You are started planning your next trip? And somehow you feel that you would like to have central American soil beneath your feet? Mexico, Belize, Guatemala or Nicaragua, Costa Rica or Panama? Burritos, Tacos or Rice and Beans? If you think about What?, Where?, How?, When? or you just booked your flights and you now start with preparations for backpacking in central America, then the following blog post will help you. In the following post, we want to share some ideas, that will help you to prepare everything properly.

Preparations for Backpacking in Central America – Book your flights

You booked your flights already? Then you can just skip the following paragraph and jump straight into the preparations part. If not, you should start thinking about Where do you wanna go? Thinking of which countries makes your feets itchy? The decision where to go depends on how much time you have and how high your budget is. But in general, we think if you really want to go somewhere there are always ways to get there :)

In the beginning you should, first of all, start observing flights. For this purpose, we used Google flights but also the great “new kid on the block” Hopper. It’s an app that works with an artificial intelligence algorithm that gathers data for flights and tells you with push notifications if prices tend to go up or fall. With this you have a pretty good estimation whether the price you see will go down or rise in the near future.

Then, you need to think if a return or a multi-city flight makes more sense for you. We also asked HolidayPirates and they came back with a couple of excellent ideas. Especially for flights and airports that might be cheaper to depart from, the team has some great insights, which they are happy to share. Through this approach, you can already save some bucks.

We were pumped as we got the opportunity to be on the road for 2 months. As we wanted to see many different things and Anika got the opportunity to give classes in different language schools, we looked for a multi-city flight. Of course, that definitely is the more expensive option but we didn’t want to travel south from Mexico City and then all the way back again. Because of its size travelling from A to B can get either quite expensive or time-consuming. So let’s find a good multi-city flight bargain. After researching a couple of hours we found a good offer on Skyscanner.

Unfortunately, we didn’t stumble upon an error fare – as we did on our backpacking trip through Sri Lanka – but we found a comparatively cheap flight from Düsseldorf via Amsterdam to Mexico City and a pretty much perfect return flight from Nicaragua. Especially Julian was very eager to go to Nicaragua as he heard while surfing in Sri Lanka that the country should have amazing waves with almost 365 days a year offshore wind. For these flights, we paid 765€ each.

Now, our rough plan was to spend five weeks in Mexico, two weeks more in Belize and Guatemala and spend the last 10-14 days in Nicaragua. But what’s the nature of traveling? Things will turn out differently than planned. You can read more on us on the upcoming blog posts but now more valuable tips for you while preparing your trip. Therefore just give us a like on Facebook in order to stay in the loop.

Preparations for Backpacking in Central America

Preparations for Backpacking in Central America –
Planning, Planning, Planning?

Now that you are super excited about your trip, you will have a couple of questions in mind. How much money will I spend?

Simply put, you should be aware that Central America is cheap but not as cheap as Asia. You will spend definitely more money while backpacking in Central America than through Thailand or Vietnam. It is almost impossible to find place to stay for 5 Dollars, and if, you do not want to stay there. But in general, what we really like in Central America you get a nice room (with wifi, a warm water shower and a safe) for 20-25 Dollars per night per room. So, a good bang for the buck! The following bullets will provide some estimations of prices in the different countries you might want to travel to.

Price Accommodation / Night for two people

  • Hostel:  20-25 USD
  • Airbnb:  45 USD

Price for food each person

  • National dishes:  3-5 USD
  • European food:  5-9 USD
  • Softdrinks:  1-2 USD
  • Water:  1 USD

Price per vice each person

  • Beer:  1-1.5 USD
  • Cigarettes:  2.50 USD

Price per transport each person

  • Metro – ridiculously cheap
  • Bus – ridiculously cheap
  • Uber approx. 1 USD for a 10min drive, highly recommended (safest option, too) Check availabilty of the city you travel to.
  • Taxis are more expensive than Uber and less secure

Price for sightseeing/trips each person

  • Museums approx. 3 USD

Please note, that Belize is compared to the other Central American countries significantly more expensive.

Preparations for Backpacking in Central America –
2 Months before departure

Two months before your departure you can slowly but surely start planning. Now, you can organize stuff that take some time…

Passport
Is your passport still more than six months valid? Who did never hear of the horror scenario, finding out a couple of day before leaving on your vacation that your passport isn’t valid anymore? So better we safe and double-check!

Recommended Vaccinations
For EU-citizens the Robert-Koch-Institute recommends the standard vaccinations to Central America. Among these are tetanus, diphtheria and hepatitis a. For longer stays cholera, typhus and hepatitis b might be considered. If you have any doubts, better just talk to a doctor.

Important note: If you have been to a fellow-fever risk country before, you need to get the vaccination before entering Central America.

Visa
Good news! For EU and US citizens you do need to worry about visas for Central America. During the flight, you will need to fill out a tourist card (FMT), which you have with you at all times (better a copy of it). This tourist card will be required for every immigration.

