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Updates to 99 Days to Panama
(Note: we are passing on input received from correspondents for your information and cannot verify its accuracy or whether conditions have changed. Top update is most current. If the entry has no name it is from us.  Let us know if you find any discrepancies or anything else to share.  Many of these are from folks traveling who are members of our Yahoo Group.  You can join this group at  Thanks!)
Table of Contents for Updates
(Note: Some links are to other pages on this site)

76 Crossing the Darian Gap (aka shipping a vehicle between South American and Central America) (April, 2011)
Traveling Through Mexico (May, 2011)
Experience in Honduras (7/10)
Comprehensive Camping Places List (5/10)
New Camping Place Between David and Boquete (5/10)
New Blog for Central America (1/09)
WARNING: Dog Attacks at Caesar's, Sta. Elena, Belize (12/08)
69 Updated Trip Blog (11/08)
68 Mexican Gulf Coast Update (8/08)
67 Insurance for Mexico and Central America (8/08)
Central America and Shipping to South America (6/08)
Propane, Camping, Border Crossings [Check new crossing Costa Rica-Panama!], Shopping Locations, and Fuel Prices in Central America (5/08)
Couchsurfing (5/08)
Places  to Camp, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras (4/08)
Propane, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras (4/08)


Mexico and Guatemala Updates (3/08)


Guatemala  Road Update (12/07)


Guatemala  Camping Update (8/07)


Still Camping at Hotel Tzanjuyu (Panajachel, Guatemala) (8/07)


Hotel Tzanjuyu in Panajachel No Longer a Camping Option (7/07)


Shipping an RV to South America (7/07)


Camping Places in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala (4/07)


 Tela Beach Club no longer accomodating motorhomes (4/07)


Camping Places in  Panama (3/07)


Camping Places in Costa Rica and Panama (3/07)


Camping Places in Honduras and Nicaragua (2/07)


Guatemala Money Problems (1 Feb. 2007)


Driving to Panama in a Hurry (1/07)


Raining in Trujillo , Lago Yajoa  and Camping in Guatemala (12/06)


Coffee Plantation near Masaya, Nicaragua (10/06)


  Camping Places in Nicaragua and Costa Rica (9/06)


  Border Crossings Update (9/06)


RVs No Longer Welcome at the Balboa Yacht Club! (9/06)


New Camping Places: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chichicastenango (9/06)


Guatemala Camping:  Amatitlan and Around Antigua (8/06)


Perquin Area, El Salvador (8/06)


Camping at Lago de Coaltepeque, El Salvador (8/06)


Camping in Cerro Verde, El Salvador - Now Open! (8/06)


Guatemala - El Salvador Border on CA-8 (8/06)


Camping at LagunaYaxja(Survivor site), Guatemala (4/06)


Camping in Choluteca, Honduras (3/06)


Camping on the  El Salvador Coast (3/06)


Camping in Antigua, Guatemala (7/06)


Camping in Honduras (7/06)


Camping in Guatemala (7/06)


Dogsin Honduras (7/06)


Shipping to South America (7/06)


Guatemala Camping (6/06)


Belize Camping (6/06)


Belize Camping (5/06)


Cerro Verde Closed (4/06)


Gas Prices (4/6/05)


Tramitadores at the Borders (4/5/06)


Length of Stay in El Salvador (4/5/06)


Dogs in Honduras (3/14/06, 4/5/06)


New Camping Places (Spring 2006)


Phone Numbers in Guatemala (2/21/06)


Lagunas de Montebello, Chiapas, Mexico (2/18/06)


Soto la Marina, Tamualipas, Mexico (2/16/06)


New Book on RVing in Central America (1/18/06)


La Ceiba, Honduras Camp Site (1/16/06)


Scams (1/16/06)


Camping in Panama and Costa Rica (1/16/06)


Camping in El Salvador (1/16/06)


Road Conditions (12/8/05)


Water and Sanitation (12/08/05)


RE: Roads in Guatemala and more.. (12/06/05)


Roads in Guatemala and more.. (12/06/05)


Gas Prices (11/05)


South America (9/05)


Visas for Canadians (7/05)


ATM Scam in Panajachal (5/05)


Guatemala - Honduras Border at Corinto (5/05)




Panama (3/04)

Crossing the Darian Gap (aka shipping a vehicle between South American and Central America) (April, 2011)

For those of you that may have questions about shipping between Central and South America, there has been a wave of traffic on the Silk Route Club Yahoo Group on this recently. I plan to capture the key points and post on our web site,, but in the meantime I suggest you joint the Silk Route Club, or at least their Yahoo group:

Their web site is also one the best sources for overland travel everywhere!
Traveling Through Mexico (May, 2011)

We have received a few emails recently asking about the "best" way to travel through Mexico. We have not done the journey in a few years, so we defer to others for the best advice, particularly Mike and Teri Church who have a pretty current set of updates on their web site, see In particular, it is not recommended to travel through Tamaulipas. The Church's offer this advise:

"Most RVers traveling to central Mexico and even down the east coast are avoiding what seem to be the most dangerous spots by traveling the toll highway south from the Columbia truck crossing (just west of Laredo) to Monterrey, following the toll bypass around Monterrey to the west, and then catching Mex 57D south near Saltillo. Folks bound for the Yucatán can get back to the coast using seveal routes including the new bypass around northwest Mexico City. This routing keeps them on well-traveled highways and quickly gets them away from the troubled border areas."..
Experience in Honduras (7/11/2010)

We have been travelling for some time now in our trusty (and rugged) iveco 4x4.

Now in Ecuador our most recent leg has been documented on our webpages We spent some time house sitting in Guatemala and then travelled through Belize up into Mexico back down through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and then of course Panama where we arranged shipment via container of our truck into Columbia.


Our pages contain diaries, photographs and also under the 'coming this way' section details of costs and issues regarding entry and exit for each country, fuel costs, download pages for routes and waypoints etc.


Generally we would say that each country except Honduras was easy to enter and traverse with no unusual or threatening situations but certainly some excitement!


However, Honduras can be a difficult country to get through. The police checks there are frequent and threatening. Their expectation is that you will hand them money.

BUT this is not obligatory!

in less than 150kms of country we were stopped 5 times other travellers got stopped up to 11 times in the same distance.

Often these stops would consist of a group of police surrounding the vehicle and attempting to look menacing. They have 3 things that every stop asked us about; Extinguisher?

Triangle? Reflective Stickers along vehicle?


The first 2 we have on board and assured them (and sometimes showed them) we carried them.

The last we do not have and though this was seen as a good reason to 'request' a $25 (or more) fine we never repeat NEVER paid.


We have travelled many countries in our years travelling through Africa, Asia, Russia, etc and certainly Honduars has been the worst for this style of corruption. However, WE NEVER EVER PAID. It is only because fools are intimidated and just hand out cash that these corrupt officials continue their game.


Before you travel be aware of where you are going, prepare yourself, stay cool when stopped, be polite, my advice is to not offer to speak or understand their local language (regardless of whether you do or not), smile lots, show photos, pull out maps, etc etc etc.

We never pull the car to the side of road, we always take a good few metres to stop so that we are further down the road than the main police stop, we always stop in middle of road thus disrupting traffic behind, we never switch vehicle off, we have doors locked and windows only ever half way down, we do not get out, we never hand over original documents (get good quality photocopies done in colour and laminated), WE NEVER PAY.


Of our 5 stops not one lasted longer than 4 minutes.

We left Honduras fairly quickly as this level of intimidation is unpleasent but we did not leave any poorer than we entered.


It is crazy in my opinion and will only encourage this corruption when people hand cash over, and if you have 'a grand' to so easily dispose of then I suggest handing it to a worthy cause or local school instead.




our pages are at :


phil and angie.

Comprehensive Camping Places List (5/10)

Ian Cassidy has compiled a nice camping places list drawing upon various web sources and his own experience. See
New Panama Camping Place Between David and Boquete (5/10)

See new camping place on the Camping Places page.
New Blog (1/09)

Here is a nice blog with current info on Central America. E.g. crossing info at El Amatillo.. they had a great time!

Gas Prices

El Salvador - $2.29/gal
Honduras - $3.55
WARNING: Dog Attacks at Caesar's, Sta. Elena, Belize (12/08)

Courtesy Sandra Chilbeck

We bought your book when we first starting planning our trip to Central America.
So far we have not made it out of Belize, but I wanted to write and let you know this:
We camped at Caesars in Santa Elena. Your book does mention the German Shepards, BUT!
We were not told of the number (6!) or the agressivness until we had been camped there 6 nights!
The owner told us that staff was not supposed to have allowed us to camp there if we had a dog, as his "pack" had already killed the dogs of two previous guests! He also assured us that his dogs were "not out in daylight hours".
Imagine our horror on Christmas morning, as Dave put out Max on a leash to take him out to "do his business" and all six of those dogs attacked him. The security guard had a rifle on his back, but did nothing more that hit the dogs with his fists. They heeded absolutely NO mind to anything that was said to them; there was NO control.
By finally getting enough people there to distract the dogs, we were able to rescue our border collie and get him into a vet in San Ignacio.
The owner dismissed our concern with "it's nothing, my dogs do this to each other all the time".
We cannot continue our journey into Guatemala as the vet warned us they would not let us in with such a severly injured animal. We feel so fortunate that Max was only seriously wounded, and not killed in front of our eyes.
PLEASE do not recommend this camping site anymore. Dogs with no one to control them are also capable of attacking a human/child who might wander out to use the outhouse.

Recent Trip Blog (11/08)

Here is a blog with recent information on camping places and border crossing:

Mexican Gulf Coast Update (8/08)

From Cindy and Derek (

Thought I would send in some updates on conditions of roads and  campgrounds that we have found so far.

 August 2008  After leaving Reynosa, RVs usually head for Rosie's Victoria RV Park  in Ciudad Victoria. Whilst still in Pharr, Texas, we tried contacting Victoria by email and phone but had no response. Our first stop was therefore La Gaviota in La Pesca. It was basically empty and charged $20 US per night. Water, sewer and duplex 15 amp outlet (enough to run 1 Air conditioner). Very nice swimming pool and cool breezes over the Soto La Marina  river. La Pesca itself very quiet. The Pemex in La Pesca has NO Diesel.

On the way south on MEX-180, the road is under construction from  aprox. 37 kms north to 22 kms north off Soto La Marina. Looks like it  is being widened. The new road from Soto La Marina to La Pesca is well under way. After making the turn east at Soto La Marina, there is a stretch  about 15 kms long of brand new, wide, level road; (NOTE: 4 large  unannounced and unsigned Topes about 7 kms after turning east), but  the next 12 kms are a mixure of the old 2 lane road; temporary road  where the new road crosses the old one and diversions around the  construction. It is especially fun in a truck and 37` 5th wheel,  following two road graders up a steep incline while they are laying  down roadbed gravel! The rest of the way is on the old road. 
We planned our next stop at the Bonitto Inn in Tampico. It is on the main Ave. Hidalgo about 1.1 kms after the fishing boat. They have erected columns around the entrance and to get into the driveway, without leaving the sides of your rig on these columns, you  must get into the 3rd lane from the right and wait for the earlier  traffic light to turn red and stop the following traffic, so you can  turn at 90 degrees across all 3 lanes, not good. We decided to pass. Luckily, we had set out early, so we headed for the Condado Western  in Cerra Azul. We managed to turn the whole rig around in the Supermercado parking  lot opposite the Bonitto. Then backtracked to the Tampico bypass. The instructions for the bypass are still valid (Chirch’s book - ed), once you get onto  MEX-70, after the first toll section, the entrance to the second  section is a ramp right and an overpass going south. The second  section is still in very bad shape, especially at the top of the hill  after the `Y` before making the turn right onto MEX-180 South. Toll charges for a F350 dually and 2 axle 5th wheel were 39 pesos and 66 pesos for each section. 

The Condado in Cerra Azul was also empty, so we had the pick of the sites. Duplex 15 amp (AC OK) and sewer (very high off the ground) were on site. Water was from the laundry & washroom block by long hose but  pressure was very low. Charged $15 for the night. The entrance for RVs is about 35 metres north of the main entrance. Very quiet even with the `Bordelo` warnings.  On to the Costa Esmeralda. We kept on MEX-180 through Tuxpan, took the bridge over the river  (follow the signs for Veracruz as you drive along the Malecon) then  onto MEX-180 D the good toll road south, 120 pesos. We used RV Park De Alba, the relatively new camp next to the Neptuno. Cost is $15 per night. Water (low pressure), sewer and duplex 15 amp at each back-in site. Water and electric only at the 2 or 3 pull-thrus in the center of the  park. Swimming pool and slide (being emptied and cleaned whilst we were  there). Easy access to the beach and Gulf of Mexico.  Couple of good restaurants in Casitas especially La Cabinata. Look for Mike in the Jayco 5th wheel next to the beach; he is a mine of information and basically a fixture here.

Insurance for Mexico and Central America (8/08)

From Cindy and Derek (

They acquired insurance from Charles Nelson, Nelson Insurance in McAllen, Texas (

Steve Jones suggests
sending an e-mail to: ...  "I'm certain she can help you with the insurance you need...thanks-steve"
Central America and Shipping to South America (6/08)

Courtesy of Rick and  Kathy Howe

A ditty :

“It is fair Panama where we set our scene;

T-t-t-tu-two taxis, in the same lane,

Both aggressive;

A dent on both your fenders.”

With all due apologies to Shakespeare in Love, which is, as you may remember, one of our favorite movies.
  If you know it well, you will remember the opening of “Romeo and Juliet” where the stuttering merchant-cum-actor is giving the prelude. 

How to sum up our feelings about Central America?
  It is wonderfully alive: aggressive, vibrant, colorful, difficult, engaging, full of contrasts, aggravating, geographically diverse and full of surprises, and – most of all – beautiful.

As I sit and write this, I am looking at a lovely swimming pool surrounded by lush foliage; monkeys and macaws and parrots are nearby, to say nothing of Guinea hens pecking away in the grass; palm trees are giving welcome shade to La Tortuga; the bright sunlight is tempered by a strong breeze to keep us cool under the palapa.  We are staying at the only RV campground in Panama.  Pretty nice, huh!  However, the rest of the story:  someone has been burning brush for days, making the air smoky and the coach smelly; the road to get here (the Pan-American highway) was filled with crazy drivers (see above), had poor signage except for zillions of billboards, and was often in fairly lousy condition; some invisible critter has taken a liking to and is busy making a welt on my arm; and nothing will dry because of the humidity.  Now THAT’S Central America!

We have taken a lot of pleasure from our time here in Central America.  We have found tremendous variety among the countries, and much to appreciate in each.  Guatemala gets Rick’s vote for best all-round favorite; I would either agree or put Honduras slightly higher.  Nicaragua was the least interesting; and we have found both Costa Rica and Panama far too modern, touristy and “Americanized” for our taste. 

In general, there’s a lot to like.  The short skirts and high heels favored by the women in the more cosmopolitan areas have Rick smiling; I think the men are gorgeous.  The countryside is so often green and lush; the mountains are high; there are plenty of streams to enjoy; agriculture is plentiful and if the soil is good the produce is huge as well as tasty.  Ranching and dairy cattle are big in several countries; we often saw large ranches with fat cattle and beautiful horses.  Bright colors are everywhere, in the homes and stores; the local clothes; the blue plastic bags hanging on the ripening bananas in the plantations; and let’s not forget the chicken buses, which could never be mistaken for their counterparts in the United States.  The liveliness of the roadside is charming:  herds of goats and horses and cattle, bullocks in harness, troops of pigs – all vying for space with you; and they sure think they need all the room.

We have never seen so many happy children, whether they are in school or playing near (or in) the road.  They are most often seen in their school uniforms and have beautiful, clear skin and dark eyes and hair.  In indigenous areas the children tended to be very shy (as were their parents) and would not meet our eyes, and we were unable to photograph them; other places they happily posed for us or simply went on their way.  To us, they seemed well behaved and quiet, although others might not agree.  A darker side of the picture is that in poor rural areas many of these children never have the chance for much schooling, as they are required in the home merely to help haul water and firewood. 

A land of contrasts:  beautiful flowers along dirty, dusty, pot-holed roads; gracious colonial architecture and remaining ruins alongside truly ugly modern apartments and office buildings; in the cities you often see great poverty, but in the countryside the people are generally very industrious with whole families working hard in the fields, often on very steep hillsides.

Some trends we noticed as we traveled further south:  The countries appear to be less indigenous.  The square (zocolo) is still the center of town activities, but it evolves from a park in front of the church to a futbol (soccer) field and play park.  Taxis start out as tuk-tuks or variations thereof, and by the time you are in Costa Rica they are modern cars.  The amount of trash along the roads varies from country to country, but is generally somewhat less of an issue than in Mexico, with collection people seen in several countries. 

Did we have favorite experiences?  Of course:  the Mayan ruins at Yaxja and Quirigua in Guatemala and at Joya de Ceren in El Salvador; Lake Atitlan, Guatemala; driving through the area around Boquete, Panama, and visiting the Jardin Paraiso there; seeing the guerrilla headquarters in Perquin, El Salvador; watching the geese on the water at Selva Negra, Nicaragua; the Orosi-Cachi Valley area east of San Jose, Costa Rica; Antigua, Guatemala; the area around Lake Arenal, Costa Rica; crossing over the canal on the Puente de las never be quite right; however, this gives you chances to explore places you didn’t know you were going to see.  So, life is in balance.  And volcanoes are always cool.

But for me (Kathy), the single defining event of Americas in Panama; an evening of music in Suchitoto, El Salvador; the museum at the ruins at Copan Ruinas, Honduras; experiencing Palm Sunday in La Esperanza, Honduras; and, ah yes, the market at Chichicastenango in Guatemala. 

Some givens:  new experiences are always exciting, although there are always some bad days in any journey; colonial areas in cities are always beautiful, even if they have the usual slums; and Central American coffee is wonderful everywhere (except to those who prefer tea). The map you are using will

our time in Central America was asking a middle-aged man in El Salvador for directions.  His wonderfully wrinkled, weathered face lit up (when he finally understand what I was asking in my mangled Spanish), and in his strong voice and with a huge grin and wide gestures, he pointed me on my way.  I will always treasure that moment. 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Well, since the above was written, we have managed to get both ourselves and La Tortuga to Colombia.  We have emerged bowed but unbeaten.  It was quite an adventure.

In preparing to ship, we had to leave our Garden of Eden where the first part of this message was written.  We went back to Panama City, spending our last days in Central America back by the Canal, in the area that we have come to call the “Balboa Lot Club.”  We scrambled around, jumping through all the necessary hoops to get our paperwork together, under the guidance of Evelyn Batista, from Barwill, our shipping agent.

For anyone who is preparing to ship from Central to South America, any information you can obtain is only good for a short period of time.  The different ports that can be used, the types of shipping available, the companies who are willing to ship – all change quite regularly.  When we were doing our research, we sent out inquiries to six different agencies for whom we had information.  Only one responded – Barwill, an agent for Seaboard Marine.  As it turned out, one was all we needed.  Evelyn Batista ( is their agent in charge of us RV type travelers. She has been with them for over ten years and really knows what she’s doing. She kept in touch with us and held our hands as we went from one spot to another, getting paperwork signed and paying fees as needed.  And we’ve met many travelers who have had the same experience using her.  It seems there are more options for those shipping north from South America to Central America, but if you are heading south, Evelyn is pretty much the only game in town.  (For an excellent, detailed account of this process, visit and click on their “shipping” log.  All the information you need, and written as well as anyone could.) 

All went well.  Our biggest concern was security while the rig was sitting in the port at Colon, waiting to be loaded.  So, the last morning, we spent several hours removing everything from the outside of the rig and packing it into the interior, as well as installing a strong barrier between the cab area and the rest of the coach, as we would have to give the port people the car keys (but not the keys to the back) in order for them to drive the rig onto the loading platform.  We then drove to Colon (I followed Rick in a rental car – other options would be to either take the bus or a taxi back to Panama City after dropping off your rig); the two hour trip took three because of horrible traffic.

