Traveling to The Americas and Caribbean


All the information you want about traveling to, and through, the Americas can be found right here! Each region has its own section to match the other destinations. Click the America you want to read about first from the photos below and you’ll be taken right to it.

North
America

Canada, Caribbean, Mexico,
United States of America

Central America

Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama

South
America

Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela


North America

North America is largely made up of three countries: Canada, The United States of America, and Mexico. The island countries of the Caribbean are also considered part of North America.

With this kind of diversity, you don’t have to travel far to have new experiences. North America has an option for just about any vacation desire you can think of. Outdoor adventure and white sandy beaches? Check. A Foodie’s paradise? Check. Fashion, culture, wine? Check, check, and check. Need we go on?


Aeriel view of Vancouver Canada

Do I Need a Visa?

If you have a passport from the United States, you’re able to vacation visa-free just about anywhere in North America. Visas are never required for domestic travel within the United States. Note: the I.D. requirements for domestic travel are changing in October 2021, visit our Resources page to learn more.

American passport holders are able to visit Canada and Mexico for 180 days (or 6 months) without a visa as a tourist. The same or similar applies to most of the Caribbean.

Photo: Vancouver, Canada

Is North America Safe?


General Safety

North America is considered safe for tourism. However, we always recommend taking your common sense with you wherever you travel, near or far.

Canada is one of the safest tourist destinations in the world. Thanks to its low crime rates, friendly people, and peacekeeping tendencies. Similarly, The United States and the Caribbean are also generally safe. While both have a higher crime rate than Canada, it’s unlikely you’ll confront any.

There are many islands in the Caribbean, and some are safer than others. If you’re unsure which island(s) to visit, your travel consultant would be happy to discuss options with you. Mexico also has some areas that you may want to avoid, but there’s also plenty of rich scenic, gastronomic, and cultural attractions you won’t want to miss.


Solo Travel

Most of North America will be safe for solo travelers. While the United States and the Caribbean are mostly safe, we encourage following the same safety guidelines when you’re out alone in your hometown. Due to Mexico’s high crime and kidnapping rate, we caution traveling alone without assistance and careful planning. Contact your travel consultant to find out more.


LGBTQ

LGBTQ rights and acceptance has increased in North America over recent decades. Especially among the younger generations. But, with progress comes backlash. While there are some areas you may want to avoid, there are many more that are very friendly and inviting. Some of the most celebrated and largest LBGT events in the world are located in Canada and the United States.

The governments of the Caribbean islands vary, and therefore, so do the laws. While some islands are more accepting, others are not. And others still, that have laws against it. Please consult with your travel professional to discuss options for visiting the Caribbean. There’s no reason you shouldn’t experience the bliss that comes with a visit.

In the last couple of decades, Mexico has made progress within the LBGTQ communities. Same-sex marriage is now legal in parts of the country, some of which hold great Pride Parades. Though you may still want to exercise some caution when it comes to public displays of affection. Areas like Mexico City are becoming more open but there are still places that are less accepting.

When is a Good Time to Visit?

North America spans almost the entire length of the northern hemisphere. This means that the further north you go, the colder the temperatures will be. And the further south you go, the warmer the temperatures. This rule will apply regardless of which month you travel.

Canada and the northern half of the U.S. are lucky enough to experience all four seasons of the year. This half of the region is notorious for snow and intense winters, especially on the east coast. The rain may come and go during the Fall and Spring seasons but the colors sure are beautiful. Definitely worth seeing. (We might be biased since our home is in Portland, Oregon.)

Mexico, the Caribbean, and the southern border of the U.S. (including Hawaii and Florida) tend to have two seasons, rainy and dry. The Caribbean has a tropical climate making it prone to heavy rains and stormy weather between May and October. May and June typically have less rain but are also known as the hurricane season due to the increased heat and humidity. Mexico and the southwestern border of the U.S experience a lesser degree comparably. There may regular rain but hurricanes are not likely to occur.

While both areas get some heavy downpours, the rain often comes down in sporadic bursts throughout the day. Leaving you with plenty of opportunities to see the sights.

