Bus from Managua to Granada and Masaya Volcano

 Spending good few days in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, I just could not skip seeing places around. The landscape is way too beautiful to just stay in the city. Lakes, volcanoes and mountains create a very interesting environment that stun you straight away, especially when coming from tropical and green Costa Rica, like myself. I would definitely recommend to see two places that are close by: stunning Masaya Volcano, along with surrounded national park, and a cute little town called Granada. Second mentioned one is a very touristic place, so you can find there loads of restaurants, hostel and hotels to stay in. Please note that half of the day is more than enough to enjoy this town. The volcano, however, is definitely a must see attraction while in capital. It can become as an amazing one day trip, you will never forget. The bad news is that its not always open, especially when its too active, but once is available to public…no excuses for not seeing it! So how to get there?

Managua offers loads of tours to take you to both places, but why to pay more when catching a minibus could not be easier. The place to find them is same for both directions, so are the minivans. They do have a sing on the front saying Granada, where they terminate, and the volcano is on the way to mentioned town. Just please tell the driver to stop in front of the entrance to the park. For your way back from the Masaya, there is a bus stop on another side of the motorway where you can wait and wave when you will spot the bus. I am afraid they are usually full, so you may even wait for the third one that will let you in. Luckily, they run very often, every 15-30 mins. You can get a taxi too, if you prefer, for around 40$ one way (so not so cheap, but option as well).

The bus stop for the mini vans towards Granada, in Managua, is located at UCA terminal (University of Central America on Pista de la Resistencia street), and the ticket cost around  24-44 NIO (1$). Another bus stop can be found at Mercado Huembes, but its a bit further south from the city center (please see the attached map). It will take about 1 hour to rich Granada and around 40 minutes to rich Masaya. UCA terminal is a bit chaotic, but just look for the minibus with Granada sign on it. Vans run from 05:00 till 22:00.

I did walk to UCA terminal from city center, was safe for me, but police stopped me twice to ask why do I walk alone, and that I should take a taxi there. You can catch a bus there from the city center too. Once there, vans run very often and depart once almost full. You pay in the bus, usually on the way towards your destination. Ticket cost around 1$ one way, so its extremely cheap. In Granada bus stops right in the city center, the return one departs from different stop, see map attached below. There is no timetable again, as it leaves very often (every 15-30 mins) once van is full. img_4799

One more thing to add at the end. If you have just one spare day please do pick volcano over Granada! 

Pretty smile on a dirty street, Guatemala City as seen

Pretty, clean and safe is not what all trevellers are usually looking for. There are a real explorers out there that wont be easily satisfy by a little umbrella in their cocktail with a swimming pool on a side. This group want to see the diverse lifestyle on this planet. They want to discover and sink in a different culture. They want to see how people interact with each other in different, mostly roughest, environment. They want to understand the level of poverty, even crime sometimes. They don’t want to hide in posh hotels and turning their head at daily struggle. Yet, interestingly, very often they can found the reliance that goes towards the same direction.

Poor, dangerous with friendship and love. High-high, low-low. That how I see the world now, that what I think. Yet, there is still so many more places to see for me, so many cultures to touch, so many people to meet. I can see all those fakes smiles in western countries along with pure kindness in third world areas. Being in Kathmandu during the earthquake in 2015, I saw how Nepalese helped each other, I saw how French fire brigade had a breakfast for 4h, then going out to take some photos. I am not saying they did nothing, but way more could be done from them. I wonder why is that? I guess I need still to see more to, maybe, understand.

But coming back to the title, I definitely would recommend visiting Guatemala City, and Central America in general, especially for the mentioned group of trevellers at the beginning of this post, and to everyone really. Spearing this time to write what to see or eat, and where to stay, I will just say that you will enjoy no matter what, like I did.

 

The capital of murder, my trip to El Salvador

  Writing blogs like this one gives me an amazing opportunity to achieve three important things. First, and probably most important, is that it will stay as way of a souvenir, reminding me places I was fortunate to visit. I recognize the second reason as a possibility to share my experience, tips, thoughts and observations with other travellers or readers. And last, but not least, is the fact that while writing all my memories, or at least most of them, are coming back to me again like a wave, like a wind of all those things I saw, touched, felt and tasted, almost experiencing them again.

   Glad I finally can introduce, thought, just in a small part, El Salvador to you. Place that currently holds, said in a nice way, a very uninviting title of being one of the most dangerous country in the world. Somehow, yet again, from my experience, numbers can lie or twist the first impression. Salvador, the smallest country in Central America, where one person get killed every hour, became to be my favorite place in this part of the world. I guess the fact that I found locals to be the friendliest, along with the tropical beauty around, helped to crashed the general opinion in my head. On another side, this Centro-american land is apparently well known for experiences some of the highest murder rates in Latin America. It is also considered as an epicenter of the gang crisis, along with Guatemala and Honduras. Organized crime in El Salvador is a serious problem. It is estimated that around 36.000 of people belongs to the gang. Efforts to understand or deal with this phenomenon have been insufficient. As mentioned, I am glad I visited Salvador. It really was a pearl while traveling around Central America. However, I had to start with cold information, just so you will research well areas you’re planning to visit. This should help you to prepare better for your trip and to stay safe.

