Central America is a fascinating continent to experience, you can visit ancient Aztec and Mayan architectural relics and learn more about the history of the From visiting ancient ruins in Mexico to taking an expedition in Belize there are a wide range of places to see and things to do. A trip to Teotihuacan, a beautiful Mexican Mayan site with temples and pyramids in Belize is highly recommended.
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There are so many options available too which include seeing volcanoes and the Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica, visiting the Panama Canal and the relaxing Bocas del Toro Islands in Panama, seeing ruins in Mexico and Guatemala or going in search of culture and tradition in Cuba. If you are looking for an active adventure we recommend joining cycling tours where you will be able to get off the tourist trail and escape the crowds and travel by road through of the most beautiful spots in Central America.
On some trips you can go in search of the old Mayan civilisations and see spectacular ruins of Palenque, Chicken Itza and Copán. Our top recommendation is to see Tikal in Guatemala, lots of tour operators offer trips here and these are some of the best ruins in the world which are located deep in the jungle. Try to learn some basic Spanish phrases before arriving, this will really help you on your trip talking to local people, booking transport and accommodation and also random things like asking for directions.
Planning a short break on a budget to Central America? This region might look like a small continent on a map, but trust us there are so many countries and different experiences to be had. If you don't have months to spare and want to do more than just sitting on a beach we have some great recommendations. Our top two destinations you If you have some free time you might want to consider visiting Costa Rica, this country has everything like beaches, jungles, volcanoes but it is also the more expensive countries with Panama (still cheap for us though).
Costa Rica would be our best recommendation for a week break its a beautiful country & if you know basic Spanish you will be able to use public transport which is cheap from the capital San Jose to the beaches. There is tons to do for tourists! Another option is to fly to Cancun, head down the coast into Belize & Caye Culker (stunning) then visit the Tikal ruins in Guatemala which are spectacular and (then bus back to Cancun) this will take around a week too. You could fly to San Jose in CR then go up to the North to see volcanoes and cross into Nicaragua (San Juan Del Sur) is a popular place where there are beaches etc & this country is really cheap but more rustic than others.
General: US dollars are accepted in most places although this might be more expensive than local currency. If you use local currency do not exchange on border crossing as this will be more expensive. Also try to get rid of local currency before leaving a country as sometimes it can be difficult to exchange afterwards.
Food and Drink: You will find tasty cuisine throughout this continent and food is great value for money. If you are not a big fan of local food which usually includes rice, beans and meat then there are more and more places which offer Western options like pizza, burgers and chips. In large cities in places like Mexico and Costa Rica you will find all the usual large fast food chains, try to at least sampling the local food first. Street food is very cheap, you can buy goods in local markets and there are also stalls at the side of a lot of streets and roads, a lot of the times you can eat for less than $1. If you are travelling by bus through this continent people will also sell you food which you can get out of the window, US dollars are accepted most places even on border crossings
Accommodation: Places to sleep are very cheap in Central America and there are lots of options. Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico are probably the most expensive countries to stay in, in places like San Jose or Panama City don't be surprised to pay over £15 per night for just a hostel dorm. Cheaper countries include Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador where you can stay for not much at all. Generally in this continent you will get a dorm bed for around £2 - £10 ($3 - $15 USD) whilst a private room is usually around £10 per night. If you are travelling with a friend or partner you might want to share a private room as this will work out cheaper. You can also stay in guesthouses which are locally run, this is especially true in places like Antigua, Guatemala.
Getting Around: Internal flights can be quite expensive even by Western standards, if you are not on a budget and are only interested in seeing specific places this might be your best choice. There is good public transport system in Central America, local buses are really cheap, but don't expect a luxury trip though conditions can be uncomfortable for long journeys. You will usually find other tourists on public buses and generally speaking this is a safe way to travel. If you are looking to travel by bus we recommend the Tika bus, this is a service which connects most countries in Central America and is cheap and flexible. On the Tika bus you will be able to travel throughout Central America, you can travel from Mexico down to Panama. The Tika bus is a step up from the public bus and has air conditioning, is safe, food is provided and it is also comfortable. At border crossings everything is taken care of by the on board guide. Some travellers also choose to hitch hike through this region, this is the cheapest way to travel but not always the safest. We would recommend sticking to the beaten path and taking public or private services.
Health & Safety: Central America is a safe continent to travel in but always stick to the beaten path and ask other travelles for advice and recommendations. You should have no problems when visiting places like Costa Rica, Panama and Cancun, these are very touristy destinations and there is a visable police presence. There are some instances of crime against international visitors in Mexico and its always advised to be vigalant, but please know these occurances are very rare. We recommend you avoid putting yourself in any situations like drinking too much then wandering around by yourself at night. In places like El Salvador and Mexico City be street smart and avoid flashing valuables and do not visit crime hotspots like the border town of Juarez which has problems with gangs and drugs.