Driving Central America & South America.

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Couple + Dog Driving CA to Panama

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YnotNjoyLife's picture
Joined: Jan 16 2010

We're driving down May 2010. I'm reading this is rainy season. Is this something to worry about or will the weather still be good for driving and outside recreation?

Our family is horrified we're driving through all of these countries and thinks we will be victims to a horrible crime. Should we be worried? Has that much changed or is it common sense like don't flash expensive items and don't drive at night?

Can we be there and back including site seeing and not being in too much of a rush in 3 months? Is this pushing it?

We're taking our 2003 Tundra, with camping equipment for those emergency overnighters, but my question is, people who stay in hotels, do you experience problems staying with pets? I'm worried our dog will be more of an inconvenience when we want to site see, stay in a hotel, or go into buildings. Surely everyone doesn't leave their pet in the vehicle, right? I'm definitely not.

Thanks everyone. We've travelled to other countries before and we're currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. This is our summer adventure vacation so we're hoping it's an eventful and fun one.

robertdjung's picture
Joined: Oct 31 2006

Good questions, and welcome

Good questions, and welcome to the site!

1) I did the trip to panama and back (though we flew back) in 3 months. Plenty of time.

2) May is a little early in the season, so yes it will probably be wetter than you'd like it, may rain daily, may not, who knows, but your real issue is Sept, Oct for main hurricane season.

3) Good car

4) I LOVE that you say "those emergency overnighters" b/c it sounds like you're not planning on camping the whole way. This is not really all that advisable in my opinion. Hotels are cheap.

5) Dogs: get your paperwork. As far as hotels... Hmm.

I think that you can probably talk the people in to it at most places. If there's no lobby, then you can just do it and don't mention it.

Keep the dog clean, on a leash, looking sweet, and I think you'll go far, personally. You might pay a little extra. Learn the words for "barking", "chewing", and "poop", and let them know your dog won't be "una problema".

They may also have an open area courtyard where you could tie them up at as a compromise.

Ultimately: your dog will be a problem for you at some point. It will hinder you doing something.

I personally would NOT take my dog, and I spend every day with her as I work from home. But that also is b/c of her breed -- Texas Lacy [http://lacydog.com] , which is a game dog, and really in need of running. I couldn't imagine exercising her on the road. But that said, I could leave her at my mother's, who has plenty of land for her to run on.

So: if it's a chill dog with low exercise needs, consider it. Otherwise, forget it. You're on vacation.

patti's picture
Joined: Jan 7 2010

Traveling with Dogs

My wife and I are leaving on Feb 11th for our trip into South America along with three dogs. I have researched traveling witht he animals extensively and it doesn't seem as if it will be too much of a problem. Make sure you get your international health certificate stamped by EACH country's consulate that you plan to visit BEFORE you leave for your trip. You can do this in most of the large cities in the U. S.. Los Angeles will have an office for each country. Also, take many certified copies of the documentation. This will help you avoid quaranatine in Central America. Last, cross borders Monday through Friday as early in the morning as possible. A vet will need to examine your little one at most of your crossings and they do not keep normal office hours. The vet is normally present M-F 8:00 am - noon. If you get there and there is no vet, DO NOT let them hold your pet, it will cost you hundreds to get him/her back. Find out when the vet will be at the checkpoint and come back.

Considering hotels, in most places it should not be a problem. In larger cities and resort areas, I would look for a place to camp. The only hotels that allow pets in those areas are typically 4 or 5 star places and come with a hefty price tag.

Most national parks or reserves will not allow you to bring your pet in. I have been told, however, that it is relatively easy to offer a small gift to the guard so that they look the other way.

I hope you have a good trip. God Bless for your service to our country. I am an ex-Ranger, depolyed to Bosnia, Afghanistan, and wounded in Iraq in 2003. I wish I could still serve as a soldier, but I was retired after my injury and now act as a civilian contractor for the DoD. More money but nothing like being a soldier.

