I am a healthy senior.  I have taken the same mild blood pressure medication for 20 years. It is the only medication I have ever taken. I have only been hospitalized to have my children, and once due to a car accident.  I have never needed to go to an emergency room, and I have never needed to take antibiotics.

While I was married I always had amazing international health coverage included in my husband’s contracts.

My trip to Central America was the first trip I was making on my own.  When I started looking for quotes for coverage I was stunned.  Medical coverage was going to cost more than my trip!!

Someone advised me to check out IAMAT.  I became a member and donate $100 a year.  I have never needed to use the service but it will give me access to an English speaking doctor at a reasonable price anywhere in the world – help with local medical services, and a ton of valuable travel medical advise.

I am making my first trip to America in a long time.  I will not go to America without medical insurance.  I went to BCAA and their quote for $10,000,000 coverage with 0 deductible was $336.44 for 15 days

My local insurance office offered $5,000,000 coverage with $0 deductible for 15 days for $371.05

I bank with Scotiabank.  I bought a policy for 15 days $5,000,000 with 0 deductible for $112.    If I had changed to $1000 deductible it would have cost $93.




Free on Arrival   Keep a copy of your plane ticket to avoid paying exit tax when you leave.  You will be given a tourist card.  If you arrive by land there is a cost for the tourist card, but the entry and exit cost is included in plane tickets. 


There is a hotel tax of 10 – 16% depending on the state, and sales tax is built into prices you see on goods. 

     $$$$ MEXICAN PESO

          1 MNX = $.054

          100 MNX = $5.38

          $1 US = 18.59 MNX

          $10 US = 185.91 MNX


Watch your money on every cash transaction.

Beware of pickpockets

Always hold on to your possessions

People who approach you want something from you – usually your money



Free on arrival  

There is a B$37 exit tax to be paid when you leave.


Belize has a 12.5 % GST and a hotel tax of 9 %.  There is no standard as to when it is included in pricing – you always need to ask

 $$$ BZD $$$

    1BZD = $.50 US 

    100 BZD = $50 US 

    1 US $ = 2 B    

    10 US $ = 20 BZD


LANGUAGE:   The national language is English.


I felt safe here in spite of all of the negative publicity.  I did not spend any time in a large city so that may have reduced my fear.  The biggest scam here is with money.  You need to know if the tax is included, and also if the price quoted is in Belize dollars or US dollars.  I found the locals polite and helpful.  I did not like any of the expats I met who were living there.  They all had nothing but negative things to say about both the country and the people.  It upset me to hear them disparage the locals in front of them.  I read the biggest scams here are with real estate sales.


Always determine prices and currencies, and if the tax is included.

Local food was inexpensive and tasty.

Great bakeries to buy picnic food


I enjoyed Belize.  The locals were very friendly and helpful.  I never felt unsafe.  

I only spent 4 days in Belize.  I spent $227, $56/day.


VISA:  Free on arrival


There is a $10 exit tax if you leave the country by sea, Free, if you leave over a land border.

Goods & Service tax is 12% 

Hotels often charge an additional %10


     1 GTQ = $.14

     100 GTQ = $13.59

     $1. = 7.36 GTQ

     $ 5 = 36.80 GTQ 

LANGUAGE:  Official language is Spanish, but English is widely spoken.


Do not ride on the chicken buses.  They are unsafe as they are not maintained, and have poor drivers.  I saw a pack fly off the top of one, and wheels fall off another.

Use taxis after dark.  Try to have your hostel arrange a taxi for you as there are a number of “fake” taxis.

There is a lot of violent crime.  Be careful anywhere there are crowds. 

Theft is common, so keep your possessions out of sight (camera etc) and only carry enough money in your wallet for one day.

Hold onto your things – if you set things down there is a good chance of someone snatching them and running away

Try to avoid ATMs – card skimming is very prevalent. 

Have a fake wallet available if you are robbed.  Pockets are often cut open with a razor, so you are better to just carry your money where it is not easily accessed.


