Driving from Central to South America??

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Driving from Central to South America??

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1. Posted by jindy (Budding Member 46 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

I have been looking into driving from Vancouver to Argentina, and have heard some conflicting stories. It all goes smoothly until the getting into South America part. Is it possible to drive through the jungles between Central and South America, what I understand is called the Darien Gap? If so, should I? Is it safe, or stupid?

If you can't, what cost would I be looking at to get the car into South America by ferry or ship? Is it worth it? Would I pehaps be better off selling and buying another car in South America?? Or perhaps contunuing the trip south without the car...What is public trasport like in South America?

Any help - tips, suggestions etc greatly appreciated!!

2. Posted by Utrecht (Moderator 5742 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

It is (nearly) impossible. Technically you would need a 4WD, but it's dangerous and there is a (nearly again) 100% chance you will be robbed, kidnapped or worse. It's drug infected area.

You can ship your car from Colon in northern panama to Cartagena in Colombia. Try search on google 'vwvagabonds', they have tips and information on shipping your car anywhere in the world, and there is a panama to colombia chapter. It will cost about 1000 dollar.

3. Posted by jindy (Budding Member 46 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Damn, that is very annoying! Thanks for the info, Utrecht. I think I have decided then to ditch the car in Panama and continue on by public transport.

What do you know about ferries to Jamaica, or perhaps Cuba or Haiti. Do they run from Panama to the islands, then from the islands to Maracaibo, Barranquilla or Valencia?? A few days in Jamaica to break it all up sounds like an OK little detour. Anyone know cost of ferries, visa charges etc?? I am on a pretty tight budget!

4. Posted by bentivogli (Respected Member 2398 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

With all the worries it will cost you, no, it is not worth it. Panamericana is a very bad idea, both because it's dangerous, because of driving manners, and because of road conditions. The roads in Argentina are alright, but the drivers still aren't.

If you're intent to drive the major part, consider buying a 4wd somewhere in northern Brazil and then drive down; the coastal highways in Brazil reportedly are quite good. But driving in Ecuador, Chile, Peru, and Bolivia is not a good idea.

5. Posted by jindy (Budding Member 46 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

So what is the public transport like? Maybe I will consider just doin on the public transport all the way from Vancouver... What is the public transport like throught North America and Central America? And ferries to Jamaica, and then to South America? Public transport in Souith America?? Reckon it'll work out cheaper and easier all in all than driving?

6. Posted by bentivogli (Respected Member 2398 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

I wouldn't know about US and central, but throughout SA, busses are excellent. Cheap, mostly comfortable, and frequent service.

Central america may pose a problem, partly because you have to cross the Darien Gap. Search the forum for "Darien Gap", and a few threads will appear that may be useful.

7. Posted by jindy (Budding Member 46 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Cool thanks man. Maybe public transport is the way to go after all. I will check it out. Do you know the deal with ferries to and from Jamaica? I am thinking that might be an entertaining way around the Darien Gap..?

8. Posted by steff (Travel Guru 1162 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Busing down from Mexico all the way down to Panama will be a long journey, but buses are fine and generally it should be safe too. Major busline is Tica bus, though from Costa Rica to Panama you can also go with Panaline.
Hope this helps,


9. Posted by marcelkers (Budding Member 45 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

Even a 4WD will not be able to take you through the Darien Gap. The people who have made it through this area with a vehicle can be counted on 1 hand. And it surely is a lot more costly than taking a ship!.ferries between Panama and Colombia no longer exist. Freighting the car to Colombia, Ecuador or Chile (Chile is the best way, easiest to undock, but a bit more expensive) is the best option. Prices of a container if you are lucky aprx 1000 US, but count on 1500 at least. In Chile no extra cost for unloading, in other countries you have to pay there as well.
But it is so much worth it to travel with your own vehicle through Latin America. Not to be compared with bus etc travelling.
Central America the borders are a bit nasty (they all want your money and since many americans who tend to travel this route mostly pay what is asked it is made more difficult for those after them who are not so willing to open their wallet..), but once in South America borders are easy as a breeze

[ Edit: Edited on Nov 24, 2006, at 4:41 AM by marcelkers ]

10. Posted by JRobyn (Budding Member 5 posts) 14y Star this if you like it!

I'm living in Vancouver too and am also planning on roading it to Ecuador by bus. Greyhound from Vancouver to San Francisco is around $80-$100US one way, from there you can get to San Diego for about $40 and catch a little trolley to the Tijuana boarder ($3). From their I'm not too sure, as I've only been in Baja California. Flights from the states to Mexico city are relativly cheap compared to Canadian prices. Buses in Mexico are pretty expensive compared to Central America, and flying might even be cheaper. You're looking at around $250 from San Francisco or LA to Mexico City by plane (one way)
Have fun!
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