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Vanabode Camp, Travel And Live Forever On $20 A Day
From the ocean oasis to the cloud forest, the colonial towns to the volcano treks, Central America’s diversity is both starting and splendid, especially given the small size of this landmass and the countries within it.
And from scorching summers to rainy winters, sunny beaches to cold high altitudes, the climate here is just as diverse – making this a paradise for adventurous travellers.
That said all this diversity can also be something of a nightmare when it comes to packing, especially if it’s into a small backpack.
But don’t worry, I’ve whittled it down to the essentials, which after living and travelling in this part of the world for over a year, I’ve got a good idea about!
Also, if you want to save this list, then scroll down to the bottom of the article where there’s a downloadable copy.
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1x Rain Jacket
In the tropics of Central America it can rain anytime, so I strongly recommend bringing a rain jacket with you.
Something thin, compact and practical, like this North Face Venture 2, is perfect.
1x Thick Hoodie / Sweater
If you’re staying or trekking at altitude in Central America, you’ll want to make sure you’ll be warm enough, so at least 1 thick hoodies or sweater is a good idea.
2x Thin Long Sleeve Tops
Helpful in the evening and to layer at altitude, try to go for a natural fabric like this cotton one, which will stop you sweating and smell less!
1x Pair Leggings
One of my travel essentials, ideal when you’re exploring everywhere from cities to national parks.
Leggings are also good under a casual dress in the fresh evenings or are comfy to wear on any long bus rides.
If you have room, take 2 pairs!
Great for going out in the evening, protecting from mosquitoes or wandering around cities or churches when shorts won’t do.
2x Pair Shorts
Well you’re going to need something for those beach days right?!
1x Set of Activewear
Perfect for hiking or if you fancy doing some yoga, running or generally not just partying when you’re in Central America!
1x Summer Dress
A great item for beach days or if you want to hit some bars in some of the more backpacker-orientated towns here.
You can’t take enough sarongs travelling in my opinion and, as they are so light, I recommend 2 as a minimum.
Perfect for using as a beach towel, a scarf, a bathrobe, a sheet, a laundry bag … the list goes on.
Check out my post about the 20 reasons why you should always take a sarong travelling for more ideas!
7x Singlets / T-Shirts
Choose a range of colours and styles that match the trousers /shorts you’ve selected, including plenty of casual loose ones for the day.
7 is a good number as it means you have enough to survive without doing laundry for a week!
8x Pairs Underwear
Small and compact, 8 pairs is a good number to save you a lot of washing duties!
2x Bras + 1x Sports Bra
Take 2 bras ladies and don’t forget you can always use your bikini top in an emergency!
I also recommend a sports bra for outdoor activity days or bumoy bus rides.
Compact and quick to dry, I love this black one from Nike.
1x Bikini / Swimwear
Well you need something to enjoy those fabulous beaches that’s for sure.
Hopefully they’ll get so much use, you’ll see maybe packing 2 pairs as worthy of the space in your backpack!
4x Pairs Socks
2x normal pairs for outdoors stuff, 2x ankle-length pair for city days.
You can always double up on your daywear here to save room if needs be!
1x Sun Hat
Whether you want to bring a cap or a floppy, large designer number, the choice is yours.
Just make sure you bring a sun hat of some description because walking all day in the heat of the tropics can burn!
I love this design from Hello Sunshine.
1x Pair of Hiking Boots
Goes without saying you’re likely to want to do some trekking in this part of the world and good hiking boots with appropriate grip and a level of waterproofing will definitely be necessary for your travels in Central America.
I love these Keen Targhee II which are perfect for this part of the world.
1x Pair Trainers / Runners
Versatile, comfortable and essential if you want to see the all the sights in this epic part of the world.
I highly recommend New Balance who create stylish city runners that you can still wear when doing your outdoors stuff too.
1x Pair Flip Flops
Known as thongs for the Aussies among you and Jandals for the kiwis, for the rest of us, flip flops are an essential for your Central America packing list.
Personally I love my Birkenstocks, which I basically live in since I bought them.
They support they offer means you can sightsee to your heart’s content in them and never get sore soles!
