Ultimate Central America Trip Notes

This captivating adventure through Central America travels through Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama on an ultimate tour of the region.

    • 58
    • QVRRC
    • 4.20 out of 5
    • Total price tool tip
      USD $4,280
      CAD $4,340
      AUD $4,495
      EUR €3,135
      GBP £2,695
      NZD $5,340
      ZAR R41,000
      CHF FR3,865
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    • Overland
    • Basix
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Last Modified: 24 Apr 2014
Ultimate Central America
Trip code: QVRRC
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Enjoy a Central American odyssey on an adventure that will take you from Mexico’s capital to the home of the Panama Canal. Get acquainted with local cultures, spectacular landscapes and fascinating histories as you explore a wealth of ancient ruins, unusual wildlife, unique underwater worlds and idyllic Caribbean beaches. Get to know the friendly locals and discover why Central America is an adventurer's delight on this epic overland adventure from Mexico to Panama City.
Table of Contents
StyleImportant notesEmergency contact
ThemesGroup sizeEmergency funds
MapYour fellow travellersVisas
ItinerarySingle travellersIssues on your trip
We also recommendAccommodationWhat to take
Itinerary disclaimerMeals introductionHealth
Culture shock rating MealsSafety
Physical ratingTransportTravel insurance
Included activitiesGroup leaderResponsible Travel
Optional activitiesJoining point A couple of rules
Money ExchangeJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
Spending moneyArrival complicationsCarbon offset
TippingFinish point Feedback
Departure taxFinish point instructions
To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures so your leader and the composition of your group may change.
Style
Basix
  • The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Themes
Overland
Map
Ultimate Central America
Itinerary
Days 1-2 Mexico City
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Mexico.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Modern meets ancient in Mexico City - the world's fastest growing urban centre. Although crowded and smoggy, the former Aztec capital offers a great variety of impressive museums, galleries and architecture. Head to the city centre and see Aztec ruins or take the subway right through one of the temples. If you prefer to get out of the city and escape the crowds, take a day-trip to the canals and gardens of Xochimilco. In the evenings, explore Mexico's exciting night life. Learn some dance moves from the locals, or try out your own to the music of a mariachi band.
The following morning your leader will take you on an orientation tour of the city, followed by a free afternoon. On our last day here we will take a day trip to Teotihuacan.
Located 50 kilometres northeast of Mexico City are the 'must-see' archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan - the site of the massive Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon which dominate the skyline. This was once the country's biggest ancient city and capital of the Aztec people, who ruled over the largest empire in the pre-Hispanic era. Guarded by mountains this magnificent city is thought to have been founded early in the 1st century AD and reached its peak around AD 500, when its influence extended down to Guatemala and as far north as present-day Texas. With the help of a local guide we have time to stroll down ‘The Avenue of the Dead’, uncover its many wonders and imagine what life must have been like nearly 2000 years ago. We will also visit Virgen de Guadalupe, the city’s major religious landmark.
Optional Activities
  • Mexico City - Governor's National Palace and Diego Rivera murals - Free
  • Mexico City - Bosque de Chapultepec & Natural History Museum - USD5
  • Mexico City - Soccer match - USD15
  • Mexico City - Mariachis Garibaldi Square - USD10
  • Mexico City - Museum of Anthropology - USD5
  • Mexico City - Teotihuacan Ruins - USD25
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 3-4 Puebla
This morning and most of the afternoon are free to continue exploring Mexico City. Later in the afternoon we take taxis to Mexico City's bus station and catch a local bus (approx 2.5 hours) to Puebla. Please make sure you bring bottled water and snacks for the journey. This afternoon and tomorrow are at your leisure to discover Puebla.
Although a rapidly growing city, Puebla has managed to combine modern development with its colonial past and there are plenty of well-maintained churches and colonial buildings to admire. Head to the markets to brush up on your bargaining skills and take some fantastic photos. This is a great place to pick up hand-painted tiles and other handicrafts. If you're looking for something more active, go for a hike near one of the area's looming volcanoes. After a day sightseeing and shopping, why not try some mouth-watering mole Poblano, a dish that is famous all over Mexico and that originated in Puebla, or try your hand at making it yourself at an optional cooking class.
Optional Activities
  • Puebla - Cholula Visit - USD15
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 5-7 Oaxaca/Overnight Bus
Today we travel by local bus (approx. 5 hours) to Oaxaca. We have two free days here and your group leader will assist you to make the most of your free time in this fascinating city.
A beautiful old colonial town, Oaxaca is full of graceful arcades and colourful markets largely populated by descendents of the Zapotec and Mixtec Indians, who come here to sell their colourful woven blankets and shawls. Oaxaca is also known for its well-respected arts scene, including folk art, fine art and dance. Explore the markets and narrow, cobbled streets or simply sit in the square drinking the local mescal and tequila, and watch life go by.
Outside the city the spectacular mountain top temples of Monte Alban are just a short distance away.
Monte Alban was inhabited over a period of 1,500 years by a succession of cultures (Olmecs, Zapotecs and Mixtecs) and it is an outstanding example of a pre-Columbian ceremonial centre. The terraces, dams, canals, pyramids and artificial mounds of Monte Alban were literally carved out of the mountain.
Our hotel is within walking distance to some of Oaxaca's nightlife hot spots, so that you can make the most of it.
The following evening we take a first class bus (approx. 13 hours) to San Cristobal del las Casas. First class buses in Mexico can be quite comfortable. They are equipped with seats that recline and have more leg room than regular buses. They usually make a quick toilet stop every 4 to 5 hours, however they normally also have a toilet at the rear of the bus, which you may use in case of an emergency. They are all air conditioned, so make sure you take a light jumper with you as it may get a bit cold on board.
Optional Activities
  • Oaxaca - Cultural Museum and Garden - USD8
  • Oaxaca - Folkloric ballet (seasonal) - USD10
  • Oaxaca - Monte Alban Ruins - USD10
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 8-9 San Cristobal de las Casas
We arrive in San Cristobal early in the morning. Check in at the hotel is usually not until midday, so if we can't check in upon arrival, we will be able to leave our luggage and start exploring San Cristobal straight away. The remainder of today and tomorrow are at your leisure and, as always, your group leader will assist you arrange the many optional activities.
With winding cobblestone streets and colonial Spanish architecture, San Cristobal de las Casas maintains a lovely old-world feel mixed with strong indigenous roots. The surrounding villages are populated with Tzotzil and Tzeltal Indians who maintain their tribal origins through their varied traditional costumes and customs. There is time here to explore the villages, perhaps by horseback or mountain bike. If you take a day trip to San Juan Chamula, make sure to visit the church. The floor is covered with pine needles and the air is heavy with incense. Shamans come here to carry out cleansings with firewater, ancient prayer and sometimes chickens. There are also markets with colourful handicrafts for sale. Take the opportunity to go for an optional horse ride in the mountains or a day trip to Sumidero Canyon. Back in town, go for a stroll and try to spot the cafe with the most locals in it for a taste of the traditional 'elote', a corn cob which makes a common snack in the highlands of Chiapas.
Optional Activities
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Sumidero Canyon - USD30
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Villages tour - USD15
  • San Cristobal - Bicycle rental (per hour) - USD30
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Lagunas de Montebello - USD35
  • San Cristobal de las Casas - Mountain bike tour - USD20
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 10-11 Palenque/Overnight Bus
Today we travel on a windy road by local bus to Palenque (approx. 6 hours) The afternoon is at your leisure to take part in any of the optional activities in town.
The following day we visit the ruins of Palenque.
Palenque is situated on a hilltop in an area of hot jungle and is home to possibly the most impressive series of Mayan ruins, which date back at AD600. Whilst walking amongst the ruins it is often possible to hear the eerie calls of howler monkeys echoing from the jungle, giving an added dimension to this magnificent site. The temples are superb relics of Mayan culture and there are many ruins here still un-excavated and hidden in the surrounding forest.
Nearby are the Agua Azul and Misol-Ha waterfalls, perfect for cooling off after the heat of the temples.
Although not far apart, Misol-ha and Agua Azul waterfalls could hardly be more different. Misol-ha is 35 metres high and falls in a long drop to a pool below. Here it is possible to walk underneath the falling water to the cataracts on the other side. Agua Azul on the other hand is low and wide, with multiple, smaller cascades falling over limestone. The river here runs for miles and is a spectacular blue colour from the minerals in the limestone. Take a dip in the turquoise pools, but be sure to follow local advice on where to swim, as the current in some areas is very strong.
On our last evening here we transfer to the bus station and board an overnight bus to Merida.
Optional Activities
  • Palenque - Misol-Ha and Agua Azul waterfalls - USD20
  • Palenque ruins entrance fee - USD9
  • Palenque - Jungle Trail Tour - USD10
  • Palenque - Boat trip to Santiago de Atitlan and San Pedro - USD14
  • Palenque - Bonampak Ruins - USD20
  • Palenque - Bonampak Camping - USD73
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight bus (1 nt)
Days 12-13 Merida
Early this morning we arrive into La Ciudad Blanca (the White City) of Merida.
Founded in 1542, Merida still retains much of its old-world charm with a well-preserved Old Town, wonderful museums and city streets alive with art and culture. Hang out in the green and shady Plaza Grande, with the twin-towered 16th century Cathedral on one side and City Hall, State Government Palace and Casa Mantejo on the others. For a taste of Merida's 19th century glory go for a walk along the mansion lined Paseo de Montejo. Mornings are the best time to visit the outdoor markets and you can stock up on hammocks and Maya replicas. It's a great place to try out the local food specialities, like cochinita pibil or the head-blowingly spicy el yucateco.
Merida is also the gateway to the Maya ruins of Uxmal and there is an opportunity to visit these impressive ruins. Little is known about the site's origins but it is thought the city was founded around AD500. Much of the site is decorated with masks of the rain god Chac. This is no great surprise as the area has a lack of natural water supplies and the city relied on rain water.
The local people from Merida are very relaxed and they like dancing! Every Sunday some of the roads are turned into an open air dance floor with a variety of Salsa and Merengue bands.
Optional Activities
  • Merida - Uxmal ruins tour - USD40
  • Merida - Celestún Bird Sanctuary - USD35
  • Merida - City tour - USD10
  • Merida - Cenotes Tour - USD30
  • Contemporary Art Museum - USD5
  • Merida - Dzibilchaltun Ruins tour - USD70
  • Merida - Flamingos tour - USD20
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 14-15 Chichen Itza/Playa del Carmen
We travel to Playa del Carmen, stopping enroute for an optional visit to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza (approx. 2.5 hours), recently named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World.