Tropicalguide's picture
Tropicalguide (not verified)

Driving to Central & South America

I reside in Central America, El Salvador, Good Roads*, Friendly People, least corrupt transit cops in Central America, 330 km. of beautiful Pacific Beaches, great coastal highway, no need to drive into capital city, for any one interested (I drove for 15 years urban, rural and remote in Central America, a bit in México, some 800,000km.) below is from one of my Central/South American information bloqs. Contact me for more info. Hope we care able to meetup in El Salvador, Camping available at our Rain Forest project..safe..www.vivatravelguides.com/central-america/el-salvador/el-salvador-articles/welcome-to-cinquera/ However you gotta come to me, RV, Van, Bus or Taxi, I don't go to you..getting too old.
*Worst roads in C.A. Costa Rica, Most corrupt transito (Cops) Honduras and Nicaragua.
*Rainy season normally rains late afternoon an hour or so downpour, or few hours late at night, usually sunny in the a.m. Your "summer" is our winter.
Be careful this year of Dengue. Take precautions. Malaria is very rare, remote Caribbean areas only.
entonces (aprende español, muy importante.).....

I live in El Salvador, drove 800,000 km. plus in Central America (residency, national plates) have assisted others driving down. work with Rain Forest Project, have camping, no crime. More info E mail me elsalvadorinfo at gmail.com

Join Couch Surfing www.couchsurfing.org/ Hospex site, I am David Bloom, San Salvador, El Salvador, handle on CS TROPICALGUIDE

Bring a dog!!!! Bigger and louder the better, there are security issues enroute, especially with USA plates, worst stress is the border crossings, paperwork..tramite..bribes..Honduras and Nicaragua now the 2 worst mordida countries, Costa rica worst roads, strict new laws.....my recommendation to you fly down and buy a car in Chile, sell it when you return.

Anyway a lot of info. for you here... advise.

entonces....
My own words....

NO "car ferry" services, NONE whatsoever exist from either Costa Rica or Panama to Colombia or Ecuador. If driving your only options are container or RORO from CR or Panama (more likely Panama) for your vehicle only and contents thereof, You and your pet need to fly to either Cartagena, Colombia or Guayaquil,Ecuador within 3 days in order to be at dock to process your vehicle papers...www.copaair.com/
www.taca.com/ More information on forum..... http://poorbuthappy.com/colombia

Best to read and review the "USA to Argentina" recent bloq below and to click on the links page thereof and contact others who have driven from USA to South america (and through Panama), some with Dogs. (www.panamaorbust.com/ and www.99DaysToPanama.com/ definitely with a Dog, I met them enroute.) Best of Luck to you.
Bon Voyage
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Hi,

"My husband and I just completed a 16 month trip (by pop-top Ecamper)
from California to Argentina (you can read our blog about driving in
Latin America at The Darien Plan if you're interested in learning
more). We had a fabulous time and met lots of other great folks who
were driving on similar trips. During our travels we were very
frustrated by the lack of information on roads, insurance and driving,
car shipping, border crossing, scams - guidebooks don't cater to
people who are driving, and most of the countries we passed through
didn't have good information online about what to expect. We put
together a wiki called Drive the Americas (anyone can contribute)
that has (we think) really good information on everything a driver
would like to know about traveling through Latin America. Hope you
find it helpful. While we do have google ads on the site (we're
trying to recoup the costs of web hosting etc) all of the information
on the site is free and will always be free - you don't even have to
sign up to view it. We want this site to be a resource for everyone
driving in Latin America, and hope drivers will continue to contribute
information to keep it current and comprehensive. I just thought this
information would be useful to your readers."

Sincerely,
Kristin"
---------------------------------------------------
Kristin has put together Very useful information for anyone planning to drive to Mexico,
Central and/or South America. Simply click on the urls and get
informed. You may contact the Webmasters via the Website below.

http://www.thedarienplan.com/ The Website

Wiki Pages

http://www.drivetheamericas.com/wiki/Main_Page

http://www.drivetheamericas.com/wiki/Dangers_And_Annoyances

http://www.drivetheamericas.com/wiki/Darien_Gap

http://www.drivetheamericas.com/wiki/Countries

http://www.drivetheamericas.com/wiki/Related_Sites (Links)

Start doing your OWN "homework" now!!!!!! (my words)

view www.99DaysToPanama.com/ and www.panamaorbust.com/ for information on insurance,
border crossings, camping, shipping the vehicle RORO Panama to South
America, etc.

--------------------------------------------------------
NEVER NEVER CAMP OUT WHERE THERE IS NO SECURITY, NOR
IN
AREA

WHERE YOU HAVE NO PERMISSION FROM PROPERTY OWNER....

