Category Travel in Latin America

Visiting Central America during rainy season

Dry season is the most popular time to visit any of the countries in Central America because the weather is nice. And with no chance of rain there are more activities you can undertake all day long. However there are also some advantages to traveling during rainy season. For example there are less tourists so it won’t feel so busy. And hotels tend to be cheaper.

Just how much rain should you expect? If you visit during rainy season it doesn’t rain non-stop all day long. On average you can expect sunny mornings and rain for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Of course there are exceptions to this rule. There will be days with no rain or rain all day long. What is also nice about rainy season is that it makes everything less dusty and the rain cools you down after a warm day.

What should you bring with you on your trip to Central America during rainy season? First of all it might be a good idea to bring plastic boots or shoes, because sneakers are almost impossible to get dry, and flip flops are not comfortable to walk on for long distances. Don’t wear jeans, these are also difficult to dry and not always comfortable in warmer more humid climates. Bring light weight quick drying materials. But do bring your flip flops to wear around the hotel and for short distances because these are easy to clean. A poncho or rain jacket has the advantage you can keep your camera gear or backpack underneath, but in the more humid stickier environments an umbrella might be more comfortable.

Other things you should be aware off? Mosquitoes are much more common during rainy season, so bring extra mosquito repellent. And one thing that could be problem towards the end of rainy  are mudslides. Because the high amount of water inundates the soil causing it to get looser and liquid and move downhill which can cause road blocks. But upon traveling from one town to another, the travel agency where you buy your ticket will let you know if the road conditions are safe or not.

When is rainy season in Central America? It is different for each region. You can check out the country information pages on this website when rainy season is for each of the country you plan to visit.

Inca Trail in Peru

Inca Trail in Peru

Do you need to rserve it a half year ahead?
Talking about the Inca Trail is confusing. There are many different Inca trails and `the Inca trail` does not exist or better said: it`s not clear which one you are talking about. There are hikes to the Machu Picchu of 2 or 4 days. Besides there are different routes of the trails all leading to the Machu Picchu. There are daily only 500 people accepted on the trails and this sum includes the porters and guides! The whole month of February the trails are closed due to maintenance work besides they chose the month well, it`s rainy season in February!

Here a list of a few different Inca Trails with their approx. prices:
Traditional 4 day Inca Trail: $550
Short Inca Trail of 2 days: $450
Salkantay Trek , 4 days: US$ 520
Lares Trek, 4 days: US$ 520
Jungle Inca Trail, 4 days: US$ 300 Here you have a day of mountain biking included instead of walking.

And yes you`d better reserve 4 to 5 months ahead because the trails tend to be full especially in high season that’s from mid December till end of January and around July / August.

Ask us if you want more information just ask we also can book the hikes for you.

Ecuador: A small but diverse country

Ecuador: A small but diverse country

Ecuador is a very interesting Latin American country. Perhaps a bit less known as her bigger brothers Peru and Argentina but this small country has much to offer and is a lot cheaper than other countries on the continent. It has Amazon jungle, Andean highlands with volcanoes, colorful Indian markets and stunning beaches. Perfect locations for the active, nature loving traveler.

Quito Ecuador a very interesting Capital city

Quito is a very interesting capital city with a new and old part. I can spend hours walking in the old center of Quito with all her churches, cathedrals and museums. There are not many interesting capital cities in Latin America but Quito Ecuador is definitely one of them. According to many people other interesting Latin American capitals are: Mexico City and Buenos Aires.

So the advantage of Ecuador is that you don`t need to travel for days to experience total different climates, nature or cultural zones.

Travel and learn Spanish in Ecuador

There are many programs of schools where you travel and learn Spanish at the same time, they are called Travelling Classrooms. There are as many as three travelling classrooms to choose from in Ecuador: https://www.spanishlanguagetravels.com/en/grouptours-spanish-classes/

Hiking volcanoes in Guatemala

Hiking volcanoes in Guatemala

For most people climbing a volcano is one of the most memorable trips they undertake while travelling around Latin America. Choose Guatemala and you`ll have 30 volcanoes to pick from!

You should not climb any of these volcanoes without a guide. The paths are often not clear, you can easily get lost. If you don’t want to take an organized tour you can go to the village where the trail starts and hire a local guide. But they only speak Spanish! Make sure you have good hiking shoes and bring enough water.

Don’t underestimate the weather. You might think it is always warm and sunny in Central America (which it is most of the time), when you get higher up it will be very windy and cold. For most volcano hikes it will be enough to bring a fleece jacket. But if you do an overnight camping trip to Acatenango, temperatures can drop to freezing point. You will need gloves, a thick jacket and a hat.

When you are traveling you don’t want to carry all that gear around, since you probably won’t need a coat when your next destination is the beach. It might be a good idea to go to a second hand clothes market (there are a lot in Guatemala), the clothes on these markets are really cheap and afterwards you can leave them behind for other travelers or give them to a local.

Hiking volcanoes in Guatemala, the 3 most popular:

Pacaya 2309 m

Located about one hour driving from Antigua. Day tours are offered everywhere in Antigua leaving at 6 am and 2 pm. The hike itself is about two hours up. First you hike through forest with great views along the way. When the forest ends you will be walking on an almost moon like landscape of dried up  volcanic stone and ash.  Although this is an active volcano, it is dormant at the moment, it is too dangerous to go all the way to the crater but towards the top there will be some holes with steam coming out, where you can roast marshmallows.

