Backpacking Central America

I don’t think I’ve ever seen my dad as terrified as he was when I told him my plans to backpack Central America…alone.

“What’s wrong? Is something going on in your life? Why do you feel the need to do this?”, were his immediate questions.

Once I was able to convince him I wasn’t on drugs nor was I going through a 30 year life crisis, he calmed down a bit. After all, he knew he had no choice as I wasn’t asking for permission.

So, what prompted me to take this last minute adventure? Well for one, it is something I have always wanted to do. In a perfect world, I would leave the country and travel the world for a year. In the real world, I have a career and bills (gross) to tend to. That being said, I accepted a position with a new company, but I don’t start until January so what perfect time than now? I gave my two week notice, leaving me with three glorious weeks to explore a new country…or two…or four. My good friend Caitlin has traveled all around the world alone, and is very much a big inspiration for me. Go follow her on instagram for some awesome photos -> @lilcaitlin

Why Central America, you ask? For one, flights were purchased last minute and while Southeast Asia has been high on my list for quite some time, I could not fathom being unemployed and paying $2,000 for flights alone. Europe (also high on my list) is expensive in general, and Central/ South America is about 1/4 of the cost in living expenses. Plus Central America is very small; it is the most plausible way for me to visit as many countries as possible in the short amount of time I have. Check out the map.

Here is how I quickly prepared for the trip.

Flights: Used my nifty little app Skiplagged, and searched for different flights for different countries. I knew I either needed to start at the top (Belize) or at the bottom (Panama). Panama was definitely a cheaper flight BUT that limited me to only being able to do Panama, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica (which I have already done). So, I decided to start in Belize. Found a flight with American Airlines for $328 one way. I decided to check Southwest Airlines for the same flight. (Skiplagged does not reflect SW Airline pricing.) Flight cost one way was $245. Perfect…booked. Now before I could book my returning flight, I needed to know what my itinerary was.

Itinerary: Belize City -> Caye Caulker -> San Ignacio -> Tikal, Guatemala -> Antigua -> Lake Atitlan-> Copan, Honduras -> La Palma-> San Salvador, El Salvador

With the exception of Caye Caulker and San Salvador, this is all subject to change based on what I am recommended from other backpackers. I anticipate spending a few days at each place, some more/ some less…depending on how much I like where I’m at. If you’re wondering how I even mapped out this itinerary, the answer is blogs. You can literally google what trip you’re doing, (“3 weeks in Central America”), and somebody somewhere has done it and blogged about it. Perhaps my blog can be of some assistance to someone as well. 🙂

Now that I knew I was ending in San Salvador, I needed to book my flight back. Flights to Dallas one way were $600. $600!! Here is the real beauty of Skiplagged; this wonderful little app found me a flight going to Houston with a layover in Dallas for $145. I would just need to get off on the layover and make my merry way home. Two things to note if you ever do this; you cannot check any bags, and you cannot book a round trip flight. Missing your connecting flight will automatically cancel the rest of your flights. So pack light and book a one way.

Stay: I’m staying in hostels. No, not the scary “kidnap you and hold you hostage” type of hostels our lovely movies and Americanized ways of teaching have shown us. Hostels are very common and are an efficient and economical way of traveling. It is also a great way to meet other travelers from different countries. They are all over the world, even in the U.S. I recommend downloading the app Hostelworld and consider using it for your next stay. I only booked my hostel for Caye Caulker, and I’ll book as I go. You have the option of booking a bed or a private room, obviously a bed is cheaper and since your girl is unemployed at the moment…a bed it is. $13 a night to live in a dorm. It’ll do.

Packing: My heaven sent friend Caitlin let me borrow her backpack for this trip so that saved me a pretty penny; ($400-$600). Here is a list of what I purchased to prepare: travel towel, foldable day bag, mesh laundry bag, combination lock, travel water bottle, security belt/ wallet, charging blocks, toiletry bag, headlamp, cheap sunglasses, hat, bandannas, waterproof iPhone case, compression packing cubes, pocket blanket, bug spray, sunscreen, ear plugs, hand sanitizer, tissues, face wipes, and hand wipes. I was able to purchase everything on Amazon. For electronics, I brought my camera, iPad, and phone. Of course pack all your normal toiletries; everything I packed was 3.4oz or less so I could carry my bag on. 5 workout outfits, 5 regular outfits, 3 bathing suits, 3 pajamas, 7 pairs of socks and underwear, 5 sports bras and bras, 3 pairs of shorts and 1 jeans, 2 pairs of walking shoes, Tevas(hiking sandals), and water sandals. Most hostels will wash your clothes but I brought a tiny bag of detergent in case I have to hand wash. I took out $1,000 in cash. With the advice of my friend, I sporadically spread the money throughout my bag….$300 in a hidden compartment, $200 in a sock, $300 in my security wallet, and $200 in my bra (on me).

Everything else: I knew I needed a tetanus shot and a typhoid shot based on where I was going, but I was most concerned about getting a prescription for Traveler’s Diarrhea. This gross and a bit TMI but you need to know this; if you’re traveling to any third world country….the chances of this happening are very high. IT IS NOT FUN. Fever, shakes, vomiting….and the other stuff. It will knock you on your ass for a good 3 days and can last up to 2 weeks. I booked an appointment with Passport Health. You tell them what country you’re visiting and they tell you what vaccine and medication you need. I got my shots and a flu shot in addition, and was prescribed antibiotics for both Traveler’s Diarrhea and Malaria. (Prevalent in Honduras.)

I purchased traveler’s insurance with a company recommended by my bank (USAA) called Travel Insured. I highly recommend it; for less than $3 a day my trip is completely protected. Cancellations, delays, medical coverage, items stolen/ missing; it’s all covered. I made sure my cell phone company had a travel plan so I have coverage while I’m there. However, it’s $10/ day (Verizon) so I’m going to do my best to just stick to WiFi for the majority of the trip.

I believe that about covers everything; Happy Holidays to everyone! I’m currently en route to Belize as I type this….see you next year USA. ✈️

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