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Travel from North America to South America by Car

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Travel from North America to South America by Car

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1. Posted by traveling1 (Budding Member, 5 posts) 16 Nov '06 13:55

traveling1 has indicated that this thread is about Ecuador

We are a family of four. We live in Columbus, GA. and are planning to drive from here to Quito, Ecuador.

Where is the best information at to get driving directions etc...

I pretty much have it down to Tapachula, Mexico. Seems harder to find routes through Central America.

Is there any check list for ALL items/documents/equipment that you should take or have, or MUST have to travel all the way to Quito by vehicle.

My wife and I are former Special Operations Command in the Military and we have two boys 3/14.

We plan on moving and staying in Quito. We plan on starting a business there.

Any advice is greatly appreciated.

We will not be leaving till after this school year in May 2006.

My wife speaks fluent Spanish.

2. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru, 2398 posts) 17 Nov '06 00:49

Re routes: there's a number of threads in this forum that concern crossing central america by car; apart from some safety issues, there is the problem of the Darien Gap, where you will have to take a ferry or otherwise make a sea passage.

Re documents: I don't know about central america, but in SA, importing a car causes SO much paperwork that most people would advice against it. Possibly AAA can direct you to the websites of their southernly counterparts.

3. Posted by Isadora (Moderator, 13924 posts) 17 Nov '06 04:15

The passage from Panama to Colombia through the Darien Gap (as Niels has stated) is not feasible. Those who have made it, did so using military-style jeep vehicles and it took them several tries. They had their jeeps stolen at gunpoint at least once. The others I have read about, did it on motorcycles. The Darien Gap is an unsafe areas and even with your military backgrounds, you'll have children with you. The FARC guerillas slip in and out of the area easily and consider it their territory.

I do know the Intercontinental Highway (Panamerican Hwy) from Costa Rica to Colon, Panama is a pretty good road. They have been improving it in many areas and we had no problem anywhere along it's route (through Panama). At it's worst, it was the equivalent of driving US county highways.

Sadly, the ferry between Colon and Cartagena, Colombia no longer exists. It ceased operating in 2002. The alternatives are the cargo (container) ships which do cater to transporting vehicles. If possible, book your passage and work your driving schedule accordingly as you could wait days or weeks for the container to fill. You can pay for the whole container, but it is expensive when not sharing the cost with others. There are also carrier flights that offer the service.

Here are other threads addressing the Darien Gap issue and contain links to cargo companies:
from USA to Brazil
So...how do you drive to S. America thru Panama?
From Buenos Aires To Atlanta

4. Posted by traveling1 (Budding Member, 5 posts) 17 Nov '06 04:38

Thanks guys, I appreciate the information. Sounds like my biggest concern will be the Darien Gap. Though we were both military, contrary to somes beliefs, we are the most cautious because we have been all over the world and know the dangers intimately. I was actually involved when we invaded Panama in the late 80's and Desert Storm/Somalia and few more. You're right, with children we do not want to risk their safety.

I just have the personality that I want to know all the goods/bads and documents, and information before we take off on this great adventure.

Once again thanks for the information so far.

5. Posted by traveling1 (Budding Member, 5 posts) 17 Nov '06 04:46

I also had a question about Cell phone use. I use Verizon. I assume that will be useless when I cross from Texas to Mexico. Is that the right assumption. How should cell phone use be handled from country to country? Can/Should I keep my phone. Will it work outside US?

What about laptops, and wireless networks?

6. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru, 2634 posts) 17 Nov '06 11:04

Your Verizon phone is most likely a CDMA phone, which means that you will not have international coverage. You should get some coverage in Mexico, there's CDMA coverage there, but you'll pay. Verizon does offer international calling, but you need to buy a special phone.

If you really want a cell phone, the best hting to do is to get yourself a GSM phone and make sure it is unlocked. Then, as you get into countries or areas, buy a SIM card and then you'll have a working phone. Your cell # will change, though, with each new SIM card, I believe, so you may not be able to do inbound calls.

Edited to add this link to a topic on another forum about the best SIM card for international travel - you might want to follow that discussion.

[ Edit: Edited at Nov 17, 2006 11:51 AM by GregW ]

7. Posted by marcelkers (Budding Member, 45 posts) 19 Nov '06 10:54

paperwork/documents are not a big deal for driving around the americas. Just need your national vehicle docs to be in your name (to save you lots of hassle). A Carnet de PAssage, libreta de pasos etc are not necessary.
Some AAA's in the states still issue an International Vehicle Certificate but I hear that is getting less and less as the demand is about zero... Again it is not necessary but could make crossings a bit easier as all data are in spanish too, hence the cost of the little grey booklet is only 5 US or so (if they have it that is...). I got mine - many years ago..- ath the LA branch.
As long as you are less then 3 months (some 6)in a country, a national driver licence is accepted too. But again, if you prefer to hand in an international driver licence to a policeman that is possible also, but bear in mind that there are 2 different types, e.g. Brazil demands a different one than most of the other latin american countries ánd they are only valid for 1 year.
But don't worry too much. it will be a lot easier as you think. In Central America they just want to see some Lincoln etc photos rather than documents. but dont pay too easily, even with patience you will get there anyway.No matter what. And better with the dollars in yóur pocket than that of a greedy borderofficial.
And yes you will have to ship your car from Panama to South America and a desembarkingport is never a nice place as bureaucracy was invented there it seems. (chile is the easiest to enter ) But once inside South America driving around is great, bordercrossings a piece of cake.And free.

8. Posted by skrapz2xw (First Time Poster, 1 posts) 10 Dec '10 02:29

Hi there! I came across this and was just wondering if you made the trip? If so, how long did it take and how did it go?

[ Edit: Edited on 10-Dec-2010, at 02:30 by skrapz2xw ]

9. Posted by galoise (Budding Member, 2 posts) 3 Aug '11 13:15

Quoting skrapz2xw

Hi there! I came across this and was just wondering if you made the trip? If so, how long did it take and how did it go?

I have the same question too lol...I will be doing something similar to attend the 2014 WC in Brazil.

10. Posted by traveling1 (Budding Member, 5 posts) 3 Aug '11 14:04

We didn't. There is a place between Panama and Colombia that is called the Darian Gap that keeps you from taking a Vehicle. You can drive to Panama, then take a Ferry (put the vehicle on the Ferry) go to Colombia, or Ecuador, or wherever and continue from there. The import taxes can be VERY HEFTY, so be VERY aware of that before proceeding in this manner. Best of luck to you.

Hola :)