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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
Transport:
Buses are between $2 and $4, the most expensive bus ride was $7.
Food:
$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
Transport:
Buses are seriously cheap here, between $1 – $2, with the most expensive bus ride costing $4.
Food:
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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Tags : Backpacking Budget Central Americalong-term travel budget

137 Comments

  1. I can’t thank you ladies enough for the wealth of knowledge that I have gained about this region due to your site! I am using it as a borderline-bible for my trip next year.

  2. I’m glad to see that you kept under about $30 a day for the most part – makes me feel better about my upcoming weeks of travel.

    I’m actually finding it quite hard to keep my costs down (studying Spanish for 2 weeks really raised my daily costs quite a bit), and given I’m currently on Roatan I want to cry every time I pay for a meal!

    Great post, as usual 🙂

      1. I thought so…I paid about $12 for a bowl of noodles one evening (ok, so noodles would probably cost almost that much on the mainland, too), full day trips were around $70, a souvenir t-shirt was priced at $22 and it was impossible to bargain.

        Had amazing rotisserie-style chicken one night and it was a huge amount of food but I could have got an identical meal at a BBQ chicken shop in Sydney for the same price ($10).

        I haven’t really warmed to Central American food thus far (I am so kicking myself for skipping Mexico) and I got incredibly sick right before I left Guatemala, so I’ve been eating more than my fair share of western style food which bumps my average costs up straight away anyway.

        1. And I was also there on the two days that cruise ships dock – that’s probably why the prices are so high and it’s impossible to bargain.

          Also, price of diving courses (to get your Padi – per tank it was $35) were comparable to the Great Barrier Reef in Aust.

  3. An amazing article! Rarely are travelers able to really break down their spending in a way others can understand and adapt to their own travel style. Thanks so much for the great information!

    1. Thank you Susie – we are keeping track of our expenses to the penny and we just want to show that travel doesn’t have to be expensive.

  4. This is a great, comprehensive breakdown for people who are looking to travel long-term. I have traveled through all the countries you mentioned, although for just 3 months. I spent most of my time in Guatemala though. I am so surprised to see that you spent less per day in Costa Rica! This time around I am only hanging in Nicaragua and your figure per day is right on target!

    1. Hi Claire, happy to see that our numbers seem to be in the same range as other travelers expenses. Which country is your favorite in Central America? I hope you enjoyed all of them – 3 months is plenty of time to get to know Central America!

  5. Thanks alot for posting all this info, i’m planning on heading to south and central america in a few months and have been hearing so many different views on the cost of it all, but this has been BY FAR the most helpful.

    Cheers.

    BTW, would indulging a fair bit in nightlife drive up my costs too much, i’ve heard of some good nightlife, and are the local(not too touristy) bars easily found or are they dying out?

    Cheers again.

  6. These are the most helpful kind of posts! You have inspired me to get my act together and post my budget from Honduras last year though I’m embarrassed to say I spent almost double what you did per day! We were only there two weeks though and I sometimes think with shorter trips your per day budget shoots up as you try to cram in all the fun.

  7. I made a post earlier but then something happeneds with my computer and i’m not sure if it went through or not, but anyway…

    Thanks for posting all this info on here, I plan on heading to south and central america in a few months and i have so far had so much trouble hearing different peoples stories on the costs of south and central america, but this has been BY FAR the most helpful info i have heard so far.

    Cheers.

    BTW, I’ve heard of some good nightlife in central america and i was wondering if this would really drive my costs up, and i’d just like to know if there are plenty of local(not too touristy) beachside bars(shacks), or are these dying out in favour of flashier bars and restaurants.

    Cheers again.

    1. Hi Matt, thanks so much for the props, that’s awesome, and really glad we could help. Don’t worry about the nightlife issue at all. There are really countless places to have a great time without going to a club or flashy bars. First of all there are loads of gringo bars where scrubby nomads like us don’t have to get too dressed up, and then there are also local bars where no one would ever pay US prices for beer, etc. You’ll definitely be able to drink on the cheap! Hope that helps!

  8. Hi Globe trotter Girls,

    What fantastic travels you’ve had! Thank you so much for posting this really helpful budget! Exactly the type of information I was looking for!

