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10 Ways of Traveling Safely in Central America

Each region you travel to is a bit different when it comes to staying safe. Central America tends to have a reputation of being a not very safe place for travelers. But it’s all about taking a couple of precautions without getting paranoid.

Here are 10 things you can do for a safer and relaxed vacation in Central America:

1. How to avoid being the target of thieves:

•Leave any kind of jewelry and watches at home; you won’t need that, especially because most of the things to do in Central America involve adventures in the wild.
•Don’t carry purses, camera bags and phones (especially phones) out where everyone can see them, or carry them close to your body.
•Take along only as much cash as you need, and not all of it on only one pocket.
•At night stick to well-lighted and transited areas, and don’t walk alone at night.

2. Don’t let your passport ruin the fun: People in touristy areas are interested in stealing you passport. They can sell them for around $60, which, for the Central American standards can mean a lot of money. That is why it is a good idea to leave your passport in the hotel safe, unless you are going to the bank, always carry a copy.

Photo By: Damian613

3. Let the Government know where you are traveling: The Us government has a travel registration feature. This allows you to register your full trip and emergency numbers with them and will be extremely helpful in case of an emergency. If you are not from the US ask the migratory office of your country, they might have it too.

4. Dress like a local: If you are a foreigner you will hardly look like a local. But you become less of a target if you dress like one of them instead of wearing the Hawaiian shirt. So avoid dressing like a tourist.

5. Women’s dressing code: In the mind of a great portion of men in Central America, if you are wearing a tiny skirt, short or top you don’t deserve to be respected. So leave that kind of clothes at home. This assures you will be safe and will get a better treatment from everyone.

6. How to Keep Your Money Safe and Dry: Almost every destination in Central America involves water. Rivers, lakes, beaches, rainy forests and the unexpected 5 minute rains proper from the tropical weather, be ready to get wet. Always carry a waterproof walled for your documents, and plenty Ziploc bags to keep you wet clothes away from the dry ones.

7. Safe drinking water: The only country of the region where you can let your guard down with water is in Costa Rica. In the rest of them make sure you only drink bottled or filtered water.

8. Fooling Muggers: Anywhere you go in the world you will find muggers. They are so skilled that 90% of the time you won’t notice that you got stolen until you are back in the hotel. To fool them and keep your documents and money safe carry a wallet with $10 in $1 bills and a couple of useless pieces of paper in a visible place. The actual place where you should carry your important stuff is on a zipped or hidden pocket in your clothes, were you can see it.

9. The safe way of deciding what to eat:

•I’ll start by saying that you should look for vegetables or meat that has been boiled. Also all vegetables that are peeled before eating tend to be safe, depending on how they where handled.
•Avoid eating uncooked or undercooked meat.
•You should also stay away from food that requires a lot of handling before serving.
•Be careful with street food stands; observe them for a while before buying anything from them to make sure they are handling food properly.

10. Pantyhose in the fight against crime: Take an old pantyhose, cut off a leg and put in it the money and documents you won’t need right away, and hide and put it where it’s not visible or away from things you will be using, do this before you leave for the airport.

As you can see staying healthy and safe in Central America is easy and you don’t have to become a safety freak. Sure there are thieves and people with bad intentions but most are nice and willing to help you with a smile.

Ken Ripoll is the founder of, a Los Angeles Passport expediter specializing in visas to China.

One thought on “10 Ways of Traveling Safely in Central America”

  1. Some really clever tips there, my personal fave is the ‘Fake Wallet’. I just keep any old notes & coins from other countries in it to throw people off.

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