If planning to camp in Central or South America, and
not
driving
nor renting a vehicle best to have a travel companion
or two or three and carry durable tents..if on a low
budget and taking ‘chicken buses’ in and out of
remote areas this may be often a difficult task..in
some cases best to pool funds and rent a 4WD for a few
days or a week.

Best site to contact locals who know camping spots in
or near their local area or perhaps on their own
property www.couchsurfing.org/ contact well in advance
of your arrival.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

FOR THOSE DRIVING TO CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA

Motorcycling (site written in 1999-2000 some info
outdated)

http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/gregfrazier/southam.htm

Go Pan American Highway www.go-panamerican.com/ covers
road conditions on the pan american highway from
alaska to argentina.

http://www.go-panamerican.com/

http://www.go-panamerican.com/road-tips.php#salvador El
Salvador

Also www.drivemeloco.com/ is good resource.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From Hayden's (an on line friend of mine) Bloq on
Driving from Austin (Texas USA) to Argentina, text
printed with Hayden's permission, Hayden and partners
soon off to Africa to film their 4WD adventure through
that continent...

My words....I am a resident of Central America for many
years and drove and maintained my own vehicles in
Guatemala and El Salvador for many years, puting in
800,000 klics and 14 years of almost daily driving,
city, remote areas and everything else in between

This Bloq offers good, concise no nonsense advices to
drivers

(To those of you who have never driven to Central and
South America before, Read, Read, Read, Research,
learn Basic Spanish skills, free on line tutorials
from native speakers on www.livemocha.com/ , make
contacts with either locals or long term residents who
reside in the areas you may be driving through, easy
through www.couchsurfing.org/, www.hospitalityclub.org/ and www.bewelcome.org/
non profit hospitality 'hospex' portals. No one knows their
area like a local!)

Another resource is Localyte.com native guides in 165 countries who
will happily ask traveler's questions, especially regarding remote and
off the beaten path areas of their country. Click on
http://www.localyte.com/ then type in destination and use the 'ask a
question' application.

Does not matter what you are driving from an auto to a
4x4 to van to an RV, basic "rules of the road" in C.A.
the same.

Anyone wishing to drive to Central America to relocate
should have all their affairs regarding residency in
order before departure.

If you have an Ex Pat friend or local friends along the way and at end of the
line, all the better.

* **If you are a CouchSurfing "Hospex" Member remember to contact Hosts well ahead of
time, if not carrying a laptop, there are Cybercafes in every town of
any size in Latin America. Carry USB Memory. Utilize Skype to call home, worldwide. Wi Fi is now available almost everywhere in cities, large towns, travel destinations. Inquire.

If heading onto South America view do view bloq below,
as well as this site and user group, there a handful
of other websites invaluable to novice drivers South
of Border.

* ******Don't forget to bring up to date print Guide Book as
well, I recommend Footprint, Rough Guides and Moon’s Handbooks
over the Lonely Planet..
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
From Hayden:

Some advice if you are thinking of driving to South
America:
The following is a general information blog for those
of you who are considering taking the plunge and
driving from North America to South America.

View Austin Texas to Argentina on hayden111's travel
map.

My friend and I recently drove from Austin Texas to
Argentina. We were on the road from October 21st 2007
to March the 10th 2008, during which time we drove
through most of the countries in Central and South
America.

General Thoughts:
We were both really nervous before we left but we found
that preparation and good information is the key to
making the most of the trip and keeping yourself safe.
There are loads of great websites on the internet, so
do the research before you leave home and have a basic
plan mapped out of the places you want to visit and the
things you want to do.

A good website to get you started is
www.drivemeloco.com, it has a lot of detailed
information for the drive through Mexico and Central
America.

Overall the trip was a lot easier than we imagined it
would be. Obviously it is important that you like
driving and that you don’t mind spending the whole
day on the road if you have to. But ultimately it is
your trip so you can create your own schedule and take
as much time as you want.

In general the roads are fine throughout Central and
South America ( especially the primary/main roads),
any regular car that is in good shape should have no
problem making the trip. Obviously, the further you go
off the beaten track the worse the roads get, so take
that into consideration when choosing your car.
Regular unleaded gasoline was readily available in all
15 countries that we drove through and there were also
plenty of ATMs. We managed to get by without any
problems relying solely on our ATM cards and we didn't
run out of gas once.

