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Old 06-20-2012, 11:34 AM
 
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Originally Posted by PosterExtraordinaire View Post
everything you get in panama (except the canal lol) you get in Colombia but better. As to safety, all major cities are as safe as the rest of latin america. the warnings, while now probably outdated, were based for the guerrilla activity amongst the narcos in the jungles. though again it is overblown.
Yeah, I've heard a lot of good things about people who've been to Colombia recently. I guess that Cartagena has sort of the same experience as Panama City and I've been told that the beaches to the west are amazing. My friend really like Medellin as a city as well-said that the mountain location and climate were nice enough that they hung out there for several weeks. Great photos of the mountains around there.

One nice thing about Panama or the Central American countries in comaprison is that they're small enough that you can travel around the whole country in not much time--so if you want to see a few different areas it's possible in a week trip. South America on the other hand has stuff on much larger scale--both is terms of scale and how spectacular things are. However it can be more expensive to get down to those countries, although that's not really true for flights to Colombia. The size of those countries and distance sorts of means that it's best to pick the one region you really want to see unless you have more than a week to travel. If you've got more time though, South America can be an amazing place to visit, and I've only been to three countries there, though I've got friends who lived in the region.
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Old 06-20-2012, 11:38 AM
 
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Originally Posted by dunno what to put here View Post
Panama, because I hear Nicaragua is a dump
All Central American countries are developing nations. Even a lot of Panama is pretty poor. Nicaragua went through a rough patch in the 70s and 80s--Managua was completely destroyed in an earthquake followed by civil war. There are some beautiful natural spots in Nicaragua---but it depends on how much comfort you want to travel in. The hotels and hostels I stayed there were fine, and were a lot cheaper than what I'd pay for a considerable place in Panama, and much cheaper than Costa Rica.

Last edited by Deezus; 06-20-2012 at 12:07 PM..
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Old 06-20-2012, 11:43 AM
 
Location: Lower east side of Toronto
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Originally Posted by ctr88 View Post
Wow that is a really brutal story. I am sorry for your sister. I guess I am beginning to cross Guatamala/Nicaragua and El Salvador off the map.

Any recommendations on good places to go in Panama? How does Panama compare to Puerto Rico or Domincan Republic for vacation? How does it compare to Columbia? Buenos Aires is also on my radar.
Don't know if you should cross it off the map...my sister really enjoyed the region till the very end...As mentioned all went well for the longest time- BUT I forgot to mention- most of her time was spent either on a boat- or on a private well protected estate..She said the area is wonderful...She was pretty skilled at mixing in with the locals...She's not pretentious person and did not have a problem - once in a while living poverty stricken families residing in third world conditions- she like the adventure..


There were times when she had a lot of money and times she had none. It was prejudice on the part of some bandits that led to the incident. They believe that all people who are blonde and blue eyed as my sister is- are rich AMERICANS and they hate them...If you can avoid going into areas where you are a target the place is heavenly....You would have to find ex-pats living in the region and maybe be a house guest...
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Old 06-20-2012, 01:11 PM
 
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Thanks Ruth4Truth...from yours and others posts Guatemala sounds really beautiful.

I was reading a excellent book about re-locating overseas in Barnes & Nobles the other day, and they recommended Leon Nicaragua and Las Tablas Panama (they also recommended many other places all around the world too). They said they fully vetted the areas and they wouldn't have recommended any dangerous places. So in the opinion of this book (2012 copyright), they didn't think Leon Nicaragua was dangerous enough to leave out of the book.
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Old 06-20-2012, 01:15 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Deezus View Post
Yeah, I've heard a lot of good things about people who've been to Colombia recently. I guess that Cartagena has sort of the same experience as Panama City and I've been told that the beaches to the west are amazing. My friend really like Medellin as a city as well-said that the mountain location and climate were nice enough that they hung out there for several weeks. Great photos of the mountains around there.

One nice thing about Panama or the Central American countries in comaprison is that they're small enough that you can travel around the whole country in not much time--so if you want to see a few different areas it's possible in a week trip. South America on the other hand has stuff on much larger scale--both is terms of scale and how spectacular things are. However it can be more expensive to get down to those countries, although that's not really true for flights to Colombia. The size of those countries and distance sorts of means that it's best to pick the one region you really want to see unless you have more than a week to travel. If you've got more time though, South America can be an amazing place to visit, and I've only been to three countries there, though I've got friends who lived in the region.
I like to say Colombia has everything. Whether you want tall mountains, party cities, beautiful women (this from a guy's perspective lol), colonial history, beaches, untamed jungle, some ancient ruins (though none of the high profile ones like found in peru, chile [easter island], or even Ecuador).

Take for example Brazil: beautiful beaches, party cities, beautiful women (in the south), colonial history in the north, untamed jungle but lacking ruins and definitely the mountains. It's also MASSIVE.

Take for example Peru: unparalleled ruins, some untame jungles, imposing mountains. But party cities? Eh.... Beautiful women? Not to be mean or anything but lol. Beaches? Far too cold to swim comfortably.

Argentina? Some ok beaches in the north during the summer. Nothing spectacular. I dunno about ruins though BA is a beautiful city, it's really a city for living and sophisticated nightlife not the kind of raunchy fun you expect to get in latin america. Ruins? Eh. Jungle? They have some semi-tropical jungle but don't expect it to hold a candle to the amazon or even the jungle found throughout southern mexico/central america.

I could go on, you get the point.

But you're right, there is something about driving from the atlantic to the pacific and passing through some jungle on the way. All in a day trip Which makes central america special
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Old 06-20-2012, 06:17 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PosterExtraordinaire View Post
I like to say Colombia has everything. Whether you want tall mountains, party cities, beautiful women (this from a guy's perspective lol), colonial history, beaches, untamed jungle, some ancient ruins (though none of the high profile ones like found in peru, chile [easter island], or even Ecuador).

Take for example Brazil: beautiful beaches, party cities, beautiful women (in the south), colonial history in the north, untamed jungle but lacking ruins and definitely the mountains. It's also MASSIVE.

Take for example Peru: unparalleled ruins, some untame jungles, imposing mountains. But party cities? Eh.... Beautiful women? Not to be mean or anything but lol. Beaches? Far too cold to swim comfortably.

Argentina? Some ok beaches in the north during the summer. Nothing spectacular. I dunno about ruins though BA is a beautiful city, it's really a city for living and sophisticated nightlife not the kind of raunchy fun you expect to get in latin america. Ruins? Eh. Jungle? They have some semi-tropical jungle but don't expect it to hold a candle to the amazon or even the jungle found throughout southern mexico/central america.

I could go on, you get the point.

But you're right, there is something about driving from the atlantic to the pacific and passing through some jungle on the way. All in a day trip Which makes central america special
Yeah the mix of attractions in Colombia has put it on my future to-go list. Anywhere you've got both high mountains and jungle and beautiful beaches(plus some interesting cities)--that's a country I want to visit some day. My friends backpacked around South American for close to 7 months after a few years teaching abroad and ended up changing their plans because they spent so long in Colombia having fun. What cities or locations do you recommend?

Central America is a pretty good spot though if you can't make it to Colombia or anywhere else in South America--as it's close to the US and usually pretty easy to get to. And like you said it is cool to go from a Pacific beach to the Carribbean in the same day. There's also the option that in Central America if you don't like or get bored with one country, there's always another one a few hours away... But yeah, the real big ticket sights are in South America.
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Old 06-20-2012, 07:23 PM
 
Location: Macao
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PosterExtraordinaire View Post
I like to say Colombia has everything. Whether you want tall mountains, party cities, beautiful women (this from a guy's perspective lol), colonial history, beaches, untamed jungle, some ancient ruins (though none of the high profile ones like found in peru, chile [easter island], or even Ecuador).

Take for example Brazil: beautiful beaches, party cities, beautiful women (in the south), colonial history in the north, untamed jungle but lacking ruins and definitely the mountains. It's also MASSIVE.

Take for example Peru: unparalleled ruins, some untame jungles, imposing mountains. But party cities? Eh.... Beautiful women? Not to be mean or anything but lol. Beaches? Far too cold to swim comfortably.

