During the contest Exploring a World of Sustainable Destinations, Village Monde chooses 10 explorers to travel in a country by promoting sustainable tourism development. The explorers have to visit accommodations to label them. Afterwards, the accommodations will be posted on Vaolo and the explorers will have contributed to the development of a form of tourism that leads to positive impacts on the local communities.
My name is Léa Cossette-Martin and I am one of the winners of the 2018 edition. I chose to tell you about my first day as a Village Monde explorer, to give you some advice that will help you to stay out of disastrous situations.
The sun shines in Quebec City, it’s the day of the big departure. I go to the meeting point where I was supposed to meet the person who was to take me to the airport. Once there, my driver tells me that he can no longer be my driver. This is a big problem. Quickly, I have to find an alternative. The team of Village Monde was meeting me at the airport. I asked them if they could come and pick me up, they said yes, problem solved. I arrive in time to get on the plane.
Tip # 1: Make sure you have reliable and punctual transportation for your trip to the airport.
After fifteen hours of flight, I arrive in Argentina, exhausted. I know that I have to go to Uruguay by ferry. However, I have no idea how to get to it. It’s not a problem, I’m just going to ask how to get there to the information booth: “Hi! I’m going to Uruguay. I need to take the ferry; how do I get there? This pretty clear sentence would have been more useful if told in Spanish. Unfortunately for me, my Spanish was really poor.
Tip # 2: If you do not know how to speak the local language, do not think that English will always save you, it’s a myth, an urban legend.
After several attempts to speak Spanish and several mimes misunderstood, I understand that I have to take the bus Tienda Leon to go to Buquebus, the ferry company.
While I’m waiting for the bus, I try, again, to find someone who speaks English. I find a young woman and she tells me that I am waiting for the right bus, and that I have to take a second bus once arrived at the terminus. The second bus never came. I had to try speaking Spanish again to ask how to get to the ferry. Fortunately for me, it was only a five minutes walk.
Tip # 4: If there is an endless wait for a bus, make a habit of looking at a map to see if taking the bus is really necessary to get to your destination.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
In an ideal world, I should have boarded the ferry from 11:00 to go to Uruguay. However, I arrived at 11:15 at the ferry, so I have to wait until the next departure, at 19:00. It was perfect, I had a full day to walk in Argentina. Of course, in an ideal world, I would have been prepared for this day and I would have packed all my bags at the hotel, but I was not in this ideal world.
Tip # 5: Make it a habit to check ferry departures in advance. Thus, the connections between your transports will be more efficient.
Amazed by my arrival in a country that is unknown to me, I walk, in a straight line, for two hours. Beginning to feel tired because of the transport of all my luggage, I decide to stop for a break in a park. At this moment, I realize I have to walk back the whole distance I have just traveled.
Tip # 6: Always keep in mind where your getaway should end. This way, you can adjust your trip according to your remaining energy.
Sitting on a bench, I start looking for a solution. A newspaper vendor pulls me out of my thoughts. I explain that I do not speak Spanish, he explains that he speaks English. I tell him my problem and he finds the solution: take the bus. He tells me that I have to start by having a bus card activated at the information booth, then add bus tickets to that card at the convenience store, and then get onto bus 130, which would take me to the ferry. This is a plan that seems rather achievable. I head for the information kiosk and get my bus card activated without a hitch. Then, I go to the convenience store to add bus tickets to my card, but they do not accept credit card payments.
Tip # 7: Always keep some cash on you.
However, the employee tells me that there is a currency exchange a few shops further. So, I go there to exchange Canadian dollars for Argentine pesos. Once arrived, the employee tells me that it is impossible to exchange an amount lower than 100 Canadian dollars, while I only needed the equivalent of 1.85 Canadian dollars. Since I was in Argentina for only one day, to be able to pay for my bus ticket, I had to beg. Luckily, this experiment only lasted a few minutes.
Tip # 8: Always get some local currency, even if you are in a country for less than a day.
Once the money is collected, I go to the convenience store, buy my bus ticket and go to the bus stop 130. Since the day had been full of adventures, I wanted to make sure that I was waiting at the right place to take the bus. I try to ask the other people waiting at the bus stop, to be certain that I am at the right place. With a questionable pronunciation, I explain that I have to go to the ferry Buquebus (I did not have the right pronunciation) to go to Uruguay (I did not have the right pronunciation either). After several attempts at pronunciations, they tell me that the bus I was to take was not bus 130, but bus 61.
Tip # 9: Make sure you know the pronunciation, in the local language, of the country in which you are going.
Once arrived at the ferry, I start looking for Wifi. Once it is found, I make contact with the lady who was to pick me up in Uruguay. I inform her of my delay in the ferry, then she informs me that it was impossible for me to be on time for the agreed bus. However, without mentioning if she would be able to pick me up, she informs me that there is a bus to the hostel at 00:30.
Tip # 10: If you make plans with the innkeeper, arrange for these plans to be clear for each party.
I arrive in Uruguay in the early hours of the night. I can’t find any connection to the Wifi, so I have no way of telling the lady that I did not arrive in the country in time to board the bus at 00:30. I have to find a place to spend the night, and I’m running out of ideas. A young man, who speaks English, starts talking to me. He gives me access to the internet from his cell phone. I find myself a hostel. Finally, this first day of travel is over.
Tip # 11 If you are thinking of going on a trip, I recommend a better organization than mine.
To discover the accommodations that I have labeled in Uruguay, visit VAOLO.
Author: Léa Cossette-Martin