The menu del dia (meal of the day) is often a bargain

Buy fruit and veg at local markets

Look for free walking tours

If I want a guide I always just ask if anyone working at my hostel is available to take me. 

Always ask if that is their best price. 

Use tuk-tuks when possible.


I actually felt safer than I expected.  Locals were always kind and helpful.  It was easy to go from one place to another, and transportation was inexpensive.  

I spent 16 days in Guatemala and spent $853 for an average of $53./ day


VISA:  No visa required, but you do need to buy a $10 tourist card.


1 SVC = $.11 US

100 SVC = $11.43

$1. = 8.75 SVC

$5 = 43.73 SVC

There is a 13 % sales tax and an 18% hotel tax.  They are sometimes built into the price – you need to ask. 

Spanish is the language,  some English spoken


There is a high crime rate, and violent crime is common

Pickpockets are everywhere, especially in crowds.

Snatch theft is common – hold onto your things

Muggings have happened on hiking trails

Public transit is safe to use. 

Avoid ATMs and using a credit card -use cash


Eat at local food stands

Buy fruit at local markets

Always ask if that is the “best” price

Use local transport


“If wealth was measured in kindness El Salvador would be the richest country in the world.”

I had read that prior to my visit, and I agree wholeheartedly.  The kindness of the people made this my favourite country in Central America.  I did not go to many places in this country, but it was the friendly open people here who were the highlight of my visit.  As I walked down the street people looked me in the eye, and acknowledged me.  Being able to attend performances at the National Theatre was such a highlight. I loved riding local buses and everything here was very inexpensive.  Casa Verde in Santa Ana was the best hostel I have stayed in anywhere in the world – Kudos to Carlos and his staff.

I spent 8 days in El Salvador and spent $288 dollars  $36/day


I did not stay in Honduras.  The only places that interested me were a couple of the islands famous for diving, and I felt the danger level getting there and back was not worth the risk.  I had met several travellers who had been robbed so I decided to avoid that country.

There is a $3 entrance fee.  Keep your receipt, there is no exit fee but if they try to charge you, show your receipt and tell them you already paid. 



No visa required but you must purchase a $10 tourist ticket and there is also a $3 fee?

There is a $5 fee and $2 service fee when you exit

There is a 15% sales tax in Nicaragua.


      1 NIO = $.03

      100 NIO = $3.22

      $1. = 31.08 NIO

      $5 = 155.42 NIO

Language spoken is Spanish – but many people speak some English


Armed robbery happens, do not resist, carry a fake wallet. 

Avoid using ATMS – they are often rigged

Be careful after dark, always use a licensed taxi (they have a red border around the licence.

Before you get in a taxi, establish the fare, and tell them not to pick up any other passengers.  Keep your doors and windows locked. 

Some beach areas have bad currents – check before you go in the water. 

Do not believe the taxi drivers in Rivas when they tell you there is no taxi to the border.

Do not pay for departure forms as you approach the border. They are free at the proper offices.

Sign in a hostel in San Juan del Sur: Do not go to the beach after dark – you will be robbed.


Always ask “Is that your best price?” 

Eat at local cafes, eat local food.

If you are going to Costa Rica from Rivas, go to the Pali supermarket, near the bus station to stock up on supplies – much cheaper in Nicaragua than Costa Rica.

Do not spend the extra for a Tica or Transnica Bus to get you across the border  – it is easy to do yourself. 



Great country.  A wide variety of things to see and do.  Everything was inexpensive, and English was often spoken.  Transportation was cheap and fun.  Locals were friendly and helpful.  I would not bother going back to Little Corn Island.  Aside from the episode at Via Via in Leon, I felt very safe. 

I travelled for 17 days and spent $946 for a daily cost of $55



No visa required, no entrance fee.  You may be asked to prove proof of onward travel.  If they ask for this you can buy a bus ticket at a bus office at the border. 

