Cheap Travel in Mexico and Central America

Cheap travel Central America

There are a few clusters of cheap destinations around the world where you can travel overland from country to country on a low budget for weeks, months, or a year. For Americans, starting in Mexico and going down to Panama is a pretty reliable way to travel well without spending a fortune—especially since the initial flight won’t set you back too much.

There are major variations of course, which is why Nicaragua is a screaming bargain, Mexico is an “honorable mention” in my book, and Costa Rica isn’t in there at all. Even that last one and Belize will cost you less than home if you pick the where and how carefully, however, so all in all it’s a good block for long-term travel.

A month ago I updated my old article for Transitions Abroad on getting to Guatemala from Mexico. It’s an article, not a book, so it’s just going to give you a quick overview. It does give you a quick overview for the region though on sleeping, transportation, and eating/drinking. Plus there are ample links at the end to resources to find out more.

I like Mexico so much I have two houses there. (Though I’d like to bring that down to one. Beach house for sale – $68,500.) It’s no bargain if you go to Los Cabos or the Riviera Maya, but in the interior and many off-the-radar beaches, it’s a whole different story. In Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala, it’s a bargain throughout.

So do a little planning, but getting to Guatemala from Mexico to decide if it sounds like a region where the price is right.

  1. Anthony

    I recently returned from Mexico City. I met some friends from Brasil that were visiting Mexico City and Acapulco. I was able to get in some sight-seeing but cellular problems had us missing each other quite a bit. I’ll make up for it soon enough.

    It cost $322 to fly RT from LAX to Mexico City (one connection each way). I have heard Volaris is cheaper (about $250) if you book ahead of time. I went at the last minute. The best price on a ticket was via AAA and Continental ($315.88). However I couldn’t buy that ticket because of the way my money is spread over a few different ATM/Debt cards.

    So I paid $7 more and took United.

    I spent a total of about $550 and that included overpaying for a taxi ride from the airport when I failed to locate the Metro entrance. Its to your left from Terminal One at the airport, about 100-200ft down.

    I stayed at Mexico City Hostel for $12 a night (4 nights) and picked up a TelCel SIM for 120 pesos and used it in my unlocked Android phone. I went cheap on the talk/data plan and it came back to bite me. Also reboot your phone when you put the new SIM in, I had no data initially. I suggest buying at least 500MB (100 pesos) of data if meeting with others in town and want to text back and forth. 1MB (20 Peso refill) is not enough, especially when a smartphone is accessing data constantly.

    I could easily have saved 360 pesos but its a learning experience.

    @Tim, I found English to be almost completely useless in Mexico City, I don’t know if you’ve mentioned it in your books, I am going to pick up the latest version very soon.

    I am 95% sure I am going to relocate to Latin America, get married, have children and the whole nine.

    • Tim Leffel


      Thanks for the details on your trip.

      English is pretty tough to get by on anywhere in Latin America that’s not an international tourist center. As I do say in the book, people speak Spanish from Tijuana to Torres del Paine in Patagonia, apart from a few exceptions like Belize (English) and Brazil (Portuguese). So learning some Spanish helps immensely in getting around and communicating. They don’t have as much reason to learn English as people in Europe or Asia do.

      Having said that, it’s partly a matter of budget too. At the very low-end in Mexico City (the hostel behind the cathedral) and the high end (luxury and big chain hotels), it’s no problem to communicate in English. And if you book a tour out to Teotihuacan you’ll have an English guide. But for the street stall people and the like, forget it.

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