Although many travelers opt for visiting a single country when they visit Central America, cross-country travel is relatively easy. Airplanes are the speediest option, but they can be pretty costly. Luckily, bus travel in Central America is frequent and mostly efficient, and it ranges from inexpensive to downright cheap. These tourist-class companies are your best bet for traveling Central America by bus.
It's recommended that you make your reservation two to three days in advance of your departure date when you're booking a seat on a tourist-class Central America bus.
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Tideca Corporation's Central America King Quality bus service offers international routes with stops in Tapachula, Mexico and all the Central America capital cities. The one exception is Belize. King Quality boasts three levels of service on several routes: Quality and the somewhat cushier King and Platinum levels. I've traveled Quality and found it to be just fine. You'll enjoy leather armchairs, movies and refreshments, and Wi-Fi is available.
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Tica Bus, the Central American version of the U.S. Greyhound bus system, is the Central America bus company I've used for most of my cross-country Central America travel. Routes run as far north as Tapachula, Mexico located in the country's far southwest corner and as far southeast as Panama City. Tica Bus stops in every Central American capital and many major cities along the way, excluding Belize. It also serves Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The buses stop for the night in several locations, such as San Salvador. Basic accommodations are available at the terminals themselves.
You're permitted up to two pieces of luggage per passenger, weighing up to 30 kilos or about 66 pounds. Children under three ride free.
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The Transnica bus company offers travel between Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Transnica buses are high quality and offer a choice between regular and executive service. Regular service has air conditioning, reclining seats, health service and TV/video. Executive service includes lunch, larger spaces, free Internet access and television. A luxury fleet services Nicaragua.
You can book tickets online through the Transnica site. PayPal is accepted.
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Other Bus Companies
Most Central Americans travel by bus as a matter of course, although the local "chicken buses" might not be what you're looking for unless you want a real taste of local culture. These buses transport people — as well as poultry and produce. They're the only way to get to some of the more remote areas of Central America. Assuming you don't want to travel that far off the beaten path, these bus companies also offer service:
- Confort Lines: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica
- Pullmantur: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras
- Panaline: Costa Rica, Panama
- Nica Bus: Costa Rica, Nicaragua
- Hedman Alas: Honduras, Guatemala
Many cities also have tourist shuttle buses available and, of course, there are always taxis to get you around locally.