How much does it cost to travel through Central America?

Border Crossing Costa Rica Panama

Long-term travel is all about the benjamins. Your budget becomes your bible, how much (or little) you spend determines how long you will be able to keep up the lifestyle of constant travel. We have already posted our six-month budget and our 1-year budget, but both of these include time spent either in the U.S. or Europe, which are much more expensive and so don’t adequately reflect the cost of traveling in Central America.

This is why we wanted to write a separate post specifically breaking down the costs of traveling through this region, in order for those planning a trip to have a rough idea of how much traveling through Central America costs.

Overall Budget Breakdown

We spent exactly six months traveling through all Central American countries – Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama – spending a total of $10,685.65 for both of us.

That is about $890.47 per person per month, or $30.36 per person per day (for the exact amount of days we were in Central America).

Central America moneyOriginally we had a rough goal in mind to shoot for under $1,000 per person per month, per month, but we ended up spending even less thanks to keeping a close eye on our spending. This number is the average over six months, but there were major differences in how we spent our money in the various countries, so we have also broken it down per country:

Central America travel budget breakdown per country

Belize: $54 per person per day

Belize was by far the most expensive country in Central America, but we enjoyed our time there immensely. We could have spent less here, but couldn’t pass up the adventure ops available like snorkeling and caving, which would have been much more expensive in Europe or North America. Minus the adventure, Belize would have cost around $40 per person per day.

Accommodation: $7.50 – $12.50 per person in a double room average A double room cost $25 on Caye Caulker, but only $15 in San Ignacio.
Transport: A long-distance bus from Belize City to San Ignacio near the Guatemalan border was $3.50, boats between Belize City and Caye Caulker were $10.
Food: $10 per person including beer. Beer $1.50 – $2.50.
Activities: Full day snorkeling tour $40, cave tours between $45 and $70 per person.

Belize snorkeling

Guatemala: $23.12 per person per day

We splurged constantly in Guatemala. We took advantage of the high quality international cuisine in Antigua and around Lake Atitlan, putting away pots of fondue and bottles of wine, and discovering the wonders of Israeli food. Still, we managed to spend less than $25 per person per day by staying away from overpriced tourist shuttles and keeping our booze easy and local, plus we chose budget accommodation under $10 per person in a private room.

Guatemala hostelsAccommodation: On average we spent $9 per person per night. The cheapest private room we stayed in was $4.90 per person, the most expensive was $16 per person.
Transport: Local buses cost between $0.50 and $3.
The most expensive bus we took was a night bus from Flores to Guatemala City for $29 each. After that, we only traveled by local buses and never spent more than $3.
Food: $6 – $10 per person including drinks. Beer $1 – $2.
Activities: Pacaya volcano $13, Tikal including transport & guide $30, ruins in Antigua $5

tienda Chichicastenango Guatemala

Honduras: $28.68 per person per day

Honduras can be done on the super cheap, but as we spent the Christmas holidays here, we treated ourselves to nicer hotels (maximum $25 for both of us together) and special holiday meals. Only for that reason did we end up spending more per day than Guatemala or El Salvador. We avoided the famous islands of Utila and Roatan, however, and visitors to the islands would most likely also average similar costs, as the mainland is considerably cheaper than these popular diving isles.

Accommodation: between $7.50 and $12 per person in a double room
Buses are between $2 and $4, the most expensive bus ride was $7.
$5 – $7 per person including drink. Beer $0.60 – $1.50.
Activities: The most expensive activity was visiting the Copan ruins at $15 per person

Honduras Tegucigalpa church

El Salvador: $24.05 per person per day

Accommodation was the most expensive aspect of traveling in El Salvador – we found everything else (transport, food, drinks) super affordable. We did fall hard for pupusas; eating them every meal (almost) kept our food costs way down. In general El Salvador doesn’t have much in the way of expensive tourist sites, museums are free on certain days, and even surfing can be done for $10 to $20 per lesson.

Accommodation: $10 per person in a double room with shared bathroom, $12.50 per person in a double room with private bathroom and hot shower
Buses are seriously cheap here, between $1 – $2, with the most expensive bus ride costing $4.
A meal was around $4 per person, including drinks (beer). Again, pupusas cost 40 cents each, and beer is usually $1.
Activities: The most expensive activity was a guided hike in Alegria for $7.50 per person.

Sunset over river El Salvador

Nicaragua: $31.81 (including the Corn Islands)/$20.76 (excluding the Corn Islands)

In Nicaragua, we treated ourselves to a well-earned splurge, and made the trip out to the Corn Islands. This raised our daily average significantly, but not everyone is going to make the trip to the Corn Islands. Without the trip, Nicaragua would have been the cheapest country in Central America for us. Even with eating out twice a day almost every day, we barely spent more than $20 per person per day.

leon hostelsAccommodation: $7.50 per person in a double room average
Transport: Buses were usually less than $1; the most expensive ride was $1.80
Food: Breakfast was between $2 and $3.50; dinner was $4 and max. $7 with beer between 50 cents and $1.20.
Activities: Movie theater tickets cost $1.90 (snacks around $1.80), daily bike rental $3.90

Horse-carriage granada nicaragua

Costa Rica: $26.62 per person per day

Rumor has it that Costa Rica is more expensive than the rest of Central America, but we had a great time and easily kept costs down. Sure, it was quite a shock to see the prices in Costa Rica after coming from super cheap Nicaragua, but they didn’t vary much from prices in Honduras or El Salvador. Spend your money wisely, and those extras such as zip-lining, guided hikes and National Park visits won’t break the bank, or put you above budget, but if you’re not careful (and you like to drink beer), it’s easy to burn through Colones in a snap. There is cheap accommodation in Costa Rica, but the quality you get for $20 here is certainly far less than in the rest of Central America.

