Travel through Central America, some doubts
Replies: 6 - Last Post: Sep 24, 2012 10:19 PM Last Post By: lucapal
Sep 23, 2012 12:40 PM
Travel through Central America, some doubtsHi,
I am planning a 2,5 month backpack trip starting from Mexico (Guadalajara) on 15 of October. I want to go through Central America to Colombia (Bogota) with public transport. I did already a little bit of research but still struggeling to find out the best (and more safe) places to go. Seems like there are so many options.
I would like to do a big portion of adventure (nature, diving, kitesurfing, rainforests, caves, volcanos & nationalparks, zip lining) and a little bit of cities and ruins.
Diving: What I understood so far is that Belize and Honduras are very good places to go for cheap diving. I am a beginner altough I did it once for a few days in school. Maybe someone knows a good camp offering a all included diving course (accomodation, food, PADI licence) for around 1 or 2 weeks.
Kitesurfing: Same way I am searching for a good & cheap kitesurfing camp to learn it for around 3 weeks. I found same information about surfing but not so much for kitesurfing. So far I have never done kitesurfing.
Nationalparks & rainforests: I wonder how to to nationalparks and so on in a good way. Is it in generell possible
to go there just by myself or is it better to take some tours. Any recommendations which parks are very good in these countries would be also very interesting for me.
Security: After my first researches I have to admit that I am a bit concerned about security especially in Guatemala, Belize El Salvador and Honduras. Is there a good way to avoid the more dangerous places like Guatemala City, San Salvador and San Pedro. I saw that most buses like Tica go usally through this cities.
Health: I have yellow fever vaccination but no one for rabia, so I wounder how likely it is to have problems with same animals and not reach a hospital within 24hours. I also wonder if I have to take some Malaria pills and a lot of DEET spray with me or if I can buy this stuff just there when I need it.
Darien Gap: I really would like to to it by a sailing cruise from Panama to Cartagena. Maybe someone know a company offering a transfer like this.
I would appreciate any recommendations.
Sep 23, 2012 6:17 PM
1You actually will need to pick n choose your places/venues/countries with just 10 weeks for 8 countries, not including Mexico. That is a week per country with travel days for each border.
Since you want to get PADI Open Water Certification, then consider skipping the Belize cayes, where diving is more expensive, as is lodging etc, and get this done in Utila Honduras. Its is $300 for the course and includes dorm lodging, a great scene of like minded backpackers/travelers. Or go to Belize, and skip Utila, as far as logistics/safety concern.
Guatemala is the cultural gem, you need about 3 weeks for the main high points, but 2 weeks will suffice if you plan it correctly. Guatemala City is not really an issue for travelers, yes you need to know where not to go and be careful at night, but there the exact same issues in most the big cities/capitals, so know how to protect yourself against being a target. I will suggest some rules we all follow and always enjoy a great time in the region. 99% of the travelers/foreigners go to all these countries and have no issues what so ever, the crime/murders/gangs/drug issues are not something you will encounter 99% of the time.
You can tie in the Copan Ruins from GC/Antigua transport options, then get to San Pedro and bus to La Cieba, of fly from SPS to Bay Islands.
Kitesurfing is becoming popular in Costa Rica, on the Pacific coast, in areas like Jaco and Tamarindo, two popular surf towns, though Jaco is kind of icky for most, is best avoided.
National Parks: Each country has its gems, they vary greatly in diversity, from volcanoes, jungle, rainforest, mangroves, indigenous indians, jungle, rivers, lakes, low lands its endless. I am into adventure travel, Costa Rica has lot of great parks, so you could spend 4 weeks in CR just getting to them and conquering each. A good guidebook will lay out each countries assets when it comes to the parks. hey all vary from easy hikes to guides needed to being so remote you go by boat for a day just to get there.
Health: No YF in CA. Rabies is not an issue and rare. Malaria is in some countries, the majority of Malaria zones are extremely remote and I hardly doubt the average backpacker will be in the zones ever, unless that are biologist working in a off the grid jungle village after a 8 hour hike. There is the risk of Dengue Fever all over the lowlands and beaches in rainy season, you need to stay alert to this, ask around, taxi, bartender, lodge front desk. I suggest a Tetanus Booster, and also Hep A-B, for anywhere in the world, Hep B if you are sexually active for sure, the world over. Thats about it, biggest health issue for most is bad sunburn/insect bites, hangovers.
Safety: The greatest risk to a traveler or foreigner is mugging, petty theft. Violence against a traveler is rare, but random, mainly at night, usually after the bars, and more often then not in a desolate stretch of road, beach, trail. Theft of baggage on busses/transport is rare but random too, as is pick pockets in transport atmospheres, and bus stations/markets/crowds. The main defense is to travel smart, dont flash your money, when in transit, keep your valuables close to your body, well hidden, and in secure areas on your body. At night, especially in a city, take a taxi, even a few blocks. Know your surrounding, ask the hotel/hostel about where not to go, what is a issue, and what to watch out for. Go out the door of your lodging with just money for the day/night, a copy of your Passport, and stay alert. Dont talk to strangers that approach you on the street, they have an agenda, promise. Keep electronic gizmos well hidden in lodging rooms, dont leave things laying around, and use a safe when you can.
