After more than two months on the road, we faced a little problem. I was issued an entire new set of bank and credit cards, and the ones I had with me would expire by the end of the month. The new cards were already with my parents in Massachusetts, where my mail is forwarded; as long-term travelers we (of course) have no fixed address. What to do?
We started looking for a reliable way to receive a shipment. First, we considered sending a package to a local post office for us to pick up. After reading about the questionable reliability of Central American postal services, we decided to look into other options. Next, we checked with DHL – the predominant international courier service in this part of the world – which also turned out to be a no-go. Finally, we came up with the idea of looking into hotels that might be able to hold a package. Knowing that we would be passing through San Pedro Sula, Honduras on our way from Copan Ruinas to the Bay Islands, we started emailing hotels there with our request. Ultimately, only the Intercontinental San Pedro Sula replied letting us know they would be able to oblige.
Now, let’s get something out of the way right away – the Intercontinental is the most expensive hotel in San Pedro Sula. It’s probably the nicest (and priciest) hotel in all of Honduras. This would not be our usual cheapie night at the hostel.
Needless to say, we must have a looked a tad out of place rolling up to the doors of the Intercontinental, carrying our well-worn backpacks, covered with duct tape. A porter welcomed us to the hotel and made an effort to grab our backpacks, which we assured him we were more than capable of carrying ourselves (they’ve been on our backs for more than 2 months!). We made our way to reception and prepared ourselves for a night of luxury.
Luckily, the package with my cards had arrived and was waiting as promised. My Mom ended up sending it via USPS Global Express, at a cost of US$63.95. Ouch!
That afternoon, we were interviewed for a live radio show on BBC World Service in Ecuador (El Aguacate). The hosts asked about our travels to date, our upcoming plans in Ecuador, and provided some very useful suggestions on places to visit in their country.
After the interview, we enjoyed a dip in the hotel’s gorgeous pool. Next, we strolled through the adjoining shopping mall. It was bizarre to be in a large, modern mall like you would find at home – we had seen nothing like this in the proceeding 6 weeks in Guatemala & Southern Mexico. The food court was even full of American fast food chains! One slightly unusual thing we miss from home is Subway Sandwiches. After spotting a chain, we knew what we’d be eating for dinner.
Since San Pedro Sula is not a particularly attractive or safe city, we were (believe it or not) happy to be spending our time in the shopping mall. The mall had a cinema, so we caught a screening of Toy Story 3D in English with Spanish subtitles, before retiring for the night back in the lap of luxury at the Intercontinental.
In the end, organizing delivery of my new credit cards cost more than US$ 250. While it was nice enjoying an evening in a 4+ star hotel, our recalibrated expectations as budget backpackers left us feeling guilty for the indulgence. After seeing how comfortably and affordably one can travel staying in hostels and cheap hotels, we couldn’t help but feel like we were wasting money at the Intercontinental. The final bill for one night was about the same cost as 10 nights in our normal digs. Heck, the $20 internet access fee they charged was more than the nightly rate at the hotel we had stayed at in Copan the night before (which, by the way, was a very nice private room with bath, hot water, free WIFI, cable TV…even a small rooftop pool).