    Thanks again, keep up the good work!
    Kate

  9. I’m always amazed when I read your blog on how little it costs you to travel so far and see so much. What about bed bugs?
    Do you ever get hassled traveling with just the two of you?
    You must be two of the most amazing young women. Obviously the information you provide is really helpful for your fellow backpacker travelers. When do you find the time to bookkeep. Keep up the good work. I really enjoy your blog.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment and your kind words, Lyn! We actually were harassed by bed bugs a couple of times, and it was not a pleasant experience!! We usually look at the rooms before we decide to check into a guesthouse / hostel / hotel, and if it doesn’t seem 100 % clean, we go somewhere else 😉

      About the book keeping – it’s not that hard to keep track if you do it every day for a few minutes, but although we are very good at keeping track of our expenses, we are NOT very good at setting a budget that we stick to 🙂

  10. Thanks so much, this information is incredibly valuable as I plan my trip down to Central America. It’s going to be a mix of volunteer travel and being a “digital nomad,” so it’s relieving to see that it can be so affordable. Now it’s just a matter of traveling slow and hitting the hostel bar in moderation. Thanks, I’ll definitely be reading more!

    1. Thanks a lot, Dan! Great to hear that you’re heading to Central America – Guatemala and Nicaragua are still our favorite countries! Nicaragua is a great place for cheap beer, btw 🙂

  11. Hi girls. I’ve recently stumbled across your blog and I can happily say you’ve been the reason I haven’t moved from my computer in days.
    I know it’s been a while since this post but I’m soon going to be travelling from Mexico to Guatemala and then to Costa Rica and I was wondering what your thoughts were on bussing it vs flying. I’m a female travelling solo and obviously concerned about safety. How did you girls find it? Thanks

    1. Hello Hayley, thanks so much 🙂 We’re so happy to hear that you’re planning to travel through Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica – still some of our favorite countries! We traveled exclusively by bus in Central America, we only took one flight out to Nicaragua’s Corn Islands. We found the bus travel very safe and I know plenty of female solo travelers who didn’t encounter any problems either. Most of the time, you’ll have fellow backpackers on the bus anyway. Mexico had by far the best bus system – modern, clean, and usually on time. In Guatemala we took the local chicken buses everywhere but if you feel safer in a ‘tourist shuttle’ (usually mini-vans), they are available from and to all the major destinations, they are cheap and can be booked in most of the guesthouses (and all hostels). There is also a big bus company (Tika Bus) which connects Guatemala & Costa Rica – it’s a three day ride (incl. 2 nights hotel) but the tickets are reasonable and you don’t have to worry about changing local buses many times. On the chicken buses, your backpack usually gets thrown on top of the bus, and in the beginning we panicked every time if our stuff would be safe, but after a while you get used to it. Just make sure to always keep your day pack on you & don’t put it in the overhead department (if there is one :D) – Let us know if we can help out with anything else and enjoy your trip to Central America!

  12. Hi! My name’s Ela and I’m also planning a solo trip this summer around Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras!! I’ve been reading your blog and it’s amazing!! Thank you so much for all your advice 🙂 It’s absolutely amazing! 🙂

    1. Hi Ela, great to hear you’re heading to Central America, still our favorite place in the world 🙂 Are you planning to visit Guatemala as well (our favorite together with Nicaragua). Please let us know if we can help out with any specific recommendations / tips, and enjoy your trip!

      1. I would love to go to Guatemala, but I can only go for 6 weeks, and it looks like there’s just so much to do in Nicaragua and Costa Rica I can barely even fit Honduras in! Thanks for the offer! I do have a question, do you recommend any cities to visit for a few days in Costa Rica?

        1. I don’t think you’ll need a lot of time for Honduras, unless you want to go out to the islands. Copan was the only major attraction and we barely saw any other tourists anywhere else. Lake Yojoa was beautiful, but I don’t think it’s exciting when you travel by yourself, unless you’re looking for a few days of solitude. Costa Rica: I’d definitely recommend Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean side (close to the border with Panama), we went to some fantastic beaches down there and you can take a day trip to Cahuita National Park. If you don’t want to go that far south, Manual Antonio on the Pacific side is also really nice (beaches and National Park) but much busier. We also enjoyed the cloud forest in Monteverde. There are some great beaches on the Nicoya Peninsula, like Montezuma, Samara and Santa Teresa (best for surfing) but it’s hard to get around there. Arenal National Park is also nice if you’d like to see the volcano, but you could also do a volcano tour from Leon in Nicaragua or climb up Masaya (not far from Granada).

  13. Really informative, thank you so much! The only thing that wasn’t mentioned was the cost of transportation and how easy it was to get to each city. If you have any information regarding transportation, I would greatly appreciate it! Cheers!! I am anamored with your life!!

