A colourful toucan bird - a key bird often seen on our Central America tours.

Central America Useful Info

Voltage

Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Cuba all operate on 110v and plugs are US style, 2 flat plugs.

 

  

Health

Please see your doctor or travel clinic for an up to date list of all recommended vaccinations for the regions you will be travelling. In general we recommend that you are vaccinated against Tetanus-diphtheria, polio, hepatitis A and Typhoid and if travelling to a jungle area, yellow fever.

 

The malarial risk varies in the regions of Central America and in some areas appropriate preventive medicines are needed. Measures should always be taken to avoid mosquito bites, such as nets and creams. Please check with your health care professional as to the best and most up to date remedy for this mosquito borne disease.

 

It is not recommended that you drink the water in any of the countries we visit. Purchase, boil, filter or use iodine pills to purify the water you drink. This information is intended as a guide only so please contact your local healthcare professional.

 

We recommend that you carry a First Aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements. Please be aware that quite often we are in remote areas and away from medical facilities, and for legal reasons our leaders are prohibited from administering any type of drug including headache tablets, antibiotics, etc. When selecting your trip please carefully read the brochure and itinerary and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel.

 

 

Time

  • Mexico: GMT - 6 (GMT - 5 hours during daylight saving from 3/4 - 30/10)
  • Guatemala: GMT - 6 (does not observe daylight saving)
  • Belize: GMT - 6 (does not observe daylight saving)
  • Nicaragua: GMT - 6 (does not observe daylight saving)
  • Honduras: GMT - 6 (does not observe daylight saving)
  • Costa Rica: GMT - 6 (does not observe daylight saving)
  • Panama: GMT - 5 (does not observe daylight saving)
  • Cuba: GMT - 5 (does observe daylight saving between April and October)

 

  

Climate

In general temperatures in Central America follow the same pattern as Northern Hemisphere; cooler in the winter (December-January) and warmer in the summer months (June-August), although the hottest time of year is just before the rains come, between March and May, when it can be very hot and humid. Central America experiences a rainy season which starts in May/June and continues through to September/October. During this period temperatures remain high and although it rains every day, downpours don't tend to be prolonged. There is also a hurricane season on the Caribbean side of Central America and the Gulf of Mexico which runs from September to November. However this usually only means high winds and occasional storms. Given the vast expanse of Central America there are of course regional variations which are specified below.

 

Mexico - Given the size of Mexico, temperatures and rainfall do vary dependent upon the region and altitude. On the Yucatan Peninsular temperatures reach 34°C in summer and rarely fall any lower than 17°C in the winter and it doesn't get much cooler at night. Whilst in Mexico City temperatures are lower, peaking at around  24°C in the summer but dropping to especially at night. Jungle areas such as Palenqueare remain hot and humid, with lots of rain for most of the year. 

 

Belize - The rainy season in Belize can often continue until November.

 

Guatemala - In Antigua and the rest of the Guatemalan Highlands temperatures can drop as low as zero in the evenings in winter. The only place in Guatemala where it's guaranteed to rain is Rio Dulce in the heart of the rainforest, where the monsoon season can run right through to February. 

 

Honduras - There are regional variations between the coast and flatlands, where the temperature remains hot and humid year round and the central highlands which is much more temperate and cooler in the evenings.

 

Nicaragua - Temperatures remain high year round in Nicaragua but on the Pacific Coast which is tropical with relatively little rainfall, they peak in the dry season between November and April - ranging from 30 - 35ºC.  

 

Costa Rica - This tiny country remains warm throughout the year, although it is cooler in the highlands. The rainy season continues until November and there is a real coastal divide. The Pacific coast is drier than the Atlantic coast, which has its own micro climate - hot and humid with no real dry season - it rains for almost 300 days a year. San Jose and the Central Valley enjoys the most temperate weather. 

 

Panama - The weather in Panama is similar to Costa Rica, on the Caribbean Coast it rains throughout the year (typically the months with the least rain are February - March and September - October). In the rest of the country the rainy season runs from mid April through to December. The lowlands are hot throughout the year with daily temperatures of around 32°C.

 

Cuba - The weather in Cuba is mild subtropical, thanks to its proximity to the Tropic of Cancer, its narrow configuaration, east to west orientated receives the refreshing action of trade winds and marine breezes. During the short winter cold air masses arrive from the north but they are short. The average temperature throughout the year varies between 20°c and 35°c, lowering sometimes to 10°c. The Eastern region enjoys a warmer climate and varies in temperature quite considerably between day and night in the coastal areas.  

 

 
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Mexico City 19 21 24 25 26 24 23 23 23 21 20 19
Guatemala City 23 25 27 28 29 27 26 26 26 24 23 22
Belize City 27 28 29 30 31 31 31 31 31 30 28 27
San Jose 24 24 26 26 27 26 25 26 26 25 25 24
Tegucigalpa 25 27 29 30 30 28 27 28 28 27 26 25
Managua 31 32 34 34 34 31 31 31 31 31 31 31
Panama City 17 18 22 25 28 31 32 32 31 26 22

18

Havana 26 26 27 29 30 31 32 32 31 29 27 26

 

Money

Whilst travelling in Central America (except Cuba), the US dollar is the only widely accepted currency and the easiest to exchange into local currency. Credit and debit cards are very useful for cash advances. The majority of cards eg, Visa, Diners Club, MasterCard, American Express are accepted in most large cities and tourist areas. You should check with your bank before leaving to ensure that your card works internationally. 

