I am backpacking for 9 weeks from end of June to end of August 2011 in Central America with a friend, hoping to travel Southern Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Guatemal and El Salvador.
Has anyone recently travelled these countries and strongly recommend anything?
Also how much are hostels, food, transport? Ihave spent a lot of time in Asia before.....is it similar in price?
I am really grateful for any advice or tips. Thanks!
See some info on Belize, Honduras and Guatemala.
Prices (relatively expensive compared to central american countries):
- cheap lodging (person/night): US$8-15
- food (per meal): local eateries US$3-4, tourist restaurants US$5-10
- snorkeling: US$50-60 / day / person, trekking app $100 / day / person
- bus: app US$2-4 / 100km
- exit tax: app US$20
Belize $ is fixed to US$ (B$/US$ 2:1), and US$ is widely accepted/used and freely exchangeable. There are some ATMs, but limit might be small, with extra fee. Beside the border crossing, exchange rate is fixed.
- The cayes (islands) off the coast of Belize City are said to be very nice. You have to take boat from the port in the center opposite the main post office in Belize City.
Timetable for boats.
- We went to mainland beach town Placencia, it was nice, but the above is said to be better.
- Many people use San Ignacio near Guatemala border to arrange organized treks to caves (one of the largest cave system in the world) and to other jungle, etc excursions.
Best to read more info on http://www.letsgo.com/431-belize_and_guatemala-travel-guides-belize-d
Belize in general is safe. However, Belize City can be quite dangerous, so don't plan more than using it as a point of transit and take taxi even from bus station to port (less than 1km from each other, US$3-4). I also heard that Orange Walk was a dodgy town too.
Rest is all safe and fine.
Should you want to take the speed boat from Placencia to Honduras, it runs only once a week (i think on friday, 11am?) and costs US$50.
- lodging: $5-8
- food: local $2-3, tourist $4-8
- bus: little cheaper than in Belize
- ATMs are available in big towns
- no entry/exit tax in case of overland crossing (leaving by plane app US$30), however at entry they may ask for bribe ("entry tax") that can be avoided simply stating calmly a smile that "you will pay exit tax so no need for entry tax".
I did not go to the most popular places but usually recommended: Antigua, Lake Atitlan and the waterfalls north of Guatemala City and the mountainous areas on the west.
From my experience:
- highly recommend visiting Tikal (Mayan ruins) and nearby El Remate with it beautiful lake.
- if you are short of time, you can skip Flores, it's nice but wouldn't go all the way there...
- there is also another site halfway on belize border and el remate road, about 10 kms off the road. we didn't go there but locals recommended it
- finca isobel and trekking around
Safety: Guatemala City, certain roads and the coastal area at the Carrebean can be potentially dangerous. Crime in general is very high, don't recommend going out/travelling after dark in most areas. Do read travel advice on safety - guidebook, wikitravel, fco.gov.uk or travel.state.gov and take them serious. Try to limit valuables and prepare for worst case scenarios. But don't be discouraged, just be prepared.
Prices: similar to Guatemala, maybe a bit better price for the quality
ATMs can be found in any big cities.
There is a small entry tax, and about US$12 tax to exit overland.
Safety: same applies as to Guatemala, read travel advice!
Places we have seen/heard about and nice:
- Roatan island
- Pulhapanzak (waterfall)
- Lago Yojoa / Pena Blanca - there is an farm there run by an american with a small brewery, there is a nice swimming pool too (it's in the guidebooks)
- Copan ruinas
You can skip: Tegucigalpa (very shady town), Omoa beach (the part recommended by guidebooks is not really nice).
Best online source for travel advice we found from all major websites for these countries was on wikitravel and www.letsgo.com.
Hope this helped.
Have a nice and safe trip!
Do consider flying. I could have got a $60 flight from Flores to Guatemala City some years ago but opted for the bus as I thought you don't see much from 6 miles up. The roads were so poor in places that the bus went from one side of the road to the other to avoid huge potholes and after 3 hours which I thought was enough for the whole trip, we'd only covered a little distance. The whole journey took 12 hours, and that included travelling fast over good roads near Guatemala City.
I arrived late at night, and found a place. I opted for a room with a hot shower.which cost very little. Next morning I turned on the shower and sparks flew out of the heater on the shower head so rather than risk electrocution I used the cold shower along the hall with the others.
Belize Town was a dump. Others who arrived on the same bus as me decided on staying on one of the offshore islands instead. Instead of staying there for a while, I spent some time having a look around and left later that afternoon.
Mexico has had a lot of trouble lately and you should check on it's safety before booking. When I was last there we had endless army patrols searching our buses for whatever, even in the night hours.
I would say that the whole of Central and South America is more dangerous than Asia on average and you should take more care there. Also be careful as petty theft as in pick pocketing is common throughout.
That was 6 years ago, now first class and luxury El dorado buses ply the new highway between flores Peten (Tikal) and guatemala city, one bus runs overnight, about an 8 hour trip
Belize city has a new face, and Puerto de La Libertad in El Salvador has a brand new Malecon etc. The worst roads in Central America are still in Costa Rica where the second class bus terminals are full of bag snatchers and pickpockets, even in paradise, things have gotten better here in Central america for travellers in general, we have a long way to go, Asia has some rough edges as well, depends on the traveller
Central America is about double the price of Asia I found, I did 3 months in SE Asia before I came to Mexico and I have travelled down and am currently in Nicaragua.
Mexico is expensive, especially bus travel, can be $40 for a 5 hr bus with ADO and I got a bus the length of Vietnam for $47!!
If your there though the beaches in Tulum are lovely, but can be kind of isolated down by the water and pricey. like both Oaxaca and San Cristobal de la Casa. Isla Mujeres is nice but quite touristy.
Belize is expensive, we limited ourselves to a week, mainly on the Cayes Caye Caulker, is a great little island, really feel like your in the carribbean. The 3 day Raggamuffin sailing tour has been one of the highlights of my trip, that`ll take you down to Placencia. $300 for 3 days 2 nights, all food, all drink, fishing snorkelling, sailing, great crew, great ppl, couldn´t recommend it highly enough. 2 hrs from Placencia you can be in Punta Gorda and from there get a boat into Livingston Guatemala.
Guatemala is cheaper. Fina El Paraiso in Rio Dulce I´d recommend, thermal waterfall, kinda different but wouldn´t go out of my way for it, boat trip from livingston to Rio Dulce is nice, but didn´t blow me away. Flores is nice and you could base yourself there for Tikal, best go early in the morn. Semuc Champey and Lanquin caves were great, stay in Zepher Lodge, great hostel. Antigua is nice, but between those 3 you have long and kinda pricey transport, flores to semuch was about $30 in a private minivan.
Only spent a week in El Salvador, Suchitoto was a lovely little town, ask for Roberto el Gringo if your thee, lovely guy, very helpful and full of info on the civil war, he has rooms and does trips etc. PLaya el Tunco was nice, but you really need to be a surfer.
Honduras only visited the Bay Islands, for a PADI course, cheap enough but long road out there, and not too much for you if you´re not into diving, if you are though, it´s brilliant and I´d highly reccomend going. Overnighted in the Capital, Santa Rosa de Copan and San Pedro Sula, wouldn´t recommend any of them, but wasn´t there long enough to get a rel good impression. Travel is cheap there.
We`ve been robbed 3 times and consider ourselves pretty vigilant, so be on the look out, nothing violent just petty thieves, but camera and ipod got taken on an overnight bus from Palenque to Merida in Mexico. Just use common sense.
But it is a wonderful part of the world, you´ll enjoy it!