One of the most impressive Mayan sites, Chichen Itza contains both Toltec and Mayan ruins lying alongside each other. The famous El Castillo pyramid houses a huge staircase to a crypt that is guarded by a jaguar statue. The crypt houses a throne in the shape of a jaguar, painted red and inlaid with eyes and spots of pure jade. The site also has the largest ball court where games used to be held, the losing players in which would not have escaped with their heads. The games are depicted in carvings on the walls. Nearby, excavations of the well of sacrifice offered up treasures of jade, copper and gold as well as many human and animal bones.
We have about 2-3 hours to spend at Chichen Itza before we travel onwards to Playa (approx. 3.5 hours).
With azure waters, powdery beaches and a European feel, Playa del Carmen is a resort city close to Cancun but without the party atmosphere. Spend your time snorkelling among the mangroves, diving in underground caverns or strolling along the white sands. In the evenings kick back and watch the waves with a margarita. For adventures further afield take a ferry across the turquoise seas to Cozumel, an island famous for its reef diving.
Optional Activities
  • Chichen Itza - Ruins - USD15
  • Playa del Carmen - Cenote Ikil - USD6
  • Playa del Carmen - Bicycle rental (per day) - USD8
  • Playa del Carmen - Dos Ojos Cenote snorkelling tour - USD35
  • Playa del Carmen - Ferry to Cozumel - USD25
  • Playa del Carmen - Sinkhole (Cenote) - USD12
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 16-17 Tulum
Today the group travels south by local bus to Tulum (approx. 1.5 hours).
Tulum is a beach paradise on the Caribbean coast. Spend your time relaxing on the beach or strolling along the white sands. In the evenings kick back and watch the waves with a margarita. For a taste of Mayan architecture take an optional visit of the ruins of Tulum. These ruins sit atop a cliff amid palm fringed beaches and white sand beaches. You can even go for a swim within its ancient walls.
Optional Activities
  • Tulum - Snorkel rental (per day) - USD10
  • Tulum - Ruins - USD8
  • Tulum - Bike rental (per day) - USD8
  • Tulum - Cenote snorkelling - USD35
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 18-19 Caye Caulker
Today we leave Mexico behind and travel south to Belize. We travel by local bus and may have to change buses 2 to 3 times, depending on that days' bus schedule, but be prepared for approximately 8 hours on the road before we reach Belize City. Once in Belize City we take a 40 minute boat ride to Caye Caulker.
The Belize Cayes are a group of islands a short boat ride away from the coast. There are a number of these islands to choose from, but we base ourselves on Caye Caulker as this is one of the more popular islands with travellers. From here it is possible to arrange day trips to other Cayes, to the best reefs for diving, or simply to take a local boat out to the reef of Caulker itself. Each island has its own particular character, but all of them have the unmistakeable Caribbean pace and charm.
Belize is the only English speaking country in Central America, which will make chatting with locals much easier. The Belizeans are known for their relaxed and easy going way of live. You will be amazed how many different cultures coexist harmoniously here.
Relax on the beach or head out to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, home to the magnificent Blue Hole and the world's second longest barrier reef. Snorkel, swim or dive among the colorful corals and see tropical fish, sharks and manta rays. You could also choose to go manatee spotting. These huge peaceful creatures are often called sea cows and are quite curious to meet their visitors. If you would like to take up wind surfing, this is a great spot for it. And if you already know how to wind surf you can rent a board.
If you're interested in sampling local cuisine, Caye Caulker is famous for its lobster. Not the cheapest meal you'll ever buy, but so good. Always make sure that you respect the season: the lobsters can only be caught between June 15th and February 15th. Some of the best meals on the island are cooked on the road side. How about some grilled shrimp and a lovely rum and coke made with the local fire water? In the evenings you should look out for the world famous 'Jolly Roger' - an Icon on the island, he has some of the best street food out here...enjoy your meal. There is also 'cake lady' who comes out every afternoon with a trolley-full of freshly baked cakes for sale.
Optional Activities
  • Caye Caulker - Kite surfing (equipment and instructor) - USD90
  • Caye Caulker - Snorkel trip (half day) - USD35
  • Caye Caulker - Sea kayaking (half day) - USD25
  • Caye Caulker - Sunset sail - USD25
  • Caye Caulker - Manatee tour - USD60
  • Caye Caulker - Snorkel trip (full day) - USD70
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 20-21 San Ignacio
Today we travel by local bus to San Ignacio (approx. 3 hours) passing on the way the new capital of Belize, Belmopan. Heading inland we travel through the forested hills of the highlands.
We have a full day at your leisure to discover San Ignacio. This beautiful town is surrounded by fast flowing rivers, waterfalls and Mayan ruins, and is an ideal base to explore the region.
One of the optional activities here is a day trip to Xunantunich, an impressive Mayan ceremonial centre located with panoramic views over the countryside. The east side of one of the temples has a unique stucco frieze and the central plaza has three carved stelae. Getting to the site is half the fun as you'll need to take a hand cranked ferry to cross the river.
The cave of Actun Tunichil Muknal is a living museum of Mayan relics. Wade through water until you reach the Mayan ceremonial site. Here you will find ceramic pots and crystallised skeletons, preserved by the natural processes of the cave for over 1,400 years.
Other options to fill in your time in San Ignacio include a day trip to the Mountain Pine ridge area to visit waterfalls and warm swimming holes, as well as a huge cave system, the butterfly garden, canoeing or river tubing.
In the late afternoon and at night, many little street barbecue stalls open, and serve huge portions. Give it a try, sit down next to the road, chat with the locals and enjoy a juicy chicken leg.