There is a $29 exit fee from Costa Rica

     $$$  COSTA RICAN COLON $$$

          1 CRC = $.0018

          1000 CRC = $ 1.75

          $ 1. = 571. CRC

          $ 5 = 2857 CRC


Most places include the 13 % tax.  Cafes will often include a 10% gratuity  – check your bill. 

LANGUAGE:  Spanish and English


At the border they will tell you it is too far to walk from Nicaragua exit to Costa Rica entrance – it is not. 

Do not pay for departure forms from Nicaragua – they are free at the office

Crime can be violent so always carry a throwaway wallet and do not resist.

Use only official red taxis with yellow triangles 

Keep taxi doors locked

Do not ride in the front seat of a taxi

Make sure door handles are working in the taxi

Keep your passport safe, carry a photocopy with you

Only change your money at a bank

Do not accept any food or drink from strangers.

Date rate drugs are prevalent    be aware

Check swimming areas for riptides and currents

If doing any adventure tours – check the equipment before you pay

Sexual harassment happens

Beware of people who approach you

Cover up and use repellent to avoid dengue and zika


If you are coming from Rivas, stock up on supplies at the Pali supermarket first – much cheaper than Costa Rica

Eat at local sodas

Do not book tours/trips/adventures ahead of time, always cheaper on site

Always ask for a discount

Shop at supermarkets


Costa Rica was wet.  It does having amazing nature.  It was certainly more expensive, more developed, and had more tourists than other places.  I did encounter some anti-gringo feelings, but they were subtle and nothing to be concerned about. 

I spent 9 days and I spent $406, for an average of  $45/day.



No visa required.  You must buy a tourist card for $5 and you must show proof of exit.  I did not have a ticket out and was required to buy one.  

I also had to show proof of exit from Costa Rica 

IF you are required to show proof you should know that you can cancel any plane ticket with Air Canada within 24 hours, and you can cancel any ticket purchased in the US within 24 hours – but a ticket purchased there must be for at least 7 days in the future.  I used to just buy a fully refundable ticket  – but now airlines tend to charge for the refund. 

You will not be admitted to Panama if you have a criminal record

There is a $40 exit fee (sometimes included in plane fares)  If not included it must be paid in cash. 

You must always carry identification – carry a copy of your passport. 


     The Balboa is at par with the US dollar and they are both widely used in Panama. 

TAXES:  There is a 10% hotel tax and a 7 % sales tax. 

LANGUAGE:  Spanish is the national language but English is widely spoken. 


Theft is a constant problem, and theft from hotel rooms is common.  Take care at transport terminals and markets.

Use yellow licensed taxis.  Determine the fare ahead of time.  Tell the driver not to pick up anyone else. 

Never buy tickets for anything on the street.

Be very careful after dark

There are many areas of Colon and Panama City that you should avoid. 

Zika and Dengue are present – use repellent and keep covered up.  

Overview of Panama: Great country.  Best of both worlds in Central America.  It was as developed as Costa Rica, with the pleasant people of the poorer countries.  It is one of the more expensive places to visit.  The contrast of old and new in Panama City was breathtaking.  The Panama Canal is certainly a “must do”. 

I travelled by plane, ferry, boat, panga. launcha, bus, tourist shuttle, collective, taxi, pedal cab, tuk-tuk, and flip-flop.

I met many other travellers from many countries.  Many were younger, some were older,  some travelled alone, others as couples. We all seemed to have the same consensus as to Central American travel.  

Generally, everyone felt:

 It was so much easier than everyone expected.

 No one felt unsafe.

Locals everywhere were approachable and went out of their way to be helpful

Borders were easy to cross

No one ever felt that they had been seriously scammed, or ripped off

Budget accommodations and public washrooms were so much cleaner than expected.

The visible gun presence everywhere took some getting used to.

Most of the big cities were not worth stopping to see.

Prices of tours etc. were very reasonable.

I hiked, swam, snorkelled, fished, zip lined, made chocolate, took tours, went to live theatre, and transited the Panama Canal. 