   Probably not the best statistics to start with, and a breaking reason for many not visit this country. But let me tell you something, I traveled around there as a solo female, staying even in a very rough areas of capital and Santa Ana, and I could not, literally, see any good reason for not visiting. I stayed in El Salvador for 2 weeks in April 2016, twice in capital and once in Santa Ana. I traveled only by public bus, always being alone. Lack of English-speaking people around could be a problem indeed for many of us, but just with very basic Spanish, like I’ve had, you will be just fine. It is probably also good to mention that 95% of the deaths take gang members only and, I am afraid, police force too. With good attitudes, like not walking after dark, or in some dangerous ares, you will be very safe, and you will love Salvador, like I did.

Reasons why I loved Salvador most in Central America

Locals

  Kind, generous and so helpful people, that I’ve met during my backpacking in Central America, I found mostly in El Salvador. Either it was in a hotel, on the street, in the restaurant or just in the bus, people were always smiling to me, trying to help, chatting. They were very interesting in me, wanted to know where I am from, why I came, and how on earth I am alone here. All these factors made me feel very welcome. I received loads of warmness from many true hearts. I just could not imagine a nicer nation, I think even in both Americas. I will always remember all those guards with shotguns on the street always calling me to wave and say: buenos dias Anna, como esta. I was probably one of a very few tourists they saw before, as I never stayed in a touristic area, yet they weren’t reserved in any way towards me. Police were always stopping and asking me, if I need a lift anywhere, people smiling all the time which make my whole experience just perfect.

Landscape

  El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America. It has 307 km of coastline along the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Fonseca, and it is situated between Honduras and Guatemala. The topography of El Salvador contain mainly mountains, but the country does have some narrow, relatively flat central plateau. The highest point in is Cerro el Pital at 2,730 m, and it is located in the northern part of the country, on the border with Honduras. Because El Salvador is located not far from the equator, its climate is tropical in nearly all areas except for its higher elevations where the climate is considered more temperate. Lakes and volcanoes can be found in many areas too.

Rich range of a street food

  As a one of the poorest countries in Central America, gastronomy business creates some earning opportunities for many locals. You will just never get hungry in Salvador, as food stands are available on every single corner in every possible place. Vendors do offer a wide range of many meals from a very local snacks (pupusas – hand-made corn tortillas stuffed with various fillings such as beans; tamales-corn dough pockets that are served with different fillings like sweet corn, cheese, meat or dried fruits; pasteles-fried dough patties filled with meat like chicken, pork or beef and finely chopped vegetables; soups), along with more western options like chips (here eaten with mayo and cheese – see Germans, you’re not the only one:), burgers, pizzas; and finally finishing at any kind of shakes, natural fruit juices and many different sweets to pick. Any stomach will be satisfied in El Salvador.

Santa Ana Volcano

  One of the most amazing places I have seen in my life, definitely in my top five. For more info about volcano, and how to get there by public bus, please click here.

Cost line

  307 km of coastline along the Pacific Ocean contains a sandy beaches with beautiful tropical flora around. Coast is also well popular among surfers.

Cheap prices

 El Salvador is one of the cheapest countries in Central America. You can travel on public transport in the cities for maximum of 0.25$. The bus from capital to Santa Ana (2h of journey) cost as little as 1$. Hotel`s bed with bathroom can be found from 10$. Breakfast or lunch found on the street from 1$. Good place to buy some clothes at a very low price.

Just remember to

  Please note, if you are planning on going to El Salvador, do some research on area you will be staying in. Most of them are just fine, but few are controlled completely by gangs and nobody can access them. Police is not welcome there, if a solo officer will go to that part of the town, he will get instantly killed.

  Never walk after dark and try to avoid not crowded areas. Do not flash with your valuables like phone or camera, as thieving is very common generally in whole Latin America. Eh, that’s the reason I don’t have many photos from there.

Understanding a daily life in San Salvador

  But please do understand that people of El Salvador struggle on a daily basis. As much as  part “what I loved most” of this blog can sound as a fairy tale, we have to recognize that people of this country are in constant fear of being murdered or abuse in any way, especially young males. Here, I have to add that you as a tourist are very safe, way safer than locals. They are just not as fortunate as you are. Again, poorest people, like everywhere, are at greatest disadvantage that are forced to live in roughest areas where violence occur on a daily basis. A large percentage of the population lives under the poverty level, which means their chance for a decent standard of living is low. Their situation is so bad that many of them risk a dangerous trip up to the United States to look for better opportunities.

