Comobia vs. Guatemala vs. Nicaragua
Replies: 16 - Last Post: Jul 16, 2012 8:06 PM Last Post By: chefhagan
May 4, 2012 7:28 PM
Based mainly on flight prices, my top choices so far are Colombia (Bogota, I think), Guatemala (not sure which city) or Nicaragua (went there last year and loved it). Guatemala has a good flight price, but I have heard it is super touristy, except for the really rural parts. Then again, I liked Granada, Nicaragua when I went – I just stayed in a part of the city with fewer tourists and found it quite nice. Is Guatemala way more touristy than that? I have heard that Colombia is a great off-the-beaten path spot, but also hear mixed reviews about how safe it really is, and mixed reviews about Bogota as a destination. I loved Nicaragua when I went last year, and the flight price is the best (flying into Liberia, CR and taking a bus) – with the only down sides being the heat and the mosquitoes – but I would also like to try someplace new. In the past, my favorite travel destinations have been Nicaragua and Buenos Aires, mainly because I loved the character and friendliness of the people. I have also been to Costa Rica, but overall liked Nicaragua a lot more. If you have been to all of these, how do they compare? If possible, please compare Colombia / Guatemala to Nicaragua, since that is the one I am already familiar with. The more recent your travels the better, since these places are all changing quickly from what I understand. I am open to other spots too, as long as I can find a good price on a flight.
Here is more about what I am looking for:
*not too touristy – someplace where I can get a taste of the real culture and really use my Spanish.
*Prefer a city atmosphere as opposed to rural (does not have to be a metropolis – just somewhere with some things to do locally, as I plan to stay in the one location pretty much the whole time)
*The cheaper the better!
*Relatively safe – please don’t give me the “crime happens everywhere so just be smart” spiel. I have traveled quite a bit on my own, and live in a fairly dangerous city in the US (and commute on foot through a particularly bad neighborhood daily for work). I know how to be “smart,” but at the same time it is nice to NOT have that creeped-out feeling as I am walking around. I am a petite 25 year old female with blonde hair and blue eyes, so blending in with the locals is out!
*Friendly people who are open to talking to a random gringa. I know that Latin America tends to be fairly warm, but for example I found Nicaraguans to be much friendlier than Costa Ricans, who were polite but less out-going
*Proximity to a beach (within an hour bus ride) OR a slightly cooler climate where heat/mosquitos won’t be a big problem – given the choice between a beach with mosquitos or a cooler inland city without them, I’m really not sure which I would choose! But hot+mosquitos+no beach is a losing combo, for sure.
Thanks for any input! The forums I found comparing these countries were all a little out dated, so new info will be a big help!
May 4, 2012 9:41 PM
1I recommend the highlands in Guatemala - springlike weather, colorful culture, and some great Spanish schools. Please use the search window for dozens of threads with Guatemala school recommendations. ¡Buena suerte!
May 5, 2012 1:21 AM
2Matagalpa/Nicaragua, cooler , 800m high, small city.. ( btw , the best spanish is spoken in Colombia)
May 5, 2012 4:46 AM
May 5, 2012 7:20 AM
4Atitlan Guatemala is a lovely area. Nicaragua you already been to, and if you liked Granda, you aint seen nothing till you get to Antigua, its a UNESCO world heritage site, and a very nice city for the arts, nightlife, cuisine and history/culture. Bogota is a huge major city, 8 million people, not apples and apples. Airfare to usually expensive to Colombia as well.
Great idea per above, fly to Cancun, hit the ruins, then to Atitlan or Antigua.
May 5, 2012 11:39 AM
5Just checked the prices for Cancun - for whatever reason it is actually a lot more expensive. Since I have a travel voucher with United that I have to use, I am limited in price-shopping. The cheapest flight is Liberia, followed by Guatemala city. Colombia is a little more, but I have seen some great threads about it, which is why I keep coming back to it, plus the Spanish is considered more "pure" there. I like the suggestion of a highland city in Nica - Esteli or Matagalpa - since the last time I only got as far north as Leon (which I also liked a lot - not as pretty as Granada, but charming in its own way). Would Esteli or Matagalpa be interesting enough for a 2 or 3 week stay, or would I be tired of them after a few days?
I am little surprised by the recommendations of Antigua - I have heard it is full of tourists, with lots of English everywhere. I was thinking of doing Xela instead if I go to Guate, though more recent posts say that is also getting full of tourists. I would rather get a little off the beaten path and see something more authentic, even if it isn't as "pretty". One nice thing about Nica (and I imagine Colombia?) is that the people there are more curious to talk to travelers, since they don't see as many, and there aren't as many American tourists, since a lot of people in the US gravitate toward tourist hotspots like Costa Rica.
