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Central America Safety

A lot of people are probably concerned about safety in Central America and Mexico. Without exception, every country has lovely, helpful people who are almost always happy to help foreigners. As always, there is a small percentage that are thieves or worse. We felt and saw that few of them targeted tourists and most cities and towns were very safe. Since starting this trip the places with the most easily observed problems are as follows:

Most street violence & crime: Los Angeles
Most drug & Alcohol abuse: Hollywood & Belize City
Most beggers: Hollywood and Nicaragua

In summary, yes, other big cities like Guate and DF have major gang and violent crime. However, you would need to be in the wrong place at the wrong time as very little of this is against foreigners but rather against other gangs, or kidnappings of wealthy locals. You are far more likely to get hurt in a bus accident in most of these countries than be injured in violent crime. That said, opportunistic crime means you always guard your bags, wear your money belt under your trousers when travelling (people who wear their money belts on top of their trousers should be robbed to set an example in my opinion!), etc. . . The only place we heard or saw anything beyond ongoing travellers tales was Lago Atitlan where people were being held up at machette point.

Mexico VW Police Central America Street scene safety foreigners tourists crime violence accident opportunistic

Don't get me wrong. There is plenty of crime in parts of all of these countries. There certainly is nowehere near enough to be concerned to the point of not going, but there certainly is enough to ensure you always use common sense, keep an eye on your gear and all the usual things you would do in any country!


Before we left New Zealand we got the rabies pre-exposure shots. A month into Mexico we got an email from our doctor to say that the vaccine that we had been injected with was produced around the same time as the batch we received. See WHO´s website for more details (this is old news now). As a result we had to get the post exposure shots. Our first batch we got in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico with a follow up in Merida. Both hospitals were reluctant to give us the shots as we couldn't find any information on the recall in Spanish at the time and Ange was having to do all the translation from the information we printed. All medical attention and jabs at the hospitals were free!

I then got bitten by a dog in Roatan, Honduras. We went to the public hospital. It was one of those developing country hospitals where you come out with more problems than you go in with. If you are in Roatan and need medical assistance go to Anthony's Key Resort´s clinic. However, AKR does NOT have post-exposure rabies vaccine. Neither did this hospital. So I went back to find out more about the dog (it was a pet, rather than a street dog). I was told the dog had been vaccinated and bit people regularly (!!!) and it didn´t have rabies. After some deliberation (rabies is 100% fatal and a horrible way to die) I decided not to get the shot. All medical attention at the hospital was free!

Ange then got bitten in Costa Rica. We went to the hospital in Santa Elena, which was the nicest I have ever been to in a developing country. We were told by the doctor that Costa Rica hadn´t had a case of rabies in 25 years. This sounded unlikely, but he was very insistant and just gave us anti-biotics. We also confirmed that the dog had received its anti-rabies shots. The cost was around US$30

A good resource on rabies is aventispasteur.ca. Ironically, they were the ones who gave us the recalled batch in the first place. . .