I am a first time traveller and will be visiting the above countries from MAy - Feb 2011. I am meeting a couple of friends in Honduras who have been travelling once before so i'm not completely on my own. HOWEVER, I have been doing some research on the foreign and commonwealth's website (In the UK) which has pretty much scared the hell out of me. Guatemala seems especially scary but Honduras and El Salvador are close contenders.
I am basically looking for a little bit of reassurance from other travellers who have visited these countries - Did they seem as scary as the FCO's website make out with regards to violent crime? Did you come across any problems? Or did they feel generally safe? Obviously I won't be walking around on my own after dark or anything to encourage any unnecessary problems.. I wouldn't even do this in a lot of places in the UK though
Thanks for your time x
I travelled in Guatemala-Honduras-Nicaragua, felt there completely safe. More then it, the feeling of being there was so good that i cant wait to return to this region. Adorable!
Guatemalians are simple, very polite, quiet little people who work hard and live poor, especially in villages. The only annoying thing there - groups of kids who begging for money. Take it in proportion - u cant feed all Guatemalan kids, also, it's often their "business", not really need. In few days you will learn when you really want to help, and when just escape. I have good tip for you - specifically for children beggers: always keep with you little and inexpensive things like: sweets, pens, what ever else that not weight and not take place (almost).
Honduras - so good people, so helpful, so open! I cant remember other country where I met so many good people as in Honduras.
Nicaragua - isnt in your plans, but i'd not miss this outstanding country. I dont know what are you looking for, but i'd switch El Salvador to Nicaragua with no doubt.
Mexico is huge - depends where r u going and what u doing there. Belize is almost alike US and they speak Eng there.
If i 'd be you - i'll go Mexico-Guatemala-Honduras-Nicaragua- may be Costa Rica (also "American" and ver touristic) - and Panama.
Another important things:
1. vactination (malaria and othr staff, ask your travel-doctor).
2. Spanish is must - at least at basic level.
3. as litte laggage as u can allow yourself
4. Be friendly and open - and people return you same qualities.
5. No need to b paronaidal, but need care to own basic safety - look where u go, where u stay to sleep, with whom u messing up. Its same like in everyday life everywhere.
6. Avoid capital cities of Latin countries - 95% of crime and troubles are concentrated there.
Good luck and have a good trip!
Ive been to CA twenty times. The only trouble I ever got into was with a drunk American Ex Pat with a gun. He died of a jammer three years ago.
The place ain't Disneyland, but you're not gonna be ripped open like you were in a zombie movie either. Relax. It's a good place to go.
I live and work in C.A. for 23 plus years, as Piecar says, find the right travel companion, you should look for a female, experienced traveller, Spanish speaker for part of your trip and also Google the international non profit HOSPEX sites ssuch as couch surfing, be welcome, etc. Cannot find key to send you a private message, otherwise would send you my Primer on and for first time travellers to
southern Mexico nd Central America, lengthy, full of info, urls, guidebook info, hotels,hostals, security and safety, people, links Spanish schools, volunteering and other advices, send me a pm if interested. Dave, survivor, life in the tropics. I was a guide in C.A. many years, drove over 800,000 km. never got assualted. The government on line travel advisories often do more harm than good, look like they were written by someones paranoid Grandmother who never left her home town.
Thanks so much for all your advice, i've found it really helpful and it's good to hear that there is a little bit of scaremongering involved with the government websites. I suppose if they didn't say it someone would only sue them! Thanks again guys, really appreciated x x
One does NOT have to 'avoid' capital cities and major cities in Latin America if you use common sense and have a few street smarts, join one of the Hospex portals,Google up Couch Surfing. BeWelcome, Hospitality Club, not perfect but what or who is?.. most of the Hospex members are bi or multi lingual locals who live in and around the capital cities, they will be happy either to meet up with you or host you a few days in their homes, lots to see and do in and around urban areas of Latin America, just AVOID walking alone late nights on side streets, be aware in bus terminals and crowded markets and do not wander alone into marginal areas, if you do get lost go inside a store and ask directions, keep a low profile. Enjoy life. Be aware, use common sense, smile and keep smiling in public, be polite, dont need those " politically correct travellers rules" Oh and in cities dress like locals dress, save the shorts, t shirts and fanny pack for the beach or mountain resorts, if backpacking, store your backpack on arrival and travel around locally light.
I am an ex pat 23 years plus in Central America, have seen and met some of these 'international' travellers who only visit remote areas in Central America, some of them acted pretty weird, and most had poor personal hygene, I did not let one group ride in my vehicle,they smelled bad, locals were always welcome, really, even so called 'poor people' bathe at least twice a day here in El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, etc.
best if planning long term travel to volunteer, hundreds of worthy causes in all teh Latin American countries, Google up 'volunteer southamerica dot net' 'volunteer latin america dot com' and 'idealist.org' for a start, plan your trip well in advance of your departure, learnSpanish free on line Google 'livemocha dot com' and go to the site 123teachme.com
Advice is cheap, experience is priceless, do what feels right for YOU after arrival, you are paying your trip, not some 'guru' on a travel forum, I live here in Central America a long time and learn something new every day.
Very annoying are so called 'ex sperts' on forums and BBs who compare countries and tell travellers to AVOID cities and certain countries, if one has a bad experience share it, but do not advise others to avoid going there because YOU did not like it, that is called being an idiot.
When I go to NYC USA I stay in the Bronx with an old Salvadoran American friend of mine who helps a lot of his neighbors, people are far more important than destinations and hey, if you got a good local friend watching your back you never will never have to worry. Learn Spanish. Ask locals questions in 170 countries, many are native or long term ex pat resident guides Google up Localyte dot com and ask locals a question.