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The Mayan World of Central America

Very friendly people, very near and no so foreign at all!

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The Mayan World of Central America
Very friendly, very near and not so 'foreign' at all!
Guatemala offers to the vistor the awesome Ruins of Tikal, a 'must see' for any 'Mayaphile', located in the steamy jungles of the Peten province located in the northern part of the country, not far from the border with Belize, a former British Colony and the only English speaking country in all of Central America, where the interesting ruins site of Caracol (Spanish for 'Snail') lies buried far into a forested area, reached by a bumpy two lane unpaved highway. Nearby in honduras, just a few 'klicks' (kilometers) across the border from Guatemala lie the 'Jewel of the Mayan World', The Ruins of Copán, perhaps the most accesible major site in Central america, as the Ruins and National Park lie only 2 kilometers, a brisk 20 minute walk outside the bustling town of Ruinas de Copán, Honduras. When I first visited Ruinas de Copán some 25 years ago, it was a sleepy little Honduran border village, with the only means of communication with the outside world being the Radio-Telephone at the local 'Hondutel' (Honduran National Telephone Co.) office, the National Park was just beginning to be developed and the two local bi lingual guides often waited days for a client or tour bus to show up. today over 20 professional guides, some often speaking several different languages, await eager clients at the entrance. Today, during the high and holiday seasons, often hundreds of visitors will enter the ruins, for a glimpse of a highly advanced culture that mysteriously disappeared some 1200 years ago, long even before the Spanish Conquistadors arrived to loot and plunder in the name of the name of the Spanish Royal Crown. The present descendants of the Maya, many still of pure blooded indengious stock, live on, especially in the Highlands of Guatemala and The Mexican State of Chiapas bordering Guatemala and once a part of that country..They are called "The Living Maya" and in total throughout Central America speak over 35 indingenous dialects, some, almost extinct, being revived through special educational programs, as in El Salvador, where the ancient Nahuat tounge, a few years ago spoken only in a few small indingenous enclaves in Western El Salvador, due to massacres and persecutions in the early 1930s, (also spoken as Nahuatl in Southern Mexico by the Aztecs, who, as mercenaries arrived in El Salvador with Spanish Conquerers and found their adversaries in the battlefield speaking their own language!)El Salvador offers the totally unique NON-Royal Mayan site of 'Joya de Ceren', a typical Mayan village buried by volcanic ash some 1400 years ago during a Volcanic eruption.. (such as Pompeii in Italy)..where one can view how the ordinary Mayan family constructed shelter, prepared food, kept house and conducted day to day commerce, nearby, only 5 kilometers distant, lie the Royal Mayan Temples of San Andres and further west, the interesting Maya-Pipil (Nahuat speaking) temples and monuments of Tazumal)all these countries from Mexico with Palenque, Tulum and Chictzen-Itza through Guatemala, which offers a grand variety of Mayan, post-Mayan and Colonial treasures to enjoy and enthral, into Belize and out to El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua where new sites have been discovered and still under excavation. Alas, Costa Rica is not part of our 'Mundo Maya' or Mayan World, however that country excels in offering eco tourism journeys and stunning national parks to all visitors. I have lived and labored in Central America for atotal of over 23 years and do not envy those of you who live in lands of broad highways and strip malls, although would love it if we had at least "Wal Mart" here! So in case you are wishing to trade your dull humdrum for a week, two, three or more in Central America here's some practical advice.

  • From the USA and Canada served by TACA, American, Continental, COPA, Delta or United airlines, depending your gateway city: Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Wahington, D.C. or Toronto. A few Flights direct from Europe via Caribbean stpovers to Guatemala and Costa Rica, most others via Miami. Flight time to most Central American cities from Miami less than 3 hours, from Los Angeles or New York around 6 hours. Very near!
  • US, Canadian and EU/Other Citizens require a Valid Passport to enter by Air, no Visas (US, Canada and EU Citizens) required except for Work, such a Teaching for salary, or extended 1 year stays such as Mission or Volunteer work. In such a case contact your target country's nearest consulate. All travelers given 90 Days tourist permit stamp on arrival good for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua together. Belize has separate immigration laws and $18.50 Tax to exit Belize by land.
  • Central America offers lodgings as well as guided tours for adventure and eco travelers to suit just about any budget. Hotels range from 2 Star Basic often $30 per night double occ. or less to 4-5 Star luxury hotels and resorts, ll inclusive, often from under $100 per night double occ. if reserved in advance for off or low season travel!
  • All major Rent A Car companies have offices at Airports or in Cities or insured vehicles with local driver and guide can be hired at reasonable rates, with no deductibles nor liability for you if not wishing to drive.
  • First Class and Luxury Bus Transport exists between all Central American countries and in Guatemala between Tikal, Belize points and Mexican Connections north, much of this region is far more developed than you may think, not so foreign!
  • Most towns of any size in Central America boast at least one "Internet Cafe" and most 3 Star Hotels and above offer Internet connections, no need to carry Laptops unless travelling for business or long term. Most Public Computers now have skype and internet messenger software uploaded with audio and sometimes video. Remember there are almost 5 Million Central Americans living and working in North America, Australia and Europe, th monthly remittances they send home represent over 25 per cent of GNP in some countries and many persons you meet enroute, especially El Salvador, will be friendly and eager to practice their English with you. Very friendly!

