Last year I started my trip from Mexico down to the Argentinian city of Ushuaia. I did most of this trip overland and only took a total of 3 flights throughout the duration of the trip. Surprisingly, one of the easiest places to overland was Central America and we went right down from Belize to Panama on a mixture of busses, tuk-tuks and private shuttle services. Central America often gets a bad rep as far as I am concerned and whilst there are troubles in this part of the world, ether is also breathtaking beauty and ancient ruins which rarely get a mention.
If you are looking to overland your way through Central America, here is how to do it.
Large Bus Companies
There are several large bus or coach companies which you can use to get through Central America but it should be noted that these will generally go from big city to big city. For example, we took a bus straight up from El Salvador to Honduras but because of the route, we were forced to change in San Pedro Sula, somewhere that is not too savory, in order to get to La Ceiba in the north. If you are heading out to coastal locations or small towns, you must remember that you will be unlikely to be able to do them on the big bus services.
Chicken buses are a really interesting way to travel and kind of a rite of passage if you are overloading your way through the region. These buses are actually old US school buses that have been given something of a makeover with bells, lights and whistles. The chicken buses actually travel throughout Central America and we ran into a guy who was trying to traverse the whole region on chicken buses alone. These buses are very cheap, highly uncomfortable and in all honesty, pretty dangerous. I would not recommend using these buses unless you are absolutely desperate as there is a high risk of theft of assault on them, especially as a foreigner.
Throughout Central America you will find many private shuttles which operate from town to town or city to city. These shuttles are often arranged by two different hotels in different towns or countries and they usually go direct from point A to point B. My experience of these shuttles was pretty good, they did border crossings well and they take a well trodden route to get you to your destination. Two of the three shuttles which I took had wifi which was a real bonus, and one that I wasn’t expecting. If you are traveling to somewhere that the busses don’t go, and you don’t want to take your chances on the chicken bus, this is a great way for you to travel. Speak to you hotel or check online to see where you can pick the shuttles up from.
Central America is pretty expensive to fly around, despite the shortness of the flights and overloading is the best option in my view.