We said good-by to La Tortuga on Friday afternoon, and went back to Panama City to hang out until our Sunday flight.  We had decided that if we were going to be stuck in a hotel for several days, it might be a good idea to consider its location; hotels in town offer more to do than ones out near the airport or along the water.  Good decision: wi-fi in the room, restaurants and shopping nearby, nice pool available, at the Country Inn El Dorado.  For flight arrangements we used Aires Airlines, a small Colombian based company ( where the fare was about half what we could find on Expedia or Travelocity.

Sunday’s flight was easy and pleasant, and there were only seven of us who got off in Cartagena; baggage claim took only a moment.  Cartagena was just as hot as Panama, ‘though not quite as murky.  Fortunately, we had arranged for a hotel for a couple of nights, until we could get La Tortuga out of hock.  We stayed at the Hotel Da Pietro, a perfect choice.  Though not in the colonial part of town, it was a lovely little reasonably-priced hotel that took excellent care of us, and even found a spot for La Tortuga when the time came.  Highly recommended to anyone making this trip. 

Retrieving the rig was supposed to happen on Monday, but no – “sorry, but Monday is a holiday in Cartagena.”  Well, rats, nobody bothered to tell us.  We spent the extra day enjoying the city, and it was indeed a significant holiday for them to be celebrating; the 475th birthday of Cartagena.  So, Tuesday morning we were at the dock early.  We spent the entire day, with the aid of a “helper” from Seaboard Marine, the shipping company, running back and forth between offices, spending a relative fortune on taxis, getting paperwork signed, finding the keys we had left back in the hotel room, paying a significant bribe to an unknown official to make a correction on a document that had been wrong since we had first entered Panama in April, etc. etc. etc.  Ultimately, about 6:00 pm we drove away from the port.  We were wiped, but La Tortuga had survived without a scratch.  The only vandalism had been the removal of a Costa Rica sticker off the back.  The only food I lost as a result of the fridge being off for four days was some cheese – and my beloved blueberries, the few ones remaining from the bunch I had picked in the Northwest Territories last summer. Tired but happy, we collapsed at the hotel again, and got up early the next morning to spend a few hours putting everything back where it belonged so we could get out of town.  Costs of this adventure were about $2,500 to ship our 19’ rig including actual shipping costs and port charges at both ends; plus $300 in air fare for us plus what ended up being six nights in hotel rooms, eating out etc. Interestingly, when the time comes, we’ll be able to ship from the US to Europe for about the same shipping cost!

With all of the difficulties involved in leaping the Darien Gap, we can only say that we are very glad this experience is behind us.  However, we don’t want to discourage others from following this route.  It was well worth it.  But for now we are very glad South America is such a large continent! 

Still having a ball – Rick and Kathy and La Tortuga, heading south

La Tortuga arrives in South America



Propane, Camping, Border Crossings, Shopping Locations,

and Fuel Prices in Central America

Compiled by Kathy & Rick Howe,

Updated 5/15/08


The following information is intended to be added to the existing literature on places to camp, shop and locate propane in Central America.  It is by no means all-inclusive.  We’ve also included fuel costs during our journey and anecdotal border crossing information.  It is highly recommended that anyone wishing to travel in this area investigate the following extremely valuable websites: , , , , and

Read their entire Travelogue here!



Note: RVs (like ours) with chassis mounted propane tanks often must go to a different location than those with removable tanks. There are more locations that can service removable tanks.




Estanzuela.  Zetagas is available on CA-10 at the north end of town on the east side of the road.


Quetzaltenango.  Between Cuatros Caminos and the Xela town center, but south of the turn off for the bypass for San Marcos are two plants.  We got help at the Zetagas plant.  It’s just below Km 93, on the east side of the road.  They couldn’t fill our tank but guided us to a place where they had the truck meet us and fill our tank.


Santa Elena.  There is an old, but operating Tropigas plant about 2 Kms south of town on the road to San Francisco.  Heading south on the only major road out of town you will approach a circulio and a Shell station on the left; make a left turn in front of the station and this will put you on the road to San Francisco.  In about 1 Km you will see the plant on your left.  N16 54.170 W89 54.895


Villa Nueva.  Reportedly there is a Zetagas plant at Km 19 along CA-9, a little south of town. 


El Salvador


Joya de Ceren.  Tropigas plant just off CA-1, approximately 2 Km after turn north onto Joya road. 




After leaving La Ceiba, somewhere between Los Planes and Saba we saw a Tropigas propane plant on the south side of the road, at N 15 33.290 W86 16.560.




Esteli.  Tropigas on the highway in town on the east side, just after you pass the Shell station on the same side of the street; cross street is Calle 10a SE.  N13 05.282

W86 21.107


Costa Rica


Belen (San Jose Area) Heading east, between the airport and the turn off for the Belen Trailer Park, approximately one mile west of the road you turn on to go to the trailer park, on the north side of the highway is a Total Gas service station that has pumps for propane as well as gasoline and diesel.  The station is most easily reached going westbound; there is an unmarked off ramp right at the station.  These stations are scattered around the San Jose area at least and all seem to offer propane.  The sign for the station says “LP Carburacion” like the signs at propane stations in Mexico.  We’ve been told that some other gas stations in Costa Rica offer propane as well.  N9.59.834 W84.10.099




Cartago.  East of town, along the highway, there is a Zetagas on the south side of the road at N9 51.450 W83 56.800. 


David.  Between David and Chiriqui there is a Panagas on the north side of the highway at about N08 25.300 W82 21.600.  about a half-mile further east there is a Tropigas on the south side of the highway. 


Divisa.  Just east of town on the north side of the road are both Panagas and Tropigas, at about N8 09.150 W80 40.925.






Antigua.  Tourist police yard.  We inquired at the tourist office as to a place that would be okay for boondocking.  They called the police yard to confirm, and then sent us there.  It is a location outside the bollards that surround the center of the city, and near the bus parking area.


Esquipulas.  We spent the night in the parking lot next to the Pollo Compero, beside the basilica; $6 to the security guard.


Flores.  We spent the night, for free, on the malecon on the island; turn left as soon as you cross the bridge.  We asked permission from the restaurant across the way.


Huehuetenango.  We were unable to locate other noted o/n spots, and stopped at the Pino Montana Hotel, which welcomed us.  It is located on the main highway (CA-1) on the south side of the road at about KM 258.  They charged us $10 for the night.


Quetzal Sanctuary.  We spent the night at the Mario Dary Rivera Biotopo, about an hour below Coban.  This is a small parking lot, although they have a second one of equal size nearby.  We gave the security guard $3 for the night.


Santa Elena.  As you enter town from the east there is a Puma station on the south side of the road.  Will find water and electric on a pole near the rest rooms.


Uspantan.  We entered town and looked for the tourist office, which was closed; a nice fellow next door led us to the home of the woman who was handling tourism duties at the time.  After a search, she found a hotel with a secure interior yard, the Maya Parqueo.  We stayed the night; unfortunately, it was also a mechanic’s work yard, so it wasn’t lovely; but it was secure.  $5 for the night.


Yaxha.  We stayed two nights, free, along the shores of Lago Yaxha, inside the national park.  There probably was electricity at a palapa nearby, but they were working to develop the area and we wanted to keep out of the way of the construction crew.


El Salvador


Perquin.  We boondocked in the parking lot of the Museo de la Revolution in this tiny town with steep, narrow streets; gave $4 to the security guards.


Sonsonate.  On CA-12, about 2 miles north of town there is a fancy balneario on the east side of the road, San Bernardo; it is also a nursery.  We stayed two nights, feeling somewhat conspicuous, at $25/2nights.


Suchitoto.  A lovely balneario with restaurant, down by the lake; El Mangal de Suchitlan, at N13 56.733 W89 10.077




Gracias.  We spent the night, free, along the road into Celaque National Park.  This is a very rough road and should be approached with caution; twisty and steep.  We didn’t quite make it to the visitors center, but hiked up the next morning.  You would only be able to get level with difficulty.


Lago de Yojoa.  Finca Las Glorias; a lovely resort with a level area for RVs at

N14 56.787 W88 02.280.


Miguel Guancapla.  This is a small dusty town about halfway between Gracia and La Esperanza.  We stopped at the police station and were told we were welcome to park along the street, near the square.  It was okay, but not great.  No charge.


Saba.  Hotel Executive.  We had to circle around town awhile before we found it; it’s on the road out of town toward Olanchito, at N15 30.907 W86 13.846.


San Juancito.   We spent the night at the El Rosario entrance to La Tigra National Park, near Valle de Angeles.  We do not recommend this for most vehicles.  You enter via San Juancito, which is tight and narrow.  Then you proceed 2 miles up a very narrow and tight and steep rough road to the park visitors center.  It is, however, lovely up here and they let us boondock for free.  Could not get level.


Seguatepeque.  Shell station across from Wendys and on the west side of the highway at N14 35.011 W87 50.881


Valle de Angeles.  There is several places to stay in the area, but we were advised the most secure would be in the hospital parking lot.  We asked for permission and were allowed to overnight for free.




Esteli.  We stayed at the Club Campestre, 4 kms north of town, on the east side of the road.  It was free, but we tipped the guard $2.50/night.  There is a pool, showers, electricity and water; some shade; it is a large grassy open field.  We were delighted.


Matagalpa.  Selva Negra is 12 kms above town, on the road north.  This is a hideaway in a forest, with flowers, birds, hiking trails, and real seclusion.  Boondocking was free after paying the $2 entrance fee, and redeemable for a meal in the restaurant.  Only for small rigs, and we had trouble finding a place to get level.  But well worth the trouble.  In a cloud forest; run by Germans.  Good food.


Costa Rica


Fortuna (north of Bagaces, not La Fortuna near Arenal).  Volcan Miravalles area.  This is on a loop road going east between Torno and Guayabo.  In the middle of the ICE thermoelectric plant area is a hot springs called Las Hornillas Pailas.  They let us stay in the parking area for $10/night.  N10 42.884 W85 10.592.


Las Canas.  Hotel Capazurri, listed in several places as an overnighting opportunity, is closed and carries a for sale sign.  This is right next to the very interesting Las Pumas animal refuge.


Liberia area.  About 4 miles northwest of town is the Delfin Trailer Park.    This is an excellent base for exploring.  Just north of the entrance to the park is a turn to the east towards Rincon de la Vieja National Park.  This road goes into the mountains about 8 miles.  We camped at the park entrance, for free, for two nights.  We entered the park during the day to hike, but suspected they didn’t care.  This is a great spot.


Nuevo Arenal.  Going west around the lake, we took a right turn onto a road toward Volcan Tenorio.  The map marks this as the road to Tierras Morenas.  After 2.9 miles we came to an unmarked, unpaved right turn going up a grade; we followed it a ways and found a great place to park beside the road.  Unparalleled views and quiet, although windy.  N10 34.463 W85 00.627


Playa Pinuela.  On the Pacific coast, east of Dominical.  Small, lovely beach with several parking places right along the water.  The turn to the beach is between Km 170-171; the signage is sufficient but not great.  Free during the week. 


Volcan Arenal.  We turned in on the dirt road toward Volcan National Park, and then on beyond it.   At a total of 3.3 miles from the main road you cross a bridge and make an immediate left.  You ford a small stream and continue for a short distance to the river.  Can park here for the night and can get a good view of the volcano if it is active. 

N10 26.300 W84 43.773




Boquete.  The Visitor’s Center will allow you to stay overnight in their parking lot (they are about one mile outside town to the south) but it seemed quite noisy and right on the road.  We went into town, turned right a couple of blocks before the square, and found our way to the river.  There is a soccer field ahead of you, with a fence along its right side.  If you go to the right of this fence, along this road, you will come to a large open field.  It is public land and you are welcome to stay there, apparently as long as you would like.  It was perfect.


Volcan.  We spent a quiet night parked in front of the fire station, about two blocks off the main street.  They let us fill with water.  We had heard there was a gravel lot on the south edge of town that could be used; we think it has been built on, as we were unable to locate it. 






Chiquimula. As you enter town from the North, at the intersection for the road going into the center of town, a new mall with a nice Paiz; also a Pollo Campero, food court and several ATMs in the mall.


Santa Elena.  As you enter town from the east there is a new Maxi Bodega on the south side of the road. 


El Salvador


San Miguel.  Good shopping center on main road as you go alongside the town.  It is on the north side of the road right where the Burger King sign is.


Costa Rica


Liberia. There is a new Jumbo supermarket at the first signal intersection as you enter from the north. Turn right toward the airport, then left into the parking lot. Also several banks and ATMs at this location.




David.  There is a large new Rey supermarket and also a big hardware store (Do-It Center) on the right hand side just after you make the turn to the north to go to Boquete.  Excellent shopping. 


Cartago.  There is a big new Mega Super on the north side of the road, east of Cartago and before you get to Paraiso.



We have included here the border crossings we used between the countries; the information is based on our experience only and not meant to imply that these are the only crossings.  We advise that you bring the equivalent of $75 in local funds to each border.  If you have “leftovers” they can be converted later.  Our costs are given in USD equivalents.


Mexico – Guatemala.  Paso Hondo-La Mesilla.  Quiet and straightforward.  No difficulties.  You enter into the main street of La Mesilla, but simply need to keep going straight to get out into the countryside.  Cost: $20.83


Guatemala – El Salvador.  Valle Nuevo.  Very well organized, helpful, quick and pleasant.  Out in the countryside.  Cost:  $7.84 entering El Salvador, and $5.17 to return to Guatemala. 


Guatemala – Honduras.  El Florido-Copan Ruinas.  Again, straightforward, easy and quick.  Copan Ruinas is about 11 Kms from the border, and makes a good evening destination.  Cost:  38.06


Honduras – Nicaragua.  Las Manos-Dipito.  No dificulties.  A quiet, rural area; we went on to Esteli for the night.  Cost: $ 52.31


Nicaragua – Costa Rica.  There is only one crossing, and it’s quite difficult, expensive, and chaotic.  No good recommendation.  This is the only crossing where we used local help, and then only because we could not seem to avoid doing so.  $101.23 


Costa Rica – Panama.  San Vito-Rio Sereno.  This is a small mountain crossing about half-way between the two oceans.  It was very quiet (we almost had to wake them up to let us through) with virtually no turmoil.  Everyone was nice and we had no trouble.  There is a short stretch (4 miles) of unpaved, rather rough road on the Costa Rica side leading up to the border.  Panama requires actual stamps for your passport; they are not available at the border so you have to walk a quarter-mile into town; they require US funds to enact this transaction.  Because of the walk the entire process took about 1/12 hours.  Cost:  $22.00




These prices are the average for what we paid in each country.  We have a diesel engine; the diesel prices are actual.  We have included estimated gasoline prices (regular).


Country                      Diesel Price (Actual)               Regular Gas (Estimated)


Mexico (1/08)                                     $2.10                                       $0.35 higher


Guatemala (2-3/08)                             $3.35-3.65                               $0.25 higher


El Salvador (2/08)                               $3.60                                       $0.30 higher


Honduras (3/08)                                  $3.10-3.15                               $0.30 higher


Nicaragua (4/08)                                  $4.25                                       $0.20 higher


Costa Rica (4/08)                                $3.90-4.05                               $0.25 higher


Panama (5/08)                                     $3.65-3.95                               $0.05 lower 


Couchsurfing (May 2008)

This email was received via the Silk Route Club Yahoo! Group. is a group of individuals around the  world willing to provide a bed or couch for travelers at no cost.  They now have a subgroup specifically willing to make their driveway available for RVs.  It seems limited now, but it will grow.  I found one member in Paraguay.  You might keep this link on your "favorites" to check as you travel!

"I am writing to you because we at couchsurfing would like you to put out in your newsletter that goes to your Rv Club Members that we have drive ways around the world that are available for RV owners that want to park there RV's over night or for a couple of days."

the group address on couchsurfing is:


Raymond Cox
C/- Po Box 972
Ayr 4807
North Queesland
Places to Camp Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras (April 2008)
Courtesy Kathy and Rick Howe
NOTE: Kathy has sent a long epistle with more information.  I have included it here as a link.


Santa Elena.  As you enter town from the east there is a Puma station on the south side of the road.  Will find water and electric on a pole near the rest rooms.


El Salvador

Suchitoto.  A lovely balneario with restaurant down by the lake; El Mangal de Suchitlan, at N13 56.733 W89 10.077



Seguatepeque.  Shell station across from Wendys and on the west side of the highway at N14 35.011 W87 50.881


Lago de Yojoa.  Finca Las Glorias; a lovely resort with a level area for RVs at N 14 56.787 W88 02.280.


Saba.  Hotel Executive.  We had to circle around town awhile before we found it; it’s on the road out of town toward Olanchito, at N15 30.907 W86 13.846.


Propane Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras (April 2008)

Courtesy Kathy and Rick Howe




Estanzuela.  Zetagas is available on CA-10 at the north end of town on the east side of the road.


Quetzaltenango.  Between Cuatros Caminos and the Xela town center, but south of the turn off for the bypass for San Marcos are two plants.  We got help at the Zetagas plant.  It’s just below Km 93, on the east side of the road.


Santa Elena.  There is an old, but operating Tropigas plant about 2 Kms south of town on the road to San Francisco.  Heading south on the only major road out of town you will approach a circulio and a Shell station on the left; make a left turn in front of the station and this will put you on the road to San Francisco.  In about 1 Km you will see the plant on your left.  N16 54.170 W89 54.895


Villa Nueva.  Reportedly there is a Zetagas plant at Km 19 along CA-9, a little south of town. 


El Salvador


Joya de Ceren.  Tropigas plant just off CA-1, approximately 2 Km after turn north onto Joya road. 



After leaving La Ceiba, somewhere between Los Planes and Saba we saw a Tropigas propane plant on the south side of the road, at N 15 33.290 W86 16.560.


Mexico and Guatemala Updates (March 2008)

Rick and Kathy Howe

10-year Stickers for Mexico and Bite You


In December 2007 we crossed the border into Mexico.  We had made a stop in Nacogdoches, Texas (where the Foretravel is stored) to make some last clothing/book changes, and then headed for Los Indios, our chosen border crossing.  And immediately ran into problems.  All because of those wonderful 10-year stickers they are now putting on motor homes as they cross into Mexico.  Our problem stemmed from the fact that over the last two years we had traveled in Mexico in two other vehicles, one of which we had subsequently sold.  Each of them had been issued a hologram, one in each of our names.  When we sold one of them, we sent all the paperwork (in June 2007) to Mexico City to have the permit rescinded; as of today we still have not received confirmation of this.  Therefore, when arriving at the border, we already had two vehicles in their system, and they would not issue us a permit for the Tiger.  We tried at 3 different border crossings, each time showing them all the paperwork we had sent in; no dice.  Mexican customs agents do not make their own decisions, nor are they willing to call Mexico City and see what our status is.  Ultimately, our only choice was to drive to Nacogdoches, take the Foretravel to the border, turn in its hologram, and return it to Nacogdoches before heading back down to the border in the Tiger.  Got all that?  It was a mess.  Two thousand miles and one week later, we crossed the border successfully.  The lesson here is:  if you are returning to the States from Mexico, and you have any inkling you might sell the vehicle you are in, turn in the hologram at the border.  Don't even think twice.  The cost of getting another sticker another year is minimal in comparison with the hassle we went through.


Gas Prices in Mexico and Huatemala (Jan 2008)


In Mexico as of January 2008, we were paying just over $2.10 per gallon for diesel, with regular gas about $.30 higher; in Guatemala, unlike Mexico, fuel prices vary just as they do in the US or Canada and diesel is running from $3.35 to $3.70 per gallon, with gas again about $.30 higher.


No Camping at Hyper Paiz in Xela


We had planned to hang out in Xela for a couple of days, getting used to being in Guatemala and seeing the sights.  We had been told people boondocked in the Hyper Paiz lot.  (Hyper Paiz is Wal-Mart's presence here; it is big, has many things you've been searching for ever since you left the US, and seems reasonably priced.)  When we found the Hyper Paiz we were told we could not stay overnight in the lot.  Period, no discussion. 