Optional Activities
  • San Ignacio - River tubing - USD95
  • San Ignacio - Barton Creek Cave day trip - USD80
  • San Ignacio - Bicycle rental (per hour) - USD3
  • San Ignacio - Mountain Pine Ridge day trip - USD75
  • San Ignacio - Xunantunich - USD8
  • San Ignacio - Butterfly farm - USD6
  • San Ignacio - Cahal Pech Ruins - USD8
  • San Ignacio - Caracol Ruins - USD80
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 22-23 Flores / Tikal
Today we travel by local bus (approx. 4 hours) to the easy pace of life in the old-world island town of Flores. The town of Flores is a highlight in itself, so make sure you go out and explore it.
Flores was officially founded by the Spanish in 1700, but had existed in various forms well before. It has long remained isolated with locals relying on subsistence farming of corn and beans and the gathering of chicle from nearby trees to produce gum. Many of the locals still get about in the traditional way, by dug out canoe. Take time to stroll through the cobblestone streets past pastel-coloured buildings, buy local handicrafts or take a dip in Lake Peten Itza.
On our free day here, you shouldn't miss the opportunity to take a guided tour of the ruins of Tikal.
Towering above the jungle of the Tikal National Park, the five granite temples of Tikal are an awesome sight and one of the most magnificent Maya ruins. Hidden in the jungle growth is a maze of smaller structures just waiting to be explored. The energetic can climb to the top of the ruins for spectacular views over the canopy. You may even spot toucans, macaws and other colourful birds.
Optional Activities
  • Tikal - Sunrise tour - USD60
  • Tikal - Guided private tour - USD40
  • Flores - Birdwatching boat tour - USD25
  • Flores - Lake Peten Itza boat tour - USD6
  • Tikal - Zip line tour - USD40
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 24-25 Rio Dulce
Leaving Flores behind, we head towards Rio Dulce by local bus (approx. 5 hours).
Meaning 'sweet river' in Spanish, Rio Dulce is a town (also known as Fronteras) and a river with clean waters, a unique lifestyle and wonderful wildlife.
Sitting on the shores of Lake Izabal, Rio Dulce has long been a favourite stop for boaters from around the globe, on their way to or from Livingston and the Caribbean coast. Take time this afternoon to go out and absorb the atmosphere of this laid back Caribbean town, quite different from the inland communities.
On our free day here there are plenty of optional activities to get out and about. Follow the local trend and go boating on the lake, take a tour to spot the protected manatees or travel up the river on a lancha to the thermal hot springs. For more land based adventure you can hike through the jungle-strewn trails of the Chocon-Machacas Natural Reserve, or travel to Livingston to explore the San Felipe fort.
Optional Activities
  • Rio Dulce - Boat trip to Livingston - USD30
  • Rio Dulce - Natural hot springs - USD15
  • Rio Dulce - San Felipe Fort - USD1
  • Rio Dulce - Quingua Ruins - USD30
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 26 Antigua
We travel to Antigua by local bus (approx. 7 hours) were we'll spend the night before continuing to Panajachel.
We don't spend much time in Antigua today, but you should still go out for a stroll and try tamales, a local dish usually prepared traditionally on weekends and served in a corn leaf. You could also give the pepian a try, a meal that consists of a rich dark sauce and three meats (chicken, beef and pork). The best value food you find is next to the artesian market close to the bus station.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 27 Chichicastenango/San Jorge La Laguna
Today we start by travelling by local bus to famous market in Chichicastenango (approx. 2.5 hours).
The town of Chichicastenango lies about 2,200 metres above sea level and features the best of handicrafts from all over Guatemala. Perhaps the most colourful of markets in all of Guatemala, everywhere you look at Chichicastenango your eyes are met by stalls of multi-coloured textiles, by Indian people in their colourful clothes, or even by the colours of the fresh produce in the vegetable market.
After visiting Chichi we head towards San Pedro La Laguna (approx. 1.5 hours).
Once we arrive in San Jorge La Laguna, you will be introduced to your host family for tonight's homestay. The group may be split in twos or threes depending on the group size. Locals in San Jorge La Laguna are both very friendly and very shy. In order to make the most of this experience, it may take a bit of effort from your side to break the ice first. Learn as many Spanish words as you can and get ready for some serious hand language signals. Houses in San Jorge La Laguna are very basic. Your room may only consist of a couple of beds with clean bedding and the bathroom will most likely be outside your room and be shared with the rest of the family. The mother of the family will cook dinner and breakfast for you. Meals can be very basic but filling, consisting of corn, rice and beans. You may want to stack up some snacks in Antigua.
Optional Activities
  • Chichicastenango Market - Free
Accommodation
Homestay (1 nt)
Day 28 Panajachel/Chichicastenango
Farewell your local family as we move to the neighbouring town of Panajachel.
Panajachel, located on beautiful Lake Atitlan with distant volcanoes looming in the background, has a thriving market, good eateries and many water-based activities to enjoy. Go for a swim, wind surf, hike, kayak, go horse riding, or for the really adventurous, paragliding. The surrounding area is dotted with villages which can be reached on foot or by boat. Watch women weaving at Santa Catarina Palopo or explore the colourful markets of Santiago Atitlan, In each village the local Indian life has changed little over the last few hundred years. Each village has its own typical dress and make all the textiles themselves in designs passed down through generations.
Optional Activities
  • Panajachel - Bike rental - USD10
  • Panajachel - Kayak rental (per hour) - USD6
  • Panajachel - Collective boat to Santiago, San Pedro or San Juan - USD8
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 29-30 Antigua
Today we travel back to Antigua by local bus (approx. 3 hours).
