When planning a trip, it is easy to think of the usual things to pack but what about destination specific items? In this essential packing list for Central America, we have compiled a list of destination specific essential items for a trip to Central America.

The Essential Packing List for Central America

On our trip to Central America, we traveled to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Belize, Costa Rica & Panama.

This packing list is relevant to all the aforementioned countries in Central America.

What luggage to put on your packing list for Central America?

To save money on flights to Central America, it is highly advisable to bring only carry on luggage to Central America. If you are savvy, you can probably last up to a month with only carry on luggage. However, you have to pack smart.

As much as we are suitcase people, suitcases are not the best option in Central America due to the bumpy, dirty and often unpaved roads.

If you bring a suitcase to Central America chances are the wheels will get totally destroyed by the end of your stay. Further, there are limited cheap flights in Central America so your mode of transportation will most likely be by bus.

We think the Hynes 40L Carry on Backpack is the perfect carry on backpack for a trip to Central America. The backpack has a lot of space and is made of high quality materials so it durable when you are throwing it on and off buses.

What clothing to add to your packing list for Central America?

Although we often overpack ourselves, we always kick ourselves later!

It is highly advisable not to overpack when traveling to Central America as traveling usually involves an lot of buses and can involve lengthy periods of time carting around your belongings.

If you are happy to pack light and hand wash in the sink (we bring special washing soap to do so), this is what we would suggest bringing for a 4 week trip.

The items are based on what we personally own or the closest alternative we can find currently online:

HER ESSENTIAL CENTRAL AMERICA CLOTHING PACKING LIST:

Here’s what to add to her essential packing list for Central America!

4 x Short Sleeve Shirts

A lightweight, fast drying shirt is the best way to go.

With this in mind, we would recommend traveler favourite, Icebreaker Merino Women’s T-shirts for light packing due to its quick drying ability. 

2 x Lightweight long sleeve shirt

There are lots of great hiking opportunities in Central America.

We met many tourists who couldn’t even sleep at night due to the severity of the sunburn they received.

An affordable, simple gym-style shirt that is versatile such as Matymats Women’s Workout Tee Tops Long Sleeve is the best way to go.

1 – 2 x Lightweight Walking Pants

It is important to bring some long (breathable) pants for the humid Central American weather.

Not only could these pants potentially stop you from being targeted as a tourist (as people in Central America don’t tend to wear shorts) but they are also great for hiking and day to day activities.

I would recommend these Women’s Leggings for a simple, breathable & affordable pair of long pants.

1 x Waterproof Jacket

A large amount of Central America (for example, the rainforest areas of Costa Rica) have a high chance of rainfall.

For this reason, it is advisable to bring a waterproof jacket that can also be used for warmth.

I have one very similar to this Columbia Women’s Switchback II Jacket that I used a lot during my time in Central America.

1 x Shorts or Skirt

I hardly wore either during my time in Central America as I preferred to wear long pants for mosquito protection.

With this in mind, I would suggest bringing only one pair.

Icebreaker has a really cute pair of lightweight travel shorts that would work well for Central America.

1 x Flip Flops

It is definitely advisable to bring a pair of flip flops to Central America to wear in the showers and to the beach.

We are personally huge fans of Havaianas Flip Flops and probably wouldn’t buy anything else due to their comfort and durability.

1 x Runners

A pair of runners are the best form of every day shoe for Central America.

Central America is a very causal holiday and you will do a lot of walking so make sure you bring a comfortable pair!

If you are looking for a pair of new runners, we both own Nike Free Runners and absolutely love them, they are so comfortable!

4 x Underwear

In order to pack light it is best to pack fewer pairs of quick dry underwear.

The Icebreaker women’s underwear are a special pair of quick drying underwear which make them a great option for packing light!

2 x Bras

Remember to bring a sports bra for hikes in Central America.

It is advisable to select bras that are lightweight and fast drying. This Icebreaker Women’s bra fits that criteria.

4 x Socks 
1 x Swimmers & 1 x Rash Shirt

I noticed that rash guards are extremely popular & a bit of a fashion statement in Central America due to the extremely hot climate.

This is fortunate for me as I love wearing a rash shirt not only to protect my extremely pale skin from the sun but also as a protection from sea lice & jellyfish in the water.

For instance, the water in Puerto Vallarta is absolutely filled with jellyfish so it’s nice to have a bit of extra protection!

I have the predecessor to this Rash shirt by Roxy and I love it as it is cheap & lightweight.

If you want to splurge a little more, I also own this billabong wetsuit rash shirt which is a lot thicker and provides even better protection from jellyfish in the water. I got stung by a jellyfish in Puerto Vallarta when I decided to wear just a bikini in the water and let’s just say it hurt A LOT!!

1 x Sunglasses
1 x Hat

Central American destinations are hot year round.

I would recommend a big hat that is not only trendy but you can also fold up into your bag.

A non-branded basic cheap hat is the best way to go. Hats are (for some reason) a hot commodity in Central America and they often get stolen.

I heard people say they had their nice hat stolen off their head when a motorbike drove by. I would recommend this affordable $9 packable black hat for Central America.

HIS CENTRAL AMERICA CLOTHING LIST:

Here’s what to add to his essential packing list for Central America!

4 x Short Sleeve Shirt 

As stated above, you want a shirt that will dry fast with a lightweight fabric for comfort in warm conditions.

With this in mind, we would recommend Woolly Men’s Merino Wool Short Sleeve as the perfect t-shirt for Central America.

2 x Lightweight Long Sleeve Shirt

As stated above, there are lots of great hiking opportunities in Central America.

I would recommend an affordable, simple gym-style shirt that is  lightweight & fast drying such as Icebreaker’s Long Sleeve for travel to Central America.