    1. Taylor – most of the towns are very well connected. We almost never had problems getting from city to city, only in very remote areas. If you let us know which places you plan to visit, I’d be happy to send you the exact costs for the buses.

  14. Hi Girls!

    Like everyone else, I found your post so useful! I’m planning to travel round the world next year for 20 months.
    Want to spend approx. 5 months travelling from Cancun in Mexico down to Argentina before flying over to Hawaii.
    Because of the extent of my trip I’m really looking at a shoe string budget, and as a solo traveller I’ll probably be staying in hostels all the time (12 bed dorms – bring it on!! :P)
    Might even do some couch surfing (Heard of that? Check out the site, had an amazing experience couch-surfing in Florida)

    But I digress, 🙂 My question is, without the “splurging” and taking into account I’ll be in dorm rooms – How much do you think I could cut the budget down to?
    Would be much appreciated! 🙂

    Thanks again for the great post,
    Amy

    1. Hi Amy, thanks for getting in touch! Your trip sounds fantastic – and yes, we’ve heard of couchsurfing and are big fans. We had a great experience just recently in Singapore. A lot of bloggers who we followed through South America had fantastic CS hosts there. Our friend Jaime traveled through Central America & Mexico from March to June last year – check out his budget here: http://breakawaybackpacker.com/category/c/page/2/. He stayed in dorms and posted all the prices throughout his trip. I think you should still calculate around $30 per day – in some countries you’ll spend more, in some less.. Enjoy your trip and let us know if we can help out with anything else 🙂

  15. Hey,
    Thanks for all the information.. Really helpful and a great insight. Just wondering, do you remember any names of these hostel/guesthouses you managed to get for such a good price? I will be going to Central America for 6 weeks and have a similar budget. We are going to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Mexico. Any help would be awesome.

    1. Hi Alex, you are very welcome. If you click on our ‘Accommodation’ section and select the countries you are looking for, you’ll find the hostels and guesthouses we stayed at that we highly recommend. (They also come up in each country category). Particularly memorable were the Casa Linda Backpackers in Manuel Antonio / Costa Rica, the Yellow House in Antigua / Guatemala, La Candelaria in Valladolid / Mexico and the Colibri in Leon / Nicaragua. If you email us a list of the places you’re looking to visit, I’d be happy to send you a list of all the places we stayed at and if we’d recommend them.

  16. I’m trying to plan a month with my 3 kids next summer (they will be 11,13, 15)
    any thoughts/ideas for us would be awesome.

    1. Linda – how much time will you have? I think Costa Rica is definitely the safest option for a family trip, however, at the same time it’s the most expensive country. Costa Rica has the best beaches though, the wildlife is amazing and you can hike to waterfalls, visit a cloud forest or explore volcanoes. If you are looking for a more cultural experience, I would recommend Guatemala or Mexico. In Mexico you could combine the Maya ruins of the Yucatan (Tulum and Chichen Itza) with some beach time on the Riviera Maya. Are you planning to visit only one country or more than one? We’d be happy to send you some specific recommendations if you let us know how much time you’ll have.

  17. hello girls, awesome blog!
    I guess you had the same question before, but just to make sure i would like to ask again:
    you traveled from place to place by bus, but what kind of bus is the cheapest to get from lets say honduras to guatemala?
    (i am planning the trip from belize to costa rica)
    and I would like to ask how did you decide where to go? if I am at the carribbean side and would like to go to the pacific side, is it still possible to move by bus?
    all the best 🙂

    1. Hi Emilie, we actually took the local chicken buses, not the big trans-country buses. We’d just look up in our guidebook (we traveled with the Footprint) which bus would go for example from San Ignacio (in Belize) to the Guatemalan border), and then which bus we’d have to take in Guatemala to get where we wanted to (Flores). Usually there are always very good connections to and from the border – we barely had to take a taxi to get to the immigration / emigration offices. The guidebooks (Lonely Planet too) have very detailed information on public transport and tell you exactly how to get from one place to the other. You can definitely cross from the Caribbean to the Pacific coast, but it’ll include a lot of changing buses. Hope this helps! Enjoy your trip 🙂

  18. Hey,
    Thanks so much for your blog. The insight into your travels is fantastics and you have definitely made planning my big adventure for 2013 MUCH easier.

    I plan on going through the 7 countries in Central America in about 2 months time. With your travels through the region, do you think this will be enough time?

