Driving Central America & South America.

Trip Reports, Driving Advice, Photos and More!

some info to save

Tcat Left 2
No replies
Tcat Right 2
admin's picture
Joined: Feb 11 2009

hi everyone, this is a "note taking" post.

Hi everyone, trying to deal with the spam. This is a copy paste job of a couple of thoughts i'm saving:

Hey everyone, just wanted to see what was on the list for things I need to improve. I'll have the time soon-ish so I wanted to start making a new list!

-Better blog support for you to start a blog
-more pics
-more 'helper' links

is what I've got so far. I'm thinking about re-organizing all the old trip reports into something more cohesive. Need a links page, too. I'll do the links thing tonight.

So let me know any great advice links you've got + whatever else you're thinking about.

* reply
* Bookmark this
* Thanks
* This is Spam!

April 5, 2010 - 6:30pm
#1
Schneidfeld
Joined: Apr 5 2010
User offline. Last seen 45 weeks 15 hours ago.
Contact user
Send private message

Not taking credit, but

Not taking credit, but somebody mentioned in something I was reading earlier starting a FAQ section to avoid (or at least try to minimize) repitition of the same questions in the forums.

* delete
* edit
* reply
* Thanks
* This is Spam!

July 1, 2010 - 6:43am
#2
gil white (not verified)

rating border crossings

There always seems to be a lot of questions about border crossings. Border crossings seem to be a contentious and worrisome issue for many of us, so i thought it would be really helpful if it's not too much work or trouble to make a list of all the border crossings and rate them from 1-10 or terrible, okay, good, to great (if that is possible lol). You could note the average waiting time at each border. Maybe include the cost as well and any other details that would be helpful. By having a complete compilation of all the border crossings from the U.S. into Mexico then from Mexico to Panama, readers can refer to this compilation for quick reference. What do you think? Anybody game in doing this for all of us?!!
I keep reading about how bad the border crossing at El Amitillo is, but I can't find it on the map. Is it the ONLY border crossing from El Salvador to get to Nicaragua through Honduras? I don't see the name El Amitillo. Is El Amitillo the border crossing outside of Nacaome, Honduras?

* delete
* edit
* reply
* Thanks
* This is Spam!

July 20, 2010 - 5:27am
#3
matt (not verified)

Traveling Central America

Hey I have been traveling Central America for over ten years, got lots of info and crazy stories check it out.... http://www.worlddank.com

* delete
* edit
* reply
* Thanks
* This is Spam!

November 7, 2010 - 10:01am
#4
gil white (not verified)

Canada to Panama and back

25,000 kms in my standard Honda Accord 2000
Hello Everybody Bribes- $0, Speeding Tickets or other violations - $0

