Central America


IN NUMBERS…

 43 MILLION people |  200 km you are from the ocean at most inland point | 16 UNESCO World Heritage Sites | countries | 2 official languages


TOP FIVE

1. Central America Backpacking Route

2. Budgeting in Central America

3. Top 10 Latin America Travel Experiences

4. How to Cross the Darien Gap

5. Kicking back at Lake Atitlan


REGION MAP

backpackers map of central america

(Map of Central America from wikitravel, can be re-used under CC BY-SA 3.0)


SUGGESTED ROUTE

central america

Use our Visa Tool to see which countries you need a visa for.


SHOESTRING TRAVEL BUDGET

$20/day or less : Nicaragua

$25/day : Guatemala

$30/day : Honduras

$35/day : Costa Rica, Panama

$45/day : Belize

read full article on backpacking costs in Central America and also check out the cost of travel in Cuba.


FEATURED DESTINATIONS

GUATEMALA –Lake Atitlan

NICARAGUA – Leon | Little Corn Island

Also see 5 Budget Friendly Caribbean Destinations for a feature on Honduras’ Bay Islands.


RESOURCES

World Nomads – Offers excellent travel insurance for backpacking trips in this part of the world.

Travel Independent – Detailed info on independent travel in each country in Latin America.

Along Dusty Roads – Useful Latin America travel blog with lots of info on Central America.


WORTH A READ

Backpacked – A reluctant trip across Central America – Humourous tale of a reluctant backpacker’s adventures in Central America.

Wanderlove – The adventures of an 18 year old girl seeking her independence on the road in Central America.


CENTRAL AMERICA IN A NUTSHELL!

The 7 countries of Central America conjoined together would still only be a small South American country or large US state but good things do come in small packages! Their recent histories have largely been shaped by attempted US and outside influences and whereas countries such as Panama have more or less embraced that (hence the canal), the likes of Nicaragua have rebelled against it and headed down the Socialist path.

Although the region is small and 5 of the countries gained independence from Spain around the same time (1838-1841), there are very noticeable differences between the countries and even within them. You will find everything from laid back Caribbean beach vibes to sleepy traditional villages and beautiful colonial era towns to hectic Latin American cities crammed into this small strip of land between Mexico and Colombia.


THE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE

The difficulty of crossing the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia means most people look upon Central America as a separate entity to South America even though there are distinct cultural similarities. If we’re comparing the two then Central America is very much the cheeky little brother. The area is defined by friendly people and slow but colourful travel with the region’s famous chicken buses the most popular and certainly cheapest way to get around. It is a hotbed of volcanic activity and flourishing nature and it is very popular with backpackers seeking something a little different without spending a fortune as the region is very budget-friendly.

Central America is great if you have a limited timespan available for travelling of say a month to 6 weeks. The countries are so small you can easily visit most of them in that time period whereas in South America you may need that just to visit one country and even that may feel a bit rushed. As long as you avoid the big capital cities which for the most part are dangerous and unattractive places (Panama City is the notable exception) then you will find it’s a really safe part of the world with genuinely warm people and plenty to see and do.