Help me plan my backpacking trip, real-time!
February 16, 2014 7:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm currently in Guatemala with a friend, and we have another ten weeks until our flight home from Panama City. How should we divide the rest of our time? Which countries should we visit? Specific considerations inside.

1. To get from Guatemala to Nicaragua, should we go through Honduras or El Salvador? Should we take some time to see both? Should we skip them altogether?
2. How much time would you recommend leaving for each of Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama?
3. Any recommendations for must-sees in the region?

1. We are two twenty-three year-old females, travelling on our own. We've been backpacking for over a month, we did Cuba and half of Mexico and now we're in Guatemala.
2. We are on a budget, so we'd rather spend less time in pricey places (although not skip them altogether, if they're worth it) and more time in cheaper places.
3. We enjoy a nice mix of about 70% nature, 30% city/country life (markets, museums, etc). We are both ex-officers in the military, so we don't mind, and even enjoy, a good hike or trek, and we're definitely not spoiled when it comes to accommodation.
4. Our Spanish is basic but usable. We're thinking of doing a week at a language school in Antigua, Guatemala.
5. While we are adventurous, we do want to minimize dangers, and we understand that this is an issue in Honduras and El Salvador.
6. Contrary to many travelers in the region, we are not surfers/scuba divers and so aren't looking for the best waves or coral reefs.

CURRENT PLAN: A week around Lake Atitlan, a week in Antigua, and a week or more doing treks in the jungles around Flores and Tikal. We'd like to have about a week in Costa Rica, and a few in Nicaragua, but we're very flexible.

posted by alon to Travel & Transportation around Central, SC (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Excuse me for not having a direct answer, but... Ten weeks? Your background and experience?

If I were in your shoes I'd do the language school to gain some competency then, like, board a random bus and see where it takes me.
posted by cmoj at 8:31 PM on February 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

There was a thread a bit back debating the merits of Spanish classes in various Guatemalan cities that you may find helpful. Learning a bit of Spanish can really help your experience and also help you keep costs down.

I personally found Honduras not-fun and much preferred Guatemala and Nicaragua. I've heard amazing things about El Salvador and wish I had had time to visit. If I had to pick between Honduras and El Salvador I would choose El Salvador hands down. I did not like Costa Rica and Panama as much as Guatemala and Nicaragua. They are also much more expensive. Costa Rica is famous for ecotourism but I think you can get many of the same experiences in Guatemala and Nicaragua for much less money and with more adventure. I think your current plan of a few weeks in Guatemala, a few in Nicaragua and one in Costa Rica sounds great. I was also glad of the couple of days I set aside for the Panama Canal; that's a pretty amazing thing to see.
posted by mosessis at 3:00 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Xela (Quetzaltenango) has better language schools than Antigua and is a great base to explore the highlands of Guatemala. In terms of scenery, make sure you check out Lake Atitlan before you leave -- it's not to be missed!
posted by killdevil at 8:54 AM on February 17, 2014

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