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Central America Warnings

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  • Added on: July 1st, 2007
I miss paragraphs.

Charlie Meador

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  • Added on: July 3rd, 2007
D -

That's the way its been in La Ceiba since 1998, and the balance of Honduras based on my travels around the country. Prior to that I do not know. Taxi drivers do have a reputation as being theives (vis a vis fares) and are not adverse to taking advantage of someone who does not know the local fare.
Charlie Meador, Coco Pando, La Ceiba, Honduras

Ephemerica

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  • Added on: July 9th, 2007
My girfriend and I were robbed on 5 July 2007 at gunpoint in southern Nicaragua as we were riding toward the Costa Rican border. We were about 30 km south of Rivas on the Panamerican Highway when we were stopped by three young guys who came out on the road blocking our way. They started by asking for water, and then eventually pulled out a gun and threw us and our bikes off the side of the road by a bridge. One held the gun on us while the other two went through the bags and took anything of value that we had. We're both fine, a little scraped up, demoralized and poorer.

Upon reaching the border, we went to the police, who said that we were the third group of cyclists in the last month to be robbed on that stretch of highway. And they are definitely targeting touring foreigners. So we would recommend that under NO circumstances you ride bikes between Rivas Nicaragua and the Costa Rican border--play it safe and take a bus. Or you could check with the Nicaraguan police in either Penas Blancas or Rivas to see how the roads have been. We cooperated with their investigation (including going back to the crime scene with 8 police carrying weapons!), but I think they came away with little evidence to use to catch these guys (if they even bother to try). We had just come from Ometepe, so we don't know anything about how the road is between Granada and Rivas.

Safe travels,
Matt & Cindy

Why not???

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  • Added on: February 6th, 2008
Dont leave your bag in the overhead shelves, we did and had two go at the same time, despite staying awake and having mates in front and behind us. This was in Costa Rica, on the way to San Jose from La Fortuna. On the plus side, if your going to get a passport robbed, do it there, the British Embassy in San Jose are great, turn up 1/2 hour before closing on friday, new passports ready Monday morning at 10am!

cherie

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  • Added on: February 23rd, 2008
Be SUPER careful in San Jose. Too many bad stories come out of there, and I was uber-cautious. I stayed in Pangea Hostel, and they had a restaurant, bar, pool, etc. so I was safe and rather isolated.

Constantly count your money. I would pay in colones and get dollars back and sometimes the conversion is confusing. Additionally, a lot of times people will keep your change. I've had to ask for it more than once.
www.worldofcherie.blogspot.com

lakegenevaboy

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  • Added on: February 26th, 2008
I was in Centeral America about 4 years ago and got picked on a bus in Costa Rica. I was tired and dumb for putting my bag on the rack above me in the bus. That is where a guy picked some money and my credit card from my bag.

I am going back to Costa Rica (and Central America) in April. I felt safe last time I was there. Just use common sense and be aware of your surroundings.

Marisa

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  • Added on: March 2nd, 2008
Santa Catalina, Panama

I would advise any female travelling solo to Santa Catalina to book accomodations on the beach (Playa Estero) in advance, and do not venture into the pueblo much (I stayed in the pueblo). The harassment situation is the worst I have experienced in all of my travels in Latin America. At the end of my stay there, I ran into other female travellers (in groups of 2s) who had also had similar harassment issues there (in the pueblo). It was so bad, that my last day there, one of the guys threw a rock at me. As much as I liked the place itself (Playa Estero is a nice beach for surfing), I had to leave earlier than I wanted to because I could not take the harassment any longer.

The people on Playa Estero were much more friendlier than the townspeople.