When dry, these three areas are often compared to paradise. The dry season falls around December – April but can vary depending on the country. This is when North America’s southern half is great for white sandy beaches, palm trees, and umbrella drinks. It’s also when folks in the northern half visit to escape the cold winter months.

Will I Have Trouble with the Language Barrier?

We encourage you to learn some basic words for any country you plan to visit. You never know when the word “bathroom” will come in handy while you’re away from your room. The three most spoken languages in North America are English, Spanish, and French.

If you know English, then you should be able to communicate effectively anywhere you go. The only caveat would be in Mexico and the Caribbean. In which case, you might want to stick visiting the larger cities or taking a cruise. The further you are from the tourist areas the harder it will be to find someone who speaks English.

If you also know Spanish or French, then you’re golden. Spanish is widely spoken throughout the United States and the Caribbean. Plus, it’s the primary language in Mexico. French is popular in the Caribbean and is the second official language of Canada.

Is North America a Good Place to Travel with Children?

Yes! Any country in North America that’s a good destination for you, is a good place for your kids. Every country has a multitude of family-friendly attractions. North America has endless options for families year-round. Chat with your travel consultant to plan your family’s next vacation.

What About Money?

Every country in North America has its own form of currency. It’s possible to use the U.S. dollar throughout the region, though we don’t recommend it. We recommend exchanging your cash for the local currency before any international trip. Including within North America.

Using your credit and debit cards can also be a good solution. Visa and Mastercard are both are widely accepted throughout the region. Check with your card provider about any foreign transaction and exchange fees first though. Otherwise, you could be charged a fee for every purchase you make.

Tipping in North America

A 10 – 20% tip is appreciated throughout the region of North America. While tipping is not required in any country, it is encouraged when the service was excellent. Make sure to check your receipt before leaving one though, as some restaurants will include one on the bill. This is especially true if you’re eating with a larger group of people.


Central America

While smaller than North or South America, the countries of Central America each hold its own allure. It’s home to hundreds of volcanoes, vast rainforests, and the 52 miles long Panama Canal. But don’t let that distract you from the remarkable food and culture you’ll encounter.


Alpaca being carried on colorful satchel

Do I Need a Visa to Visit Central America?

Tourist visas are not needed in most Central American countries for trips that are less than 3 months (90 days). However, things are constantly changing these days due to COVID-19. Please consult with your travel professional about any plans to visit Central America.

Is Central America Safe?


General

Central America is typically safe for tourists despite the region’s turbulent reputation. Costa Rica and Panama, for example, are both becoming more economically stable. Panama in particular has a growing community of retirees and expats.

Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras make up The Northern Triangle. While there is an abundance of beautiful landscapes and friendly people everywhere you look, due to economic and/or political instability, traveling in this region is complex. We encourage you to discuss traveling to these areas with your travel consultant.


Solo

Before COVID-19, Central America was considered safe for solo travel with few exceptions. Today things are continually changing. Please consultant your travel professional if you plan to travel to Central America alone.


LGBTQ

Some countries in Central America are living in the past when it comes to LGBTQ acceptance. But there are other great destinations, Costa Rica is a good example. In fact, as of May 26, 2020, Costa Rica became the first Central American country to legalize same-sex marriage.

When is a Good Time to Visit Central America?

You can expect warm weather all year thanks to how close Central America is to the equator. Which means it’s also a tropical climate that has a rainy and dry season. The dry season tends to fall between November – March and the wet season ranges from April- October. September and October are also known as the Hurricane season.

Will I have Trouble with the Language Barrier?

Spanish is the predominant spoken language throughout Central America. You can probably skate by with English alone, but you may find that it’s less spoken compared to other regions. Learning even just a few Spanish words and sentences can reduce simple misunderstandings. Plus, it’s seen as a sign of respect towards the locals. You’ll often see that locals appreciate your effort.

Is Central America a Good Place to Travel with Children?

There are some great options for a family vacation to Central America. Kids of all ages will enjoy a range of outdoor activities. From riding down a river in a traditionally carved canoe to walking through the canopy of the rainforest the memories made will last a lifetime.

A word of note when traveling with young children: transportation is an important consideration before booking your trip. Central American countries don’t have the most robust public transportation systems. That makes traveling between destinations challenging and more time consuming than one may expect; especially with extra items like car seats. Our travel consultants are familiar with options that best suited to families. 