    The other thing that I have to consider is internet access. I’m very grateful for a job that allows me to work wherever I want, as long as I have phone and internet access. I probably only need a SOLID connection for 1-2 hours a day, but I know I can definitely take some time away if I need to.

    Lastly, I’ll be coming from Portland, OR. I’m debating flying in to Mexico and busing it from there, or would you recommend flying into one of the Central American countries? I don’t particularly have a desire to go through Mexico, but I figure I’ll be down there, I may as well visit. Thoughts? Thanks again.

    1. Hi Ben,

      Thanks a lot for getting in touch! First of all – all seven countries in two months time is quite ambitious to be honest (especially when you’re working at the same time), but it is doable. You can easily only spend a week in Belize, El Salvador and Honduras, and even Panama can be done in a week – if you only spend a week in Costa Rica as well, that’d leave you 1.5 weeks for each Guatemala and Nicaragua, which is very little time for each place (and we highly recommend spending most of your time in these countries!) but if you don’t mind moving around every 2nd or 3rd day, you can do it. I wouldn’t plan on seeing anything of Mexico though. We flew into Mexico City and were blown away by the country – we thought we might spend two to three weeks there and ended up staying 11 weeks. My recommendation would be to either look for cheap flights to Panama City and then work your way up, or maybe start in Belize (there are sometimes affordable flights to Belize City). If you’re planning to bus it from Mexico City, it will take two days to get to Guatemala. Another option would be to fly into Cancun and take the bus straight down to Chetumal (the border town with Belize, 6 hours by bus). And if you have the chance to extend your trip for two or four weeks – do it!! There are so many amazing places in that region and you will want to spend more than a couple of days in most of them.

      About the internet – we did have a good connection in most places, and as long as we stayed ‘on the tourist trail’. Where we struggled with a good enough connection to skype was on Caye Caulker (Belize), anywhere in Honduras beyond Copan (Copan has great wi-fi everywhere) – Guatemala has good internet in Antigua and on Lake Atitlan, but even in Chichi and Lanquin we had a decent connection. El Salvador had good internet and Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua had very good internet in most places. Feel free to get in touch again once you’ve made a detailed plan which places you’d like to go to and we can give you some recommendations for cafe and guesthouses with good wi-fi. I hope this helps for now!

      1. Thanks so much for your help. We’re working on the details of our trip over the next few months. I’ll definitely be in touch for some more advice along the way. Thanks!

    2. Hi! I’m from Portland too and I live in El Salvador now. The cheapest way I’ve found into Central America for us usually is through Guatemala City. For some reason, there’s a lot of connections (also I’ve never met so many Oregonians in Guate! it’s crazy, and I’m still trying to figure out why!) One option I do often is Portland to Fort Lauderdale (FLL), and then Spirit Airlines usually has cheap flights from there to Guate and other CA airports.

      Just be aware that Spirit charges for everything so you really have to add up everything to see if you’re saving any money. Usually, you do, but there have been times when it’s the same as a direct flight. Happy travels!

    3. Hi Benjamin,
      Your post stood out to me as I to am in portland Oregon going to travel Central America in March 2014. I will be traveling with my husband and daughter (who will be three). I wanted to know how your experience went. My email is [email protected] if you want to talk offline.
      Thanks
      Amy

  19. Hey girls,

    Your blog is great. I’m finding it really helpful. I am planning a trip to CA this october for approx 11 weeks. I may be going solo; this is still up in the air. That being said, is there any concerns I should have about this? Did you find CA generally safe? I know that’s a loaded question.. I plan to be safe and smart and only travel to touristy/backbacker places. Also, I know minimal spanish (would love to take classes once I’m there). Do you think i’ll be able to get by ok?

    Thanks so much 🙂
    Steph

    1. Hi Steph, thanks so much! Yes, I would definitely say that CA is generally safe. Of course there are some places that are a little bit dodgy, and we were no big fans of any of the capitals (stay away if you can) – except for Panama City – but overall, we always felt safe. Exception: Honduras – but even though we felt a bit unease at times, nothing happened to us. You will definitely be able to get by okay – there are so many solo female travelers, you will meet plenty of other backpackers everywhere. I will send you some more details in an email – enjoy your trip to CA!

  20. Alright, It looks like I may split my trip in two. One month this spring (March or April) and then two months next winter (Dec/Jan 13/14).
    If I’m only there for a month this spring, where do you recommend? I’m thinking spending the whole time in Nicaragua or Costa Rica. Thoughts?