Argentina? Some ok beaches in the north during the summer. Nothing spectacular. I dunno about ruins though BA is a beautiful city, it's really a city for living and sophisticated nightlife not the kind of raunchy fun you expect to get in latin america. Ruins? Eh. Jungle? They have some semi-tropical jungle but don't expect it to hold a candle to the amazon or even the jungle found throughout southern mexico/central america.

I could go on, you get the point.

But you're right, there is something about driving from the atlantic to the pacific and passing through some jungle on the way. All in a day trip Which makes central america special
Brazil is the one I'm definitely enamored with.

That being said, regarding Peru. Lima was the most happening 'party city' in South America outside of Brazil and Colombia. I was also single at the time, and Peruvians are on average nowhere near the same level as Brazilians, etc. But than again, I can't think of any other country in the world that is either.

As to this greater thread. I probably shouldn't post on this particular thread, as the more time I spent in South America, the less interested I got in the Spanish-speaking world. It just never quite compared with Brazil in my mind. But I keep thinking that if one did, it would probably be Colombia (or Cuba).
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Old 06-21-2012, 12:36 PM
 
Location: USA
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Originally Posted by Deezus View Post
I've been to all of those countries except for El Salvador. I've never had a problem in either Guatemala, Nicaragua, or Panama. The most dangerous places in those countries are in the capitol cities--except for Panama, where Colon has the most dangerous reputation. I wouldn't want to spend too much time in Mangaua or Guatemala City, though the best places to go aren't in those cities to begin with. All the same Panama City has it's sketchier elements as well, though if you're careful it's a fine city for the most part. But if you're careful, I wouldn't cross Nicaragua or Guatemala off your list--I had no problems whatsoever travelling through those nations, though I'm a pretty inconspicuous traveler and I speak Spanish fairly well.

It depends on what you really want to do as to which is the best pick. Panama has a good mix--Panama City is the best major city in Central America--it feels like a mini-Miami in parts with a cosmopolitan mix and the Casco Viejo is one of the best colonial neighborhoods anywhere in the region. It's a fun city--it's got the best nightlife in the region and it feels much more international, though it's a little more expensive. From there it's a quick journey to rain forest or the Panama Canal, though the best beaches or further away on the Caribbean side. I didn't make it there, but the San Blas Islands are supposed to be amazing as far as a place to get away on native Kuna Indian islands, some of which are uninhabited isles surrounded by great snorkeling. Bocas Del Toro is where a lot of people go for a beach vacation though--the northern part of Panama is sort of looking to become the next Costa Rica.

Nicaragua is sort of the cheap, slightly-off-the-beaten path option, although it's trying to be the next Costa Rica in it's southern portion as well. Granada is a great little city--absolutely beautiful with it's restored colonial buildings on the lake. Good place to hang out if you want a base to explore the nearby volcanoes and rain forest. It's a very easy introduction to Nicaragua--there's a lot of foreign travelers these days. The real charm of Nicaragua is in the natural attractions--the island on Lake Ometepe is really unique as far as a. The Corn Islands likewise, are like going to a small West Indian island maybe 50 years ago, although they're changing fast. Leon is another great city if you're looking to see more of the artistic/bohemian culture of Nicaragua. It's a little rough around the edges though it's safe for the most part, and it's a good place if you're into seeing the history of Nicargaua. The Pacific beaches are nice in Nicaragua, although they aren't as calm or as good for snorkeling as Caribbean beaches in the Corn Islands or somewhere like Panama. San Juan Del Sur is pretty touristy though it's easy to chill there if you're looking to surf or just relax on a beach, though the beaches near Leon are much less crowded(sometimes too deserted) and have a nice wild feel to them. As far as safety goes, like I said, I had no problems in Nicaragua--the people are friendly and there's a network of tours and resource for travelers(that are much cheaper than other countries) if you want to get out for hike on a volcano or go kayaking. Even Managua which is a mess of a city wasn't that hard to get through although it's a place to just transit through unless you're more interested in the harsher realities of Nicaragua. There's a good all around mix of attractions in general though and while the infrastructure is a little funky, it's not too hard to get around.

