South versus Central America

Visits: 274

I have travelled across 14 countries of Latin America. 7 countries of South and 7 countries of Central America. I spent 8 months in South America, 4 months in Central America. And I am getting many emails asking me which one is better for backpacking and adventure travelling. Therefore, I decided to write a short comparison of these two worlds hoping it is gonna help you decide which one seems more suitable for your travels.


South America

I have travelled across 7 countries in South America including Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Brazil. I have been to Colombia and Brazil twice – they are my favourites and I believe I will go back there at least one more time. 🙂

I spent 8 months in South America, out of them I worked as an English teacher in Colombia for 3 months and then I spent 2 weeks volunteering in travel agency in Ecuador.

If I don´t include my internship in Colombia, I spent exactly 3645 euro within 5 months of travelling. It was around 23,70 euro average per day. More detailed financial budget for South America can be found HERE.

Because South America is pretty huge, it will take more time to get from point A to point B. I didn´t have enough time to travel everywhere I wanted to within those 5  months.  For example I skipped Patagonia and North of Brazil.

South America prides itself in having few of the modern wonders of the world such as famous Machu Picchu in Peru or Statue of Jesus Christ in Brazilian Rio de Janeiro. I, personally, truly loved the hike towards the Lost City in Colombia or I truly admired beauty of Bolivian salt flats Salar de Uyuni. And also Amazonia jungle took my breath away.

Central America

I have travelled across 7 countries in Central America including Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico (which is officially part of North America). I have been to Mexico twice – my favourite one. 🙂

I spent 4 months in Central America, out of them I worked as a volunteer in a travel agency in Costa Rica where I was helping with online marketing and as a photographer.

Within 4 months of travelling across Central America I spent exactly 2057 euro. It was around 19,40 euro average per day. A bit cheaper than in South America. More detailed financial budget for Central America can be found HERE.

Because Central America is pretty small especially compared to South America, it was way much easier to travel around. Although bus services in countries such as Guatemala have been worse than for example in Colombia.

Central America prides itself in having many unbelievably beautiful volcanoes, even the active ones. For example Masaya volcano in Nicaragua or Volcan de Fuego in Guatemala. I even did so called “volcano-boarding” from Cerro Negro volcano in Nicaragua. Central America is also home to breathtaking lakes and lagoons such as Lagoon Lachua in Guatemala or lake Cocibolca which surrounds island Ometepe in Nicaragua.

Famous Brazilian Rio de Janeiro and its beach Ipanema, South America
Still active volcano Volcan de Fuego, Guatemala, Central America

When it comes to generosity of Latin American people, I must say I don´t see a big difference between people from South and Central America. Most of them have been very kind, smiley, happy, positive in spite of the fact that many lived in poor living conditions.

Regarding safety, I find it pretty safe in both parts of this Latin world, I never felt unsafe or in danger.

Although I was precautious especially in larger cities such as Ciudad de Guatemala or Colombian Bogota. I never had bigger issues crossing borders between countries. Although I was not allowed to enter Costa Rica for the first time because I didn´t have return ticket out of the country. I also remember there have been some entrance and exit fees at borders in countries of Central America but none in South America.

If I should help you decide whether to go to Central or South America, I would suggest you decide based on your time. Central America is smaller and easier to move around. You definitely need more time for South America.  If you have one full year of travelling, then go to both. I divided my travels into two parts but I believe I will visit Latin America at least one more time. I can´t get enough of it. 🙂    

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And if you are interested in articles on CENTRAL AMERICA – click HERE. On SOUTH AMERICA click HERE. 🙂

PS: Looking for great travel insurance with great prices? Insurance which you can book even when your journey has already started? Have a look at The True Traveller. I am more than happy with them. 🙂



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