Safety in Central America

An overview of Central America safety and security.

••• First Aid Kit. By dlg_images | Flickr

If you’re interested in traveling to Central America, safety is probably among your biggest concerns. Most people I meet are curious about what the region has to offer but stay away due to fear of violence and crime. The region has a fairly recent history of conflict and violence. It also has quite a reputation for being a violent place filled with murderers and drug dealers. But the civil wars have ended and if you pay attention you will notice that 99% of the time travelers and foreigners aren't the gang's target.

Do you really think that Central America’s lingering reputation as a dangerous place is deserved? I don't think so. Of course there is crime but the same happens in all of the other countries in this world. After years of living in it I learned that you don't need to avoid the region or wear an armor to feel safe in it.

If you stop being paranoid and give it a fair chance you will notice that most of the countries in Central America are safer than ever before. One thing that is definitely true is that some countries are safer than others. And certain parts of each country are more (and less) safe than the rest. 

While various Central America travel guides, the U.S. Consulate, and “the word on the street” tend to differ, all agree that a certain level of street smarts is the key to staying safe in Central America. Much of it boils down to common sense. If you avoid situations that could put you in obvious danger—like walking alone in a dodgy neighborhood late at night—the odds are definitely in your favor.

If after reading this you are still unsure about visiting the region for fear of not having a secure and unforgettable vacation you should check out the links below. They will take you to articles filled with travel tips specially thought for each country.

Articles About Safety in Central America by Country:

  • Nicaragua Safety - The largest country in the region. Known mainly for its two large colonial cities and huge lake with two volcanoes in the middle of it. 
  • Costa Rica Safety - A country famous for its large amount of reserves protecting its natural beauties and rich bio diversity.
  • Honduras Safety - Offers some of the best beaches in Central America and reasonable prices for those who want to visit them. 
  • Belize Safety - Another country ideal for a beach vacation and visiting Mayan ruins. This is also a great place to learn all about the unique Garifuna culture. 
  • Panama Safety - Home to the famous Panama Canal, which unites the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This is also a great place for shopping.  
  • Guatemala Safety - A country with over 200 Mayan ruins, a colonial city, tons of volcanoes and a gorgeous lake. 
  • El Salvador Safety - THE place to visit if you are a surfer looking for some of the best waves in the region. You should also try their most traditional dish, Pupusas. 

I know that you might still want someone else's opinion. In that case I would recommend to read reviews of travelers who have been to the town you want to visit. There are tons all over the internet! When I first started traveling I was also concerned when I read the warnings in the US State Dept website. But experience has shown me that Central America is way safer than that.

In my opinion you should definitely give it a chance. I have lived in it for over ten years and am raising my two sons in it. So far we never experienced anything other than pickpockets.     

Have you ever visited the region? What was your experience like? It would be extremely helpful for other readers to be able to read all about your trip and whether you had a good or bad experience. 

Edited by: Marina K. Villatoro