Road Work between Xela and Panajachel


The next morning we decided, even though we had to go back towards Xela regardless, not to spend more time there; we were interested in moving on, and so headed for Panajachel, on Lago Atitlan, supposedly one of the really delightful spots in this country.  But...they are working on the road between the two towns.  And was that a zoo!  This is a very long-term project, incidentally; they are rebuilding this road all the way between Xela and Guatemala City.  We figure about 10 years.  So, what's roadwork like, Guatemala-style?  First, you take down all the road signs.  Now; not when you are ready to work on an area; now.  (This was one reason we got so lost in and around Xela.)  Traffic is stopped for long periods; well, at least some of the traffic.  There's a big board across the road, with big nails in it; that board gets moved aside for the work trucks...and, we think, for an occasional person with "special" needs.   Then, when it's time for all of us to start up, the chicken busses zoom out in front first.  They crowd everyone else aside, and quickly move out; they race ahead...until the first hill.  Then we all have to pass them.  Then they pass us on the downhill.  You get the picture.  In our case, we were also foiled by a fellow who casually leaned on the side of our vehicle, and we being polite folks, waited for him to move a bit before we pulled out to get started.  We realized afterwards that he was holding us back so that a truck he was "helping" could get ahead of us.  Dirty pool!




We finally did get to Panajachel - and collapsed.  We found a lovely spot at the Hotel Tzanjuyu, in an open field right along the lake.  The hotel provides us with hot showers, water, and a dump; and with some electricity if needed at the end of a long cord (we plugged the crock pot in one day).  We can get wi-fi whenever the assistant manager has his office open; we try not to abuse this privilege, but he's most gracious.  He and his family live there; he also has a hang glider-paraglider operation that he runs; the benefit of this is the opportunity to see various folks landing in "your" field right at your doorstep.  We walk to town every day; it's a nice town, cleaner than what we have been accustomed to in Mexico.  We have found good food (the Maktub'ar Café has splendid wood-fired pizza), good coffee (the Crossroads Café) and not two but three English bookstores. 


Camping in Antigua


We had reports of various hotels as options, and the most common reference was of a parking area out beyond the bus terminal.  We checked the latter out first, but found it locked and unattended.  Rather than chasing around an old, old city trying to find hotels in unknown locations, we decided to make our way to the center of town and throw ourselves on the mercy of the tourist office.  Getting downtown was interesting; some of the streets have bollards to keep out the big trucks (we squeaked through), but in general the streets are wider than in colonial Mexican towns, and we wiggled along. 


Visiting the tourist office was a good idea.  The fellow spoke excellent English, knew what we needed, and got us settled.  He directed us to the enclosed compound where the tourist police kept their vehicles and had their headquarters.  It was an open field with plenty of room, cost us nothing, and we were only about 3 blocks from the center of town.  (The location of this place is outside the bollard area and anyone could get in.  If you have the Lonely Planet map of Antigua, it is number 108.  It is on 6A Calle Poniente between Calz de Santa Lucia and 7A Av Sur, on the north side of the street.  Don´t know what would happen if someone simply stopped by; as you know, we were referred by the tourist office and they called to say we were coming.....).  No services, but I suspect they would have been happy to find us a bathroom if it were needed.  We stayed two nights, and they wouldn't have minded if we'd been there longer.  The chicken busses were noisy until around 7-8 at night, but after that it quieted right down.  We were delighted. 




Off to Huehuetenango, where we spent the night.  We had heard about a couple of spots, but couldn't find them; we ended up having a very quiet night at the Pinos Montana Hotel, right on CA-1 on the outskirts of town, on the south side of the road at about KM 258.  They put us into the interior courtyard area, and security kept a close eye on us. 


Huehuetenago to Coban


Next adventure:  we wanted to take the road from Huehuetenango to Coban.  All reports said it was a stunningly lovely trip through "the real Guatemala"  -- but also that there was a section of ghastly, unpaved, in-the-middle-of-construction road that was AWFUL.  Well, right on all counts! 


We took it in stages.  The first part of the road is really great.  We took a detour partway along, going up into the Ixil Triangle to visit Nebaj, Chajul and San Juan Cotzal.  The road goes up and down through the mountains, ultimately rising 3800 feet in 8 miles, quite astonishing.  These small, tucked away villages are only now catching up with civilization, have a proud heritage of independence and adherence to the old ways, and are very interesting to visit.  They tolerated us well, but are not really set up for tourists, so we merely passed through, enjoying the lovely mountainous countryside and a chance to see "old" areas. 


Rejoining the main road, we spent the night in Uspantan.  We had heard from one source that they had spent the night on the town square, and it had been pretty noisy; we were hoping to do better.  We found what was supposed to be the tourist office, but it was closed.  Inquiring next door, this very nice fellow led us through town to the home of the woman who was volunteering to "do" tourist duty.  After a lot of phone calls and sending her sons off to check on possibilities, she found us a place for the night:  in the (secure) parking area of a small hotel, which was also -- a mechanic's repair yard.  It was quiet and sufficient, but hardly a highlight of our time in Guatemala.  The next day - back to "the road from hell."


Guatemala's new roads are created to a higher standard than Mexico's - they are a real pleasure.  And our road (7W) was complete all the way (going east) to Chicaman.  Then it is unpaved until you get to San Cristobal Verapaz.  That's 51 kilometers of unbelievably difficult road.  We had been warned about this section, but had imagined that it was an existing two lane that was being repaved.NOT!  This was a case of an always unpaved track being turned into a modern two lane highway - very, very slowly.  It was narrow, it was (profoundly) muddy, it was very much up and down and around, it was (of course) supremely disorganized; in short, it was every vehicle for itself and watch out for the big rigs.  In the end, we survived without damage but were awfully glad to have the four wheel drive, 'though few of the other vehicles had that luxury.  In retrospect it was an adventure, but there were times when it was a bit tense.  





Finally back to paved road, we made the rest of the trip into Coban without trouble.  We have settled into Parque Nacional Las Victorias, very close to the center of town.  They have a nice grassy area under the trees where we can camp, with water nearby.  We can shop, wander town, and --- more business to take care of - try and make arrangements to have our mail forwarded to us.  We figure this needs about 3 weeks lead-time, and are trying to call places further ahead on our route to see if we can receive mail there.  Just another part of the adventure!


Coban is small enough to be very enjoyable, but big enough for a shopping mall that is right on the main drag into town.  Heaven, some would say!  One special attraction we enjoyed was the Vivero Verapaz orchid nursery.  We are happy to be here for a bit. 


We would love to hear from you; we're pretty good correspondents - send us a message! 

Rick and Kathy Howe, and Trav'ler (the Tiger).  We're at  And you can view more of our pictures on Flickr at 

Guatemala Road Update (12/07)
Courtesy Kathe Kirkebride

We crossed into Guatemala from Belize at Melchor de Mencos and headed west....the rough section of road was not too bad this year...From the border we went through El Cruce and headed toward Coban on the new road. The new part of the road was terrific....then, when you hit San Cristobal de Alta Verapaz, there is a 30 km section that is unfinished until the bridge....that 30 km took 4 1/2 was a doozy with some waits while traffic came through from the other direction.

Then the road got good again and we headed to Santa Cruz del Quiche for the short jaunt down to Chichi for market one point we had to put the rig on a ferry to cross a river at Uspantan. Short jaunt, Hah!!!!! The bridge was out and we were re-routed through Chiche' via a terrible, muddy, steep, dirt road cut just the day before.....all the truck traffic was on it with us and at one point we got stuck in a ditch (on the inside of the road thank the goddess) and a long line of traffic had to back up so we could get another run at the hill.....a bit harrowing.....and another 4 hours of pure torture.

The rest of the trip down into Panajachel via Solola was a piece of cake by comparison. Coming home we went through Guatemala City...paid a taxi driver 150 Quetzales to lead us out the other side, thence on to Rio Dulce, Poptun and back into Belice.
Guatemala Camping Update (8/07)
Courtesy Yasha Langford & Juergen Klein

1. Hotel Tzanjuyu in Panajachel: despite the latest statement on your update page we are currently staying at this place, and have been for over  for over 3 weeks! During our stay there have also been two fifth-wheelers and another C-class camper in here. It appears that the property has changed hands and they are actually doing some work around the place...

2. Fuentes Georginas near Xela: the price has changed to Q40 per person, plus Q20 for the vehicle. Unfortunately we didn't have a nice view to enjoy, nor was it inviting to use the hotspring pools or shower since the rain season (visited late August) brings low cloud and rather cool temperatures.

3. NEW: Hotel Real Pacifico [  - website not ready] between Frontera El Carmen and Malcatan. We were very welcomed at this newly built hotel, the english speaking night manager told us that they actually had planned their backyard for use by campers! It's a  large grassed area away from the road right next to a bubbling river, so it's fairly quiet. You get to use their lovely large pool and poolside bathroom (toilet and cold shower), and at the time of our stay they were building a large palapa at the campsite which has provisions for power outlets. Free (locked) WiFi is available, too. We would like to encourage people to check this place out! The paved driveway is a little steep and has a few overhanging branches, but it's simply nice to see such a beautiful place willing to open up for campers... It should be easily possible to reach this location in one day via the Pacific route from Tuxtla Gutierrez or Puerto Arista in Mexico (the nearest listings in "Mexican Camping" by the Churches). The official address is Kilometre 272 Panamericana, around 5 miles from border on a T-intersection to Malcatan, GPS is N14°55'00.8", W092°05'38.6". We were the first to use this place and paid Q100, but we also told the manager that we found it just a little too much...

4. Frontera El Carmen: this is supposed to be the easiest border along the Pacific route (the other being a truck crossing), and we have only experienced the Guatemaltecan side to re-new our vehicle permit. We found it rather busy (all car importers are using it), chaotic and slow! Whereas the entire crossing from Belize into Guatemala took us just 40 minutes, here we spent around one-and-a-half hours just renew the vehicle permit. The lanes are narrow and probably not suited for large RVs, although we saw large tour buses squeeze through. Then again: we would NOT recommend visiting Guatemala in a large RV, since the roads are very narrow and turns are often very sharp, cables and signs often hang very low (not to mention second-floor balconies) - we often think that our 4x4 truck camper is the maximum size we would want to drive here.
The road from this Frontera El Carmen down to the CA2 (Pacific hwy) is newly sealed and very smooth; we hit a couple of not sign-posted "tumulos" [topes] on a clear stretch of road, on both ends of a narrow bridge.

The CA1 from this border via San Marcos to Xela is rather windy and rough, from Xela to the Panajachel-turnoff is almost all under construction, upgrade to 4 lanes...

Please check our website for other camping options!

Still Camping at Hotel Tzanjuyu (Panajachel, Guatemala) (8/07)
Courtesy Bob and Jan Boyd

We have been parked here for almost two weeks.  There are a total of three campers here.  It is true they try to get $10 but deals can be made for less.  There is electric and water (with low pressure) and a can for trash.  The grass is two feet deep and they mowed a path.  The view is beautiful. 

Regarding Hotel Vision Azul, Yes we drove there but they are more expensive I think 100Q = about $14. compared to 75Q= 10.50. About the same in view but cleaner bathrooms at Hotel Tzanjuyu and less people.  In our view it was nicer and somewhat closer to walk to store and  town.

By the time we left Hotel Tzanjuyu there were four of us.  They had worked on electric and were beginning to replace the bridge to get to bathrooms.  Grounds were well  kept but camp area was deep in grass.

Hotel Tzanjuyu in Panajachel No Longer a Camping Option (7/07)

Courtesy Aaron and Amy Young

For any one headed to Lago Atitlan, Hotel Tzanjuyu is no longer an option.  We stopped there on our return north bound trip about 4 weeks ago.  They had not paid there bills and as such had no water,  electricity, or staff for that matter.  The grass was at least two feet  long.  It is still an incredible view but not "vale la pena" (worth it).  They wanted the equivelant of $10 to camp.  We told them that was ridiculous and were told to talk to the manager when he got back.  He
finally showed up four days later ( on our way out).  We payed him three per night and told him that was all he was getting.  He said fine, I was coming to tell you that we don't want campers here anymore.
Shipping an RV to South America (7/07)

See our South America page for updates to the shipping information.  See for an opportunity to travel from Alaska to Patagonia in 2010!!
Camping Places in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala (4/07)
Courtesy George Baines

We are now back in Mexico and headed home.  Here some more camping  places in Central America.  Once again remember we have a truck with  camper on it so some of these are not suitable for large RVs.


Volcan Masaya Natl Park, camp at visitor center.  They asked as we  entered if we wanted to stay.  Water and toilets, no power. Guarded  all night, nice big flat parking lots, lots of birds.  You are kept  out of the volcano area (spectacular) at night.   

Tourist Center Lake Xiloa, just outside of Managua.  Shade, near  lake, quiet safe place near Managua. No hookups any size rig.swimming.   

Ponaloya (beach outside of Leon) go out rd to Ponoloya, turn left to  Las Penitas near water.  Go south to Playa Roca, small hotel, Cookie  is the proprietor a retired Amer. civil engineer, happy to have small  Rvs, up to two will fit. $2 per rig. Showers, toilets, no elect.,  good restaurant.  Nice surf at right tide.
Honduras.    Note on route north. Nacaome River crossing is EAST of Nacaome not  west as listed in 99Days.

El Salvador  

Playa Espino, go to end of paved road, turn left go down narrow lane  nearly to end, nice places to stay, with room for any sized rig,  busses turn here. Pit toilets, water. Great beach good beach  break,great sunsets. Watch out for Semana Santa!   [Ed. note... we turned right at the beach and found a nice  area with a palapa  where the owner allowed us to camp, but it was very tight and we damaged our awning getting out.  Sounds like going left is the  best choicehere!  Thanks George.]

Playa Sanzal.  Roots, new campground for surfers, good sized rigs  will fit. New Bathrooms, water, power maybe. Classic point break to  right on beach another local surf spot to left (Boca).  $3 PP.On road to Perquin (eastern mountains)  Hotel Ocatal $5 pp. pool.  showers, restaurant.   

Llano del Muerto (Balneario) 20min. off main rd.  $2 pp.  Showers,  pool, water.  Great area near Rio Negro.   

Atlantis Aquatic Park, near San Salvador airport, on road to beach.   Waterworld meets Disneyland!  The manager here went out of his way  to set us up for the night.  This is not an RV place but a major  Balneario/entertainment center.  They rent airconditioned cabins,  first class, have many pools great restaurants, water slides etc.   This is a great place to stay and meet someone coming in by air. 20  min. to airport.   

Cerro Verde (outside Sonsonate) $10 per rig, lots of room, at 6000  ft to cool off at night.  Toilets, botanic garden, great views.   

Parque Aquatico Apuzunga, south of Metapan, in mountains in western  El Salvador.  Another baneario, owner is Raul Sanabria, speaks better  English than he admits, great water park around natural spring on a  big river (rafting) recreaton area, restaurants, toilets, showers,  swimming.  Any size rig, little hard to get into, but well signed.   $25 for two rigs (6 people) included full use of park!


Poptun, on road to Tikal, Finca Ixobel.  Really fine place to stay,  many side trip opportunities.  Great restaurant, power, toilets,  showers, water.  Highly recommended!    Note  you cannot take pets into the Tikal park or campground!    You can camp and they don't mind pets at Yaxha.

Road note:  The road from St Elena/Flores to Sayaxche has been paved,  this lets you easily into another classic Mayan ruin area around the  Passion River.  There is a ferry to take any size Rv across river $2  for my truck.  The road is also paved from here to Coban, making a  loop around the Peten possible. Road note;  the road from Coban to Huehuetanago is passable with a  high clearance vehicle.  The first third is unpaved and very rough,  but very beautiful.  The next two thirds are newly paved and also  beautiful but are steep mountain driving (up to 6000 ft. and down to  2000 ft. at least 6 times!)  It also passes right through the middle  of many small towns on the way, very confusing, especially on Sunday  when they all seem to have market day and just block off the way  through town!  Ask directions frequently!  This route lets you return  to Mexico, without going back to Guatemala City. This is rough travel  right now, only for properly equipped vehicles!  There is an even  more northerly road/ track along the border with Mexico for the real  adventure traveller with proper equipment.   

Coban, Parque Natl. Victoria, great park, really a botanic garden,  with hiking trails.  Water, toilets(poor) and sort of a shower.   Medium to small rigs.
Note, we abandoned our plans to tour Bilize due to:  1. dog problems,  we couldn't seem to communicate with their system (Semana Santa) and  their strange policies.  We met about half a dozen travelers that  were avoiding Belize because of dogs, 2. by this time the heat and  humidity were causing us great discomfort, 3. rumors of confiscation  of food items at the Belize border. (one back packer in Tikal said he  had his pasta confiscated!), controlling foods to prevent  agricultural pests is one thing, but this is too much.  Get with a  sensible program Belize, you are losing tourist dollars!   We will  try again on another trip earlier in the year.

This my final report on camping places for now, Mexico is well  covered by the Church's.  I hope these reports will be of some use  to   some of you [definitely.. ed.].  It has been a great trip, my advice just do  it!    

Tela Beach Club No Longer Accomodating Motorhomes! (4/07)

Tela Beach Club, Tela, Honduras, has requested that we no longer list them.  They say they can not accomodate motorhomes.
Camping Places in Panama (3/07)

Courtesy Aaron and Amy Young

Bocas del Toro Province: Willie Mazu Rancho Ecologico, KM 68 between Chiriqui Grande and Lago Fortuna.  Good hiking.
Boquete: futbol field.

Others from

Boquete, on the side of the street, Calle 2 Sur, across from the main square.
Santiago, Hotel La Hacienda, GPS 08 07.42N 80 58.75W.
Playa Santa Clara, XS Memories.
Parque Nacional Soberania, Ranger Station/entrance.
Camping Places in Costa Rica and Panama (3/07)

Courtesy George Baines

Here are some more camping places I can recommend.  Remember I have a  truck camper and 4x4, so I don't need as much space as a big RV.

Costa Rica;   

Hot springs at LaFortuna ( the more northern LaFortuna out of  Bagases.)  Centro Turistico Yoko..   to entry $5 to pools, you can  park on lawn at end of parking lot (free), toilets no power.

Orosi  mirador across from Stella del Nord pizza, ask to stay overnight at mirador, fabulous pizza across street. (free)   

Dominical.  Great beach camping under trees along beach, take road SE out of town along beach (free) no services, great surf be careful,  watch your stuff.   

Playa Pinuela  part of Ballenas park, small cove, very pretty, water  and toilets, showers.  Fee, but not collected on week days. Watch your stuff.   

San Vito  near Wilson Botanical Garden (garden has no room, due to  construction) about 2K back toward S.Vito on rt is Finca Cantarro,  can stay in their gardens for $3 per rig, lots of trails, nearly  a botanical garden itself!   

Manzanillo (carib coast) got almost to end of road, there is a bus  turn around area, benches, can park under tree, right next to beach (free).   

Playa Guiones near Samara.  Park at end of road, right on beach,  watch your stuff, be careful of sand. 


Boquete  camp along river next to soccer field, as you find field  go south of fence, lots of space, don't camp on soccer field, close to  town (free)   

Near Volcan.  Canyon Macho del Monte, camp at gate to power station,  ask guard up on hill as you come down, park on cement slab, don't  block the gate (free) great birding!   

Panama City.  To clear up some confusion, you cannot park at the  yacht club, but in front of the yacht club is a huge cement city  parking lot.  You can camp there.  It is farther away from the water,  some shade.  We stayed 3 nights, police came by and were all happy  to see us. (free)  It is used for informal driving lessons in the  evenings.  One warning, on Sunday nights the lot is part of a  weekly roving progressive party.  About 7PM Sunday, we were invaded  by cars full of happy young people, it quickly became full with  about 500 cars with loud stereos, blasting out Panamanian rap.  There  was some drinking.  After a little more than an hour the cops came  and moved them all out, and left us alone.  Locals told us it  happens every Sunday. Police and Tourist Police check on you any  times a day and night.  No hassles.  Wifi signal from yacht club! 