As the seat of the Spanish colonial government, Antigua was once the most important city in Central America. In 1773 the city was destroyed by an earthquake but many of the colonial buildings have been carefully restored and the architecture from its glory days can still be admired. Walk through the quiet cobblestone streets past heavy carved-wood entrances. There are many fascinating markets and museums to explore, or if your tastes run to more active adventures hire a mountain bike and ride through the countryside. The views of mountain peaks and deep valleys, covered in lush vegetation are simply beautiful.
From Antigua it is usually possible to arrange an excursion to the Pacaya Volcano. This can be an exhilarating experience as it is often active.
If you're into salsa dancing or you'd like to learn some moves, Antigua is the place to be. Many dancing schools offer hourly lessons that give you the preparation to hit the discos at night and show your moves.
Included Activities
  • Orientation walk
Optional Activities
  • Antigua - Salsa lessons (per hour) - USD7
  • Antigua - Bicycle tour - USD30
  • Antigua - Volcanoes climb - USD16
  • Antigua - Santiago Zamora Village tour - USD10
  • Antigua - Coffee/Macadamia nut plantation tour - USD20
  • Antigua - Chocolate Museum - USD24
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 31-32 Copan
After a very early start, we travel by local bus to Copan, Honduras (approx. 6 hours). Along the way, we will pass through the wild, dry country side of eastern Guatemala.
The following day you may like to pay an optional visit to the Mayan ruins of Copan.
The ancient ruins of Copan are the southernmost of the great Mayan sites for which Central America is famed. This particular site was listed as a World Heritage site in 1980 and is unique because of the 21 stelae or columns that have been found there. These are heavily carved with reliefs depicting the passage of time and the lives of the royal families. There are also a number of small pyramid-shaped temples and excavated vaults. Walk through the grassy plazas under the gaze of huge carved faces, staring out from ancient walls. As you walk past monuments, statues and staircases it's hard not to wonder at the mysterious disappearance of such a creative civilisation.
Optional Activities
  • Copan - Ruins (transport & entrance fee) - USD25
  • Copan - Natural Hot Springs - USD45
  • Copan - Macaw Mountain Reserve entrance fee - USD10
  • Copan - Cultural Awakening Walk - USD15
  • Copan - Zip lining - USD45
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 33-35 Roatan Island
Today we head towards San Pedro Sula (approx. 3 hours), then and continue to La Cieba (approx. 3 hours) before taking a ferry to Roatan (approx. 2 hours). The connections make this a long travelling day, leaving Copan early in the morning and arriving to the hotel in Roatan in the early evening.
Roatan Island is one of the famous Bay Islands; an archipelago of coral islands set in the Caribbean known for its laid back atmosphere, crystal blue waters and underwater treasures. Surrounded by over 100km (62 miles) of living coral reef, this is a diving haven. Dive, swim or snorkel through the Caribbean waters to discover thousands of species of multi-coloured fish or chill out on the powdery white sands under swaying coconut palms. For more active adventures, tear yourself away from the beach and venture into the hilly interior by bicycle or scooter. Spot 'Jesus Lizards' in the botanical gardens or visit the nearby Institute for Marine Science. English is the main language in Roatan, so in the evenings chat away with the locals in any of the lively bars and enjoy a cold light house beer.
Optional Activities
  • Roatan Island - Scooter rental (per day) - USD35
  • Roatan Island - Snorkelling tour (half day) - USD25
  • Snorkelling equipment rental (per day) - USD5
  • Roatan Island - Stand up paddle board - USD15
  • Roatan Island - Botanical Garden - USD20
  • Roatan Island - Dolphin Swimming - USD130
  • Roatan Island - Transport to West Bay Beach - USD10
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 36 Comayagua
Bidding farewell to our beachside playground very early (approx 5:30 am) this morning, we travel by ferry back to the mainland (approx. 2 hours), and travel on to Comayagua (approx. 4.5 hours), arriving late afternoon.
Picturesque colonial beauty meets modern life in Comayagua. This historic political centre has a wealth of Spanish Colonial architecture, including some of Central America's most impressive churches.
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 37-38 Granada
Today is a full day of travel across the border to Granada, Nicaragua (approx. 12 hours). A good book, music, snacks and bottled water are a must to have for today's long journey, as we sometimes (depending on schedules) have to take up to 4 different buses and transfers. The border crossing between Honduras and Nicaragua is easy and quick and your group leader will assist you on what you have to do at the border.
Nicaragua is a beautiful place that surprises most travellers with its friendly people, impressive natural beauty and for many it becomes their favourite country in Central America. The country has flourished in recent years and is an incredibly vibrant and unique country.
Oozing with colonial charm, Granada is the oldest city of the 'New World', having been founded in 1524. The city resides on the banks of Lake Nicaragua and its appearance is a mixture of Moorish and Andalusian. The surrounding countryside includes active volcanoes and lakes.
Bargain hard in the markets, hike, cruise and explore the neighbouring landscapes. Wander the cobblestone streets surrounded by colourful buildings, or tour the islets of Lake Nicaragua by boat. Alternaitively, take a day trip out to Mombacho or Masaya Volcano National Park to get up close to some steaming giants.