ChristianKraft

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  • Added on: June 14th, 2008
If in Caye Caulker, Belize do not have your laundry done at the place across from Mario's Snorkle Tours on Front Street. They will tell you one price when you drop it off and tell you a different price when you pick it up (by 2xs or so). They won't give you your laundry back until you pay. It just isn't worth the hassle.
Check out the Website that is dire need of work www.followingthedream.com .

este

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  • Added on: September 2nd, 2008
quote:
Originally posted by Why not???:
Dont leave your bag in the overhead shelves, we did and had two go at the same time, despite staying awake and having mates in front and behind us. This was in Costa Rica, on the way to San Jose from La Fortuna. On the plus side, if your going to get a passport robbed, do it there, the British Embassy in San Jose are great, turn up 1/2 hour before closing on friday, new passports ready Monday morning at 10am!


so it seems clear to keep the bags close to you as much as possible I am just wondering if not overhead then where? on my lap? Just not sure where I would be able to fit a backpack other then overhead. I havent traveled by bus in CA so I just am assuming the buses are small crampt and packed so space would be limited yes?

would I be relatively safe if I (like some suggested) used locks on the pockets and then actually locked the pack to the overhead frame? Any specifics would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

birdingcraft

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  • Added on: September 22nd, 2008
quote:
Originally posted by este:
quote:
Originally posted by Why not???:
Dont leave your bag in the overhead shelves, we did and had two go at the same time, despite staying awake and having mates in front and behind us. This was in Costa Rica, on the way to San Jose from La Fortuna. On the plus side, if your going to get a passport robbed, do it there, the British Embassy in San Jose are great, turn up 1/2 hour before closing on friday, new passports ready Monday morning at 10am!


so it seems clear to keep the bags close to you as much as possible I am just wondering if not overhead then where? on my lap? Just not sure where I would be able to fit a backpack other then overhead. I havent traveled by bus in CA so I just am assuming the buses are small crampt and packed so space would be limited yes?

would I be relatively safe if I (like some suggested) used locks on the pockets and then actually locked the pack to the overhead frame? Any specifics would be greatly appreciated, thanks!


I suppose if you locked the pack to the frame it would be alright but that wouldnt stop a thief from slashing or unzipping.
Yeah, keep the small pack on your lap. Most buses have a compartment below for larger packs- watch what gets taken off bus at stops to be sure although Ive never had a problem.
my Costa Rica blog:http://birdingcraft.com/wordpress

birdingcraft

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  • Added on: September 22nd, 2008
If you rent a car in Costa Rica and drive up to Irazu volcano, be very careful about leaving things in your car. Although the parking lot looks innocuous, I have heard of more than one person getting their stuff stolen from their cars during a 20 minute visit. This, despite people around including workers which makes it seem like the authorities arent taking this seriously, and/or someone working there is involved.
my Costa Rica blog:http://birdingcraft.com/wordpress

CuriousG

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  • Added on: November 9th, 2008
My warning comes from a personal experience of mine when I first came to Costa Rica. But before I get in to that I have to say that living here now I can't emphasis enough how important it is (i know it was mentioned but worth mentioning again) to not accept help from someone offering assistance if you happen to get a flat tire. Most of the time it is a setup and they will rob you so before getting out of your car look around and I repeat...do not accept help. This is the biggest scam going here in CR when it comes to unknowing tourists.

Now on with my other story...

Actually it is kind of close to the first warning about 'helping' on roadside problems. I was coming back up the mountain from Dominical, Costa Rica towards San Isidro del General when me and my wife came across an accident. There was no one there at the time aside from the people involved so I thought it looked serious so I stopped to help. Turns out there was a local/tico man pinned inside of the truck which had rolled on to its side. His leg was pinned under the steering column and his head appeared to have a concussion. I immediately stopped his 'buddies' from trying to pull his leg free as he was in obvious pain. Then I ask my wife to grab some ice from our cooler and a towel. I did the best I could considering I know nothing about first-aid but I think I did good considering the man thanked me profusely for helping him and stopping his friends from making a bad situation worse.

