1. Be Ready To Enjoy The Nature
Central America is just amazing! The entire region is filled with rain forests, beautiful coastlines, hot beaches (especially where the sand is dark grey!) and rivers where you can take a swim, and mountains and volcanoes to climb. Be ready to take it all in and make sure to dress appropriately. Depending on the time of the year, you can experience up to 90% humidity and also soaring temperature in the middle of the day. Of course, it is a good idea to bring mosquito repellent, light clothes and solid shoes when hiking or biking in nature.
Be ready to enjoy every aspect of nature because you may not find these ecosystems in many areas on this planet – so enjoy all your deep breaths, the sounds of the jungle and the stunning views. You may meet howler monkeys, jaguars, all sizes of lizards, tropical birds and beautiful butterflies. All the Central America countries have developed trekking tourism in the jungles, canopy tours where you glide along the tree tops, and cave diving.
You need to know a bit of Spanish. Even in a country such as Belize where the official language is English, many people originate from the neighboring countries and prefer to speak Spanish. Being able to speak some Spanish allows for easier and better contact with the local people even though you can always use drawings and role-play to express yourself. Locals are usually very friendly and interested in talking with you.
3. Food And Water
You can eat cheaply at roadside restaurants. You can get all sorts of tropical fruits and vegetables at the local markets – ripened locally and extremely tasty. Corn roasted on the grill sprinkled with salt and lemon is a must-try. However, try to prevent getting stomach issues by consuming “clean” foods and safe drinking water. The last can be an issue especially is some areas, so know this before your hike or bike-ride. Carry your safe water in your backpack, bring a water filter bottle or bring purification tablets.
4. Traveling And Transport
Safety can be an issue when riding buses. These often drive very fast even in the mountain areas where you do not know if there are any vehicles coming towards you around the corner. However, there are seldom accidents and the drivers are skillful. The first time you take a bus, do not worry and decide to enjoy the trip. Before traveling to a place, check out the route. In the rainy season, some roads may be flooded and the bridge is simply non-existent at the moment.
You may want to get directions to a certain place you have heard about or meet particular people. The best advice is to ask people who are working in a shop or a policeman. People in the streets include those people who do not have the best intentions and you want to avoid any problems. Crime is always higher in the bigger cities so take care, use common sense and listen to you gut feelings. Do not show off your valuable items and in the capitals avoid certain areas in the evening. Use only the official taxis. Currently, crime from narco trafficking and gangs is higher is El Salvador and Honduras than in the neighboring countries. Costa Rica is safer and one reason is due to the good police work in neighboring Nicaragua, trying seriously to keep the gangs away from their borders.
5. Respecting People And Culture
You will find many things you want to take photos of and keep a record of your special experiences. However if you want to take photos of people, be respectful and ask for permission. The best is actually to interact with the people first, and later ask if you can be allowed to take a photo. The indigenous populations can get angry at such disrespectful behavior. You are a visitor and many of the people in the rural areas are poor and they want to be respected as human beings, not as objects looking good on your slide-show. If you want to take photos of children, ask their parents first.
Same thing goes for recording and filming – be respectful and ask for permission first.
People in Central America are usually very open to talk when you show interest in learning about their life and hear their thoughts. Even with a limited Spanish, you can go far in creating relations with the local people. You may want to know how they live, what they think about the future or you want to hear their stories from a tumultuous history. Please be aware that in some countries such as Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, many people have been involved in the civil wars raging for years. They have been on different sides, have lost family members and do not want to talk about it. Many have scars on their souls from this time. Like everywhere else in the world, they do not want to be reminded and relive the past.
Last note: Be sensible and take care of your belongings. Use updated literature about the places where you will go as the situation can change in a short time.
Travel with us to Central America! The people and the nature will stay in your heart forever!