Our Central America tours are designed to suit travellers who love being able to travel on many different forms of transport with local people. There is a certain amount of involvement needed, which will mean carrying your own bags to the bus or train station or even helping the driver throw everyone’s packs onto the roof. If you enjoy meeting and interacting with local people and don’t mind roughing it occasionally, then these tours will be just right for you.
It is important that you are open to travelling with a range of different age groups. You must also satisfy yourself that you are fit enough to complete the itinerary as there are no refunds if you choose to leave the tour. Based on the nature of this travel style, our adventurous Central America tours are generally suitable for people aged between 18 and 60 years old, who are fit and active. Although no experience is required there are many walks between bus/train terminals and hotels, and travellers must be able to carry their own luggage over various terrains as well as lift up luggage onto the tops of buses so do not pack more than you can comfortably carry. If you have any questions about this please contact us or speak to your travel consultant.
The average group size is 8 to 12 passengers with a maximum of 18, however on some included excursions group sizes may occasionally be larger.
Our 'simple' Central American accommodation is generally the equivalent in comfort and amenities of a 2 star hotel. We stay in small hotels, hostels and guest houses which are usually situated close to the main sights and town centres. They are chosen for their local ambience rather than star rating and we look for attributes like character, location, atmosphere, cleanliness and security. Although sometimes quite basic, you will find clean comfortable rooms with ensuite facilities (occasionally bathrooms may be shared but this is rare), friendly staff and often a bar and restaurant attached or nearby. Please be aware that accommodation in Central America sometimes has erratic services like lack of hot water or no central heating, staff members don’t always speak English and sometimes our reservations are “lost”! In general, facilities are very good but please be prepared for the occasional mishap, which is all part of the travelling experience.
Travellers on some of our Cuba tours will be staying with local family hosts for part of the tour. This is an excellent way to get to know the real Cuba and get an idea for family life. Homestays will be simple but guests get a uniwue insight into daily Cuban life which just isn't possible when staying in the main resort hotels.
All accommodation is included from the arrival day until check out time on the final day of the tour. Travellers will share rooms with other group members of the same gender. Mostly this will be in twin rooms although sometimes in triples depending on the group composition and hotel rooming structure.
Day 1 of all our tours is simply a joining day and the tour actually departs the joining city on day 2. The last day of your tour is the official departure day and is free for you to pack or sightsee before you depart. All tours are scheduled to arrive at your final destination the afternoon/evening before your departure day. Therefore very little time is spent in each of the starting and finishing cities and you will need to allow a few days at the beginning or end of your tour if you want to explore them further. We can book pre and post tour accommodation for you upon request.
Check in time is at 1300 hrs on day 1. If you wish to use the services of a room before or after checkout time, or you are arriving very early in the morning of day 1, you will need to book an extra night, which we can arrange for you. All rooms are on a bed only basis (breakfast is not included).
Arrival and departure transfers are not included (except for Cuba) but can be booked at an additional cost. If you do pre book a transfer please look out for someone with a sign which has your name or On The Go or both on it, after exiting the customs hall. If you do not see our representative immediately, do not worry; he/she is probably attending to some other passengers. He/she will usually wait until they have gathered together all passengers arriving on the same flight (or at the same time), and then escort you all to the car or transfer bus.
Meals are not included on our Central America Tours, so you can get out there and experience the best local cuisine on offer according to your own tastes and budget. This gives the flexibility to choose when and where to dine and enables you to maximise your free time and not worry about set meal times. Our hotels are generally located near restaurants with standards that vary from first class local eateries to street stalls to ensure we cater for all tastes and budgets.
On our Central America tours we use a variety of transport depending on the country in which we are travelling and the length of the tour. Vehicles can range from buses filled with local people and their many possessions to private minibuses and comfortable air-conditioned coaches. Sometimes you could be travelling on boats, taking a taxi or even walking.
Our aim is not simply to get you from A to B, but to help you to experience each destination as a genuine traveller, not as a first class tourist. A word of warning - please remember that travelling conditions can sometimes be cramped and seating is not always guaranteed in Central America. This may mean having to stand for some time in cramped conditions or share a seat with 5 others! This adds to the experience and is all a part of travelling with the locals.
Due to the vast distances covered on many of our Central America Tours, please be prepared for occasional long travelling days. This time spent travelling is unavoidable but you will not be disappointed once you arrive! On the positive side there are also many short travel days and days which involve no travelling leaving you free to explore at your leisure.
You must be prepared to carry your own bags at all times. We therefore strongly urge you to use a backpack (or similar soft, frameless luggage) and limit your luggage to a maximum of 15-17 kilograms. It is very important that you do not bring too much luggage as you will find it extremely difficult to get on/off buses and trains etc and there is a fair amount of walking to/from hotels. You are also likely to encounter many cobbled streets and dirt roads so suitcases and luggage on wheels are unsuitable.
In addition to your main bag, you will need a small daypack for your everyday things (e.g. camera, water bottle, sun cream, hat, sweater etc) while travelling, sightseeing or on overnight excursions. Try to keep this bag as light as possible and make sure that all main sections of your bags can be padlocked. Do not leave ANYTHING of value in your main luggage – keep it on you or in a safe.
A guideline of 'What to Pack' is included on the Tour Go Guide, which you'll find on each tour page.
Although tipping is not a natural part of many Western cultures it is expected in Central America, where many workers are very poorly paid and depend on tips for their main income. The local people work very hard to provide a good service and this is due in part to the tips they have received from foreigners in the past. However all tips are at your own discretion and you should not feel obliged or pressured to tip at any time – particularly if you feel that the level of service was not up to standard.
As a general guideline a gratuity of 10% of the total bill for your waiter is recommended in restaurants. You should be aware that prices on the menu often exclude service charges but they are added to the bill (10%) and local taxes (anywhere between 2% and 20%). If it is included then you are not expected to pay an additional tip, although this is
still appreciated. Some restaurants have a “cubiertos” (cover charge) which is normally added onto the food section of the bill, not the total, so watch out for this when dividing the bill with other group members.
It is customary to tip your local guides on both included and optional excursions. As a guideline, we recommend US$3-5 per person for a half/full day excursion. Your tour leader will generally pass around an envelope for the local guide on included excursions. The tour leader will indicate on the envelope the amount of the tip usually given per person to the guide. This information is given as a guide as many clients are unsure how much to tip. Should you wish to give the local guide your tip personally and not with the group tip then please feel free to do so.
Tips are also appreciated by your tour leader at the end of your tour. This, however, this is only if you feel that their service was up to standard and is completely at your own discretion. Tipping is an entirely personal gesture.