After everything was stable and the ambulance was on the way we decided there wasn't much more we could do so we went to leave. By this time there were approx. 20-30 people who had arrived to see what happened. While we were pulling away my wife started frantically looking for something. I said what is it? My purse is gone! A short burst of panic sets in due to the fact that when I pulled over to help I had just given her my passport and my wallet with everything in it to hold while I helped. Following the short burst of panic, anger sets in and I just remember thinking that there is no way I can rely on the police in this country to do anything so I decided to do something myself. I slammed it in reverse and went back to the scene. Seeing how angry I was, the man still pinned in the car asked me what happened so I told him. He was embarrassed that his own people would do such a thing while someone was helping someone obviously in trouble. Then I heard an American woman yell that there was a tica there in the crowd that saw a car full (5) of ticos that pulled up and while one came over to watch over me while I was helping at the scene the other ones were loitering around my car. She was reluctant to give any information until she finally said it may have been a black car with 5 ticos in it. I went racing after them. Knowing that the road (especially this one) was littered with potholes forcing them to slow down in a community called Tinamastes.

Coming up the hill in to Tinamastes I came around a corner on a steep incline and saw a black Hyundai climbing slowly up the hill with a full load. I looked at my wife and asked if that is a car she remembered at the scene and she said maybe. I didn't care I just wanted our things back considering my wife had tickets to return back to Canada in two weeks and without a passport she would be able to go anywhere.

I came up along side the car yelling at them to pull over. He wasn't about to pull over and just rolled up his windows. I knew this was the culprits and I wasn't about to let them get away. So then I pulled in front of the car and kept braking quickly until one time the trailer hitch of my SUV climbed up on the hood of his car. I slammed it in to park and hit the E-brake and jumped out. I remember hearing a lot of "gringo loco...gringo loco" so I then replied with, "you know I am not a f&(&ing gringo cause you have my passport you idiot. Then all our things started flying out every window on the car on to the street. Before I could blink the three people in the back had jumped out and ran leaving me with the drive and his passenger. I went to the drive door that he forgot to lock and opened it, grabbing the driver by his hair and pulling him out. The passenger comes running over saying everything is ok because we got all our stuff back. I didn't care these guys were going to pay one way or another. After a bit of a scuffle and me rattling his head off the door frame a couple times I told my wife to wait in the car while I dealt with these guys. I then told the driver to give me his keys. I was going to throw them in to the jungle and hopefully leave him stranded until the police arrived. That didn't work so well and just made something switch inside of me and I said to the driver "you want to know what its like to get robbed? give me all your money then!" The man then opened his wallet and emptied his change from his car and gave it to me asking to just be left alone.

I have to say though that for a split second when I pulled this guy out of his car and he was at least 6'3" I had a bit of a palpitation.
But then again I was one angry Canuck.
Darth Mavis

After calming down we both returned to the beach which by this time was rampant with rumors of our robbery. I then bought drinks for every one with this guys cash and everyone lived happily ever after. Many people in Dominical still claim this story as their own and it has become like an urban legend in the area which I find quite amusing.

So in closing...I don't recommend handling situations like this one in this way but this is what happened to me and how I dealt with it. Although it was very stupid considering one of them could have had a weapon, it was effective and we got back all of our belongings. Aside from a lipstick which the one woman in the car had time to sample.

PS: first time I have posted this story so I think its only fitting that I post it on my blog which you can read more of here: Costa Rica Blog
Costa Rica News - SellingCR

