Getting Around in Central America: Transport Options For Overlanders

Getting a tuk tuk in La Mesilla, Guatemala.

Central America is a ferocious journey and a really rewarding one. We have Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. They are 8 unique and different countries and with the exception of my two trips to Panama (I flew in and out), I did all of this by backpacking overland. I found little reason or need to take flights in this region, the countries are close and easy to connect from one to the next – visas are also pretty easy here for many nationalities. This was interesting for me as when I toured Asia, Africa, Europe and even South America, I found taking flights just as cheap and convenient but Central America is different. My advice for Central America is simple – if you want to visit all 8 countries – do them in one go. I spent 3 months there and backpacked them pretty hardcore (I didn’t have too long in Costa Rica though, since I spent 3 weeks in Mexico and 4 weeks in Guatemala at the start). For heavily tourist spots like Cancun in Mexico, you can use Mexican etransfers to get around.

Backpacking from Mexico to Guatemala at Ciudad Cuauhtemoc.

My tip for the route?

I advise flying into Mexico City and making this stunner your first stop. I loved the city, spent a full week here. It was here that I toured the Cantinas, visited the Tequila and Mezcal Museum, did a Tequila tasting tour, visiting Teoutihuacan and also headed to the famous Estadio Azteca! Then head to Palenque, Oaxaca, San Cristobal de las Casas and Chichen Itza. If buses are not for you, you can try City Car Rental to get around. We also did a fair amount of hiking.

backpacking mexico city jonny

Mexico City – WOW!

Our toute took us as far east as the islands of Belize (Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye) and south to Alajuela and San Jose. On route, I had a great time in El Salvador and Honduras especially.

Types of transport to use

I recommend mixing it up a bit. Hire your own vehicle for a bit, do a cycle tour in Guatemala City, get the typical School Buses across some of the borders and do some boating. We backpacked from San Pedro to Panajachel in Guatemala by boat. I also took a luxury overland border bus from GC to San Salvador.

Backpacking in Guatemala

Extra tips

I recommend checking out El Salvador for longer than you expected. The country has an abundance of cool places to check out from the Pacific Ocean waves to Chalchuapa, to Santa Ana and the crazy Devil’s lookout on the edge of the capital, San Salvador.
partying san salvador

My brilliant night out in San Salvador with Ivan and Jorge.

Another new country – El Salvador.


My personal highlights of the Central America trip were these six:
2.Learning to surf at Barrio de Santiago, EL SALVADOR
3.Attending the Bolas del Fuego (Fireball Festival), EL SALVADOR
5.Getting my Padi Licence in Utila, HONDURAS
6.Celebrating my last country in mainland America with author Deacon Blake, COSTA RICA
Here are some more photos from those amazing times…
Three Days in Madonna's Island: La Isla Bonita, San Pedro, Belize

Three Days in Madonna’s Island: La Isla Bonita, San Pedro, Belize

The crazy Bolas de Fuego Fireball Fight in Nejapa El Salvador

Backpacking in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico.

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