Central America is where I had my first big ‘solo backpacking’ adventure and is without a doubt my favourite region of the world, for so many reasons.
It’s easy to travel Central America becasuse there’s an obvious well-trodden path known as the Gringo Tail. If you exclude Mexico and all the Caribbean islands, the rest of Central America is a slim strip of land. This means that there are only really two routes that you can take – everyone’s either heading north or heading south. So when you make amazing travel-buddy friends it’s super easy to keep on traveling with them. The public buses and tourist buses make it very easy to get around, with most journeys being under six hours. On top of this, the hostels are brilliant. Generally speaking, hostels are less than US$10 per night. Most have bars, some even have pools and all of them tend to be very social.
The landscape of Central America is diverse. Mountains, lakes, volcanoes, black sand beaches, surf beaches, jungles, waterfalls… Pretty much everything. Great for the outdoorsy types! You’ll never get bored – there are so many activities!! From roaming ancient Mayan ruins in Guatemala to endless drinking in Nicaragua to animal-spotting in Costa Rica, there is really something for EVERYONE in this part of the world.
But above all, the best part is that the locals are super friendly. Everyone you meet greets you with a smile and goes out of their way to make sure you enjoy your time in their country.
The area is tropical and humid all year. The peak season is January to March, given that it is the height of the dry season. However, I would personally recommend going in the ‘shoulder season’ – just before or just after the peak. This will mean there are slightly less people (no need to book ahead!) and there is generally still plenty of sunshine. I went May to July and only had a few days of rain.
Central America is a very cheap area to travel, and while each country is different, I would budget around US$40 p/day for an extended trip through the region. Three to four months is long enough to see just about all of it, in pretty good detail.
Spanish is the official language in all countries through Central America except Belize, where the official national language is English. It will be handy to know the basics, but you’ll pick them up along the way – so don’t stress about learning it all before you go.
An ideal place to learn Spanish and mingle with the locals, Guatemala is also a beautiful and diverse country, with jungles, black sand beaches, volcanoes, colourful markets, and a stunning volcano-crater lake.read more
Go to Belize to get a feel for island life and experience out-of-this-world snorkelling – I’m talking dozens of sharks and stingrays at your fingertips!read more
Though sometimes considered unsafe, the locals will undoubtably make you feel at home in El Salvador. While there, you can learn to surf and eat endless pupusas!!read more
Famous for partying, Nicaragua is a LOT of fun. When you’re not drinking endless Flor De Cana, you can go volcano boarding, laze away on beaches or ride mopeds or quadbikes around a sleepy island.read more
Costa Rica is home to some of the most incredible wildlife you’ll ever see – lots of sloths and turtles! Other fun activities include some of the longest ziplines in the world, picture-perfect beaches and unbeatable national parks.read more
One of the more affluent countries in Central America, Panama is a great place to get lost in the jungle, hop between uninhibited islands and lay on amazing beaches.read more
Mexico and the Carribean Islands (such as Cuba) are also a part of Central America…sadly I have not got to them yet. I also skipped Honduras because I had no interest in scuba diving – but it’s a common stop on the Gringo Trail and lots of people rave about it.