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Is backpacking in central America dangerous?

I desperately need some tips on what prevautions to take while backpacking in central america.
10 years ago, December 4th 2006 No: 1 Msg: #8928  
I am a 19 years old girl from Norway going on my very first backpacking trip. I am travelig with my boyfriend and we will be gone for about 6 months. I am really nervous and I want to know If anyone out there can Tell me something about safety in these areas. Which countries are the safest, andwhivh are dangerous, What precautions to take and so on.
I am really nervous and dont feel prepeared at all. Please try and give me some pointers. I would really appreciate it.

Monica Reply to this

10 years ago, December 5th 2006 No: 2 Msg: #8949  
The best thing about your first backpacking trip is the nerves - within a few days, you'll relax into the experience and never want to stop!

Costa Rica is probably the safest and most tourist-friendly country, so it might be good to start there. North is Nicaragua, south is Panama. The people aren't as friendly in Panama, and it isn't so clean, but it's pretty safe (although also fairly corrupt - be prepared to pay extra to cross the border!) Nicaragua is really nice, although Managua (Nicaraguan city) is having a few violent political demonstrations atm, so be careful if you go there. The main thing is prob just to be careful when you cross roads - the driving is hilarious, and road safety is not the forte!

Guatemala is probably the most dangerous country - think carefully about going. Violent crime is common there. El Salvador and Honduras are quite well known for pickpocketing and stuff. Another thing to be aware of is that in San Miguel, a city in El Salvador, there is a volcano that people think is going to erupt soon, so most people are avoiding the area surrounding it just in case. Most of Mexico is totally fine, but don't go to Oaxaca City at the moment - there's a lot of political unrest and violent demonstrations are frequent. Check with your foreign office before you go - they'll give you the latest update. But anywhere else in the country is great. Belize is lovely.

It mind sound like stuff to freak you out, but this is just stuff you get used to when you're backpacking. As long as you're sensible and don't flash about your money, or walk around alone at night, chances are that everything will be totally fine. Reply to this

10 years ago, December 5th 2006 No: 3 Msg: #8952  
Thank you for your answer, a few more questions:

Should I take extra precautions beeing a girl? I am travveling with my boyfriend, but I am still really nervous for rapists, kidnappers and violent robbers. Have you heard of any of these things happening to backpackers in these areas? where?

Is it safe to use the local buses?

Is fake or corrupt police common in any of the countries in CA?

Thanks alot for youre answer,

Monica Reply to this

10 years ago, December 6th 2006 No: 4 Msg: #8964  
If you're with your boyfriend you should be fine. Just try to limit how much you walk around alone, and never do it at night. If you're scared about rapists, you could always buy a rape alarm - these are really cheap, although often they can cause more trouble then help by going off unexpectedly! There's not really anything else you can do - except perhaps ask the staff at the hostels you stay in which areas to avoid etc. As I said before, try and stay away from Guatemala, which is the most dangerous country. You should also check with your foreign office - they'll have advice and info on all these countries.

Local buses are generally fine - that's how most of the locals travel! Just be careful when the bus stops - check out the window to make sure your bags aren't being stolen out of the hold!

Corrupt policement are a possibility in all these countries, but it's not really rampant. The most corrupt officials i've come across were in Panama, but I may have just been unlucky.

But seriously, try not to worry so much about all this stuff. The newspapers love to report stories of backpackers who have had trouble, but it's not as rampant as they try to make out. Of course you should be careful and aware, but don't worry about it too much. Reply to this

10 years ago, March 10th 2007 No: 5 Msg: #11737  
why are u talking so bad about my country, we are good people im passing ur name to a lot of people, ur being racist, just because there is some danger in the doesnt mean that is the same in all of our country, shame on u my friend Reply to this

10 years ago, March 10th 2007 No: 6 Msg: #11743  
Hey Victor, sorry you took my post the wrong way, and I'm kind of confused as to how you did - but I never said at all anything bad about Guatemalans - like you said yourself, I was only pointing out that your country can be dangerous to tourists sometimes, and even said that people tend to exaggerate things, and not to worry too much! I've never been to Guatemala - I'm only passing on what some friends of mine who live in Central America have told me, and what the British Foreign Office says on their website. But I'm really sorry if I caused you any offence - it certainly wasn't intended at all. Reply to this