I did not get to see the Arenal volcano, scuba dive, get to the San Blas Islands, or line handle through the Panama Canal. Next time. 


I was not robbed, beaten, raped, murdered, mugged, or kidnapped. I never had anything stolen.  I never got sick, hurt or lost.   I only had one problem – the guy trying to break into my room in Leon.

I travelled for 69 days, 5740 km, and spent $3452 ($50/day).




















I use a Tortuga backpack. It fits me well, has a good waist strap, good zippers, and a cover for the straps when I check it. For a typical 5 month trip it weighs 7 kg fully loaded. I have to carry it, so I have strived for efficiency to travel with minimum weight.

I try not to have anything loose in my pack. I use packing cubes for clothes and mesh pencil cases in various sizes for meds, odds and sods, kitchen supplies etc. I get the mesh bags at a dollar store.
The only things loose are flip-flops, cup, bowl, plate, and a foldable bag.
When I take something out, I leave out the case it goes in. I then know that something has to go back in it before it goes back into my pack. I do not meet many people who have had things stolen, but many people have lost or forgotten things.

One outside pocket has a rain poncho

3-4 plastic bags, various sizes
Traditional road map
Small thin world atlas
School sized notebook




10” X 7” Plastic with three waterproof compartments
small baby shampoo (washes me, my hair, and my clothes)
Black plastic soap holder. Inside is a bar of soap in a bag, and under it is a bank debit card in a RFDI protector sleeve.
Matching black plastic toothbrush holder. Inside is $200 emergency funds in cash
comb, deodorant, nail clippers, tweezers, flat sink plug, small sun screen, razor, facecloth

I only carry small sizes and once I get somewhere I will stay for a while, I buy larger sizes


Plug and cord for computer
Plug and cord for IPad
Cord for phone
External hard drive and cord
Powerbank and cord
Camera battery charger and cord
2 USB storage sticks
Memory card reader
Nano USB drive to transfer photos from android phone to Mac computer
2 Electrical plugs for USBs
Digital voice recorder
2 adaptor plugs


Rehydration salts
Pepto Bismol Pills
3 pkgs Neo Citran
Tiger Balm (also use as insect repellant)

I take all of the pills out of the containers and put them in little zip bags. Each bag has a little piece of paper with the name typed on.



Blood pressure meds
Restless leg meds
Toothbrush and paste


Good quality camping plastic knife, spoon, and fork
Steripen (to purify water)
can opener/corkscrew
Splenda sugar minis
3 in 1 coffee tubes
Immersion heater
Paring knife ( do not take if you are taking your pack as a carry on)

2 pair lightweight cotton drawstring waist capris
1 pair long leggings
1 pair below the knee leggings
1 pair long athletic shorts
1 sarong (can be used as a dress-up skirt)

3 short sleeved Merino wool t-shirts
1 long loosed sleeveless top
1 short sleeve knee-length cotton dress

sleep shirt
3 pair panties – Tilley brand, quick dry
1 bra
1 sports bra
1 swimsuit

AA & AAA batteries
spare luggage lock
zap straps
safety pins
paper clips
elastic bands
small craft zip bags
1 large, 1 small carabiners
1 pair spare glasses
space blanket
PADI dive card
copy of passport
copy of IAMATA card
business cards
passport photos
copy of my prescriptions
International immunization book




Instead of a day pack, I carry a sling bag. It is hands-free and sits on the front of my body.

My sling bag has a padded shoulder strap with an inside zip compartment where I store $200 emergency cash.

