Just along for the ride..
Joined: Nov 2003
Location: Petersburg, Virginia
Part Two: Documentation
Visas: None required in advance for US citizens for short term visits (less than 30 days). You will require a visa and/or tourist card to enter all the countries along the route. They are obtained at the border of each country.
a. You need one for each traveler. Your passport must have a least six months validity or some countries will not allow you to enter.
b. Have plenty of empty pages! If you go to Panama and back and make a point to get to El Salvador and/or Belize you will enter and leave 5 to 7 countries twice and two once. Keep in mind that in many cases your vehicle entry and exit is also noted in your passport.
c. If you have a passport full of exotic Middle Eastern etc. travel you might get a new passport to avoid excessive questions at the borders.
d. Make copies of your passport to carry in various places and give a copy to a companion and leave at least one at home. If you lose your passport and have a copy, replacement is relatively simple at a US embassy. If you don’t have a copy to show the Embassy, it can take days to get a replacement.
e. If you don’t have a passport, start the process at least 2 months before you are to depart. Summer delays are significant. You may have to get documentation like birth records, naturalization papers, etc. together to get one.
f. Carry extra passport pictures just in case.
Shot/health record: Highly recommended, and is required to establish the Yellow Fever shots validity.
You should obtain an International Certificate of Vaccination approved by the WHO and made available by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service (Yellow Card). Ensure your other shots are marked at the right place on the form, either do it yourself or have your health provider do it with stamps, seals, etc. Stamps and seals are particularly endearing to third world officialdom. Also enter in document your blood type, allergies to drug, food, histamine etc., a list of the medicines you take and dosages etc. as well as you eye glasses prescription. There are places on the form.
Drivers License: Required.
Make sure yours is valid for at least the period of the trip and has someplace on it a marking that shows you are licensed to drive a motorcycle. This will be checked at police and military checkpoints.
International Drivers License: Optional but highly recommended.
The American Auto Association (AAA) issues them for a $10.50 fee, and you do not have to be a member to get one from AAA. They require passport photos. The International Drivers license is not required but is very useful because it is printed in multiple languages, and looks more official than the little plastic state license.
I say, don’t just get one, get two International Drivers Licenses !! (One can be used as a “throw-away” should a police officer insist on holding it hostage for money.)
You should plan to use an international drivers license –not your US drivers license- when you register your vehicle and yourself as a driver at the borders.
If you are traveling in a group, ensure everyone has an international drivers license, so that inspecting officers get the same type document from each.
Make sure AAA puts the stamp on the appropriate vehicle type validity blocks A (motorcycle) and B (light vehicles). Ask AAA to stamp the Spanish language section as well to avoid problems later. The International Licenses are valid for one year.
Vehicle Registration/Title document: One of these two is required
On our trip we found both the vehicle registration card and the title document work equally well. I would recommend you use the registration card and not carry the actual title document. An alternative is to have a notarized copy of the title just in case as a back up. I would not carry the original title, but any copy should have a raised seal on it to be considered official. Before departure, take your documents and go match the VIN on the registration or Title to what is stamped on the motorcycle. Do this before you leave home. This will be done along the way and it they are not exactly correct, your trip will end right there. I have heard of one person’s trip ending in Honduras when they checked his VIN to his registration and found they did not match. They refused his entry to the country, thus ending his trip south.
Vehicle Insurance: Check with your current US insurance carrier. Most will not insure a vehicle south of the US border, so you have to assume your current policy will not work.
Liability insurance. I took a gamble coming home thru Mexico without it, but would not recommend that to anyone else. It is not required for Mexico, but if you are in an accident and do not have it, they may detain you (i.e. go to jail) until it is settled. You can buy liability insurance from Sanborns (and others) on a by day basis, if you know the exact dates you are traveling in Mexico. You can order it in online and pick it up near the US border or arrange to get it mailed to your home, etc. We had liability insurance on our way south thru Mexico, but neglected to get it for the trip home because it is set by date and we couldn’t predict our return dates.
Costa Rica issues a standard obligatory liability Insurance when you are processed at the border. It has on it what you need to do in an accident. Nicaragua also requires a certificate of local liability insurance, and it is an inspection item when stopped by police. They sell it at the border when you enter Nicaragua, 30 days insurance for about $12. Police will request it at checkpoints. We had been told that if we departed Nicaragua we would have to buy another policy on return, but this never was an issue. We kept the same document and it passed on inspection on the way back north because we were still inside the 30-day validity period on the policy.
Liability insurance throughout Central America supposedly is available but can be VERY expensive. We did not carry insurance for any other countries on our trip. Cold hard US dollars paid our way out of the one accident we had where the injured party demanded compensation. Everything is negotiable if you don’t involve the authorities.
Travel Guides: Having a good current travel guide like the Lets Go travel Guide to Central America or the Lonely Planet Mexico book provides a lot of good information particularly of points of interest and detailed information on hotels, banks etc. and summary maps. Guides like Michelin tend to be better for vehicle travelers and are worth considering
Maps: You should make an effort to get good country maps before you are on the road. 1/500,000 or 1/330/000 seems about right. There are good detailed road map books of Mexico, which you should get if you are planning extensive touring there. (Guia Roji).
Jeff Munn screwed with this post 05-30-2006 at 08:56 PM