Is Central America Safe?! | My Experience Travelling CA as a Solo Female
Updated: Apr 20, 2019
I recently spent 7 weeks backpacking solo through Central America. Many people thought I was crazy or just plain silly to travel to this 'dangerous' and 'unsafe' area alone as a female. But the reality was, I didn't feel unsafe once during my travels. In this blog post, I detail my experience travelling Central America as a solo female and my top tips for staying safe on the road!
Central America does have a reputation for being a dangerous place. Apart from being home to 'the murder capital of the world', poverty and corruption in the region have made it an ideal ground for gangs and drug cartels. However, in my experience, if you are travelling Central America to join a gang or traffic drugs you will be in a lot of danger. If you are visiting as a tourist and take reasonable precautions you will most likely be perfectly fine and have the adventure of a lifetime. In fact, there are many popular US cities with higher crime rates than many popular destinations in Central America.
When I was in Tulum, Mexico I got chatting to a traveller from NZ. When I told her I planned to travel all the way down to Costa Rica alone she looked shocked and commented "wow! That's ballsy". Her reaction pretty much summed up the reactions many people gave me in the lead up to my trip.
I was inspired to travel to travel to Central America by Backpacking Bananas on YouTube and The Budgeteers' 'Central America on $1000' YouTube series. Watching the adventures of these backpackers showed me that Central America wasn't this 'big, bad, dangerous place' that the media made it out to be and that there were so many adventures to be had in this corner of the world.
Two months after beginning my trip Cancun, Mexico, I have finished my Central American adventures in San Jose, Costa Rica. I had the most incredible time travelling in the region. Some of the highlights of my trip included eating incredible Mexican food, climbing the Acatenango Volcano in Guatemala, getting my advanced OW dive qualification in Utila, Honduras, volcano-boarding in Leon, Nicaragua and seeing sloths in Costa Rica!
Chichen Itza, Mexico
Acatenango Volcano, Guatemala
Scuba Diving in Utila, Honduras
I travelled the whole way solo and had no problems. I felt completely safe the entire time. In saying that, just because nothing happened to me doesn't mean that incidents don't happen or that you shouldn't be cautious. Opportunistic and petty theft is probably the biggest risk in this area. As I would anywhere in the world I travel, I take certain steps to minimise the risk to my safety when travelling alone.
My biggest tip is to try not to draw attention to yourself when you are alone. I always do my best to blend in as much as possible. It's important not to ever look lost - always act confident and like you know where you're going. I like to research where I'm going before I leave the hostel and have my destinations always saved offline on the Maps.me app. I also never like to openly display that I have expensive electronics like my phone and laptop etc - especially in crowded places or at night!
They say when you travel solo you're never really alone and I found this to be true while travelling through Central America. I often found it advantageous to buddy up with other travellers. Not only does this offer you the opportunity to make new friends, it often saves you money and makes you feel safer - especially at night. I met plenty of other solo female travellers while in Central America - it really is not that uncommon!
While I'm travelling solo I avoid getting drunk. While I know many backpackers want to party and get black-out drunk every night while they're on holiday, I don't like the idea of losing control while travelling alone. I will happily go out for a couple drinks with friends, but will never get drunk or stay too late if I know I have to walk back to my accommodation alone.
I actually found that I received way less attention from local men in CA than I had in countries like Cuba, India or the Philippines. I never felt threatened or got unwanted attention from local males in Central America. If you happen to feel really bothered by someone talking about your 'boyfriend' or 'husband' that you are 'on your way to meet' usually defers interest.
All up, I can't recommend Central American as a destination for solo female backpackers more highly. There are so many adventures to be had in this region and plenty of other girls doing the same thing - so don't let any unwarranted, media-insinuated fear hold you back!
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