I did something like this a few years back, on riding in Europe and how to handle border crossings. After posting it to the web, I received a lot of positive feedback for doing that. I thought I'd do the same thing now, on riding thru Central America, since we just got back from Panama. I know there are a lot of people in the forum who how have spent a lot of time south of the border, and quite e few who live down there too. I'm not pretending to be the expert. This is just good stuff we learned in preparing for this trip, and while on the road. I hope it helps someone who might be planning on heading that way someday, because a lot of this I learned from other road veterans who freely passed their knowledge on to me. I am in their debt and want to pay their kindness forward.
For those who wish to download and print these tips, you can find them here it in Adobe (.pdf) format. (Print version for download)
I've spent two months trying to edit it down to the 20 pages that it currently is, and there is tons of stuff that still got left out. I'll try to post it here in manageable chunks for the bandwidth impaired...
Hope this helps someone down the road.....
Riding thru Central America Tips
Our intent is to help those who might like to ride a motorcycle thru Central America. This is written from the point of view of a US citizen, starting in the USA. If you are a citizen of another country, youíll have to do some additional research to verify the visa, border crossing legalities, vehicle importation laws, etc that apply to you and your vehicle.
Particularly note that the focus of this piece is on getting the administrative and detail parts of the trip in order before the trip starts so that you can enjoy the pleasures and adventures of the trip as they unfold, rather than having to learn by trial and error as you go along. Iíve dreamed of this trip for years, and jumped at the chance when the conditions were right. I didnít know what I was getting into, but since Iíve traveled extensively before, I didnít let the fear of the unknown paralyze me when the opportunity arose. Thatís why Iíve compiled this document. With Chick and Johnís help, I wanted to capture some of the things that we learned along the way. If this document helps someone overcome the fear of the unknown, and head south on an adventure of a lifetime, then we have done our job. I have learned so much from other travelers along the road and wish to help pass on this wisdom. I realize the three of us are not the experts on anything, so please donít split hairs over technicalities or opinions, unless weíve posted something that is blatantly wrong, then please email me and let me know at munnjt (at) verizon.net.
In planning a trip all the way through Central America, you need to understand that you will spend almost 2 entire days (16 hours) at border crossings. The countries you will cross at a minimum are: Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. You could cross El Salvador and Belize, if you choose to. Thus, as a minimum, you are going to cross (enter and exit) 5 international borders (twice on a round trip) and the US and Panama coming and going. You really do want to get this part of your trip in order. With crossings sometimes taking between 2 and 4 hours, they can be the most stressful part of the trip.
This information was current as of March 2006, when we returned from our ride to Panama. If you missed it, you can find that full ride report here, entitled "Finding Panama"
. Remember, things change. The longer the time from when we wrote this to the day you are reading it, the more you must accept these as general guidelines and not hard facts. Your mileage may varyÖ..