Central America

February 13, 2017

Central America is the southernmost, isthmian portion of the North American continent, which connects with South America on the southeast. Central America is bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

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  1. How Backpacking in Central America is Completely Different Than Anywhere Else

    by Megan Stetzel on February 22, 2016 7
    The Central American backpacker trail differs greatly from its Southeast Asian and European cousins. It’s a different monster; a much more good-looking, older, hiking monster.

    Traveling through CA proved over and over again that any expectations I carried from previous trips must be thrown out the window. This was slightly to be expected due to the differences in the regions themselves. Central America has a lot of unrest stemming from violence currently that just isn’t felt in Southeast Asia. Although they share latitudes, the climates, histories and current tourism trends differ greatly.

    What sets the Central American backpacker trail apart? I am glad you asked.

    Flights are far from cheap

    In Southeast Asia and Europe, typically, flights between countries are less than $50. This makes it insanely easy to just bop to whatever place you want to go to next in a few hours instead of wasting days in cramped busses or trains. In Central America, flights from Guatemala to Nicaragua, for example start at $250 one way. Who has the moola for that! Busses and shuttles are the kings of backpacker transportation. This brings me to my next point:

  2. New York, NY is more often than not the first choice destination for people when visiting the states. The New York City skyline, lights and atmosphere are infamous across the globe and attract millions of tourists each year. People come back year after year to see the landmarks and recognisable sights on every street corner in this constantly changing city. It is also an incredibly popular destination for shoppers and can definitely compete on an international stage for the right as the shopping capital of the world; at Christmas time it is particularly busy.

    Must see and do

    The Empire State Building has been the pinnacle of Manhattan ever since King Kong scaled this structure in the 1920′ s. This 102 storey goliath stands proud over the entire city providing views as far out as Brooklyn and Queens on a clear day. This is the most popular attraction on the island. The queue can be immense in peak season and many people actually miss out on the opportunity to get to the top simply because they do no have enough time to wait in line. You can save time by pre purchasing your ticket in advance but will of course have to queue for security and the elevators to the observation deck and it will also double the price of your ticket. There is also an audio tour available for an additional fee.

    Central Park is an oasis in the hustle and bustle of this metropolis. This square area of greenery is instantly recognisable and a welcomed sanctuary from the traffic mayhem in Manhattan. Many people on a nice day can be found having a picnic or throwing a frisbee round in the park on hot summer days. In the winter you can ice skate in Central Park and all year round there are horse and carriage rides available.

    Times Square You may recognise Times Square from the New Year’ s count downs on the television where each year thousands of people gather to celebrate. It is a central hub of Manhattan and a very desirable area to stay in due to its optimal location. It is close to Broadway and 5th Avenue and many popular restaurants. Of course being such a good location will mean you pay extra to stay in the vicinity.

    Statue of Liberty The Statue of Liberty is a national symbol of freedom and democracy and a must see attraction for any New York visit. You catch the ferry to Liberty Island from Battery Park on the south tip of Manhattan. Included in the ferry ticket is a drop off to Ellis Island where all the immigrants who came across in search of liberty and democracy landed and were assessed before being allowed to enter America.

    Being a National Monument means there is no fee to enter the statue but you are of course charged for the ferry ride. At time of writing (2009) it is $12.00 for adults. You are able to climb to the base of the statue but no longer are you able to ascend right to the crown due to strict health and safety regulations. This is a cheap and must do activity for any tourist in New York. Expect long queues in peak season.

    5th Avenue The shops are chic, stylish and perhaps a little pricey but undoubtedly you will take a stroll down 5th Avenue during your stay perhaps on your way to Central Park. Not all the shops are designer and out of price range but you will not find much here if you are a bargain shopper. Prada, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany’s are some of the retail elite to acquire stores on this prestigious stretch. For those with less money than sense it is good for window shopping and it is popular to browse the FAO Schwartz toy shop, the Disney Store and the Apple Store.

    Ground Zero This is quite a morbid tourist attraction but many people do visit the former site of the twin towers to pay respects and to view the plaques. Due to its location it can be combined with the walk to the Liberty Island ferry.

    Broadway Broadway is instantly recognisable on a Manhattan map because it goes against the grid like road network. Broadway is all singing and all dancing and the theatrical centre of New York. There a variety of shows to choose from so look out for discount tickets on sale from nearby box offices.

    Money Savers

    On a nice day why not make a picnic and take it to central central Park. There are plenty of sandwich outlets and convenience stores to bulk up the hamper.

    It is expensive to stay in Manhattan itself so many tourists stay out in Brooklyn and Queens and ‘commute’ to Manhattan each day. There is a Holiday Inn Express and a couple of hostels in Manhattan itself so cheaper accommodation is available.

  3. Top 10 Cheap Backpacking Tips
    Pack Light. With backpacking, your mantra should always be pack light. …
    Camp Out. …
    Get a Hostel with a Kitchen. …
    Bring Your Own Snacks. …
    Buy a Train Pass. …
    Walk, Don’t Take a Cab. …
    Be Careful of Pickpockets and Scam Artists. …
    Visit the Liquor Store.