I am the former author of Europe on 84 Cents a Day, a budget travel book for students, so I am a bit of an expert on travelling. I just completed an amazing solo drive from Niagara Falls to Panama City and back! I drove 25,000 kilometres. I left August 15th and returned Nov. 1, 2010. I embarked on the first of many trips to come with the goal of seeing nearly every country in the world. I drove in my standard (stick-shift) Honda Accord 2000 which already had 302,000 kms on it. The car was fully certified and E tested. This January, I plan to see all of South America including a huge trek along the Amazon River and I hope to buy a scooter in S.A. and use a scooter for most to the trip. If not, I hear the the buses are really cheap,much cheaper than Mexico!! Next will be all of Africa, then India, all of Asia, Russia, China and Australia. These will all be separate trips
On this trip, i was not worried about taking a Honda because my mechanic had worked on this car for 10 years with the previous female owner. The only problems with the car were: the catalyc converter went early in Mexico, couple tire leakes but i did not need to buy any replacement tires on this trip!! People recommend driving a Toyota or Honda for their reliability. I should point out that Toyota dealerships were much more visible in all the countries.
I am going to provide all of you with the long awaited summary of nearly all my costs for 10 week drive.
First, to understand the fuel costs better, I will list the towns/cities on my route. These are also the places where I stayed for the night which are numbered.
start August 15th -Niagara Falls, Lexington-1,Mississippi/Starkville - 3, Corpus Cristi-1 , Mexico -Reynos border crossing, Monterrey-3, San Luis Posti-1, Ajijic -4 (brother) near Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta-2, Pascuales (just south of Manzanillo)-1, Ixtapa-1, Acapulco-2, Puerto Escondido-1, Zantapec -1(100 miles west of Tuxtla Gutierrez), San Cristobal de las Casas-1, Villahermosa-1, Merida-3 Cancun-2, BELIZE Orange Walk-1, GUATEMALA Tikal ruins -1, camping, Flores -1, HONDURAS Copan-1, San Pedro Sula -2, Tegucigalpa -1, NICARAGUA Managua-1, Granada-1, San Juan del Sur-2, COSTA RICA Jaco-1, PANAMA Santiago-1, Portobelo-1, Panama City-1, Chitre-1, Boquete (volcano)-1 COSTA RICA San Jose-3, La Fortuna-1 volcano, Playa Flamingo-1, Jaco-1, Playa Domincal-1 including 1 night at Cuna del Angel hotel 10 minutes away by car, San Jose-1, NICARAGUA Leon-1, EL SALVADOR Acajutla-1,El Cuco-1, GUATEMALA Antigua-2, MEXICO Pijijipan-1, Oaxaca-2, Puebla-1, Mexico City-1, Puebla-1,Cholula (next to Puebla)-1, near Nautla,north of Veracruz -1 camping at Hotel Enchana?, near Nuevo Progresso -1 camped on front yard of house, Corpus Cristi-1, Galveston-1, New Orleans-1, Niceville, Florida-2 where my son was playing a pro tennis tournament, Nashville area-1 camped, home Nov. 1= 73 nights, 3 nights unaccounted for!!
Here is a summary of my costs in "US dollars". In most countries, after you get to Panama you have to come back through most of the same countries, so the charges will be duplicated again. Watch out for Honduras' car permit charge!!!
I have included unavoidable charges such: gas, tolls, oil changes, repairs, car insurance, car permits, fumigation, police, bridge, passport fees. The best country 'fee-wise with the minimum of hassles is Costa Rica. El Salvador is really cheap too, except for some hassles at the El Amitillo border (see story below).