  Every private business have to pay a tax to one of the gangs that control the area or street. It is normal to see a dead body on the road sometimes, and that almost every shop got his own bodyguard with a shotgun, rifle or machine gun. Guns are visible pretty much everywhere, and are normal even for children. In western countries you can see a non-smoking signs, when in El Salvador no-gun sights are everywhere. Some people are forced to travel at night, which is a very dangerous thing. Many have witnessed a murder or are accused of snitching to authorities, while others have been evicted by criminals who wanted their home. Those with money or relatives in safer areas often seek refuge within El Salvador. Young girls tend to get pregnant at a very young age, just to avoid being claim by the gang members. It is well know that police and government is highly corrupted. Having said that, being a part of a force, is probably the most dangerous job to do as of war between gangs and the government. Fear is notable almost everywhere, buses are full of holes from bullets. Gang members are on every street, patrolling their territory, making sure money are collected from  business owners, and the collectors are usually under 12 years old.

  So this is a daily life in El Salvador, the country I felt in love with. As much as I hope to visit again, I would love to see the improvement on many levels, especially in crime rate and economy. Yet again, please note that this is one of the most amazing countries in the world. With a proper attitude you will be just fine, and you will experience and appreciate the people and the land, like I did.

Tical, then back to the future

  And I`ve done it! Yet, still can’t believe it. How lucky and fortunate can someone be to visit 3 major and most significant remaining sides of a magnificent Mayans (Tical), Incas (Machu Picchu) and Aztecs (Teotihuacan) empires, pretty great thing for someone who always was interested in archaeology. As a great Star Wars fan too, along with discovering the ruins, I could put my foot on one of the locations used in Episode IV and Rogue One movies, how cool is that! Time for Maldives now ;). Day tour to Tical definitely was one of my most amazing days in Guatemala. Despite the fact that I took an organized tour, it still felt very adventurous walking in the jungle, discovering structure by structure, temple by temple, hiking some of them, and finally finishing the whole tour by watching disappearing sun in to the rain forest from the highest Mayan`s construction. Remaining, in combination with Tical`s remote location, create a mysterious atmosphere that only few other Mayan sites possess. These temples signify are one of the most important Mayan cities that dominated much of the Maya world politically, economically, and militarily for centuries. The impressive structures lie scattered around the area. Today, many ruins are still covered by jungle. Tikal is just spectacular with their mystery labyrinth of limestone structures. You can wander around for hours. From a grassy central plaza alone through palace courtyards and bedrooms, or scramble up the north acropolis, with its jumble of temples, stumpy, pillar-shaped altars and carved-stone stellar, some with hieroglyphs still visible.

 The side is best done in organized tours. They are very affordable at just 10-15$ for a day tour to Tical that include transport and guide. The ticket to the side cost around 20$. Having tour guide, in my opinion, is very important, otherwise you can miss on loads of information. It is also good to hear the history from local blood. You will be given enough time at the side to properly look around and discover the park. Trip can be book in most of the hostels/hotels, tour agents. Flores is just full of them, and prices and trips are very similar, so no point to look around for too much. You can either book an early morning one, or an afternoon one. The first trip offers experiencing a raising sun over the park, but please note that it is watchable from the last and biggest temple, so I really think its best to leave at the end. Not even mention that you have to get up early, and the price is way higher. The afternoon option offers watching a sunset, so you will basically spend time at the side, walking around the jungle, discovering loads of temples and structures, to finally finish at the biggest one, waiting for the beautiful time of sun disappearing in to magnificent panorama of temples and rain forest. I really suggest to book this trip, unless of course you have to rush. However, if you prefer to do it alone, you can catch a bus that goes there. Regular second class buses leave from the Santa Elena (located south from the Flores island) bus station to Tikal at 06:00, 06:30, 07:00, 08:30, 10:00, 11:30, 12:30, 13:00 and 15:00 arriving two hours later. It cost around 4$. A bus will stop in Tikal between 16:00 and 16:30 and continue onward to Uaxactún. The local buses do not run on Sundays. Beware about buying a round trip ticket from “Exploradores de la Cultura Maya” from the Santa Elena bus station as they may sell you a return ticket for a bus that doesn’t exist. The park’s main gate opens at 06:00, and officially closes at 18:00. Good advise is to take with you as much water as possible, 2-3 liters, before entering. I don’t think I have to explain you how hot is in this part of the world, not even mentioning that you will spend about 5-6 hours at the side, climbing some high temples. There are no shops inside, only, if you’re lucky, one man got a stand next to the highest, and last (!), temple with some drinks to sell. Whatever way you will choose, the main thing is to visit Tical! It is a number one attraction in Guatemala, its is a “Machu Piccu” of Central America. It is really amazing to discover how the pyramids were build, along with other structures, hidden in the jungle. To experience and access the ancient world. Its like going back in the past, but without DeLorean and a crazy doc.3101

sdfsdfsd

Central America in numbers-cost of accommodation, transport and food

Similarly to my blog post about cost of traveling around South America, I will compare prices of each country in Central America. Hopefully this will help you to plan your backpacking trip better trough this beautiful part of the world. Please note that it is just a basic info, as we all have a different style of traveling. Some like to explore more and spend more money on it, some have a very tight budget and can spend daily way less than stated in this blog-post. I, for example, traveled around Central America, from Panama up to Mexico City, for 2 months, and I have spent around 3.200$, excluding all my flights. That is around 50-55$ a day. However, I stayed mostly in hotels, and I was always going out with people, if there was a party going on, spending a lot on drinks and street food. In expensive Costa Rica I was even going out everyday….what can I say. Apart from that, I visited most of the worth seeing places, and I did solo activities combine with organized tours. Having said all that, if you will stick just to hostels, not going out as often as me, you can easily do it at 25-30$ a day (including buses to travel from A to B). Anyway, let’s have a look at costing.


