Overlanding from Los Angeles to Buenos Aires: tips or recommendations?
April 27, 2015 1:52 AM   Subscribe

In August, my best friend and I (both 20-something guys) begin a 5 month adventure across the Americas. We started to research the trip last September, and have basically scoured the internet since then. Instagram has proved to be a great source to connect with the overlanding community and there's a couple of good blogs out there of people currently doing the trip. Still, we'd still really appreciate if the askmefi community could weigh in. As I start to put together a detailed itinerary I'm beginning to feel overwhelmed by all the details and possibilities. Where to go? What to plan? How much to budget? And, just generally, what level of detail should I plan to? Normally I'd come up with a broad plan in a few days and then wing it but given the dangers, sheer size of this adventure, and the amount of unforgettable places to see I want to really plan it. UNESCO sites, nature, must-see towns and villages... Can anybody help us?

Our preliminary itinerary:

California --> Baja --> La Paz --> Mazetlan --> Mainland Mexico and Mexico City --> Cancun Area --> Belize --> Guatemala --> El Salvador --> Honduras --> Nicaragua --> Costa Rica --> Panama --> Colombia via new ferry across Darien Gap --> Ecuador --> Peru --> Bolivia --> Chile --> Argentina

Our rig: a 4x4 Van w/10" clearance, a kayak, and surfboards.

Budget: 30-50$ per day with fuel, repairs, etc.

About Me:
-I've travelled to 40+ countries (mostly alone)
-passionate nature lover
-adventure and thrill seeker
-fluent in french and recently started to learn spanish
-interested in cultures, seeking spirituality

My friend:
-loves to surf and hike
-great photographer/film buff
-nature lover


Our goal is to get ideas for unique activities or great places to visit along the way. And, of course, any general advice would be much appreciated!


**for those worried about the safety or feasibility of this journey, thank you and we know. I'd echo Jack London's thoughts of his own quixotic quest in "Cruise of the Snark"**

Our friends cannot understand why we make this voyage. They shudder, and moan, and raise their hands. No amount of explanation can make them comprehend that we are moving along the line of least resistance; that it is easier for us to go down to the sea in a small ship than to remain on dry land, just as it is easier for them to remain on dry land than to go down to the sea in the small ship. This state of mind comes of an undue prominence of the ego. They cannot get away from themselves. They cannot come out of themselves long enough to see that their line of least resistance is not necessarily everybody else’s line of least resistance. They make of their own bundle of desires, likes, and dislikes a yardstick wherewith to measure the desires, likes, and dislikes of all creatures. This is unfair. I tell them so. But they cannot get away from their own miserable egos long enough to hear me. They think I am crazy. In return, I am sympathetic. It is a state of mind familiar to me. We are all prone to think there is something wrong with the mental processes of the man who disagrees with us
posted by intelligentfool to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Those costs seem pretty optimistic, to judge from this couple's experience. It looks like $40-90/day might be more realistic.
posted by crazy with stars at 2:59 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Keep an eye out for that unmarked left turn. I remember chatting with a guy from Argentina that took a road trip north and changed destination country when they realized they missed the only turn eight hours back.
posted by sammyo at 3:58 AM on April 27, 2015


-I've travelled to 40+ countries (mostly alone) and recently started to learn spanish

One thing I've experienced is that when there's an...imbalance...in skill level, one partner can get into the habit of defaulting to the other and the burden of decision-making falls on that person. Something to be aware of, esp. since as a solo traveller, you are accustomed to being the decider. Is your friend learning Spanish as well?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:56 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Have you and your friend ever travelled together? If not, it would be a good idea to do a [long] weekend road trip before then to get basics like "I want to stop every 20 minutes to pee/take a photo" vs "once we're in the car it's 8 hours til the doors open again" understood between you.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:19 AM on April 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


For the South American angle - to get into Bolivia and some other countries on your list, you need a certification of yellow fever vaccination. If you're going into the Amazon, hepatitis A, typhoid and malaria are recommended. You should see a travel medicine specialist to get a list of what's required/recommended for all the areas you are travelling to, and sooner is better than later because some vaccine courses take a couple months to complete.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:23 AM on April 27, 2015


Bolivia, Chile and Argentina all have $100+ fees to enter the country so make sure to budget for that (assuming you're from the US.)