10 years ago, March 10th 2007 No: 7 Msg: #11744  
im really sorry, please understand that our country has been pointed as bad country, you can come here and see it for urself theres nothing wrong people her love tourists specially backpackers i live in antigua it is beautiful and cheap town maybe like i said u should come here to see it, i have a lot of friends from other countrys cuz im a spanish teacher, they never had a bad experience here, u now we live from tourists so how could we hurt our damage people that are givin us work, please forgive and if theres something i can do for you dont doubt about it

hugo Pappa

ps.... my house is ur house
pax sempre Reply to this

10 years ago, May 5th 2007 No: 8 Msg: #13627  
Hi Monica,

I traveled in central America last year, starting in Guatemala en ending in Costa Rica, and although Costa Rica probably is the savest country (and has very beautifull places) Guatemala and Nicaragua were the countries I enjoyed most. Nicaragua is quite save to travel even if you were alone. Guatemala may not be as save, but as long as you use your common sense, travel by daylight, spend as little time in Guatemala city as possible and listen to advice from the local people you should be all right. Besides, if you are traveling in central America, you definitly don't want to skip Antigua (which, by the way, is save enough to walk around as a girl alone at night as long as you're in the city itsef) or Tikal!
Amber Reply to this

10 years ago, May 9th 2007 No: 9 Msg: #13748  
N Posts: 7
The problem with a lot of tourist advice about Guatemala is that people who have no first hand experience feel free to tell people to stay away from it. I began going there in the early '90's during the Civil War and have returned with some frequency since then, most recently in February, 2007. Also people who have only seen a portion of Guate City from the airport or a bus station feel qualified to warn others away from all of it, despite La Zona Viva and all the restaurants and nightclubs where you can walk safely between them. Hell, I can do a beer run from my favorite hostel there in ten minutes and not worry about danger.

Pontrefact, you wrote a falsehood when you wrote "as I said before, try and stay away from Guatemala, which is the most dangerous country." and you wondered why chapin took offence? You later made up something you claim to have written at the same time to minimize your statement, but none of it was specific to Guatemala, so I don't buy it. If you are refering to murder rates of locals, El Salvador and Honduras are more dangerous. Far better would be a posted crime rate for tourists, where I bet that Costa Rica would not do so well.

The fact is, none of the CA countries are safe if you act stupidly.

Den slår av hell, Monica! Reply to this

10 years ago, May 12th 2007 No: 10 Msg: #13861  

I just wanna add to what ChenBaaxal just wrote. I lived in Guatemala for almost 2 years and have travelled alot around the country. By myself and with friends. As long as you are sensible (like not walking alone at night and carry all your money and expensive jewellery) people will treat you in the best way and you will have an amazing time.
I will be returning there in early June to live with my family, we have a 17 month old baby. So you understand that I really feel it is safe since I wanna bring my little one there to stay.
If you ever feel unsure when you travel in Central America, stay along the tourist route! There are plenty of travellers and backpackers and you will be surrounded by people. Antigua that chapin mentioned is a great place to visit and is very popular for learning spanish. Many of the backpackers I met usually got stuck in Guatemala far longer then expected.
Enjoy your travel! And if you and your boyfriend are stopping by Lago Atitlan we invite you for a coffee (or tea😊

Frederica Reply to this

10 years ago, May 17th 2007 No: 11 Msg: #14009  
N Posts: 7
"wanna" means a baby talk version of "want to", right? That is so cute. The baby should fit in nicely.
Reply to this

10 years ago, May 18th 2007 No: 12 Msg: #14061  
I agree with some of the above. Anyplace can be potentially dangerous, but if you are constantly aware of your surroundings most places in C. America are safe. I also agree with the fact that it's more dangerous for females travelling alone, however, I have met many on my current trip that have not had any problems whatsoever.

I would question the comment about Guatemala being the most dangerous country in C. America. I have been here in Guatemala for a month now and have yet to feel the slightest bit threatened. Xela is a wonderful city where thousands of people come to learn Spanish. Lake Atitlan is gorgeous. Antigua is beatiful. I am headed to Tikal next weekend. The people here have been nothing but hospitable and crime seems nonexistant. I, however, have not strayed into destitute villages wearing my rolex, my sony digital camera around my neck, carrying my Louie Vuton luggage. I keep as low a profile as possible (being a blonde gringo) and am very polite to everyone. I always keep my money separated in to several places on my body (thigh pouch, waist pouch, several different pockets) just in case. I would simply give up my money out of one of my pockets and act like it was all I had without a fight if I ever did get robbed/mugged...

The US gov't has many travel warnings about Guatemala and poverty is a problem throughout C. America. Stick to traveling with reputable travel services if you have to travel long distances. It's worth ther extra money you pay to have the police and locals paid off in advance by the tour company. Also you get hand held through the process (border crossing, etc...)

One thing I've learned on my 3 month travel excursion through Mexico and Guatemala is that there are people in every place I've been that say about the next place I'm going,
¨Your sure to get robbed/mugged in that place... don't go there if you know what's good for you!¨

It's all been hot air. Be careful. Be prepared. Know a little of the language. Be aware. Don't let your guard down, but know that eventually your going to have to put some blind trust in someone in a situation that you're not sure is perfectly safe. Remember this: most people are good human beings.

