There are a lot of reasons travellers should consider a trip to Central America soon. For a start, the lush greenery, vibrant animal life, and ancient traditions more than explain why Lonely Planet calls this region “a tropical fairytale.” The locals are friendly, the destinations are inexpensive to visit, and don’t even get us started on the food.
Like any destination, parts of Central America are considered safer than others. Various political situations in countries such as Nicaragua have led to concerns regarding the safety of travellers and whether or not a visit to this tropical paradise is actually a good idea. While, unfortunately, bad things can happen everywhere, travellers who carefully research their destination and take certain safety precautions should be able to relax and enjoy their time in Central America. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some of the safest cities in Central America.
Travel to: Central America
Safety tips for travelling to Central America
- Be aware of your surroundings. As always, using common sense tactics like not flashing cash, sticking to well-lit areas, keeping your belongings close to your body, and avoiding exploring solo at night will greatly improve your safety while travelling.
- Keep things official. Avoid taking anyone up on an offer to help, regardless of how well-meaning they may seem. Only take official taxis (they’ll have registry numbers and will often be red and yellow in colour), withdraw or exchange money only in banks or official offices, and avoid looking too much like a “tourist,” as this could put a target on your back for pick-pocketers and other petty criminals.
- Take local advice. The staff at your hotel or hostel, or your tour guide if you’re travelling on a group tour, will know exactly where and where not to go for the best experience. If one of them tells you to avoid an area, carefully consider the warning.
- Join a group tour. As always, one of the safest ways to explore a new place is to join a group tour. Not only will you have the additional security of vetted accommodation and transportation, you’ll save money with included meals and excursions.
Safest Cities in Central America
San Jose, Costa Rica
This urban jungle in Costa Rica’s Central Valley is home to the country’s government and acts as a major transportation hub, which means visiting San Jose can also lead to visiting other amazing destinations around Costa Rica. Spend your time here strolling through unique museums like the Museo de Jade, home of the largest collection of American jade in the world, and Museo de los Niños & Galería Nacional: a combined children’s museum and art gallery housed in an old prison. There’s also no shortage of artisanal markets, great nightlife, historically-significant buildings, and relaxing parks.
While Antigua is no longer the capital city of Guatemala, this vibrant, UNESCO World Heritage-listed city remains a huge draw for travellers, and it’s easy to see why. Here, you’ll find delicious, creative food ranging from vegetarian delights to find French dining to classic tacos and craft beers, souvenir shops galore, and, of course, plenty of opportunities for exploring the beautiful historic buildings that make up the entire city. Travellers who want to kick their vacation up a notch don’t need to go too far out of the city – the whole area is surrounded by volcanoes perfect for hiking and exploring. While lookout points such as Cerro de La Cruz have a reputation as a hangout for pick-pockets, keeping your wits about you while you explore this gorgeous city will likely keep you safe from any petty crime.
The Corozal District of Belize, located in the country’s north near the Mexican border, is only just beginning to grow into a tourist destination, which means travellers looking for untouched beaches and natural beauty without the crowds often expected in similar destinations are in for a treat. Lounge on the beach by the Corozal Bay, visit the Corozal House of Culture to get a feel for the local history and art scene, or pay a visit to Santa Rita, a Mayan ruin with fewer crowds to contend with. Corozal has caught the attention of many ex-pats looking for cheap real-estate, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself surrounded by retirees, but there are still plenty of opportunities for an adventurous, authentic experience here.
Panama City, Panama
Known just as much for its classic art and culture scene as it is for its towering skyscrapers and bustling beach life, Panama City is a perfect introduction to life in a major city in Central America. While petty crimes such as pick-pocketing and scams are more common in busier areas here, continuing to stay aware of your surroundings and sticking to areas recommended by locals will lead to a great experience. Enjoy a night at the theatre – whether you chose the Teatro Nacional, a stunning 19th-century playhouse, or Teatro Amador, one of the city’s first movie theatres-turned nightclub, you’re sure to get a taste of the nightlife.
Alajuela, Costa Rica
Another gem in Costa Rica, the agricultural hub of Alajuela is the perfect place to settle in for a longer trip to the country when you plan on exploring more of it in-depth. Here, you’ll find a truly authentic way of life, allowing for visitors to get to know their destination in a way that isn’t always possible with larger cities or other countries. Travellers can enjoy museums that explore the culture and history of the region, a wildlife rescue centre, and great nightlife that includes casinos as well as nightclubs. For a laidback experience with the potential for fast-paced activities such as hiking or exploring the rainforest, Alajuela is the perfect place to have it.
One of the best things anyone can do for their travel lives is realize that there’s always more to a destination than what you may hear about it on the news. While some places are certainly more dangerous to visit for any number of reasons, it’s possible to find safe places in nearly every country in the world, and Central America is home to plenty of them.
Have you ever visited Central America? Let us know in the comments how you found it!