Which lead us to...

  • Security

Don't believe all you read in the Press and on the Internet written by casual travellers! Some folks who either by misfortune wind up in the wrong place at the wrong time or by sheer stupidity or lack of cultural or language skills don't use common sense at all in certain situations may wind up as victims of a crime..usually petty theft to armed robbery..never resist..rarely are people harmed in Latin America who do not resist robbers (The local Police are usually not 'kind' to those caught robbing or swindling travellers). Don't brag about your itinerary or tell strangers where you are staying or plan travelling especially if you are driving a rental vehicle! (To USA Citizens) Don't make a habit of putting down your own country or government in public, many poor people living here don't understand, some have family up north and would trade places with you in a New York second! I keep my opinions on religon and politics to myself or among close friends in private. The exception is Nicaragua, in Nicaragua everyone talks about politics, fights then shake hands and party all night!
If taking an excursion, such as Volcano Climbing, in remote areas, best to contract native guides, most National Parks in countries like Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua often provide eco guide or Tourist police escorts, not optional. Guatemalan tour operators often provide private security for extra fee, not optional. Be aware, but never paranoid in Bus Terminals, City bus stops, crowded outdoor markets, especially the tourist markets of "Chichi" and Solola near Panajachel in Guatemala for pickpockets and purse snatchers, they are pros and they are fast! Never fall asleep on second or third class public transport where your luggages are in view. Guatemala and Costa Rica the worst countries for petty theft of this kind.
To enhance your journey you should:

  • Do your own homework and research well before arrival:

good research MIGHT be:
1) Learn about the country or countries/their culture/customs you target to visit.
2) Learn about the places you wish to visit/ the things you want to do
3) Check this plan with natives you may be in contact with, residnt ex pats, long term volunteers, travelers who stayed awhile, recommendations from good travel user groups and forums online.
4) Join on of the two 'hospitality sites' on line, non profit and free to join and be hosted by bi/multi-lingual locals or resident ex pats or long term volunteers who know their way around. Contact for details. Learn about alternative ways of travel off the beaten path, often tourist destinations and the crowds wear one out quickly. I also belong to traveller's portals and to user groups dedicated to assisting those driving to and through Central America in RVs and other types of vehicles, detailed How to books are available for purchase from their moderators.
5) Prioritize!
6) Learn the language, at least the basics. In Central America, especially Guatemala, exist hundreds of Spanish Schools offering one on one instruction on a weekly basis, home stay with local family and volunteer ops.
7) Be flexible..don't be disappointed if required to change plans, say due to bad weather, remember Central America has a long 6 month rainy season, and occasionally earthquakes, hurricanes, with flooding in some low lying areas.
8) Purchase at least two (2) up to date Guidebooks, one regional (FOOTPRINT Mexico and Central america Handbook I recommend for their detail)and one or two country specific such as Rough Guide or Moon's, budget travellers prefer often the Lonely Planet series. Also purchase detailed country and regional maps. If not in your local bookstores, Amazon.com is your best resource.
Know before you go!
If you require any more information, please feel free to contact the writer via this web portal and include at least your first name, country, city or town and indicate what specific information or assistance you require in regard to Central American travel. Please Belize to Panama except Costa Rica, there is already a glut of information on overcrowded Costa Rica. Also very little Indingenous culture remains there in CR, except on government supported Reserve areas.

I plan to write an "e Book" on something like "Central America made simple. etc." any of you with EXTENSIVE Central American experience, Travel, Volunteer, Ex Pat, Missionary, Teaching, etc. are urged to contact me as well. Only a small percent of travellers from North America, Europe, Australia and Asia have made their way here
All credits and share of profits will go to you or be donated to your or any non profit organization in Central America of your choice.
We like to assist volunteers. Faith based or secular.
Le Esperamos. We await you.

Posted by dbloom 16:35 Archived in Guatemala Tagged tips_and_tricks

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Awaiting to hear from, constructive criticism welcome. I do not discuss political issues past or present on line

by dbloom

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