Help! Can't decide between Central and South America

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Help! Can't decide between Central and South America

1. Posted by mecarber (First Time Poster 1 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Hey guys,

So I've been planning a backpacking trip through Latin america but I'm having some trouble deciding which countries to go to. I was originally planning on only doing South america (Colombia-Ecuador-Peru-Bolvia-Chile-Argentina-Brazil) but lately I've been considering either going to Central america instead, or doing Central America and part of South America. Optimally I would like to do both, but I just don't think I have enough money for that. I saved up $14,000, and I'm estimating that I'll have about $12-13,000 left after all my pre-trip expenses. I have no time constraints so money is the only factor.

In terms of what I'm looking for in this trip, I'm interested in places that are warm, have beaches, lots of adventure activities (i.e. ziplining, cave exploring, jungles, sandboarding, surfing, etc), friendly outgoing people, and pretty/interesting natural landmarks. I feel like Central America has a lot of what I'm looking for but I also feel like South America has so many more beautiful/unique sights.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to what I should do?

Thanks in advance for the for the help! :)

2. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1047 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Your original plans and budget are fine. If you have no time constraints, so much the better. One thing to keep in mind is weather and climatic conditions, particularly if you're interested in hiking in places such as Patagonia. Know that flying between countries in South America can be expensive; but domestic fares are reasonable, particularly in Chile (Sky Airline) and Brazil. There are extensive bus networks; and even a few trains. There are a lot of backpackers, many of whom join reasonably priced organized tours, such as through Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni and the Altiplano. From there, you can travel into Chile's Atacama desert and pick up day tours in San Pedro de Atacama. I spent two weeks hiking in Patagonia, including the Perito Moreno glacier near El Calafate, Argentina. The hikes near El Chalten are amazing. Take a look at my travel maps for suggestions of places to go. The U.S. dollar remains strong against many of the South American currencies, though it was stronger earlier. Sorry I can't go into more detail, as I am now in Krakow, headed to Lviv, Ukraine. My friend, Barbara, who is traveling with me, thinks South America is more interesting, too (she lived in Peru for four years). But you can't go wrong in picking either.

3. Posted by rachris (Budding Member 9 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Hi, we have just com back after nine months travelling down from Mexico through all the Central American countries to Panama. Had a great time and enjoyed mexico, guatemala and Panama most. It got gradually more expensive as we came down. Costa Rica has sooo many things to do but they are all pretty pricey and quite difficult to manage on your own. Some parks won't even allow you in without a guide so lots of research is necessary. Mexico has beautiful cities, fantastic beaches, mountain villages with hikes and plenty of culture and ruins. Panama was interesting with beaches, nature and of course the city and canal. We spent over a week just in Panama City, absolutely loved exploring it all.
Unfortunately I haven't been to South America but I'm hoping it will have more diversity than Central America. And as someone has already said, flying in central and South America can be expensive but it sounds as though your budget would allow for a flight from a destination in central to South America.
Whatever you choose will be an incredible experience. Enjoy!

4. Posted by Indefinitejrney (First Time Poster 1 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

We have been all over Central America and Mexico! It it much easier to travel via bus, and shuttle in Central America and cheaper. Nicaragua is amazing and easy to travel through with alot to do, Guatemala is absolutely amazing and has some of our favorite places in the world! We run a travel blog, and have been in alot of places in the world and we have spent more than 1/3 of our time in Central America. It has it all in such a short land area. South America has some places that are must see places in the world, however tougher to get around and more expensive. Depending on how much time you have, your money will take you about a year in central america. I would also suggest you skip Costa Rica. It's just too expensive. ok, maybe not skip, however don't budget much time there. There are places that are equally beautiful, fun and interesting in other cheaper countries. Central America and Columbia would be my choice. If you can read our profile and have any questions, feel free to ask us.

5. Posted by Borisborough (Moderator 1057 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Quoting Indefinitejrney

It it much easier to travel via bus, and shuttle in Central America and cheaper. .......... South America has some places that are must see places in the world, however tougher to get around and more expensive.

I'm not sure I entirely agree with that. There seem to be more night buses in South America than Central America, probably because SA is considered a little safer. And definitely transport in Bolivia is better value (cheaper and/or better service) than almost every CA country. Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador & Colombia most definitely are very easy to get around with cheap, safe buses available during the day and night.

6. Posted by johnniewalker01 (Budding Member 24 posts) 1y Star this if you like it!

Hi folks

I have noticed that june is close and i have a suggestion that i want to share with those who have
the opportunity to visit the city of mexico at this date of the year.

At "Colonia La Condesa" in "Delegacion Cuauhtemoc" there is a place called "Parroquia Coronación de Santa Maria de Guadalupe" where every june 15th the local congregation carries out a quite particular religious celebration. This celebration, besides its religious context, includes a variety of cultural and artistic activities, where it is included a small book fair and a couple days of community theatre.

..."Parroquia Coronación de Santa Maria de Guadalupe is a church with modern facade located across the Park Spain ("Parque España") where they organize most of the outdoor activities, including tombolas and charity raffles. Both places, "Parroquia Coronación de Santa Maria de Guadalupe" and "Parque España" are very easy to locate in google maps.

The festivities begin at noon june 15th and it continues up to the 25th, but one of the more symbolic events is the inaugural mass. So ... my suggestion will be to spare some time to be there at noon june 15th and do not miss the inaugural mass. But ...if for some reason you miss the inauguration at noon, you still can go at two oclock when the cultural journey begins.

The community theatre plays begin at noon of june 16th means that if you can not be at the inauguration day, you still have the chance to attend to the second at noon.

On june 16th at two oclock begins the Choirs Festival wish is a lyrical competition where they select the best choir in town. So have an option to mingle if you do have not gone yet.

...My personal suggestion will be to be there since the inauguration mass, and experience that whole at the end, those are the experiences that the travellers look for.

See you around.


[ Edit: Edited on 05-Jun-2017, at 15:58 by johnniewalker01 ]

7. Posted by johnniewalker01 (Budding Member 24 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

Hello Folks
I apologize because of my recent inactivity, but I have been involved in rescue labors here en CDMX after the earthquake.
Right now I am going to Alvaro Obregon avenue to volunteer in social work. I will be helping those who need care and support.


[ Edit: Edited on 03-Oct-2017, at 11:34 by johnniewalker01 ]

8. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 776 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

All of Central America is warm and there are beaches. South America - especially Chile and Argentina are cold in the June-August time frame. And as always, the mountains are colder than the areas near the coast. I think of Mexico as being in North America, but Mexico is also tropical.

I have only been to Mexico, Costa Rica, Belize, Panama, Guatemala, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru and I didn't backpack although I did pinch pennies as much as possible. . You can do Costa Rica quite cheaply if you know what you are doing. Especially if you go off season which is in the June-August time frame. All that area is much more expensive December to March. Belize is cheap once you get there - even in season but the attraction there is the diving which makes it more expensive, and also the Mayan sites.

9. Posted by johnniewalker01 (Budding Member 24 posts) 50w Star this if you like it!


Due to my involvement on rescue labors in Mexico and volunteer time at the caribbean, I will be delaying my pleasure travels for a few months. But I have been planning a trip to South America, and I expect to make it on early next year ...actually february seems the perfect timing to my schedule.

I think that Colombia would be a nice place to visit. I still need to do some research to set the details, but ...for sure my next destination will be Colombia.

If anyone could help, any suggestion will be appreciated