Cycling Central America
Hey everyone! I'm a new member to the group and I was hoping to get some information from all of you experienced world cyclists. A friend and I are planning to cycle from Belize to Panama via Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. We are unsure of which route to take. We have heard a few stories of cyclists being robbed or kidnapped so we are trying to plan a route that is both safe and fun. If any of you have done a similar tour or just have any information that could help, I would greatly appreciate it.
We had a complete blast in Central America, especially Guatemala and Nicaragua.
- Our blog from that section
- Our route and route notes
- General tips
- Security and bike touring in Latin America
I haven't heard of a cycle tourist being kidnapped. There are many instances of petty theft (annoying, but not an issue of bodily harm) and a few of armed robbert (bad). But there are *far* more stories than the reality. Use your brains, ask the locals, be aware of your surroundings and take care of your gear. The people of this region are wonderful and you'll have a great time.
As cycle tourists we have a huge advantage in that we're not a threat to anybody and we don't have a lot that's worth taking. Our gear is perhaps worth it to a petty thief, but not to a narco. And of course, it doesn't make any sense at all to kidnap us, as there's no company and typically no insurance policy to back a ransom.
Thank you so much for your response. I looked all over your blog and all of the information you posted and it was extremely helpful. We are probably going to take the same route as you for the later part of our trip. We were thinking about flying in to Belize City, and then purchasing bicycles there and riding south along the cost and taking a ferry into eastern guatemala. Have you heard anything about good routes, or conditions in eastern guatemala.
Thanks again for your response, it really has helped us a lot.
I took that ferry 20 years ago :-) It was fun. But no bike involved.
I don't know anything really about conditions in eastern Guatemala, but my information would be old and useless anyway. On-the-ground info is about all that's any good.
Enjoy your trip!
The eastern part of Guatemala is tropical just like Belize but much saver. You may leave Belize to Puerto Barios and take the road number 9 to the west and then south to Honduras or further south and then cross the border to El Salvador.
The main road number 9 is good and flat but also buzzy. There is water and food supply all the way. I took it twice in 2010 by bus, truck and by foot from the capital city all the way to Belize in the east and the Mexican borders to the north.
I encountered zero problems. I even hiked for one week in the jungle without any problem. There is no security problem as long as you avoid trouble. People are nice and if you speak a few Spanish words you may make some friends too.
The most important of all: find some good maps and check if there are reliable bike shops and bike parts in Belize.
In Guatemala you should nt worry as they have some in big cities. I visited once The Bike House in the north west and found them well informed and have good bike supplies. American models and brands rule: http://tinyurl.com/7nmf84v
Guatemala is beautiful, have a good trip!
Thanks for your response Ham! It's always great to get first-hand information. I'm feeling much more excited for the trip with every response I get. While traveling through Guatemala, and Central America in general, where did you stay? Did you camp, and if so, where? Or did you stay in hostels? We were planning on taking road number 9 south and crossing into El Salvador. Have you traveled through El Salvador? Any tips?
We camped almost exclusively in Canada and the US, but once we hit Mexico, and then Central America, we found that the hotels were awfully easy, at least for our budget. For $10-$20 a night (for two of us) we got a bed of varying quality, a shower, and a secure place for our bikes and gear. We got awfully lazy as a result, and probably only camped 10% of the time in Latin America.
We do know lots of people who camp, but these countries are not set up for camping; there's not much public land, and there are no camping facilities. That means you either stealth camp or you ask permission. It's far better to ask permission. In addition, if you ask permission and are able to camp on somebody's property inside their "solar", their household area, you're essentially under their protection. If you ask permission people will also give you the straight scoop on the security situation... and you might get to know somebody!
I appreciate all of your input. I will definitely be checking back in with your website to get all the information I can.
In the highlands of the west I stayed with local families I contacted before arriving. Cheaper than hotels when you are staying for a week or more. And I was able to practice my Spanish, a good reason to stay with a family.
In the big cities I stayed in hotels.
In remote areas of the east and north near Belize I camped in the jungle. I was there to see the remote archeological sites of ancient Maya civilization. I was self supported for a week using a mule and a local guide.
In this remote areas to the north there are some dirt roads and at least one good tarmac road.
I asked if the dirt roads could be done by bike. The only month it could was in the dry season starting februari. And it is only possible with a solid built mountain bike and very light weight camping gear. You must be supported and physically and mentally fit to do it.
There is no GPS signal, no phone and no help. Water and food supply could be a problem. Mosquitoes & insects are terrible when camping. Dirt roads all the way. You and your bike will sink in the mud till the knees. Definitely not worth considering by bike.
But there is one good tarmac road between Belize and Guatemala thru the jungle. Starting in Belize you will go via archeological site Tikal and reach the little city of Flores. There you bike south to road number 9.
I have no information about El Salvador.
Here is a video of my hike :
I was this year in Costa Rica & Panam
hi there Im going cycling in central america in december, on my own. for those that have done it already, do you think cycling alone will pose many risks? thanks
I see from news big problems in Honduras
The rest is ok beware of thieves they are quick
Don't go to bars without gringo friend pref. male
San Cristobal n Chiapas is great place to rest up, lotsa Che's there now
The 21.08.2014 we entered from Costa Rica to Nicaragua at Penas Blancas and we were heading to Rivas. Exactly on the km 22, on the small bridge run at us 3 guys with machetes. It was at 17:15 pm, a bit late but still in the full daylight. There were 5 vehicles passing by. Nobody stopped even though they saw what is going on. They tried to pull us don the bridge. They wanted to take off all our panniers but my boyfriend was fighting with one guy. I managed to liberate me and run on the road to ask for help. Finally 1 car stopped and the bandits run into the bush with our cameras, my passport, credit card - among most important stuff. After it happened, I started to investigate, and I found out that we are not the first cyclists being robbed on this road. The police was lying to us that they have never heard of cyclists being robbed! That was enough for me! We decided to stop this bandits for good. We told them that we have time and that we will stay even few months (which is not true) to make sure they will investigate properly the case. We went to all radio stations, news papers and we showed up in the national news. The result was, that all this media started to harass the police, asking about our case. We were also every day at the police station. In the result, the intelligence (secret police) got involved. After 6 days they stopped 2 out of 3 bandits. We recognized them through the special mirror and tomorrow we are going to the court, where we will meet the bad guys, to put the final accusation.
All this took 9 days. We will not recover our staff but at least we managed to contribute to the safety of other cycling fellows. 2 bandits on the way less. I hope that they were those who were robbing also the other cyclists and that this will never happen in this place again!