1x Pair Evening Sandals / Flats
Nonessential in my book, but many people like to take them especially if they are spending a lot of time in a city or planning to go out in the evening a lot.
1x Thin Toiletries Bag
To hook or not to hook, that is the question!
Either way just make sure it is light and thin.
This one is a great, cheap option
1x Shampoo & Conditioner
I also go for shampoo and conditioner bars to save the plastic and keep the space down!
Although they are a bit pricey, they last for ages.
I always prefer a natural crystal deodorant as they last forever as are free from many nasty chemicals.
1x Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss
Keep in ziplock bag to prevent from getting soap slime on everything you own!
1x Razor & Spare Blades
1x Nail Scissors & Nail File
Great for doing emergency washing, such as underwear in a sink, travel handwash is always a must when I travel.
Glasses / Contact Lenses if you wear them
1x Natural Sunscreen
Choose a 30 SPF or higher for those hell-strong summer rays and gonatural if you can to keep the chemicals out of your skin.
1x Aloe Vera
This doubles as a great moisturiser, soother and aftersun.
1x SPF Lip Salve
Very important for those UV conditions and salty sea swims.
Burt’s Bees are always my go to as they never dry out my lips.
1x Natural Bug Repellent
See my post about how to make your own DEET-Free insect spray or else there are plenty of ready-made products on the market like this great onethis great one.
1x Tiger Balm
An ideal remedy for headaches, sore muscles and insect bites, tiger balm is super versatile.
1x Tea-Tree Essential Oil
A powerful antiseptic, anti-mould, anti-fungal treatment.
Also great to throw in a few drops with your washing and ideal for freshening up smelly bags / laundry etc.
Get an organic tea-tree oil if you can.
1x Eye Mask & Earplugs
Key for sleeping on long bus journeys and in hostels.
This one from Alaska Bear is super comfy.
1x Box Paracetamol, 1x Anti-Septic Cream & 1x Box Band Aids
The only medicine you need to take!
1x Moon Cup / Diva Cup
The best way to deal with your time of the month when travelling ladies.
Check out the best prices for them here.
1x Travel Towel
I recommend Latrek, because they are cheap, compact, soft and don’t smell.
Love, love, love mine.
1x Day Pack
Good for hiking and beach days, this one from Pacsafe is perfect.
1x Notebook & Pen
1x Combination Padlock
Very useful for locking up bags and valuables when staying in hostels, these don’t have to be expensive, just reliable!
Lots of people say you don’t need this, but I find it very helpful.
Choose a light, inexpensive one and make sure it has a bottle opener, corkscrew and knife – like this.
1x Pair Sunglasses
1x Water Bottle
Try to get a metal one and steer any from those nasty plastics.
If you can buy large bottles of mineral water in Central America and then decant them into your metal water bottle, you’re going to save money and help reduce your plastic waste.
1x Laptop / Tablet
Most places in Central America have free wifi, so bring your own device to here and surf away!
1x Camera, Lens, & Charger
I love my Sony A600 mirrorless camera, which I’ve used across the world.
Light, compact and study, it’s perfect for travelling.
2x Memory Cards
Take large memory cards if possible – like these 64GB ones – and double up in case you lose one or fill it up.
High speed options are also good for processing.
1x USB Stick
Very helpful for backing up photos and important info.
How you going to charge otherwise?
Central America have the same type of plugs across the region – namely the US type – so you can get one for this whole area.
However, I also recommend splashing out on a worldwide adapter – better value for many if you’re travelling elsewhere after Central America or anytime in the future!
Skross are a great brand that I highly recommended.
1x Headlamp & Spare Batteries
Never travel without a headlamp and try to choose a product that uses commonly found batteries and has a red night light function.
I love my Black Diamond Storm.
Passport & Photocopies
Depending where you’re from of course.
Always good to have with you anyway
Travel Insurance Policy
Can’t go wrong with the excellent travel insurance from World Nomads in my opinion.
Credit Cards and Debit Cards inc. Back Ups
Cash in Small Thin Purse
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So that’s it, my ultimate female packing list for Central America.
Download your free version by simply entering your email address below and make sure you don’t turn up in this part of the world overpacked and underprepared!