a601mom

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  • Added on: February 17th, 2009
I thought I just posted this but now can't find it so I will try again. i will be posting a full travelogue but wanted to give people a heads up. First I must take some responsibility for what happened.I have traveled all over Central America over the last five years and have never felt threatened which had made me somewhat complacent and allowed me to ignore that little voice which said "maybe you shouldn't be here".
I was in Costa Rica at Playa del Jaco and walked down to the beach at 6am to see if I could locate some toucans which are said to feed in the trees at the south end of the beach. I saw some interesting rocks at that end and when some tourists came from that area I talked to them and they indicated there was no one over there and it seemed safe although it was around the bend from the main part of the beach. I went over there and was photographing some macaws when a young hispanic man passed me and said hello in English. I again was photographing the birds when he suddenly returned and demanded that I give him all my stuff and I realized that he passed me to determine that no one else was around. I attempted to negotiate with him offering to give him money if I could keep my other things. He repeated his demand and since he was unarmed, I fought him for my possessions but he managed to overpower me and got my camera, flash drive, Blackberry and all the money I had on me. ( I did get a couple of blows in and he was probably not too interested in sex for a few days). I went to the police who informed me that they are never able to recover stolen property, however, I gave them a good description of the guy and the fact that he spoke English and they thought they might know who he was.
The next day, I went to Parque de Manuel Antonio. That afternoon, the cops saw the man on the street and were watching him when he pulled my camera out of his pocket and tried to sell it to a man on the street. The cops arrested him and were able to retrieve my camera, however, after 3 hours during which they tried to locate me, they released him. Costa Rican law apparently indicates that if they do not have a positive id they must release him in that time frame. I discovered that there is a group of drug addicts who live under the bridges in Jaco Beach who prey on tourists since they are aware of this law and know that the cops can't do anything.).. After I talked about this, I heard many stories of similar incidents that have occurred in the last couple of years. So please, be very careful in this area.(and if you hear that little voice-listen to it)
"What happens in Central America, will happen, when it happens and if it happens"

davegsomething

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  • Added on: June 19th, 2009
So I guess I'll post what happened to me in Guatemala, on the dirt road from Santiago Atitlan to San Pedro around Lago Atitlan.

I drove from Panajachel south around the lake.

After leaving Santiago Atitlan, there were another 3-4 miles of dirt road until I encountered...

There was a long straightaway and from both sides of the road two men dressed in camo with a balaclava covering their face jumped out of the bush and pointed their guns at me.

They ran towards me screaming to stop with their guns still aligned.

The men arrived at the bike (now 3 men, one came from behind) and started screaming at me asking for my dinero. I complied as they had one gun touching my forehead through my visor and another gun pointed at my gut.

I was in a state of complete panic and but managed to put the bike in neutral. They kept screaming for my dinero, I handed them my fake wallet and coin purse.

They then started to grab all over my body and ripped my sunglasses off and started searching me (probably for weapons). They found my moneybelt.

The guy on the right kept prodding at it and was waving the gun at me shouting and motioning for me to give them the contents.

My money belt was then ripped from my body.

Then they started ripping through my tank panniers taking nothing as they weren’t interested in my rain gear.

Agian, they started grabbing around, this time in my tankbag and found my camera. They then asked for my phone. I have no phone, and I kept saying that repeatidly.

Satisfied with my response, they ran back into the bush.

Their take was the above cards & passport, 40$ USD, 60 quetzales (<$10), and my favorite saftey/sunglasses. I’m glad they couldn’t figure out how to get into my mapbag ontop of my tank bag to get my GPS tracker. They were swatting at it likes cats at a laser pointer, but didn’t take the time to open it. Though it was in tracking mode, so it would have been funny to see if any tracks would show up.

Strangly, they threw my fake wallet back in my jacket. They took the Q60 that I had in the money part, but I had stashed another Q100 and US$5 in the card pockets.

I should have paid attention to the locals and spread my stuff out even more. argh…… I don’t believe that I had both of my ATM cards in the same place. Atleast I have enough money stashed in other places to be fine for a very long while.

Even after that experience, Guatemala was my favorite country on my 17,000 mile trip. The actual blog post of that incident and follow up are at: http://gsomething.com/blog
http://davegtravels.com Current trip RTW
http://allthewaysouth.com - Texas to Tierra del Fuego

a601mom

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  • Added on: June 19th, 2009
Sorry to hear about your experience-it sounds scarier than what happen to me. I know that my experience really shook me up for a while and undermined my self confidence. But I am fine now and recognize that this could happen anywhere -anytime and if the alternative is to hole up in my house-ain't goin happen. Enjoy the rest of your trip- hopefully you have enough left to get by without too many problems.
"What happens in Central America, will happen, when it happens and if it happens"


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