Traveling in Central America is dangerous! – really?
Central America is dangerous!
Traveling there is like suicide. You will get robbed or kidnap or raped or murdered. Seriously. Drug gangs rule everything. There is just no tourism because there is no infrastructure and so there are no other travelers.
– or maybe not?
That are the things I heard from my parents, my brother, friends and some other people when I first came up with my idea to backpack through Central America – alone as a young blonde girl. they were seriously upset and at some point even I got worried. I researched for days and read offical pages of the government, travel blogs and looked up statistics about crime and I compared it to other countries. I finally got my courage back and went backpacking in Central America – alone and it was awesome.
Yes. There is crime. There are drugs. There is poverty. There are thiefs. But – these thing you will find at any country all over the world in every village and every town. And within five month of traveling I never felt seriously in danger or got robbed. And I believe that the majority of the humans are good and not bad.
Yes I get a lot attention from man just because I look different. Blonde hair and fair skin are rare in Central America and many men feel attracted to it. They whistle, flirt and some of them do weird stuff, but everytime I made clear that I am not interrested they left me alone. Usually it is fun for them and they don’t even expect anything from you. In my oppinion the cat calls are annoying, but nothing dangerous. Just ignore it.
Let’s get a bit more into detail. Those countrys are still developing. There is a lot of poverty caused of very low salaries and a lack of jobs, but especially in the citys not everyone is poor. They run restaurants, hostels or botiques. And only because some are poor they are not automatically criminals.
Costa Rica is the more touristy country and got a pretty decent infrastructure. The tourism sector still expanding in all the Central American countries and it actually helps them to build up more jobs. The people are happy to see and to host tourists. Usually they don’t want to rob you, they like to hear about you, why you are there and if you like it.
I met lots of travelers who had things stolen, but most of the time they got robbed in the hostels so other travelers took them! From towels to phones. Some got robbed on the street, but as long as you keep your valuables close and hidden they should be safe. There are pickpockets in Rome just as well as in Managua.
I read about the local busses to be unsafe and that you should always take registered taxis. My experience tought me that taxi drivers are your enemy and busdrivers your best friends.
Taxi driver try to rip you of all the time so try to figure out the actual price before taking a ride. They might just drive around somewhere and make a 5 minute ride to a 15 minute ride. Of course sometimes you need a taxi, but then watch out and don’t let them rip you of.
If you enter a chickenbus ( the local buses) they usually tell you the right price and give back the right change. Also if you are on the go ask the bus driver how you get to your destination. Maybe I got some benefits because I am a girl, but most of the time I sat in the next bus before I recognised what was going on and sometimes someone even carried my bag. There are tons of buses going in any direction for pretty small money.
Drugs like marijuana or kokaine are grown in southamerika and try to make there way up to the U.S. – that doesn’t mean that there are gangs and drugs everywhere. The border area between Colombia and Panama has actually no road to prevent drug smuggling. And as long as you don’t wander alone through the rainforest trying to cross the border illegally you should be fine.
Also the Police is very active against drugs. For example in Leon, the second largest city in Nicaragua, you won’t get drugs. You might get some weed, but a few years ago they cleand out the city and there are just no hard drugs anymore.
So there are pickpockets, drugs and there is poverty, but that you will find in any big city in any country. There are always some sketchy areas. You will find that in the U.S., Thailand and Germany too and those are common countrys to visit.
Central Americas tourism is growing constantly and you won’t be stucked somewhere isolated from civilasation or getting kidnaped by drug gangs.
You will experience beautiful nature. Volcanos, islands, beaches, waterfalls, unknown fruits and vegetables, an amazing underwater world, rainforests, mountains and animals you’ve never seen before.
You will experience friendly locals in different living situations, who like to tell their stories and like to hear yours.
Central America is beautiful and for sure travel friendly. If you are on a budget or not it is easy to get around and to get to know these stunning countrys.