Central American countries seem to be so close and at the same time so far away. Even when the geographical distance is not big, a trip to Guatemala from Costa Rica can take around three days because the difficulties crossing so many borders. Airplane tickets have been traditionally expensive, but this seems to be coming to an end.
A ticket from Costa Rica to Panama City costs around 400 USD and up. Even when the flight is only 45 minutes, there are many reasons for such a situation: one is the lack of low cost airlines in the area and the monopoly of some big players, and the concentration of hubs in two or three cities.
The end of this year and the beginning of the of the next one will see the debut of at least three big players: Wingo, Volaris Costa Rica and Air Costa Rica. Most of the routes will start being operating during December 2016, adding more routes and planes progressively.
It is possible to book flights now from San Jose to Guatemala and Panama and to many other routes from different central American cities and even South America.
Suddenly a ticket to Guatemala or Panama costs around 120 USD roundtrip. It still can seem somehow expensive compared with similar distance routes in other parts of the world, but it is indeed a great progress for the area that surely will push tourism even further.
There are some things to keep in mind when booking a low cost flight. The rules can change a little from one airline to the other, but there are several things that are quite similar. First as more in advance a ticket is booked the chances to save money are bigger. Second one is normally paying just for transportation, Wingo will allow passengers to carry a personal item on board and a carry on up to 10 kilos. Everything is extra, and when we say everything it means almost everything even water! The business model is: you will fly in a mostly very new plane, paying only for what you want.
Volaris Costa Rica is planning to fly the most modern planes available right now; the Airbus Neo. Most routes for low cost airlines are non-stop, they do not handle connections nor do they transfer bags from one plane to the other. If one wants to check in a bag probably that costs something between 30 to 40 USD. Even check in is something that may have a cost, so passengers are encouraged to do online check in and present the printed boarding pass at the airport.
Once one learns how to fly low cost it is actually a great experience, it becomes more like catching a bus and going somewhere for the weekend: something very normal nowadays in Europe. We are happy to see the arrival of these airlines to Central America, competition and low costs are always beneficial for travelers.