There are many great reasons why you should travel to Central America–a continent which has maintained its cultural richness and is often overlooked as a top travel destination. In case you didn’t know, Central America is located between the two mighty continents of North America and South America. This region may not look like much on a world map but, it offers a large number of scenic landscapes as well as some of the most vibrant cities in the whole world.
Ancient Mayan civilizations and multiple vibrant cultures are not only what Central America is about. On your trip, you’ll also notice that it’s filled with rain forests and lava-spewing volcanoes. You can also chill out on amazing beaches all along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts.
Here are 10 Reasons Why South Africans should Backpack Central America!
1. No visa applications required
The right to explore the world is unfortunately determined by which country we are born in and the passport we were given. South Africans do not need to apply for visas prior to visiting any country in Central America, the whole region is accessible on nothing but a passport.
According to the passport index, the South African passport is ranked 99, with 63 visa-free, 36 visa-on-arrival and 99 countries where a visa is required. Vacationing where you won’t need a visa is a good way to save some cash and spare yourself a whole lot of admin.
Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua all share a visa called the CA-4. This entitles South Africans to a 90-day stay across all four countries, NOT 90 days in each. As it is a visa on arrival, you don’t need to obtain one prior to visiting any of the above-mentioned countries.
2. The cost to visit Central America
It’s very affordable to travel in Central America, it’s certainly cheaper than North and South America but travel costs can vary quite a bit from one country to the next.
These are the suggested daily budgets for a low budget traveller:
- Mexico – R400 or less
- Guatemala – R300
- Belize – R700
- Honduras – R300
- El Salvador – R300
- Nicaragua – R400
- Costa Rica – R600
- Panama – R600
3. Affordable accommodation
There are multiple accommodation options available in Central America. Depending on your preference and budget, you can stay anywhere from a cheap hostel in Nicaragua, a luxury hotel along the coast of Mexico or a beautiful villa in Costa Rica. The cost of accommodation can be as low as R50 per person per night.
If you’re travelling alone and looking to make friends, Hostels usually have a common area which offers you a chance to meet other travellers, this makes hotels or guesthouses a good option for your next trip to Central America.
4. Affordable Transport
Flights will cost you about 10 times more than travelling on a bus. Bus travel is common in Central America and offers one of the cheapest ways to get around. Long bus rides from one country to the next are generally between R 100 – R 200.
5. Beautiful Ancient Mayan Ruins
The Maya of Central America had one of the greatest ancient civilizations in the world. It consists of hundreds of large and rich cities spread over the south of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, and Honduras. Chichen Itza, Palenque ruins, Tulum ruins and the Ruins of Tikal are the most famous ruins in this region.
6. Beautiful beaches and islands
With both Pacific and Caribbean coasts, Central America is a great holiday destination for beach lovers. The turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea are home to hundreds of islands which are waiting for you to live the life of your dreams.
Here are 6 top beaches and islands:
- Cozumel Island – Mexico
- El Tunco Beach – El Salvador
- Roatan Island – Honduras
- Caye Culker Island – Belize
- Utila Island – Honduras
- Corn Island – Nicaragua
- San Blas Islands – Panama
7. World class diving
The best dive spots are in Honduras, and also one of the best in the world is in the Bay Islands – Roatan, Utila and Guanaja. Out of the three, the island of Utila has the added advantage of being one of the cheapest places to take a PADI Open Water Course and has ideal diving conditions. The dive sites in Central America are first class; if you know anything about diving, you’re bound to have heard of the Blue Hole in Belize.
Because Central America is full of volcanoes, which helped shaped the geological features of the area, you’re likely to find a volcano also serves as the backdrop for many of the popular tourist destinations in the region. Volcanoes are hard to miss in Central America and nothing will get your heart racing like the feeling of being on an active volcano. There are a lot of hikes to be done, ranging from volcanic lagoons to camping right next to active volcanoes.
These are the top 5 volcanoes you must see in Central America:
- Fuego volcano – Guatemala
- Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica
- Masaya Volcano in Nicaragua
- Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala
- Santa Ana Volcano in El Salvador
9. Amazing waterfalls
There are few things in this world that are more mesmerisingly awe-inspiring than a waterfall. If you are an adventure lover, you’ll be happy to know that Central America offers some of the prettiest and most varied waterfalls in the world.
Remember that when you’re hiking near waterfalls, take care not to slip on the nearby rocks or stone staircases.
Here are 5 top waterfalls:
- Agua Azul – Mexico
- Hierve el Agua – Mexico
- Chilascó Waterfall – Guatemala
- Semuc Champey – Guatemala
- La Fortuna Waterfall – Costa Rica
10. Beautiful colonial cities
Central America is filled with picturesque colonial towns and cities that are ideal for travel photographers. Although these towns tell a dark story of oppression and colonization, they also appeal to many travellers because of their authentic beauty.
Here are 7 colonial cities you must visit:
- San Cristóbal de las Casas – Mexico
- San Miguel de Allende – Mexico
- Granada – Nicaragua
- Antigua – Guatemala
- Leon – Nicaragua
- Nahuizalco – El Salvador
- Panama City (Casco Viejo) – Panama
Are you ready to explore Central America? Book your cheap flights and get ready to make the best memories.