Accommodation: $10 per person in a double room
Transport: $1.20 for short distance bus rides, $2.50 for medium-distance rides, $8.00 for long distance bus rides
Food: A meal in a restaurant or in a soda runs at around $5 to $9. Beer $2 – $3.
Culture: The National Parks in Costa Rica are exceptionally beautiful and well worth the entrance fees, which range from $10 to $20. Ziplining is around $40 from the cheapest provider in Monteverde.

Monkey Manuel Antonio Costa Rica

Panama: $35.71 per person per day

Like El Salvador, Panama also uses the U.S. Dollar, but here the inflation caused costs in Panama to be significantly higher than anywhere else in Central America. Goods and services here are often priced equally to the US thanks to a seriously large ex-pat population (especially in Panama City), but with beer still average 75 cents a bottle…who’s complaining! The islands of Bocas del Toro were above average in price, while the mountain town of Boquete was easily affordable. As a global city, Panama City is home to the finest luxury accommodation as well as 25 cent bus rides and street food for $1.

Accommodation: $10 per person per night – the cheapest accommodation was $6.50 per person in a triple room, the most expensive was $12 per person (also in a triple).
Transport: $1.50 for short-distance bus rides, $7 for medium distances, 12.50 for long distances. Inner city buses in Panama City cost between $0.25 and $0.50.
Food: A meal is between $3 and $8, depending on the location.
Culture: The Panama Canal visitor center at the Miraflores Lock is $8, a ferry ride to Taboga Island is $12 for a return ticket, and movie theater tickets are $3.

Panama Hats in Panama City

Practical information:

  • We were able to stick to our budget mainly because we used Lonely Planet’s Central America on a shoestring guidebook, which has super useful budget information for each individual country. It’s not a light book and it takes up quite a lot of space, but carrying it was well worth it for us (not only for budget tips, but also hostel recommendations, maps, and up-to-date information on how to get from A to B.)
  • We chose almost exclusively very cheap local transportation instead of the more expensive tourist shuttles.
  • We ate at cheap local restaurants but also opted for pricier tourist restaurants more often than other travelers. If you eat where the locals eat and sleep in dorm rooms, you can travel Central America on less money than we did.
  • Note that we didn’t party a lot while we were there – we know lots of backpackers who party much more in Central America than we did – so if you’re planning on going out a lot, make sure to add that to your budget.
  • Wondering what to pack for your trip to Central America? Check out our packing list for the things we can’t travel without and the gear we’ve ditched over time.

Have you traveled through Central America? If you have, what countries did you find budget-friendly? Where did you splurge? If you haven’t gone through Central America, let us know if you plan to go and if you need any budget advice.

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Go Beyond… the Copan Maya Ruins in Honduras

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A town called Copan Ruinas is going to be most famous for the nearby Mayan ruins, but after spending a week in the small Honduran town just 12 miles from the Guatemalan border, we found there to be much more to Copan than first meets the eye, including several lesser known Mayan ruins scattered throughout the hills beyond town.

The town of Copan Ruinas, Honduras (Copan for short) can easily be reached by shuttle from the popular tourist town of Antigua, Guatemala, meaning that many travelers opt to visit the ruins on a day or overnight trip. The turnover rate for hotel beds in Copan is an average of 1.3, meaning that only 30% of visitors who stay in a hotel in Copan remain for more than one evening. However, despite a minuscule population of 6,600 inhabitants, there is plenty both in town and out in the verdant valley to entertain visitors truly curious about Honduran life.

The well-preserved town center is lined with colonial buildings which are by far the most well-maintained in all of Honduras and the cobblestone streets are filled with tourist-friendly cafes and restaurants. Grab a strong cup of coffee from the Espresso Americano coffee shop on the main plaza and watch the Honduran cowboys and macho reggaton-types mingle while children play catch and ladies sell freshly sliced fruit.  Another option is to head up to the view point (mirador) on north side of the town. Although it is a steep climb, the views over the bright green hills are worth it.

The day before our visit to the official ruins, we set off on a hike through ViaVia Hostel/Café, which we booked through their on-site Basecamp tour agency. Setting off at 8am with a French couple and one of the three Belgian owners of the hostel, we hiked four hours through the mountainous countryside to the south of town.

Throughout the semi-arduous hike, our guide pointed out several Mayan sites, including several stelaes, which are large stone poles serving as location markers and telling the story of the village. From the highest stelae up on the furthest hill, we were able to peek onto the official Mayan Ruins site, too. There was also a giant stone frog, which is thought to be a site where Mayan women prayed for fertility. Definitely book a guide, as you will see many more ruins, and we also learned an immeasurable amount of Honduran culture from our guide, who after 9 years in Honduras, could relate both to our perspective and as a Honduran insider’s.

Birdwatchers will love Macaw Mountain, a bird sanctuary outside of Copan with 170 different species of birds. The ultimate forest chill-out spot, visitors pay the Nature Reserve entrance fee, and can hang out in hammocks, hike, interact with several bird species, visit the on-site coffee roasting house or eat at the riverside restaurant, owned and operated by the very popular Tanya of Twisted Tanya’s restaurant in town.

