Sunday, November 21, 2010

SPAIN and English tourists now have almost direct flights to Belize in Central America.

European direct flights now by-pass USA to Central American adventures for tourism.

GATWICK U.K. to Cancun, Mexico, by British Airways, then a 4 hour bus ride just North of Belize opens up the small country of Belize to British tourism.

IBERIA AIRLINES from Madrid, Spain, to Guatemala City, now allows Spanish tourists to reach Belize by bus from Guatemala City in 8 hours. Cheap too.

( from the Belize Culture listserve )

Central America: Tricky territory? Not these days
New links and routes are making it easier to get around Central
America. Mark Rowe reports

Sunday, 21 November 2010

For a part of the world where you can see the Caribbean and the
Pacific Ocean in the same day, and explore pre-Columbian ruins and
listen to unusual birdsong in cloud forests, Central America remains a
surprisingly low-key destination. But all that is starting to change.

Despite the global recession, the region – which includes Belize,
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama –
has seen an increase in visitor numbers and a succession of
infrastructure developments that will make it easier to get around
than ever before are nearing completion.

Partly in recognition of these trends, major airlines now fly more
frequently to the region, and without laborious flight itineraries via
the southern United States or Mexico. This month, British Airways
( will start direct twice-weekly flights from Gatwick to Cancun
in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, shortening the time required to reach
neighbouring Belize. Last month, Iberia ( launched a direct
service four times a week from Madrid to Guatemala City and San
Salvador, the capital of El Salvador.

From San Salvador, travellers will be able to take connecting flights
to other destinations such as Managua in Nicaragua and the Honduran
cities of San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa. Iberia has also just
launched a direct service to Panama City from Madrid, opening up the
south of the region to visitors.

Meanwhile, more inter-regional flights are being laid on. Taca
airlines ( is offering new routes joining Central
and South America and the US. The airline, which has hubs in San Jose,
Costa Rica, San Salvador and El Salvador, has flights to Colombia from
San Jose and to Orlando from Guatemala City.

New hotels in Panama include the Hotel Riu Panama Plaza (riuplaza
.com), in the heart of Panama City's financial district, which opened
in September, and the Breezes Resort & Spa Panama (, in
the Santa Clara region, two hours from Panama City on the Pacific
coast. Elsewhere, new openings include the 18-room Hotel Boutique
Contempo ( in Nicaragua's capital Managua, and the
Hotel Camino Real (caminorealantigua in the colonial city of
Antigua Guatemala.

The conversion of the Pacific corridor, which runs for 2,000 miles
from Panama to Mexico, into a reliable highway by 2015 should remove
and reduce bottlenecks. A new highway linking San Jose and Puntarenas
on the Gulf of Nicoya in Costa Rica now saves travellers up to an hour
on the journey. Work on a new airport at San Juan in southern
Nicaragua ends next summer and will have capacity for 18-seater
planes. But the biggest project of all is the eight-year, $5bn
expansion of the Panama Canal.

Some of these projects are funded by major international donors such
as the World Bank; others are driven by a realisation of the value of
the tourist dollar, and there is also a wider local drive for greater
integration, known as the Mesoamerican Project, which, among other
things, is likely to make border crossings less complicated. "Tourism
plays such a large part in their economies that they are looking to
invest in services, flight routes, roads, restaurants and other
facilities for tourists," said Laura Rendell-Dunn of Journey Latin
America. "The countries are smaller than in South America, so they
don't have the extensive bus systems or flight routes, but the
transport system is improving in leaps and bounds. The direct flight
to Panama will make a huge difference. Before this you had to go via
Guatemala City or San Jose in Costa Rica.

"Each country is different. Many have Mayan ruins that have yet to be
excavated, or huge temples that peep through the tree canopy. And,
because there are still not many tourists, you feel like you are
heading off the beaten track while, for honeymooners, there are a lot
of boutique hotels overlooking the Caribbean."

The numbers for travellers to the region have been robust during the
past couple of years. JLA sent 3,100 passengers in 2009 compared with
1,600 in 2006. According to data from Latina Marketing, the number of
visitors to Central America increased by 6 per cent to 1.5 million in
2009. Of these, 151,000 were from Europe, a rise of 4 per cent year on
year, and 19,900 were from the UK.

"Belize has a good road network and road signs that make using a hire
car a doddle, but there is also a comprehensive flight network that
links all the major lodges. You can now charter a two-seater for a
little under $350 to take you anywhere," said Rafe Stone, JLA product
manager for Central America.

"Smaller projects, such as a fast boat out to the Bay Islands from La
Ceiba in Honduras, make for efficient transfers between the islands
and the mainland. El Salvador has some of the best roads in the
region, with freeways enabling you to get from one side of the county
to the other very swiftly, and there have been improvements in
Nicaragua on roads in rural areas like Matagalpa," he added.

"Of course, the dirt tracks and wooden dugouts will remain and will
always be part of the fun when travelling in this part of the world."

No comments: