Central America - A Personal Overview

Posted by The Madbiker on Mon, Jun 3, 2024

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a very expensive country when compared to all of the other countries that I have visited in Central America. I had mixed feelings about my time in the country, the Caribbean side is a complete dump but still as expensive as the rest of the country which in parts was also a dump.

The Capital city San Jose for example, was pretty grubby and the public parks that I visited in the centre of the city were full of drunks sleeping on the grass or on the park benches, and both parks stank of stale urine. However, the scenery in the country once away from the Capital city was awesome, especially in the coffee growing area of San Marcos that I stayed in, but it was also very expensive.

The people that I met and interacted with were on the most part friendly but I experienced a kind of general attitude from others that was along the lines of “here’s another rich tourist, let’s fleece him” which I did not like. Now this may be down to the fact that Costa Rica is a very popular destination for American tourists but I can not say for sure, however this feeling that I got tended to help me form the opinion that I didn’t like the place very much.

Another thing that I did not like, nor expect, was the amount of litter that was along the side of every road that I rode on, the Capital city, San Jose although very bad for litter, decaying buildings, and decaying infrastructure was not the worst place that I visited in Costa Rica, that honour goes to the Caribbean town of Limon, what a shit hole!


I liked Nicaragua a lot, the people that I met and interacted with were all very friendly, the roads were generally very good, and although here and there there was some litter decorating the roads, but by and large it was the cleanest country of those that I visited. The only exception to this was on the outskirts of the Caribbean town of Puerto Cabeza where there were a couple of huge piles of empty plastic bottles that had been dumped by the roadside and were now being scattered around by the wind.

Puerto Cabeza was the dirtiest place that I visited in Nicaragua. Although I had more interactions with local people here than almost anywhere else and all of those interactions were very positive, the centre of the town is a shit hole, again probably something to do with it being on the Caribbean coast.

Nicaragua was also very cheap in comparison to Costa Rica and there was a nice laid back feel to the place. Outside of the Capital city of Managua the majority of the people all seemed to live in wooden shacks along the side of the roads, whether they had running water and or electricity is debatable, but even when I stopped in one of the smaller towns for a coffee I did not get the feeling that I was being fleeced.

For example the average price that I paid for a cup of coffee in Costa Rica was about 3 to 5 US Dollars, whereas in Nicaragua if was never more than 1 US Dollar and often about half of that. Of course that was except in a very nice restaurant situated on the main road in the centre of Managua where I paid 3 US Dollars.

I especially liked the city of Granada which although a little touristy for my tastes was very clean and it had a lot of nice restaurants and bars which all appeared to have inner courtyards where most of the tables were situated. This is a city that I would recommend to anyone visiting Nicaragua to go to.


I had obviously heard stories about how dangerous it was for tourists in Honduras before I got there, however despite this I never saw anything that I would consider dangerous and at no time did I ever feel uncomfortable or that I might be in any possible danger for the 2 days that I spent in the country.

Having said that, in the two places that I stayed overnight in, every bank, supermarket, petrol station, and business that obviously dealt with cash, had armed security guards standing outside them. In the Capital city of Tegucigalpa not far from where I was staying, I even saw an armed security guard standing outside a ladies hairdressers.

Now even although I never saw anything that gave me cause for concern, it is quite obvious to me that these armed security guards are there for a reason, no business would go to the expense of hiring these guys if they were not needed.

I should also mention here that I never ventured out of my accommodation when it was dark although whilst in Tegucigalpa I had a balcony that overlooked the street outside. As I sat on the balcony I saw at least a couple of police patrols pass by, they were driving pick up trucks and each of them had 4 police officers standing in the rear, with their AK 47 assault rifles at the ready.

The only place that I saw in Honduras that I liked was the beach at Puerto Cortes but even that is not enough to make me want to ever return to the country.


Like Honduras, I had heard lot of stories about the country before riding through it and seeing it for myself. I had heard how beautiful Guatemala was and what a nice country it was to visit, however in my experience the country is a complete shit hole!

At the side of every road that I rode on both verges were filled with litter, obviously thrown from passing vehicles and this was evident even on very rural roads in the mountains where there was not great concentrations of population.

In much the same way as Nicaragua, the vast majority of the population outside of the cities and large towns, seem to live in wooden shacks at the side of the roads. The roads except for in the West of the country are very poorly maintained and they are also filled with speed bumps that are unmarked, and sometimes just around a corner where they can not be seen till it’s too late to slow down.

In Guatemala I got the same impression from the staff at nearly every place that I stayed in that I did in Costa Rica, a mix of resentment and disinterest, again this may be due to the large number of American tourists that visit the place.

For example, in my hotel in Flores, the shower in my room did not work, so when I asked the owner about it, he just shrugged his shoulders and told me that if I wanted another room he could give me one, but… as that room had air conditioning, well that was another 10 US Dollars thank you very much.

The place that I stayed at in Coban was ran by a very surly young woman who could barely take here nose out of her mobile phone in order to speak to me and room that I got was literally just about big enough to swing a cat in. So when all of my luggage was in the room with the single bed the place was full, and I mean full.

The only place in Guatemala that I stayed at where my accommodation was both nice and value for money was the hotel that I stayed at in Quetzaltenango, here the staff there were all both very nice and very helpful.

Antigua Guatemala, although very clean, was full of young American and European tourists, mostly the hippy or New Age types, filling up the Vegan only restaurants and herbal drink shops, buying all the “Genuine” hand crafted multi coloured woven cloth wrist or ankle bands, bags, rugs, and every other useless item that you could imagine, from the multitude of tourist tat shops that filled the place.

The shops advertising guided tours to the Inca ruins, Volcanoes. etc. were also full of them, all intent on getting their next true “Guatemalan experience” going to these locations in a bus filled with other tourists. How stupid, deluded, and blind must these people be to then write a lot of shit on their Facebook pages telling everyone that they know, about their “unique” (along with a million other tourists) Guatemalan experiences and about what a wonderful country Guatemala is. Maybe it’s just me but as I mentioned at the start of this section, Guatemala is a very beautiful country that is awash with litter and decay and I can not understand how others that have been here can not see it.

In my previous bog posts about my time riding through the country I wrote about an incident that I witnessed where a woman passenger on a bike dropped litter on to the road as the bike was travelling along it. In a similar vein, I spoke to two English tourist who had been on a bus in Guatemala and as they finished a plastic water bag, the woman sitting next to them gestured to them to throw it out of the bus as it was driving along the road.

It is no wonder that Guatemala is a shit hole when the local people use it as one big litter bin and it has the honour of being another country that I will not be going back to except to pass through as quickly as I can.

El Salvador

Like Nicaragua, El Salvador was another country that I liked. It had about the same amount of roadside litter as did Costa Rica but I did not experience any negative attitudes from the people with whom I interacted during my time there. Everyone was very friendly and helpful.

Like Nicaragua, it had a nice laid back feeling about it and this is perhaps due to the fact that the Government has locked up every gang member that they could find, so the place is now one of the safest countries in the whole of the Americas.

There is a high armed military presence in all of the major towns and cities as they patrol the streets on foot and ride on the local buses, but the local people seem to think that this is a worthwhile trade off for now living without fear of being shot and killed or robbed.

Concluding Thoughts

From what I saw and what I was told by others, it is quite obvious to me that it certain countries, or in the Caribbean side of certain countries, dropping litter is an acceptable thing to do as everyone who lives in these places seems to do it all of the time.

Even here in Panama a lot of people just drop litter as a matter of course. Recently I was in an establishment smoking a cigar when a guy came to the edge of the balcony that I was sitting on with some other people, he opened a packet of cigarettes, and then he proceeded to drop the plastic wrapper and foil inset over the balcony despite there being a large ashtray and litter bin at the side of his leg.

I am sick and tired of hearing media reports or social media posts about how these countries are in a mess because of corruption and because of the exploitation by the so-called first world nations and the actions of the many Western tourists that visit them.

Now whilst that might be true from an economic standpoint with Western Government action with regard to financial aid with strings attached, to me the only thing that explains why most of these countries are giant rubbish dumps is primarily because of the behaviour of the people who live in them.

Part of the reason why I am making this journey is not only to see for myself what these countries are actually like, but to see if I would like to stay in any of them. However, now that I have actually travelled around these countries I think that I can safely cross off all of them from my list as place that I might want to stay in. Rant over.