Belize

Overlook: Third most expensive after Costa Rica and Panama, thought not too pricey for such a popular tourist destination with one of the most beautiful Caribbean cost line.
IMG_2578

Accommodation: In most expensive places hostels start at 12$, hotels at 35$ (Caye Caulker). Belize City offers expensive hostels from 15-20$ only because not so many of them around. Hotels start at 20$ there.

Transport: Affordable in general.

    Buses: Public buses are very affordable and start from 3-4$ for 1h of journey. Chicken buses are the cheapest at 1-2$ for an hour of journey. Loads of  private, expensive companies available to choose too.

    Public: Cities and towns in Belize are very small with 8,000 living in the capital, so the public transport is not as complex and include only buses and taxis. In Belize City is probably best to use a taxi, thought Chicken buses can start from 0.50$ for a journey.

    Taxi: No official data, but I paid 7$ for around 8 minutes of ride in Belize City (from docks to bus station).

Food: Not so cheap in restaurants, but rich range of street food available to pick. Caribbean chicken, rice and salad can be found from 4$ on the street in Belize City, but in very touristic Caye Caulker from 6-7$ as cheapest option for lunch. Restaurants offer a dinner from 10-12$.

Daily budget: Can start at 25$-35$ a day.


Costa Rica

Overlook: Most expensive in Central America. Accommodation is affordable, but food is one of the most expensive in the world, with the cheapest 1.5L bottle water from 2$, and cheapest sliced toast bread from 2-3$. Aldi say……whaaaaaat???? 😉

Accommodation: Hostels in San Jose starts at 6$, hotels at 16$. By Caribbean Coast, hostels starts at 9-10$, hotels at 20$.

Transport: The best bus company, I found, was Tica Bus. Very comfortable with toilet and wifi, but expensive to travel from Costa Rica. This company operates trough the whole Central, starting from Panama, all the way up to Mexico. Chicken buses operates between cities and towns at very affordable price.

    Buses: Again, Tica Bus was my best option to travel around, especially between capitals. Ticket from San Jose to Tegucigalpa cost 56$, so a bit expensive, but there is not many companies to choose between anyway. For bus from Puerto Viejo (town by Caribbean Cost in Costa Rica) to San Jose, the capital, I paid just 10$ (5h of journey), so domestically is very affordable to travel.

    Public:  For most city buses fares range between 0.35-0.70$, to be paid in cash, as a general rule. Costa Rican bus drivers will pick you up anywhere, so just stick out your arm and flail wildly when you see your bus.

    Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 1.14$ with 1.16$ for 1 km after in San Jose.

Food: Very expensive to buy food even in discount shops. Meals at restaurants start at 15$ as the cheapest to be found, but street food can be more affordable, starting from 5$ for a take away small lunch-snack.

Daily budget: Can be done from 25$, but only covering own cooking and cheapest possible accommodation, no activity and transport, otherwise be ready to spend 35-55$ a day.


El Salvador

Overlook: Very cheap in all fields: eating out, hotels, transport. Possible to fully enjoy and indulge yourself.

Accommodation: Hostels start at 6$, hotels at 15$ (San Salvador). Santa Ana is just a little bit more expensive, hostels from 8-10, hotels 15-20$.

Transport: Buses are very affordable, especially domestically between towns and cities.

    Buses: Buses that operate between cities and towns are very cheap. I think it can starts from 0.50$ for one hour of journey. I paid around 1$ to travel from San Salvador to Santa Ana (2h of journey) in a Chicken Bus. Tica Bus from San Salvador to Guatemala City, in Guatemala, costed me less than 35$.

    Public: Public buses are very cheap and relatively easy to use. They do have stops, but you can get off anywhere you like, just tell the driver to stop. The ticket costs around 0.15-025$, depending on the length of your travel.

    Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 5$ with 3$ for 1 km after in San Salvador. Please note, this is an official info. However, I do remember they were way way (third) cheaper than presented data.

Food: Very very cheap to eat out. Possible to grab a good breakfast with coffee from 1-1.5$. Good big lunch can start from 2-3$. No point to waste your time to cook. Fresh fruits and veg on the street at a very low price too. Mercados are the best places to shop.

Daily budget: It can be well possible at just 20$ a day, easily can be done cheaper.


