Whether it's diving in Belize or venturing on an eco-trek in Costa Rica, you'll find answers to your questions on Central America travel here.

Backpacking Cancun to Panama

j.jack

User avatar
Thorn Tree Refugee
 
Posts: 4
Joined: February 13th, 2011
Location: New York, NY

Share on Orkut

This thread doesn't have any tags.

You can still check out the tag index though.

What are tags?
  • Added on: February 15th, 2011
Hi Everyone! I'm planning a backpacking trip for me and a friend from Cancun to Panama and was wondering if I could get some help with the logistics. We're planning on going around mid June to July. We were thinking of going from Cancun to Tulum to Belize (don't have any specific places in mind) to Tikal, and from there make our way down to the Panama Canal. My questions are concerning transportation from one place to the next, accommodations, and of course any recommendations on what to see/where to go as we make our way down to Panama. We are more interested in seeing the scenery/nature, smaller towns, and culture as opposed to big cities and museums (not to knock on museums but I prefer to be out there experiencing than viewing from behind a glass pane). I guess you could say we are more the adventurous type. Anyways, any info you could offer is appreciated!! Keep in mind we are recent college graduates with very little money!

Lucky Luke

User avatar
Knows What a Schengen Visa Is
 
Posts: 391
Joined: March 24th, 2005

Share on Orkut

  • Added on: February 16th, 2011
I just did part of this exact route (Cancun - Belize) in December and my friends carried on right through to Lima. My advice for the part of this trip I did is:

In terms of transport and accom, if you’re on a tight budget, it’s gonna be buses and hostels all the way!
Mexico has an brilliant intercity bus system; clean, efficient and cheap, Belize’s is a bit more towards the chicken-bus end of the scale (but uber cheap) and south from there I get the impression there is a lot of variation.
Likewise, the hostels in Mexico are fantastic (esp recommend Weary Traveller in Tulum if you’re looking to socialize a bit) and the ones in Belize are a bit hit and miss.
Cancun is hole. I stayed one night and that was one too many.
From there I skipped past Playa and headed straight for Tulum, which while it isn’t the prettiest town, was really fun and the beach is pretty fantastic, although other than the resorts, there’s not a lot out there… would def recommend staying in the town instead. The Weary Traveller is located in town, which is a ways from the beach but they run a free shuttle to/from twice a day and if you miss it, it’s fairly cheap to share a taxi.

Crossing into Belize from Chetumel, we headed to Orange Walk which is a bit of a nothing wee town but a reasonable place to break the journey and there is a fantastic trip along the river to the Lamanai ruins you can do; a pretty stunning setting on the river, surrounded by jungle, when you are standing on the top of a thousands of years old pyramid… it’s all a little surreal. You can also gawp at the Mennonites which are the Belizean version of the Amish; originally from Germany and all kitted out in dungarees and straw hats…!

From there we went to Belize city, took one look and decided to skip it and headed straight out to Caye Caulker for some island life. Caye Caulker is a complete backpacker ghetto but in the best possible way. The streets are just sand tracks, there’s no cars and those too lazy to walk (the island is only three blocks wide!) get around by golf cart. It caters to pretty much everything a backpacker needs from bookshops to free yoga classes to massive (cheap!) feasts of BBQ lobster and lots of cheap beer! The only thing the island really lacks is a decent beach but there is quite a good swimming spot at the North (??) end of the island, just before The Split (where the island got ripped into two islands during a hurricane!), so long as you don’t mind a few locals wasters hanging round to perve at anyone in a bikini.
The best thing about Caye Caulker though are the snorkelling trips. This was the single best day of my entire trip, if not ever.
The snorkelling was just stunning; we did the Hol Chan Marine Reserve trip, which takes in Coral Garden (as it sounds; lots of amazing Coral to see), Shark and Ray Alley (where we got to swim with, and even pet, Nurse Sharks (filter feeders, no teeth!) and Stingrays) and then Hol Chan itself, where we saw a massive amount of marine life, including more sharks, huge sea turtles, moray eels... just so much stuff. You can do scuba Hol Chan too but I’m not sure it would be worth the extra expense; visibility is so amazing and it’s not that deep; I was often within a few metres of divers just holding my breath and free diving!
We did the trip with Ragamuffin, who use sailboats instead of speedboats like everyone else, so while we had to motor out to the dive sites, we got to cruise peacefully home, enjoying lots of rum punch in the sunshine. I can’t rave about that day enough.

From CC I had to head up back up into Mexico but my friends when on to Tikal and then south. They all particularly loved Guatemala and Nicaragua.

Hope that’s some help.
I’m sure you’ll have an amazing time…. Am hoping I’ll make it back to finish the same trip someday soon!