Good Luck and Safe Travels,

¨Do your country a favor....LEAVE!!!¨ Reply to this

10 years ago, May 31st 2007 No: 13 Msg: #14692  
N Posts: 4
hey there if you pass y honduras ,in september we wil be there i live in belgium, but im from honduras and a group of 10 university student from leuven will be there to learn spanish then go to la moskitia, check pictures of trujillo(www.dropshos.com/trujillo) hey don't fee like you are th first touris around, there are many young tourist there , dont worry, just common sence and that it is, you see wat happend in the uniade state , bu no body say is a dangerous country?,

welcome to trujillo honduras Reply to this

10 years ago, July 6th 2007 No: 14 Msg: #16119  
N Posts: 3
I'm originally from El Salvador and reside now in The United States. From what friends and relatives say I can honestly say Central America is not very safe to travel. This doesn't mean the people from this area are mean. But htere is alot of poverty, curruption and crime. I would be very carefull when traveling this area. Shame on Chapin for acussing people of being racist! funny how by calling people racist you illustrated a point of how much you like backpackers. Reply to this

10 years ago, July 6th 2007 No: 15 Msg: #16163  
N Posts: 4
una salvadoreña que piensa como gringa, hey if you are not in drugs gang or something like that nathing will happen to you , there many young girls traveling around central america, here in honduras they come to scuba dive, girls too, this crime is only between drug dealers and gang members. in honduras is san pedro sula and tegucigalpa but as a tourist you have nathing to do there. Reply to this

10 years ago, July 14th 2007 No: 16 Msg: #16427  
N Posts: 2
I've traveled around Guatemala a few times. I have heard lots of traveller's stories, but most of the problems I have heard about are in the cities, Guate and Xela. I myself had problems in Xela, but got away with all my possessions and person intact. And earlier this year, some punks tried to rob me on the road to Quirega, near Morales. They failed too. Use common sense. But don't necessarily believe what the State Dept. or Foreign Office says. Reading the U.S. State Dept site and its no wonder most United Statesian's don't even have passports.

I was around more people who got robbed when I was traveling in Europe. Reply to this

10 years ago, July 18th 2007 No: 17 Msg: #16601  
N Posts: 3
I wouldn't walk around any downtown areas by yourself, even during the day. There's a lot of street crime, I know, in Honduras, and they target foreign-looking peoples.

On the bright side, there's no better place to travel cheaply. You can get a pretty decent (and safe) hotel for less than 20 dollars a night, even in "touristy" areas like Copan (which I highly recommend). Reply to this

10 years ago, July 22nd 2007 No: 18 Msg: #16724  
Hey there just wanted to put my 2cents in. I volunteered and travelled central america a few years ago. Just to say its really a lot of common sense stuff. I travelled on my own for a bit and was fine. I hitchiked when i was with a group of people but would never do it on my own. Generally you don't want to be wondering around on your own at night any where. Its such a backpackers route so many people stick together or help out. Depending when and wehre you travel the only problem we had was in Semana Sante in honduras........all the locals go on holiday and that when people were most likely mugged cos they wanted money for the holidays. Otherwise Honduras is amazing.......DEFINATELY go to the bay islands if you want to do scuba diving (at the time i was there the cheapest in the world and brill instructors and great fun!!!) Guatemala has some spectacular things to see so definately fit it into your itinary including semuc champey (?spelling). The locals are lovely everywhere you go even if your spanish is crap at the start! :-) Enjoy it and don't be worried at all. You get the feel when your there. Reply to this

9 years ago, August 20th 2007 No: 19 Msg: #18253  
B Posts: 2
About Tessah's post on Honduras, I was thinking about going to Copan, but I'm not into "touristy" stuff. Would you recommend it for a more off the beaten path trip? Right now we're thinking of Utila for 3-4 days, maybe La Cieba for some hiking, etc., then off to Lago de Yojoa for the last few days of our trip (only 9 in all). Any recommendations would be great! Reply to this

9 years ago, September 8th 2007 No: 20 Msg: #19132  
Hi everyone,

I am a Dutch girl living in Panama. I first came here almost 4 years ago for a 7 month internship for my studies. I have not once felt unsafe here, even though I arrived all alone without knowing anyone in the country. Since February of this year, I am back in Panama to stay. I love it here. Got my own apartment, car, job etc by now... and even my Italian boyfriend moved here. In general... just use your common sense. Don't go around wearing lots of jewelry and stay away from dark alleys in the middle of the night... as you would in any other city in the world.

If you are looking for a safe place to stay in Panama City... My boyfriend and I have an extra bedroom and bathroom in our apartment, which is for rent to tourists. It's cheaper than a hotel (hostels are hard to find in Panama) and you are free to use our kitchen, laundry etc. Also, depending on your time of arrival, we are happy to pick you up from the airport. My boyfriend and I both work 6 days a week... so you will mostly have the apartment all to yourself. Only 150/week for a small room with 1 or 2 single beds and 200/week for a larger room with airconditioning and queen bed. Both bedrooms have cable tv and both bathrooms hot water.

Write us at
Reply to this

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