Your Most Important Latin America Questions Answered
1) IS MEXICO AND CENTRAL AMERICA SAFE?
There are areas that are very safe and others that are not, so research where you are going. Check out travel forums or take an organised trip. Be aware, not afraid! Common sense goes a long way!
2) CAN I USE MY CREDIT CARDS OR IS USING US DOLLARS BEST?
Using local currency is always recommended but having USD/CAD/EURO as a back up is always a good idea. You will get a better rate using local currency, but other currencies can be exchanged in larger cities if needed. Small stores and restaurants in Central America will generally not accept USD in a general transaction.
Credit cards can be used in reputable places but generally cash is a better option.
3) IS ALL THE FOOD SPICY?
NO! Mexican food has a reputation for spiciness but that finishes when you cross the border. All Central American countries have their spicy dishes but generally the spice is served on the side. To be safe just double check before ordering. Even in Mexico there are many options other than spicy foods. A good tour leader will be able to assist with your food choices so you have a fabulous local culinary experience.
4) WILL I GET DENGUE, ZIKA, MALARIA OR CHIKUNGUNYA?
It is unlikely, however, we believe that using preventative methods helps. Always use bug repellent and check with your travel doctor about medications that may be recommended for you personally. Many travellers consider vaccinations like Dukeral for stomach issues or Twinrix for Hepatitis when they travel somewhere new and different but each person is unique and should speak with their doctor.
5) DO THEY SPEAK ENGLISH THERE?
It all depends where you go. Local guides will generally speak a good level of English but part of the fun is practicing your Spanish. Knowing “please” and “thank you” goes a long way. A big smile always helps too.
6) WHAT DO I NEED TO PACK?
Mexico and Central America may be considered developing countries but you really can get everything you need there. We would always suggest confirming what the weather would be like before leaving so you won’t pack for the wrong climate. If you are going to higher elevations you don’t want to be surprised by the cooler temperatures.
A good pair of gym shoes will suffice in archaeological sites but you will need hiking boots if you are planning on taking on some more aggressive hikes! Of course, you have to bring a camera and it is recommended to bring a hat, sunscreen and insect repellent.
7) WHAT DO I TIP?
Tipping is part of the culture due to low wages. Most bills will have a service charge, which is paid to the whole wait staff in a restaurant for example and a tip (propina) which goes specifically to your waiter. For local guides we would always recommend 10-15%. If you are taking a trip and you have a guide that stays with you, we suggest, if you feel they have done a good job, it is appropriate to tip $5 – $10USD per day per leader.
8) IS IT SAFE TO TAKE A TAXI?
In a nutshell, you need to be careful. But there are of course exceptions to that rule. Uber is available in bigger cities throughout Mexico and Central America but getting wifi isn’t as easy as one may think. We suggest organizing your transport from the airport to your first hotel before hand or at least using a registered airport taxi. Yes, you may pay a little more but in the end your safety is more important.
9) AM I GOING TO GET MONTEZUMA’S REVENGE?
Don’t know what that is?…You are fortunate!
Many people assume that they will get sick with some intestinal illness when they go somewhere tropical, but there are safeguards you can take to avoid it, including; DO NOT DRINK WATER FROM THE TAP – EVER. Use bottled water and ensure the seal on the bottle has not been broken. Go ahead and eat the amazing fresh fruits and vegetable there but try to stick to ones that can be peeled or cooked. If you are somewhere that has a central water filtration system, go ahead and brush your teeth from the tap but if you are unsure use your bottles water even for that. Some people feel they benefit by taking a probiotic like acidophilus (a bacteria found in your digestive system) before and during their trip (always check with your Doctor first).
10) WHY SHOULD I VISIT LATIN AMERICA?
There is no simple answer to that question, other than maybe, there is something for everyone!
From stunning water features, including oceans, fresh water crater lakes and waterfalls to stunning volcanoes and caves to explore in. The wildlife will never disappoint when you have opportunities to see, sloths, monkeys, turtles, crocodiles, or the more elusive jaguar, and of course the many birds! Hundreds of birds including the Macaw, Amazon Kingfishers, Egrets, Herons, Oropendolas, Violet Sabrewings, Toucans, Northern Jacanas, and Sunbitterns. Within nature there is always many active pursuits you will enjoy such as zip-lining, swimming in cenotes, cave spelunking, snorkelling, waterfall rappelling, white-water rafting, paddle-boarding and hiking.
Aside from the sublime nature there is also the warm people and their culture as well as the history. Try new foods that will delight your senses and have you coming back for more. Visit ruins such as Chichen Itza – Mexico, Copan – Honduras, Teotihuacán – Mexico, Tikal – Guatemala and many more. Make sure to visit these sites while you still can.
We would be happy for you to use us as a resource when planning your next trip to Mexico or Central America, or you can simply book one of our pre planned trips that allow you just enough free time to explore while having the right amount of structure so you always feel safe and supported.