Thursday, August 15, 2013

Flying to Lima in (free) first class seats

The best way to start a long journey to South America is to upgrade to first class, for free. Because our flight itinerary was changed, landing us in Lima 5 hours later than originally planned, I approached the counter, explained our situation, and simply asked to be upgraded. Ten minutes later, our names were called over the loud speaker and we were handed new tickets, this time for row one. 

First class is quite fancy. Before everyone was even boarded, I was given OJ, a muffin, a pillow, a blanket, and headphones. I definitely wouldn't pay for first class, but it is nice to get it for free!

Once in El Salvador, things got predictably more confusing. Not sure what time it actually was, and not having boarding times on our tickets, boarding was a challenge. I'm not sure if our plane was late, if we were early, or if everything happened according to plan.

Exhaustion set in around 2:35 p.m. I was able to sleep for about 1 1/2 hours before our flight at 5:50 a.m., then about the same on the plane. Three hours is not enough sleep to function when faced with a different language at a confusing airport. I was definitely looking forward to getting settled at the hostel.

Another challenge we faced was having (or rather, not having) Peruvian currency. No bank in San Francisco had soles on hand, then the currency exchange at SFO wasn't open at 4 a.m. ., then El Salvador didn't even have a currency exchange because they use dollars.

But that wasn't even the greatest concern we had. Our main challenge was how we were going to get from the airport to the hostel. Realizing at 1 a.m. that we forgot to confirm airport pickup, we spent the day bombarding the hostel with emails (really we only sent two emails) asking them if they could pick us up. No response.

Luckily, we found a money exchange at baggage claim in Lima and an inexpensive cab with a super nice driver that actually used to live in New York. He gave us lots of advice about what to do and what to eat while we are here. This was the first lesson in needing to just go with the flow.

Once we checked into the hostel, we found out that we have no roommates until tomorrow, which is ideal since we haven't really slept in about 48 hours.

In order to try to stay on a semi-regular schedule, Ali and I decided not to go to sleep, but to walk around the Barranco neighborhood to get our bearings. We arrived at the hostel around 10 p.m., so it was difficult to see what the city is like in the dark, but there's definitely a lot of nightlife and we are very close to the beach.

The ride from the airport was 60 soles. We weren't sure at the time how much that really was in dollars, but according to the Lonely Planet guide, we weren't ripped off. It turns out that since the exchange rate is close to 3 to 1, it cost about $20.

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