Pros and cons of traveling by car:

Pros:
Freedom and comfort:
You will be in the comfort of your own car and have the
freedom to come and go as you please, to make your own
schedule and have the flexibility to change your plans
when ever and where ever you feel the need. If you want
to stay where you are for another day, stay. Whether
you choose to hit the road at 6am or 1pm it is
entirely up to you. You can also fill your car with
all the comforts of home, food, music, pillows, etc
and be driving around in your own little oasis.

Flexibility:
You can pull over where ever you want, for a swim, take
some photos, to buy food, use the bathroom or a bush if
you have too. And if you don’t like the town that you
are in, get in the car and drive to the next one.

The experience:
Apart from your license plates you will be just like a
local and you will get to see and experience life as
it is outside the cites and the main tourist spots.
You can drive as fast or as slow as you want and take
the time to really experience the country that you are
in.

Time:
When you are traveling time is money. During the trip
we saved at least 1-2 hours a day by not having to
wait for buses, trains, taxis, planes etc. Over the
space of the trip that’s literally hundreds of
hours, and hundreds of dollars. Traveling by car is
usually a lot faster than traveling by bus or train
and you will be able to fit so much more into your
day.

Safety and convenience:
The only time you will be carrying around your luggage
will be when you are checking into your hotel. For the
most part we either left our stuff in the trunk of the
car or in our hotel, either way we almost never had
any valuables with us when we were walking around.

Cons:
Responsibility:
Your car is your life blood on the trip so you need to
look after it and make sure it is running well, by
checking the fluids etc almost on a daily basis. Also,
you can’t park the car in the street, it needs to be
locked in a private or public garage. Most hotels we
stayed at had garages, if not there was always a
private parking lot close by.

Obstacles on the road:
You will encounter everything on the road during the
trip; dogs, cows, people, potholes, speed bumps,
rocks, maniac drivers, corrupt police and every
possible weather condition you can think of. You
always need to be on alert when you are driving, so it
can be quite tiring.

Border crossings:
At the border crossings in Central America you will be
swimming in paperwork, forms and bureaucratic red
tape. Always allow 2 hours to complete a border
crossing. We usually spent the night near the border
and crossed it early the next day. Also keep in mind
that most borders close for 1 hour at lunch time and
there are often time changes between countries.
Although they seem complicated at first, there is
almost a method to the madness. Once you get through
your first border crossing it will get easier as they
all seem to follow a similar procedure. The further
south you go the easier the border crossings get. In
South America most of the border crossings took less
that 30min.

A typical border crossing

Road blocks and the police:
There are usually check points or military road blocks
a few miles after each border crossing but as long as
your papers are in order you will be fine. We always
kept our car permits and important documents in the
same place so that they were easy to find when we
needed them. If you get stopped by the police for no
reason, it’s the same deal, just smile and show them
your documents. As long as everything is in order they
will usually let you go. If you see the police on the
side of the road try to hide behind a truck if you
can, so they cant see your license plates.

Shipping the car across the Darien Gap:
This is the only part of the trip that is a hassle. It
is a logistical and paper work nightmare that will
take at least a week to organize and a minimum of 1-2
days of filling out forms etc, and loading and
unloading on either side. See the shipping section
below for the details of our shipping experience.

Before you leave:
1. Documents for the car: Make sure you have at least
10 photocopies of the title and the vehicle owner’s
passport and driver’s license for the border
crossings. We were never asked for the vehicle
registration but take it just in case. I suggest you
photocopy the car owner’s passport and driver’s
license on one piece of paper and keep all the
documents in a folder under the seat. Keep the
original documents separate in a safe place e.g. in a
money belt.

2. Make sure you have auto insurance. The only company
we found that offered universal auto insurance for
most of Central and South America was AIU but the
policy must be purchased through Sanborn's insurance,
contact them at www.sanbornsinsurance.com. Print out
the insurance document when you get it and always have
a copy on hand. Also bare in mind that the AIU
insurance policy takes at least 3 weeks to process.

3. We only got asked once for our international drivers
licenses but to avoid hassle its worth taking one, they
are $15 at any AAA.