Optional Activities
  • Granada - Laguna Apoyo kayaking - USD40
  • Granada - City Tour - USD15
  • Granada - Kayak hire - USD25
  • Granada - Mombacho Volcano hike - USD30
  • Granada - Bicycle rental (per day) - USD10
  • Granada - Bicycle tour - USD15
  • Granada - Masaya Volcano night hike - USD30
  • Granada - Monkey Island - USD15
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 39-40 Ometepe Island
From Granada we travel by local bus and boat (approx 6-7 hours) to the island of Ometepe on Lake Nicaragua.
Lake Nicaragua is the largest in Central America and the tenth largest freshwater lake in the world. Ometepe is a mainly agricultural island with rural villages and watermelon, coffee, banana and citrus plantations. Wildlife abounds here and as well as monkeys and green parrots, and the lake itself is famous for the world's only species of freshwater shark. A great experience is sitting on the shore of the lake when the fishermen come back from their long day bringing in what they have caught.
You have a full free day here, and might want to take an optional hike to Volcano Maderas, which at 1340m (4395 ft), is no walk in the park. Otherwise check out the petroglyphs or chill out on the beach.
Optional Activities
  • Ometepe - Concepcion Volcano - USD25
  • Ometepe - Maderas Volcano hike - USD25
  • Ometepe - Ojo de Agua natural spring - USD20
  • Ometepe - Petroglyphs - USD10
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 41-42 Monteverde
We continue travelling south by local bus to Monteverde, Costa Rica.
(7 to 9 hours depending on border crossing conditions)
The pasture land surrounding Monteverde was once covered in dense forest. Unfortunately, only a small area remains untouched. This area is lush, full of wildlife and protected as the Reserva Biologica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde. This is truly a nature lover's paradise. Cloud forest is similar to rainforest but instead of the moisture coming from rain, it comes from the almost permanent cloud that covers the region.
In our free time here you may choose to explore Monteverde by foot, horse, mountain bike or ride over the rainforest canopy on a zip line. You could also arrange a local guide to take on a walk around the park. There are more than 2,000 species of plants, 320 bird species and 100 different types of mammals that call Monteverde home so the knowledge and experience of a local guide can make a huge difference on the enjoyment of this walk. Be sure to keep an eye out for the resplendent quetzal, one of the most elusive birds in the world.
Optional Activities
  • Monteverde - Night walk - USD35
  • Monteverde - Butterfly garden and insects farm - USD10
  • Monteverde - Coffee & Chocolate tour - USD35
  • Monteverde - Cloud Forest hike - USD35
  • Monteverde - Serpentarium - USD10
  • Monteverde - Cloud train - USD40
  • Monteverde - Frog pond - USD15
  • Monteverde - Hanging bridges - USD40
  • Monteverde - Orchid gardens - USD10
  • Monteverde - Zip lining - USD45
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 43-44 La Fortuna/Arenal Volcano National Park
Travelling by jeep and boat we reach La Fortuna (approx. 4-5 hours), our base for exploring the Arenal Volcano and its wild surrounds.
La Fortuna is a small town situated just a few minutes away from Costa Rica's most famous volcano - the majestic Arenal. The views here are spectacular as the volcano is reflected on the lake for postcard perfect photos. Besides the panoramic views the town offers a range of other activities such as the 70 metre high La Fortuna waterfall, stunning lush forest, rare plants, animal watching and watersports on the lake.
The volcano’s inner workings also mean that the area has a number of thermal springs where hot, lava-heated water gushes to the surface. These springs have been turned into a number of thermal pools and waterfalls, often surrounded by foliage, an ideal chance to relax.
Optional Activities
  • La Fortuna - Canyoneering - USD55
  • La Fortuna - Baldi Hot Springs - USD25
  • La Fortuna - Fortuna Waterfall - USD10
  • La Fortuna - Stand up paddle board - USD50
  • La Fortuna - Hanging bridges - USD57
  • La Fortuna - Arenal Volcano hike - USD35
  • La Fortuna - Cano Negro boat tour - USD65
  • La Fortuna - Rio Celeste Safari float - USD60
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 45-46 San Jose
A local bus ride (approx 5 hours) takes us to San Jose which sits in the middle of the fertile Valle Central, ringed by volcanoes and jagged mountains just begging to be explored.
The city itself has all the sights and modern conveniences you would expect from a capital city. A good place to start exploring is the main plaza, a fantastic place to get comfy and do some people watching. Artisan booths are common here and you never know when there'll be a spontaneous art fair. Have a look at the Gold Museum which has an amazing collection of indigenous gold art. If these cultural gems get you in the mood for a bit of shopping head to the out door market in Plaza de la Cultura or the Central Market where you can buy anything from handicrafts to seafood.
In San Jose we stay in a hostel, located only a few steps from Paseo Colon.
Optional Activities
  • San Jose - Irazu Volcano, Ososi Valley, Lankester garden full day tour - USD80
  • San Jose - National Museum - USD7
  • San Jose - Poas National Park half day tour - USD46
  • San Jose - Poas Volcano National Park, Doka Coffee Tour & La Paz Waterfalls full day tour - USD96
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 47-49 Puerto Viejo de Talamanca
Today we travel by local bus to Puerto Viejo (approx 5 hrs).
The following 2 days are free for you to explore Puerto Viejo. One of the most popular optional activities is a visit to Cahuita National Park where it is very likely we will get face to face with sloths, monkeys, raccoons, snakes and a great variety of birds. Entrance to the park is free, though you will be asked for a donation.
Puerto Viejo is a great location to learn or improve your surfing skills.
