Driving Central America & South America.

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Time and costs

Tcat Left 2
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Tcat Right 2
Mark's picture
Joined: Feb 28 2009

hi, I am looking into doing a trip through central america starting in SE BC Canada and finishing in Panama leaving toward the end of april. There may also be the option of extending the trip on to Venezula and Brazil although this will not be done by car.

I'm trying to piece together rough costs and reasonable timeframes to do this trip with a good balance between driving and siteseeing tourist /stuff.. Does anyone have any suggestions on reasonable timeframes to travel down through the states, Mexico, Belize,Guatamala, Hondoures, Costa Rica and finally Panama. I was thinking mimimum 2 months..3 months more likley. Does this seem a resonable timeframe? Has anyone done a similar trip and how long did u take?

Also what about cost? I know this varies country to country but i was working roughly on $1500US a month for living/spending etc. How much h should i budget for gas to do this trip..i etsimate we will cover 12-15000km. Feel free to make comments or any suggestions.



admin's picture
Joined: Feb 11 2009

Hi mark, first off, welcome

Hi mark, first off, welcome to the site!

I think you're looking at a very good starting point for your travel. There are many people here that have done a similar time frame, me included. I took 3 months from Texas to Panama, and I think that's a good amount. We did *not* drive back, though, we flew back. You could probably do that fine though.

For money, yes that's probably a good amount. That works out to 1500 / 30 = 50 per day. Some days you'll spend far more, some far less. Depends on your buying habits of course, too. Without looking at my notes, I recall spending about that much.

Gas will be about 20-40% higher there vs in the US, if that helps your budget idea. I think I spent 2000 in gas to panama, but that's just my guess. One thing you can definitely do is pick up passengers at the youth hostels and charge a bit for gas money if you like.

Again, welcome. Spend some time looking around the site and you'll find lots of info. If I could ask you to help me, I'd appreciate knowing what bits of info you find useful, and what you want more info on. We're in the middle of re-doing the website to get better info out there!

Thanks, Robert

travelbug's picture
Joined: Nov 14 2010

Other info. for website

My husband and I are planning on driving to Central America in a VW Eurovan and we would love more information about camping in Central America, where, how much, safetey, and the possibility of pirate camping. We can't find much information about campsites. Thanks, Elisa

kurtjfred's picture
Joined: Jan 5 2009

gas prices

Gas in mexico is nationalized and the same price all over the country. I think we were paying 7.72 pesos per litro and at 14 pesos per us dollar it was about $2.20 US (i think), been a lot of driving and trying to keep track of the mileage and prices of everything. Gas in Guatemala is averaging quite a bit more. I will try to post some El Salvador prices in the next day or so.
As far as hotels, stay in the local spots (primitive and disgusting by american standards) and they are cheap. We just paid equivalent of 7 us dollars in Iztapa. There are some modern resorts in the area and the locals call them the gringo hotels and I am sure they would have gringo prices, we have not looked at them yet.

kurtjfred's picture
Joined: Jan 5 2009

gas prices

The further South we go the higher the gas. Nicaragua was around 2.50 to 2.60 US near Managua, Costa Rica has been averaging around 2.90 US. Headed into Panama in the morning and will try to post more. Food was relatively inexpensive except Costa Rica, it reminds me of Cabo area of Mexico.

kurtjfred's picture
Joined: Jan 5 2009

Gas in Panama is about 2.15

Gas in Panama is about 2.15 to 2.20 per gallon so far where we have been.

kurtjfred's picture
Joined: Jan 5 2009


Hi Mark, just wanted to add a little on your estimate of driving time. We drove the first 3000 miles in less than 60 hours of driving time. One of us was sleeping while the other was driving. After we hit the Tapachula border crossing we obviously slowed down but it is going to vary drastically from person to person. We were more interested in diving and spear fishing than sight seeing. You can safely drive in Mexico at night. Just don't cut any corners on the permits. Regardless of the country, when we were stopped any where south of the American border we were always asked for our auto permits and tourist permits if they were required. We didn't spend one minute sight seeing in Mexico, but did in Guat and El Salv. Our biggest regret is not seeing Antigua. Costa Rica is safe and can be driven at night. Panama feels safe while driving but not convinved it's ok to drive there at night. A friend's wife is from Panama and advised us against it, she thinks you'll be robbed if any one get's the idea you have any money. You can cover a lot of ground if you are dedicated. Don't listen to all the pesimism about how far you can get. Just know what you are wanting to acomplish and what or where you may want to stop and look around.

Rob's picture
Joined: Sep 3 2008

Hi Mark,I just got back from

Hi Mark,I just got back from the same trip,Im from maple ride b.c. and did the trip with my father and a friend.We drove from home to panama city in 1 month,spent 2 weeks in panama and flew home.It was roughly 15000kms,but we hit northern california and headed east through arizona,into texas and crossed at brownsville.It took more time but we didnt want to drive thriough the mid west through winter.Our rig got roughly 20 litres per 100km so gas was a major part of the bill.

Any info you want feel free to ask or email me,My father is in hondruras rite now and is on his way back up.

Dave's picture
Dave (not verified)

Driving through Central America

Hi Rob.

Quick question for you. I'm living in Guatemala but plan to drive down to Panama with my wife and son. We have Canadian plates on our van.

I was told at the border in Guatemala that because Guatemala is part of the CA-4 with Honduras, El Salvador and Honduras, I should be able to drive all the way to Costa Rica with the same Visas (for us) and temporary 90-day importation (for the car).

However, I have heard this is not the case.

What was your experience?

Is your dad driving back with the car? In Guatemala - in theory - your car has to leave the country for 90 days after 90 days in Guatemala (or El Salvador, Honduras, or Nicaragua)

Thanks for your help.

Very best

Dave's picture
Eric B (not verified)

That was my experience --

That was my experience -- that you could go all the way w/ only doing a customs check and a immigration check.