Portobelo area  Playa Langostina  $5, very busy on weekends.  Nearby  Bar y Rest Las Palmas is defunct.   

Playa Las Tajas  Pan. N. central coast.  Go end of paved road, turn  right, go to end.  Water. showers, toilets $5, nice beach break,  big beach!

Camping Places in Honduras and Nicaragua (2/07)

Courtesy George Baines

Since leaving the northern beaches of Honduras, we have gone over the  mountains through Olancho.  On the way to Juticalpa, we found a nice safe camping spot at the Forestry Camp in Gualaco.  They seemed pleased to let us dry camp in their compound with guard and army folks nearby.  We camped at the tourist park outside of Valle de Angeles, on the way to Tegucigalpa [see Campsites in  99 Days to Panama - ed.].  Another interesting camp was just before the border with Nicaragua.  We were planning on staying in a balneario near the border but it was closed and defunct.  Across the the road was a restaurant and a soccer field.  There were police eating at the restaurant, so we asked them where to stay.  They called the owner of the restaurant, got permission for us to stay behind the restaurant and next to the soccer field.  Then they had patrols come by nearly hourly to check on us all night!  Our only scare was we heard voices late at night, so we got our dog to back, lights came on and a police car pulled up in seconds, it was the police we heard. After crossing into Nicaragua, we turned east at Ocotal and drove to Jalapa and beyond, almost back into Honduras.  As it was getting late, we stopped a tobacco barn to ask the caretaker where we might find a safe and level spot to camp.  He thought  a minute, then said "here".  We pulled in next to the big barn, got a tour of the operation and then were beset by the loveliest, biggest group of children.  They wanted to see the rigs, the dogs and squealed with delight when I took their pictures and showed them  to them on my cameras large LCD.  Our next stop was in Somoto, where wanted to take a canyoneering trip.  We asked the tourist police in the town square for information.  They immediately escorted us, to the tourist office, which could not help.  So they took us to the town hall and the alcade's (mayors) office.  The two police and the alcalde, gave us permission and made arrangements for us.  The alcalde was concerned as to where we would stay that night,  and insisted we stay in the towns corporation yard with guard.  They arranged a guide(you need one) and a time to go in the morning.  In the morning the guide and the two tourist police accompanied us to the canyon.  While the guide took us up the canyon, the two police guarded our trucks!  We opted to just hike the canyon, don't.  Use the inner tubes they supply for a very small fee!  It is beautiful, but you will be swimming about half of the way, and tubes would make it a lot less strenuous, and safer for cameras.  You need dry bags.  A great adventure, but we were exhausted by late afternoon when we got back. Stayed in the city yard that night, after being escorted to a restaurant by our faithful tourist police.  They are really concerned about security,. I think overly so. We next went to Esteli, where we went up to the Tissey Reserve, where you can stay in the parking lot for free, hike up to a mirador with really great views.  We stayed the next two nights at a private country club, Club Campestre de Esteli, for 20 cordobas/night with use of pool showers, electricity etc.  We next drove to Granada and stayed at their tourist park on the lake.  We toured around this part of the country and stayed one night on Lake Apoyo at the Narome Resort.  They let us park our rigs in their parking area, for free, and invited us to use their facilities (pool, bathrooms, etc.) for having a meal there. Our next spot was in San Jorge to go to Ometepe island.  We stayed at the Hostel Azteca, left our rigs there for two nights while we toured the island and then stayed another night.  Good food, reasonable prices, room for two small camper sized rigs, pool, water, power. Could be loud on weekends, but great fun, guard at night.  Off the main road to ferry by about two blocks, in San Jorge,  signed turnoff on main road.  Far cheaper and more services than Hotel California! We went out to the beaches near San Juan del Sur,  they are rapidly developing this area and closing off beach access like crazy.  We tried to go to a park we heard of north of town, Bahia Majagual, don't try it! The park has been sold and is now being developed into a hotel or condos or something, we were escorted out of the area by very grim guards with shotguns, no explanations, just you must leave NOW! We are presently in a defunct trailer park, El Delfin, with pool outside (5K north) of Liberia, Costa Rica. $5/ rig plus $2/person for pool.  Large flat area for any sized rig or rigs, very pastoral. Hope this helps some of you find a place!

P.S. In crossing into Costa Rica, they insisted on having your car title, not just registration.  I had mine, so no problem but out travel mates did not, had to pay a big bribe.  Don't know if this is a scam or not.  Copies not acceptable. [ed. note - Vehicle title is always required, we are surprised that Georges crew got this far!.  Colored scanned copies are  usually accetped as originals.]
Guatemala Money Problems (1 Feb. 2007)

Courtesy Brian and Kit, (

Just a quicky for those of you heading for Guatamala. If you have been following the CA news you may know that in the last three weeks there have been several collapsed Guatamalan banks due to embezzelment I think and there is very little money in any ATMs around the country...if any it is new 20 Quetzal notes. There is some problem with the French company that prints Guatamalan money and they have been slow in providing it..rumor has it that it is a paper problem, and the banks just don't seem to want to part with cash. Here in Antigua and all through the Peten we have only been able to get $1000 Quetzales per transaction, in the bank, on a credit card..not a debit card. I think you can trade dollars and travelers checks ok most places but we did not bring much cash or any travelers checks as they are so difficult to cash in Mexico. Next trip I will take plenty cash and TCs. The banks we have had success with are BAC and Agroindustrial.
Driving to Panama in a Hurry (1/07)

Courtesy of Kristine Berg who is driving to Panama with three dogs (!

This is a post from a good friend of mine who drove to Costa Rica back in 2003. Just thought this may be of interest to you.

From: Jerry D......

 I got out my Mex. and Central America maps and went over the route I took. It was mostly very easy. You will need a decent map of Mexico, and Central America. The only road map I could find for Central America had one entire side of South America and 1/4 of the other side was Central America with the rest filled out with all the Caribbean Islands. It was the AAA's "Caribbean, Central and South America" map. Believe it or not, the smallish Central America section was very sufficient. [ed. note - we recommmend the ITMB maps unless you are  exclusively staying on the Pan American Highway.]

OK, here it is...

I-10 to Houston, take southern loop of I-610 to Hwy 59... At Victoria you get on Hwy 77all the way to Brownsville. There you get your Mexican auto insurance. Use the Sanborns office there, just before the border. AAA recommends them. Matamoros is the border town in Mexico. It was a bit unnerving. Lots of cars. If I remember correctly, shortly after the border station, you make a right with the bulk of traffic... go a mile or two... maybe more, til you hit a pretty big street that you turn left on and go under an underpass. You need to be on Hwy 180 south to Tampico. It is 310 miles from B'ville to Tampico. Follow 180 to Tuxpan (116 miles), on to Vera Cruz (193 miles).

You CAN follow 180 right on to Acayucan, but I didn't. There is a real nice new interstate type highway toll road just inland that bypasses all the coastal crap in that area. Just Below Vera Cruz, at Paso del Toro, you hit hwy 150. It WAS a pock-marked road from Hell in 2003, but may well be repaved by now. In any event, it goes only 25 or 30 miles til you get off on 180 D, the super hwy toll road. Flat, straight, and not so much as a dimple in it. FAST. We saw VERY few cars for close to 100 miles. At Acayucan, you take Hwy 185 down to La Ventrosa. The Vera Cruz - La Ventosa leg is 292 miles. At this junction, go south on Hwy 200 to Tapachula at the border. You are on Hwy 200 for 264 miles. It is a sweet road. Few towns, little traffic. Actually, I passed through Mexico on the Easter weekend, and the only real traffic was in Matamoro and Tampico. The rest was a walk in the park, really. Top to bottom, Mexico was 1118 miles, and took me a little under 30 hours. 27.5, to be precise.

Passing through Guatemala and El Salvador, I stayed OFF the main highway, which is CA 1... it will take the mountain route, and drags you through the capital cities of Guatemala City and San Salvador. DO NOT GO THAT WAY!!!!! [ed. note - we prefer CA-1, including San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico and the highlands of Guatemala.  This is our favorite part of Central America. Also, the  border crossing at La Mesilla on CA-1 is very laid back and easy compared to the busy crossing on thePacific Highway at Tecun Uman, south of Tapachula. But, Jerry is right if you are in a hurry... the Pacific Highway might be 1/2 - 1 day faster, but less interesting!] CA 2 is the coastal highway, is straight and fairly flat, and a good surface. Little or no cities. You get on CA 1 on the far side of El Salvador, just a few miles from the Honduran border. DO NOT get yourself in the position to need gas in Honduras... I spent about $75 gassing up there. I was on fumes just before the Nicaraguan border, and it was 7:00 PM. Could've saved $30 or more within 15 miles. There are only about 150 miles to do in Honduras. In Nicaragua, stay right on CA 1 til you hit Managua, where it turns into CA 2 again 'til you hit Costa Rica and it mysteriously reverts to CA 1. No matter, it is the only highway to speak of.

In Costa Rica, just stay on the highway to San Jose. It is well marked... big ol' green with white letter interstate highway type signs. In San Jose, DO NOT take "central" into the heart of the city. Go to the next street light where there are a couple lanes that turn left. If you miss it, you will just peter out into a residential type area. Go back to the light and go right ... this will turn out to be Avenida10. Most likely you will never see a sign telling you where you are. Just keep going. After a bit it will turn into one-way, your way. You are looking for signs pointing you to Cartago at this point. You have to go quite a ways on the one-way section before you come to the signs. They will not be huge signs. White with black letters. If in doubt, ask... follow their fingers til you need to ask again. Cartago is easy to find once on the East side of San Jose. Straight through Cartago for the highway to Turrialba. There will be signs. If you have problems in Paraiso, stop and ask for the road to Turrialba. After Paraiso, it is a slam-dunk. No place to make a wrong turn... there are no highway intersections til you are way past Turrialba headed for Limon, then it is a "T" in Siguirres, where you go right to Limon. There are signs there, too. At Limon, you take the coastal road (the ONLY road) south all the way to Sixaola, the border town to Panama. Drive on!!! The only route goes to Boca. Of course, I can give you more detailed info on the Turrialba to Sixaola leg when you get here. I live about 15 K from Turrialba... half of that distance is on the road to Limon.

It took me 6 1/2 days to drive [from where to where??], 9 or 10 hrs a day. I spent about $100 a day, which is what I average Stateside as well. Food, gas and bed. Plan on $1000, you should be OK. You COULD pull over and doze, but I would be carefull about that... you would be a target, especially with a trailer. Traveling gringos have $$$, and they know that... and who knows what might be in the trailer??? Most hotels have pretty safe parking.

Raining in Trujillo , Lago Yajoa  and Camping in Guatemala (12/06)

Courtesy George Baines

We are now in Trujillo, Honduras, the weather has been rainy and cool  for about three days.  On Christmas, while camped on a beach near  Tela, we were hit by a Norte, that brought heavy rain and wind,  this  closed the main road between LaCeiba and Trujillo.  We made the trek  today, as they have cleared the debris from the road.  We hope to go  over the mountains, in about two days but we have heard that bridges  are out on that road, will check with police tomorrow.  It has not  been hot on the north coast of Honduras, last night it got to the mid  60s, high today only 75.  This is turning into a very late wet  season, water still everywhere!

As to places to stay,  Guatemala, we found a nice area across from  the Los Riscos in Momostenago,  you should avoid Totonicopan,  especially if you have a rig wider than 7 ft.  My traveling  companion's 8ft wide rig had lots of trouble here and other places,  police advised us to only park in a protected and locked, enclosed  area. Fuentes Georgina, outside Quetzaltenango was a treat.  Finca El  Baul, did a great job of putting us up for the night and gave us a  great tour.  The Quetzal sanctuary on the way to Coban, let us stay  in their tight parking lot, saw Quetzals.  Beyond Coban, the Gruta  Lanquin has a good place to stay, but the road in is rough, further  on Semac Champey,  has a great lot to camp in, and what a beautiful  area this is.  However the road in is very rough and long, high  clearance vehicles only!

Honduras:  Texaco stations seem to be willing to let you stay for a  small fee, and are guarded all night, and often setup for overnight  sleepers.  We stayed in the one next door to the Copan ruins, very  nice people.  If you go to Lake Yojoa, and you should,  the D and D  Brewery is a place not to miss.  Tight parking, but great  microbrewery/restaurant/B and B, and Bob the owner is one great  character. Nearby is the waterfall,Pulhapanzak,  which had a great  big park and area, but avoid holidays and weekends!  We found good  boondock camping on the beaches west to Tela, but beware of Jejenes.   Just west of La Ceiba is the Pelican Beat Rv Park (I think the 99days  book mistakenly says east)  nice little park, trying hard to please,  nice place, road in is rough 2K and very wet right now.  To find  these places in Honduras, use a guidebook or Honduras tips, free at  many tourist places.

Hope this helps some of you find places.  We are camped right now on  Ollie North's runway outside of Trujillo, your sorta tax dollars now  not a work.

Coffee Plantation near Masaya, Nicaragua (10/06)

From David Bloom (

Now we have a Coffee Farm!!!
Our Humanitarian Aid organization (non profit) based in Nicaragua now has been donated a Coffee Farm not far from Granada and Masaya, soon to be developed as a working volunteer center dedicated to organic crops other than Coffee. All you 4wd'ers and RV ers are more than welcome to camp out on the property giving us advance notice..just try and help out on a small project for a day or two! View   The founder and co ordinator, Glenn, lives in the Continental US year round except for his humanitarian trips to Alaska and Nicaragua,  Go to the contact page and either phone or E mail Glenn.
Camping Places in Nicaragua and Costa Rica (9/06)
From Liesbet Collaert

-         Chinandega: the modern PetroNic fuel station at a big round-about you will pass going towards town.  Electricity, water, security, grassy field and toilets.  $3.  Across the street is another fuel station with fast food. 
-         Leon: Salman Mercado doesn’t allow overnight parking in their lot anymore!  You can park on the streets, but it was too hot for our dogs, without AC.  We didn’t find any other possibility in this town and left after visiting for two hours.
-         Laguna Xiloa: Centro Turistico: beach and warm water to swim, shade to park and primitive toilets.  $2.  Very hot and humid in August.
-         Masaya Vulcanic Park: overnight parking at the visitor centre, clean toilets during the day, primitive toilet, security, and electricity after closing time.  Water faucet (you need a wrench), tree for shade and level ground.  $4.  Entrance fee: $4 per person.  Cooler climate!
-         Granada: Parque Turistico: along Lake Nicaragua with a sporadic breeze, and in the shade when you’re not too tall (max 10 feet).  One time entrance fee is $2 and then you pay a vigilante for security.  No facilities, far from town.  Too hot for us, so we tried many businesses in the park, but didn’t find a place for under $10 or with powerful enough electricity.
-         Granada: Red Cross: along the main road, close to town (5 minute walk), security, electricity, toilet, water, level ground, grassy areas, good cause.  $6.
-         Penas Blancas: New gas station towards the border on the left side, about 2 km from Costa Rica, and the ideal place to spend the night before crossing the border.  Clean toilets, showers, electricity (not enough for AC), water, friendly people, little bit of grass, little zoo and cheap and good restaurant.  $3.  This is the place John and Harriet mention in their book, but there is a fuel station now.
Costa Rica:
-         Liberia: El Delfin Trailer Park: big grassy field, shade, electricity, water, dump, toilets, showers. $5
-         Playa Tamarindo: Tamarindo Resort (no signs, you have to ask): It’s possible to park among this cluster of buildings, in the dirt and shade, with electricity and water for $12.  The owners are American.  Restaurants are pricey, the beach not too special.  Tamarindo is favoured by surfers.  There is free (but unsafe?) camping on the beach and there’s also a “real” campground, but anything bigger than a car doesn’t fit.
-         Samara: Camping Los Cocos: A find (if you fit)!!!  Drive into this little town till the end, where you see the beach.  Turn left at the end of this road (near the police station) and follow all the way, around the bend to the left, until you see a sign for Camping Los Cocos to your right.  If you’re longer than 24 feet or wider than a truck camper, do not proceed!  Obstacle 1 is gone, since we cut the branches of a low hanging tree, obstacle 2 is a very tight turn to the right, which you might have to do in two times.  Somebody needs to guide you through all the way.  Obstacle 3 and 4 are low hanging cables, somebody needs to lift them up from the roof.  Obstacle 5 are the palm trees that are close to each other.  One dead stump got cut down for our stay, so things should be a little bit easier now, and … we installed a real outlet, so obstacle 6 is gone either.  Once you get onto the campground, you get rewarded with a beautiful sea view, shade from the palm trees, a breeze until 4 pm, level, packed sand spot, electricity, toilets, showers and water at the sinks.  The water is potable!  $3 per person.  Say “hi” (and thanks) to Johnny.  
-         La Fortuna: Cabinas Sissy, across from the river, close to town, view of Arenal Vulcano, level, grassy field, electricity, water, toilet, shower.  Nice! $3 per person.  Be careful for the low hanging wire!
-         San Antonio de Belen: Belen Trailer Park: full hook-ups, shade, grass, washer with cold water, plenty washing lines.  Restaurants and internet in town (or ask the owner about wireless).  $14.
-         Siquirres: Aventuras Naturales Rafting Tour: Along the main road, past town, don’t drive into town, turn left before the big bridge, and right towards the river.  Turn left past the bar and follow this road along the water a little bit, until you see a gate on the left and an open building with tables.  Next door is a similar set-up from another company.  Ask the caretaker/maintenance man (only Spanish) whether you can spend the night if you join the tour the next day.  Water, electricity, shade, grassy yard, outside showers and toilets.  We only used the electricity during our four hours of rafting, so the dogs had AC.  We tipped the friendly guy the day we left.  The rafting tour on the Pacuare River costs $80 from here and is awesome, with class 3 and 4 rapids, and a delicious lunch!
-         Cahuita: At the end of the bad road along Black Beach, there is a free camping spot near the water.  Small rigs can stay at La Piscina Natural.  There is a real campground with a low entrance gate.  We didn’t find anything suitable for us.  The White Beach is National Park, meaning we couldn’t take the dogs.  There seemed to be free boondock places nearby this park, in the shade.  We left.
-         Puerto Viejo: Bad roads!  On the other side of town, towards Manzanillo: Camping Las Olas is an option.  We didn’t fit.  Rocking J’s has camping (in the sun and with protective dogs) for $4 a person.  We stayed at Camping Cut Bak for $3 per person and an extra $3 for electricity.  Showers, toilets, water, shade.  Close to the beach, but swimming is impossible because of the reef.
-         Punta Uva: further down the awful road (about 7 km) towards Manzanillo.  Turn left at Selvin’s Restaurant (very good food!), and drive all the way to the beach.  Park under the trees and you’re in the shade all day, with a sea breeze until about 5pm!  Free.  No facilities, nice beach, garbage cans.   The Caribbean Coast is a bit cooler than the Pacific one and we managed to sleep with one DC-fan during the night.
Border Crossings Update (9/06)

