Hi, im planning an overlanding tour with a private vehicle from my home town of guadalajara, mexico, to panama, passing through every central american country, except el salvador. It is a 2 month long trip focused mainly on the natural wonders that are off the tourists path. However ive heard both horrible and wonderfull things about overlanding like this. Is it really as dangerous as to consider leaving the vehicle and travelling by bus, even if this means the trip will be very different and i will not be able to get to every place I wish???. Please if anyone has driven like this share your experiences!!!. and on more specific questions, anyone gone on a budget plan to the san blas archipelago (kuna yala) in panama?, or to the lost ruins of el mirador, or laguna brava (yoljanab) in guatemala? , or to the muralla national park or the cayos cochinos in honduras?, or to the little corn island or the rio indio maiz reserve in nicaragua???.
As you see im very interested in somewhat unpopular destinations, but im really concerned about safety, ive heard the worst place to have a mexican vehicle is in some parts of guatemala, how true is this and what about the other countries?
Check out the Yahoogroup and website www.99DaysToPanama.com they have RV's and go USA to Panama and return every year. Too bad you are avoiding El Salvador, the best roads in Central America and easy to get around everywhere, friendly people. I've had Mexican friends drive here no problems. To some of your more remote areas in Guatemala, Honduras and Panama it is best to park the car in secure area (hotel or taller)and take a tour. Mexican vehicles are usually given 30 days, sometimes 60 days permiso in Central America, be careful as you will be driving without insurance upon entering Guatemala. Costa Rica and Panama require you to bond the vehicle. I hope the vehicle is not a luxury model, if so, insure it through AIG in Guatemala City. There are few cars with foreign placas (US, Mexico, Canada)now circulating in Central America so you may be the object of curiousity in some places, the toughest place to travel and drive vis a vis police and corruption is Guatemala.
Guatemala/Central America off the beaten path (by vehicle)
If you have a small vehicle with no 4WD low, suitable to city traffic stay off some of the dirt roads that turn to mud in the rainy season...Mexican made spare parts not available in Guatemala or the rest of Central America, bring some necessary parts and tools with you, you will have to be your own mechanic often in the campo. Never leave your vehicle unattended in the open for long.
"We spent the next week exploring the Quiche and Verapaz regions of Guatemala. We had not been to Verapaz before. this is the region around Coban. We drove the "back way" in through Santa Cruz de Quiche, Sacapulas and San Cristobal Verapaz. This is an unpaved road through some of the most spectacular scenary we have seen in Central America. It is a rough road with steep drop offs, but it is being paved and by next year will be a terrific route. Even now it is quite passable." see www.99daystopanama.com for more.
Around Coban we visited Semuc Champey and the Languin and Candelaria caves. The country side and activities rival Costa Rica for natural beauty. Semuc Champey, especially, is worth visiting. It is a limestone bridge over the Cahabon river. The river rushes furiously underneath while the top of the "bridge" contains several tranquil turquoise, green and blue pools filled with fresh spring water for swimming. The road in is very narrow and rough. We were there during Easter week and had trouble squeezing through some of the traffic. There is a camping place next to the Languin caves .
We left Verapaz and visited Flores and the Survivor Guatemala site (Yaxha) before going through Belize to meet friends in Chetumal.. The ruins at Yaxha are worth a visit. They are being restored and will rival Tikal one of these days. Also, there is a very nice camping spot on a big lake. We enjoyed our swim even though the sign warned of Crocodiles. The locals assured us it was safe!"
Some friends made this trip Easter Week in their vehicle..in a few years Yaxha Ruins when totally excavated will rival Tikal for sure..if going by public transportation allow yourself a bit of time, start in Quiche, north of Chichicastenanago, frequent buses from there and direct from Guatemala City.
Well, semuc champey is definetly a must and so is yaxha now that you mention it!!! I wasnt so shure about it jeje. I was thinkink about making myself some provisional plates for the vehicle while in dubios places. The vehicle is a chevy pickup, not luxury but up for the challenge. The off the beaten path places only in guatemala that im interested in include: the ruins of el mirador, the sepalau lagoons,semuc champey, lachua lagoon, the quetzal biotope (a bit more known) and maybe the laguna brava or magdalena. And about el salvador is it really worth it nature-wise??
The only problem you are going to get in Nicaragua is if you run somebody over, they will put you in jail until you pay the family compensation. Your fault or not. And people seem to prefer hanging out on the roads more than anywhere else!
[ Edit: Edited at Jun 26, 2006 12:39 PM by jamesey ]
Jamesy is right, I am a resident who drove my own vehicle 15 years in Central America and was very careful driving through populated areas and towns, kids will dash in front of you and at night drunks will stagger out of nowhere and watch the bicycles, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras as well and finally to remember accidents can happen, many times I have viewed several hit and run situations, as most older vehicles are uninsured as anyone driving out of Belize or Mexico into Guatemala will be..take caution..Nicaragua is the only country in C.A. lacking a coastal highway, so the only country there where one must navigate the capital city and be prepared for the worst roads in C.A. in "paradise" Costa Rica, Regular Gas $1.00 Liter +