When I travel it contains all the important things:
my computer
my camera
my wallet (with just the money for the day) copy of my passport, contact info
a clear zip case with my passport, airline ticket, accommodation reservation

I wear a homemade money belt when I travel, it does not have a zipper
long sleeved merino wool t-shirt ( I am usually cold on a plane or bus)
short sleeved merino wool t-shirt
long yoga pants
sketches shoes

Once I arrive my computer is locked in the outside compartment of my pack, also my money belt and passport get locked in there too. My pack is small so I lock it to a chair or the bed with a metal coil and lock (like many bicycle locks)


I saw many changes in Egypt since I had visited 22 years ago.  The pyramids have not changed.  They are as impressive as ever and still inspire awe as you stand at the bottom and look up.   The first time I went we had a young gal from Oregon with us.  As we arrived she said  “You know you have to ride a camel around the pyramids”.  I told her I did not think that was a necessity, but she insisted so we did.  I remember that ride as being uncomfortable and stinky.

This time a friend from Vancouver had joined me, and he had never been to Egypt before.  He too thought that camel riding was an intricate part of the experience.   We were at the gate when it opened and managed to beat the tour bus crowds.  We were alone with the Sphnix.   As we got closer to the big pyramid he decided he would like to go inside one.  I had “been there, done that” so had no desire to do it again.  We met an old camel guide and were talking to him.  He told Troy not to waste money to go into the big pyramid – had would not see anything, and the ticket to the smaller one was much cheaper.  Troy had to walk back to the entrance to get that ticket.  I stayed to talk to the old camel guy.  He had been a guide for 45 years.  He told me when he first started someone had given him a card. He did not know what it was, but took it home and kept it.  He continued to get them, and someone finally explained they were business cards.  He decided to keep them and put them in a book.  He told me he now had a big book, and he invited me to come to his house to see it.

Troy went inside the smaller pyramid – said it was a waste of time and money.  We then rode the camels out into the dunes in order to look back at the pyramids.  Once again it was uncomfortable, but this time the camel did not stink.

After Troy left I call the old guy and he came to meet me to take me to his house.  He only lived a couple of blocks from where I was staying, down a winding little alley.  He opened the door to his house, and there was his camel’s ass.  We walked past the camel and a couple of feet from its head his wife and daughter were seated on the floor preparing food for dinner.

HIs Grandfather was also a guide

We went into an adjoining room with carpet and big pillows on the floor.  Everything was spotlessly clean.   His daughter brought us tea as he smoked his shisha and showed me his “big book”.  He knew it inside out and could find cards within seconds.  He also showed me a photo of his grandfather with his camel at the pyramids.  He walked me home and thanked me for visiting.  I kept his card to bring home with me.  I do not have a big book to put it in, but I will always treasure that memory.

A Business Card I will keep



The Big Book



Nubian Guesthouse
Police Lookouts

Years ago when I visited Egypt, I took the train from Cairo to Luxor.  I had read Egypt had bought some new trains so I was excited to “ride the rails’.  The train I rode the first time was old and dirty.  I am sure it was the same train this time, only older and dirtier.  Oh well, part of the adventure. I stayed in a Nubian guesthouse in Aswan – certainly the most colourful place of this trip.  I took the train to Aswan as I wanted to visit Abu Simbel.  Vans full of tourists leave Aswan early each morning for the 3-hour drive to Abu Simbel. The desolation of the desert was interesting.  We did pass one oasis and the green colours were electric against the endless background of sand.  Abu Simbel consists of two temples that were moved when the new dam was built as Lake Nassar flooded.  They simply cut the temples into blocks, numbered the blocks, moved them, and put them back together.  They are amazing, and  I saw more tourists than any other place I had been in Egypt.

Abu Simbel


Amazing Temples

I left Aswan by train to go to Giza.  It was a long trip but interesting all the way.  The train was old and dirty, the passengers were warm and friendly.


Inside a Temple
The Train



Luxor Temple
Karnak Temple

Luxor has been called the greatest open-air museum in the world, and I would have to agree.  Luxor was at its best between the 11th and 16th centuries BC.  Coming from a country that is 150 years old, I can not even comprehend that amount of old.  The city of Luxor is built on the east bank of the Nile.  The Valley of the Kings is across the river.