From Liesbet Collaert

Border crossings:
Checking out of El Salvador was quick, easy and free, making this country a very affordable one to travel in and out.  No fees.  We decided not to deal with the dogs. 
El Salvador into Honduras was the worst border crossing ever!  If only there would be a way to avoid El Amatillo…  The chaotic mess was unbelievable, the heat unbearable, the traffic loud and smelly.  We had to park in the sun, and check on the dogs every so often, starting the car for a while to give them some cool air, while dealing with all the hassle.  We are a little stubborn (and don’t want to spend more money) to hire a guide, especially not for what we can do ourselves.  El Amatillo would be the only exception, though, if we were to do it again.  This time, we walked into the customs building to deal with the car first.  Hearing from guides that we would have to pay $40 for just the car, made us annoyed already.  We were only going to be in Honduras for two hours!  I tried to talk to the boss about the high fee, but the only thing I got done, was for another official to show us the way to all the different posts.  He became our free guide for the next hours.  It took him 20 minutes to fill out our car form.  We had to help him, even though Spanish was his first language.  Then we went to some kind of window across the street, where a receipt for $30 got typed out.  For this we had to pay $10!  We were supposed to pay the $30 in the bank, in Lempira’s, so we found a money changer to buy Lempira’s with our dollars.  In the bank we dealt with paying this receipt for the car paperwork.  Now we had to wait for the inspection guy.  He didn’t show up.  I waited for more than 30 minutes in the bright sun, while Mark started the dog process, in an AC room.  He later got the dogs to sit in this room with him.  Inspector showed up and put a stamp on the car form.  I went to another building, more than five minutes away for another stamp.  They needed Mark’s passport, so I walked back in the heat, to get him.  In the meantime, the dogs got granted one day in the country (we didn’t ask for more).  All of us went back to the other building, panting and sweating.  The stamp the first official had put in Mark’s passport was all wet and unreadable, so this guy didn’t know what to do.  Getting a new stamp was impossible, since that page number of the passport was mentioned on the car papers, and we didn’t want to start all over again.  He signed it anyway.  Last stop, was the copy machine in another “office”.  We needed two copies of all our documents, to be left in Honduras.  Finally, we got on our way.  We had spend more time at the border than we were going to be on the roads!
To really get on our way, though, we had to pass another four check-points, to show documents, hand in copies and answer questions.  The points were manned by either border police, military, police, tourist police, …  On our third stop, the officer claimed we needed to have reflectors (a white/red strip) on our camper.  We had already prepared ourselves with a safety triangle and a fire extinguisher in the car.  We sensed he wanted money and were not going to give in.  We discussed with him for a while, pointing out other cars without reflectors, showing him our lights worked and were also reflective, saying we didn’t see a store selling those strips yet, since we just got into the country.  The man had taken Mark’s license, so we were powerless.  I didn’t give in and he took me to his car, where a huge gun and another guy were waiting.  Nothing more really got said, the man sat down in the car, holding the license.  I swear I would have grabbed it out of his hand if he were to drive off.  All of a sudden, he got out again, handed me the license, didn’t say a word anymore, and we drove off.  In our side mirrors, we saw the police officers clean up the cones and get ready to leave.  It was 12 pm.  Saved by the lunch hour!
During our two hours in the country, we got stopped at 8 check-points in total.  We had a very bad taste about Honduras, and wanted to get out as soon as possible, not really looking forward to our return trip.
Leaving Honduras went OK.  We had to pay $3 each, and inquired about that, because of the CA4 arrangement and because we didn’t “have to” pay on our way in.  Later on, we realized, we simply forgot to check into the country ourselves, with all the car hassle…  Luckily we got out of the country all right, even though they scanned our passports.
We checked into Nicaragua (Guasaule) for $7 each and the car got in for free.  This took a little while, because of the line of truck drivers.  What really took up the time at this border, were the dogs.  We had to run back and forward between buildings, offices, copy machine and bank for more than an hour.  The final bill was $20 for the two dogs.  They could stay “indefinitely”, the car got one month and we had whatever was left on our CA4 visa. 
We were very tired driving into Nicaragua, after all the border crossings and more check points.  We decided to buy car insurance for the month, not knowing what this meant, as always, but refused to pay the municipality fee.  We were sick of paying, that day. 
The road into the country was very poor, literally and figuratively.  We had to drive through craters in the road and poor kids hoped to get food, water or money for filling some of the potholes.   After one hour or so, the road luckily improved!
The CA4 arrangement gives a tourist three months to travel in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.  You get this one stamp at the border of your first country.  This means you don’t get any stamps in the other countries, but you do still have to check in and pay an entrance and/or exit fee.  This didn’t seem the case getting in and leaving from El Salvador, though.  It’s still a bit confusing, but they just started this new rule, so it might be easier and clearer in the future…
The border crossing from Nicaragua into Costa Rica (Penas Blancas) lasted about two hours.  Here, we lost time, because we forgot that Costa Rica is one hour behind, so the border wasn’t open yet…  Exiting Nicaragua went all right and cost us $2 each and $1 each for the municipality.  The car needed a quick look from an inspector in order to get it stamped out of the country.  In Costa Rica we stood in line for a while and paid nothing for ourselves.  The fumigation for the car was $5 and the mandatory insurance $14 for three months.  The paperwork for the car took some time, but all went well and without cost.  The USDA form of the dogs got stamped in less than one minute and we were in Costa Rica!  This was the first country where the officer at the one check-point said: “Welcome to my country!”  We felt happy to have made it into Costa Rica, since we hadn’t planned on driving this far at all.  The road to Liberia was good and everybody (we, car, dogs) had received the same amount of time for once: three months.
Leaving Costa Rica (Sixaola) on the Caribbean side, didn’t cost us anything and went smooth.  Then we had to drive over an old railway bridge, a bit stressful, and got fumigated in Panama for $1.  Mark had to pay $5 for his tourist card, as an American, I, as a Belgian, got in for free!  The immigration woman spoke English.  The dog paperwork took some time, but we got them in for $6.  They received two months, the car one and we three, to visit the country.
Balboa Yacht Club Does Not Welcome RVs Anymore Because Someone Abused The Privilege! (9/06)

From Liesbet Collaert

It's hurricane season, so we're afraid that not many boats go through.  We talked to David from the Balboa Yacht Club yesterday.  He doesn't allow RV's anymore to spend the night there.  Previous RV'ers ruined it for the rest.  One of them used power while he was told not to, and broke a freezer in the bar that way.  Another group was parked in the small parking lot and didn't want to move out of the way.  It looks like we have to see the city and do our chores from XS Memories.  Tried to hunt down four E rated tires yesterday, in Panama City.  No luck (yet).  Traffic existed of very bad and inconsiderate drivers.  There is a Ford dealer and we'll get some minor work done on the truck.

Halkyard Note:  We found "D" size tires at the Firestone dealer in Panama City.
New Camping Places: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chichicastenango (9/06)

Courtesy of  Rus Krause-Kathleen Krauss

For several reasons we have decided to drive back home to California for our son's wedding and ship to South America from the states.  We left Panama 8/11 and  we are now in Guayas, Mexico, almost ready to reenter after 6 months on the road!  We are very glad we drove back, it really completed the trip for us, refamiliarized us with the places we'd come to know and love and allowed us to visit some new ones.  Here are some new additions to your list of useful camping spots:

Hotel Gran Impala, Rio Claro, Costa Rica
N08 40.721    W083 04.081
A nice hotel with level space for RVs, and  it has a restaurant.  Buses and trucks also park here for the night.  We were charged $3 by a very friendly manager.  This is a convienent place to camp for the night before crossing the border into Panama, or from the other direction, is a nice day's drive from Panama City.

Hotel Savegre in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica
N09 33.038    W083 48.523
This isn't just a camp site, but a destination in it's own right. Nestled in a little valley on the clear and lovely Savegre River, this Albergue attracts many foreign eco-tourists because it is truly a bird-lovers paradise.  There are hummingbirds by the dozens and many other birds including resplendant quetzals and their relatives. The hotel has a good restaurant, lovely gardens filled with birds, trout fishing ponds and trout in the river too. Internet is available on one computer for a fee. There are good hiking trails nearby, we recommend the 2 km hike to the first waterfall where you can view the cascades from a cave formed by fallen boulders. It cost $20 to stay the night in a very private parking lot behind the garages.The staff is exceptionally friendly and most speak English.

Directions: Turn west off CA2 at the 80km marker, the hotel is about 9 km down a steep and curving road. A word of caution here: the road was one of the most nerve-wracking we've been on, incredibly steep and full of tight hairpin turns. Although mostly paved, it is a one lane road and at times almost too steep to back a rig up on when you meet trucks and small buses, which are common. We used 4 wheel drive to get up the mountain and wish we'd used it coming down.  This road is NOT reccommended for big rigs (we are 26') and you must have excellent brakes!

Hotel Tilawa on Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
N11 31.324    W084 58.021
If you feel like a bit of luxury, this is a great place. First of all, it's beautifully landscaped and artistically designed with a pool and hot-tub (not really a springs, as advertised) set in lovely grounds on a hill overlooking Lake Arenal.  They offer a massage therapist, a restaurant, three vegetable gardens, and maps of hiking trails through the jungle to a lakeside windsurfing shop. There is a lounge upstairs and a sitting room where guests gather or use their laptops, the wifi is only available in the lobby. There is plenty of room to park on a level space below the hotel entrance for a fee of $20.  The friendly atmosphere is set by the owner-builder, John Paul, and his wife Helga, who live part time in California. We intended to camp just for the night and found it so pleasant we stayed an extra day. It is located on the road from Tilaran to Arenal, on the west side of the lake.

Reserva Nacional Volcan Mombacho, Nicaragua
This is a very pretty park at the base of the volcano.  The 300 cordoba fee covers entry, camping and transit up to the crater and back.  You can't drive up and you wouldn't want to either. There are three craters and hiking trails at the top, with fabulous views of Lake Nicaragua, the islets of Granada and the city itself, as well as interesting jungle plants and flowers. The weather is much cooler than in Granada.  We arrived around 3:00 PM and the last truck was just preparing to head up, they gave us 1.5 hours to hike around before returning. No electricity, water or dumping, but outhouses are provided, for pee only. (?) The camping area is pretty, well cared for and quiet.  We were the only ones there overnight.

Esteli, Nicaragua Turicentro, ESTELIMAR
N13 05.958    W086 20.094
This is a lovely, quiet (at least on week days) and interesting spot to camp. Although there are no facilities it is a good place to boondock safely. The center has been a turicentro for 10 years, but since 2004 the facilities have been mostly used to run an inovative educational project for Nicaraguan kids.  Every weekend kids of all ages and all parts of Nicaragua come and are guided in various scientific activities that teach them practical applications of math and technology (from pullies and the use of solar energy to computors and web design). The staff there were friendly and excited to show us around, especially the director, Eduardo Lopez.  This "Parque de Ciencia" is funded by a Finnish man who is responsible for the computer program Linus. Although we weren't charged for camping we made a donation to this wonderful endeavor and, of course, tipped the guard. We would advise not stopping by on weekends, there wouldn't be space to park.

Directions: driving north through Esteli toward Honduras on CA1, there is a sign for Turicentro about the middle of the town, turn right and then take a left at the fork in the road a little later. The dirt road is full of dips and holes. But it is worth the 1.5 km drive.

Playa El Espino, El Salvador
N13 10.256    W088 17.426
Although we could have stayed at any number of places along the beach in El Espino, we chose one called Cabanas La Brisa del Mar and had pleasant stay in a small grassy parqueo edged by a few palapas sheltering hammocks that look out on a clean beach stretching for miles.  There are bathrooms available, but we used our own.  The fee was $8. To get there turn left at the beachfront road when you get to El Espino and drive until you see their hand painted sign. The family that runs the place lives there but nicely gave us our privacy. In the morning we chatted and got to witness their struggle to keep the sea from taking their land, shoveling sand every morning to repack the wall they've each built to slow erosion.

Parque Nacional Cerrro Verde, El Salvador
N13 49.599    W089 37.460    altitude: 6602 feet
This is a good place to camp for spectacular views of volcanos and of the crater lake Coatepeque, with beautiful gardens, a children's playground and treehouse, and a nice hike around an ancient crater that has been reclaimed by the jungle. The fee was $10 and we filled with water.  There is no dump or electricity, the bathrooms are clean, though without showers.  There are other good hikes available in the park. In the morning we met a string of young guides who take people to the Crater Izalco and other more strenuous destinations.

Chichicastenango, Quiche, Guatemala
N14 56.664    W091 06.576
We had a wonderful stay for 2 nights in the parqueo of a Saserdote Mayan family, Diego and Blanca Estela, their kids and grandkids. When we got to Chichi late Saturday afternoon the man at the Shell station said we couldn't stay there.  It was too busy and crowded and we'd never be able to get out on market day.  He suggested that we try a parqueo down the street that was "mas tranquilo". It did turn out to be much quieter, plus we met a wonderful local family. Diego also acted as our guide up to the sacred site of Pascal Abaj, interpreting the ceremonies that were taking place there and later taking us to see the effigy of Santo Tomas.  The parqueo is completely fenced and secure, and is convienently located a few blocks from the market. There is a bathroom and shower for a small fee but we never used them so I can't comment on the condition. To get there continue down the same street the Shell station is on (7 Avenida), past the Hotel Santo Tomas about 2 or 3 blocks and look for a black gate on your left about the middle of the last block before you come to the end of the street.  A hand painted sign says parking or parqueo.  That's the entrance.  If it's closed, holler or bang on the gate and someone will come.  These people are inerested in having RVers stay.  They have had several before us and had good experiences with all, plus Diego had to have a serious surgery 2 years ago and can't do the kind of work he used to, so they are struggling to hold onto their land.  It cost 100 Quetzals a night. Don't be confused by the sign at the end of the street for another parqueo, it's not the one. If you can't find it, ask for Diego Canil, he is well known in town. Telephone: 77562419 or cell: 55524059

Well, that's probably it for us unless you are interested in South American campsites later.  Have a good Labor Day weekend.

Guatemala Camping:  Amatitlan and Around Antigua (8/06)

From Liesbet Collaert

When I got back from Belgium, we spent two nights in one of the parking lots near the airport in Guatemala City.  Mark initially had trouble finding the overnight one, because construction is going on around the airport [see Camping at the Guatemala Airport].  Once found, it was not too bad of a place to stay.  They charged Q50 (about $6,5), we parked on the grass, the dogs could walk around a bit, it was safe and without a lot of noise.  My luggage didn’t get in Guatemala City, so we had to stay here for a little bit.  At dark, it’s not very safe to walk around in this area.  Next to the parking lot, we found a little “restaurant” with delicious food for little money.  We had our cheapest meal there: $2 for two small meals with a shared soda.
Around Antigua, we did some research.  First, we stayed in La Red Trailer Park, this is next to Automariscos, at km 33,5 on CA 9, but cheaper.  Automariscos looks way cleaner and nicer, but they charge Q60 ($8) per person, after bargaining, while La Red charges Q40 ($5,5) per person.  A noticeable difference.  The pool was green (too chilly to swim anyway), and the showers were cold (we used our own), but the toilets were usable and they have full hook-ups and level spots!  There’s a vigilante all day and night and the people are very friendly.  They even cut some low hanging branches, so we could park on the one grassy spot.  Way nicer than the dirt pits, in this rainy weather.
The following day, we took a bus to Escuintla, and then to Antigua, to check camping possibilities.  This trip took 1,5 to 2 hours each way.  A little long.  At the visitor center near the main square (parque), people are friendly and helpful.  They gave us a decent map of town, and a couple of “options” to camp.  The first (and best) one we checked, was the new parking lot of Hotel Antigua (I believe).  This was a roomy, grassy, quiet, safe lot in the middle of town, but… the entrance arch was too low for an RV.  A pity.  We never checked on the price.
Then we found the Real Plaza Hotel, on the edge of town, but definitely in walking distance.  They allow RV’s to park in their small front parking lot, but the woman would have to ask the manager for a price.  People have stayed there.  Since it was all concrete, small and in front of a fancy hotel, we figured it wasn’t the place for two dogs.  Later, we found the back parking lot, near the restaurant of this hotel.  The vigilante told us we could park overnight there for Q30 ($4).  We would fit in the lot, but not under the only tree (shade).  The restaurant has toilets, but the grassy area and the pool are too neat for them to allow dogs on it, we assume.  Anyway, this was an affordable possibility!
Next, we checked out the “main” parking lot at the edge of town, near the bus station, and next to a hardware store.  This is where most of the RV’s stay while visiting Antigua.  Price: Q100, or $13,5!!!  No facilities, but you probably can finagle water, and maybe electricity if you have a long cord with you.  The parking lot seems pleasant with a lot of trees and you can park away from traffic noise.  It’s also safe, and in walking distance to town, although when night falls, the visitor center recommends taking a taxi back, for about $4.
Then we also heard about two places out of town, which we were going to check out later.  Probably nicer for the dogs and we could take a bus to Antigua, we thought.  With this information, we returned to La Red Trailer Park.  The next day, we drove through Guatemala City (to get a small refund at the airport), then through Antigua, out toward Escuintla, turned right before the cemetery, to find Valhalla (Centro De Macademias).  To our big disappointment, they didn’t allow camping anymore, because of safety reasons.  They had been having a lot of break-ins lately and couldn’t assure our safety, because nobody was there at night.  The manager recommended even to not camp anywhere in Guatemala   That, after I read all the awful Guatemala info on the website of the US State Department, when I was at home, the week before (my mistake)!
So, we drove back through Antigua, out the other way, to Finca Florencia Parque Ecologico, about 10 km out of town, downhill,  and only visible on this side of the divided highway.  It’s possible to get there from the other (toward Antigua) side, but you have to know where to turn left, in a little congested town-like area.  I wish now I’d written down the km marker.  Maybe it’s on their website.
We decided to stay in this park for a couple of nights.  They charge Q30 ($4) a person.  There are clean toilets and cold showers, and water faucets everywhere.  Lots of grass and hiking trails, but noisy, next to the highway.  Great view of a volcano, and busy in the weekend.  I took advantage of the visiting Guatemalan city folks on Sunday, to sell some Belgian chocolate and waffles!  We parked at the first camping area, but couldn’t get very level.  If you have those automatic jacks, it wouldn’t be a problem.  There’s also a huge camping area in the back of the park, but the tree branches were too low for us. 
It would be possible to take a bus into Antigua (not far away), but the walk to the other side of the highway is long.
We decided to check our camping options in the town again, to visit Pacaya volcano (has to happen early in the morning, or late in the afternoon, which means you wont be back before dark) and see more of Antigua.  We drove around the center and found another RV at a little park!  Nearby that spot, we discovered Menchen Park, a little quieter and better for the dogs, where we all moved to.  We couldn’t find it the previous time we took our vehicle into town.  This is free and close to the center.  It became our base for the next two days.  We also got company of two (!) other RV’s, again with young people and a dog on board.  It was a great and unique social experience, but we wouldn’t recommend people to stay here anymore.  We felt safe, because there were two (first night) and four (second night) RV’s parked next to each other.  That didn’t help however.  The Class C of Aaron and Amy got broken into (shattered passenger window and stolen CD face plate), and our camper got run into (big dent), while we were away.   So far for the “pristine” condition of our “need to sell again after the trip” camper!

Perquin Area, El Salvador (8/06)

From Liesbet Collaert

In one day, we drove all the way from Lago de Coaltepeque, to Perquin, in the North East of the country, with it’s historical and interesting guerrilla past.  The best place to camp in Perquin is near the Museo de la Revolucion, past the town center.  We wouldn’t recommend large RV’s to drive here.  We managed OK (with some double point turns in town) with our 24 foot truck camper.  The small  parking lot at the museum is free and safe (vigilante at night), while the parking area across the street is larger, more comfortable, but less safe.  People are allowed to park overnight there, but the owner doesn’t want to take responsibility for your belongings, since there is no guard at night.  He charges $1 for the vehicle and $1 for each person to stay on the lot.  We stayed here, because another big group of Salvadorians decided to camp under the big palapa that night, which made the owner stay there too.  You can get level here, and there is a nice and short walk to the top of the hill.  The museum is across the street.  The parking lot (El Manzanal) has two entrances.  The first, and easiest one is right on top of a steep, paved hill, past the center of town.  To get here, you drive through town and turn left at the end of the street.  Keep going, until you see the first sign (parqueo El Manzanal) on your right.  This is a not too steep, rocky dirt driveway.  Once on the lot, there is a plenty of room.  The other entrance, a little further down the road, across from the museum is very steep.  Clearance is never a problem.  We did check out the El Mozote and Rio Sapo area (only recommended in truck campers), but there were no interesting places to spend the night.  We ended up in a Shell fuel station near San Miguel.

Camping at Lago de Coaltepeque, El Salvador (8/06)

From Liesbet Collaert

We checked out Lago de Coaltepeque.  All the land, but one grimy boat launch, is privately owned.  We did find two camping possibilities, though.  The nicest one is the parking lot of Hotel/Restaurant Torremolinos (no lake view).  You follow the dirt road along the lake for about two kilometers.  If you eat there, you can use their facilities and park for free.  There are clean toilets, cold showers, swimming pools and access to the lake, through the restaurant (no problem with dogs).  Between the building and the lake is a huge grassy area.  If you don’t eat there, they will charge $5 a night.  At 6 am life starts, with the noises of barking dogs and selling vendors.