There are loads of other activities around Copan: you can visit the Butterfly House, tour the Finca El Cisne coffee plantation, visit a Maya village, go horseback-riding or spend a day relaxing in the nearby hot springs

Where to stay

Home to a major Central American tourist attraction, Copan Ruinas has a wide range of accommodation that caters to cheapie budget spots to high end luxury.  We found various mid-range hotels with double rooms for US$25, not much more expensive than a double room in hostel, which are priced between $12-16. A bed in a dorm room can be found for US$6-$7.

ViaVia has double rooms with private bathroom for US$16, although it can get loud when there is live music in the bar at the weekends. There is good wi-fi in the restaurant.

Hotelito Marjenny has clean basic rooms with free wi-fi and ensuite bathrooms for US$15.

Hotel Jaragua on the south east side of the Parque Central has rooms with private bathroom, hot water, TV and wi-fi in the room for US$25.

Where to eat

Picame, a small restaurant on the road up from the bus station, has fantastic baleadas – a folded flour tortilla filled with refried beans, eggs and avocado.

Just one block west of the Parque Central is a delicious smoothie place called Super Jugos, a popular Honduran chain with huge fruit smoothies and milk shakes in all variations for just US$1.40.

Llama del Bosque
opposite the ViaVia bar and hostel has good and cheap
breakfasts and local dishes.

Café Welchez on the north west side of the Parque Central has a great selection of cakes (even Banoffee Pie!).

Espresso Americano, a nationwide chain of coffee shops, is located on the north east side of the Parque Central and has excellent coffee.

ViaVia does not have the best food, but is a good place to hang out at night and has 2 for 1 on various cocktails & beers during Happy Hour.

Wine Barcito has amazing Spanish food cuisine, with a daily-changing menu, great wine to match, and it turns into a full scale bar with a DJ at night.

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Travel in Honduras – safe or not?

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Update August 2015: Nearly five years have passed since our trip to Honduras, but this article still gets a lot of traffic. To give you a more up-to-date idea on the current situation in Honduras, I recommend also checking out this article on, written by a couple that has visited Honduras just recently: ‘The Murder Capital Of The World That Isn’t‘. Now on to how we experienced Honduras in early 2011:

During the eight-month leg of our trip through Central America, we crossed paths with countless travelers coming up north as we headed down south, and listened to their tips and advice for places we had yet to visit. The only place that nobody could tell us much about was Honduras. Not on many itineraries, there are two popular Honduras destinations: enthusiastic divers evangelically promote the Bay Islands, where they go to get their diving certificates, and the travelers interested in Maya culture will head to Copan Ruinas, a mere 12 kilometers from the Guatemalan border.

But what about the rest of Honduras? We had read about a lake just as great as Lake Atitlan, sleepy fishing villages on the Caribbean coast, colonial towns and the Ruta Lenca, a series of indigenous villages in the mountains – so much more than just Copan!

Even though travel in other Central American countries has also been called  unsafe on occasion, like Guatemala or Nicaragua, travelers continue to visit these countries without question. It is the culture of Guatemala and the sand, surf, volcanoes and colonial cities that attract people to Nicaragua. When it comes to Honduras, the hesitation travelers feel to visit Honduras often keeps them from visiting.

One recent reason for this current feeling of insecurity may have been a political uprising in 2009 that hit international news. Then-president Manuel Zelaya attempted an illegal political maneuver which resulted in his subsequent arrest and exile. As a result, Honduras found itself in a severe constitutional crisis and many embassies issued temporary travel warnings to Honduras.

When considering the time of our visit (end of 2010 into 2011), this could have been what was causing the distinct lack of international visitors to the country. However, neighboring Guatemala receives on average nearly 1 million visitors annually, while Honduras welcomes only one third of that at, 370,000 visitors per year.

Travel in Honduras can certainly seem unsafe. The first thing that stood out to us was the amount of machine guns displayed publicly. Even in supposedly safe and heavily visited Copan, with visitors ranging from backpackers to retirees, the sheer amount of armed policemen and private security guards on the main square and parked in front of banks was unnerving. If there is this much police presence, we thought, why exactly do they need it? Is it only precautionary? Or should we have taken out a life insurance policy in addition to our travel insurance?

During a forest hike with a local guide in Copan, we inadvertently learned more about the narco-trafficking happening in Honduras than we did about the Mayan sites on the tour. We learned the levels of involvement, from ‘mules’ who transport it up the pyramid to who runs things at a mid-management level. A pimped out pick up truck even passed and stopped for a chat with our guide, who later told us that although they seemed like friendly happy guys, they were definitely involved in the drug trade. They posed no threat to us, and they never even got out of the car or talked to us. We would have remained ignorant completely had we not been with a guide, but it was unsettling to say the least that it was that close to us – and in the middle of a forest no less.

On the Caribbean coast we felt safe, and even in the center of San Pedro Sula, a city it is said has suffered from an increase in crime, during the day didn’t feel any different from other big cities. In fact the main bus terminal was a giant shopping mall and felt more developed and travel-friendly than most central city bus terminals.

Tegucigulpa, on the other hand, felt unsafe and shady from the start. We never planned on visiting the capital, as there were no sights we felt we wanted to see, and several areas are considered overly dangerous. Unfortunately, however, after we realized that our New Year’s Day travel plans meant buses were not running directly to the Nicaraguan border, we stood at a bus station studying the guidebook to figure out a hostel for the night. While we frantically flipped the pages of our Footprint, one of the locals came up to us immediately and warned us not to stand with our backpacks there or we would get robbed. We hopped right into a taxi after that.