Guatemala

Overlook: Very similar to El Salvador, nice and cheap, so we love it!

Accommodation: Hostels start at 5$, hotels at 16$ (Guatemala City). Touristic Flores, from where travelers do biggest Mayans side (Tica) luckily at the same prices, if you will book in advance and look well before, otherwise hostels start from 7$.

Transport: Very similarly to El Salvador, Guatemala offers a very cheap local and international bus transport.

    Buses: Few choices to pick, starting from the cheapest chicken bus that can cost as little as 0.50$ for an hour of journey. Shutter service available in most areas, especially touristic. Tica bus from Guatemala City to Tegucigalpa in Honduras costs 44$.

    Public: Chicken bus starts from 0.20$ to get around the city.

    Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 3.40$ with 0.68$ for 1 km after, in Guatemala City.

Food: No point to cook anything. Ready made delicious food is very cheap. You can grab a breakfast for 1$ and lunches start at 2-3$, but from street stands. Restaurants can be very cheap too. Mercados offer cheapest and best fruits, veg, cheeses and meat.

Daily budget: Same like El Salvador, can start from 20$ a day, possible at 15$-17$ as the lowest.


Honduras

Overlook: Can be affordable, just tiny more expensive than El Salvador and Guatemala, especially Caribbean islands and coast.

Accommodation: Hostels start at 7$, hotels at 13$ in Tegucigalpa. Most popular Roatan Island offers hostels from 8$, hotels from 18$.

Transport: From very cheap chicken buses to expensive shuttle transport.

    Buses: Very affordable to travel between towns domestically in chicken buses and vans which cost around 1-2$ for an hour of journey. International Tica Bus cost 44$ from Tegucigalpa to Guatemala City, in Guatemala.

    Public: One way ticket bus cost 0.48$ in Tegucigalpa.

    Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 2$ with 3.69$ for 1 km after in Tegucigalpa. Again, like in San Salvador, Honduras is relatively cheap, and I do think taxis are way cheaper than what is stated in official info.

Food: A little more expensive than Guatemala and El Salvador, yet still very cheap. Lunch can be found from 4$. Loads of discount shops to choose as well, as mercados, with fresh range of food. Street food stands offer snacks from 0.5-1$.

Daily budget:  Can start from 20$ a day in cheaper places to 25$ in touristic areas like Roatan.


Mexico

Overlook: Probably the cheapest on my list. Nice break for our purse when coming from Belize, like myself. Well possible to fully enjoy, even for a budget backpacker. Apart from traveling and discovering, it is very cheap just to relax at massage center, spa, etc.

Accommodation: In Mexico City hostels start at as little as 3$, hotels at 10$. In very touristic Caribbean cost town, Cancun, hostels start at 7$, hotels at 14$.

Transport: Very cheap for short distance travel between towns, more expensive with a greater distance, as buses are more exclusive, and you have less companies to choose from.

    Buses: Can be very affordable, but distances are great in Mexico, and bus tickets can cost around 90$-100$ for 22h of journey (Chetumal-Mexico City for example). Good to do some research, as sometimes is cheaper (and more comfortable) to buy a plane ticket.

    Public: 0.28$ for public transport in Mexico City.

    Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 0.55$ with 0.29$ for 1 km after (Mexico City).

Food: Very cheap. No point to cook anything (from breakfast to supper). 5 tacos can cost as little as 1.50$. Big burrito, with loads of cheese, even for 2 people, can be found at 3$. Portions are usually very big and satisfying.

Daily budget:  Can start at 20$, but well possible even from 15$.


Nicaragua

Overlook: Nicaragua is a very cheap, again, place to travel around. Eating out is the best option. Breakfast (rice, eggs, meat, beans plus coffee or tea) can start at just 1$, lunches from 2-3$.

Accommodation: In Managua (capital) hostels start at 8$, hotels 18$. In a very touristic Granada, hostels start at just 7$, hotels at 12-15$.

Transport: Vans and chicken buses are the cheapest, probably best to pick when traveling short distances. Longer journey is more expensive, as the buses offer a better comfort and sits.

    Buses: Vans and chicken buses cost around 1-2$ for an hour of journey domestically. International Tica bus from Managua to Tegucigalpa in Honduras costs 30$.

    Public: Public transport costs 0.25$ in Managua.

    Taxi: Taxi starts (normal tariff) from 1.01$ with 1.02$ for 1 km after in Managua.

Food: Very cheap to eat out. Loads of stands on the street that offer a good lunch for as little as 2$, a snack or small lunch cost around 1$.

Daily budget: Can start at 20$.


Panama

Overlook: Panama City is a very expensive place, especially restaurants and bars. however, 1-2 nights is enough to explore it and move to the next location. Caribbean coast can be affordable, especially when it comes to accommodation.

Accommodation: In Panama City hostels start at 8$, but they are far away from the city center. In the city center hostels starts at 11$, hotels starts from 14$, but from 23$ in the center. Most popular Bocas del Toro offers hostels from 10-12$, hotels from 18-20$.