Mexico 416, tolls 99, car repairs-$3 tire, $30 replaced catalyic coverter with a pipe, $30 to replace small broken window that was broken by a thief in Antigua, Guatemala- he one stole wood carving and misc., passport $22, car insurance $117 for 6 months with Lewis and Lewis, car permit $35 (you must turn in your car papers/sticker when you leave Mexico permanently otherwise you will be charged $400 to your credit card!!!!!! fumigation $5 from Guat into Mexico, $20 to leave Mexico into Belize-bogus- I think this is a scam- i will report this to the mexican gov't.
Belize-$29 insurance/mandatory, $10 fumigation-bogus-they only sprayed the front fender!!!, $18 to leave the country in total bogus fees!!!,
Guatemala- 3 passport, 6 car permit, 4 fumigation (done again on my return), bridge $7-The bridge fee must be a big scam as you cross from Belize into Guat.to get to Tikal- if i could speak Spanish i would have protested. I will tell the Guatemalan embassy about this and see what happens..lol
Honduras 3 passport, $35 ($70)car permit!! paid twice -make sure you try to find out at border if you can get a car permit that allows you to pay only once, especially if you plan on coming back through their country within your visa time period.....Costa Rica allows a temporary exit of your car if you are coming back into Costa Rica, not sure if Hond. will accommodate your request- helps if you speak fluent Spanish to ask this, othewise good luck!!
Nicaragua 12 passport, 12 car permit, 1 police officer lol, 3 fumigation, 5 tourist (another scam)
COSTA RICA- congratulations - $0 passport at land borders, 4 fumigation ($26 exit fee at airports), they allow you to take your car out of the country within a specific time period without charging you again-MAKE SURE YOU TELL THE Car Permit OFFICIALS WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO DO IN ORDER TO GET THE PROPER PAPERS AT THE CAR PERMIT BOOTH for leaving and returning into Costa Rica with your car!!!!
Panama 15 insurance, a few dollars for passport i believe
El Salvador - on return drive from Honduras, $0 passport!!!, $3 for fumigation
From Canada to Panama i drove about 14,600 kms, and from Panama back to Canada i drove about 11,000 kms. i did a lot of side trips and the Yucatan accounted for the higher kms on the way down.
Totals: Gas for entire trip: $1,430 (which includes Canada/US about $432!!)- here are the breakdown of gas costs for Mexico/Central America which are included in the $1,430 total:
Mexico 416, tolls-99, Belize 20, Guat. 51, Honduras 52, Nicaragua 62 Costa Rica 221 (i drove around the whole country extensively), Panama 148, El Salvador 27
Oil Changes - 80, much cheaper to buy at least 2-3 4 litre/gallon jugs of oil -oil by the litre is about $6!! even buy a couple oil filters before you leave
Repairs-$30 cat.converter, and broken mini side window $30,
Hotels -9 nights, total cost $90 ( plus $207 for 7 nights in Costa Rica where I split the costs of hotels with a lady friend I met in Mexico. She flew all the way out to be with me and see Costa Rica.
Camping - 6 nights for a total of $13, camping in Niceville, Fl cost me $16!!!
Coughsurfing (see www.couchsurfing.com) CS - stayed 33 nights with hosts at no cost
Hostels - 6 nights at $65 which includes $25 in Monterrey
Brother - 4 nights $0
Car - 1 night $0
Highlights and Advice
Over the half the time i stayed with couchsurfers and had many interesting nights and conversations with them. Many of them live in basic apartments or homes. It helps to bring your own lounge mattress/pillows/sheets just in case
Mexico border- many border crossings, i just chose Reynos, once you cross border you won't necessarily find officers to help you, so go to office to get your tourist visa, but if you have a car they may send you to a location outside of town which is a hassle to get your car permit - the office at the border was closed due to floods or something! In Monterrey, stayed with 3 couchsurfers for 3 nights, tour of Monterrey, strip club, San Luis Positi - tour of town with family, Ajijic,- played golf with brother, toured Guadalajara,
Puerta Vallarta- couchsurfed 2 nights, partied with 4 girls at nice club, played games on beaches, Pasquales - camped, had fun with surfers, gave former U.S. Federal prisoner a ride!! Ixtapa CS-visited island, partied a bit, Acapulco- CS strip club, beaches, played football at gas station with football souvenir i gave to kid, Puerto Escondido- had fishermen join me in fitness work-out!;. car got stuck in sand- whole town helped pull me out, San Cristobal de las Casas- probably the prettiest and most interesting area of Mexico (besides all the Mayan Ruins), visit the town 5 minutes away where people dress in sheep hair!! and believe taking a photo of them takes away their spirit!! they always turn away. great markets for shopping
Merida, visited and swam in many sink holes, visited many ruins - Palenque, Uxmal, Dzibilchaltun, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Tulum , El Tajin, Tikal (Guat), Copan (Honduras) and a few smaller sites. Palenque is great where you can buy many quality souvenirs- make sure you barter well - they always charge twice the price...walk away and the price will come down to under 1/2 if you are good at bartering...Tikal, sleep in the hotels located in the park or camp like i did in Tikal (official campsite, cheap), Tikal is deep in the forest like most ruin sites, hot,humid.
skip the Belize zoo, i don't scuba dive/snorkel, but Belize is great for that..that's why i didn't stay long in Belize- country is a disappointment besides the islands which i hear are fantastic., walked in a cave unguided but safe, Honduras -watched cowboys remove testicles of bulls- kind of grusome, when you ask a woman out expect to pay for everything!, transit police got in my car to help me find my exit out of town!!, Nicaragua- visited volcano where a man committed suicide by jumping in the volcanoe. Granada- took a solo boat tour around the islands and jumped into the water to swim part way and played baseball with the local kids hitting fly balls for them! ! In Portobelo, Panama played baseball with the local kids in the fort and with my 16 pound medicine ball i took for part of my travelling 'exercise program', visited the Panama Canal (okay, but ho-hum), visited much more interesting Fort Lorenzo 15 min. away by car, 300 years old, beach nearby - very secluded and easy to get to... toured all over Costa Rica -volcanoes, beaches, forest preserves...Honduras - police man tried to give me a 'seatbelt' - i just acted stupid, and said 'por favor' about 10 times and he decided not to give me the ticket and we shook hands!
I was stopped about 60 times by National Police, Military check-points, local police- but 90% of the time i was just waived on except sometimes to quickly show that i have my car permit, passport, drivers license -they are really stopping the locals to get them for some citation. Make sure you take a 2 reflective triangles and the smallest fire extinguisher you can buy - twice i was asked for them, this helped avoid any tickets - actually i was happy to show it to them for i new they wanted to pin a ticket on me!!
Antigua, Guatemala is fantastic except i was stupid enough to leave my car on the road overnight. With my foreign licence plates and the fact i should have put one of my souvenirs (wood carving) in the trunk resulted in a small window being smashed - luckily i locked my glove compartment and that i can lock my trunk from inside the car (extremely important feature to have in a car), otherwise everything might have been gone. So try to have your car behind a locked gate at hotels in most towns and cities.
Oaxaca is great and make sure you visit Monte Alban nearby, so is Puebla...i didn't drive into Mexico City but was lucky that my couchsurfer in Puebla had a garage for my car, so i took the bus to Mexico City and just stayed one night - that was enough. I stayed in Hostel Moneda for $16 which includes a great dinner and breakfast right by the Zocalo metro stop and the great Metropolitan Cathedral.
Those are just a few of my highlights. I saw many beaches, swam in them, visited volcanoes, swam in sink holes, climbed mountains, partied. Overall, i met great people everywhere. I have proved that people are not out there to hurt you. Sure there are thieves everywhere, but i felt very comfortable mixing with the people in any country. You will find,especially in Mexico that all the towns and small villages lining the major highways have speed bumps called 'topes'. Each town has at least 8 and you have to slow down to a near or complete stop. Vendors set up their fruit stall right next to them, so don't be surprised to see many people come right to your car window - you can't buy from everybody, but the drinks and food are great and very cheap - it was also a great opportunity for me take photos of them and video. I never had problems with the police. and I did this trip with little or no Spanish. Your biggest hassles as reported by everybody are at the borders,, but only when you drive your own vehicle do you have to go through more steps.
El Amitillo seems to have the reputation of being the worst border crossing in Central America - it is located on the Honduran/El Salvador border. To avoid El Amitillo is not worth it, spend the time there, otherwise you will have to drive many hours to cross elsewhere. So i purposely wanted to see what the crossing was like. Upon approaching the Honduran border (to leave) i was bombarded by guys to help me..i relented as he told me he wouldn't charge me for his services but at the end he did!!!! I gave him $3 and two souvenirs - he did help, but he was annoying. So, so far so good, getting my el Salvador passport stamp was easy, so now all I had to do was get my car fumigated and the car permit. I got the fumigation quickly, but then you have to drive a few kms from the border to register your car - but you don't know that unless you ask!!!! . I got to the police check and they pointed me down the side road where dozens of trucks were parked. After running around for 1/2 hour, i finally found a customs office. Normally you don't go there for car registration, but i had no other options. I knocked on a door that said ''customs' and the miserable man motioned me to wait. All this time, i am still not sure if i am at the right location. I finally got this form which was like a 'truck form' where you had to fill out things like 'the weight of your car'!! I did the best i could with help and finally an hour later the man completed my form because these guys are basically dealing with all the trucks. So now you know, go to the Customs office where the trucks are inspected. No bribes involved, at least for me. I did motion that i would give my Canadian cap for his help,but he didn't even understand what i was trying to do.

