So me and a bunch of friends got talking, and next Summer, we'd like to backpack across North America - I'm not excluding Mexico or Canada, but they don't seem too fond - Trouble is, none of us have ever done something like that.
Has anyone here ever done something similar?
What kind of budget would you suggest? Most of us are either students or unemployed, so the lower, the better.
Places to see? Things to do?
Any help would be great, thanks!
First of all, I strongly disagree with those who are saying to skip Mexico on grounds it's "too dangerous":
Yes, some parts are swamped by drug cartel related violence, but if you exercise caution it is a fantastic country and most Mexicans are fun loving, laid back and very welcoming, even moreso if you make the effort to speak a little Spanish.
Having travelled pretty extensively across much of southern Asia, North/Central America and Africa, I can tell you that it is incredibly frustrating how people's perceptions are of supposedly "dangerous" countries. I remember people telling me I was crazy to visit Kashmir back in 2003, because the region was supposedly being shelled by Indian and Pakistani armed forces and separatists were targeting tourists. Well, when me and a German guy I met in India got there, we were so surprised at how welcome we were made and how empty of tourists the place was. The locals were delighted to see us as they said people were too scared to come due to negative press in global media.
The same thing happened when I was travelling and studying in southern Thailand a few years ago: The UK foreign office and most the western media were advising against all but essential travel to the country due to violent protests in Bangkok. However, the reality of the situation was that the whole country was abandoned of tourists because of isolated incidents in Bangkok (army shot a few civilians, but this was in a suburb far away from Khao San Road and other tourist districts...I didn't see anything).
I got the same thing in Burma: Oh but isn't it run by a military junta? Yes, but again it didn't affect anything and again I was invited into people's homes on a regular basis off the street, people were that glad to see an outsider.
, there are some parts of Mexico that I would consider off-limits: Border regions, northern and central interior, parts of Mexico City etc. This is where most the issues are with the violence. Also, I wouldn't get the local "chicken buses" and would instead stick to tourist ones.
You can just pick up a cheap Westjet ticket to fly to Cancun from somewhere like Albuquerque or Austin or LA, then go overland to the Yucatan peninsula, which is absolutely fine in terms of safety. This is where all Mayan Aztec ruins are, though if you want quieter ruins you are better off heading to Guatemala to Tikal.
Baja California is safe at the moment and is absolutely stunning, very laid back (even by Mexican standards) and still quite off the beaten trail.
As for the US: What do you enjoy doing? It has a bit of everything. I'll just go over general tips though from a British perspective:
- There is next to no hostel networks or backpacking guesthouses like you will find in Europe/Oz and even Canada, so it's going to be an expensive trip in terms of accommodation.
- The Cities - I personally hate them, very expensive, crap public transport and a serious issue of violent crime. People seem to go on about Mexico being dangerous but US cities are much more dangerous than European ones. Urban Sprawl a massive problem. Can be shocking to a European.
- Rural US is where most the culture is (like all countries, you get a real taste of the real culture out in the sticks, not in the cities), also accommodation is significantly cheaper.
- Best thing to do: Hire a car, camp out in places whenever you can and enjoy the natural beauty of places like Arizona: Don't bother with a guidebook, just buy a good map and go off exploring. You'll find awesome towns well off the beaten trail. Avoid the cities (though there are some exceptions, New Orleans, Seattle are quite nice).
If you want to know about Canada hit me up on PM, I am half-Canadian and know it better than the US.