If you order anything on the menu, make sure you ask it “without cheese”, unless you’re fond of the crumbly, moldy tasting Salvadorian cheese on everything you eat…  This is, according to travel guides, the best restaurant in town.  We didn’t like it a lot and it’s pricey.
The other restaurant, where you can camp, is called Rancho Alegre.  It’s not very level and muddy.  They charge $1 a person per night, and there are cold showers, toilets and lake view.  Be prepared to wait a long time before you get served in this restaurant.

Camping in Cerro Verde  - Now Open! (8/06)

From Liesbet Collaert

[Ed Note - on our trip in April Cerro Verde was closed due to volcanic activity - J & H.] Our first night we spent in Cerro Verde National Park.  They allowed the dogs only in the parking lot, and charged us $10 for camping, 69 cents for parking (!), and also wanted to charge us entry for the park, but we denied paying, since it was about closing time by then.  The entrance and parking fees are cheap, but camping is outrageous, with barely any facilities.  The time goes back one hour, compared to Guatemala (that honours for the first time in history, daylight savings).  The parking lot is a good and safe place to camp, with toilets, and three vigilantes, but we felt overcharged and left first thing, the next morning.  It was too misty to do any hikes, but supposedly there is a nice nature trail starting from the lot.  Entrance fee per person is $0,80.

Guatemala - El Salvador Border on CA-8 (8/06)

From Liesbet Collaert

We decided to take the Southern route out of Antigua, towards Escuintla.  At the split, you follow Autopista Escuintla, to avoid the city center.  Then follow the signs to Puerto Quetzal, until a (small) sign on your right points to the left (somehow get in the left lane), saying “Frontera El Salvador”.  If you missed the turn (like us), there will be a paved “retorno” after about five minutes.  CA2 is a good road with little traffic.  It brings you to the coast of El Salvador, but we were not interested in that.  We took the connecting road (16) to CA8, to get into the country through another border.  This road through the mountains is paved, but very slow.  It brings you through Chiquimulilla, which is a bit tricky.  When you approach town, veer to the left (straight is a one-way street), and then right at the end.  Keep driving until you see a sign for route 16 on a building to your right, turn there.  After a couple of blocks you see a gas station on your right, keep driving straight, and you’re out of town.  Don’t miss the sign for route 16, or you end up in the narrow and stressful Mercado, like us!  Friendly people will help you through…
CA8 is a good road to the border of Valle Nuevo.  We highly recommend this border crossing into El Salvador.  After you shake off the guides and money changers, the check-out process is very easy and doesn’t take a lot of time.  Just walk in and around the only building.  You don’t need an exit stamp for Guatemala, but do need to check the car (SAT office) and dogs (agricultura) out.  No fees.
Then, you drive over the bridge into El Salvador.  The town here is called Las Chinamas.
And here is the big news: you don’t need to check in anymore when you arrive overland!  Since June 2006, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua joined an organization, called CA4.  You get 90 days at the border with Belize, Mexico or Costa Rica, and are free to travel in the CA4 zone for that period of time.  Apparently, you can only get extensions at those borders as well.  We don’t know yet whether that’s good or bad news.  The obvious good news is, that you don’t have to pay the $10 entrance fee anymore, the bad news: no more stamps of these countries in our passports.  We also hope that this fact is known well enough among all the police forces at check-ups…
Las Chinamas is very easy and quiet!  The dogs were no problem.  The guy in charge didn’t seem to know what to do and just put an entry stamp on the USDA forms and made a copy of them.  No time limit was given.  For the car, we needed to fill in a paper with all kinds of questions (in Spanish) about the vehicle, they accepted copies of Mark’s passport and the title, and checked the VIN number on the car.  60 days maximum stay.  And that was that.  The whole crossing took about an hour and didn’t cost us anything, on either side!  Technically we could stay in the country until our visa (received in Guatemala) expired.

Camping in Honduras (7/06)

Courtesy of  Rus Krause-Kathleen Krauss (See map below for reference. Numbers in white circles refer to our campsites in the book 99 Days to Panama. See this link for an update for camping in Choluteca - on the Pan American Highway between El Salvador and Nicaragua.)

1. Camping/Playa in La Ceiba, Honduras  (it's in the Colonia Bonitillo area, west of town) Phone: 995-4122 (N15° 46' W87° 27')
This is an actual RV Park, and it's called "Pelican's Beat" though we only found that out as we left. It offers electricity, water with great pressure!, a dump station, spacious and clean bathrooms, shade, and it is right on the beach. It cost us 100 L/ night (about $5 US), although it's cheaper without hook-ups and for tent camping. They also advertise nautical expeditions to caribbean islands for snorkeling and wildlife viewing and speak English, Spanish and French.  It seems that they haven't had many campers lately.  Glenya, the gracious and lovely young woman who runs it with her Quebecois husband, was surprised that we found the place because their big sign had been torn down. Here are detailed directions because it is a little hard to find.  If you are coming in from Tela, it's on the outskirts of town. Look for the airforce fighter plane with the painted teeth that's mounted in front of the Fuerza Aerea Hondurian.  Take a left turn onto a small unpaved track .2 miles past this airplane. You'll see a small hand painted sign that says "Camping/ Playa", which is partially hidden by bushes, follow the signs for "tennis" and "camping" all the way to the entrance on the right, near the end of the track, across from the tennis school. It's 1.2 miles from the highway.

If you are coming from Trujillo, take the road toward Tela (you don't have to drive through town) and in approximately 6 km look for the (commercial) Aeropuerto on your left.  Take the unpaved track to the right .5 mile past the airport. There is a small hand painted sign posted on a pole that says "Camping/Playa" marking your turn. There are signs for "camping" or "tennis" at strategic places on the 1.2 mile road to the campground. We had no problems getting in with our 26 foot, 11.5 feet high camper though we scraped the branches of some low hanging trees.

2.  Hacienda San Lucas, Copan, Honduras
We had a chance meeting in town with Flavia Cueva, the Hondurian/American owner of this old family hacienda turned Hotel/Retreat, perched high on a hilltop overlooking the ruins of Copan.  Although expensive, it is a lovely place to either rent a room, to eat a 5 course dinner cooked with traditional Hondurian receipes accompanied by fine South American wines, or to camp, if your rig is small.  There are hiking trails to smaller ruins (Los Sapos) and we had access to a clean and spacious bathroom where I had the BEST hot shower I've had in weeks. We stayed there one night for 190 L (about $10), but there is no level ground to park for a rig of our size (26').  We leveled as best we could but in the middle of the night our refridgerator stopped working and so we left early the next morning.  The place is beautiful and tastefully remodeled in the tradition of the origional hacienda which has been in her family for generations.  There are flowers and trees and lawns and at night it's all sit up by dozens of candles, creating quite a mood.   At dinner it was fun visiting with other travelers and the staff are friendly and interesting. Dinner cost $20 US/person but be careful, the wine and drinks are quite expensive.  We also had our laundry done there.  There is no electricity or dump but water is available. Come to think of it, you can probably get an electrical connection, but we didn't ask.

3. Texaco, Copan Ruinas, Honduras (adding our experience to others)
This is not scenic, but has a lot going for it.  First of all, the armed guard is really cool.  We had fun watching him direct most of the goings on at the station, he seems to know everybody and takes time to chat with you (in Spanish) too.  Second, it's extremely convienient, situated next to the Ruinas and with as easy and pleasant walk to town via a stone-paved walkway, and thirdly, the price is right.  We didn't bargain so maybe you could get it for less, but they charged us 50L/night and we filled up with water and had access to electricity after the station was closed. 

4. Campamento Armadillo, Las Vegas, Honduras (Lago de Yojoa area)
Near Parque Nacional Santa Barbara on the west side of Lago de Yojoa, (on the road from Peña Blanca to El Mochito) this campamento is used by groups of up to 125 persons and they didn't know what to say when we asked permission to camp there.  It took a while and some discussion before we got an answer but once they decided they were friendly and helpful.  Fenced and guarded, with a large and manicured lawn, it was a very pleasant place to stay. You can take a 20 minute hike up the hill to a panoramic view of the lake. In the morning the 'manager' arrived and wanted to charge us 200 L, but we talked him down to 150 L, which we thought was high for a place with no hookups, especially compared to our luxury at Finca las Glorias the night before. If they had a group they probably wouldn't have let us stay. There was another camping spot on that road perfect for small rigs signed as "parqueo".
5. Catarata de Pulhapanzak, Honduras
We didn't camp here, just visited for part of the day.  There is a beautiful shady area for camping that would accomodate most RVs in this privately owned park.  The entry fee is 30L/person, camping is an additional 30L/person.  There is a restaurant, hiking trails and areas to swim.  The falls are impressive.
6. Hotel Finca Las Glorias, Lago de Yojoa, Honduras (N14° 56' W88° 00')
A local gave us a tip that this was a great place to stay. We really liked the setting of this hotel which is off the main road in a quiet and more undeveloped area of the lakeshore.  It has beautiful and spacious grounds with panoramic vistas, abundant bird life, and many amenities: pool, a good restaurant, playground for kids, boats and horses for rent, fishing trips, and internet services ($3/hour). It is actually a farm and you can walk around and see pineapple, coffee, vegetables and an unknown fruit that hangs from a vine growing.  There is a water park before you get to the hotel that is run by the finca also. The fee was 100 L (about $5) for us to park in a cemented area under several large trees right near the marina (we had to lift an electrical cable up with a long pole to get in, though). Water is available, and probably electricity, although we didn't need it. No dump. Directions:  Take the road that heads northwest from La Guama toward the Catarata de Pulhapanzak.  It is a ways past Agua Azul but not yet to Pena Blanca, and is well signed. Veer right to the hotel from the water park.
7. D and D Brewery
We´d like to reccommend a pleasant place to stop for a few hours although it´s not a campground.  The D and D Brewery, built and run by Robert Dale, an expatriot from Oregon, is in the Lago de Yojoa region on the road from Pena Blanca to El Mochito.  We had a tasty lunch, good beer and homemade sodas, and a pleasant and informative tour around the place including introduction to many tropical plants and their uses from Bob.  Besides being a microbrewery, it is also a bed and breakfast with clean and very charming cabins, a pool and interesting grounds.  To get there ask in Pena Blanca for "El Gringo que hace cerveza".

Note from  John & Harriet.  Other places around Lago de Yajoa where you can camp: Los Naranjos Park, northwest corner of lake (N14° 56.4' W88° 01.2'); Hotel & Restaurant Los Remos, southeast corner (N14° 47.6' W87° 58.9').

8. Hotel Marquez, Yoro, Honduras
We pulled in to Yoro after a long drive on unpaved roads during a torrential downpour, crossing 5 streams to get there.  We were running out of daylight. The hotel parking lot had room for our rig and all night security.  They wanted 200 L but we talked them down to 150. the hotel has a restaurant, but we ate in our rig. In the morning kids who should have been in school washed our truck for tips, using buckets of water they carried over. We didn't think they would get all the mud off but they did a good job.
9. Bahia Bar, Trujillo, Honduras
The Bahia Bar is east of the Cristopher Columbus Hotel on the airstrip just before town, that is, turn right.  This is a friendly, casual eatery right on the beach where families gather on Sunday afternoons.  There is  a nice space to camp on level ground and even some shade.  It took a while to get permission (to find the right person to ask, that is) but we finally did, and parked there for free, eating and buying beer there. No hook ups.

10.  Agua Termale, Gracias, Honduras (N14° 33.536' W 88° 34.187')
[This is not Rus and Kathleen' we discovered in March, '06 - J.].  Just outside  the town of Gracias is the natural hot spring "resort" of Agua Termale.  There is a steep drive to a small parking lot where you can camp.  It is sutiable only for small rigs (our 22 ft. class C about the biggest!).  The hot springs are fun and they serve simple but tasty meals. 
Camping in Guatemala (7/06)

Courtesy of  Rus Krause-Kathleen Krauss

4. Monterrico, Guatemala
We had trouble finding a place to camp in Monterrico as the hotels there have a policy of not allowing people to sleep in their parking lots in their vehicles, and most didn't have room for us to park anyway.  After asking 4 hotels where people who said "no", somebody at Johnny's Place directed us to a local guide named Selso who's brother, Francisco lived about 3 blocks from the beach and had room for us to park in their front yard.   He asked for 50 Q ($6.25) and we didn't bargain but probably could have paid less if we were on a tight budget.  They had a large family, and were friendly and helpful but gave us our space. They let us fill with water which was messy and sprayed water all over their yard, because the hose had no connector to join with ours but they just laughed and turned the pump on and off when we asked until we got it working better. The next morning we went out on a boat at dawn to tour the estuary with Selso as our guide.  There is a Nature Reserve in town that protects and aides 4 kinds of turtles, caimen, and other local endangered animals. The beach is clean with black sand, but the Pacific Ocean is quite rough for swimming. It's a peaceful, enjoyable little village in a lovely natural setting.
PS. The Hotel San Gregorio had a large parking lot that would have been fine for us to camp in but it was against their policy and we couldn't change their minds. We could have stayed in an air conditioned room there for $300 Q. It was pretty with a pool and courtyard but we didn't stay. Maybe if enough people in campers ask they will realize they can make a little more money from their parking lot.

5. Antigua, Guatemala
We when we arrived in Antigua we parked on one of the larger streets and walked into the centro to the tourist center where we got directions to a few places where we might be able to camp. The only one that really worked for us was the large and tree-lined Parqueo (parking lot) on Av de la Recoleccion, accross from the bus terminal and market.  It is actually pretty and pleasant there, situated next to a very impressive ruins, and it seemed safe. It's gated and the attendent and his family live and work there. There is also a possibility of an electrical connection, as we saw one camper running a cord from the keeper's dwelling, but we didn't inquire about it ourselves.  The cost is 50 Quetzales for the day or 100 Q for the day and night. No dump, possible water, though we didn't ask.

6.  Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa, Guatemala
We stopped here to see the large stone heads and other figures carved by the Pipil people around 500 to 700 AD.  These had been discovered in the sugar cane plantations and a wonderful collection is on display at the Museo El Baul at the Ingenio (sugar refinery) El Baul headquarters. We got lost going through town but were rescued and lead all the way to the gate by a couple of very friendly tourist police on a motorcycle.  The museo is free of charge but it is on the grounds of the refinery which has been closed down for about 3 years, and the property is locked and guarded. If you ask to see the museo they will let you in and direct you to "las piedras".  We also asked them if we could camp there for the night because it was late afternoon, we got a positive response so we found a fine, level spot next to the museo.  About 10 minutes later another guard came up and apologetically told us that he didn't have the authority to give us permission to stay there but that we could park just outside the gate and we'd be watched over by their armed guard. We moved to the spot they suggested and were given a tour of the hydroelectric plant that powered the refinery by the guard, Victor. It was built in 1914 and still operates, but is not used at present. We chatted a while with the other guards and then went inside to cook and eat our dinner.  Just as we finished 2 other men came over and one who had authority told us we should move inside, we'd be safer and the police wouldn't bother us.  We weren't eagar to move again but they insisted we'd be safer inside and so we did, and slept well listening to the rain outside.  In the morning Victor gave us an extensive tour of the whole refinary including the living quarters of the workers. They had everything, market, church and jail.  Seeing all the old equipment and learning the details of the process of refining sugar turned out to be far more interesting than seeing the stone carvings. Victor knew a lot about local plants and animals although this was all related to us in Spanish and we didn't get it all.  He refused to take a tip, saying it was his job. N1422.876 W09101.008  Cost $0.

We wanted to go see several large stone heads in the cane fields nearby where the Mayans still pray, light candles, and offer sacrifices but all the guards warned us that it wasn't safe to drive alone into the middle of the cane fields.  We don't know if that was true or not but we decided to skip these and head on toward the highway.

7.  More on Fuentes Georginas, Guatemala
We arrived at Fuentes Georginas just at dark on a Friday night.  The gate was closed but they agreed to let us in for the night although they said we had to leave in the morning because they would have a lot of people coming on Saturday. It cost 60 Q for the 2 of us and camping. In the morning we took another quick dip which lasted longer than we intended because we met Nora and several Spanish students from your school in Xela and had a lot of fun visiting with them.  When we got back to the rig the parking lot was completely full and there was not even space for a camper of our size to turn around.  Luckily we were pointed in the right direction and as we left we encountered more and more cars coming up the narrow one-lane road.  The hot springs really gets crowded on weekends and we would recommend large vehicles only attempt it on week days.


Courtesy of  Rus Krause-Kathleen Krauss

This may not clear anything up for future travelers, but here's our experience, to add to the seemingly infinite number of variations on "official" policy: 

Entering Honduras at La Florida, we were directed to Agricultura when we inquired about our dog.  The Agricultura official wanted to know how long we’d be in the country.  We told him we weren’t sure, but up to 3 or 4 weeks, thinking we could get a longer temporary permit.  He then told us that the law in Honduras requires all dogs entering the country to have a "cuarentena", not a true quarantine, but a document signed by a vet stating the animal is in good health, and processed by the federal government.  Obviously, he said, we had not done this, so next he asked where we were going, and we told him Copan and then to the Carribean coast, and he said excellent, we could present ourselves to Agricultura at the airport in La Ceiba, get our dog inspected at a local vet he gave us the name of, return to Agricultura with the vet and the quarantina form, and we'd be good to go.  He said to to negotiate with the vet.  He wrote a letter to the Agricultura official in La Ceiba and made us sign it, in effect, promising to do this within six days of entering the country. He stamped our U.S.D.A. form, and we proceeded to Aduana for our automobile permits.  He was considerate and helpful, gave us chairs and turned on the air conditioning while we waited.  In fact, he was the friendliest and most personable of all the border officials. 

A few days later in La Ceiba, we drove to the airport, very near our beach camp at Pelican's Beat, and met with the Agricultura official.  We were hoping we could pay the vet to meet us there with the form in hand, inspect Ziggy, fill out the form and hand it to the official.  No such luck.  The vet insisted we come to her office, and the fee was $100 US!!   We debated whether to just skip the whole thing, especially since this Agricultura official said we'd have no trouble leaving the country without the cuarentena, only trouble staying, but decided in the end to show up at the vet's and bargain them down to, say, $50.  If they went for it, we were willing to go through with it, and if not, we'd walk and take our chances.

The vet in La Ceiba (actually the vet's daughter; her father was away on a trip.  She spoke excellent English, but wan't yet licensed), told us the process would take 15 days, and the fee was not negotiable.  We said we'd be out of the country by then, and we'd at least need a signed and stamped copy of the documents she would be sending to the capitol to show that we'd complied with the law.  She said that would not be possible.  We asked what we could leave her office with to show we'd begun the process, and she said she couldn't give us anything.  We then said, well, let's just get an exam and a signed paper stating Ziggy was in good health, which we thought would help us in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and she said it wouldn't help as they wouldn't have an official stamp.  Furthermore, she said, since we'd presented ourselves in her office, she was legally required to either complete the cuarentena with us, or notify Agricultura that we'd refused to do it, in which case the border authorities would be on alert for us and we couldn't leave the country with our dog!  Additionally, the six-day window we were given to present ourselves to Agricultura did not consitute a six-day transit permit.  Does the term "between a rock and a hard place" come to mind here?   Another term comes to mind, too, but we won't say it here!  But she called Agricultura once more for us, and they agreed to permit us to have a signed copy of the cuarentena document from the vet before they sent it off for processing. We waited a few hours in town for her father to return to sign the copy, but he was delayed at the airport, so we had to return the next morning. 

Our papers were ready the next day, stamped and signed, but we wanted to speak directly to the vet about the price of his services, and that we felt we'd been had, not only by him but by the whole cuarentena policy, when we knew of others who've been given transit permits instead.  We won't go into the exchange, as it was very spirited and lengthly.  Your Spanish gets a lot better when you're mad!  The end result was that nothing changed.  He was absolutely intransigent, telling us things we knew to be untrue.  Both Agricultura officials had this vet's name; the one in La Ceiba Airport even had a stack of his business cards.  We would recommend, if you can't avoid the quarantina, using a different vet.  For purposes of avoidance, his name is Dr. Sergio Reynel Bueno Ferrera, at the Bueno Hospital Veterinario, La Ceiba, Honduras. (No es bueno!!)

