisle.  I started tearing up after seeing his watery eyes and huge smile, and once I glanced at my bridesmaids who were all tearing up, I cried quite a bit!  The priest (his family member) was so funny, though, and gave a great Mass.

3) I had the BEST bridesmaids ever!  The best thing that worked out perfectly was a bridesmaid that flew in from the east coast on Friday and never left my side.  I was so stressed out with all the DIY projects and coordinating with people the week of (and when I stress I completely shut down and get creepy quiet), that by the time she got there, she had me laughing and mellowed out for the rehearsal all the way through getting ready for the wedding.  She stayed with me at the hotel, and the morning of the wedding, she ordered breakfast for me, helped me in my dress (along with other bridesmaids) and shoes, and shoo’ed away any guests that tried to make it about them.  After the ceremony and before the reception, they were all constantly feeding me and putting a Jamba Juice straw in my mouth before asking, that I felt like a prized fighter or something. 😉  They also all gave amazing speeches that had me both laughing and crying.  If there’s one take-away from all of this, is to be sure to pick bridesmaids that make it all about you for your special day, because I’ve heard way too many horror stories where bridesmaids make it about them.  I am eternally grateful for my girls.

Dancing to Hava Nagila

Dancing to Hava Nagila with my mom and B on each side 🙂

4) The reception was absolutely amazing!!  The entrance was so fun and lively, everyone loved the stations idea and said that it was delicious, his dad and the best man (his brother) gave such a heart-warming speech that made me feel really welcomed into their family, and the dance floor was packed the whole night thanks to lively kids and a bunch of friends and family that love to boogie down (though open bar probably helped, too)!  My dad (who is Jewish) had B break a glass and had the DJ play “Hava Nagila” with the whole crowd which had everyone dancing and participating, which was so much fun since I’ve never experienced that before.  I was pretty bummed, though, that I didn’t get to have as many meaningful conversations with everyone as I would have liked (though I hear this is normal for weddings, I still feel really bad!), and I now wish that we did rounds with every table since I’m not sure if I have a picture of everyone that attended.  I guess we’ll see when the pictures come!

5) I seriously got my money’s worth with the DJ, florist, and day-of coordinator.  I found the DJ and florist at less mainstream bridal bazaars, and they did such an amazing job and were so hands-on!  Also, the day-of coordinator was extremely helpful and not once during the event did I have to think of logistics, plus, she took the time a few days before to meet with me regarding setting up for things which turned out more beautiful than I could have done, and at the end everything was all packed up for us, including food.  She executed all the plans perfectly, and if you have a fairly big wedding, I think a day-of coordinator is pretty key so that you can truly enjoy yourself at your wedding.  I’ve pondered whether I could do that as a side hustle since I loved it so much, and kept in touch with the DJ to get her take on things (plus, she’s just a cool person all-around, anyway).

6) In terms of wedding costs/gifts, we did really well and, not counting my parents’ contributions of roughly half, balanced out and then some (do people care/want to know what the actual costs are other than my national average remark?).  I also plan on reselling my dress while it’s still in style, as well as some accessories and centerpiece items that should reduce my costs by a little.  However, the entire experience was extremely worth it for both of us, and we both agreed we would have done it all again in a heartbeat.

Next project now that the wedding is done: Building a great life together! 🙂

Do you have any tips for newlyweds?