Although Central America doesn’t quite have the established backpacking infrastructure of other regions in the world (love you, South Asia), there are still plenty of accommodation options to suit any budget. How much you pay will often depend on the time of year. Travelling in the wet season means you’re more likely to find some great accommodation deals, but it could mean your trip is a washout. If you want to avoid high season when prices are highest, look into travelling at its beginning or end, the so-called ‘shoulder seasons’. Conditions can be unpredictable, but you should still get plenty of good weather. Accommodation costs can also vary greatly depending on the country: the popularity of Costa Rica means it’s always likely to be more expensive than somewhere like Guatemala or even Nicaragua. Plan carefully depending on your budget and what you’d like to see.
Finding & booking
We recommend pre-booking accommodation in Central America whenever possible. If you’ve never visited before, it can be more stress than it’s worth to turn up in a new place and have to lug your backpack around looking for somewhere to stay. That said, if you’re feeling brave it is possible in most areas of Central America to negotiate some bargains by turning up without reservations, especially in the off season. If you’re willing to be flexible with the type of accommodation, this can be a great way to save money.
Types of accommodation
There are lots of different types of accommodation available in Central America, offering plenty of options depending on your preference and budget. Hostels aren’t as common as elsewhere in the world, but you’ll find plenty of budget hotels, guest houses, and eco-lodges throughout the region.
Hotels and guesthouses
The likes of Costa Rica and Belize are packed with luxury hotels lining the beaches, but unless you’re really feeling flush these probably aren’t for you. Instead you’ll find plenty of budget hotels throughout Central America, offering simple furnishings for a fair price. Almost all places offer a private room as standard, but you may need to pay a little more if you want a private bathroom, and some may not offer this at all. Make sure to check before booking. There will also usually be a common area, offering some of the social aspects of a backpacker hostel. If you’re travelling alone and looking to make friends, this makes hotels or guesthouses a good option.
Hostels are not particularly common in Central America, and are generally only found in popular tourist areas of busy destinations like Costa Rica. These will offer shared dormitories for a low price, alongside simple private rooms that cost a little more. If you’re looking to meet people and make friends, hostels are the place to be.
You’re probably going to Central America for its incredible wildlife and national parks, and eco-lodges aim to protect that by offering accommodation that is environmentally friendly. You might pay a little more, but it’s worth it for the peace of mind. Note: do some research ahead of time if you’re looking to book eco-lodge accommodation. Some will bill themselves as eco-friendly when they’re actually not.