Traveling in Central America
Top 5 things to see in Central America
Central America’s various different cultural influences over the centuries means that its architecture, culture and traditions are immensely rich and varied. There is something for everyone in Central America, no matter what you’re interested in. But if you’re struggling to decide which of the many incredible places you should visit, these sites are truly unmissable and should be on the itinerary of anyone traveling to Central America.
- A visit to Tikal, the ruins of an ancient city found in the Guatemalan rainforest, in an incredible experience for any traveler. Discover this lost city, which was the capital of one of the largest ancient Mayan kingdoms and learn about one of the best understood Maya settlements. These ruins are not only fascinating in themselves but they are surrounded by beautiful landscapes and jungles.
- Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica is a fantastic place to see the amazing animals of Central America. Walk along the beaches and see the famous turles, after which the park is named, or take a boat ride and see the other wildlife that lives in the park on a breathtaking ride through the blue waters. If you fancy a more active experience, why not rent a canoe or kayak and travel down the rivers or around the coast, taking in the beauty of this place.
- Hiking up Arenal Volcano is an another amazing experience in Central America, and one you will never forget. See the dramatic volcano, which has come to be one of Costa Rica’s best known, as well as the diverse wildlife that lives in the national park here.
- If white sandy beaches and coral reefs are what you’re after then a trip to Cahuita is the answer. Bask by the tropical waters in this small area on the border between Costa Rica and Panama and you can even explore the famous black sand beach, Playa Negra. Visit the sloth sanctuary or stroll through the jungle and spot the native toucans, monkeys and turtles.
Things to know before traveling to Central America
Traveling in Central America is, for the most part, easy and you won’t be met with any trouble. However, it is important to keep a few things in mind to ensure that things go smoothly during your trip. Here are a few reminders and tips to make sure you have the best time possible in Central America...
- It’s important to remember that, especially in the more rural areas of Central America, a lot of people don’t speak English. Learn a few key phrases in Spanish so that you can make yourself understood in most circumstances.
- Another good warning is that you should try to be wary of ATM machines. Always make sure they haven’t been tampered with and have a look to see if they have incurred any deliberate damage. Try to stick to the ATM machines inside banks and other reputable institutions since these are under surveillance and are far less likely to have been tampered with..
- During your trip to Central America, you may need to take local transport, such as a bus. Whilst these are the cheapest and easiest way to get around, be aware that local transport will be an adventure. Chicken buses are common and journeys are often eventful. As long as you expect this then you’ll be able to see them as an adventure and enjoy the ride!
- In Central America, local knowledge will be incredibly useful, both to save money and to have an amazing experience, finding local gems and hidden spots. Central America is one location where it is particularly advisable to make use of your local agent, any local guides you have or any locals you may meet along the way.
- Make sure that your vaccines are up to date. Speak to a doctor before traveling to ensure that you have had all of the relevant vaccinations before leaving for your trip to Central America.
- Be savvy about the route you take on your travels, to make sure that you can enjoy as many sites as possible without having to travel for days on end. Remember that this is a vast area, and sometimes, towns, cities and points of interest can be spread out.
- Lastly, Don’t rush it. Central America has so much to offer, so make sure you take time to appreciate all of the incredible things that you see during your trip.
Central American food
Central American food is fairly similar to its South American counterparts but with some variations that are unique to each country and only make this cuisine even more delicious!
In Costa Rica, try their staple dish; Gallo Pinto, made of rice and black beans. This dish is often eaten during all three meals of the day and can be as simple or as jazzed up as you like. Aside from tasting delicious, its the perfect fuel for walking, hiking or exploring.
While visiting Guatemala, why not try Paches, which is usually eaten on Thursdays and is a potato based dish which is steamed in a corn husk. Pretty much anything can be added to the mixture so you can try these one hundred times and taste a new flavor every single time.
Mexican Pozole is a stew made with meat and potatoes which once had ritual significance in Aztec culture. Now, this dish is often served at celebrations. Why not have an excuse to celebrate and get your hands on some Pozole to see what all the fuss is about?
While in Panama, trying their famous seafood is an absolute must. The crab, lobster and exotic fruit and vegetables that are all native here make the basis of so many incredible seafood dishes that are fantastically unique to this area.
Major Cities in Central America
Central American cities have been given a somewhat negative reputation since they are sometimes seen as unsafe. This is not the case, provided that you use common sense and are incredibly beautiful and interesting places that every traveler should visit at least once.
- Visit Panama City and take in its rich history that began when the first visitors here discovered the ancient Inca empire. See the stunning cathedral which has stood here for hundreds of years, the famous Panama canal or the more modern additions; such as the Bridge of The Americas.
- As the most populated city in Central America, Guatemala city is a bustling, lively city that is located in a beautiful valley. Built on the same foundations as a Mayan city that stood here before, this city’s history spans a vast length of time and it has the sites to show for it. As well as ancient sites, it also has modern additions that make this city a genuinely fascinating place to visit.
- Havana in Cuba is unique in its structure, since it encompasses three different districts that essentially make it seem as though it contains three cities in one. Old Havana, the first of these districts, appears frozen in time and is a fascinating visit. See the colorful houses and old cars here as you wander around and discover the charm of Cuba as it was over 50 years ago. Vedado, the second district is the urban district and business centre of the city. The third district is made up of newer suburban developments.