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Road tripping from US to/through Central America

lisser

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  • Added on: November 7th, 2012
We are looking to spend 2-6 months exploring Central America this upcoming year. There will be 6 or 7 of us. Given the amount of time we are planning to spend, we are wondering if the best bet is to road trip from the US through Mexico and Central America?

Mexico seems pretty straight forward, and we would just take the highway/toll roads I think, to pass quickly through (unless we get side tracked...always possible).

I am mostly concerned about relative ease and safety, as we will be traveling with our children, who are young. They are seasoned road warriors, so I'm not so worried about the actual driving bit.

My concern is there are a lot of mixed reviews about overland travel safety for Mex. and C.A. because of drug trafficking and gang wars. How much is hype? (I'm not too inclined to believe stuff straight from mass media).

We are planning to spend a month or more in a few chosen countries, and would like our vehicle for site seeing and weekend excursions etc. It seems long term car rental could be quite expensive, from what I have read?

Buying a car is a consideration, but we'd need a 6-7 passenger, which is probably more expensive than just driving down one of our own (already paid for) vehicles.

busman7

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  • Added on: November 8th, 2012
I drove down from Canada 2 yrs ago with a bussette carrying all my possessions with no problems, taking 8 days to travel through Mexico, from the border at Douglas AZ to the Mexico/Guatemala border at Tapachula.

Pick a US/Mexico crossing that is relatively safe, drive only during daylight hours, stop at hotels with secure parking (most have) & use common sense. This pertains to both Mexico & CA.

Toll roads in Mexico are super expensive, I used regular roads except when a short stretch of toll road saved hours. Same as in the states you get a much more scenic trip on state highways than on the Interstate.

As in the US there are areas of Capital cities to stay away from especially at night however if you wish some nightlife leave the car in your hotels secure parking & take a taxi. The drug gangs only target each other NOT travelers so you are as safe as at home.

By all means with that many people bring your own car, no need to rent. I have lived in El Salvador for 2 yrs now with no problems, even driving in my local area at night for a Saturday night out.

Any more questions, ask away. Oh yeah route CA-1 through Guatemala follows the continental divide, CA-2 the coast, buy a good map as Guatemala is not a big believer in road signs, watch for livestock on the roads. Have a good trip. 8-)
"Being normal? Ugh. I can't imagine how awful that must be" unknown

BlueLlama777

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  • Added on: November 10th, 2012
Road tripping the Pan-American Highway is one of my long term travel goals. websites like http://www.go-panamerican.com/ offer great details on the segments you will encounter on your trip. As far as safety in Mexico, I would seriously suggest a border crossing from Texas instead of California, as the situation in Sonora (And somewhat Baja and Chihuahua) has gotten very bad and is getting worse. I would treat it the same as traveling though Iraq. There is few cases of open warfare, but I would stay 50 meters away from parked cars and I wouldn't lean against any walls. Carjackings and kidnappings are also WAY up. I'd play it safe, cross through Texas instead.

busman7

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  • Added on: November 11th, 2012
BlueLlama777 wrote:Road tripping the Pan-American Highway is one of my long term travel goals. websites like http://www.go-panamerican.com/ offer great details on the segments you will encounter on your trip. As far as safety in Mexico, I would seriously suggest a border crossing from Texas instead of California, as the situation in Sonora (And somewhat Baja and Chihuahua) has gotten very bad and is getting worse. I would treat it the same as traveling though Iraq. There is few cases of open warfare, but I would stay 50 meters away from parked cars and I wouldn't lean against any walls. Carjackings and kidnappings are also WAY up. I'd play it safe, cross through Texas instead.


Actually it is best to pick a border crossing that that has fewer incidents at the time you are traveling, situations change. I crossed at Douglas AZ instead of Nogales (also safe at the time) as I had a bussette full of possessions & figured a smaller crossing would be easier. Only incident was the US Border Patrol playing macho idiots stopping all traffic 10 miles from the border in AZ.

When I crossed into TX at Nuevo Laredo on the Greyhound the next year the area around the border was pretty sleazy looking, glad I didn't cross there on the way down.

*note the link provided is 6+ yrs old & while basically accurate there has been changes, such as the CA4 agreement for immigration between Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras & Nicaragua, also insurance is only mandatory in very few Mexican provinces, I was not required to buy it at the border.
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BlueLlama777

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  • Added on: November 11th, 2012
busman7 wrote: *note the link provided is 6+ yrs old & while basically accurate there has been changes, such as the CA4 agreement for immigration between Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras & Nicaragua, also insurance is only mandatory in very few Mexican provinces, I was not required to buy it at the border.



Damn, its been a long time since I was in Mexico! Sorry for the outdated info. You are absolutely right about the timing of the border crossing, but as I said, I don't see the area of Mexico south of California getting any safer anytime soon. New Mexico or Arizona may be better than Texas at a given time, but California will most likely be the worst for some time to come.

Travel bug78

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  • Added on: January 30th, 2013
I drove down as a single female twice now and had no problems. It costs about $150 in tolls to get through Mexico just on the toll roads...why do that when the coastal route is so beautiful? I always cross in Nogales, AZ, it seems to have a better reputation than anywhere in Texas and the ferries from the Baja Pen. are super expensive. There's a truck stop on the US side of the border where all the trucks spend the night and prepare to leave early in the morning. I feel like an early start is safer and really, the most problems happen in the first 100 miles south of the border, so once you get thru there, you're pretty much golden :) I think the best rule is find a place to be by about 2 pm and enjoy the afternoons!
http://www.wtf-elsalvador.com ---- Explore El Salvador

busman7

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Began Gap Year Trip Six Years Ago
 
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  • Added on: January 31st, 2013
Travel bug78 wrote:I drove down as a single female twice now and had no problems. It costs about $150 in tolls to get through Mexico just on the toll roads...why do that when the coastal route is so beautiful? I always cross in Nogales, AZ, it seems to have a better reputation than anywhere in Texas and the ferries from the Baja Pen. are super expensive. There's a truck stop on the US side of the border where all the trucks spend the night and prepare to leave early in the morning. I feel like an early start is safer and really, the most problems happen in the first 100 miles south of the border, so once you get thru there, you're pretty much golden :) I think the best rule is find a place to be by about 2 pm and enjoy the afternoons!


Good advice, would just add that if you wish to see Boot Hill/Tombstone AZ home of the OK Coral, Douglas a bit further east is a good option to Nogales.
"Being normal? Ugh. I can't imagine how awful that must be" unknown

Carl Boyer

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  • Added on: February 20th, 2013
I would be glad to share my journal of a driving trip from Dallas to the end of the road in Panama, done in 2005, complete with details of expenses. If anyone e-mails me at cboyer3154@yahoo.com I'll send you a pdf file of the journal. I would post it here, but I'm computer-challenged. Carl Boyer
Carl Boyer



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