Felix the Hat

User avatar
Extra Pages in Passport
 
Posts: 2939
Joined: June 17th, 2002
Location: itinerant

Share on Orkut

  • Added on: February 16th, 2011
Easy trip, good transport the entire way. I've done the run between Tikal and Cancun several times - you can do it in 16 hours solid travel, via Chetumal, Belize City, and Melchor de Mencos. From there, it's an overnight shuttle to Guatemala City or Antigua, and then you can take TicaBus straight through to Panama City in three days. Lucky Luke has some good advice on Tulum, one of my favorite spots in the area.

For expenses, the rough hierarchy is Guatemala < Nicaragua < Honduras < Chiapas (Mexico) < El Salvador < Panama < Costa Rica < Caribbean Mexico < Belize. You may be on a budget, but you definitely aren't poor if you can afford to take a leisurely trip through seven or eight countries. It can really piss off the people in places like Guatemala or Nicaragua when gringo college graduates with $300 backpacks and iPods call themselves "poor". You can live on $15-20 day at the lower end, while it's hard to get by in Belize for less than $40-50 and still have fun.

Big cities almost invariably suck in Central America. Older Mexican cities can be great, but there aren't that many in the areas bordering Central America. Almost nothing in Cancun predates 1980, although nearby Merida is almost 500 years old. San Cristobal de las Casas (in Chiapas) is definitely worth visiting from the Guatemalan heartland, and isn't a terribly long detour. Guatemala City is a dangerous, traffic- and crime-choked shithole. So are San Salvador, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa, and Managua. San Jose is merely dull, while Panama City is a lot of fun. (There's a board controversy about whether Panama Ciy is anything special - I'm a big fan.)

Keep in mind that June and July are deep into rainy season in much of Central America. This doesn't mean all-day every-day rain, but usually a downpour in the afternoon. It's also hurricane season along the Caribbean.

You'll have a great time. How long have you allotted for the trip altogether?

j.jack

User avatar
Thorn Tree Refugee
 
Posts: 4
Joined: February 13th, 2011
Location: New York, NY

Share on Orkut

  • Added on: February 16th, 2011
Thanks for all the advice! Really appreciate the details about different cities along the way to Tikal. Will definitely look into them. We are planning to go for about a month, however we are willing to adjust the time frame depending on how fast or slow we want to go. Do we need to get visas for any of these countries or are there any fees that we should be aware of? Any other advice is again appreciated. Thanks!

Felix the Hat

User avatar
Extra Pages in Passport
 
Posts: 2939
Joined: June 17th, 2002
Location: itinerant

Share on Orkut

  • Added on: February 16th, 2011
j.jack wrote:Thanks for all the advice! Really appreciate the details about different cities along the way to Tikal. Will definitely look into them. We are planning to go for about a month, however we are willing to adjust the time frame depending on how fast or slow we want to go. Do we need to get visas for any of these countries or are there any fees that we should be aware of? Any other advice is again appreciated. Thanks!


Whoa, only a month for Cancun to Panama City? Way too much for too little time. It's definitely possible, but I don't understand why you'd want to pack that much in. You'll have something like four days per country at that speed, and you'll be on the bus a good quarter of your trip. Really, with a month I'd say fly into Cancun and out of Guatemala City.

If you're from the US, you don't need visas in advance for Mexico or any of the countries in Central America.

j.jack

User avatar
Thorn Tree Refugee
 
Posts: 4
Joined: February 13th, 2011
Location: New York, NY

Share on Orkut

  • Added on: February 17th, 2011
Felix the Hat wrote:Way too much for too little time. It's definitely possible, but I don't understand why you'd want to pack that much in. You'll have something like four days per country at that speed, and you'll be on the bus a good quarter of your trip. Really, with a month I'd say fly into Cancun and out of Guatemala City.


Yeah, I was actually just thinking the same thing. If we can only go for a month definitely going to cut it down to Guatemala City, but if we can go for longer, will do all the way down to Panama City. This is my first time planning a backpacking trip through a bunch of countries so I guess you could say my eyes are bigger than my stomach! :)

busman7

User avatar
World Citizen
 
Posts: 1174
Joined: January 12th, 2008
Location: Traveling for a while away from Playa San Diego SV

Share on Orkut

  • Added on: February 17th, 2011
j.jack wrote:
Felix the Hat wrote:Way too much for too little time. It's definitely possible, but I don't understand why you'd want to pack that much in. You'll have something like four days per country at that speed, and you'll be on the bus a good quarter of your trip. Really, with a month I'd say fly into Cancun and out of Guatemala City.


Yeah, I was actually just thinking the same thing. If we can only go for a month definitely going to cut it down to Guatemala City, but if we can go for longer, will do all the way down to Panama City. This is my first time planning a backpacking trip through a bunch of countries so I guess you could say my eyes are bigger than my stomach! :)


I sincerely hope you don't mean a month in Guatemala City? All you want to do in Guate is drive through it on the shuttle from the airport to Antigua.