    1. Only for a month.. that’s tough, Benjamin! You could definitely spend a month in either country – it depends on how much money you have / are willing to spend. Nicaragua is easily half as expensive as Costa Rica. Costa Rica is better for wildlife and activities (ziplining, rafting, surfing, hiking, National Parks, …) whereas Nicaragua is more for experiencing life in the little colonial towns (with some fun activities like volcano boarding though). I’d probably split my time – if you decide which places you want to see in each country, we’d be happy to give you an idea how much time to plan in for each place.

  21. We travelled Central America earlier this year and went from Cancun to Panama City- loved it! Really enjoy your site! We set a budget of $100 a day, we aren’t budget travellers but didn’t spluge in luxury, we found it a nice amount, obviously you can do it for cheaper as you have proved!
    Looking forward to hearing about your South American Adventure, we went from Panama to Bolivia and did some of South, loved it!!

    1. Thanks, Charli! We are excited to finally visit South America – the original plan was to travel from Mexico all the way down to Argentina but then we ended up flying from Panama to Europe instead (on a whim!) We will now make our way south to north, and maybe even ending in Panama again – we’d love to sail from Colombia to Panama and see the San Blas Islands.. did you do this sail?

  22. Hi Girls thank you so much! How did you find safety in these areas? Two of us are thinking of traveling there, but as two females we are unsure about safety issues. Many Thanks, Vanessa 🙂

    1. Hi Vanessa, thanks for your comment! We stayed away from the capitals in most of the Central American countries (they can be a bit dodgy – especially Managua and Guatemala City) and we were fine everywhere else. Central America is a pretty safe place and we never felt threatened anywhere or had problems traveling as two females.

  23. Hey girls! Awesome blogs and I appreciate seeing all the answers to questions. So, I am heading to Central America solo in January with $5000. From your budget it seems that should last me about 6 months. I am hoping to start in Guatemala and end in Panama. Some questions
    1. What/ How much did you pack?
    2. How was passing through borders? Any problems?
    3. Did you fly out of the same city you came in to? Still trying to figure out the getting back home to the States part. Did you buy a round-trip ticket?
    Awesome to see i am not alone with my crazy desires to travel! 🙂

    1. Hi Jessie, thanks a lot for your comment! I think you will be fine with your budget for six months. Does it include your airfare or not? We actually didn’t fly in and out of the same place – we started in Mexico and worked our way south, flying out of Panama City. We managed to find some good deals on airfare though. The border crossings were always fine – only in Panama and Costa Rica they wanted to see proof for onward travel. So make sure you’ll buy a bus ticket or plane ticket online before you get to these two places. Some of the other crossings (Honduras / Nicaragua) were a bit shady, there are always dodgy people hanging out there, just make sure to have your money and credit cards in a safe place (we used money belts and had some $$$ in our shoes). We actually always changed money at the borders from these shady-looking guys, but their exchange rate was usually very good (just know the rate from the currency you have to the currency you want). About packing – we are the worst packers! We always carry too much, to be honest. We ditched some of the things we traveled through Central America with – mosquito net, sleeping sheets, malaria pills – we just never used them and they took up a lot of our room in our packs. Some of the best things we packed were a flashlight (you’ll need one at Lake Atitlan where there is little street light at night), some tea lights (there were power outages), a Swiss army knife (cut fresh fruit & open bottles), some cutlery and more than enough SD cards (hard to come by in most CA countries). Ayngelina from BaconIsMagic actually has a great packing list for Central America: http://www.baconismagic.ca/pre-trip-planning/do-you-think-i-packed-too-much/ and also check out http://herpackinglist.com/2011/12/ultimate-female-travel-packing-lists/. Have a great trip!

  24. Jess, firstly fabulous blog site and so good to find fellow ladies who love travelling with good wine:) I am just about to head through Central America for 10 weeks and would love your thoughts as to how you would divide that time between countries….I don’t do whistle stop, am complelty flexible and can’t wait. Thanks again Sarah 🙂

