I recently returned from a two month trip to Central America, where I was fortunate enough to study Spanish and experience the customs in Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and Nicaragua. It was an amazing experience, and even though I ran into a few situations that my trusted Lonely Planet had not prepared me for, I am already looking forward to my next visit.
In an effort to help other solo travelers planning to visit this culturally-diverse region for the first time, I have composed a list of useful, yet little-known guidelines. Feel free to print this sheet off and circulate to family and friends.
1. Bring anti-nausea medication with you at all times. Accept the fact you will get violently ill anyway.
2. Don’t assume that your new Nicaraguan boyfriend is serious when he says he has never felt this way about a financially independent foreign girl before.
3. Valium, Ritalin, Xanax and other medications your Doctor won’t prescribe you (due to your addictive personality), can be purchased at the local Farmacia, no questions asked.
4. Don’t be surprised if the medications referred to in #3 expired two years earlier.
5. False advertising is not a crime, but rather a clever marketing tactic.
6. The kid in the park that needed money for school books is not really in school.
7. Cockroaches are immune to Raid. And death.
8. Refrain from telling jokes that begin with “How many Nicaraguans does it take to screw in a light bulb?”
9. If you are from Canada, you are considered friendly. You are also considered to be the naïve, dim-witted, politically-challenged sibling of the United States.
10. If you see a fellow traveler sporting a Canadian flag iron-on on the back of his knapsack, odds are he is American.
11. If you don’t enjoy being molested from behind by random local men in heat, do not sign up for punta dance lessons.
12. If you enjoy being molested from behind by random local men in heat, go to Belize.
13. When in doubt, try adding ‘ada’ or ‘o’ to the end of an English word to translate it to Spanish.
14. Don’t assume that adding ‘ada’ or ‘o’ to the end of an English word will make it Spanish.
15. American tourists, (even the geriatrics who only see the Country through the window of an air-conditioned luxury coach bus), will always have more exciting travel stories than you. Accept it and move on.
16. Don’t believe old men who say it is customary for them to place their hand on your leg and rub it intermittently throughout the two-hour bus ride.
17. Don’t polish off a pound of generic cheese and a bottle of cheap wine the night before a rocky 6-hour bus trip driven by a visually-impaired 80 year-old man.
18. Understand that no matter what, if you are a single female over 25 with no children, you are a lesbian.
19. Being hissed, growled or snarled at by random local men on the sidewalk is the Latin equivalent of getting cat-calls from construction workers in NYC. Take it as a compliment.
20. Don’t expect boyfriend in #2 to be thrilled about you quitting your job back home and moving to Nicaragua to live off of love and water.