5 Things to Keep in Mind When Backpacking in Central America

There’s nothing more exciting, yet also nerve-wracking, than going on your first trip without your parents. Whether it’s your first big travel experience ever or just the first one you’re taking with friends or entirely by yourself, it’s an exciting time.

5 Things to Keep in Mind When Backpacking in Central America

There’s nothing more exciting, yet also nerve-wracking, than going on your first trip without your parents. Whether it’s your first big travel experience ever or just the first one you’re taking with friends or entirely by yourself, it’s an exciting time.

Still, it’s important to remember that when traveling on your own, you’re the one who is responsible for ensuring that you have a safe trip and stay healthy. It’s up to you to make sure that poor preparation doesn’t ruin your trip or even the weeks/months after it.


Don’t worry, though, because we’re here to help!


If you plan to go backpacking in Central America but aren’t sure how to stay healthy on your trip, this is a great starting place for those interested in responsible traveling. Let’s talk about 5 things to keep in mind so that you can enjoy your trip, make memories that last a lifetime, and stay healthy.


1. Prepare Ahead of Your Trip

The best way to ensure a smooth trip is to prepare ahead of time by scheduling an appointment with a travel consultant. They are your one-stop shop for all things healthy travel-related.


Your travel consultant will let you know if you need any vaccinations or if there are any health concerns you should be aware of based on your travel location. On top of that, if you have any existing health conditions, your travel consultant can help you prepare for a safe trip based on your itinerary.


If you know that you want to be a responsible traveler but aren’t sure what you need to do to stay healthy, booking an appointment with a travel consultant is how you can get all the advice you need.


2. Watch What You Eat And Drink

Traveling is a great opportunity to sample local flavors and try the foods native to your destination. However, be aware that traveling to Central America can put you at greater risk of food or waterborne illnesses, which can cause minor diarrhea or flu-like illnesses that put a wrench in your travel plans.


The best way to minimize the odds of this happening is by drinking only bottled or boiled water. Don't forget: Ice cubes are mostly made of tap water and should be avoided. As for food, make sure to only consume fully cooked and fresh food, including meats, vegetables, or fruits. Avoid salads and fruit salads, as well as fresh juices. Additionally, if something doesn’t smell or taste right, stop eating it.


If you get diarrhea, keep yourself hydrated and pay attention to electrolytes and sugar, as dehydration is a common and dangerous complication.


3. Mosquitoes Do More Than Bite

When traveling to Central America, it’s important to be aware of the health conditions you are at risk of contracting, including malaria and dengue.


Transmitted by the bites of infected mosquitoes, malaria infects more than 240 million people each year and can be fatal in some cases.


You can take many steps to protect yourself from malaria, such as taking antimalarial drugs before going on your trip. While on your trip, you should also wear impregnated long-sleeved shirts and pants and mosquito repellent with DEET. In addition, Mosquitoes are active not only during the day but also at night, so it’s recommended to sleep under a mosquito net.


Also, be aware that the signs of malaria might not show up until months after your vacation. So, if you notice chills, high fever, or body aches after your trip, reach out to your doctor so that you can start treatment quickly.


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4. Be Aware Of Viruses In The Travel Destination

Most people receive vaccines growing up that protect them against the viruses most common in their country. However, Central America can house some different types of viruses that you may not have received a vaccine for. Without any protection against these viruses, you can not only get infected and ill, but potentially pass along the illness to someone else.


The best way to stay healthy is to receive recommended vaccinations before your trip. Doing this makes you a responsible traveler who looks out for the health of yourself, other travelers, and locals.


If you’re unsure which vaccinations you need, a travel consultant can help.


5. Be Careful with Heights

When traveling to Central America, there are plenty of exciting activities to fill your days with, such as scuba diving or hiking through the acres of forests. However, being aware of your altitude is essential, especially when doing an activity requiring exertion.


Central America offers many exciting hikes, such as Tajumulco Volcano or Chirripo Grande, but these high-altitude hikes also put you at risk of altitude sickness.


Much as the name suggests, altitude sickness results in feeling unwell due to being at a high altitude. When at a high altitude, barometric pressure is lower, which limits the amount of oxygen in your lungs. This can then cause a headache, fatigue, difficulty breathing, dizziness, insomnia, or nausea, making you feel immensely unwell.


Altitude sickness can affect anyone, regardless of age. Even fitness does not protect you from altitude sickness. If it hits you, a descent to lower altitudes is recommended.


Most importantly, even some of the cities in Central America, such as Mexico City, are at a higher altitude, so it isn’t even just hiking that can expose you to it. Knowing this, the best thing to do is give your body time to acclimate to the new altitude by adding a few easy days at the beginning of your trip instead of jumping right into excursions.


Additionally, when you do travel to cities at higher altitudes, try to do so gradually, making your way from lower-elevation cities to higher elevations.


Enjoy Your Trip, and Stay Safe

Above, we have compiled 5 tips to get you started on your backpacking trip to Central America so that you know what steps to take to have fun and stay healthy.


If you are unsure about your vaccination status or have questions about altitude sickness or possible diseases at your destination, we would love to help you out. You can book a travel consultation where we will walk through all elements of your trip to help you have a great time and stay healthy.


Book your consultation appointment here!



Fact sheet about malaria. (2023). https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/malaria


Dehydration and diarrhea. (2003). Paediatrics &Amp; Child Health, 8(7), 459-460. doi: 10.1093/pch/8.7.459


Altitude sickness - NHS . (2017). https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/altitude-sickness/

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