    1. Hi Sarah, awesome to hear that you are heading to Central America for ten weeks! It’s hard to say how to divide time between countries. Our favorite two places were Guatemala and Nicaragua, so I would definitely allow more time there than in other places 😉 If your budget is tight, I would advise to spend only little time in Belize – everything we did there was pretty expensive. Guatemala and Nicaragua were definitely the cheapest places we visited. Honduras was our least favorite, so depending on where you want to go here, you could only spend a week here – most people only visit Copan and don’t stay longer than 3 days. El Salvador is pretty small, you can definitely see a lot there in 7 or 10 days, depending on how fast you’re willing to move from place to place. Costa Rica has plenty of places that are worth visiting, but it’s also more expensive than the other Central American countries, which is why most people spend only a few days or a couple of weeks here. If you are planning to spend some time at a beach somewhere though, I’d recommend Costa Rica for that.. definitely the prettiest beaches in CA! You also don’t need a lot of time for Panama – you can also see a lot in 7 to 10 days depending on where you’re planning to visit in Panama. I hope that helps a bit 🙂 Enjoy your trip!

  25. Dear Girls, I’m thinking of heading down from Nicaragua to Ecuador and back by bus. What do you think about that? As a young woman I will travel alone. Plane tickets are quite expensive and there is so much to experience in the way to get there I can imagine.
    Nice reading some of your posts, thanks for all this knowlegde.

    1. Hi Nicky, thanks for getting in touch! We think that Latin America is the perfect place for a solo trip by bus – and pretty safe. Even though we’re a couple, we met lots of solo female travelers there, it actually really surprised us. We traveled by local chicken buses the entire time and found them easy (and super cheap!) to get around on. Especially since you are thinking of starting in Nicaragua, which means you won’t have to deal with the buses in countries like Guatemala or Honduras, where it CAN be a bit dodgy sometimes.

      We also recommend checking out the websites of our fellow female travel bloggers who traveled through Central America on their own: Ayngelina from http://www.baconismagic.ca/, Megan from http://www.onmywayrtw.com/, Stephanie http://www.thetravelchica.com.

  26. so very helpfull.. My husband and I are going to honduras for Christmas to visit his family. He has not returned to his home country in 19 years, so has no idea of how things are now or how much they cost.Your blog gives me an idea for a base budget. We will only be there for 2 weeks but i am sure his family will graciously allow us to foot the bill for us and them. I know they have it WAY harder than we do here(thats why we send monthly support) but the hints are already getting old. “when you get here YOU can take us out to eat” I know i sounds awefull but sometimes i wish they would just tell my husband “we can’t wait to see you” . anyway do you know average prices for sit down resturants? thanks again for all your information

  27. Wow! What an amazing page i have discovered!!! Ladies your travel info is very helpful. I have only recently had Central America on my radar-there were other places i had prioritised-and,to be honest, i was concerned about the dangers,robberies etc. So many websites are still advising of the dangers of travelling in some parts,robberies,armed bandits robbing buses and coaches etc etc,so to hear of stories of ‘first hand’ knowledge such as yours,puts my mind at ease. I am sure there ARE the odd robbery and other such things but, i suppose you will get that anywhere in the world wont you? Providing it is no longer so prevalent then it sounds to me like this is a trip worth making? Thankyou so much for all your advice and for putting my mind at rest. By the way, i am also hoping to go to Peru,Ecuador and Galapagos Islands and the region at some point. Have you been around that way at any time? I would appreciate any help you can give please. Thankyou again,and all the best in your future travels. Martin (UK)

    1. Martin, thanks so much for your comment! We often meet people who are scared to travel through Central America, but the region is actually pretty safe and we met hundreds of other backpackers while traveling there who all LOVED it and didn’t have a single problem. You are right, there is the odd robbery, and some of the capitals are better avoided (Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa, Managua) but you can work your way around them and you will be fine. Even in Honduras, the only country in CA where we didn’t always feel safe, nothing happened to us nor to other travelers we met. Central America still is one of our favorite destinations of all travels. We are en route to Peru and Ecuador, but we still have to see a lot in Chile, Argentina and Bolivia – it’ll take us a few more months until we get there 🙂 We’ll write about these places once we’ve been there, of course. Let us know when you’re headed in that direction and maybe our paths will cross somewhere. Enjoy your travels!

  28. I’m heading to Central America in just a few months after the Caribbean. I totally love your blog post with exact numbers of how much I expect to spend on the trip. thank you very much. Greetings from MOROCCO!

  29. hi. thank you for all the info. i am from belize and i stumbled upon your page about the different central american countries. very useful info. but how did you get from point a to b. how much did it cost you. what was the best one for you. am thinking about visiting for a month. i noticed the currency online for costa rica is great. are things there really that cheap? or is the cost of living that high? i am taking 1500USD. any info would be appreciated. thanks

  30. Hi Girls,

    Just stumbled across your website and have spent the last hour reading the comments when i should have been working… Oh well.