FMT Backpacking Central America

Country-specific Immigration Regulations in Central America

CountryCapitalVisaImmigration-FeeCurrency
MexicoMexico-City180 days visa-freeMexican Pesos
Belize

Belmopan30 days visa-free
proof of return- or continuing flight and potentially proof of sufficient financial resources (75 USD/day)
19 USD overland
37,50 USD by plane
Belize-Dollar
GuatemalaGuatemala-City90 days visa-free in the whole CA-4-region*Guatemala Quetzal
El SalvadorSan Salvador US-Dollar
Honduras
TegucigalpaLempira
NicaraguaManaguaImmigration: 2 USD + 10 USD for FMT
Departure: 2 USD
Córdoba Oro
Costa RicaSan José90 days visa-free29 USD + security fee 6 USDCosta-Rica-Colón
*Region CA-4 containing Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua

Preparations for Backpacking in Central America –
4 weeks prior departure

Now, you already took care of the most essential things. Next steps following soon…

  • If necessary, organize Flat/Room sublease
  • International driver’s license? You might need it!
  • Get some information about your destinations: Ask friends, post in Facebook groups, get a guide book (Lonely Planets are mostly good but the one from Central America isn’t supposed to be that helpful)
  • Take some notes (Security for example); Which areas are secure, which aren’t?
  • Make a doctor’s appointment (dentist) for last check up’s, for a nice smile
  • Hablas Espanol? If not you should consider studying. Babbel is a great app to get to know some basics. Some basics will be really really helpful!
  • Perhaps get some foreign money at a bank already

Reisevorbereitungen zum Backpacking in Mittelamerika Währung

Now ask yourself the question: What do I need besides clothes? What do I still need to buy?

Important stuff

  • Credit Card
  • Travel Insurance
  • Potentially camera insurance (against robbery and other ugly things)

Technical Equipment

  • Camera* plus lenses / action cam* plus underwater case
  • Camera Stand for great time lapse videos or long exposure shots
  • SD-Cards
  • Additional hard drive*, as you will take loads of pictures :)
  • PowerBank*, this one highly recommended

Fotoequipment_Reisen

Other things

  • Contact Lenses
  • Backpack – Tip: Visit a good store with some travel experts!
  • Daypack* (You see this daypack in the coverphoto. Produced by 5.11 and normally used in the military, for Julian the best backpack ever)
  • Travel-Sheet*
  • Cargo-Bag
  • Ocean-Bag*, to keep your electronic items dry and clean
  • Belly-Bag / Money-Belt* to store your most important documents safely
  • Travel Adapter* for all sockets
  • Neck-Pillow* for some cozy hours on long-distance flights
  • Sleeping-Mask

Backpack Backpacking in Central America

Accessories

  • Sunglasses + sunglasses chain (Ani got her one from shadeloops, the colorful chains are handmade in Austria and absolutely beautiful!)
  • Bikini / Boardshorts
  • Surf Lycra

Preparations for Backpacking in Central America –
2 weeks prior departure

  • Test your credit cards
  • Last orders on Amazon
  • Tip: Book your hostel or AirBnB in advance for a relaxed arrival

Preparations for Backpacking in Central America –
1 week prior departure

  • Note important phone numbers: Embassy, friends and family etc.
  • Scan all documents and copy them a couple of times, also upload to a cloud service or send it to yourself via email
  • Download some handy (!) apps: Maps Me (!), dictt.cc Offline, mytaxi, Uber, Skyscanner, Hopper, booking.com, Airbnb, Tripadvisor, Yelp, WiFi-Finder
  • Uber: Create Account, add credit card information
  • Freeze mobile and gym contracts the time your away

Preparations for Backpacking in Central America –
3 day prior departure

  • Last shoppings: Shampoo, shower gel, toothbrush, razor, sunscreen, zinc, after sun, body lotion, moisturizer, make up remover, deo, ohropax, and what else you might need
  • First-aid-kit: Pain killers, mosquito spray (normally better in the country of destination), disinfectant (!) and other personal drugs
  • Create a list with things you definitely wanna see :)

Preparations for Backpacking in Central America –
One day prior departure

  • Online Check-In
  • Pack your backpack

Drum roll…. Have a beer with your friends and relax!

Reisevorbereitungen zum Backpacking in Mittelamerika

Off to Central America, safe travels and enjoy! México calling? Follow us to the country of spicy tacos and tasty mezcal!

One more thing: Did you forget something? Please let us know when we missed something important. Can we further improve the article? Leave us a comment!

*PS.: Amazon-Affiliate Links | We receive a small provision without extra costs for you.

Still looking for Wanderlust?

➳ You are traveling to Mexico and still not sure which stops not to miss? Have a look at our Mexico Travel Route!
➳ You are searching for some more tips and infos for your trip to Mexico?
➳ Eager to find the best transport in Mexico?
➳ You want to go surfing in Mexico? Then head over to Puerto Escondido!
Mexico’s capital calling or are you about to leave to the pyramids of Mexico City?
➳ Last but not least some relaxation on Isla Holbox? Definitely worth a visit!