Hatshepsut Mortuary Temple

Luxor and Karnak Temples are the dominant structures in Luxor.  Both complexes are huge, and both are well preserved and the reconstruction is ongoing.  Many parts of both places are in their original state and it is incredible to see how they have withstood the time and elements.

Both temples can easily be visited on your own.  Doing some research before your visit will greatly enhance your time.  I so enjoyed wandering around trying to imagine what things were like when they were built – and also how they were built.  It is so unfortunate the tourism industry in Egypt is currently suffering hard times.  Often there would only be 2 or 3 tour buses in a parking lot that could hold 100.  I felt so fortunate to be able to spend so much time almost alone.

Taking a tour of the West Bank is the easiest option to see the Valley of the Kings, and some of the lesser known sites.  The Valley of the Kings is really just a big gravel pit, but once you enter the tombs the colours and details of the paint is beyond belief.  A 6-hour tour that included transport and guide was less than $3. and none of the admission fees cost more than $6.

I also got to visit Hatshepsut’s, Mortuary Temple.    I felt it was best just seen from a distance. We also stopped to see the two huge Colossi of Memnon statues and Medinet Habu.  The latter was certainly one of my favourites as there was a lot of very well preserved hieroglyphics.  How many man hours did it take to create that incredible work?

Exterior paint that lasted 3500 years Temple. 

I rode a felucca on the Nile to see the sunset, and a hot air balloon over the Valley of the Kings to see the sunrise.

Luxor was a great lesson in history, and the best part – there was no test after.


Colourful Guest House
Police Lookout

I had not been to Aswan before.  I wanted to see the two huge Abu Simbel temples that were moved before the Nile Valley flooded and created Lake Nasser.  Nubians were forced to abandon their homes when the valley flooded, so I thought I would stay at a Nubian Guesthouse.  It was certainly the most colourful place I have stayed.  Abu Simbel is located 230 km. south of Aswan, and is close to the border of Sudan.  Vans and tour buses travel in convoys across the desert, and there are numerous police checkpoints along the way.

Desolate Desert
Abu Simbel Temples

The desert is pretty flat and desolate most of the way.  We did pass one area where there were rocky hills.  We also saw one oasis – a lovely patch of green trees and flowers in the middle of nowhere.

The temples of Abu Simbel were built in 1260 BC.  In 1968 they were relocated to avoid them being submerged when the high dam was built.  They were simply cut into blocks, the blocks were numbered, and they were relocated and reconstructed.  Each block weighed about 20 tons.  There is not a lot to see inside either of the temples, but the outside of each of them is very impressive.  It is incredible how well the hieroglyphics have withstood the test of time.


Up Up and Away
Beautiful Balloons over the Valley of the Kings

A hot air balloon ride has always been on my bucket list. Unfortunately, it is just not a budget activity – unless you are in Luxor, Egypt.
Early morning balloon rides over the Valley of the Kings are popular and affordable.
I booked my tour with Sindbad Balloons and the experience was professional from beginning to end.

Captain Adel

The one drawback is pickup time is before 5 am. The sun gets up early in Egypt. We had tea or coffee on our short ferry ride to the west bank of the Nile. A short drive and we were at the launch site. It was so interesting to watch the balloons being inflated, and lift off 6 at a time. We were given a safety briefing to read, and then an oral briefing from the pilot. He made it very clear that they took safety very seriously.

We boarded the basket – it is divided into sections, with the pilot and his tanks in the middle. We slowly rose and it was amazing how smooth and quiet it was. We glided over several temples. The pilot was able to turn the balloon so we each had a 360 -degree panoramic view.
We rose to 500 meters and just floated along in the morning breeze. The green of the agricultural area was a sharp contrast to the desert sand. It was thrilling to see some of the temples from above.

Captain Adel made a textbook landing, barely a bump as we touched down. It was a perfect flight, on a perfect morning, and a perfect way to start a day.

Sindbad Balloons:
Tel:  +20 95 227 2960    Mobile:  +20100 330 77 08