However, after finding an overpriced but very safe hotel (front door locked at all times, same as all other hotels in the area) we have to admit that we calmed down after a first stroll through the historic center, despite (or because of?) the heavy police presence in the area.

We made it home before dark, and wouldn’t have wanted to venture out once the sun went down. We heard several gun shots in the evening, always followed by police sirens rushing through the city. The next morning in the light of day, we went out to explore before catching the bus. The parque central was bustling with people, vendors, newspaper stands, and interesting urban art. The Cathedral is impressive, and well-dressed church-goers made the Sunday morning in the city center feel festive. After that, Tegucigulpa felt safer, though the amount of police men with machine guns left us with a strong feeling of unease and unable to fully enjoy our walk.

Would we recommend traveling in Honduras?

While we were in Honduras we did not encounter one single safety issue, however due to the constant police presence (or in spite of it?) we never felt safe.  Just two days after we had left the country, we read about an attack on a mini bus, just like the ones that we traveled in, in which all passengers were shot and killed. (See why it made us nervous: a picture of the van in this Spanish news article or read the article in English)

We have always been huge supporters of travelling off the beaten path, and Honduras can certainly offer that to its international visitors. In all the towns we visited in Honduras outside of Copan Ruinas, we were almost the only tourists – in towns like Santa Rosa, Gracias or Lake Yojoa.

In our opinion, traveling in Honduras is not much more dangerous as in its neighboring countries (a similar attack on a mini bus took place around the same time in Guatemala City, a capital which experiences several such attacks each year). However, visitors flocking to other Central American countries also take that risk to discover once-in-a-lifetime places, experiences and cultures. The question with Honduras is, is there enough to visit and see as visitors to warrant safety risks. The ever present machine guns and gun culture made it feel much more unsafe.

We would say yes, Honduras is without a doubt worth visiting, and as long as you stay vigilant and avoid San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa at night, a trip to or through Honduras should be safe. Although we did not visit the Bay Islands ourselves, we have never heard any negative safety stories from people who did go, and when considering the number of tourists who visit the Roatan or Utila, the popular diving island of Honduras are probably the safest and most tourist friendly spots in the country.

After 11 weeks in Mexico, we also examined safety of travel in Mexico which you can read here.

Have you been to Honduras? If so, did you feel safe traveling through? If you decided to skip a visit there, did safety play a role? We would love to hear your thoughts on whether or not Honduras is safe to visit in the comments below.

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The Tops and Flops of 300 days of travel

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Last week we celebrated our ‘300 days of travel’ milestone and reflected on the last 100 days, which we spent in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Here’s where talk about the best and the worst things to happen to us in the last 100 days. It’s not all suntans and glamour (although, most of it actually was this time!)

Top travel moments

Hiking volcanoes
The Central American isthmus is located on what’s known as the Ring of Fire – a chain of volcanoes which stretches down the pacific side of each country. The volcanoes, some active and some dormant, can often be climbed, and in the last 100 days we climbed two volcanoes. First Dani conquered Pacaya, the popular active volcano outside of Antigua. She saw glowing lava and amazing views of other volcanoes after the intense climb.

Two countries later, in Leon, Nicaragua, the both of us climbed Cerro Negro volcano. Twice. In a row. We signed up to go Volcano Boarding with Quetzaltrekkers, a non-profit organization who offer two runs for $30. We took the ‘deal’, but didn’t realize that volcano boarding down twice would mean climbing up the steep black giant twice in the blazing ninety degree sun (35 Celcius). The heat, the climb, the speeding down a volcano on toboggans we schlepped up the volcano was an intense, but one-of-a-kind experience.

Going on vacation
This part might confuse those readers who think we are on a permanent vacation…but we took a week-long vacation during the last 100 days. Traveling and working full time can be exhausting, and especially after speeding through Eastern Guatemala and Honduras, we were in need of some rest and relaxation when we arrived to Leon, Nicaragua. So we went to a good old-fashioned travel agency and booked two hand-written tickets to the Corn Islands, off of Nicaragua’s Moskito Coast in the Caribbean. We spent a week on these tiny remote islands in the Caribbean, doing nothing but relaxing in a hammock, exploring the islands and swimming in the ocean (and worked a little bit, we have to admit, but really only a little…each day).
Cooking Indio Viejo with Doña Ana
While in Leon, we signed up to learn to cook a traditional Nicaraguan dish, Indio Viejo (veggie version minus the chicken). We went to the market and bought those strange ingredients we never know what they are for (little bags of red powder, for example, which turn out to perfectly flavor and color the dish we made). We learned next how to make tortillas at a very busy but basic tortilleria in Leon’s indigenous neighborhood before bringing the tortillas up the street to the welcoming Dona Aña’s house. We had a great time not only learning to prepare and cook the dish, but also spending quality time chatting away with her and her daughter while enjoying the fruits of our labor.

Favorite places

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
More than once we have proclaimed our love for Lake Atitlan, the most beautiful lake in Central America. We have see many of the lakes in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, but hands down, Lake Atitlan is the most beautiful and peaceful lake of all.

