There were no replies when I asked if anyone had toured Central America, so I’ll note some hopefully useful stuff in here in case anyone else is considering it. If you are, feel free to ask questions or PM me.
tl;dr - it’s a great place for cycle touring - every country is extraordinarily beautiful, roads are good and safe, people are friendly, it’s really cheap and there’s shedloads to do off the bike.
No visas are required (for our mix of Irish/UK passports, at least). However, not many people cycle it - we’ve seen maybe one other solo/group each week. Two of these were couples, each with two young daughters, so it’s hardly unsafe.
We did Mexico (Cancun) to Panama City, taking 6 weeks. This was based on no planning at all, because none of us are planners. That timescale is too short to do justice to 8 countries. We’ve had to take a couple of transports on the way - it could be done in 6 weeks without putting the bikes on a bus, but you need days off to climb volcanoes, visit Mayan ruins, hike through jungles, bob around in the Pacific/Caribbean etc.
We’ve also used a bus when the other option was a couple of days on the TransAmerican Highway with dozens of lorries passing every minute - not too bad if you’re used to London, but my mates live in rural France. Roads are mostly pretty quiet, even the TransAm.
Our longest day was 135km, with very regular cold drink stops. You could easily do significantly more if you wanted, though it gets dark very quickly just after 5.30.
Generally, drivers are much more respectful of cyclists than in the UK. You get much more space, they’re happy to wait behind you and there aren’t that many speed freaks.
You will be honked at constantly - it’s never aggressive, it’s just friendly support or letting you know they’re behind you. You’ll also get loads of encouraging shoutouts from the locals - I’ll miss having ‘Vamos gringo’ yelled at me when I get home.
We left in late Oct, with a couple of weeks of rainy season left. We expected there to be some really wet days, but have seen nothing worse than showers. However, we’ve been to a few places where they’ve just had a week of solid rain.
Temperatures have generally been c.30-32 degrees. Cycling is pretty tough late morning/early afternoon, so we’ve looked to start early and get the benefit of the cooler temperatures.
Terrain can be hilly in parts, especially if you’re traversing Pacific to Caribbean coasts. Yucatan is pancake flat, Costa Rica hillier. We only had a few places where getting off and pushing was a necessity e.g. coming out of a volcano crater.
Roads are generally way better than expected, Guatemala, Belize, El Sal a bit potholey in parts, but nothing too bad. Off the main roads, most surfaces are unsealed, and you get what you’d expect.
We all used road bikes with 32s, which have been fine for all our riding - minimal puncturing. We’ve all got triple chainsets, though mine was stuck on the middle ring the whole time - rather than fix it, just used it as a reason to work harder
The people are fantastic - really friendly and helpful. Also fantastically tolerant of our disgraceful lack of Spanish - not many speak English.
We’ve done a mix of camping and hostels. Wild camping is apparently illegal most places, but no one seems bothered. There aren’t many campsites, but all the ones we used were pretty good. If you’re happy to sleep in a hammock, you can often do that for a couple of dollars. Dorm rooms are generally less than 10 bucks. However, some places in Nicaragua are down to 1-2 dollars. Used a mix of Booking.com and just turning up.
We have felt completely safe everywhere we have been. We’ve avoided the capital cities (which have very little to recommend them and have the high murder rates which make people wary of CAm).
Nicaragua has suffered a lot of political violence and bloodshed in recent months, and tourism is almost non-existent. In place after place, we were the only guests in places that are usually full. A lot of really good businesses are going to the wall because Ortega’s regime are murdering twats. It’s also the place we’ve loved the most and would be first on the list to go back to.
Just about everywhere accepts yanqui dorrah, you’ll get change in local currency. Except El Sally, which uses old dollar coins. Most ATMs give dollars and local currency.
We’ve had 6 really easy border crossings so far, but have heard of a few people having issues. Just ensure you get to the borders early in the day, in case things take longer than planned, I guess.
The beer is generally fizzy lager once you leave Mexico, but there are a few decent local breweries if you search around. It’s worth it.
well. pics please.
I’ll add some more when I get the chance, but it’s our last day in Panama, so will be out and about.
Y’know, I’ve been here for a decade and not worked out how to add pics. Have got shitloads, so will try to work it out.
Sounds incredible - did you fly your bikes out there or hire them?
I'm properly jealous. I spent three weeks in Costa Rica a couple of years ago (not cycling though) and fucking loved it, it was beautiful with the most amazing wildlife everywhere. Riding through all that must be stunning!
Latin America is one part of the world I know nothing about, but this and the Colombia threads have piqued my interest.
Would love to see some pics.
We flew the bikes out - £35 with Thomson outbound, €60 with Turkish coming home. Bit of rigmarole finding boxes to transport them back, took a day to do that.
Will work out how to post photos on return. In Panamá Airport now.
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