Going to see about a canal
February 9, 2007 4:02 PM   Subscribe

What is the driving distance from the southern California border to the Panama Canal?

I need driving distance, not as the crow flies. From my crummy map, it looks like around 3500 miles one way, but I'm hoping to get a more accurate estimate. General Mexico and Central American driving and travel tips are appreciated, too. Thanks!
posted by letitrain to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think you'd be better off taking I-8 over to Tucson or El Paso and heading south from there.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 4:10 PM on February 9, 2007


Well, speed is not my objective. I've seen the southwest many times, and I'd like to see some of northwest Mexico on this trip.
posted by letitrain at 4:15 PM on February 9, 2007


My advice is to BE CAREFUL. People can get kidnapped, mugged, jailed by police unless you bribe them, etc. What if your car breaks down or you get a flat? No AAA service there. on the roads in Latin America. Just be careful and try to take an airplane if possible.
posted by HotPatatta at 7:45 PM on February 9, 2007


San Diego - Mexicali = 213 km
Mexicali - Santa Ana = 522 km
Santa Ana - Guadalajara = 1598 km
Guadalajara - Mexico City = 873 km
Mexico City - San Pedro Tapanatec = 926 km
San Pedro Tapanatec - Huixtla = 202 km
Huixtla - San Benito (Nicaragua) = 1062 km
San Benito (Nicaragua) - San Jose = 440 km
San Jose - Panama City = 787 km

So 6623 km (4114 miles).
posted by rolypolyman at 9:05 PM on February 9, 2007


If you cross the border with a car and don't come back with the same car, you can get into trouble because they think you sold it. So if you get into an accident etc that makes you leave the car, be sure to get police documentation. (Which I suppose might require bribery; I honestly don't know.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:36 PM on February 9, 2007


I'm jealous! Have you traveled in Mexico or Central America before? What is your time frame? Do you speak any Spanish? If not, find or make a list of key get-out-of-a-jam phrases, and take a dictionary and/or phrasebook. Don't drive at night unless you have to.

Check out Southbound Travels, drivemeloco , 99 Days to Panama, and Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree Forum.

Don't forget, while in the mountains, to watch out for double passing. And plunging buses.
posted by chudder at 10:36 PM on February 9, 2007


1. Do not speed.
2. Do not pick up hitchhikers.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:52 PM on February 9, 2007


People can get kidnapped, mugged, jailed by police unless you bribe them, etc. What if your car breaks down or you get a flat? No AAA service there.

I have no idea whether there is any experience behind this comment or just hysteria.

Speaking as someone whose folks regularly drove highways from Southern California to Central Mexico, I'd say:

1) Use the toll roads when possible. They are definitely worth the money
2) Avoid driving at night when you can. Not because of bandits but because most roads are poorly lit and narrow and those big transport trucks drive like crazy.

Regarding no AAA, I quote a comment that clearlydemon (a mexican mefite) made in a previous thread.

By the way, you can call 078 for highway emergencies, and (55) 5250-0123 for tourist security (the 55 is Mexico city's code). There are green cars/trucks patrolling the highways, the Green Angels, who will help you if you have mechanical problems. That's a free service, you would only have to pay for parts and oil/gas.
posted by vacapinta at 11:46 PM on February 9, 2007


Thanks a bunch, everyone. HotPattata, I appreciate the concern, but the last thing I want to do is fly to a destination. I'll be careful and I'm planning way ahead (travel date is Feb. 1, 2008), but I definitely want to see the people and cultures, not fly over them.

chudder, I've driven in northern Mexico and Baja, but never more than about 300 miles in from the border. I speak basic Spanish, I'm doing Pimsleur CDs now, and I'll start taking formal classes this Summer.

Thanks again everyone!
posted by letitrain at 11:14 AM on February 10, 2007


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