Leon, Nicaragua
Leon, Nicaragua is not only one of our favorite places in all of Central America, but on our trip so far. The second biggest city in Nicaragua after Managua, Leon has all the mod-cons you would expect from a city of nearly 200,000, but you could easily forget what century you are in when joining the Nicas in their circle of rocking chairs watching the sunset behind the constant stream of horse and buggy transportation galloping by.  The spirit of the Sandinista revolution still can be felt among the people and from the bullet holes in buildings, the murals around town, and the fact that this city has completely blocked out any big American fast food chains.
San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
A little town on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast just over the border to Costa Rica, San Juan del Sur’s wide streets, clean well-constructed beach promenade, colorful little beach houses plus a mix of blonde-haired surfer boys and dark-skinned locals make San Juan del Sur feel like a Nicaraguan version of Venice Beach. Gringo ex-pats who love that California feelin’ have stayed to open several breakfast spots, restaurants and bars. The locally-owned, most seafood, eateries are geared toward Costa Rican weekend tourists. The vast beach in town is set within a large cove, which keeps waves to a minimum for easy dips into the water while sunbathing, and the string of beaches outside of San Juan are even more stunning with perfect surfing. The sunsets on all the beaches are heaven.
Samara Beach, Costa Rica
Looking back, we have spent time on quite a few beaches over the last 100 days – the Corn Islands off Nicaragua’s Caribbean, Poneloya and San Juan del Sur on Nicaragua’s Pacific coast, and a stint on Honduras’ stretch of the Caribbean, but the best has been the beaches of Costa Rica. Our personal favorite, so far, is Samara Beach, located on the Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean. While the ex-pat community has moved in, the relaxed small village feeling remains. Samara beach is set in a picture perfect bay, with its sprawling white sand lined with palm trees stretching for miles so you can walk for hours. This is a great spot to play in the waves and to relax for a few days.

Most disappointing places

Omoa, Honduras
According to our 2009 guide book, Omoa is a cute little fishing village off the tourist track with perfect, deserted Caribbean beaches. Sounds right up our alley, and shortly after crossing the border from Guatemala, we arrived with high expectations. Beach? What beach? Due to construction of the oil and gas company nearby, the beaches in town were completely eroded, with water coming right up to the edge of beachside restaurants. Beaches outside of town down ‘lush, secluded paths’ actually wind through shady, litter-strewn neighborhoods. The beaches here are deserted, but this is due to the piles of garbage all over the beach. After a 10-minute rest and water re-fueling, we left without dunking so much as a toe in the water, back into town.
Granada, Nicaragua
Granada is almost always referred to as the prettiest town in Nicaragua – and its well-manicured town center, freshly painted cathedral and colonial houses are certainly the best maintained in the country. Taking all this in takes, at most, two hours – stroll through the park and up the Calle La Calzada restaurant strip, around some of the nicer hotels. Other than that, we couldn’t find anything special about Granada. Gone was the authentic charm of Leon, filled with passion and enjoyment of life. With everything in Granada geared at impressing tourists, we found tons of over-priced tourist traps, supersize tour groups and harassing, greedy street vendors. Had we known what to expect in Granada, we probably would have spent more time in Leon.
Montezuma, Costa Rica
The year is 1999 and Montezuma is a tiny hippie town at the very base of the Nicoya peninsula with roughly ten hotels, a string of beaches each totally different and equally beautiful, and an average visitor/local age of 25. Fast forward to 2011, and the hippie factor has doubled, but the old American geezers in socks and sandals factor has gone from 0 to in the dozens. There is a supermarket with German chocolate, American chips, Italian wine, even two different kinds of tofu. Hotels, of which there must now be 50, have room rates reaching well into the hundreds, and the once tranquil town is now choked with rental SUVs and 4x4s. The long walk along all the beaches is still gorgeous, and we had the best beach day swimming in the waves, but the bliss was bittersweet.

Travel recommendations

In addition to Samara, Leon and San Juan del Sur, we recommend the following places which we visited during our last 100 days:

Livingston, Guatemala

Only reachable by boat, Livingston is home to Guatemala’s Caribbean culture, a world away from the Maya culture prevalent throughout the rest of the country. Combined with a boat ride from Rio Dulce along a lush, animal filled jungle scenery, followed by impressive white cliffs of the Cueva de la Vaca gorge and finally reaching the estuary to the Caribbean sea Livingston makes a great trip, even though it doesn’t have any spectacular beaches (though there are some nicer beaches a half hour boat ride north of town).
Corn Islands, Nicaragua
If you are looking to combine an affordable Caribbean island vacation with a trip to an off-the-beaten track destination, the Corn Islands are the perfect place. Located about 70 km off Nicaraguan’s Caribbean coast, the two tiny islands of Big Corn and Little Corn offer endless, empty white-sand beaches, adequate snorkeling, hundreds of palm trees and friendly locals who hook you up with fresh coconuts or fish fresh out of the ocean.

Worst travel moments

Getting sick in the Honduran fishing village, Omoa
Omoa (see ‘Most disappointing places’ above) is so tiny, it doesn’t have a supermarket, or even a bank. It was a Sunday when Dani began to suffer the wrath of tourist sickness, which meant that if there was a pharmacy, it certainly wasn’t open on a Sunday. Plus, we were about to run out of money, already depleting our limited emergency supply of dollars. Luckily, after two days, Dani was able to take the bus, and we left for Copan, where we knew there would be a clinic, but it sucked being stuck in a place like Omoa when sick.

