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2 months in Central America

Old Sep 12th, 2017, 04:07 AM
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2 months in Central America

Looking for help... My husband wants to escape to Central America for two months this January and February. We are in our mid 50's and retired. I'm frightened that some of the countries are pretty unsafe. Honduras, El Salvador and Guatamala... I'm okay with Costa Rica. We speak very limited Spanish. He would like to drive around a fair bit.

Does anyone out there have any suggestions? Am I being too nervous? I'd love any input regarding safety, itinerary or anything!
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Old Sep 12th, 2017, 07:55 AM
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I've made dozens of trips to CA, gratefully 2 or 3 times/year now that we're retired. There are definitely unsafe areas - mostly areas with gang issues where you wouldn't go anyway in the larger cities - but if you read up, ask around, and follow normal precautions for traveling anywhere (including the US) you should be fine. To this point I've only visited Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras and love them all, especially Guatemala. My photos with blog, travelogue, and review links on the main page of each collection are below in case you're interested - all my recommendations are embedded there. Happy trails!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections
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Old Sep 14th, 2017, 06:41 PM
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Driving can be a great. Although if you're planning on crossing international borders with a rental, you'll be disappointed. Costa Rica has bad roads and no numbered addresses, so bring a gps. For any country. Is this your first time to the region?
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Old Sep 14th, 2017, 08:53 PM
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Costa Rican rental vehicles may not leave the country at all. Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua's rentals may travel to each other's countries, but for a much higher fee, and if the rental agency permits it. (Not all do.) The thing is, I would not attempt to cross borders in a rental vehicle unless your Spanish is very good. You say yours is limited. Then don't do it. Make cross-border trips with public transportation.

The Central American country with the lowest crime rate is ... Nicaragua.
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Old Sep 15th, 2017, 08:44 AM
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(disclaimer I have never visited these countries my only experience is many trips to Mexico)


I would not be comfortable "driving around a bit" with "limited Spanish". I personally would plan my trip around where I could get using the bus system.


That also helps eliminate your concern about "frightened that some of the countries are pretty unsafe" because it's a lot easier to stay out of trouble if you aren't driving your own car around in places you aren't familiar with imo.
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Old Sep 15th, 2017, 01:09 PM
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suze, the 'bus systems' in Central America are not like those in Mexico, especially if you want to get to smaller towns or more remote areas. So, don't be too quick to imply that they're automatically safer, better, easier, than driving. All the more so if you don't know Spanish. You may find yourself standing at some dusty intersection with your luggage having no idea how to get to where you want to go.
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Old Sep 15th, 2017, 07:06 PM
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I'm hard pressed to think of places a visitor would go that require "standing at some dusty intersection" waiting for the next bus to come along. Costa Rica and Guatemala have private minivan transportation that shuttles between popular destinations. They're comfortable and convenient, and they occupy a mid-range price between public buses and rental vehicles.
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Old Sep 15th, 2017, 08:06 PM
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That 'standing at some dusty intersection' bit actually happened to my 80s in-laws on a visit to Cabo years ago. They asked about getting out to see some 'real' areas and were directed to a bus filled with locals heading home from work that dropped them; with zero Spanish they were hoping another bus would come along and it did, about 15 long minutes later.

Private transportation in Guatemala is expensive, although sometimes it's worth it to control the schedule and the route and make planned and unplanned stops en route; Antigua or Guatemala City to Panajachel costs $80-120, for example, sometimes more for more than 2 people. The share shuttle system is a great value but can be pretty uncomfortable imho - every narrow seat spot filled, some of the seats are jump seats that fold down by the slider, and some of the fellow passengers can be large and/or smelly and/or use offensive language. Most are great, though, and it's an easy way to get around to the tourist hot spots.

I've never been tempted to rent a car in Central America but there are places where it would come in handy. Long range buses are generally a great alternative for longer routes in my experience.
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Old Sep 16th, 2017, 06:05 AM
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<especially if you want to get to smaller towns or more remote areas>

That WHY I said specifically I would plan the trip around where I *could* get to by bus.
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Old Sep 17th, 2017, 03:14 AM
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Thanks so much for everyone's responses. I am with you. No rental cars. Hopefulist -thanks for access to your blog. I'm on it.
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