It’s so relative and has a lot to do with how you personally like to travel, the areas you choose, your ability to blend in with the locals, the type of accommodation you prefer and much more. Overall, I felt safe as a black woman traveling alone in Central America. There have definitely been destinations where I felt my safety was more challenged, before getting to those destinations I want to make it very personal.
That said, Managua is a destination notorious for its security issues. My Airbnb was about a 7 minute walk from Metrocentro and on my street there were (I’m not kidding) at least 10-12 police officers within that short walking distance. Even though the capital of Nicaragua, Managua is not a main stop for tourists. This could contribute to the city’s poorly maintained state and higher crime levels.
Likewise, I felt less safe in capital cities such as San Jose and heard similar stories about parts of Panama City. My theory is that growing up in London I know how to function in urban mode – it’s the opposite of island living, coastal living etc. Naturally, being in a city makes me feel less hot. There is generally a lack of community and familiarity as it is not a small town vibe. While it’s helpful to know crime rates, I generally prefer to be in smaller communities where you can get to know people personally and there’s more accountability in a way that I think doesn’t does not exist in the capitals. It helps to know what you prefer and navigate that way.
As a black woman traveling alone, I felt that in Panama (Bocas del Toro) and Costa Rica (Puerto Viejo), I met other women traveling alone, which normalized it and made me made me feel safe. So far, the culture of all the destinations felt familiar to me as a Jamaican, which made me feel more comfortable and safe.