Traveler's Tool Kit: Mexico and Central America shows you how to find delicious, affordable meals anywhere in Mexico and Central America, not just where to eat in Cuernavaca. Instead of rating Panama City's "best" hotels (usually meaning the most expensive), this book shows you how to locate comfortable, affordable lodging anywhere. You'll learn how to travel happily by air, bus, and all sorts of local transport, negotiate successfully with cab drivers and merchants, and cut dramatically the costs of travel. You will be convinced that you can afford to travel-and that you can't afford not to.

Assuming that money is an issue, as it is for many, Traveler's Tool Kit shows you dozens of ways to SAVE MONEY without detracting from the quality of your trip. As a bonus for avoiding high-priced tourist circuits, you'll meet more local people and learn about their hopes and values. You'll learn how to connect with a network of travelers who will help you find the most enjoyable things to do and provide guidance on how much to pay for them. You may even discover ways to earn money from your travels after returning home or decide that you could live a better life if "home" were somewhere else. Common sense tells you a lot about what kind of travel clothing and equipment you'll need-but not everything. You can learn the rest the hard way on the road or the easy way right here in Traveler's Tool Kit.

Hundreds of books recount daring adventures at altitudes or depths most travelers will never reach. Vicarious thrills are fine-but Traveler's Tool Kit shows you how to plan your own real-life adventures.

Planning a trip is like running a whitewater rapid: preparation determines success. You scout the rapid carefully, evaluate alternative routes, and then plot your course. As you begin your run through the whitewater, you know what to expect and are in the right state of mind. After that, it's mostly a matter of hanging on for an exciting ride. If, on the other hand, you enter a rapid without a good plan, you may get a chilly surprise. In the same way, planning a trip to a foreign destination can initially seem mystifying, but learning a simple process will enable you to avoid costly, frustrating, and possibly dangerous mistakes.

Traveler's Tool Kit: Mexico and Central America prepares you for travel experiences that far surpass those of a mere vacation. Too many vacations consist of lying down, dressing up, and paying someone else a lot of money. Too often, destinations are accumulated as trophies to be displayed during dinner-party conversations by collectors who have no idea how much they missed.

Travel provides an opportunity to think of beginnings and endings, to spend time alone, to challenge fears and inhibitions, to experience freedom and joy. The traveler becomes a treasure-house filled with images of Lake Atitlan surrounded by volcanoes in the Guatemalan highlands, and of Chichen Itza, Calakmul, Uxmal, and other haunting Maya sites in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and of the cloud forests, monkeys, surf, and leatherback turtles of Costa Rica.

International travel may seem overwhelming to someone who's never tried it. Before traveling abroad, most people have little reason to know the difference between a passport and a visa. Add issues of language, currency, customs, transportation, food, and lodging, and there's a lot to think about. No one says you have to fling yourself into the water as if you're an Olympic swimmer. If you're more comfortable testing the water with a toe, do it that way. Build confidence by limiting challenges, keeping the number of unknowns manageable.

Part of the beauty of traveling in Mexico and Central America is that there are no visas to worry about. Border crossings are easy. No jet lag. The so-called language barrier is really made of papier mache. People are friendly and the food is delicious.

We hope this book allows you to follow your travel dreams instead of putting them off until another year. Let's head out!

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