I hope that helps ease your fears. There has been very few reports from travelers on this forum that have been mugged/robbed in any country, not saying it does not happen, but the issues for safety on this forum, are usually first timers that read the US State Dept warning or hear the CNN News report of some narco gun battle and freak out. The odds of these criminal elements harming you or a traveler is very rare. I live in Chicago, we have 20 murders a weekend, but its all gang activity, crime in general is rare against a tourist in Chicago, but things can happen, like anywhere.
The FAQ at the Top has a lot of info on the region.
I suggest this Hostel below in Panama City for choosing a sailboat to Colombia.
There is a well trodden backpacker circuit on this route south, you will meet a ton of people doing the same thing, and learn a lot from others. I suggest Spanish Immersion in Guatemala like lago Atitlan area a few weeks, or prior to your journey, it will make life much easier and open up a lot of doors and interaction with the locals.
Sep 24, 2012 1:48 AM
2Good advice above.
I will just reiterate that you will have to either.....give yourself more time OR pick and choose your stops very carefully.
There is too much to cover in 2.5 months...you are going to have to miss a lot of interesting places and spend a large part of your trip sitting on buses.
Sep 24, 2012 6:45 AM
3Also there may be Kite Surfing on lake Arenal in CR, as there is windsurfing there. But I might add, it is hard to learn this sport on the beach and in deep waters/swells and currents. You may want to consider learning to kitesurf on a inland shallow lake, where you can stand or not need to fight the waves/swells. http://kitecostarica.net/kite-spots/
If you are headed to SE Asia, Mui Ne Vietnam, a beach just north of Saigon a few hours, is a very popular place to kite surf as well.
Also keep in mind the rainy season is in full swing from Oct to Nov, as is Hurricane season in the gulf, so keep a eye peeled for possible storms impacting this region and plan accordingly. Mid to end Nov things dry out and Dec starts Dry Season, and temps drop too.
Sep 24, 2012 4:26 PM
4Thanks for the valuable feedback :D
To the suggestion of the Spanish language course, this should be fine anyway since I studied last year already in South America so I don't need to refresh my skills. The mentioned vaccinations should be fine too. I don't want necessarily do all countries and also don't need to see all sites I just would like to have an good mixture of a lot of different things (with a very few cities).
Things which seem interesting things for me so far:
Nationalpark Cañón del Sumidero
San Cristobal de las casas
(maybe)Ciudad de Mexico
(maybe) Isla de las mujeres
Belize or Honduras (1 of them):
Caye Caulker (1-2 weeks)
Utila (1-2 weeks)
Flores + Tikal National Park (maya ruins)
Parque Nacional Grutas de Lanquin, Semuc Champey
Antigua + Volcano Pacaya
El Salvador: skip
Leon (Volcano boarding)
P.N. Volcano Masaya
La Fortuna (zip line?)
Poás Volcano National Park
Nationalpark Manuel Antonio
Panama: just go through or maybe Bocas del Toro
Cartagena (and afterwards a flight to Bogota since this flight is cheap)
I may also skip some of the volcanos since I picked out quite alot. Pretty interesting would be see flowing lava and an impressive crater so I am still trying to figure out which one fits best for me. Also a lot of the beach destinations seem also pretty similar like Tulum, Isla de las mujeres, Caye Caulker, Utila, Bocas del Toro, ... so I will probably pick one of them. I am not sure what the better option is for the scuba diving. Caye Caulker looks easier to reach if I go first from San Cristobal or Palenque to Chemutal then to there and afterwards to Flores, ... and then straight through El Salvador to Nicaragua.
For the kite-surfing I will look through all the information (very good website btw) and decide if I do it on this trip or later on. I anyway go after Central America to Australia maybe I should do it there.
I still wonder where is a good place to do zip-lining (most exitement possible :D) and if someone has other suggestions for adventures trips I would really appreciate it. I did for example last year downhill mountainbiking on the Death road in Bolivia and I am totally into kind of these things.
Sep 24, 2012 10:14 PM
5La Fortuna is a good option for your zip-lining,from what other travellers have told me anyway (i'm not into that myself;-).
Another place which is famous for zip lines is Monteverde in Costa Rica,but its a bit more out of the way and takes more time to get to.
Looks like you are going to have some pretty long stretches where you are not stopping (inevitable if you try to do all that distance in 2.5 months).Stretches like Antigua-(Utila)-Leon are going to mean long days in buses...
Sep 24, 2012 10:19 PM
6On the beaches you mention...they are not really that similar.
CC is certainly easier to reach than Utila on your route,and those places are snorkelling/diving rather than beach destinations....CC has very little beach at all. Places like Tulum and Isla Mujeres have real beaches...depends if you want to sit on a beach,swim or just snorkel/dive.
On the active volcanoes...to some extent its a matter of luck.If its too active it will be closed anyway! I just came through Nica and Masaya was closed because of too much activity,so no-one could go up there.....
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