    I am planning on doing South America from mid Nov13-Mid Mar14 and wondered if you thought i could squeeze in some of Central America too? Dont want to rush the trip but if i can head more north then wold love to do soo. Any advice would be greatly appreciated

    1. Thanks for getting in touch! I wouldn’t recommend doing both – we spent three months in South America and barely touched the surface. You can spend four months in Central America alone – if you try to do both, you’d seriously have to rush. Four months in South America is already pretty tight, i.e. you’ll be moving around a lot, depending on how many countries you’re planning to visit. We’d recommend rather not to rush and make Central America a separate trip 🙂

  31. Finally!!! I found a blog that gives me the information i want! Love your blog, it’s awesome, and I appreciate all the helpful information 🙂 Me and my friend are planning on traveling through centralamerica from march to may, we are begining our trip in jan in Rio de janeiro, and are spending two months there until Carnival (My friend kind of has a boyfriend there, that’s why we spending a longer time there)!

    We are thinking of spending 8-10 weeks inc CA. We would like to go from Mexico down to Panama but is this unrealistic, we don’t want to be stressing trough it! Or should we be there longer?
    My friend has a budget of 2400 dollars and i have 3900 dollars, we may split up depending on the money due to different budgets! Then airfare is already paid.

    My questions are:
    Is it cheaper to buy a planeticket when we are there on place or is it cheaper to buy in advance? I am thinking of the ticket back home?

    Do you think 8-10 weeks are to short to travel through CA? In that case what countries do you think we should spend most of our time in?

    Keep on the good writing i’ll be following you 🙂

    Miranda, Sweden

  32. Hi girls! I was wondering where you found such cheap accommodations. Did you plan your accommodations before you travelled to the area or during your travels? I’m going to Central America for 3 months in November and I’m really trying to find out where exactly to start my planning, it seems like there are so many aspects of backpacking to cover. It’s all so overwhelming!

    1. Hi Kayla, thanks for getting in touch! We actually didn’t book many hostels / guesthouses in advance when we traveled through Central America, but just checked out some hostels that were recommended in guidebooks when we arrived in a town – most of them were walkable. In bigger cities or more popular towns (like Antigua) we’d usually book a cheap hostel with good reviews through Hostelbookers.com or Booking.com for a night or two, and then check out some other hostels once we got there. Whenever we met other travelers who just came from the town that we planned to visit next, we’d ask them for personal recommendations. It seems a bit overwhelming in the beginning but you’ll get into the swing of things really quickly once you hit the road. Enjoy your trip through Central America and let us know if we can help with anything else 🙂

  33. Fantastic article! For United States citizens, is it any trouble getting visas at the border for each country? Did you need proof of onward passage or were you able to coast on through?

    I have all of January off and I’d like to bus from Austin, Texas through Mexico (with the occasional stop) and visit all of the Central American countries for under $1000 — $1200 max. My Spanish is…Enough to find the necessities and have a drunken conversation but will improve before then if I commit. Can you help me with a budget and itinerary? I’m big on history and nature, not so big into parties and group tours. Do love local food and photogenic spots!

  34. Hello.First of all your article is great.i loved it.i have one question.so , if fosr 6 months you spend like 10000 dolars,for 3 months will come like 5000 dolars yea???

    1. Hi, our numbers are based on two people traveling together. For three months, it would be $2500 per person – but I’d add a little bit more and would estimate more like $1000 per person per month, or at least $30 per day on average- to be on the safe side 🙂 In the end, it depends on which countries you visit and how long you spend in each place.

  35. Hi guys,

    Thank you for this information. My partner and I are going to central America for around 6 weeks. Firstly, if you were to do the trip again, how would you divide these 6 weeks up. We are probably looking at spending 2 weeks in Mexico and a week in Belize and then not too sure after that as to be honest don’t know many people that have been to the other countries to offer their opinions.

    Secondly, our biggest worry is getting around. After reading so much conflicting information we think that the best option would be to travel to the main cities by something like Ticabus but then not sure how to travel around the actual countries themselves. I am currently in South East Asia where travel is easy and safe but worry that this may not be the case. I need a bit of an idiots guide on this!