1 – 2 x Lightweight Walking Pants

A pair of cheap, lightweight chinos are always a good option for men as they are trendy and quite comfortable.

1 x Waterproof Jacket

As stated above, certain areas of Central America have a high chance of rainfall. For this reason, it is advisable to bring a waterproof jacket with you that can also be used for warmth.

Mike has one one very similar to this Columbia Men’s Watertight Jacket which he used a lot in Central America.

1 x Shorts

Bring a comfortable pair of walking shorts for Central America.

1 x Flip Flops

As above, it is definitely advisable to bring a pair of flip flops to Central America to wear in the showers and to the beach.

We are personally huge fans of Havaianas Flip Flops and probably wouldn’t buy anything else due to their comfort and durability.

1 x Runners

A pair of runners are the best form of every day shoe for Central America. Central America is a very causal holiday and you will do a lot of walking so bring a comfortable pair!

If you are looking for a pair of new runners, we both have Nike Free Runners and absolutely love them, they are so comfortable!

4 x Underwear

In order to pack light it is best to pack only a few pairs of quick dry underwear.

The Icebreaker men’s underwear are a great option for a quick drying pair of men’s underwear.

4 x Socks 
1 x Swimmers & 1 x Rash Shirt

As indicated above, don’t forget to bring a Rash Shirt for your Central American adventure.

You can never go past a plain black Billabong rash shirt for men. Mike has one almost identical to this Billabong rash shirt and gets a lot of wear of it.

 
1 x Hat
Whatever hat you would like to bring. Mike loves his New York Yankees cap
1 x Sunglasses 

Mosquito Related Items for your Central America Packing List

With the Zika virus in full-swing, perhaps the most important item to bring to Central America is mosquito repellants.

Believe me, you want to avoid these suckers at all costs!

The essential & best mosquito related items that you will need to add to your Central American packing list include:

mosquito net for your bed ($35.73)

It is hard to predict whether hotels in Central America will have the necessary mosquito screens installed to avoid being bitten.

We found that even comfortable hotels in Central America  sometimes didn’t have adequate mosquito screens.

There is absolutely nothing worse than being bitten in your sleep!

Therefore, a lightweight traveller’s mosquito net is definitely the way to go to protect yourself completely as you sleep in Central America.

Mosquito coils ($2.98)

Mosquito coils were a godsend for us especially when sitting in the gorgeous outdoor settings that most hotels in Central America seem to have.

We even used it in our room for extra protection if mosquito nets weren’t installed on the windows.

Mosquito bracelets ($6)

We met a Belgian couple on the road in Nicaragua that swore by mosquito bracelets.

I looked at their mosquito bracelets enviously and asked where you get such a product. They told me ‘Belgium’ and I felt disappointed as to not be able to get one.

Well, turns out you can buy mosquito bracelets online too!! Click here to get your mosquito bracelet to protect against mosquitos in Central America.

Mosquito spray ($3.86)

If nothing else, mosquito spray is an absolute must!

If you are planning to only bring carry on luggage, you may need to spend a little more and purchase it in Central America.

Add a lightweight hammock to your Central America Packing List

We were absolutely bummed that we didn’t bring our own lightweight hammock ($19.97) to use while in Central America.

Sure, most hotels have them but they are in limited supply and it really is a first-come-best-dressed race to the hammock.

We met lots of people who cleverly bought they own hammock and relaxed all day by the beach in the shade of the trees.

Add a silk sleeping bag to your Central America Packing List

If you are planning to stay anywhere cheap or in hostels in Central America, sometimes levels of sanitary can be a little lower than the western world.

Bringing along a silk sleeping bag ensures that you feel comfortable sleeping at all times. They are also great to use on overnight buses.

Toiletries for your Central America Packing List

travel toiletry kit for Central America

As you can purchase more on arrival, it is advisable to only bring a small amount of toiletries with you.

We would advise purchasing a travel toiletry kit for Central America to ensure you have a small amount of the necessities when you arrive.

Sunscreen

If you think you are going to get a cheap bottle of sunscreen in Central America, think again. Sunscreen is like liquid gold in Central America and can be upward of $20!

I overheard girls in a supermarket shocked at the price of sunscreen in Nicaragua (a cheap country!). Therefore, I would highly recommend bringing a bottle of sunscreen with you.

The higher SPF the better. Neutrogena offers a great sunscreen which is SPF 100+ for only $7.64. Bring as much as you can if you are paying for checked in luggage!

Hand Sanitiser 

Make up (if required)

Add Binoculars to your Central America Packing List

If you are traveling to Costa Rica or Nicaragua, we found having a pair of basic binoculars fantastic for viewing animals up close and personal.

The animals were rarely super close by so having a pair of good binoculars was essential to getting a clear view of the wildlife.

Add a High Powered Night Torch to your Central America Packing List

Chances are part of the reason you are visiting Central America is to view the wildlife. The rainforest comes alive at night.

Sure, you may not want to venture out into the rainforest alone at night but often where you are staying has a garden outside where you can hear monkeys and other animals alive in the trees.

The problem is that you can’t see them because it is pitch black outside. For this reason, for good night viewing of wildlife, I would recommend a high powered night torch.

Not only is a torch great for wildlife viewing at night but power outages are common in Central America so a torch could very well be a lifesaver.

Add a snorkel set to your Central America Packing List

It’s always expensive (and a little gross) to hire snorkel gear while away on holidays. To avoid overpriced snorkel gear purchase a cheap snorkel set to take with you.

Other items to bring to Central America

Also, in addition to what to pack, before you make a trip to Central America, don’t forget to take out travel insurance! You never know what might happen while traveling and it is important to be protected at all times!

Did you find this packing guide helpful? Let us know in the comments below!

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