Acatenango 3,976 m

About one hour drive from Antigua. In Antigua you can arrange one day hikes as well as overnight camping tours. A very tough climb, 5 to 6 hours up, but definitely worth it because this volcano is right next to an active volcano called Fuego. Especially if you take the overnight tour you are almost guaranteed to see some lava and a beautiful sunset and sunrise. If you take the overnight tour go with a reputable company, even if you pay a bit more, so you can be sure they have good camping gear (tents and mattresses etc.).

San Pedro 3,020 m

This is a hike  leaving from the village of San Pedro at the shore of Lake Atitlan. This is also a tough climb, the hike up takes about 4-5 hours. You will walk through forest, but higher up you get to see amazing views of the lake! This is usually a one day hike, that starts really early in the morning. Tours can be arranged in the village of San Pedro La Laguna.

Do you have any experience hiking volcanoes in Guatemala? What did you think? Which are the best ones? 

Crossing borders in Central America – What to expect

Crossing borders in Central America – What to expect

When you travel between countries in South and Central America crossing borders is just one of the hassles you have to deal with. Crossing borders Central America can be a daunting experience. Nobody speaks English, confusing signs, no helpful border personnel and other travelers who are as lost and confused as you are.

When you cross a border you typically get a `90-day-stamp` in your passport, this functions as an entering Visa with a stay of a maximum of 90 days. However you should always check beforehand if you need a visa, depending on the country you are from. For example Cuba still requires official visas.

TIP: You can get really good information on Wikipedia https://www.wikipedia.org/, searching for “visa requirements for” followed by your nationality.

Also, the countries Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua (called the CA-4) count as one for your 90 day stamp (unfortunately this does not make you exempt from the border fees travelling between these countries).

Tips on Crossing Borders in Central America:

  • Once you get off the bus you will be immediately surrounded by money exchangers who can get pretty obnoxious. But relax. First of all you don’t have to use their service, use a simple ‘no gracias’  and walk away. However be aware that in general you cannot exchange the currency from one Central American country in one of the other countries, so it might be a good idea to exchange whatever you have left at the border. Try to get to know the exchange rate before you leave. Use for instance www.xe.com.
  • Have your passport and other documents ready with you (not in your big bag) and try to bring a pen with you. Most of the time there is some form to fill out and it is just easier if you have a pen with you.
  • Most of the borders in Central America are set up with a small immigration office of one country on the side of the road, you then walk a bit further up the same road and go to the immigration office of the other country. Sometimes you can leave your bags in the bus but this is not always aloud and not always a good idea. When you are in a bus crossing borders ask the driver if he stays at the bus.
  • Try to get information about the border fees before you leave for your next destination. That way you won’t be surprised. Always have a small amount of dollars with you. The fees you have to pay crossing borders in Central America are rarely more than a few dollars (exception: Belize!).
  • Stay polite and relaxed. Sometimes it feels that the border officers are in a continuously bad mood and just trying to be as unfriendly as they possibly can. Try not to take it personal!

Let us know in a comment if you have any interesting experiences crossing borders in Central America.

 

Taking local buses in Guatemala

Taking local buses in Guatemala

Painted in bright colors and big fumes of black smoke coming from the exhaust….you can’t miss them. Locals call these colorful painted buses “camionetas” or simply “bus”. Foreigners know them as “chicken buses” although I have no idea where the term comes from, since I have never seen any live stock on them. However they do pack them as full as they can with people so maybe you will feel cooped up like a chicken while riding on one.

The buses in Guatemala are discarded American school buses, they get imported, fixed up and painted in Guatemala. They drive between villages and from the interior of the country to the capital. There is always one driver and one “ayudante” who helps collect the fare.

Safety

Is it safe to take buses in Guatemala? In general they drive like crazy and accidents do happen. Mainly because on some routes there is fierce competition, this means they will drive as fast as they can to get to the next stop, so they can get as many passengers at possible.

If you don’t want to leave Guatemala without the experience of taking a “chicken bus” my advice would be to take one from Antigua to one of the nearby villages. These routes are generally safe, not super busy, and you get to have a fun experience!

Tips on taking chicken buses in Guatemala

  • There are no time tables, but most of them go pretty often, so you never wait long. The main destination is written on the front of the bus, but also shouted from the bus by the ayudante.
  • There are no official “bus stops”. Basically they will want as many people as possible, so just waving one down at any point along the route will make them stop for you.
  • The benches you might think are for only two people will actually be for three or more people. Just sit down where you can and make space for the next person sitting down. You will often here the ayudante shout “Sí, hay lugar señores” (Yes, there is space people!). And you will probably look around wondering where.
  • You don’t buy a ticket. Just get on the bus, sit down and the ayudante will come by and collect the fare (ask a local beforehand how much it is, and have exact change ready, which makes things easier).
  • Big suitcases or backpacks will go on top of the bus, so keep all your valuables in a day pack and keep a good eye on it.

If you want to know more about the buses in Guatemala, there is really interesting documentary called “La Camioneta”. You can see a trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5knpkw_94rA , and the movie is available on Netflix.

So now you know some more about taking a “chicken bus”. Enjoy the (bumpy) ride!!

photo credit: -0274 via photopin (license)