Optional Activities
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Bicycle rental (per day) - USD5
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Cahuita National Park - USD2
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Kekoldi Iguana Reserve - USD4
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Jaguar Rescue Center - USD15
  • Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - Surf lesson (1hrs) - USD25
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 50-52 Isla Bastimentos
Today we travel across the border to Panama.
The following two days are free for you to explore Isla Bastimentos, Isla Bocas del Toro and the surrounding islands.
Optional Activities
  • Bocas del Toro - Snorkelling tour (full day) - USD45
Accommodation
Hotel (3 nts)
Days 53-54 Boquete
Today we travel by boat and local buses to Boquete (approx 8-9 hrs)
Its pristine natural setting makes Boquete one of the top destinations for nature and outdoor lovers.
We have a free day here.
Optional activities: Visit one of the many coffee plantations, visit Los Pozos de Caldera hot springs, climb Baru Volcano, walk through the Sendero los Quetzales (Quetzales' path) in search of this iconic bird and white water rafting
Optional Activities
  • Boquete - Calderas hot springs - USD25
  • Boquete - Zipline tour - USD45
  • Boquete - Coffee Plantation tour - USD25
  • Boquete - Guided bicycle tour - USD55
  • Boquete - Rock climbing - USD40
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 55-56 Santa Catalina
Today we travel by local bus to Santa Catalina, on the Pacific side of Panama (approx 8 hrs)
Santa Catalina is still a very remote, undeveloped destination and one of the best sites for surfing in Central America.
Next day is free.
Some of the optional activities available in Santa Catalina are surfing, fishing, diving and visiting Coiba National Park.
Accommodation
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 57-58 Panama City
Today we travel by local bus to Panama City (6 hrs. approx)
Explore the historical Casco Viejo and learn about the origins of Panama as a nation and the intricacies of the famous Panama Canal.
Other optional activities include a visit to the Panama Canal, birdwatching in Soberania National Park, the world class tropical biology centre of Isla Barro Colorado and a visit to Tobaga Island.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time from the hotel is 10:00am. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel reception. There may be a small service fee.
Optional Activities
  • Panama City - Visit to the Panama Canal - USD10
Accommodation
Hotel (1 nt)
  • QVRRC Single Supplement (QVRRC)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
  • Costa Rica & Panama Discovery (QVRC)
Itinerary disclaimer
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
Culture shock rating

Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
Physical rating

Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
Included activities
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
Optional activities
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
Money Exchange
The official currency of Mexico is the Mexican Peso (MXN).
The official currency of Belize is the Belize dollar (BZD).
The official currency of Guatemala is the Quetzal (GTQ).
The official currency of Honduras is the Lempira (HNL).
The official currency of Nicaragua is the Gold Cordoba (NIO).
The official currency of Costa Rica is the Colon (CRC).
The official currencies of Panama are the Panamanian Balboa (PAB) and the US dollar (USD).
With ATMs being widely available in major towns and cities, credit and debit cards are the best way to access money in Latin America (note though that charges are made for each transaction). Please check with your bank before departure that your card is accepted in the countries you are travelling to. Also ensure your bank is aware of your travel plans as - suspecting fraud - they may cancel your cards after the first few international transactions.
Be aware that your withdrawing limit may vary from country to country (regardless of your withdrawing limit in your home country) and it can be as low as the equivalent to US$100 per day.
It's also advisable to carry some cash in small denominations bills, for those times when ATMs may not be available. US$ dollars is the most readily changeable currency.
VERY IMPORTANT:
US$100 bills with serial number CB or BE and any other US$ bills that are old, torn, written or stamped on will not be accepted by local banks.
Spending money
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
Tipping
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations.
The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest S/5. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest S/10 per passenger per day.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We suggest S./3 to S/6 per day for drivers.
Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$2-US$4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
In total, we recommend you budget approx US$5-US$10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
Over the years we have found that many of our travellers find the need for tipping to be both tiresome and embarrassing, especially if they don't have the correct small change. To overcome this, we have established a tipping kitty system. At your group meeting, your tour leader may discuss the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members.
Departure tax
Please allow US$25 for international departure tax from Mexico. This is sometimes included in your international airfare.
Please allow US$19 for departure tax from Belize.
Please allow US$15 when flying into Guatemala City airport and a further US$15 if you are flying out of Guatemala City airport. These payments must be made in cash at the airport and are in addition to the US$30 international departure tax which may be included in your international flight ticket.
If departing Guatemala by land, please allow US$3 for departure tax.
Please allow US$3 each for entrance and departure tax for Honduras.
Please allow US$15 tax when entering Nicaragua by land, and US$10 when entering by air.
Please allow US$26 for international departure tax from Costa Rica.
Departure tax of US$45 from Panama is usually included in your international flight ticket.
Important notes
HURRICANE SEASON:
Please note that Hurricane season in this region is June to November, when landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services can occur. Intrepid monitors any situations that arise, and may need to change itineraries or activities in response to these natural weather occurrences.
COSTA RICA TOURISM INDUSTRY:
Costa Rica has done a great job of looking after its natural wonders yet maximising their potential as tourist attractions. As a result, you should expect to pay for nearly every optional activity available. This allows everyone to individually have the choice of deciding on which activities they particularly want to participate in - from white water rafting to hiking. This also means high standards of service, well maintained gear, clear paths and signalling and well trained local guides that allow you to make the most of every activity.
MINIMUM AGE:
The minimum age for this trip is 15 at the time of travel. Any travellers under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a legal guardian, or in lieu of a legal guardian, by an escort over the age of 18, appointed by their legal guardian. The legal guardian or their designee will be responsible for the traveller under the age of 18 day to day’s care. If a legal guardian elects to designate an escort in their lieu, they will be required to complete and sign a relevant document, to delegate their authority.