4. Buy a map for Mexico, a general map for Central
America and one for South America. You don’t need
one for each country unless you plan on spending a lot
of time there. Check out www.maps.com.

5. Get a head start on the shipping: It will take at
least a couple of weeks to organize the shipping
across the Darien Gap between Panama and Columbia, so
give yourself a head start and make some calls etc
before you leave. See below for more details on
shipping across the Darien Gap. If you are shipping
from Panama check out the following link for an up to
date list of shipping agents.
www.bulletinpa.com/index.php?topmenuitem=Business%20Directory

6. Have your car checked out by a mechanic.

7. Find out if you need a visa for any of the countries
you are about to visit. Americans need a visa for
Brazil.

8. Have a spare key made for the car and keep it in
your wallet.

Choosing a Car:
We purchased an automatic Honda Accord 1995 with
113,000 miles on the clock.

2wd vs 4wd:
There is absolutely no need to buy a 4WD unless you
intend on driving well off the beaten track. The only
place during the whole trip that was inaccessible by
regular car were the salt flats in Bolivia. We simply
parked the car in a garage for around $2 a day and
took a train, which was a nice change and offered some
get views and to be honest even with 4WD I still
wouldn’t have driven on those roads. Most of the
main roads throughout the trip were in good condition
but the secondary roads varied greatly. Ask the local
people either at your hotel or a gas station what the
condition of the secondary roads are like before you
drive on them.

Automatic vs. Manual Transmission:
Manuals are easier and cheaper to repair and they get
better gas mileage but Automatics are a lot easier to
drive. Remember 20,000 miles will require a lot of
gear changes. Cruise control is also a nice option to
have.

Which car to buy:
I would suggest buying a Honda or Toyota with around
100,000 miles or less. Japanese cars are the most
reliable and Toyota's and Honda's are reasonably
common throughout Central and South America. A car
with decent ground clearance is also important. That
was the only complaint that we had with our car. It
was so low to the ground that it would scrape on the
speed bumps. You will drive over 1000's of speed bumps
during the trip so suspension and ground clearance are
really important.

When you are looking for a car make sure it has:
• Comfortable seats
• Cruise control
• Good ground clearance
• Good tires
• Plenty of leg room
• Trunk space for all your luggage
• Good suspension and brakes
• A stereo

Have the car thoroughly checked out before you leave:
Pay the extra $50 and get it checked out by a mechanic
before you buy it or before you leave, it’s worth
it. Make sure the water pump and the timing belt have
been changed and that the tires, brakes and suspension
are in good condition. We changed the wires and spark
plugs, the air filter and the oil just before we left.

Gas mileage:
This is also another really important thing to
consider. The gasoline prices in the countries you
will visit will usually be higher than they are in the
US ( Bolivia, Ecuador Venezuela and Argentina being the
exceptions). While you are looking for a car check out
its MPG rating at
www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/findacar.htm. Most Honda’s
and Toyota’s will give you around 30+mpg. Also a
vehicle with a Manual transmission will give you
better gas mileage.

Argentinean Hummingbird

Shopping list for the car:
•Spare tire and a can of fix a flat
•Some spare oil filters, when you change oil they may
not have the right filter for your car.
•Padded steering wheel cover
•Cereal bars and some emergency drinking water just
in case you get stranded somewhere
•A gas can that doesn’t leak. The change in
temperatures and altitude meant that our cheap
Wal-Mart gas can was forever leaking in the trunk of
the car.
•A small can of Pepper-spray for peace of mind. We
never used ours but it was nice to know it was there
if we needed it.
•A cushion or two
•A medium tint for the windows; to keep the car cool
and hide your Gringo face. Don’t make it too dark or
you may get pulled over.
•Car alarm and steering wheel club
•Road maps
•Wet hand towels/wipes
•Rags to clean the windows, check the oil etc
•Music for the trip

Sunflower fields in Uruguay :

Some General Advice:
•Never leave anything in plain sight in the car,
always lock everything and I mean everything in the
trunk.

•Never drive at night, especially in Mexico and
Central America, Costa Rica being the exception. South
America isn’t as bad but use your own judgment on
this one. Obviously it is safer to drive at night in
Chile than it is in Bolivia. That being said it is
still a lot harder to see holes, animals, people, etc
at night time.

