Inspired by Central America

Honduras girls selling dolls

Let’s take a look at the map of the world. The Central America is almost negligible piece of it. Despite the modest size it is a very interesting region. No one would suppose that such a small area would bring so such diversity. Belize, a country with beautiful beaches of the Caribbean is probably the most relaxed place on earth. Time goes by at most at a half usual pace. Guatemala surprises with the beautiful nature, pre-Columbian monuments and a strong local tradition. Followed by Honduras where we would visit colonial haciendas, coffee, banana and other exotic plantations. El Salvador is a country literally not existing on the beaten tracks. So are nonexistent the tourists, which lets you more easily blend into the relationships with sociable locals. A colonial architecture combined with carefully  cultivated tradition, brings in endless parties in body-moving salsa rhythms. That is Nicaragua. Let’s head for the conquest of Central America!

The initial plan assumed a visit to Costa Rica, but in the end the plan had to be slightly modified. We drove to San Jose, Costa Rica, where the following day, unfortunately due to the lack of time, we had to take the flight back. Traveling Central America had became engrossing to such an extent that in no way had it been possible to speed up the pace of travel. A month is only enough to get the taste and desire more of the pie to be eaten. Central America is a place which certainly deserves revisiting and hopefully sooner than later! I encourage you to read the following summary as well as the articles on individual countries.

Chicken bus

A few interesting facts:

  • while living in all sorts of cheap hotels, only once or twice had I the opportunity to hit the shower with heated water
  • is quite unusual, but during the journey I hadn’t drunk a single good cup of coffee. All the quality seeds are earmarked for export
  • most Central American countries regained independence from Spain in 1821
  • hammocks are ubiquitous throughout Central America
  • the Westerner’s term chickenbus took its place from the fact that while traveling by local bus you might often see people carrying live chickens, hens or ducks along
  • expect water and electricity shortages almost everywhere for a few hours a day
  • a good Brazilian beer Brahva is available almost throughout Central America
  • people mindlessly litter environment, for example by throwing countless Coca-Cola bottles through a bus window
  • toilet paper should always be disposed of into the trash standing next to the toilet as not to clog up narrow drains, which often are several hundred years old
  • public buses run from early morning to afternoon hours, very rarely in the evening
  • meet the most beautiful girl in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. Very easy to make friends
  • virtually all the buses are old, repainted and renovated U.S. school buses
  • it does not pay to exchange currency at the border, use banks instead to change your dollars or euros
  • Pacific Ocean currents are dangerous, even near the shore. During low tide you can easily lose the ground and share the fate of hundreds of tourists every year sucked into the depths of the ocean. Never ignore the local announcements about safe hours and after a designated time each day better just stay away.

In brief:

Visited countries: Belize, Guatemala, el Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

Dates: August – September 2007

The average daily cost: about $ 30 + $ 350 flight from the USA


From the top to the bottom through Central America

(Belize) Belize City – Caye Caulker – Belize City, Belize – Orange Walk – Lamanai – Dangriga – Hopkins – (Guatemala) Flores – Tikal – Laguna Lachu – Coban – Guatemala City – Antigua – (Honduras) Copan – Aquas Calientes – (El Salvador) San Salvador – (Nicaragua) León – Managua – Granada – (Costa Rica) San Jose

Local currency:

(approximate exchange rate in 2007)

Belize: Belize Dollar, 1 USD = BZ $ 2

Guatemala: Guatemala Quetzal, 1 USD = about 7.5 Q

El Salvador: U.S. Dollar, USD

Honduras: Honduran Lempira, 1 USD = approximately 20 L

Nicaragua: Nicaraguan Cordoba, 1 USD = approximately C $ 18

Costa Rica: Costa Rican Colon, 1 USD = about 500 colones

Sample prices:

the average daily spending (eating, sleeping, transportation, entertainment): $20 – $40
transport: $0.7 – $2 an hour bus ride
accommodation in hostels: $4 – $8
juicy mango at the market: $0.60
lunch in a bar (local cuisine) $4 – $6
bottle of beer: $1 – $2
squeezed juice of 5 oranges, made to order: $0.5
bottle of a good, sever years old rum: $8

licuados de frutas con leche (fruitshakes with milk): $2
river crossing: $0.3
deep-fried rice with chicken in a tortilla wrap: $0.6

The most expensive countries are Belize and Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala are a bit cheaper, and Honduras and Nicaragua are somewhere in between.