If you're going down the west side, you'll have two choices to get to the south of Patagonia - Ruta 40 in Argentina and the Carretera Austral in Chile. If you want to just cruise through miles and miles of nothingness and get straight to El Chaltén for some incredible hiking, Ruta 40 is for you. If you'd like to take your time and visit some pueblos, I've heard the Carretera Austral is better for that. If you like hiking, I cannot recommend El Chaltén enough - though popular, it's much much less crowded than Torres del Paine and I found it more incredible. Also, if you can't/don't want to camp, you can hike all day and head back to the town each night, which isn't really possible in Torres del Paine. Further north, I would also highly recommend Pucon in Chile. There's some great treks (Parque Huerquehue and the hot springs nearby and the Villarrica Traverse, an incredible isolated hike around the volcano) and you can climb the volcano (or you could at least, I know it just erupted so I don't know what the situation is right now.) From there, it's a short ride to Bariloche, a beautiful place for hiking or skiing, depending on the city. The hostel Penthouse 1004 is great (homemade bread!) The city is right on the lake so the penthouse view is fabulous.

I spent 7 weeks going from Santiago, Chile to Punta Arenas, mostly hiking using this Lonely Planet Trekking in Patagonia as my guide. It's old and out of print, I think, but most of the info is still good.

Huaraz in Peru is fantastic for nature. We were there in the rainy season so we could just manage a day hike to Laguna 69 but I dream of returning during the dry season and doing a couple hikes. They say it's the easiest place in the world to do real alpine hiking. Really beautiful place.

The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is incredible. Leave your van in the city and take a 3 day tour.

Don't miss Valparaíso (on the coast, an hour and a half from Santiago) in Chile if you like little bohemian cities. Tons of graffiti (the good kind!) music, and culture. The Neruda house/museum is really cool even if you're not a huge fan of the poet.

San Agustín in the south of Colombia is a cool little history spot. Tons of statues from thousands of years ago, super chevere and 100x cheaper than Easter Island.

As others have said, make sure you're being realistic about your budget (gas is expensive!) and try to get a handle on each of your traveling styles first.

Send me a message when you hit Medellín and we can grab a beer! Have fun!
posted by saul wright at 7:09 AM on April 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is a great question for the folks at Expedition Portal

Overland Expo is in a couple weeks in Flagstaff, AZ. There will be lots of classes and people to talk to who have done similar trips. Might be worth getting a couple day passes for. I've been to it in the past, and it was a good time.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:30 AM on April 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Some random thoughts: It's out of your way, but Foz do Iguacu is really worth seeing. Casco Viejo in Panama city was great, I wasn't a big fan of Costa Rica, but ymmv, lots of people love it. Ayahuasca is widely available in Costa Rica if you're looking for that kind of spiritual journey. I loved Cartagena - great scuba diving and a fun, silly little tourist town. Also worth getting out of the touristy part and into the real city and having some arepas from the street vendors. Incredible.

When doing a trip of this magnitude, I suggest not feeling like you have to have a detailed plan of everything you want to do before you set out. Have a rough sketch of your route and timetables and maybe a few "must sees" along the route, and plan the next city/country as you're leaving the last. This allows you to talk to other backpackers and get good advice about what is and is not worth seeing, and if you particularly love a locale, you can stay a few extra days, or split early if a place just isn't calling to you.
posted by zug at 8:24 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


For the South American angle - to get into Bolivia and some other countries on your list, you need a certification of yellow fever vaccination. If you're going into the Amazon, hepatitis A, typhoid and malaria are recommended. You should see a travel medicine specialist to get a list of what's required/recommended for all the areas you are travelling to, and sooner is better than later because some vaccine courses take a couple months to complete.

I did some of this last year with a travel med doc. My experiences:

Yellow fever: single jab, handled same day. Got official 'yellow' certificate same day to present with passport. Good for 10 years.
Hep A: previously vaccinated, already was covered (I think it's just a single jab? Don't remember.)
Typhoid: 2-year coverage was available with a jab, 5-year coverage was available with oral vaccine. I did oral vaccine. It takes a little over a week to go through the oral vaccine process.
Malaria: got pills. Had to take them during the trip, also just before and after. (Also of course, used bug spray.)

Also got a prescription for pills for traveller's diarrhea, didn't need them, didn't take them.

Sooner is better than later for this doctor visit--you never know what could come up--but for the most part, it's pretty straightforward. Also a good opportunity to review your vaccinations in general.
posted by gimonca at 10:27 AM on April 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yellow fever: single jab, handled same day. Got official 'yellow' certificate same day to present with passport. Good for 10 years.

Just for posterity - you get the certificate the same day, but it isn't valid for entry until it is ten days old.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 10:52 AM on April 27, 2015


I really enjoyed hiking some mountains in Ecuador a few years back. Corazon was an easy hike with some decent views. Iliniza Norte was a lot of fun (some good scrambling near the top, we had a huge condor swoop down right by us, it was amazing). Cotopaxi was a lot of fun too, but that was mostly glacier travel. Cotopaxi National Park is beautiful. Hosteria Papagayo has good guides that I've kept in touch with since.

You would be remiss to not take at least an overnight excursion in the Amazon. It's tremendous.
posted by hootenatty at 11:17 AM on April 27, 2015


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