Bug bites
Bugs love me (Jess). You name it, and if it bites or stings, that bug is aimed at me and my ‘sweet blood’. In Granada, mosquitoes ate me, more specifically my legs, alive. The mosquitoes are so bad in this city on a lake that some of the restaurants keep Off! bug spray on hand for diners. During my time in the city, however, I would imagine incidence of bites for everyone else was at an all-time low as these little vampire sucked my blood exclusively. Especially after the Dengue incident in Guatemala, I am especially spiteful toward mosquitoes. Luckily I dodged dengue this time around, but the scars on my legs will long remain.

Top travel mishaps

Bad planning: Stranded in Tegucigalpa on New Year’s Day
On 1 January we packed our stuff and left the beautiful lake Yojoa at 9am in hopes of reaching Esteli, Nicaragua by nightfall. An ambitious journey, but doable in a day. Not on a Holi-day however. First we waited an hour on the side of a highway for a bus to take us to Tegucigulpa. From there, we jumped in a taxi to where the buses to the border leave – but not on holidays. After all the to-ing and fro-ing, and re-planning, and locals telling us without a doubt that we couldn’t make it before dark, we accepted our fate of spending the night in Central America’s least safe capital. The first budget option in our guide book was shut down and the second one may have been a by-the-hour type place. We ended up overpaying for a mid-range hotel and an over-priced pizza as we comfort-ate a Pizza Hut and waiting for trip to Nicaragua to start again in the morning. The next morning we headed out to grab a coffee and have a look around the city center, and Tegucigalpa turned out not to be as scary as we thought (aside from all the gun shots and subsequent police sirens all night).

Top food moments

Gallo Pinto
This dish of rice and beans, cooked together with peppers, onions and Salsa Lizano, is the typical dish of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It is mostly eaten for breakfast but can also come with lunch or dinner. We both cannot get enough of it, no matter what time of day it is!

Baleadas are traditional Honduran food – a big flour tortilla, filled with eggs, refried beans, cream and sometimes avocado, it is usually eaten for breakfast and actually very similar to a breakfast burrito. Dani loved baleadas, but they didn’t do much for me.

Pizzeria Monna Lisa in Granada, Nicaragua
Spoiler alert: This is not street food, it’s not cheap, and it’s not even local. However, Monna Lisa serves the best pizza in all of Central America. Dani, in her love-induced post-pizza haze, would even go as far as saying the best pizza outside of Italy. The pizzas are thin crust with mouth-watering dough, baked in a real Italian stone oven. Monna Lisa also invented to-die-for dessert: Chocolate Calzones. Sure, they call it the Monna Lisa special or something, but it is pizza dough formed into a long parcel, filled with nearly an entire bar of melted chocolate and served with more chocolate sauce on top. Dani would have stayed in Granada just for this dish!

El Desayunazo in Leon, Nicaragua
This little breakfast place is a hot spot in Leon, especially at the weekends you have to come early to secure a table. Equally loved by locals, expats and tourists, El Desayunazo deserves the crown for Leon’s (or even Nicaragua’s) best breakfast place. You can choose between a large variety of Nica breakfasts (gallo pinto, eggs, cheese) and ‘Gringo’ breakfasts such as pancakes or waffles. And the best: bottomless coffee!

Read on for:

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Hotel Tip Of The Week: El Cortijo del Lago at Lake Yojoa, Honduras

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El Cortijo del Lago is the perfect place if you’re looking for a couple of days of solitude and a break from travel and sightseeing. The hotel’s name is means ‘farmhouse of the lake’, which accurately describes the experience. Located directly on the shore of Lake Yojoa, this little hotel offers spectacular views of the lake seen from the large rooms and also from large, comfortable hammocks on a screened-in porch.

With the nearest village, Pena Blanca, 7 kilometers away,  there is almost nothing around to distract you from relaxing – except for the 377 kinds of birds who call Lake Yojoa home. The birds are fascinating and are what make the lake famous. The majority of visitors are in fact birdwatchers.

We opted for the cheapest private room option for US$16 when booking online, and had rather low expectations on arrival. Talk about pleasant surprises – the room was three times the size of rooms in that price range and has a private bathroom with hot water plus a TV and fresh, soft towels. And (not that this distinction should ever have to be made) the windows are actually glass and the door is thick and sturdy, locking out mosquitoes out who would otherwise eat you up.

El Cortijo del Lago identifies as a hotel, but also has dorm beds for $8. For those travelers not on such a tight budget can stay in a larger cabin room for $24 or a lakeside cabin for $26. The family-friendly three-bedroom house on site comes with a filly equipped kitchen for $74 per night.

The owners, John, a US expat, and his Honduran wife Marta welcome you with open arms, and John happily offers boat tours of the tranquil, expansive lake. Kayaks are available for a more active way to explore the lake, and there is a National Park near Lake Yojoa. Ask John how to arrange transport, since travel connections in Honduras can prove mesmerizingly difficult to tourist destinations.

Their small staff of hardworking 20-something students go above and beyond to make your stay as comfortable as possible. The on-site restaurant serves excellent breakfast, large mugs of strong coffee and a varied dinner menu. Not surprisingly, there are plenty of fish options at this lakeside restaurant.

Stand-out features

Out on a secluded lake in under-developed Honduras, to expect Wi-Fi might seem an imaginative leap, but the wi-fi connection on the screened-in porch was speedy and reliable. We managed to avoid total relaxation by getting heaps of work done during our stay at El Cortijo.

Now back to the porch – there are two couches and three hammocks, and all have lake views. It is screened-in, keeping out mosquitoes which thrive in this humid lake environment, meaning you can spend evenings out in the hammock as well as lazing the day away in them, too. The restaurant has loads of English-language books and board games, too, for even more relaxation options.

