Central America is part of North America, but it is often grouped as a political collective, sometimes with the Caribbean, but usually by itself. The region is composed of seven nations: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Mexico is to its north, Columbia is to its south while its west and east flanks are bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea respectively.

Of the seven nations, only Belize has a primary official language that is not Spanish. It is English. Belize was formerly known as British Honduras before receiving its independence in 1973. The country, however, is also claimed by Guatemala which considers the land its 23rd department or state. No worries — it is a peaceful dispute, at least for now.

Getting There and Getting Around

To get to Central America, several airlines serve its major cities. American, United, and Delta all fly to points due south. Also serving the area are Copa Airlines, TACA, and Avianca. Some people visit Central America via cruise line. Very few travel by car, particularly from the United States. It is possible to do so via the Pan American Highway.

Getting around all seven nations can be accomplished by public bus in all large cities and in some smaller ones too. Local fares typically cost less than $1 with regional and overnight fares costing from $10 to $30 notes Nomadic Matt. Bus service from El Tunco, El Salvador to Antigua, Guatemala will cost you $40 per person through Atitlan Tours. Other tour operators operate throughout the region.

Food and Drink

You can find a variety of dining choices while traveling through Central America. You should know that rice and beans are a common ingredient for many meals in that region and may be served with any meal. Eggs, steak, seafood, salads, and chicken are also common ingredients notes Frommer’s.

Meals can be had for $5 to well over $25 per person at finer establishments in the larger cities. You’ll find an assortment of chain restaurants including Subway, KFC, TGI Friday’s and McDonald’s, as well as a locally derived chain, Pollo Campero, and its subsidiary, Don Pollo. Yes, Chinese food can be had throughout the region too.

For simpler meals Nomadic Matt says that local restaurants serve empanades which are fried pastries filed with meat, cheese or potatoes. You can expect to pay from $.50 per empanades. Rum is popular in some countries; alcohol beverages are widely available. Because of water concerns, bottled water and drinks from the United States may be the only way to avoid getting sick.

Where to Stay

You can find every popular and major western hotel chain in each Central American country. Holiday Inn, Clarion Suites, Best Western, and Radisson. Moderately priced hotels typically start from around $60 per night. Less expensive offerings costing under $50 per night are available but may require you to share a bath. Wherever you plan to stay, you’ll want to verify that the climate control system meets your needs.

Throughout the Americas you can find homes that have been converted into places to stay, typical Bed and Breakfast establishments. Cabinas and apartotels are also available, what are apartments with separate bedrooms and kitchen facilities. You may also find hostels wherever you go although some are called guest houses or inns.

Local Attractions

The places you may want to see include any city and its shops, cultural attractions, restaurants, and public parks. One of the most popular historic sites to visit is Tikal National Park in Guatemala, what will cost you $20-22 a piece, good only for the day that you purchase the ticket. You’ll pay an extra $1.50 to gain entrance into the museum.

Other places to visit or routes to take, especially if you rent a car, include the Arenal Route in Costa Rica — an agrarian road trip with a volcano nearby — the Bay Islands in Honduras for snorkeling, and Belize’s Hummingbird Highway, prized for its caverns and Maya ceremonial chambers.

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