Very friendly, very near to you and not so 'foreign' as you may think!
01.02.2007 - 01.02.2007 26 °C
The Mayan World of Central America
Very friendly, very near to you and not so 'foreign' as you may think!
Guatemala offers to the vistor the must-see and awesome Ruins of Tikal, a 'must see'
any 'Mayaphile', located in the steamy jungles of the Peten province
in the northern part of the country, not far from the border with
former British Colony and the only English speaking country in all of
Central America, where the interesting ruins site of Caracol (Spanish
'Snail') lies buried far into a forested area, reached by a bumpy two
unpaved highway. Nearby in honduras, just a few 'klicks' (kilometers)
the border from Guatemala lie the 'Jewel of the Mayan World', The Ruins
Copán, perhaps the most accesible major site in Central america, as the
Ruins and National Park lie only 2 kilometers, a brisk 20 minute walk
outside the bustling town of Ruinas de Copán, Honduras. When I first
Ruinas de Copán some 25 years ago, it was a sleepy little Honduran
village, with the only means of communication with the outside world
the Radio-Telephone at the local 'Hondutel' (Honduran National
Co.) office, the National Park was just beginning to be developed and
two local bi lingual guides often waited days for a client or tour bus
show up. today over 20 professional guides, some often speaking several
different languages, await eager clients at the entrance. Today, during
high and holiday seasons, often hundreds of visitors will enter the
for a glimpse of a highly advanced culture that mysteriously
some 1200 years ago, long even before the Spanish Conquistadors arrived
loot and plunder in the name of the name of the Spanish Royal Crown.
present descendants of the Maya, many still of pure blooded indengious
stock, live on, especially in the Highlands of Guatemala and The
State of Chiapas bordering Guatemala and once a part of that
are called "The Living Maya" and in total throughout Central America
over 35 indingenous dialects, some, almost extinct, being revived
special educational programs, as in El Salvador, where the ancient
tounge, a few years ago spoken only in a few small indingenous enclaves
Western El Salvador, due to massacres and persecutions in the early
(also spoken as Nahuatl in Southern Mexico by the Aztecs, who, as
mercenaries arrived in El Salvador with Spanish Conquerers and found
adversaries in the battlefield speaking their own language!)El Salvador
offers the totally unique NON-Royal Mayan site of 'Joya de Ceren', a
Mayan village buried by volcanic ash some 1400 years ago during a
eruption.. (such as Pompeii in Italy)..where one can view how the
Mayan family constructed shelter, prepared food, kept house and
day to day commerce, nearby, only 5 kilometers distant, lie the Royal
Temples of San Andres and further west, the interesting Maya-Pipil
speaking) temples and monuments of Tazumal) all the 'Mundo Maya' countries from
with Palenque, Tulum and Chictzen-Itza through Guatemala, which offers
grand variety of Mayan, post-Mayan and Colonial treasures to enjoy and
enthral, into Belize and out to El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua
new sites have been discovered and still under excavation. Alas, Costa
is not part of our 'Mundo Maya' or Mayan World, however that country
in offering eco tourism journeys and stunning national parks to all
visitors. I have lived and labored in Central America for atotal of
years and do not envy those of you who live in lands of broad highways
strip malls, although would love it if we had at least "Wal Mart" here!
in case you are wishing to trade your dull humdrum for a week, two,
more in Central America here's some practical advice.
- From the USA and Canada served by TACA, American, Continental, COPA,
or United airlines, depending your gateway city: Atlanta, Miami,
New York, Los Angeles, Wahington, D.C. or Toronto. A few Flights direct
Europe via Caribbean stpovers to Guatemala and Costa Rica, most others
Miami. Flight time to most Central American cities from Miami less than
hours, from Los Angeles or New York around 6 hours. Very near!
- US, Canadian and EU/Other Citizens require a Valid Passport to enter
Air, no Visas (US, Canada and EU Citizens) required except for Work,
Teaching for salary, or extended 1 year stays such as Mission or
work. In such a case contact your target country's nearest consulate.
travelers given 90 Days tourist permit stamp on arrival good for
El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua together. Belize has separate
immigration laws and $18.50 Tax to exit Belize by land.
- Central America offers lodgings as well as guided tours for adventure
eco travelers to suit just about any budget. Hotels range from 2 Star
often $20/$10 p.p. per night double occ. and up to 4-5 Star luxury hotels and
resorts, ll inclusive, often from under $100 per night double occ. if
reserved in advance for off or low season travel!
- All major Rent A Car companies have offices at Airports or in Cities
insured vehicles with local driver and guide can be hired at reasonable
rates, with no deductibles nor liability for you if not wishing to
- First Class and Luxury Bus Transport exists between all Central
countries and in Guatemala between Tikal, Belize points and Mexican
Connections north, much of this region is far more developed than you
think, not so foreign!
- Most towns of any size in Central America boast at least one "Internet
Cafe" and most 3 Star Hotels and above offer Internet connections, no
to carry Laptops unless travelling for business or long term. Most
Computers now have skype and internet messenger software uploaded with
and sometimes video. Remember there are almost 5 Million Central
living and working in North America, Australia and Europe, th monthly
remittances they send home represent over 25 per cent of GNP in some
countries and many persons you meet enroute, especially El Salvador,
friendly and eager to practice their English with you. Very friendly!