Thanks for your help!
May 5, 2012 12:52 PM
May 5, 2012 2:10 PM
7I only mention Antigua as you mentioned you liked Granada. if your in the mood for the same scenery of old spanish colonial casas, lots of centuries old churches and cobblestone streets, then Antigua is the big brother to Granada. Atitlan was my suggestion, its wonderful climate, scenery and culture in a more relaxed atmosphere.
I am sure Colombia is excellent, but comparing a city of 8 million to anything in CA is kind of odd, as Antigua is small town and Atitlan area is even more rural. Xela is a more gritty city, on the doorstep of some great hiking and outdoor activities. It comes down to the lifestyle you want, in the end.
May 5, 2012 4:18 PM
8I like Bogota, and I'm a country boy not prone to cities, but they say it is a city of a 1000 neighborhoods, they aren't lying. An extremely interesting city and about as crime free as anywhere I would imagine. I wandered the whole city on foot, everywhere. There is a massive area where they repair their old U.S, trucks for freight hauling. A little city in itself. But I digress. I love Central America. I live here but don't rule Colombia out. And immersion? Total! I was drinking in a little bar and I was the first Gringo customer according to the owner. Now my amiga.
May 5, 2012 5:15 PM
May 6, 2012 4:57 PM
10Recently returned from 3wks in Colombia (been to Nicaragua a half dozen times in the last 5 yrs).....love Nicaragua, but Colombia was awesome. Did not go to Bogota but I could not recommend Medellin highly enough (I would stay in the Laureles neighborhood near the Stadium complex)....you could also take a short bus ride (1.25hrs) up to Guatape (cool town - hostel El Encuentro is in a perfect location on the lake and just above the city). Medellin has a lot to offer and easy (cheap) public metro system that covers the city very nicely. A far more sophisticated city than I was expecting (but still inexpensive in the neighborhoods).....a place to remember for sure.
May 6, 2012 5:13 PM
May 7, 2012 3:46 PM
12I wouldn't say "Colombia makes the CA countries seem insignificant"... They're just different. Bogotá and Medellín are big cities, and as for spanish, Medellín is not a great choice because they have a "funny accent". In Colombia I would stay with Bogotá, but by reading your "looking-for", I would stay with Guatemala or Nicaragua . As quoted above, Antigua is not the ideal city to study spanish. Quetzaltenango (Xela) and Flores have better schools and are not "as touristy" as Antigua, so you'll NEED TO speak spanish in order to interact with people living there. My personal opinion: go to Xela... It's a small city, within 1-2 hours from beach, mountains, lake, volcanoes and interesting "pueblitos".
Jun 2, 2012 2:42 PM
13Ok so I was in Guatemala in November, Nicaragua in February and Colombia in Marxh/April.
Guatemala-My favourite places were the highlands-great to immerse yourself among indigenous people if you're planning on studying Spanish-Lake Atitlan was my favourite place. Antigua is full of tourists and to me lacked something. Guatemala is a great option if you like the outdoors, dont have as much money to spend(Flights are really cheap with Spirit and you can get a hotel room to yourself for $6).
Nicaragua- I think Nicaragua is the most touristy of all and the wealth gap between tourists and locals is shocking leading to a lot of begging in the streets (particularly in Granada as you will have seen). Maybe try heading further east to get off the tourist (Tica bus) route? Ometepe was nice but from what I saw was full of spoilt rich kids "volunteering" and not really contributing much.... San Juan del Sur was ok for a bit if you wanted to spend some time by the beach.
Colombia- Colombia was probably the safest I've felt travelling in the past 9 months. There is so much to do, a great infrastructure, the people are incredibly friendly, fantastic food....You can opt for big cities-Cartagena, Medellin, Bogota(my favourite) or small towns and Fincas like San Gil. The lost city trek near Santa Marta is a must-some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever come across. Downside is it's expensive-probably similar prices to the states for food(other than typicos)and accomodation. Buses are new and exceptionally comfortable-but expensive.
So I would say if you've more time than money, fly to Guatemala with Spirit, travel around a bit then head into gorgeous el salvador and fly home from San Salvdor(Also very cheap)
If you've more money than time-go to Colombia!
Hope this helps :-)
Jun 2, 2012 2:56 PM
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