Transport: I think it is a bit pricey comparing to the rest of Central America, especially between Panama and Costa Rica. Bus is the cheapest option as flying can be very expensive.

    Buses: International Tica bus costs 40$ from Panama City to San Jose. Bus from Panama City to Bocas del Toro (Caribbean island) costs around 27$, plus 5$ for water taxi.

    Public: 0.25$ for a single ride in Panama City, but you need a card to use it. You can also pay to someone to swipe you in. 

    Taxi: Taxi starts (Normal Tariff) from 2$ with 2$ for 1 km after in Panama City.

Food: Eating out can be very expensive, especially in the capital. Lunches starts at 15$ in the cheapest restaurants. Sea food cocktails at fish market starts from 10$. Street food stands can be found, but not around Avenida Balboa (business center with skyline).

Daily budget: Can start at 30-35$.

That very western city with a great twist. 3 days in Panama City

 Nova-days travelling and backpacking style breaks out of the old frame of commercial accommodations as non-alternative places to stay. Couch surfing gets more and more popular among, not even always young, travellers. There are loads of other options too. On a farm, while working, in own tenth, loads… That is how Panama came for me too, as a little sample of that new popular way. Though, maybe not so obvious, luckily, I got invited to stay at my friend’s house in Panama City. Yes, kind Clari, my friend I have met on a scent of Machu Picchu in Peru, took me for few days under her wings to provide me with a real Panamanian hospitality, and to show me this stunning modern capital of small, however packed with beauty, country. That what traveling is all about for me: discovering world wonders and meeting great people. Clari, as Panamanian born and raised, became to be the best guide to show me around. Apart from a good time with a friend, I was able to discover all the hidden secrets of this magnificent city. The city filled by tropical nature and surrounded with a skyline bigger than Miami, but at the same time still full of history to learn about. I am aware that Panama City is globally mostly famous for its canal, but there is still so many things to do and see while there. So what are these things?


Fish Market

  I guess it is odd to start with the Fish Market as a first of the sight-seen, but apart from the big range of fresh and delicious sea food you will be able to spot the amazing panorama of the city from there. It can be as a good start. Market is located by the cost, very close to the Casco Viejo area, which makes it a very popular place to sit, eat and chill, especially in the evening, for locals and tourists. You can taste loads of cocktails made from all different ingredients. You can pick the ready one or just create your own. You might think it`s a bit pricey, but I have been told that all the stands offer the freshest, best sea food in Panama. DSC_0480

Casco Viejo

  Casco Viejo, located in the center of Panama City, brings back the history and spirit from past centuries to this modern city. It is an old town dated back to 1673, after the original town of Panama Viejo got destroyed during the pirate attack. After some time it got left out when the modern trade-style era arrived to Panama City, among with the skyline architecture. Casco Viejo got renew a century ago, when Panamanian decided to bring back some history to this Miami-like city and restore the buildings around there. The location of this Spanish colonial quarter can be easily named as most cultural place now. The narrow streets of the place stands as foundation for many churches (some even 300 years old), squares, colonial buildings and statues. you can just go to wander around with no map, and you will find something magnificent on very corner. The area is full of hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and bars. The last ones, I mentioned, are usually very crowded at night, as Casco Viejo is a popular destination for night life lovers. Actually, that would be my suggestion, to visit this place late afternoon to get a good look at architecture around, and in the evening to spot the panorama of bright lights, flashing from the great sky line building on the other side.

Panama Canal

   I have noticed that Panamanian are very proud of the canal. Almost seems like they think Panama holds the key to the one of the most important water gates in the world. Canal, that is a passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and North and South America, dates back to 1515. It is worth to see it, but I don`t feel like you have to get inside to see the presentation, movie and museum. I did, but it definitely wasn’t my highlight. You can just see it from outside and that should be fine. The entrance fee is 15$.

Panamá Viejo

   Panamá Viejo, as a remaining part of the old Panama City and former capital of the country, is located at the edge of the modern city. Its been named as a World Heritage Site since 1997. You can see there structures dated back to 1519. Well worth to discover and entrance fee starts at 6$.

Mi Pueblito

  Good glimpse of the various Panamanian cultures & traditions. This site is a collection of housing and artifact replicas of the various cultures (old and modern) of Panama. While simple, it gives you a good idea that this relatively small country is formed by various ethnicity and traditions that survive to this date. The entry fee for foreigners is 3$ USD and you get a free guide (optional), 1$ for locals.

Ancon Hill

  A hill in the heart of Panama City from where you can seen the wonderful panorama that include the canal, modern skyline and old Casco Viejo. Climbing is relatively easy and should take around 2 h, there’s no entrance fees. Apart from diverse panorama you will get surrounded by, you can see or read about loads of rare species of animals, that lives only there.dfdf

Avenida Balboa

   The avenue stands as a major financial district for Panama and the rest of Central America. Best known as one of the most expensive roads in the world, It is home to several very high building and points of interest including. The skyline at night is particularly beautiful as it is illuminated with the lights from these tall buildings.