Guatemala on the other hand is a completely different animal. If you want to see the highland Mayan culture, that's the place to go. Lago de Atitlan is a good place to chill out, take a boat to different villages, go hiking, kayaking, or just relax on the lake. The markets--even the ones that are famous for tourist visits, are fascinating to visit. But if you're looking for a beach vacation or something along those lines, it's not the place to go. As far as an exotic experience, it's the best place in Central America. I've heard that crime has increased since I was there a few years back, although I've spoken to people who went to the highlands and they said they were fine although they heard a few horror stories. But like I said if you're careful, you'll be okay in most situations. Most people will advise to always hire a guide when you're hiking up volcanos or in the jungle--not just for the safety aspect, but also because it's easy to get lost when there's often not a clear path. Just don't carry a lot of money and avoid beaches late at night.

If you're just looking for beach vacation that will be cheaper than the Caribbean islands and want to get a little taste of the culture of the area, I'd say Panama is a good bet. If you're feeling more adventurous and want to go somewhere you can get by dirt cheap and see a variety of attractions(volcanoes, beaches, colonial cities, rain forest), Nicaragua is a good choice. If you're really interested in seeing the native cultures and hiking in the highlands, Guatemala is tops.
I hear Bocas Del Toro is a nice place in Panama to visit. I heard the atmosphere is like you described the Corn Islands; the way the Caribbean islands were 50 years ago. Another nice place are the Bay Islands, off the coast of Honduras, I hear Utila and Guanaja still have a lot of charm. Just curious: Have you ever been to the Miskito Cays off the coast of Nicaragua?
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Old 06-21-2012, 12:40 PM
 
Location: USA
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Originally Posted by Deezus View Post
All Central American countries are developing nations. Even a lot of Panama is pretty poor. Nicaragua went through a rough patch in the 70s and 80s--Managua was completely destroyed in an earthquake followed by civil war. There are some beautiful natural spots in Nicaragua---but it depends on how much comfort you want to travel in. The hotels and hostels I stayed there were fine, and were a lot cheaper than what I'd pay for a considerable place in Panama, and much cheaper than Costa Rica.
The thing about Nicaragua is the Caribbean side is VERY isolated from the Pacific side. I know many countries in Central America, you can take a flight from the US to the Caribbean side. Nicaragua you have to fly to Managua then fly to the Caribbean side. From what I have been told the roads are terrible to get from one city to the next on the Caribbean side, many towns you have to travel by boat (Kukra Hill, Pearl Lagoon).
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Old 06-21-2012, 02:17 PM
 
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Originally Posted by brooklynight View Post
I hear Bocas Del Toro is a nice place in Panama to visit. I heard the atmosphere is like you described the Corn Islands; the way the Caribbean islands were 50 years ago. Another nice place are the Bay Islands, off the coast of Honduras, I hear Utila and Guanaja still have a lot of charm. Just curious: Have you ever been to the Miskito Cays off the coast of Nicaragua?
Quote:
Originally Posted by brooklynight View Post
The thing about Nicaragua is the Caribbean side is VERY isolated from the Pacific side. I know many countries in Central America, you can take a flight from the US to the Caribbean side. Nicaragua you have to fly to Managua then fly to the Caribbean side. From what I have been told the roads are terrible to get from one city to the next on the Caribbean side, many towns you have to travel by boat (Kukra Hill, Pearl Lagoon).
I've never been to Miskito Cayes, but I've seen pictures and it looks like a cool place to explore if you can get out there.

Yeah, just about everyone flies to the Corn Islands--unless you've got a lot of time and are very adventurous the overland route to Rama on to Bluefields on the coast takes too long. I've heard a few people even go down the San Juan River from Lago De Ometepe to the coast and try to catch a boat to Bluefields--which is a real adventure and not for those without a taste for that sort of thing. It's not that expensive for a flight from Managua--you fly on these little puddle jumpers that are like riding on a private plane. Once to Big Corn a lot of people will take a trip to take a boat to Little Corn. It's just really chill out there--Little Corn barely has a town and there's no cars--you just spend all day snorkeling and then relax under the palm trees on the beach. It can be paradise or it can be too sleepy depending on what you're looking for.

Bocas Del Toro is a little bit more developed than the Corn Islands--though there's also more stuff to do at night there. It's a nice location and it's easier to get to then the Corn Islands, but it doesn't have the unique isolation of them either. I've never been to the Bay Islands, though I've heard if you want to dive, snorkel, and party, Utila is the best place to go in Central America.
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