Which lead us to...
- Safety and Security Issues..
Don't believe all you read in the Press and on the Internet written by
casual travellers! Some folks who either by misfortune wind up in the
place at the wrong time or by sheer stupidity or lack of cultural or
language skills don't use common sense at all in certain situations may
up as victims of a crime..usually petty theft to armed robbery..never
resist..rarely are people harmed in Latin America who do not resist
(The local Police are usually not 'kind' to those caught robbing or
swindling travellers). Don't brag about your itinerary or tell
where you are staying or plan travelling especially if you are driving
own a rental vehicle! (To USA Citizens) "Don't make a habit of putting
your own country or government in public, many poor people living here
understand, some have family up north and would trade places with you
New York second! I keep my opinions on religon and politics to myself
among close friends in private."
If planning some trekking and rigorous outdoor excursions, such as
Climbing, in remote areas not patrolled by national, park or tourist
best to contract expert native guides, most National Parks, such as in
countries like Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua often provide eco
or Tourist police escorts at designated areas in park sites, not
Guatemalan tour operators often provide private security for extra fee,
optional. Be aware, but never paranoid in crowded bus terminals,
town intercity bus stops, crowded outdoor markets, especially the
markets such as Chichicastenango and Solola near Lake Atitlan in
for pickpockets and purse snatchers, these theives are pros and they
fast! Never fall asleep on second or third class public transport where
luggages are in full view on a rack above. Guatemala and Costa Rica the
worst countries for petty theft of this kind. In South America take
caution with your valuables on crowded public transport in Colombia,
Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.
To enhance your journey you should:
- Do your own homework and research well before arrival:
good research MIGHT be:
1) Learn about the country or countries/their culture/customs you
2) Learn about the places you wish to visit/ the things you want to do
3) Check this plan with natives you may be in contact with, residnt ex
long term volunteers, travelers who stayed awhile, recommendations from
travel user groups and forums online.
4) Join on of the two 'hospitality sites' on line, non profit and free
join and be hosted by bi/multi-lingual locals or resident ex pats or
term volunteers who know their way around. Contact for details. Learn
alternative ways of travel off the beaten path, often tourist
and the crowds wear one out quickly. I also belong to traveller's
and to user groups dedicated to assisting those driving to and through
Central America in RVs and other types of vehicles, detailed How to
are available for purchase from their moderators.
6) Learn the language, at least the basics. In Central America,
Guatemala, exist hundreds of Spanish Schools offering one on one
on a weekly basis, home stay with local family and volunteer ops.
7) Be flexible..don't be disappointed if required to change plans, say
to bad weather, remember Central America has a long 6 month rainy
and occasionally earthquakes, hurricanes, with flooding in some low
8) Purchase at least two (2) up to date Guidebooks, one regional
'Mexico and Central American Handbook' I recommend highly for the
detail**)and one or two country specific such as Rough Guide or Moon's,
budget travellers prefer often the Lonely Planet series. Also purchase
detailed country and regional maps. If not in your local bookstores,
Amazon.com is your best resource.
- *For South American travel utilize
FOOTPRINT's 'South American Handbook' as well as purchasing country
Guidebooks and Maps for those countries you wish to visit in South
There are a lot of details to sort out, but in the end as Actor Woody
once stated "80% of life is showing up". The best Guidebooks and
the finest Travel Bloqs and 'How To Travel' books in the world cannot
compare with the unforgettable journey, sights, smells and sounds
at no extra cost, you'll experience on the road from Guatemala in the
through to Argentina and Chile in the south! Remember, travel is
about PEOPLE, their customs, culture and language and not about
destinations, think about that one for a while.
Know before you go!
If you require any more information, please feel free to contact the
via this web portal and include at least your first name, country, city
town and indicate what specific information or assistance you require
regard to Central/South American travel and the best and most
to hop over/ship your vehicles from Central to South America, up to and
including those adventurers traveling in their own vehicles, RV to
onwards to South America.
I plan to author and/or assist locals and long term residents edit several country and regional specific 'Pocket
Guides' focusing on "Central and South American Travel made simple"
you with EXTENSIVE Central or South American experience, Long term
and/or volunteer, Ex Pat, Mission work, Teaching ESL/EFL and other
etc. are urged to contact me, this you may do by e mail message or the
forums on South America for Visitors. (such as www.gosouthamerica.about.com/)
Only a small percent of
from North America, Europe, Australia and Asia have made their way to
America, most visitors from North America head for tourist destinations
Mexico or the Caribbean, partly due to cheap flights and tour packages.
most popular destination in Central America remains Costa Rica, an
choice for Eco Tourism with magnificent national parks and reserves
with beautiful scenery, especially along the Pacific coast.
All information, articles, travel bloqs or photos used with permission
be credited to the original author/photographer
I especially like to assist volunteers planning to travel, volunteering
their time, long or short term, to the Latin American region.Either
based or secular folks. To contact Central and South American
aid projects that do not charge fees to those wishing to volunteer
often short term volunteers pay their own room, boad and living
while on site) visit: http://www.volunteersouthamerica.net/
For a virtual tour of less visited El Salvador view:
For more information, feel free to message the writer.
Le Esperamos. We await you.