It's hard to know exactly what went wrong.  In retrospect, we wish we hadn't even mentioned our dog at the border.  There was no interior inspection of our rig, and even though she's a big lab and was sitting in the front seat, no one took any notice of her.  We could have then taken our chances at the Nicaraguan border with our existing U.S.D.A. and Mexican Certificates of Health.  We also considered shining the whole thing on and not even going to Agricultura at the La Ceiba airport, but our first official seemed genuinely helpful and straightforward, and after all, we'd signed a promise and felt an obligation to follow through.  But if we'd known what was to follow, we probably would have just shined it, especially since we had the Honduran stamp on the U.S.D.A. Certificate of Health.  Honduras is the first country we've had any dog troubles. Contrary to expectations, Mexico didn't care, even on the Mainland.  And at the Guatemalan border they told us, "Just one dog? You don't need anything."

 We think the best thing for entering Honduras would be to avoid the "cuarentena" like the plague, and instead press hard for a two-week transit permit, since we know they exist.  Perhaps our mistake was in asking for a longer period of time.  When does the transit period end and the cuarentena begin?  We'd love to hear more details from those who've gotten gotten transit permits, maybe it would help the rest of us educate the Agricultura officials at the border that there's an alternative to the cuarentena.
Note from the  Halkyards: We have traveled into Honduras four times now and have had mixed luck with the Dog.  The first two times are described in our book, and the  the last two on this page below.  We've had anything from a two day transit permit (at El Amatillo on the  last trip) to an unlimited permit (at Los Manos on the last trip). By the way, on our first entry at El Florido we tried not mentioning the dog.  But as luck would have it on this occasion they wanted to inspect the RV and Brindle was vociferous in her welcome.  They directed us to cuarentena for the formalities.  Friends of ours have a big class A and were successful keeping their dog under a bunch of pillows in the bed room.  This  requires a special dog!.
It seems all a function of who you meet in  the cuarentena office that day!

We  have never had it as bad as Kathleen and Rus, but clearly Honduras is the worst place to go with a dog in Central America.  What we might suggest for future travel is to stop in at a Honduran consulate, either in the States or in the preceding country (e.g. in Guatemala City).  Get them to stamp your USDA form.  See a vet there if you have to, but get aletter from the consulate saying it is ok to take your dog into Honduras for X days.  This is a pain but better than what they were put through in La Ceiba!

- John Halkyard 7/16/06

Shipping to South America (7/06)
Courtesy of  Haye and Willeke Radersma

If you are interested in shipping, easiest is to contact Evelyn Batista from Barwill agencies in Panama (   She also gives you a list of where to go for police and customs, etc. before shipping can be done.
We first wanted to take a RoRo, $750 for our landcruiser and $1500 for Lucy (see picture below and But it turned out this ship goes most of the time from Colon to Mexico and then to Cartagena so it takes 11 days. So we decided to to ship by container. Our car was shipped with three more cars in 2-40 foot containers for $650 dollars per car. We put our cars in the container on thursday, the ship left friday. If monday had not been a national holiday, we could have started the process of getting our vehicles back then. Lucy was shipped by platform for around $1800.  In Cartagena the costs for agent and harbour taxes etc. worked out to about $260  per container/platform.

The flight cost $270 a person, all included. Then of course there are cost for hotels etc., but you can figure that out yourself. We stayed in Cartagena at hotel Villa Colonial, a family operated hotel and very warmly recommended. (The daughter helped Michael for some payment with getting Lucy out of the harbour, with which he was very happy too)  It did take us 2 days however to get our cars, but Cartagena is fabulous.

If I would do it again, I would also look into shipping from Mexico. The ship from Costa Rica to Equador [the low cost RoRo recommended in 99 Days to Panama] often does not make a stop in Costa Rica (plus their price is now up to $60  per m3), but does stop in Acapulco if I am rightly informed.
Colombia is fabulous and as long as you stick to the Pan American perfectly save.

Guatemala Camping (6/06)

From Liesbet Collaert - El Remate/ Tikal
El Remate, south of Tikal (where you parked and left Brindle for the day) was our first stop.  We only wished we could take the dogs to the campground in the National Park…  We spent three hours, searching the area for electricity strong, enough for AC to leave the dogs.  It was very hot, still.  None of the hotels in town had a parking lot that could handle our RV (lot under the building, low hanging cables, too steep of a path, no parking at all…).  The electricity in other places was not strong enough for our AC, the Biotopo was already closed, and at one hotel our AC worked, but we would have to park along a narrow dirt road and the price was pretty steep.  The first night we parked next to a guest house, but it was really too hot without the AC to leave the dogs, so the next morning we moved to our only other option, Hostal Hermano Pedro or something like that, in town.  No shower, no toilet, no space around the camper, but…  working AC for the dogs.  $ 7 for the night.  We left directly for Tikal, which was a great visit.  Something was funky with the time, though, and only the next day, we found out that Guatemala has daylight savings for the first time in history!

From Liesbet Collaert - Finca Ixobal
This is a wonderful place to spend some time.  It has everything, from good restaurant, to social atmosphere, ping pong table, internet, activities, big roomy fields, clean bathrooms, pond and pool bar (closed when we were there).  Everything is on the honor system, every party has a sheet in a file to keep track.  They charge $3 per person and electricity (not enough for AC, but you don’t need it here) is another $1,5.  We loved our stay, until the last night, when the camper got swarmed by termites.  For two hours they managed to crawl into every crack possible.  All our compartments attracted them, we had to close all windows, spray Windex and DEET, and finally got them somehow under control, only to see them appear through our AC unit!  They lost their wings and dropped out of the unit for the next hours, through the night.  We managed to kill hundreds of them the first hours, but it was so tiring.  Poor Kali who sleeps under the unit…  The next morning we found an inch thick layer of termites on the roof: dead, alive, wings.  We cleaned for four hours and still find more every day.

From Liesbet Collaert - Rio Dulce
Bruno’s in Rio Dulce, you guys know.  A convenient place with very friendly managers and a tempting restaurant.  To save money, you go into town and eat meals for $1,5.  The mojito’s and bloody mary’s are irresistible, though!  We joke about the fact that thanks to our savings on eating on the street, we got to splurge on cocktails, which cost more than our dinners…  It was still $6,5 a night, and $3,5 extra for the use of AC.  Our boat tour to Livingston was hardly a “tour”.  They forgot to pick us up, an hour later we managed to get on the boat, having missed half of the sights.  We had to change boats because of an engine problem and later on, lost more time because of another engine problem.  No commentary anywhere and Livingston was nothing special.  The beaches were awful and it was extremely hot.  We did like the trip through the canyon and along the jungle edges.  We enjoyed getting a feel about how the people live in there little communities along the Rio Dulce.  The price was $22 per person, expensive.
From Liesbet Collaert - Coban, Biotopo del Quetzal
Coban was next.  We planned on following the northern route above the lake.  After reading up about that and getting a taste for the road on our bus trip to Agua Caliente ( a nice side trip from Rio Dulce, as is Castillo de San Felipe), we decided to take the paved, but longer route on the south side of Lago Izabal.   A good place to camp in Coban is Parque Nacional Las Victorias.  It’s mentioned in Lonely Planet and you can walk to town from it.  You park on a level parking area at the end of the road into the park and there are cold showers and toilets.  There’s also a water faucet and we saw an outlet in the toilet building.  The grassy area is nice for the dogs.  Price $3 a person.  The nicest thing was the climate!  For the first time since very long, we didn’t need a fan and used our comforter, just with outside air…  Wonderful!  To get to the park, you take the main road into town, past the huge western shopping mall, with a Paiz supermarket, bend towards the left and follow until you reach 11a Av.  Turn left and you end up at the park entrance.
We planned on visiting the caves of Lanquin (and camp there) and Semuc Champey, the next day.  We got an early start, managed to get out of town and into the next one, only to get confronted with the only bridge over the river, with an arch mentioning 3,5 m maximum height.  We measured ourselves: 11 feet. 
Ed. Note. I think the bridge she is talking about is in San Pedro Cachá, 6 km east of Coban.  We crossed under this bridge in our 22 ft Coachmen, nominal height 11.5 ft.  Lanquin and Semuc Champey are worth visiting.  There is a campground next to the Grutas Lanquin called Guayaja.  A large field with an overhead "canopy tour" wire.  The owner said they were adding RV facilities in 2006.  Semuc Champey is best visited by car or van as the road is very rough and narrow.We did it Semana Santa week which was a nightmare in our Class C.  It is  doable in this rig and camping by the river at Semuc is lovely if you are adventurous.

Low Bridge between Coban and Lanquin at San Pedro Cachá.
After precise calculations, we realized we were “only” 3,3 m high.  Nevertheless, we didn’t risk it.  We either had to find the truck route, hook up with a bus to Lanquin and follow him or give up on the whole idea, which meant we drove this whole distance for nothing.  We know that buses drive the 60 km in about three hours.  It wasn’t worth it.  Instead we went shopping in paradise (our first full size supermarket since Mexico) and drove back South.  We stopped at Biotopo del Quetzal, km 161, along CA 14 .  Entrance fee to the nature park is $3 a person and you can camp there for another $1.50 a person on their lot.  There are toilets, but no showers.  They do have two nice swimming holes.  Don’t forget it is pretty chilly here.  The parking area has no plants or grass at all and pets are not allowed in the park, so camping there was not attractive for us.  Instead, we asked the Biotopin Restaurant across the street for permission to park overnight.  That was granted, we only had to consume a meal in their restaurant, which closes at 5 pm.  We spoiled ourselves with a nice breakfast ($ 3 each) the next morning and everybody was happy.  There are toilets, a little lawn and nice walking trails in the forest.  You can walk down to the river to a swimming hole (the dogs loved it), see a couple of waterfalls  and basically see similar things than the Biotopo, but for free.

From Liesbet Collaert - Bypassing Guatemala City
We left early the next day, to battle Guatemala City.  We tried to follow the by-pass instructions in reverse, after trying to write this down the previous day.  We misinterpreted the “jog to right” with turn to the right, so after we got into the city, there was no way of knowing where to go to the right.  We took a right turn a few times, only to realize that it wasn’t working and got back on track.  The by-pass is practically one big road that you follow all the way through, until you get out on the other side, on a highway.  It was not that difficult, once you know not to really turn onto other roads.  Just follow traffic and trucks.  When you get down to the Hiper Paiz (this is where the Anillo Periferico crosses the Pan-American Highway- ed.), you have to get to the other side of the road to drive west.

From Liesbet Collaert - Panajachel, Corazon del Bosque
The next obstacle was Solola.  We decided to take the easy paved road to Panajachel, instead of the unknown thinner red lines on the map.  It was easy to get through, since there were signs everywhere.  If you doubt and don’t see a blue and white sign with the town’s name on it, look on the buildings and there might be a yellow sign pointing towards PANA.  The market was basically gone, since we were late, and that might have helped.  But know, that buses drive through this town also.  Actually if you plan day trips to surrounding areas, we find it easier to take a bus to Solola first and change there, instead of waiting for the right direct bus in Panajachel.
It was already 6 pm when we arrived at the lake,  We had missed the views because of mist and clouds.  We had great expectations of the place and planned to stay for at least a month. The first place we checked out was Hotel Tzanjuyu.  The manager asked $13 a night with electricity.  We got shocked, not being used to pay that much for camping.  We drove to Vision Azul.  The guy there said they didn’t allow camping now, because it was too wet.  Hearing that we had 4WD, he showed us around anyway.  Run down place, lower than basic bathrooms, empty pool, cold showers, a foot high grass, muddy grounds, garbage everywhere.  $ 9.50 a night with electricity.  For that night, since it was late, we were going to check out the free camping on the other side of the river.  It took a while and some frustration to “get” close.  The river had washed away roads, a lot of people were hanging around.  Not an option.  Back to Tzanjuyu to bargain him down to $9.50 a night.  Not accepted.  Back to Vision Azul and staying in a swampy garbage dump with a lot of mosquitoes for the night.  Our extension cord didn’t reach the outlet.  Fireworks stressed the dogs, who didn’t eat nor drink anymore.  We were so tired, and so disappointed.
Next day was Sunday.  Since we planned doing all the sights as soon as possible, in case we would leave the area, we had to go to Chichicastenango for the market.  I was flying home and could take souvenirs!  But first we were checking out another camping possibility, all by public transportation.  This one is called Corazan del Bosque, at km 145 along the main highway (CA1).  You mention the place on your website (see link) and it is indeed very nice.  The price is $3.50 a person a night.  There is water and an outlet, showers and toilets.  The showers need to be fixed at the moment.  A lot of shade, a river and hiking trails make for a great doggy place, too.  We liked it a lot and keep it as an alternative for Panajachel.  After visiting Chichi, we went over to Hotel Tzanjuyu once again and got them (another manager) down to $9.50 a night, without electricity.  Then we moved there and felt happy and relieved.  Another camper pulled up, from Austria.  Neighbours again, after six weeks without any other campers!  The grounds are partly mowed, there is water and electricity if needed, the climate is awesome and town has a lot to offer.  The view is unbelievable and we are glad to experience the beauty of this area.  A lot of people walk by, though, but I believe it is safe enough.  Somebody is “around” all day and night.  We might stay here for a while after all…

Belize Camping (6/06)

From Amy and Aaron Young- Belize Zoo

We have been in Belize for about two weeks and have stayed in two places. The first may be of interest to you.  The Belize Zoo is very nice and across the street is the "TEC" (Tropical Education Center).  The TEC  has Cabanas and bunk houses for reasonable rates and did not charge us anything to camp for two nights.  We ate dinner and breakfast there and took a night tour of the Zoo which was a highlight.  I would not recommend any large RV's attempt the road in or the VERY small entrance.

From Liesbet Collaert - Hopkins
After Placencia, we drove back to Hopkins.  We still needed to see Cockscomb Basin, where pets are not allowed.  When you get into town, and drive all the way to the end of the road (where the police station is and the spot near the water that you recommended as the best place to boondock) , you turn left, follow that road till after it turns into dirt.  On the right hand side, you find the Kismet Inn.  The owner, Trish, has signs all over town and even along the highway, for her hotel-restaurant-campground..  We parked a few days on her level parking lot and plugged in an outlet, strong enough for AC.  She has a toilet and cold outdoor, quite private shower. No water, though.  Price: $7,50 a night.

From Liesbet Collaert - Placencia

Our next stop was going to be Placencia.  Mark wanted to check it out, because he had heard a lot of positives from other sailors.  The last 30 miles was over a bad dirt road.  It took us almost two shaking hours to reach the town.  We parked the car and were informed about camping at the visitor center (at the end of the road into town, next to the fuel station).  Harry’s Cozy Cabanas had a hot parking spot in the sand, with a water faucet as only amenity. No showers, nor toilet, nor electricity, nor view.   A big no-no.  The only other candidate was the Art ‘n Soul Gallery, where Greta allowed tenters to camp.  We followed “the sidewalk”, the only other, and quiet picturesque, “street” in town.  There is a level parking lot, with an access road from the main street, across from her shop.  It’s public parking (the best one in town), free, and with an open view of the Caribbean.  Mark and I used her poor shower and toilet (I even spotted a rat!) for $2,50 a person, a night.  It was very hot, and we got permission from Greta to run our extension cord, over the sidewalk (cars are not allowed on the other side of it), to the shop.  The outlet didn’t provide enough power to run the air-conditioning [ed. note: take 100 ft of an AWG 12 extension chord with you!] .  The dogs had an awful time with the heat and we picked about ten ticks a day off each of them.  Advantix doesn’t seem to work in these countries.  Or maybe we let the pups swim too soon or too much…  We were about to leave Belize the next day, but felt bad about not having experienced Placencia.  In a last try, we asked around in hotels and guesthouses, with access roads, whether we could plug into an outlet.  We got lucky!  The manager of one of the places, also had a rental house at the edge of town on the beach.  It was low season and he was planning some work on the house, so nobody was renting it.  We could plug in (the AC worked!) and use a shower and toilet in the fancy concrete house.  He gave us a key and left it to us to come up with a fair price.  We felt unbelievable lucky!  We ended up staying for two weeks and paying $10 a day.  We met some friendly locals, socialized a lot with our US neighbours, had BBQ meals on the beach, prepared by Belizean friends, enjoyed the great atmosphere, bars and restaurants, and felt revived when we left.  We like the place so much, that we were thinking of opening a nice campground and cheap backpacker’s place, since the area lacks that.  Property prices are way too high, though.  Maybe we go back and try to manage a place or something.

From Liesbet Collaert - San Ignacio  and Cayo District, Barton Creek
In San Ignacio, we stayed at Inglewood.  This is along the Western Highway, about 5 km west of town.  It’s a real RV park, with clean bathrooms (voted the best shower in Belize, with shower head and warm water), water and electricity hook-ups, a dump station, plenty room to park in a huge grassy field.  The owners Glenn and Victoria are very friendly and helpful.  They also have a couple of palapa’s for shade and an area for cooking and washing clothes, with a super long clothes line!.  They charge $ 9 a night plus electricity, which is metered.  A good system. 

We loved the Cayo area, and especially the Mountain Pine Ridge.  The roads are very bad there and we wouldn’t recommend larger RV’s to do it.  Tow cars and pick-ups are fine.  Camping is possible in the only little town there: Douglas Da Silva.  There is shade, water and a couple of pit toilets.  It’s very quiet and close to a nice river, jungle walking trail and cave (Rio Frio Cave).  In the area are the ruins of Caracol (you need a police escort to go there, we were “ruined out” by then and didn’t go) and some gorgeous waterfalls.  Our favourite and most fun attraction in the area was Rio on Pools.  We spent the whole day relaxing on the smooth rocks, swimming in the various pools and sliding down the rapids and little waterfalls connecting the pools.  Kali and Darwin had a ball.  There is a picnic area with pit toilets.  We camped there one night, but are not sure whether it is allowed.  We read before that camping in the Mountain Pine Ridge is free, but when we left the area, past the gate, the guard told us we had to pay.  He didn’t really know how much and it all felt a little weird, so we don’t really know what the scoop is.  Later we heard a lot of warnings that this area is not safe.  People should check ahead and ask around before planning to camp in the park.  Douglas Da Silva is an “official campground”, with army people around, so that should be fine.

The Barton Creek cave is a highlight around San Ignacio as well.  We drove the bumpy bad road to the Barton Creek Outpost, where camping is allowed.  Grassy area, cool creek, clean bathroom, restaurant, cave tour and friendly owners.  $ 5 a person a night.  We wouldn’t drive it again, though.  Taking a tour from town to Barton Creek is not more expensive than arranging it here and you don’t have to pay for camping and fuel, that way.  The biggest problem on the dirt road, were the low hanging trees.  We had to cut branches with the machete and a couple of times I had to be superwoman to hold up heavy branches, move them backwards while the truck drove and climb over them to not get stuck in them or be thrown off the roof.  Only drive it when you’re lower than 10,5 feet and have 4WD.

Belize Camping (5/06)

From Liesbet Collaert
We ended up in Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary.  The entrance fee is US $ 4 per person and you can camp for free at the Visitor Center, as long as you want.  There is shade under trees and a good breeze coming from the lagoon.  Food in town is pretty cheap.  There are a couple of walking paths, but the main one (a boardwalk) is closed for restoration.  Not enough money is coming in, so the project might have to wait for a while.  The representatives of the Audoban Society are thinking of building a new boardwalk closer to the visitor center.  It’s a good place to hang out for a while and watch birds, cows and horses pass by, but other than that, the walks are of not much interest.

