How to read the Central American address system

Much of Central America has a novel address system – which involves navigating from a locally known landmark to your destination (for example, a church). This can be tough for a traveller that doesn’t know any of the local area. Sometimes the landmark doesn’t even need to still exist – but locals know where it used to be. Here is a quick guide on how to read the system.

Let’s take an example:

De la Iglesia San Juan de Dios, una cuadra y media norte, puerta negro

English Equivalent:

From the Church of San Juan de Dios, a half block north, black door

(in other words, look out for the black door have a block north of  Church of San Juan de Dios)

The Logic:

Landmark, direction and distance from landmark, short description of destination

If you have booked your accommodation ahead of time, they will likely give you their own directions – based on landmarks – on how to get there.

Definitions:

A few definitions will help immensely.

“Calle” – Street

“Avda.” – Avenue

“Cuadra” or “C” – Block

“Mts” – Meters

“Parque”- Park

“Al lago” – Lake

“Oeste” or “W” – West

“Sur” or “S” – South

“Norte” or “N” – North

“Oriente”or “Oe” – East

 Some Complicating Factors:

Each town is likely to have it own landmarks which get used a lot in the address. Say there is a lake to the north of town. It might be common for the address system to say “head 50m in direction away from the lake”. Difficult if you don’t know where the lake is.

As was already stated, sometimes the reference point may not exist anymore (a building that has been removed or destroyed). Again, difficult for somebody new to the area.

Finally, many if not most places don’t have street signs.

On the plus side, taxi drivers are well practiced in navigating this system and are immensely helpful and patience in finding addresses.

 

Lets Practice

Parque Central, Costado Norte – The north side of Central Park

De la Parque Central, 3 cuadras arriba, 1/2 cuadra al sur –  From Central Park, 3 blocks east, 1/2 block south

De la Parque Central, una cuadra y media norte, puerta negro -From Central Park, a half block north, black door

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1 Response

  1. December 5, 2014

    […] Most of Central America has a novel address system, that involves navigating from a locally known landmark to your destination (for example, a church). This can be tough for a traveller that doesn’t know any of the local area. You can read our guide to navigating this system here. […]

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