•Use brand name gas stations. Some gas stations
especially in Brazil are famous for watering down
their gas to make more money.

•Two sets of eyes are better than one. Even if you
are in the passenger seat, it really does help to have
2 people watching the road and looking out for holes
etc. The roads will vary greatly and you never know
what is going to be around the next corner or over the
next hill so take care.

•Take every piece of travel advice with a grain of
salt, including mine. During our trip we were told by
so many people the places to go and the places to
avoid but they were almost never right. The places
that were supposedly dangerous were often completely
safe and the places that were meant to be great were
often dumps. If your not sure get a second or third
opinion or take the time to do some research on the
internet.

•Don’t be afraid to pull over to ask for directions
10 times in a hour if you have to. It is better than
ending up lost and wasting time back tracking. Be
careful who you ask though, taxi drivers and police
officers are usually your best bet.

•When crossing borders, check that all you paper work
for the car is in order before you enter the new
country. Make sure that the car VIN number and your
names are correct on all the forms otherwise you may
have problems exiting the country.

•You really do need to have some Spanish speaking
ability, I’m sure you can get by with out it but it
makes life a lot easier if you at least know some of
the basics e.g. your numbers and how to ask for
directions.

•Speed bumps are something that you will have to
contend with for the duration of the trip. They are
usually sign posted but some aren't, so keep an eye
out for them when you are entering and exiting small
towns. Some countries have none, others like Mexico
and Brazil have thousands.

•In the larger cites especially in Central America
make sure you abide by the road rules (signal when
changing lanes etc) especially if you see the police.
If they see the US license plates they will pull you
over for almost anything. If you are pulled over
don’t offer them a bribe. They will threaten to take
your driver's license and make you go to the police
station to pay a fine. Tell them that you will go to
the police station and pay the fine if necessary. As
long as you stay calm and pretend that you have all
the time in the world they will give up. All they want
is money and if you go to the police station there is
no money in it for them.

•If you have no choice but to pay a bribe, discreetly
pass the officer a couple of $1us bills and tell him
that is all you have. I always kept a few $1 notes in
my pocket, separate from my other money, just in case.
They will always ask for more but use what ever excuse
you have to and tell them your sorry but that is all
you have. During the whole trip we only had to pay 4
bribes and trust me as long as you stick to your guns
$2-$3 will be enough.

Lost in The Desert in Peru

The Driving:
Again this will vary. Some days we drove 100 miles
other days we drove more than 500. We usually mapped
out where we were going each day and had a few
different options of towns we could stay in along the
way. We rotated the driving on a daily basis and the
person who wasn’t driving was navigating. We also
tried to make sure that we arrived at our destination
before sunset each day.

If your not sure about the conditions of a road you are
about to take ask the local police, they usually a good
source of knowledge and have up to date info on road
conditions. During the rainy season this is
particularly important.

Try to keep the gas gauge above half way. Gas stations
are every where but some times you can drive 200 miles
without seeing one so its worth filling up whenever you
get the chance.

We found it really helpful and motivating to have dates
and targets to work towards. We had to be in Panama
City by the 10th of December to ship before Christmas,
we had to make it to Brazil by February 4th for
Carnival etc. It is a huge trip, so unless you plan on
being on the road for more than a year it's important
to have a plan with some concrete dates to work
towards.

We spent around 1-2 weeks in each country and found
that that gave us enough time to get a good taste of
what was on offer. We also made sure to take a break
from the driving for 3-4 days every so often and relax
at a beach or in a big city.

We changed the oil every 4- 5000 miles and checked the
fluids every other day. We also found the dirtier the
car was the less attention we drew to it.

Throughout the whole trip we averaged around 140 miles
a day. 20,000 miles in 142 days = 140 miles per day

The Shipping:
My best advice is try to organize it before you leave
or at least firm up some prices and dates while you
are on the road. It will take anywhere from 4-8 weeks
to drive from the US to Panama, so during that time
try to give yourself as much of a head start as you
can.