The Community Baboon Sanctuary was definitely worth a stop.  The camping at the Visitor Center cost US $ 5 (plus an extra US $5 for using electricity), was hot and not very nice, but we wanted to do our walk the next morning, so we could leave the dogs in the camper.  There are only pit toilets and the fire ants are overly present and biting.  The walk to see the Howler Monkeys was well worth it, as you guys experienced.  The two of us got to feed the animals some cashew fruit and one of them got intrigued by my hair.  She took my bandana off and started to pull my hair, and touch my face for five minutes.  A special experience!  The 5 US dollar entrance fee still includes a guided walk.  From the moment you pay, you are welcome to walk the several jungle trails.

Belize City has a wonderful marina (see Cucumber Beach Marina), about five miles from town, where they allow RV camping!  The facilities include laundry, electricity, water, super clean toilets and showers (with hot water) and … free wireless internet.  The price?  US $ 5 (plus 9 % tax) just for parking and using the bathrooms and an extra US $ 2.50 for electricity, which we gladly paid.  When you stay at the marina, use of a nice man-made beach and “ponds” is free.  The marina is located in Old Belize, where there’s also a pretty good restaurant.  This area is mostly set-up for the cruise ships.  Taking the bus into town is very easy.  Right on the street (which is the Western Highway), you just flag any bus down and pay BZ $ 1 (50 cents US) for the 15 minute ride.  It gives you a chance to see the city (where there’s nothing to see, by the way), do some produce/grocery shopping, or most importantly, visit Caye Caulker or Ambergris Caye.  You can leave the camper in the marina for US $ 5 a day (same as camping price), where it is completely safe.  The whole property is fenced and there are two armed guards on duty during the night.  Mark and I just went on a day trip to Caye Caulker, after a lot of debating, because it would be too much of a hassle getting the dogs into town and on the boat.  The taxi’s are very expensive because of the extremely high fuel prices.

We checked out Five Blues Lake.  The road to get there was pretty rough and it took us an hour to reach the parking area, about 6 miles off the Highway.  We also scratched the roof of the camper quite a bit because of the low hanging brush and trees.  The water was gorgeous, though, and the dogs loved it!  A great way to cool off in the over 90 degrees jungle.  I would have loved to stay longer to walk in the rainforest a bit more, but it was simply too hot.  When we went to the toilet outside, at night, we could hear all kinds of movement in the bush…

We drove to Hopkins, which has indeed a couple of good places to camp.  The best spot seemed to be Tipple Tree Beya, where they charge US $ 5 per person.  You can park in their driveway and use the outside shower and bathroom.  Their beach is pretty nice.  We opted to stay the night at the park in Sittee River (where you ended up after the forest fire nightmare), let our pups swim in the river and save some money [ed. note: watch for crocs in the river!].  Across the street is a nice bar and the mixed couple is building an annex for use as a restaurant. 

Toucan Sittee is the other option in Sittee River.  It’s lush gardens and quiet setting on the river are very attractive.  The price for camping is US $ 5 per person and includes use of the bathrooms and electricity.   We might spend a couple of nights there on the way back North, since we need a solution to go to Cockscomb Basin (the Jaguar Reserve), where pets are NOT allowed in the Sanctuary, not even camping.  Maybe we take the camper of the truck and leave the dogs at Toucan Sittee, if the electricity lets us run our AC.  And… if the no-see-ums remain unseen.

Cerro Verde Closed (4/06)

The Cerro Verde National Park in El Salvador is currently closed due to recent activity of the Santa Ana Volcano.  Check with locals before driving there.
Gas Prices (4/6/05)

This table shows the average gas prices we paid in February - March, 2006 and the associated exchange rates. At the start of the trip in February we paid $2.05/gallon in Victoria, Texas  and $1.88 in Brownsville, Texas.  On the return in April prices in Texas were around $2.83 per gallon! These prices are for regular leaded gasoline.  Diesal is about  15% cheaper than regular gas in Central America

Country Ave Gas Price Currency Exchange per $
Mexico  $          2.53 Pesos 10
Guatemala  $          3.09 Quetzales 7.5
Honduras  $          4.04 Limperas 15
El Salvador  $          2.75 Dollars 1
Nicaragua  $          3.32 Cordobas 18.75

Tramitadores at the Borders (4/5/06)

You will find guides at the busier borders who will offer to help you process your paperwork ("tramitadores"). In our book we advised that these guys can be useful, and they were on our first trip most of the time.  This time we only used a Tramitador once, at the Hachadura border between Guatemala and El Salvador. The main advantage we could see was that he knew what copies we needed and took us to the copy place before we were asked to go by the officials. After we had finished paperwork in Guatemala, the tramitador took me to meet someone between two buildings and introduced me to a guy  who claimed to be an El Salvador official who would, for $150,  give me a vehicle permit on the spot.  I exclaimed "no", turned and walked away while they laughed.  Signs on the El Salvador side proclaimed that there were no charges and  that we should not use tramitadores. We subsequently stopped using the tramitadores and have had no problems (El Amatillo is a particularly difficult border to get a vehicle through as the Honduran official in charge never seems to be around.  But if you perserver and are prepared to walk around with someone - official - you will get your papers in an hour or so.... don't go during lunch though.).  When approached by the tramitadores we simply proclaim "No usamos tramitadores" (We don't use tramitadores) and they leave us alone. We no longer recommend using them even though I believe the majority are honest and are trying to help.  It is up to you.  If you do use them, we recommend that you ask for his identification, and WRITE DOWN his name..  it will help identify him if he tries something illegal, and if he is good you can ask for him on the return trip.
Length of Stay in El Salvador (4/5/06)

When we entered El Salvador on March 9 the immigration authorities would only give us five days on our tourist permits.  They said it was because there was an election and we wouldn't be safe hanging around.  They said  this was a policy handed down from above.  We explained that we were authors, trying to improve tourism in El Salvador.  They gave us sympathy but nothing more.  The election was two days  after we arrived and it was over when we had to leave.  There was no violence or danger. The reason was senseless.  When we returned on March 27 after visiting Honduras and Nicaragua. Again, John was given only 5 days (Harriet received 15 from another official at the next window!).  John's official said he could have it extended in San Salvador.  We decided the problem on the return was that we told them we were going to San Salvador, and that we were just in transit.   If we had told them we were  touring the country we probably would have gotten more time. 
Dogs in Honduras (3/14/06, 4/5/06)

We had our USDA form and Vet Certificate, but the Honduran Cuerantena officials at El Amatillo would only allow our dog in Honduras for two days.  This is the minimum time to "transit".  Leaving Honduras two days later at El Espino the Cuarentena official said he would give us 15 days permission for the  dog on the way back.  By the way, El Espino was one  of the easiest border crossings we have found.  It is not very busy. It still took about 1:30, however. We re-entered Honduras on March 25 at Los Manos. The Cuarentena officer didn't know what to do with our paper and just stamped it with no limit. Let us know your experience with dogs in  Honduras (John and Harriet).
New Camping Places (Spring 2006)

We have added more information on camping in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua on the Camping Places page.
Phone Numbers in Guatemala (2/21/06)

A new digit has been added to the phone numbers in Guatemala since we published  99 Days to Panama. For example, the number for the Guatemalensis  Language School in Xela is was  +502 - 765 - 1384 but is now +502 - 7765 - 1384.  A seperate "7"has been added. All numbers in Guatemala now have eight digits.
Lagunas de Montebello, Chiapas, Mexico (2/18/06)

The Lagunas are a short side trip from the highway between San Cristobal and the Guatemalan border.  The turnoff is about 15 km (9 miles) south of Comitan near the town of La Trinitaria.  Head east 25 miles where you pay a $2 toll to enter the National Park.  Proceed through the park where there are several parking lots to stop and visit each of several lakes.  There is a store and camping possible at the end of the park road, but we continued on a dirt road for about three miles and discovered the village of Ojo de Agua and a nice  camping place right along a lake (N 16° 8.123' W 91° 45.147').  It is outfitted with palapas for the holiday crowds, but we had it to ourselves.  It is outside the Park so you can fish and boat if you are equipped, or just enjoy watching the locals fish, and farm.  It was peaceful and serine, however apparently a mad house on Semana Santa.  The dirt road continues to Comitan if you wanted to approach this from the back side.
Soto la Marina, Tamualipas, Mexico (2/16/06)

Soto la Marina is on highway 180 between Matamoros and Tampico.  This is a faster route than travelling through Ciudad Victoria if you are heading down the Gulf coast. Camp La Gata  occupies a large and pleasant layout next to a river. There is plenty of space but no hookups. Caravans use this occasionally.   Electricity is available if you have a long extension (100+ ft).  Camping is $10 per night with cold showers.  Cabanas with  hot showers are available for $30.  To find the camp go 3.3 miles east on the highway from Soto la Marina towards La Pesca.  Turn right just past the large group of silos down a dirt road.  The camp is about .6 miles down this road (N 23° 46.709' W 098° 9.327').  Call Mariza at +52-835-100-2020 for more information or if you are coming with a large group.

In 2003 (Day 2 in 99 days to Panama) we stayed behind Restaurant Ojo de Agua, about 28 miles north of Soto la Marina between km markers 201 and 202 (N 24° 13.218' W 98° 12.504').  We stayed there again in 2006 on our return to Central America.  This time we met the owner, Humberto Garcia and his wife Mitalla.  Humberto is a rancher and business man who speaks English and was most welcoming. They let RVs park for free (he would have to obtain a license if he charged).  There is even a shower (which we didn't try).

New Book on RVing in Central America (1/18/06)

Jim Jaillet has just published a nice travelogue on his "340 days to Panama" adventure in 2003.  See  We had a nice visit with him at Quartzite. His book is full of interesting experiences he and his buddies had on their odyssey.
La Ceiba, Honduras Camp Site (1/16/06)

From Bernard Latapie (Bernard Latapie)
Bernard in Canadian operator the the RV Park near La Ceiba.

Bernard is the a owner of an RV park 6 km from Town Centre of  La Ceiba, Honduras, Central America  (N15:46 W86:52). They are in front of the Honduras Air Force (Airport), turn left when going to Town Centre from North and ask for a place called "Bonitillo".  Go straight to the beach, you will reach them opposite the International Tennis School.
They have electricity and water available at some sites, and a dump station.
There is a private road to the beach, nice bathroom facilities, kayak etc…
A very safe place (only a chair beach stolen in 8 years)
Bernard is Canadian and his wife is from Honduras. They speak French, English, Spanish and Italian.
"A good and safe place to park an RV when going to the Bay Islands (cheaper price then Airport and harbour parking)".

You can find a few pictures at
Scams (1/16/06)

In addition to the ATM Scam (see account by Kathe Kirkbride), Jim Jaillet (  told us about this on.  Crossing from Costa Rica to Nicaragua one of the money changers wanted to give him 1000 Cordoba note for his money.  He insisted on smaller notes but agreed to take one of the 1000 Cordoba notes.  When he went to use this to get gas he found out the note was obsolete and not accepted any more.
Camping in Panama and Costa Rica (1/16/06)

From  Gertrude and Marcel Lizee

Just a note to let the travellers to Panama and Costa Rica know the following.
1. If you wish to be linehandlers during the months of Dec. and  Jan. you are better to go to Colon. 4 to 5 yachts daily cross southward. At the end of Feb and March is the best time to do it from Baboa Yacht Club that is heading north.
2. David Cooper, manager of the BalboaYacht, offered us to stay overnight and during the day as well as make use of showers and toilets for nothing. There is security at night but the guard is down by the marina. Hot spot for wireless for everyone.
3. We took a tour with Panama Marina Adventures from Flamenco Marina. We parked for 24 hrs (overnight and during the day) at the Flamenco Marina for $5. There security is excellent with a guard at the parking lot. Our vehicle was registered with the harbor master Elmer.  The guard came several times during the night  around our unit.
4. Golfito.CR.excellent place to stay is at the Swiss operated resort La Purruja for $2 per night. A bird watchers paradise. Small unit only.
5. Santa Clara XS Memories.Panama.excellent place with all hook ups for $12 per night and very inexpensive good American food at the restaurant. A birdwatchers paradise.
6. El Valle, Los Capitanes hotel/restaurant, German owned and operated. Free parking on a beautifully landscaped grounds, provided you eat a meal daily at the restaurant.  Great German food. Birdwatchers paradise. Small unit only.

7. The restaurant Onleys in Boca del Toro, Quebrada Pitti (Panama east of Almirante) no longer is open.  However, you may check La Escapada in the area.  We stayed with our small unit and we had the million dollar view for 5 services.
Gertrude y Marcel
Canadians travelling in a camperized van.

Camping in El Salvador (1/16/06)

From David Bloom,

Hugo Villarroel, Tourism Specalist and Travel Writer based in Puerto de la Libertad has found  a secure camping area on Pimontal Beach off the Coast Highway CA2 west of Puerto La Libertad. As well, if you experience any mechanical problems or require spare parts while in El Salvador, Joe (José) a friend of mine, native of El Salvador who resided 36 years in the Austin, Texas area will be able to help you and is able to put up one person overnight in the city in case of such an emergency if you don't mind sleeping in a hammock..
Contact info for Hugo Villarroel, +503 2346-1127, , on 5th Avenue near Punta Roca restaurant.
David Bloom, +503 2512-6637 , (San Salvador)

Road Conditions (12/8/05)

From Ronald Janssen copied from
Check this link out for further information.

Just came back to La Ceiba, Honduras yesterday from our trip. The roads especially the last 3 hours of road 200 in chiapas are confusing and terrible with a lot of bridges out and stretches of unpaved roads, It used to be a divided 4 lane nice highway but now you get send from one side to the other and will have oncoming traffic even if the signs said sometimes not , so never overtake because there might be two way traffic. The first hour from Ciudad Hidalgo into Guatemala towards Escuintla, there are a few bridges out , but there are not to many problems there In Honduras I entered in Copan and went to La Ceiba, this road used to be good, but is terrible now with potholes, a suv can disappear into it especially from La Entrada to San Pedro Sula. There is one bridge out between Progresso and Tela and there is a dirt road of 2 hours to get around it, which is not passable with a RV or nice car without getting damage
Water and Sanitation (12/08/05)

From Kenneth Crosby

You might like to know that when I bought my motorhome, knowing that I was going to spend winters in Mexico, I had an ultraviolet water purification system installed, which enables me to use water put into my tank through a filter from virtually anywhere, unless it's noticeably discolored.  All water pumped from the tank goes through two filters and then an ultraviolet-irradiated tube before going to sinks, ice maker, everywhere, so I never have to buy bottled water.  One source of an ultraviolet purification system is  Others are sold in shops in Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Chapala, etc., though by far most gringos living in Mexico prefer to use bottled water. Such systems are used on homes in Mexico, so finding ultraviolet lamps and filters is not a problem.  Also, I soon learned as a full-timer that it isn't necessry to buy expensive RV toilet tissue. Any tissue marked "safe for septic systems" works for me; if in doubt, I shake some in a jar of water to see if it disintegrates.  And the manufacturer of my Norcold fridge specifically warns against using butane in any climate, saying that it will damage the burner.
RE: Roads in Guatemala and more.. (12/06/05)

Excellent. I always advise travelers with time on their hands busing or driving to go via La Mesilla, it is far more pleasant and much safer than the Tapachula route. The route to El Salvador is best for you via Escuintla, which can now be reached from Antigua in 30 minutes on the new road, east to the La Hachadurra frontier post into El Salvador, all newly paved highway on both sides of border, head into Kilo 5, the intersection south of Sonsonate, go about 4 km. north and turn right onto CA2 Litoral coast highway again, some winding road and 5 tunnels enroute to Puerto Libertad. If you need assistance in Puerto de La Libertad go visit Hugo Villarroel, a journalist, native of Chile, resident 30 years in El Salvador, who publishes a local tourist newspaper based in the Port. Hugo's house is on the corner 5a Avenida Sur y 2a Calle Pte. near Playa La Paz, some 150 meters from Punta Roca Restaurant Telephone 2346-1127. Never arrive on a Sunday, crowded with natives from city, and remember in December many Salvadorians return home from the US for holidays, so could be crowded. My number is 2512-6637 but I live in San Salvador. Good Luck. (I used to park my car at the Texaco when I lived in Antigua in the early 90s).

Roads in Guatemala and more.. (12/06/05)
From G Lizee

We would like to let all land travellers know about the roads to La Mesilla and more. We are Canadian driving to Panama in a PleasureWay van.
We chose to travel by San Cristobal, Chiapas to La Mesilla as it was reported that 211 from Tapachula to La Mesilla was in extremely bad shape.
CA1 from La Mesilla by way of Huehuetenango, Los  Encuentros all new pavement on a very winding, climbing, descending road. El Cachiho Junction to Panajachel has one lane areas and a replaced one lane bridge with difficult access on and off for large buses.  Very steep incline into Panajachel.  From Los Encuentros to Chichicastenago, excellent, winding road.  Los Encuentros to Tecpan good driving, stretches with a mixture of patched, scraped and on going road repair.  Tecpan to Antigua new wide pavement.  Good brakes recommended for these roads. Therefore all highways are in good driving conditions. 
The Antigua Tourist bureau assured us of good roads south to El Salvador.
As a side note in Antigua we are staying at a Texaco station across from Hotel Antigua. This is the only place that we found that accepted us for overnight.

Gas Prices (11/05)

Regular gas prices as of Nov. 2005: Gautemala $3.48/gal; El Salvador $3.00/gal; Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica $3.40/gal.
South America (9/05)

We have initiated a page here on South America. We are planning to make this trip in 2007.
Visas for Canadians (7/05)

The following comment came from a reader.  Note, U.S. Citizens must also have a passport valid for six months from the date of entry.  A useful link for checking visa requirements is:

The Office of the Canadian Embassy in Nicaragua say...

"Visas for Nicaragua

At this time, Canadians travelling with a valid Canadian passport (valid for at least six months beyond the expected date of departure from Nicaragua) do not require a visa prior to their departure if the purpose of their trip is travel but must pay $5 US on arrival for a tourist card. In general, the tourist card will grant permission to stay for up to 30 days but this is solely the prerogative of the Nicaraguan Immigration Officer at the point of entry."

As far as I can establish Canadians do not need visas for El Salvador either.

"A valid Canadian passport is required for Canadians intending to visit El Salvador. The passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected departure from the country.

A Canadian citizenship card and an expired Canadian passport do not constitute valid travel documents. Airlines have been instructed by Canadian authorities to refuse boarding to those who present themselves as Canadian citizens attempting to travel back to Canada with only a Canadian citizenship card and a Salvadoran passport or an expired Canadian passport. The processing time for a new Canadian passport in El Salvador is approximately two weeks.

Tourist Visa: Not required
Business Visa: Not required
Student Visa: Not required"

ATM Scam in Panajachal (5/05)

Kathe Kirkebride also provided this little story that happened to her in Panajachal, Guatemala.  Maybe it will prevent the same thing from happening to someone else!  Click here to read her account.
Guatemala - Honduras Border at Corinto (5/05)

Kathe Kirkebride and Colleen Regan were able to enter Honduras at Corinto south of Puerto Barrios.  This saves a day for those coming through Belize to Honduras who previously had to drive to El Florido and Copan to enter Honduras.  The road to the border in Guatemala was a "nice paved road".  The road into Honduras was described as a "not too terrible" dirt road with some pretty terrible bridges.  They made it with their 38' Class A and other heavy trucks made it. This road is under construction and according to a Pan American web site is receiving money from a Central American fund to improve infrastructure between Guatemala and Honduras.  It should be improving.  We would appreciate reports from others taking this route.

Rio Dulce
Coordinates for the Planeta Rio south of the bridge should be N15:39.0 W88:59.5.  This campsite is used by caravans and is suitable for large rigs. (3/05)

Coordinates for Turicentro Automariscos are N14:26.04 W90:39.30.  There are 9 full hookups.

Panajachel, Lake Atitlan
Coordinates for Hotel Tzanjuyu are N 18:39 W 88:25.  Water, dump and some electricity (with long extension) are available. $13.00 (Q100) in 2006.
Panama (3/04)

Panama City
A fellow RVer was allowed to stay in the parking lot behind the Balboa Yacht Club by getting permission from the property owner. They are across the streert from the Parking Lot.  You will have to ask the guard to find this person.