Group size
Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
Single travellers
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Accommodation
Hotel (55 nts), Homestay (1 nt), Overnight bus (1 nt)
OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.
CHECK-IN TIME
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
Meals introduction
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
Meals
1 Breakfast, 1 Dinner
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
USD 1100.00
There are some simple breakfasts included on this trip which are comprised simply of bread, butter, jam, coffee / tea and juice (or similar).
Transport
Bus, Boat, Taxi, Overnight bus, Metro
Group leader
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Joining point
Hotel Mallorca
Serapio Rendón 119, Colonia San Rafael
Mexico City
6470
MEXICO
Phone: +52 55 5566 4833
Fax: +52 55 5566 1789
Joining point instructions
If you have prebooked an arrival transfer please look out for our transfer driver once you clear customs. They will most likely be wearing a blue and white uniform and holding a sign with an Intrepid or Peregrine logo and your name. Mexico City is a busy, sometimes chaotic airport and there may be a lot of transfer drivers milling around. It is also common for taxi drivers to approach you and try to tell you that your transfer hasn't arrived, so please ignore touts and have a good look around if you can't immediately find your driver.
If you pre-booked a transfer and you can't locate your driver at the agreed time please call (+52 998)167 5011 or (+52 998) 173 8861.
Alternatively, the easiest and most convenient way to get from the airport to your hotel is by taxi. On your left as you exit customs you will find “Transporte Terrestre” - you will need to purchase your ticket from the named “Sitio 300”. Rates are fixed and a ride to Hotel Mallorca should cost you approximately US$15. You should avoid taking taxis from outside the airport.
Arrival complications
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operators Emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
Finish point
Hotel Centroamericano
Avenida Ecuador and Justo Arosemena. Apartado 830648, Zone 3
Panama City
PANAMA
Phone: 507 2274555
Finish point instructions
If you have pre booked a departure transfer, please inform your leader and they will notify you of your departure transfer time.
If you are making your own way to the airport the hotel will be able to help book you an airport shuttle or taxi. Please ask at reception.
Emergency contact
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's local ground representative Viaventure can be reached on +502 5778 4052 or + 502 5207 4914
For all other enquiries please contact our Reservations department which is open 24 hours, 6 days per week.
For further contact details please use the following page:
Emergency funds
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
MEXICO:
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
BELIZE:
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Not required
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
GUATEMALA:
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
HONDURAS:
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Not required
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
NICARAGUA:
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Not required
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
Please note that although a visa is not required, holders of British, US, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and most EU passports are now required to pay US$10 for a tourist card on arrival.
COSTA RICA:
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
PANAMA:
Australia: Yes - on arrival
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Yes - on arrival
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Yes - on arrival
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Yes - on arrival
The cost of a tourist card on arrival varies by nationality.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
CLIMATE & CLOTHING:
Night time temperatures can be low in the height of the winter months and at altitude so bring a set of warmer clothes. Thermal underclothes, being small and light, can be very useful. A light water and windproof jacket is useful and a hat essential.
IMAGES FROM HOME:
During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos / postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.
WATER BOTTLE:
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day
Health
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
WHO REPORTS:
The World Health Organisation has countries in Latin America registered as zones affected by hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, cholera, rabies and malaria.
DENGUE FEVER:
Dengue Fever is common in Latin America and can occur throughout the year. Argentina, Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil and parts of Mexico are currently suffering from a serious outbreak. This virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no vaccination against it, but there are preventative measures that you can take such as wearing long clothing, using repellent and being indoors particularly around dusk and dawn.
YELLOW FEVER:
A valid international certificate of vaccination against Yellow Fever is required in many countries. You may need to present this on arrival at the airport or border crossing. Some countries will refuse entry if you are unable to present your certificate. It's also quite common for your home country to request a Yellow Fever certificate on your arrival back home.
It is your responsibility to check with your doctor well in advance of leaving home about the Yellow Fever requirements for the countries you'll be visiting.
Safety
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
FIRE PRECAUTIONS:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
SEAT BELTS:
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in the western world or from your home country and not all the transport which we use provides seat belts.
BUSES:
Due to safety concerns, we don't use 'chicken buses' (i.e. repainted US school buses) in Guatemala and Honduras - inter-city coaches are used instead.
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
LIFE JACKETS:
While life jackets are generally available on water craft, there may be occasions where they are not provided and child size life jackets are not always readily available. If travelling with children and this safety issue concerns you we will be able to advise alternative methods of transport (where available) for you to travel to the next destination. You can choose to travel independently for this leg of the journey. This would be at your own expense.
WATER SAFETY:
Please take care when taking part in any activities in the ocean, river or open water, where waves and currents can be unpredictable. It's expected that anyone taking part in water activities is able to swim and have experience in open water. All swimmers should seek local advice before entering the water.
HORSE RIDING:
Horse riding is an option available to groups on this trip. Please note however that horse riding is usually not covered by your travel insurance and helmets are not always available. If riding without a helmet is a concern then you should bring our own.
Travel insurance
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
Responsible Travel
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
Latin Americans can be very conscious of appearance so try to be casual but conservative in your dress. Outside of beach areas halter tops and very short shorts should not be worn. When visiting churches or religious sites shoulders and knees should be covered.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Carbon offset
Carbon Offset C02-e 482.00 kgs per pax.
Feedback
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.