You only have 2 choices when shipping your car: RORO (
roll on roll off) or Container

Container:
We didn’t ship by container because it was a lot more
expensive, a lot more paper work and twice the hassle.
But we did research it and the basic costs for a
container are as follows:

•20ft container rental: $800-$1100us
•Transporting the container to the port is usually
included in the $800+ fee. If not that’s around
$150.
•Loading the car into the container inside the port:
anywhere from $150- $400us:
Note: You may be able to do this yourself for free if
you can borrow a ramp from someone inside the port.
There is about a 6inch lip in the doorway of the
container so you will probably need to use a ramp to
load your car.
•Chains and ropes to tie the car down: $30-$50
•Tying the car down inside the container $150us: they
may also let you do this yourself.
•Sealing the container: $10
•Loading the car onto the ship and offloading it at
the other end may also be extra
•Paper processing fees etc: $50
•Sometimes there is also a $600 refundable deposit
that you must pay for the container.

Total cost: $1200 minimum. The average cost being
closer to $1500us.

You could also share the costs of a 40ft container if
you are lucky enough to find someone else who is
shipping at the same time you are.

Check out www.vwvagabonds.com/VehicleShipping.html for
more details on container shipping.
Or www.go-panamerican.com/road-tips.php#shipping

If you are shipping from Panama check out this link for
an up to date list of shipping agents.
www.bulletinpa.com/index.php?topmenuitem=Business%20Directory

RORO:
We chose RORO and shipped our car from Balboa in Panama
to Manta in Ecuador. RORO is not as common as it use to
be but it is still very available if you look. With
RORO there are no issues with loading and unloading
tying the car down etc that is all included and done
for you.

We used a shipping company call CCNI shipping. But we
went through an agent in Panama City called Pancanel
Shipping Agency www.pancaship.net. Phone: Panama:
269-6300

It wasn’t the cheapest option, as far as RORO is
concerned but we didn’t have the time to shop
around. We did get a quote for $650 for RORO but we
would have to have waited for another 2 weeks.
To ship the car cost $850 plus $50 in document fees and
$6 in port fees in Balboa.

There is a mountain of paper work to do at either end
so make sure you allow for 2 days in Panama and 1 day
in Ecuador to sort that out. Its reasonably self
explanatory but ask your shipping agent to point you
in the right direction. Apart from the ridiculous
amount of forms to be signed and filled out you pretty
much drop the car off at the port in Panama and pick it
up in Manta 4-5 days later.

Also keep in mind with RORO you must take everything
out of the car before you ship it.

Desert road: Peru

Cost of the trip:
This will vary a lot, depending on how long you are on
the road and how far you want to go. We were not at
all extravagant in our spending and ate and slept in
modest hotels and restaurants.

We spent on average:
•$10-$15us each a night on accommodation: Although we
tried to spend less than $10 each it wasn’t always
possible.
•$10 a day each on food
•$10- $15 a day each on gas
•$10 a day each on miscellaneous things ( beer,
internet, parking and random purchases)
•$20 a day each to average out the cost of the car
shipping, internal flights and return flights home
etc

Total: $60-$70us per day

We each spent around $9,500US in 142 days: Which
averaged out at around $70US per day. This was taking
everything into account including the car shipping,
flights from Panama to Columbia then to Ecuador, a
return flight back to the US and all other additional
expenses e.g. tours etc.

You could probably get by on $50us per day but to be
safe budget for around $70us.

If you include the price of the car ( we paid $4000us
for it) the trip cost us around $11,500US each.

Also, we did have a third person to share the cost for
5 weeks in Central America and 3 weeks in Brazil which
did save us some money.

Selling the car:
If you don’t intend on driving back to the US or
shipping the car back there is a possibility of
selling it in either Paraguay or Brazil. Paraguay is
basically a big flea market and you may be able to
sell the car for close to what you bought it for in
the US. In Brazil your car will be worth 2-3 times
what it is America so even if you sell it for scrap
you may still be able to cover your costs. You can
also try to sell it on Brazil's www.Mercadolibre.com.
You will need the help of a local to do this (you need
a Brazilian id card to set up an account). Again you
can probably sell it as is without Brazilian plates
etc for close to what you paid for it. You can
nationalize foreign cars in Brazil but is costs a lot
of money in taxes and legal fees. We managed to sell
our car in Brazil for what we paid for it."

By Hayden.

Any more questions?

E mail me elsalvadorinfo at gmail.com

Common sense inquiries, short and to the point. NO WHINING.

No "level playing field" once you pass 'south of The Border'

Life in the Tropics...