 

Do not rely on credit or debit cards as your only source of money. A combination of US dollar cash and 1 or 2 debit or credit cards is best. We recommend you bring a minimum of USD200 in cash in small denominations. Always take more rather than less, as you don't want to spoil the trip by constantly feeling short of funds.

 

Traveller's Cheques are no longer widely accepted and can be difficult to exchange so we recommend that you only use them as an emergency backup. 

 

CURRENCY EXCHANGE TIP: Please be advised that slightly torn notes, notes that have been heavily marked or are faded may be difficult to exchange. It is best to bring notes in fairly good condition, in denominations lower than 100USD (or equivalent).

 

It is a good idea to try to maintain a supply of small notes and change in the local currency for tipping  for small purchases.

 

Currency in Cuba

 

Cuba has a rater confusing economy with two parallel currencies. The currency you will use for the majority of your visit is the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC). The other currency used is the local Cuban Peso (CUP). In 2004, in respose to tightened sanctions by the US, former president Fidel Castro, banned the use of US dollars. The CUC was created in response to the ban so that the tourist market and 'luxury' items could remin under a separate (stronger) currency.

 

It is best to take Pounds Sterling and Euros (preferably) to exchange into Cuban Convertable Pesos at the airport. Exchanging dollars is risky and attracts unfavourable exchange rates. There are ATMs in Cuba, however these are very unreliable. Both types of Pesos are worthless outside of Cuba so unless you want them as souvenirs it is wise to spend or exchange them all before leaving.  

 

 

 

Food Glorious Food

Central American offers an assortment of tasty cuisine and each country has its own specialities. A lot of people assume that food in Central America is very hot and spicey but this is not usually the case, various chili sauces are often available on the table so that you can spice up your food as desired. Most Central American meals come with corn tortillas and sometimes salad, but often lack hot vegetables. Other common sides are rice, beans and sweet fried bananas. Bananas are very popular, served with many main courses and as desert, topped with sugar or condensed milk. Note that the bananas in Central America are a type of plantain and different in flavour and texture. In larger towns and cities, you'll often find a good variety of international restaurants as well as local cuisine so there will be no shortage of choice. It's often possible to get very inexpensive set meals for lunch because it is the main meal of the day in Central America.  

 

Mexico - Mexican cuisine is popular throughout the world (albeit a westernised version) and the wide range of delicious dishes available in the motherland itself, cannot fail to delight. A tasty speciality is Mole - a rich chilli sauce, blended with nuts, seeds and spices, which is usually served with chicken, turkey or enchiladas and for a tasty snack from the Mexican sandwhichs (torta) which have a base of refried beans, onion, guacamole, tomato, topped with chicken, sausage or ham.  

 

Belize - Belize is veritable melting pot of cultures and this is evident in the diverse range of cuisine and wide choice of international restaurants. Local specialities which should not be missed include the delectable Belizean burritos and the lobster and shrimp (grilled or fried and served with various sauces and spices). 

 

Guatemala - There are many similarities between Guatemalan and Mexican cuisine. Most meals are served with corn tortillas and Guatemalan nachos and enchiladas, though different to those served in Mexico, are equally tasty and very inexpensive. Kak’ik is a very tasty, traditional Mayan turkey soup, with spices and chile peppers.

 

Costa Rica - A decent variety of international restaurants have opened in Costa Rica due to the number of ex-pats there. The national dish is 'Gallo Pinto' - fried rice and black beans which is commonly served for breakfast or for lunch with meat, cabbage and tomato salad. On the Carribean coast it's made in coconut milk which is particularly tasty. Black bean soup is also very popular in Costa Rica and sometimes served with a hardboiled egg.

 

Honduras - Beef steak and grilled chicken are common dishes in Honduras and usually served with tortillas, rice and salad. Along the Caribbean Coast and on the Bay of Islands where there is no shortage of delicious fresh fish, shrimp, lobster and conch, seafood dominates the menu. 

 

Nicaragua - Corn, beans, plantains, yucca and peppers are the staple food of Nicaragua. Like Costa Rica, 'Gallo Pinto' is the most common dish, which is sometimes combined with chicken, pork or beef and also plantains (sweet cooked bananas), potatoes and salad. Seafood is also popular along the coast. Popular snacks are 'nacatamales' (maize pasta, filled with meat and vegetables and served in banana leaves) and 'quesillos' (tortilla served with cheese and sour  cream). 

 

Panama - Cuisine in Panama is simple and tasty, the staple food is rice and the national dish is 'sancocho de gallina' (chicken stew with pieces of corn on the cob, potatoes and onions). 'Gallo Pinto' is commonly served at lunch with plantain, potatos and some form of meat or stew.

 

Cuba - Most dishes consist of beans, rice with chicken or pork. "Congri" is the national dish which is beans and rice. Cows (all government owned) are rarely found in non-government restaurants. Food can be plain at times so it is not a bad idea to bring your own condiments. 

 

Vegetarian Food

If vegetarian, please be prepared for a  distinct lack of variety when it comes to vegetarian dishes, especially in more remote places and small towns. Omelettes and other egg dishes may often be the only option on the menu. Make sure that you state  'no carne, cerdo, pollo, pescado' when giving your order. 

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