Solo Travelers, Are We Safe?

Is it safe for the single female to travel through Central America? It depends on who you ask.

Deciding to get “off the grid” 6 months ago took me to the quaint little island off of Nicaragua, Little Corn Island, for a week. Located about 50 miles east of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua and only about 1.5 sq miles in size, but an oasis of tranquility, and a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of the U.S. The only fear that registered was driving through Miami to the airport.

I arrived on Little Corn Island at sunset on a local Panga boat and all I could do was smile from ear to ear. This little island had more personality than anything I had come across in a long time.
He dropped me onto the sand beach and the most unique tropical island complete with local dogs running loose, the smell of lobster grilling and music coming from one of the few cafe/bars on the island. Lobster being the main export certainly was a plus right at arrival and dinnertime.

There were no cars on the island which means no roads which means no street lights so I was glad I had done my homework and had brought my flashlight for walking after dark down the sidewalk. I was welcomed by friendly, fast speaking locals, expats and those like myself, whom were on a new adventure in uncharted territory. What a hoot! Being a boat captain and long time scuba diver I felt right at home on this lush, remote paradise minus the comfort of a/c. The island’s generator had gone down that morning and still was not working by the time I left.

Being a female and traveling alone, I sometimes get funny looks or a shocked expression but I love to travel alone and there on Little Corn never did I feel uncomfortable or threatened. Of course I am always aware of my surroundings and make sure I don’t find myself in any seedy areas alone and always keep my belongings close.

My days were spent diving, snorkeling, exploring the island, reading in the waterfront hammocks and watching the kids play in the water with their friends and dogs. Afternoons were spent at one of the openair cafe’s waiting for the hotel’s backup generator to kick on to enjoy a cool shower and a short nap before the nightlife picked up.

The local fishermen could be seen daily sitting in the shade preparing bait for their lobster pots while the recently established police department’s patrol woman stopped by the establishments making small talk.
This was the life on Little Corn and I hope to make it back again in the near future but I have learned a few things if I should go back…. travel extra light, bring good walking shoes because you will be walking where ever you go, bring the bug spray (although the bugs were not bad at all while I was there) and make sure to bring your appetite for some wonderful seafood, rice, fruit and black beans.

In the months ahead I could not get Little Corn off of my mind after returning home to Florida. So I am now crossing the country of Guatemala. On the road for almost a month now, I say “yes” it is safe. However, I am always cautious with my belongings as in any country.

After arriving in Guatemala City, my first destination was Antigua, just 45 minutes away. Spending my first afternoon getting accustomed to new surroundings was a great experience. Cobblestone streets, horse drawn buggy’s and a mixture of travelers from all over the world coexisting in harmony.

The first night walking the streets after dark, sent me into an unusual paranoid state. The glow from the low watt street lamps gave me a feeling of foreboding as well as the local men gathered in doorways of bars and on street corners. I took an early dinner and returned to my hotel and comfort zone.

Over the next few days I began to relax and enjoy the smell of fresh baked bread, shoe polish from the shoeshine boys and even the horse hung.

The women I interviewed here also had no fear of being in Guatemala alone and most felt confident and safe. Surprisingly there are many women traveling solo throughout Guatemala. Some have settled in Guatemala for extended stays and the majority have visited several countries and have an extended itinerary or have found a community they felt comfortable in and put down roots.

How are they financially able to stay? The cost of living in Central America is very affordable, much more than the states. Many women have homes which they rent to long term tenants. This can easily be enough to travel comfortable for quite a while. One female backpacker had been traveling 4 years from the income of her rental home in Sydney, Australia. Her average cost per year, for her travels, was $25,000. Others have internet businesses or work locally as yoga instructors and, of course, teachers.

A Colorful Look at Antigua, Guatemala

Arriving into Guatemala City, I was met by my private car and a friend of a friend who is going to store my scuba diving gear for a few weeks. A 45 minute ride takes me to the Colonial City of Antigua, Guatemala. My first stop and a wonderful surprise where I will spend the next 9 days. A beautiful, but crumbling, city bustling with all walks of life. in the center of town is the Central Plaza where local men, women and children congregate selling, very aggressively, their wares until late. The colorful scarves, wristbands and jewelry can be acquired for just a few Quetzals but you must work at getting the best price. Considered a backpackers dream destination.
The cobblestone streets make walking a treacherous endeavor but well worth it. If your not up to walking there are many modes of travel. The tuktuks are a cheap ride but bumpy or the slow horse drawn buggy can be found around the busy central park.
Although I stayed at several hostels, the Holistico Hostal

 is my favorite so far. A wonderful place, not only to lay your head, but to meet and enjoy new friends and trade travel stories. The accommodations are clean and well taken care by the hard working, respectful employees. A wide variety of breakfast options are is served daily in just a matter of minutes and the relaxing atmosphere is a welcoming change to the fast pace of Antigua. Come and enjoy. Sergio Martinez, the owner, is the host with the most! Make early plans to stay additional nights because Hostal Holistico has a large following with many who return time and time again.

Although nights come alive with the sound of music drifting out of the pubs and restaurants the streets are somewhat dark and can be a little intimidating until you get used to it. Antigua is a party town for the young and old alike and bars stay open until late I to the night.
Off the beaten path, outside of Antigua, you will find the small city of Partanos where custom leather boots are made within days to your specifications. The prices will astound and is usually around $30 and up. Very well made with the exact heel height you want as well as the type of leather.
Only a few kilometers outside of Pastores is the Aquas Calientes, or hot springs where the incoming volcano waters can soothe and heal the body. Located at the base of volcanoes And hidden off of the highway, a short walk down a dirt road you will arrive at the entrance. At only Q10 or $1.25 to enter, it is a special treat and one will leave feeling refreshed.

An Uphill Journey to Earth Lodge

Earth Lodge is a wonderful change from the fast pace of Antigua. An avocado farm located 6000 feet into the mountains above Antigua. Views of the volcanoes and the city below is nothing less than breathtaking.
Hammocks and picnic tables surround the reception area where visitors for the day, night or week come for some peace and quiet.
Hiking trails surround the lodge, cabins and dorms that lead into the forest up or down the mountain. Smoke from the distant Volcano Fuego is a normal sight.
Home cooked meals are served 3 times a day with avocados a major part of every meal, even the cake frosting.
This natural retreat is popular with backpackers as well as visiting families who are ready for relaxing between tours and the next destination on their itinerary.

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Hostal Holistico, a must if your visiting Antigua

Hostal Holistico is a wonderful place, not only to lay your head, but to meet and enjoy new friends and trade travel stories. The accommodations are clean and well taken care by the hard working, respectful employees. A wide variety of breakfast options are is served daily in just a matter of minutes and the relaxing atmosphere is a welcoming change to the fast pace of Antigua. Come and enjoy, the fun never stops nor does the party! Sergio Martinez, Owner, is the host with the most! Make early plans to stay additional nights because Hostal Holistico has a large following with many who return time and time again. Unfortunately I didn’t book early enough and will have to say Chao tomorrow.

Antigua, Guatemala…The Turning Back Of Time

Antigua is certainly not what I expected. A colonial city surrounded by numerous volcanoes with a unique culture. Although the city is in much need of restoration it is a popular destination by all walks of life. Young and old alike swarm to the busy Central Park where most everything is happening. Horse drawn buggy’s clatter on the cobble streets while men, women and children aggressively sell their items day and night. Colorful textiles such as scarves, wristbands and cloths can be acquired for just a few Guatemalan quetzals. Great bargains here for sure.