    Hope you are able to help and thanks,

    Donna

    1. Hi Donna, great to hear you’re visiting Central America! I’d probably add Guatemala and Nicaragua to your trip, they were our favorite places in CA, and trying to see more would simply be too stressful. I might even just say spend three weeks in Guatemala, which you can fill easily. About getting around – we traveled with the Footprint guide book then which had excellent recommendations for which bus companies to take to get around in between places. If you’re in South East Asia at the moment and able to handle getting around there, you’ll be fine in Central America! For the most recent information on how to get around we always recommend WikiTravel which we usually find very reliable and up-to-date. I hope this helps, but feel free to email us for more specific advice. Enjoy your trip!

  36. Hi there,
    I am planing on going to Panama City with my boyfriend for 3 nights and then go to San Blas Islands for 17 days and just wondering how much aprox it will be for person.

    Thanks in advance,

    Cheers,

    Gaby

  37. Hi girls,

    This blog is so helpful I can’t thank you enough.

    I’ve got 3 months and a week in Central America before travelling to Bolivia and Peru for a month and a half.

    I just wondered if you could give a rough estimation of how long you’d spend in each of the central american countries in this period.

    I start in Mexico city and work my way down to Panama city.

    I start in 2 weeks 🙂

    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Alistair, great to hear from you! If you have 13 weeks (that’s correct, right?) I’d suggest you spend them as follows:
      3 weeks in Mexico
      1 week in Belize
      2 weeks in Guatemala
      1 week in Honduras
      1 week in El Salvador
      2 weeks in Nicaragua
      2 weeks in Costa Rica
      1 week in Panama.

      Please feel free to get in touch again for more detailed information! Enjoy your trip!!

      1. Thanks for the reply Dani 🙂

        I actually have 14 weeks so can split those extra 7 days a couple here and a couple there. Looks like a good spread you’ve suggested which I really appreciate.

        Have you ever been to Mexico City? Hostel recommendations off the top of your travelled heads.

        Likewise did you phone ahead with a local phone to hostels or book online as I read some don’t pick up online reservations in a few articles.

        Thanks again

  38. Hey there! First off, I can’t get enough of your blog and your info has been so helpful! Three of us are going to Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua for three weeks next Tuesday. Do you have any recommendations for hospedajas/private room hostels that we can stay in on a budget? Any places you stayed that you particularly enjoyed?

    We are not sure where which cities we’re going to visit yet, but I have a list of places I am interested in: Roatan, Antigua, Xela, Lake Antitlan, Ometepe, and Masaya Leon, San Juan del Sur, (we are flying into San Pedro Sula). Also, any recommendations for cities to visit and things to do would be great!

  39. Hi Dany!

    I wanted to let you know how incredibly helpful and interesting this site is! I’ve been looking at it periodically for a little while.

    It turns out that I may be able to take a one month trip to Central America in July (a little last-minute, but I am waiting to hear back about a possible summer commitment so I can’t book any flights until then). I’ve been reading through your CA posts and it is making me really excited – and also a bit torn! I’m primarily interested in Guatemala and Nicaragua. As I said, I’ll have a full month. I’m debating between trying to squeeze them both in along with Honduras, or just staying in either country for the entire month. Do you have any strong opinion or suggestions about this? I really enjoy hiking, smaller cities, and hanging out with people I’ve met on the road, but I’m not really a beach person. I’m an experienced traveler and speak decent Spanish. I’ll also be traveling on a budget (so this post has been very helpful and heartening!).

    I’d appreciate any advice! Thanks so much for keeping up with the blog. I’m looking forward to hearing about your upcoming adventures!

  40. Hi ladies, this website is really fantastic! It’s been hard to find other website as informative and easy to digest as this! Just a few small questions. I’m planning on travelling to Mexico City from mid Jan to mid Feb for a course and hope to travel around for about a month or so beforehand. What countries in Central America would you recommend most for a single traveller (female) on a budget with limited time? I love jam packing my holidays but because I have limited time I was thinking I may only be able to fit in 1 or 2 other countries (if I’m lucky).

    Cheers guys!

    1. Hi Anne-Marie, thanks so much for the kind words! I would definitely recommend Guatemala – it’s easy to travel there and you’ll meet tons of other female solo travelers (especially around Lake Atitlan). If you’re looking to fit in some beach time, I’d recommend Belize (that way you’ll stay close to Mexico and you can get easily from Tikal – a must-visit place in Guatemala! – to Belize). If you’d like to venture further south, I’d definitely recommend Nicaragua. Also safe and easy to travel. Let me know if I can help out with anything more specific. Enjoy CA, and Mexico City of course 🙂

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