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.bolivian salt flats
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.
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.
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.