  4. Here’s a rundown of what should go in your suitcase:
    Shirts/blouses. Bring up to five short-sleeved or long-sleeved shirts or blouses (how many of each depends on the season) in a cotton/polyester blend. Shirts with long sleeves that roll up easily can double as short-sleeved. Look for a wrinkle-camouflaging pattern or blended fabrics that show a minimum of wrinkles. Synthetic-blend fabrics (such as Coolmax or microfiber) often dry overnight.
    Pants/shorts. Bring two pairs: one lightweight cotton and another super-lightweight pair for hot and muggy big cities. Jeans can be too hot for summer travel (and are slow to dry). Many travelers like lightweight convertible pants/shorts with zip-off legs. While not especially stylish, they’re functional in Italy, where you can use them to cover up inside churches while still beating the heat outside. Button-down wallet pockets are safest (though still not nearly as thief-proof as a money belt). If you bring shorts, one pair is probably enough. Shorts can double as a swimsuit for men when swimming in lakes or the sea.
    Underwear and socks. Bring five sets (lighter dries quicker). Bamboo or cotton/nylon-blend socks dry faster than 100 percent cotton, which lose their softness when air-dried.
    Shoes. Bring one pair of comfortable walking shoes with good traction. Mephisto, Ecco, and Rieker look dressier and more European than sneakers, but are still comfortable. Sturdy, low-profile tennis shoes with a good tread are fine, too. For a second pair, consider sandals in summer. Flip-flops are handy if you’ll be using bathrooms down the hall. Whichever shoes you bring, make sure they are well broken in before you leave home.
    Sweater or lightweight fleece. Warm and dark is best — for layering and dressing up.
    Jacket. Bring a light and water-resistant windbreaker with a hood. Neutral colors used to look more European than bright ones, but now everything from azure blue to pumpkin orange has made its way into European wardrobes. A hooded jacket of Gore-Tex or other waterproof material is good if you expect rain. (For summer travel, I wing it without rain gear — but always pack for rain in Britain and Ireland.)
    Tie or scarf. For instant respectability, bring anything lightweight that can break the monotony and make you look snazzy.
    Swimsuit. To use public pools, you’ll need a swimsuit (men can’t just wear shorts; and in France, men need to wear Speedo-type swimsuits — not swim trunks).
    Sleepwear/loungewear. Comfy streetwear — such as shorts, leggings, T-shirts, tank tops, yoga pants, and other lightweight athletic gear — can be used as pajamas, post-dinner loungewear, and a modest cover-up to get you to the bathroom down the hall.
    Documents, Money, and Travel Info
    Money belt (or neck wallet). This flat, hidden, zippered pouch — worn around your waist (or like a necklace) and tucked under your clothes — is essential for the peace of mind it brings. You could lose everything except your money belt, and the trip could still go on. Get a lightweight one with a low-profile color (I like beige). For more, see my article on money belts.
    Money. Bring your preferred mix of a debit card, a credit card, and an emergency stash of hard US cash (in $20 bills).
    Documents. Bring your passport; plane, train, and rental car documents or vouchers; driver’s license; and any other useful cards (student ID, hostel membership card, and so on). Photocopies and a couple of passport-type photos can help you get replacements more quickly if the originals are lost or stolen. In your luggage, pack a record of all reservations (print out your hotel confirmation emails). Bring any necessary contact info if you have health or travel insurance.
    Guidebooks and maps. Pack the travel info you’ll need on the ground (or download it into your ereader). I like to rip out appropriate chapters from guidebooks and staple them together, or use special slide-on laminated book covers.
    Small notepad and pen. A tiny notepad in your back pocket or day pack is a great organizer, reminder, and communication aid.
    Journal. An empty book to be filled with the experiences of your trip will be your most treasured souvenir. Attach a photocopied calendar page of your itinerary. Use a hardbound type designed to last a lifetime, rather than a floppy spiral notebook. My custom-designed Rick Steves Travel Journals are rugged, simple blank books that come in two sizes. Another great brand, with a cult following among travel writers, is Moleskine.
    Small day pack. A lightweight pack is great for carrying your sweater, camera, guidebook, and picnic goodies while you leave your large bag at the hotel or train station. Don’t use a fanny pack — they’re magnets for pickpockets.

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  6. No one understands the phrase “Sticking to a Budget” quite like a seasoned backpacker. And if you’re next
    destination is Central America. this phrase should be no exception.
    Regardless of whether this is your first trip to Bali or your twentieth, as a traveler you will know that there is
    always something more to see or do. The real secret to getting by cheaply as a backpacker, and making the
    most of your time, is following what the local Indonesian’s do when travelling and backpacking. You’ll
     discover that exploring the island as the locals do has a beautiful way of revealing Bali in its most pure and
    authentic form; a side of the island that is truly untarnished from the demands of tourism, remarkably loyal
    to its own culture and traditions.
    With this handy guide to budget eating, living and travel, money no longer has to be the defining factor in
    making this trip the adventure of your life.
    As one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, the sheer mass of people bustling around the
    island should come as no real surprise. Everyday thousands of tourists arrive ready to party, shop or be
    pampered in massage salons right round the clock. With no scarcity of high class shopping malls, a strip of
    clubs that could challenge Las Vegas, and more 5 star hotels than you could ever dream, you would be
    forgiven for thinking that the only tourist market that Bali caters for is people with money to burn.

  7. The first thing I need to tell you about so called solo travel is that you’re hardly ever alone!

    That’s the great thing about backpacking – it’s a social thing to do.

    No matter where in the world I’ve been it’s never been an issue to meet new people – hell I even met a guy on my first flight to Australia and ended up travelling with him for 2 months!

    I took a 3 week trip to Thailand before I started my current adventure and literally spent no more than 45mins without someone to talk too during the who thing.

    Unless you really can’t talk to strangers or you put yourself across as cold, boring or super weird making new friends on the road is no worries at all, and more often than not you’ll join these new faces to explore with – whether that’s on a day trip or making your way around an entire country or continent you’ll never be short of friendly faces.

    And the people you spend time travelling with will more often than not become some of your greatest and closest friends – travelling is a very intense and unique thing to share.

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