What About Money?

Visa and Mastercard are accepted throughout most metropolitan areas in Central America. Whereas more remote areas will prefer cash. Check our Trip Tips for more Travel Information.

Tipping in Central America

Tipping isn’t required throughout Central America but is appreciated. It’s viewed as a sign of quality service, from dine-in restaurants to your tour guides. Keeping small bills and coins on hand works great.

South America


Last, but definitely not the least, is South America. This continent is booming with biodiversity. It accommodates a vast range of natural phenomena that will leave any outdoor enthusiast jaw-dropped. South America is home to the famous Machu Picchu, along with the world’s largest river and rainforest, known as the Amazon. But that’s just the beginning of the natural gifts South America offers. Did you know that you can find penguins in the southern parts of Chile and Argentina? Both countries are often used as a gateway to Antarctica! 


Do I Need a Visa?

As a U.S. passport holder, you can stay for up to 90-days visa-free in many South American countries. But some do require Americans to get tourist visas for their visits.

However, things are always changing in the travel world. Please consult your travel professional to discuss any travel plans to South America.

Is South America Safe?


General

Despite South America’s admittedly rocky history with tourism, this region has a copious amount of natural beauty and culture that are well worth visiting. We always recommend using your common sense while exploring. Be aware of your surroundings, avoid isolated areas, and watch out for pick-pocketers. Just as you’d do walking down the street of your hometown. If it’s your first time traveling to this region we’d recommend working with an expert.


Solo

Unless you’re an experienced independent traveler, we recommend working with a travel professional. Even still, you’ll find it’s a good idea to stick near populated cities versus trekking alone through remote areas.


LGBTQ

South America is still largely Catholic and tends to have a more conservative outlook. However, there are countries evolving and beginning to embrace the LGBTQ community. Though, we still recommend exercising caution when it comes to public displays of affection.


For more useful travel advice check out our Trips Tips section. You’ll find useful information designed to save you time, keep you safe, and show you what being a good global citizen looks like.

When is a Good Time to Visit South America?

Don’t forget that most of South America is south of the equator. This means the seasons may be the opposite of what you’re accustomed to in North America. The summer months for fall between November-February and their winter is June – August.

The northern countries of South America tend to vary only slightly in temperature throughout the year. The further south you venture from the Equator, the bigger the changes. In the southern parts of the region, like Patagonia, it isn’t unusual to see penguins!

Holidays are another thing to keep in mind when planning your trip. Easter and Christmas are major holidays in South America. You’ll want to book in advance as properties sell out quickly. Christmas is especially popular, as North American’s venture south during the cold northern months.

Will I Have Trouble with the Language Barrier?

Most other regions of the world can have dozens of languages spoken. South America has only one common language, Spanish. This fact is something that is unique compared to the rest of the world where most people speak English.

There hasn’t been much need for locals to learn English. And you’ll find that English is not nearly as widely available compared to other countries. You don’t need to be fluent, but learning even a bit of Spanish will come in handy throughout your vacation. Including in Brazil where Portuguese is the main language!

Is South America a Family Friendly Destination?

South America has a lot to offer for family travel. It is a huge continent full of sky-high cable cars, endless outdoor and water sports, ancient ruins, national parks, white-sand beaches, and penguins!! Definitely a great place to travel with kids!

A word of note when traveling with young children: transportation is an important consideration before booking your trip. South American countries don’t have the most robust public transportation systems. That makes traveling between destinations challenging and more time consuming than one may expect; especially with extra items like car seats. Our travel consultants are familiar with options that best suited to families. 

What About Money?

You can use your Visa and Mastercard throughout most populated areas of South America. Though the option becomes less common the more you travel to rural areas. We always recommend keeping some cash in the local currency for emergencies. Visit our Trip Tips page for more travel tips.

Do I Tip?

Tipping is not required but it is appreciated for service-based jobs throughout South America. Small bills and coins always come in handy for such uses as you explore. Don’t forget to tip your tour guides and drivers as well.


Ready to book? Contact us to begin making arrangements for your next vacation.


Willamette International Travel