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Old 01-21-2007, 08:12 PM   #1
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Default panama vs. guatemala???

i've seen a lot of good postings about guatemala, which i was considering going to for a week or so in march, but then i kind of started looking into panama which sounds pretty awesome too...i'm on a budget but that's not my main concern...which is safer and which has the best culture?? ...thanks!
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Old 01-21-2007, 10:28 PM   #2
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Though I haven't been to either, I'll give you a few tips:

Guatemala (from the folks that have been there) is chock full of culture and if thats your bag, then keep it in the running.

However, i've heard some real horror stories about theft and such. Not that you couldn't get mugged on the streets of your home town, its just out there so be aware.

One thing I can tell you from my Costa Rica trip last year: Locals I talked to plainly told me that the majority of the crime in their country was from Nicaraguans and Panamanians since CR is so much better off than its neighbors. May be just a bit of inter-country rivalry/bigotry,but you never know. I did get acosted by a Nicaraguan pimp in San Jose CR trying to sell me everything from weed to coke to a hooker.... Just be careful and keep asking questions. I believe that WorldWideMike and quite a few others here have seen those two spots and can give you some more info... and welcome to the boards!
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Old 01-22-2007, 03:40 AM   #3
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I've never been to Panama, but i have done a bit of travelling through Guatemala and i have to say that it's one of the best countries that i have ever been to. It is, like Joker said, packed full of culture, there's heaps of cool little villages and the people are friendly enough, so you can really get involved in the culture there. But, it's biggest draw card would have be Tikal, they are some of the most impressive ruins around and alone are more than enough of a reason to visit the country. The site itself is massive, the pyramids are huge and there's monkeys swinging around the trees in the jungle.....it's simply awesome. I'll have to get around to putting up some of my photos.
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Old 01-22-2007, 08:01 AM   #4
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I agree with LFB....Guatemala is amazing! Iīll second the vote for Tikal, too. It was the coolest thing waking up super early in the morning (3:00 am), hiking in the dark...with little glittering spider eyes looking out at me from the jungle, and then sitting at the top of one of the ruins listening to the jungle wake up, while watching the sun rise. Truly breathtaking.

Oh...and watching a volcano erupt in the middle of the night-from just outside Antigua, was pretty awesome, too.

Oh...and partying around a massive lake surrounded with volcanoes wasnīt too bad either.

I could go on....but, unfortunately I canīt offer anything about Panama.

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Old 01-22-2007, 06:56 PM   #5
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that does sound absolutely amazing...which area were you in the majority of the time?? did u stay in hostels??
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Old 01-22-2007, 07:10 PM   #6
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ok, so i've been looking up guatemala and since that seems to be pretty amazing and i'm pretty sure the safety issues are similar anywhere (as was said, you could be mugged in your own town) ...i would most likely fly into guatemala city since flights to flores are EXTREMELY expensive =( ...but then would it be possible to backpack and take buses etc. all the way to tikal and peten?? or would i eventually have to take a puddlejumper up that way??
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Old 01-23-2007, 04:06 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by courageousbeauty View Post
ok, so i've been looking up guatemala and since that seems to be pretty amazing and i'm pretty sure the safety issues are similar anywhere (as was said, you could be mugged in your own town) ...i would most likely fly into guatemala city since flights to flores are EXTREMELY expensive =( ...but then would it be possible to backpack and take buses etc. all the way to tikal and peten?? or would i eventually have to take a puddlejumper up that way??
The tourism industry is strong and pretty efficient in Guatemala. There are buses heading to Tikal (along with all the other tourist destinations) all the time.....and, take my advice....itīs worth forking over the equivelant of $5-10 USD to take a shuttle. Of course you have to experience the chicken buses, but keep that to the 1 hour or 2 hour rides, as opposed to the long bus rides. I met this guy in Tikal who stood on a chicken bus for 6 hours. My 2 hour ride on a chicken bus wasnīt comfortable by any means...but, definitely bearable.

How much time do you have? A few weeks?
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Old 01-23-2007, 06:08 PM   #8
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no unfortunately i'm trying to squeeze in a trip for spring break so 9 days at most really ...right now i'm completely confused though lol since i know so little about guatemala, panama, and buenos aires and i want to get the cheapest flight so i was using that as my decision maker, but i still dont know if i'm going to do a hotel part of the time and hostels the rest or what i've never done hostels before and am afraid that if i dont book in advance i wont be able to find one...what do u think about lodging in any of those places?? and where can i go to hit the most things near each other since i only have such a short time??
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Old 01-24-2007, 06:08 AM   #9
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My Dad's retired and spends a lot of his time in Guatemala and Mexico. Right now in Guatemala there are issues with the banking system and ATM's are not working real well if you have a foreign ATM card. Sometimes you can get cash (but only a little at a time) and sometimes you can't. Keep that in mind when you go - bring a lot of back up funds and keep them separated and hidden. Depending on when you go, the problems with the banks may be cleared up, but its hard to know for sure. Some banks are failing and so they are keeping a tight reign on taking cash out of banks. Secondly, Guatemala does have a lot of crime. Even tour buses sometimes get pulled over and robbed at gunpoint. I am not trying to scare you or dissuade you from going, because my Dad has lots of positive things to say about the country as well, its beautiful, the people are friendly, etc. but Guatemala can be a little more dangerous than say, Costa Rica. You just need to be extra aware of your surroundings, and keep your appearance very low key, do not flash cash or other valuables, etc. You probably know that already, but it really is important when you start going to certain countries that do not have well developed civil infrastructure. Enjoy your trip wherever you decide to go!!
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Old 01-24-2007, 12:04 PM   #10
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thanks so much for the help...you definitely swayed me more towards panama which was my original idea anyway...plus guatemala has many spread out areas to venture to, whereas in panama I can stay along the canal and in panama city/colon and hopefully a few of the isles...now i'm just trying to find a cheap enough ticket its rough!
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Old 02-11-2007, 01:15 PM   #11
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i have travelled through both countries and i must say i prefer guatemala. i was not extremely impressed by panama, though it was a cool experience. i spent some time in panama city and sightseeing around the canal, from what i remember it was very unsafe to travel around the eastern locks. the nightlife in panama city was pretty good, there were lots of clubs and bars where you can hangout with travellers as well as locals. i also spent time in bocas del toro, the islands off the coast of panama.
i personally felt more unsafe in panama but that could be because it was our first destination and guatemala was pretty much the last country on that particular trip.
tikal was one of the most amazing sights of all my travels. def worth going to guatemala just to see it. the locals are super friendly and the food is wonderful. i think theres a lot more to explore in guatemala. so there's my vote.

dont hesitate to PM me if you have any questions. ive been through all of the central american countries (minus el salvador) so i can answer lots of questions! =)
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Old 02-11-2007, 01:22 PM   #12
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i bought my one way ticket to from lax to panama city for around 300 usd. and another one way ticket from belize city back to lax for the same. im not sure if thats a great deal but i didnt meet too many people that got better deals at the time (this was about a year and a half ago)
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