Actually a month should be sufficient to get a taste of Guatemala, El Salvador & Nicaragua, or at the minimum Guatemala + El Salvador, an off the Gringo trail destination, with it's capitol San Salvador which is as safe as Panama City to visit & without the feeling of being in Miami south. :)
http://blogs.bootsnall.com/busman7 | http://wwwlasbrisasplayasandiego.blogspot.com
"I started out alone to seek adventures. You don't really have to seek them - that is nothing but a phrase - they come to you." Mark Twain

Felix the Hat

User avatar
Extra Pages in Passport
 
Posts: 2939
Joined: June 17th, 2002
Location: itinerant

Share on Orkut

  • Added on: February 17th, 2011
j.jack wrote:
Felix the Hat wrote:Way too much for too little time. It's definitely possible, but I don't understand why you'd want to pack that much in. You'll have something like four days per country at that speed, and you'll be on the bus a good quarter of your trip. Really, with a month I'd say fly into Cancun and out of Guatemala City.


Yeah, I was actually just thinking the same thing. If we can only go for a month definitely going to cut it down to Guatemala City, but if we can go for longer, will do all the way down to Panama City. This is my first time planning a backpacking trip through a bunch of countries so I guess you could say my eyes are bigger than my stomach! :)


There's a really good loop you could also do in a month, flying in and out of Cancun. Arrive Cancun, head south down the Caribbean coast with forays inland to places like Coba. Cross into Belize at Chetumal-Corozal or take the speedy ferry to Ambergris Caye in Belize, and eventually turn west at Belize City. You'll pass through lovely San Ignacio before entering Guatemala, and arriving at Flores, the city nearest Tikal. From Flores, it's an overnight shuttle to Guatemala City and Antigua, in the Guatemalan heartland. You'll want to check out Lake Atitlan, Xela, and market towns like Chichicastenango, Solola, and Huehuetenango. From Guatemala, you can cross back into Mexico at Chiapas, where there's the highland city of San Cristobal and the ruins at Palenque. The colonial city of Merida is an overnight bus ride north from Palenque, and the departure point to see Uxmal and the rest of the Ruta Puuc. Merida is also about 5 hours from Cancun, via Chichen Itza.

There's your month, complete with beaches, ruins, and colonial cities.

Qwovadis

User avatar
Armchair Traveler
 
Posts: 28
Joined: January 30th, 2011

Share on Orkut

  • Added on: February 19th, 2011
www.thebusschedule.com

usually fly www.spirit.com FLL CUN mexican directo Tulum Chetumal cross to BC/Cayes

then www.cozycorner-belize.com Placencia San Ignacio www.jaguartikal.com via Linea Dorada

GC dodgy avoid head for www.aroundantigua.com www.lacasadelmundo.com

then www.hedmanalas.com to Copan Yat Balam and Bay Islands www.seagraperoatan.com nice there

then www.ticabus.com hopping on and off neat places down to PC www.mamallena.com best there.

www.travel.state.gov for a heads up on safety insure your trip beware locals attemting to

to befriend you on bus especially the little old ladies they are the sneakiest.

Share cabs with no one always use labeled cabs stay in top www.hostelbookers.com hostiles.

Happy Journey,

erik.brand

User avatar
Thorn Tree Refugee
 
Posts: 1
Joined: February 17th, 2011

Share on Orkut

  • Added on: February 20th, 2011
Hey! Me and my buddies did this just last year. And JJack, a month is NOT enough time...but we tried to stay over a month...and being poor college students it got pretty expensive. I don't know your money situation but I guess, as long as you have a job, or an upcoming job, than it should work, but it was more expensive than I anticipated -- even the month. Also, whoever reminded you it is the rainy season -- I would not take that for granted. It rained, no down-pored!, everyday. Fine if you are on a bus, but if you are out or walking around after, it can be really uncomfortable -- I am a rugged backpacker, and am just warning you, unless you are ready for wet hot uncomfortable, or being caught in the down pore, you may want to pick another time of the year. So basically keep in mind that: a month is a long time as is for your pocket $, but a month is definitely not enough time to do the ambitious traveling you want to do and that you are going during the rainy season there...then you won't be met with anything unexpected or be letdown. I don't mean to sound like a pessimistic, but I did this just last year and want you to have a realistic look on the trip you are planning. It's a nice place to visit...



Return to Central America Travel

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

PLEASE NOTE: Your original BootsnAll Boards Member login still works by logging in below on the Boards.
We have a new BootsnAll Account that you will start seeing around the BootsnAll Travel Network. This new login is not yet linked to your current Boards Account. In the meantime, you will need to sign up (for a BootsnAll Account) to use Account features like Indie ™ , Traveler Profiles etc.

Quick Links

Community Activity

Statistics for the last 7 days

New posts:
0
Newest Member:
hungodd94


Indie - Multi Country Flight Finder
Round the World Travelers


Join BootsnAll on Facebook

1 (503) 528-1005

© 2018 BootsnAll Travel Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.