Great 3 days in Panama City

    How lucky was I being invited to stay at my friend’s home in Panama City. That what traveling is all about for me: discovering world wonders and meeting great people. Ok, ok…I like to dig my fork in a culinary map too. But yes, kind Clari, my friend I have met on a scent of Machu Picchu in Peru, took me for few days under her wings, to provide me with a real Panamanian hospitality, and to show me this stunning  modern capital of a small, however packed with beauty, country. Clari, as a Panamanian born and raised, became to be the best guide to show me around. Apart from a good time with a friend, I was able to discover all the hidden secrets of this magnificent city. The city filled by tropical nature, surrounded with a skyline bigger than Miami, but at the same time still full of history to learn about. I am aware that Panama City is globally mostly famous for its canal, but there is still so many things to do and see while there.  So what are these things?


Fish Market

   I guess it is odd to start with the Fish Market, as a first of the sight-seen, but apart from the big range of a fresh and delicious sea food, you will be able to spot the amazing panorama of the city from there. It can be as a good start. Market is located by the cost, very close to the Casco Viejo area, which makes it a very popular place to sit, eat and chill, especially in the evening, for locals and tourists. You can taste loads of cocktails made from all different ingredients. You can pick the ready one or just create your own. You might think it`s a bit pricey, but I have been told that all the stands offer the freshest, best sea food in Panama. 

Casco Viejo

  Casco Viejo, located in the center of Panama City, brings back the history and spirit from past centuries to this modern city. It is an old town dated back to 1673, after the original town of Panama Viejo got destroyed during the pirate attack. After some time it got left out when the modern trade-style era arrived to Panama City, among with the skyline architecture. Casco Viejo got renew a century ago, when Panamanian decided to bring back some history to this Miami-like city and restore the buildings around there. The location of this Spanish colonial quarter can be easily named as most cultural place now. The narrow streets of the place stands as foundation for many churches (some even 300 years old), squares, colonial buildings and statues. Just go to wander around with no map, and you will find something magnificent on very corner. The area is full of hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and bars. The last I mention are usually very crowded at night, as Casco Viejo is a popular destination for night life lovers. Actually that would be my suggestion to visit the place late afternoon, to get a good look at architecture around, and in the evening to spot the panorama of bright lights, flashing from the great sky line building on the other side.

Panama Canal

    I have noticed that Panamanian are very proud of the canal. Almost seems like they think Panama holds the key to the one of the most important water gate in the world. Canal, that is a passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and North and South America, that dates back to 1515. It is worth to see it, but I don`t feel like you have to get inside to see the presentation, movie and museum. I did, but it definitely wasn’t the highlight. You can just see it from outside and that should be fine. The entrance fee is 15$.

Panamá Viejo

    Panamá Viejo, as a remaining part of the old Panama City and former capital of the country, is located at the edge of the modern city. Its been named as a World Heritage Site since 1997. You can see there structures dated back to 1519. Well worth to discover and entrance fee starts at 6$.

Mi Pueblito

   God glimpse of the various Panamanian cultures & traditions. This site is a collection of housing and artifact replicas of the various cultures (old and modern) of Panama. While simple, it gives you a good idea that this relatively small country is formed by various ethnicities and traditions that survive to this date. The entry fee for foreigners is 3$ USD and you get a free guide (optional), 1$ for locals.

Ancon Hill

    A hill in the heart of Panama City from where you can seen the wonderful panorama that include the canal, modern skyline and old Casco Viejo. Climbing is relatively easy and should take around 2 h, there’s no entrance fees. Apart from diverse panorama you will get surrounded by, you can see or read about loads of rare species of animals, that lives only there.

Avenida Balboa

    The avenue stands as a major financial district for Panama and the rest of Central America. Best known as one of the most expensive roads in the world, It is home to several very high building and points of interest including. The skyline at night is particularly beautiful as it is illuminated with the lights from these tall buildings.

Where the time goes slow

 How about this time we will land our flying, curious, and always hungry minds in Belize. Sounds good? I hope so, so welcome there! We will scratch the surface of the landscape, lifestyle, activities and we will have a little bite of Caribbean cousins. So where exactly are we? In a place in the world where you can have an adventurous time, or where you can just relax, and all that being surrounded by a beautiful scenery.  How fortunate was I to be there, explore and feel? Certainly, very. Belize still gives me some goose bumps when I am memorizing my time there. Gorgeous beaches, jungle, people…all that raise my heart beat again. I can taste the salt from the sea, I can feel the heat, I can see a friendly faces. A piece of a heaven and a slice of a paradise.

