Looking at moving on options from Ecuador it seemed the natural progression from there was the US. Whilst we would have liked to have spent a lot more time in South America as per our original pre-covid plans we weighed up the options, risks (re covid rates, entry requirements and what was open) and the US would not only allow us in, their rates of Covid had dropped considerably and their vaccine programme was well underway. We decided our first US stop would be Los Angeles.
This wasn’t without its problems; we still needed another negative PCR test, and although it was the most uncomfortable one yet, it was at least very easy to arrange, and cheap! The hotel made the arrangements and a doctor came to our hotel only a few hours later, gave us our results by email the same day (just) and all for only $30. Bargain, but boy those swabs dug deep into our nasal cavities, and for a very long time! With the negative PCR test result sorted, we tried to book affordable accommodation through airbnb which was unfortunately not available, we tried twice to book car hire with money being taken both times but no reservation confirmed. We flew from Guayquil to Los Angeles Via Miami, two long, 5 hour flights across several time zones which meant we arrived very tired. We headed to Alamo car rental as we weren’t sure whether our second booking was confirmed and if it wasn’t we hoped to pick up a car; unfortunately it wasn’t and they couldnt help for 24 hrs. We headed off via Uber to our airbnb.
We eventually managed to find a base for the next month in a very nice houseshare near LAX; way above our budget but in a nice safe area and with great responsive hosts who lived next door and a very modern home. It was way above any budget we had spent on accommodation anywhere else on our trip but we made a great choice. We can honestly say its the best Airbnb to date we have stayed in. With cooking facilities too this means we can cook for ourselves and save money on eating out. Our hosts Lori & Keith have been really helpful and our other house guest Russell is a nice chap.
In terms of car hire this ended up being an absolute nightmare; we eventually made another reservation with Hertz, a reputable company who have a good rating. Reservation made online, headed to the airport to pick up the car and an hour long queue met us. Eventually very relieved to get to the counter we realised that this was not going to be as cheap as we thought; we had no insurance cover at all like many people through their credit cards or through personal car insurance policies so the price over doubled what it originally said. In addition our policy we bought at home which had been useful elsewhere would not cover any incidental costs should we be in an accident. We unfortunately had no choice and they knew it. Eventually sorted and with a very battered wallet we now had a Toyota Camry for the next month.
A quick top up on our Three mobiles from home and we had 4g and calls back to the UK. Unfortunately I have struggled to make any calls on my phone but Nigel has managed ok; however we have run into trouble with the most simplest things such as ordering a pizza without an american phone number (UK numbers are longer and won’t fit on their forms) We therefore decided to use our spare phone and grab a simple sim kit and top up at the local Target store through Tracfone. You pay a $1 for the sim and then buy a top up as needed. We bought a $15, 500 minutes, 500 texts and 500mb data package so we were now locally connected.
Food and Drink
After spending the last few months in Central and South America one of the first things we got excited about was food; it’s the little things you take for granted but we had been faced with mostly rice, beans, chicken and plantain so finally being able to have some ‘home comforts’ and such a variety was amazing. We headed off to our local grocery store and were in our element. We have even managed to find marmite here something we had run out of since we last found it in Antigua many months ago!
We were aware that in California you can get a covid vaccine irrespective of your immigration status; we therefore looked into this upon arrival. We had already been called for our vaccines in the UK but having not been there we haven’t had a vaccine opportunity since we had been away. Additionally we had been offered free vaccines on the spot when we arrived in Miami. It turns out that through www.vaccinespotter.org you can search by your local zipcode and find vaccines available around your local area. They offer three different types here; Moderna 2 dose, Johnson & Johnson 1 dose and Pfizer 2 dose. We booked an appointment at Walgreens (the US equivalent of Boots) and got the first Pfizer jab the very next day; with the scheduled 2nd dose in 3 weeks time. We opted for Pfizer not only after doing some research but also because this was the only one approved in the UK therefore it would hopefully make it easier to coordinate our records.
Now all set up for the next month or so it’s time to head out and explore LA and the rest of California!
Carol & Nigel x