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Differences among Belize, Panama City, Nicaragua, and Guatemala?

Differences among Belize, Panama City, Nicaragua, and Guatemala?

Old Apr 1, 15, 7:32 am
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Differences among Belize, Panama City, Nicaragua, and Guatemala?

Hello all,

Given the recent United sale I've been looking into traveling into any of the cities listed in the title. I know next to nothing about Central America but would very much like to visit. I'm very much into food and sightseeing, as many others in this forum, and not actually that big on clubbing/partying. Safety is a big consideration and relative cost--though I imagine it isn't too expensive in any of these places. Thanks very much for any input you provide!
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Old Apr 1, 15, 2:06 pm
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Belize City itself is nothing to write home about, but is a good jumping off point for beaches, diving, Mayan ruins, etc. Guatemala City has some points of interest, but again the real attractions would be elsewhere, like Antigua or the big Mayan ruins at Tikal. Panama City has the canal(s), of course.
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Old Apr 2, 15, 2:52 am
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Cool

Originally Posted by Strawboy1230 View Post
Hello all,

I'm very much into food and sightseeing, as many others in this forum, and not actually that big on clubbing/partying. Safety is a big consideration and relative cost--though I imagine it isn't too expensive in any of these places.
I understand that, given the limited time you probably have and expressed cost cautiousness, you can visit only one of places enumerated.

If my assumptions are correct, I would recommend Nicaragua. I would land in Managua, spend a day there (enough) and would make my camp in Granada.
You would be surprised how astonishingly great this ancient city is. Search on google. Great food, good hotels and unbelievably inexpensive. Safe, at night too.

Nicaragua is the cheapest country in the region.
Belize is beaches mainly and the only country around where you can see Indian kids speaking English between themselves
Guatemala City is rather not safe, uninteresting so you would have to camp at Antigua, which is ancient, nice but rather expensive.
Panama is Americanized, price-wise, too

Last edited by abeyro; Apr 8, 15 at 4:52 am Reason: spelling
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Old Jul 28, 15, 9:51 pm
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Originally Posted by Strawboy1230 View Post
Hello all,

Given the recent United sale I've been looking into traveling into any of the cities listed in the title. I know next to nothing about Central America but would very much like to visit. I'm very much into food and sightseeing, as many others in this forum, and not actually that big on clubbing/partying. Safety is a big consideration and relative cost--though I imagine it isn't too expensive in any of these places. Thanks very much for any input you provide!
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Old Jul 29, 15, 7:54 am
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Originally Posted by Strawboy1230 View Post
Hello all,

Given the recent United sale I've been looking into traveling into any of the cities listed in the title. I know next to nothing about Central America but would very much like to visit. I'm very much into food and sightseeing, as many others in this forum, and not actually that big on clubbing/partying. Safety is a big consideration and relative cost--though I imagine it isn't too expensive in any of these places. Thanks very much for any input you provide!
Belize is pleasant, but offers nothing that neighboring countries don't have better and cheaper. It's considerably more expensive than the rest of the region. Mexico has far better food and value, Guatemala has better ruins, Honduras has equal diving on the same barrier reef at half the price. Belize is the only country in the region where everyone speaks English, if that's important to you. Belize isn't a bad place to hang out on an island like Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye for a week or so, don't get me wrong. It's just underwhelming in its context. Belize City is pretty nasty with a visible crack problem, and not a place to linger at night. It's easy enough to catch a domestic flight or water taxi out though.

Panama City is the only city in Central America worth visiting. It is somewhat Americanized, but has great nightlife, a handsome skyline, and an atmospheric colonial neighborhood in Casco Viejo. It's relatively safe for a Central America capital city. Outside of Panama City, there are excellent beaches, with scuba diving and surfing. Kuna Yala, off the Caribbean coast, is an autonomous Indian region of over 300 islands, fantastic to sail through. Panama isn't as expensive as Belize, but costs a lot more than Guatemala or Nicaragua.

Nicaragua is the dark-horse gem of central America. It's very safe and cheap. Granada and Leon are competing colonial cities. Ometepe is a picture-perfect island in Lake Nicaragua, with two symmetrical volcanoes. There are beaches all up and down the Pacific coast, some of them with excellent surf breaks.

Guatemala is also extremely cheap, but security is more of an issue there than the other three. It has the most vibrant indigenous culture of any country in Central America, as well as the best Maya ruins. Tikal is a once-in-a-lifetime site to see, deep in the jungle in northern Guatemala. Everyone loves the colonial town of Antigua, which was the capital until repeated earthquakes damaged it in the late 18th century. It hasn't changed much since then, except for repairs.

Food is disappointing everywhere in Central America. When you consider that there's no enormous climactic difference with Mexico, which has one of the best food cultures in the world, it seems very strange. It's usually not offensively bad, just monotonous. You eat a lot of beans and rice and overstewed chicken throughout Central America, regardless of the country. Panama City probably has the best dining scene, but even there it's unremarkable.

If it's your first time, I'd probably suggest flying into Guatemala City, and taking an airport shuttle to Antigua. It's impossible not to love that place, even though it's no secret on the tourist trail.
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