Bring about 20 photocopies of your passport, drivers' license and your car title/registration. It will save you a lot of time and hassle to avoid trying to find the photocopy office which is 'who knows where'! Don't forget you must always report to the car registration offices (besides passport). The fumigation process (to kill the bugs stuck to your car is a joke) but unavoidable.

If you do speak good Spanish to find out where you get your passport stamped and car registered you will have an easier time than me. Yes, when people see you have a car they want to offer their services at the border and start at $10. I do my best to ignore them but some just keep following you around. Unfortunately most borders don't post signs where to go and if they do,it's in Spanish. I only paid about $6 total for help and mostly gave Canadian souvenirs to the people like hats, flags, bottle openers. I even took about 25 used tennis balls, frisbees and they were helpful too. One immigration inspector was so happy to give his son the tennis ball! and it helped get me through faster.

Everybody will take a different route, but i wanted to make sure i saw many of the Mayan ruins - that was one of my main goals. I wish I could have stayed longer in many towns or cities. I still saw a lot and have 3,800 photos to prove it. Mexico is a great country, lots of culture, tradition. Even plan a 2 month trip there for sure. Try to drive into the mountains where you really meet the people - don't be afraid to take photos because 99% of the people don't mind and it allows you a way to say 'hello' and interact. Mexico is very mountainous and you can't avoid driving many of them. I avoided the tolls as much as possible and yet only spent $99 total. The drive from Puerto Vallarta to Puerto Escondido is very mountainous - I was very glad i had a standard car otherwise my fuel bill would have been much higher. I was in 1st to 3rd gear most of the time on the winding mountainous roads. If the sign says 100 kms then expect to double the driving time or more. Many road/town signs are covered by trees/bushes or not existent or they only show the town turn-off once! so be on the look-out, otherwise you will get lost. WATCH THE POTHOLES,,,many are at least 6-12 inches deep and big...so keep your eye on the road as much as possible or you will be in for a big repair job. Definitely do not drive at night because of potholes - it's not worth the risk. Banditos? i never came across them.
I hope my information will help you budget for your trip. I thought i might spend around $2,000 for 10 weeks, but my whole trip ended up costing me $3,500 for everything. I also bought about 8 wood carvings which was why my car was perfect for this trip. Don't forget the ruin entrance fees are high, between $10-$20 per person. Unfortunately they have tourist prices and local prices. If you want to video at the sites, do not show your video camera when buying your entrance ticket otherwise they will try to charge you $4 or $5 for videotaping!! I learned the hard way the first time.
Oh, I proved you can take an older car but as long as it is in good running condition, such as the timing belt and tires. Check your oil levels often. I had a great time, met a lot of people even though i was on my own. I hope the summary of most of my costs will give many of you the confidence to travel in any of these countries. Good luck and have a great trip..Gil White

