|99 Days to Panama
Do not be deterred from driving through Central America
because of what you hear about the border crossings. You just need to
take sensible measures, and have plenty of patience.
are some links that provide useful details for border crossings in
- Check with each country before you go
as formalities change.
- Check the links above for current
visa requirements (also see Updates).
- Be polite with the border agents as
they have been known to change the rules.
- You need the original title of the
vehicle or a notarized letter from the lien holder.
- Each person may only take one motorized
vehicle into a country.
- You must have one credit card and a
driver’s license in the same name as the vehicle title.
- Your passports need to have at least
six months on them before they expire.
- We recommend that you have several
duplicates of each of your document as you will need to hand in copies
- It is also advisable to make a copy of
the completed permits for your vehicle and pet. This would have
transit at some smaller crossings when the agent didn’t have a clue how
in their forms.
- We found that the less frequented
crossings were the easiest.
- The average cost was US$30.00 including
tips to the border crossing guides
- If you can avoid crossing during lunch
time it will save you time.
- The Tourist Card is identical at each
country. If you can gather a stack of them you can have them filled out
advance and save time.
- Often a line of
eighteen wheelers will alert
you that you have reached the border. Drive right past them to the
front of the
El Amatillo on the Pan-American
Highway. The 18+ wheelers are waiting for customs
clearance. Just drive to the front of the line and proceed to
immigration. A guide will probably approach you before you
reach there (see below).
- Transitos are
enterprising locals who make their living by guiding tourists through
tangles of the border crossings. We advise using them as they can
expedite your transit. You pay what you think they are worth. We
$4.00. Make sure they know in advance
which of them you are employing, and that they will be the only one(s)
compensated. See El Amatillo, Pages 253 – 255 of 99 Days to Panama. On more than one occasion we gave our papers
to the Transitos and they ran off to handle the transaction for us. We
been told that this is not a safe practice and we should have asked the
to show us to the next window. This assistance alone is worth the few
- We were asked for U.S. dollars to pay for
some of the formalities at each border, however, we have learned that
say you don’t have U.S. dollars some border agents will let you pay in
currency which works out cheaper. We still recommend you have a stash
dollars just in case.
- All the government agents we met seemed
honest, even if they did acquire the occasional pen or fresh produce.
enjoyed chatting about their country and were helpful and friendly.
- We suggest you enter Mexico at the
major crossings simply because there is more space to park your vehicle
you are conducting the formalities.
found the La Mesilla border between MEXICO and GUATEMALA less traveled
and an easy entry into Central America. It is
a congested two lane road with locals
and merchandise bulging beyond the sidewalks.
took us just over an hour at a cost US$17.82, including the time and
get the dog across. See DOG for
information on how to get a dog all the
way to Panama.
El Florido crossing between GUATEMALA and HONDURAS was very low
key with just a string across the road to mark the boundary.
NICARAGUAN border with COSTA RICA at Peñas
Blancas is on the Pan-American
Highway and is
busy and excessively officious. At this
port of entry we had to visit and revisit 21 locations to process
through. (Details in Day
79 of 99 Days to Panama)
between COSTS RICA and PANAMA on the Pan-American Highway at Paso
Canoas, is straightforward.
the northern crossing, on the Caribbean coast between
COSTA RICA and PANAMA, is more
dramatic. The bridge across the Sixaola River was built for
banana trains fifty years ago. To cross over you must drive up onto an
embankment with your wheels straddling the tracks. This shows us
approaching the Sixola River border
crossing, and two pedestrains who have just walked across from Panama.
As you cross the bridge you can look down and see the brown water of
through the ties.
was no one regulating the flow of traffic so it is a matter of luck as
crosses first and in which direction. It might get the adrenalin
rushing, but 3
loaded eighteen-wheelers crossed safely behind us, as have many other
motorhomers we met.
entering BELIZE all our meat
and fresh produce was confiscated. The inspector asked us to put it all
trash bag and I have the feeling he ate very well that night.
| The only unpleasant crossing of
the fourteen we made was between HONDURAS and EL SALVADOR at El
Amatillo. This is a notoriously bad
crossing and we were glad we had bypassed it going south. It took four
specter of this abandoned, stripped motorhome hovered over us. The most
aspect was when our transito
multiplied into six people and the new leader demanded a hundred and
dollars for the crossing services. We eventually gave them fifty
official charges for immigration, aduana
and cuarentena were $11.00.
fees averaged $30 including the tips for the transitos
and charges to get the dog across. A couple of the
smaller crossings were completely free. It took an average of two hours
one country and enter the next. There is nothing you can do to speed
except perhaps to cross first thing in the morning.
You might as well relax and take the
opportunity to meet the locals and the tourists who are waiting with
to Cross the Borders
With Two People,
a 22 ft Class C Motorhome, and a Dog
costs could vary
| U.S. into Mexico (Brownsville)
Mexico into Guatemala (La
Guatemala into Honduras (El
Honduras into Nicaragua (Las Manos)
Nicaragua into Costa Rica
Costa Rica into Panama (Paso
Panama into Costa Rica (Guabito)
Costa Rica into Nicaragua
Nicaragua into Honduras (Guasaule)
Honduras into El Salvador (El
El Salvador into Guatemala (Anguaitu)
Guatemala into Belize (Melchor
de Mencos) $ 10.00
Guatemala into Mexico (Corozal)
Mexico into U.S. (Matamoros)