The other excellent benefit of staying at El Cortijo de Lago is that it is the only hotel in the area with direct access to the lake, so you can just hop in the kayak or on the boat and get going.

Room for improvement

Although we had read somewhere that the hotel is vegetarian-friendly, the restaurant’s veggie options are very limited. This was disappointing considering the isolated nature of the area and distance to the nearest restaurant. We spent a quiet New Year’s Eve with John, Marta and their family, however, and the food, including the vegetarian food, was delicious, – soft long-grain rice, beans, and a few mouth-watering vegetable dishes – so we know they can do vegetarian food well.

Because most visitors to Honduras head out to the Bay Islands, gorgeous places like Lake Yojoa remain hidden gems, but due to low visitor numbers, accommodation can be over-priced or lack basic amenities visitors expect. El Cortijo del Lago manages to supply guests with everything they need for a peaceful (or very productive!) getaway.

Location: Lake Yojoa, 3 km from La Guama, which is on the main highway (CA 5) between San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. Check website for detailed arrival description.
starting at $16 for a double room, $8.00 dorms, $74.00 family apartment
LGBT Friendly:
Digital Nomad Friendly
: A resounding yes
Wi-Fi, cable TV, hot showers, hammocks, lake views, kayaks

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Reflections: 300 days on the road

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300 days on the road… almost exactly 10 months of backpacking, or flashpacking, as it were. Looking back on Day 1 arriving in Las Vegas back in April to where we are now, we still can not believe how much life, experience, adventure – and work! – we have been able to squeeze into these 300 days. Although the distance covered takes up a tiny amount of space on a world map, the quality time we have spent in the 8 countries has given us a deep understanding of Central America, Mexico, and Southwestern USA.

The most recent 100 days starts way back in Guatemala, where we finished up a ten week stay – including a much longer stint at Lake Atitlan than we had intended. We also finally said goodbye to Antigua for good (well, for now) and experienced the relaxed vibe on Guatemala’s Caribbean coast, worlds apart from the rest of the country.

After Livingston we spent a couple of weeks in Honduras, including Christmas and New Years. With the exception of Copan Ruinas, the very popular Maya ruins, we felt that we had the country to ourselves, as very few fellow travelers pass through there it seems. We enjoyed the country’s colonial towns of Gracias and Santa Rose, plus the well off-the-beaten track Lake Yojoa. It was here where we spent New Year’s Eve, with nobody but the owners of our hotel, their family, and the 377 different kinds of birds that live around the lake.

Then it was on to Nicaragua, which is Guatemala’s main contender as our favorite country in Central America. We spent six weeks here in January and February and would gladly have stayed longer. We fell in love with the city of Leon (click here our guest post on, boarded down a volcano, saw the first wild monkeys on our trip, and ticked the little known Corn Islands off our ‘1000 places to see before you die’ list. We snorkeled off of Little Corn island, and discovered that Belize is still by far the best snorkeling in Central America. We also learned that Honduras is still far from being a tourist-friendly destination whereas Costa Rica is almost an eco-Disneyland.

Costa Rica has been the most surprising country on our trip so far. I first came to the land of Pura Vida back in 1996, returned to live one year here from 1999-2000 and have made a few visits since. Although changes in Costa Rica were always evident, it has been shocking to see just how Americanized the country has become in recent years. My favorite beach in the world and former hippie paradise Montezuma has been overrun by the over 60s no-hablo-espanol crowd wearing socks and sandals. Manuel Antonio was even more of a tourist destination, but at least this area always has been. While you’re spoiled for choice in terms of activities here, and the quality of goods and services in Costa Rica are leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of Central America, the high prices and influx of U.S. ex-pats and their imported US culture has completely altered the easy-going uber-eco-friendly country I fell in love with all those years ago.

Into the Swing of Things

The period of travel fatigue we felt at the 200 days mark seems forever ago, and we are now fully ‘acclimatized’ to the rhythm of balancing travel and work. Our travel skills (trip-planning, awareness, alertness) have massively improved, so that we managed not to have a single terrible travel experience in the past 100 days. As we write this post on our 300th day of travel, the digital nomad lifestyle is so fulfilling that we have no desire to stop and can not wait for the next 100 days. – The Re-design

Our website developed the longer we were on the road, and we realized that in order to create a useful resource for budget travelers and tell our own story along the way, needed a re-design. The site has also become an additional income stream, and we needed a layout which was compatible for ads, as well as optimized for readers to share our posts and participate in conversation through a much better comment system.

Thankfully we found, run by Joanne and Jon, who as digital nomads themselves really understood our needs. We had mentioned using Peopleperhour to land remote gigs in order to support your work & travel habit, so we posted our ad there and could not have been happier with our decision. The pair was always available for us, got back to us quickly, and perfectly understood what we wanted. We can highly recommend them to any bloggers who are looking to re-design their site.

The site overhaul was easily the best decision we could have made, as our readership has been steadily growing, we have been able to begin the monetization process, and we have been contacted by countless readers who find our site useful and appreciate our tips, as well as new friends and business partners looking for collaborations on a few exciting travel projects. Watch this space for info on our most recent e-book contribution, coming soon.

Meeting fellow travel bloggers

Since setting off last year, we have met loads of travelers along the way, several of whom we ran in to again even two or three countries later along this Central American Gringo Trail.

However, our tweet-ups with fellow travel bloggers are the most memorable. We all share so much in common, combining a lifestyle of long-term travel and a lot of hard work. We have been lucky to meet up with two great bloggers in the travel community so far in Costa Rica.