* delete
* edit
* reply
* Thanks
* This is Spam!

November 7, 2010 - 10:03am
#5
gil white (not verified)

Gil White - 25,000 km Honda Accord 2000

Hi Robert, please let me know that my blog is in your system and what you think of it..hope all is well on your travels..
Gil

* delete
* edit
* reply
* Thanks
* This is Spam!

November 19, 2010 - 5:31pm
#6
robertdjung
Joined: Oct 31 2006
User offline. Last seen 33 weeks 5 days ago.
Send private message

Looks good, Gil!

Looks g

reply
Bookmark this
Thanks
This is Spam!
not spam (0)
mark as spam

October 11, 2011 - 2:56pm
#1
admin's picture
admin
Joined: Feb 11 2009
Send PM

-- need to see what this was

-- need to see what this was all about:

60 replies [Go to the last post ]
Tcat Right 2
February 5, 2011 - 5:03am
Anu w4w
Joined: Feb 5 2011
User offline. Last seen 35 weeks 3 days ago.
Contact user
Send private message

Hi
I am Anu from Finland, and I am part of a team that has a wild dream. We are planning to drive across the world. Our goal is to break barriers and to unearth creative voices from around the globe.
Funnily enough there is someone who is willing to back us if there is enough member interest in this effort of ours.
I'm sure many of you have crazy and wild dreams about travelling... Here is a chance to be part of something amazing. We need your help to make this happen. So join our group

AN 'ALL - PAID - FOR' TRIP ACROSS THE WORLD!
http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=102950973075334 on fb.

What's in it for you??? So far there are 3 of us. There is room for 10 more. We plan to use a simple process of elimination to fill up the rest of the seats. If you really believe in the effort you could be spending the next year making your dream come true.
Hope to meet you in our group soon...

Anu

delete
edit
reply
Thanks
This is Spam!
not spam (0)
mark as spam

October 11, 2011 - 2:58pm
#2
admin's picture
admin
Joined: Feb 11 2009
Send PM

February 12, 2009 -

February 12, 2009 - 1:28pm
higgi8f6
Joined: Feb 12 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 34 weeks ago.
Contact user
Send private message

So I want to plan a trip driving from the North Carolina down to the Panama Canal. I could probably spring a whole month off from work with pay so I was wondering how much people budgeted for their trips. I was gonna plan on Feb or Mar 2010. I would be taking a Jeep Wrangler down and would want to bring it home, either drive r/t or ship back to the states. I was thinking more along the lines of shipping it home so I could spend more time on the trip. How much does it cost to ship a vehicle and where would be the best local to ship from. Where do most people spend the nights? Any suggestions on route? Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

* reply
* Bookmark this
* Thanks
* This is Spam!

February 12, 2009 - 9:52pm
#1
groundclown
Joined: Jan 9 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 28 weeks ago.
Send private message

I am about to leave in a

I am about to leave in a Toyota T100 to Costa Rica and back, from Oregon. I calculated about $2100 round trip with a bit of extra miles to play with. Loaded down and moving slow, I should get no worse than 13mpg, but should average 15mpg. My crude numbers show that I should cover something like 11,000 miles. We're setting aside about $3000 for gas just to be safe.

* delete
* edit
* reply
* Thanks
* This is Spam!

February 26, 2009 - 1:11pm
#2
atg200
Joined: Feb 20 2008
User offline. Last seen 33 weeks 6 days ago.
Send private message

I posted some info about

I posted some info about costs and shipping information in this thread awhile ago: http://www.southboundtravels.com/node/1000155