 Belize is a very small country in Central America. The population stands at just 368,310 (are they even too lazy to increase that number?…perhaps). The official slogan there is to “go slow”. Everything seems to be calm, relaxed and people look happy. They are not nervous, always joking a lot, chatting to you, trying to be helpful, trying to give you some tips, if needed. Nobody will ever turn his back on you. I adored Belize straight away, not so sure if it was because of the beautiful Caribbean cost, jungle, waterfalls or just the vibe, I was getting there. Highly possible it was the last. My stay there became as a great resting period during my backpacking trip trough Central America. I am not going to lie, I really loved the fact that all locals speak Spanish and English as well. dollar.jpgBelize also got the coolest currency ever, a dollar with Queen Elizabeth the II on it. The reason for this unique looking money lays in the fact that Great Britain controls Monetary Authority in Belize. The exchange rate is very easy: 2 Belize dollars are worth 1 US dollar. Please be aware of it, as this country uses both currencies, so always ask if the price is in B$ or US$, as you can be easily mistaken. Some Belizeans knows it and sometimes try to trick tourists on prices, but I’ve never been mislead there by anyone. I arrived to Belize from Flores in Guatemala, and as far as I remember, it took me around 4 hours to get to Belize City, where I stopped for one night! Yes, one or 2 nights are enough to look around and to try some tasty Caribbean cousins that satisfies almost every mouth.20160507_143749_26877422045_o.jpgYou can also do some shopping, if there’s anything you are missing on. Once you’re ready to go, catch a boat from docks to get to Caye Caulker island. There are three companies that operate water taxis between lands. I think prices are very similar of two of them, but one (the biggest one by the bus stop) is way more expensive.dfdf.jpg All boats are really the same, to be fair. It takes only 30 minutes to get to the island. All companies there sell organized trips too. I really would recommend to look at it, as you can do anything from Mayan ruins and temples; hiking, canoeing or kayaking down the river; cave walking; finally to the one of most amazing places in the world, The Great Blue Hole. I have to admit that I didn’t do much there. I went straight for a relaxed week in Caye Caulker. I’ve seen Tical in Guatemala, so I was already satisfy with Mayan history, but I really do regret that I haven’t seen Great Blue Hole. So please, if you are reading this and planing on going there, don’t miss it.

  Once I arrived by the boat to the island, I easily found my way around with only one main street there. I literally got to my hotel in  5 minutes. You can really see the sea on both sides of the road at some points on the island. That`s how small it is. That is why I will never understand these people who were hiring golf cards and were riding all around, but whatever. 20160507_144738_26784142472_o.jpgSo yes, the island is very calm, but cute as hell. I knew straight away that I will have a great time. Now please note, as I mentioned, the island is very small, of course packed with places to stay, but they are almost all booked up, so I would strongly suggest to reserve your place in advance. Luckily, that was what I did, and my hotel was fully booked! There`s loads of American tourist around too, I guess it is a very popular destination for them. Of course it is not as crazy as Montanita in Ecuador, but there are loads around to see and do anyway. Nights are busy too with loads of night clubs open till late hours. It really is very good to go out, as you can see the different side of the island. Loads of food stands are only open in the evening, if you are a local street food lover, like myself. I think the longest bar open at night is Reggae Bar in the northern side. I stayed till 4 am there and walk back to hotel alone. It really is not a problem there! The whole area feels very safe. If you are not too hangover in the morning, go to do some fun stuff. There are loads of agencies around that offer organized boat trips to do some diving and snorkeling. You can dive at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and few more nearby reef locations. Loads of trips include a lunch stop in San Pedro. You can also visit a near by Turneffe Islandsby. Several dive certification courses are available. You can do a very cool cave diving, but note that it can be explored only by experience divers, ideally with a local that is familiar with the cave.

  As you see, you wont get bored, and you can turn your trip to be a magnificent experience. If you are lazy, like I was while there, just go to chill on the beach, swim in the crystal clear sea, get some tan. The split is most popular place for it, usually fully packed with tourists all around. The separation of the island started off as a channel, which was widened by Hurricane Hattie in 1961. There was another big hurricane, just months after I left, and loads of places got badly damaged (I will upload a video from my friend showing what happened).

 At the Split is a restaurant/bar with some tables half way trough the water, lightened at night. Even cooler fact is that at hours between 18.00 and 20.00 you can buy half price drinks, as of happy hour. That area tends to be as the best spot to watch sunsets, you can really capture on your camera stunning photos. Good to combine both – having a tasty white rum in the water and watching a sunset. 20160510_130950_26336732394_o.jpgIt really is a magical experience. So as I mention, this is a very overcrowd place, so if you’re not keen on that just go elsewhere. You can find a nice empty beaches in the island too.

  So overall, I really do recommend To visit Belize. It can be a great stop on your busy backpacking trip where you can just chill for a few days, do nothing. That is how it turned for me. I am always walking around for hours to see things, so this was a great time for me to charge my batteries before heading to Mexico. You have to  Belize me!!!!

ps Very sadly I`ve lost all my photos from my camera of Belize. The few remaining ones, I have, are from my phone camera, so I do apologize for the quality of them, and the fact that I can not advertise this magnificent country better.