We stopped by Playa del Coco, where we had drinks with The Traveling Philosopher, Spencer Spellman, before we meeting up with Nomadic Matt on the Nicoya peninsula and traveling to Manuel Antonio together where we spent our days working, hiking and seeing who could get tanner faster. (Anyone care to guess who won…sorry, I’m gloating…)

In the next couple of weeks, we are hoping to have two more tweet-ups and we’re very excited for both. In Panama hopefully we will spend some time with Breakaway Backpacker, Jaime, before meeting up with Erin and Simon from NeverEndingVoyage (a fellow digital nomad couple who left England for good!), in Panama City before we hop on a plane to Munich.

Change of plans

Yes, that’s right….we’re headed to Europe in our next 100 days. While we originally thought we would move on to South America after Panama, our plans have changed rather unexpected. A huge advantage of this digital nomad deal is that there are no rules. We have no set itinerary, and we are free to change our plans whenever we’d like. A fantastic house-sit opportunity in German Alps came our way, and after 9 months straight of Central America travel, we were more than ready for a spontaneously refreshing change.

We will use the house in the Alps as a base to explore Newschwanstein Castle, go up on Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitze, eat hundreds of pretzels, see some more of Austria and breathe in buckets of fresh spring air while hiking in the mountains. Oh, plus catch up on a million and one projects, ideas, and blog posts we have on our minds.

After our house-sit we’ll travel to Italy and Spain before returning to North America in June, when we are headed to Canada, we are doing another house-sit, and exploring Montreal, Toronto and the Canadian countryside. From there it’s New York City mid-August….and then our plans are not certain. Road trip through the U.S. South to New Orleans? Down the eastern Seaboard? Will we continue our journey through Latin America afterwards or go to Asia first? We don’t know! But then again, we don’t know if any of these plans are certain. If there is one thing we have learned in the past 100 days, is that we are free to be anywhere in the whole world the two of us would like to be!

Continue here for our tops and flops of our last 100 days on the road.

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Goodbye 2010: Our year of travel in pictures

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An amazing year is coming to an end – our first as full-time travelers! Rather than rattle off a list of everywhere we’ve been, check out our year in pictures, from the pre-trip ‘planning’ phase to the rather unexpected place where we are ringing in the New Year!

In January we made the semi-spontaneous decision to become digital nomads and to leave London, where we had been living since 2007.

In February, we packed up our apartment and Dani drove a few boxes to her hometown of Erfurt in Germany, where she stored our stuff and said goodbye to friends and family.

Jess did the same in March, home in chilly Chicago.

In April, we met again in Britain and spent one last ‘stay-cation’ in the seaside town of Brighton, before starting off the trip of a lifetime:

We started our adventure in Las Vegas, of all places…

…before heading to San Francisco up the Pacific Coast Highway in May, the first of many road trips to come.

June saw us exploring the Arizona desert during our Tucson house-sit, then the canyons (Antelope, Canyon de Chelly and the Grand Canyon) in the north during one last road trip in the U.S.

We stopped in Los Angeles again in July…

…and from there we flew into Mexico City, where we started our Mexican adventure.

We spent August exploring Southern Mexico from Oaxaca to the Pacific Coast, San Cristobal, Palenque and the Yucatan.

In September we discovered the beautiful beaches of Belize

…and in October we began our two-month tour of Guatemala, which included Mayan villages, market towns, volcano climbing, the colonial town of Antigua and Lake Atitlan.

In November, we took a 2-week detour to El Salvador, where we found some rough Pacific beaches, hiked a volcano crater and visited colonial towns like  Suchitoto (pictured) and those on the Ruta de las Flores.

In December, we headed to Honduras, where we finished the ‘Maya trail’ by visiting the last of the series of Maya ruins at Copan. We’re ringing in the New Year at Lake Yojoa, before heading to Nicaragua to start of 2011!

Happy travels to all fellow travelers and happy New Year to all our readers out there!

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Polaroid of the week: Honduran Cowboys

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Crossing from Guatemala into Honduras, the first thing we noticed is that we had left the Mayan culture behind. Immediately gone were the colorful indigenous trajes. The Honduran women dress fairly similar to women in the U.S. or Europe: jeans, heels, and tank tops or other pretty tops. Many of the men, however, wear a stereotypical cowboy outfit – leather cowboy boots, jeans, a fancy leather belt, button down shirt and of course the indispensable cowboy hat. Although some of the younger men and teenagers opt for a flashy modern style, both older and younger men are keeping the cowboy tradition alive and well and it is fun to watch the ‘boys gather in the town square in full cowboy gear. What makes it different to rural Texas is the long, very sharp machete hanging proudly by their sides. Still not used to that!

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Polaroid of the week: Coloured Christmas chicks in Honduras

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Check out these colorful chicks! An Easter custom in the Middle East and Asia, we found baskets filled with multi-colored chicks here in Copan, Honduras in celebration of Christmas.

Giggling children of all ages huddle around the colorful creatures, buying them up two at a time for 5 Lempiras or US$0.26 each. Though the practice makes the kids happy, it seems ethically questionable. Farmers claim that the chemicals injected into the chicken fetus in the egg are non-toxic and do not harm the chicks. Scientists disagree. The bright blue, pink, green and yellow lasts a few weeks until the chicks grow their new feathers, anyway.

Wishing you a Feliz Navidad from Honduras!

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