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travel from so. fl to san carlos panama

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garymeares@yahoo.com's picture
Joined: Feb 26 2008

hi
we own a house on the pacific coast in panama. we would like to drive a toyota sienna van with surfboards, hdtv, and small bedroom furniture. we wanted the most direct route -no sight seeing. it's a marathon trip.

we have bought some books and a map from amazon.com. we have never done anything like this before. Is there anyone who can give us tips; best books and maps, which country requires insurance, bandidos and documentation.

we plan to leave van, surfbooards, household items there once we arrive. since we are not retirees they charge 5% duty tax and they jack the values through the roof. how expensive is this trip. a 20' cargo van is about 4000usd before duty tax.

I am a teacher and would like to leave around 6-16. van is a 1998 totyota sienna with a brand new engine , excellent tires and I will fix anything else.

please give us some feedback. is there a caravan heading south?

thanks,
gary
[email]garymeares@yahoo.com[/email]
[email]mearesg@palmbeach.k12.fl.us[/email]

atg200's picture
Joined: Feb 20 2008

try to ship it instead - its most likely cheaper and more hassle free. you only want to do the drive to sightsee along the way.

robertdjung's picture
Joined: Oct 31 2006

yeah to do it straight would be around... hmmm. I'd say 70 hours driving time.

atg200's picture
Joined: Feb 20 2008

ok, i'm back from driving through central america now.

for sure the cheapest way to get it there is to ship it. i talked to some guys in costa rica that shipped a 4runner on an empty dole cargo ship out of delaware for about $500.

the biggest expense is gas - it depends where you are in panama, but plan on around 5000 road miles. gas is about the same as the usa, and definitely more expensive in costa rica. if your spanish is really good and you don't get a bad border crossing, you'll pay about $150-200 for border paperwork. you'll need to bribe customs guys for sure in panama and maybe elsewhere to get that much stuff in, and honduras border crossings are hard to get through without paying lots of bogus fees even with good spanish(the crossing near copan ruins is not as bad as the others i went to - avoid el amatillo at all costs). don't get to a border at lunchtime, and expect to spend 2-3 hours at a border from honduras on down to panama. guatemalan border crossings are really easy.

insurance is up to you, but mandatory insurance in costa rica and nicaragua will run about $35. its best to get mexico insurance in advance since it is much more expensive at the border. aig will do central america insurance if you are interested in it.

mexican toll roads can be pretty expensive, but can save you many hours of driving and frustration. how much they run depends entirely on your route - some tolls are $2 for 100 Ks, some are $30 for 30 Ks. you never know. bring plenty of cash on days you might be on toll roads.

i got pulled over twice by traffic police, both times for no apparent reason. the cop in nicaragua cost me $15, the cop in panama was a hardass and cost me $100.

nothing to worry about with bandidos. driving at night sucks mostly because of unmarked speedbumps and kids on goats in the middle of the highway.

for paperwork, you'll need your original title and registration, your passport, and your driver's license. make at least one set of copies of everything for each country plus a few extras because some countries want two copies. make sure to export your car back out of mexico on the guatemala border or you'll have a hard time ever going to mexico again.

for books, the lonely planet books are good. the maps in them are fine if you don't leave the panamerica. i got country specific maps and didn't use them much - they were more detailed than the lonely planet book maps, but oftentimes the additional details were wrong anyway.

garymeares@yahoo.com's picture
Joined: Feb 26 2008

thanks

hi
just finished reading 99days on the pan american highway. your comments are right on. how did your friend find an empty dole container-through a freight forwarder. we are buying furniture in panama just needed to get to an hdtv, surfboards and the van down there.
thanks for your great comments
gary

atg200's picture
Joined: Feb 20 2008

Glad the comments were useful.

I think this is how to get the Dole shipping: [url]http://www.portofwilmingtonde.com/HTML/our_business/shippinglines/dole.htm[/url]

I'm sure there must be a similar service leaving out of a port on the gulf coast or florida somewhere that may be more convenient for you. Google knows everything so look around.

garymeares@yahoo.com's picture
Joined: Feb 26 2008

ATG what a brilliant suggestion

hi
I have not talked with Dole buy they leave out of the Port of Everglades about 50 miles from my home and they go direct to Port Limon in Costa Rico in about 2 to 3 days if I red shipping schedule correctly. I need to check if TAsca/Martin flys direct to Port Limon. Otherwise, I will fly to san jose and try to fly to port limon.

any kinda of hassles I should be aware. I believe auto insurance is req'd in Costa Rica. I would like to enter Panama on the Pacific Coast side. Isn't travel through CR to Panama fairly event free. I will bring surfboards, sleeping gear and a TV because we will leave van in panama and pay the duties.

But this sounds like a great idea. do you see any pitfalls. It looks like I have to head back to san jose to get the pacific side of the pan american higway CA2 I think.

thanks to everybody. What is the best book to buy about Costa Rica including maps. In Panana, it is a straight shot our house.

gracias,
gary:)

atg200's picture
Joined: Feb 20 2008

From Puerto Limon it would be way easier to cross into Panama on the Caribbean side and hang at the Bocas del Toro for a few days. The roads in Panama are a lot better than in Costa Rica, so that would certainly be faster. The main Costa Rica/Panama crossing is very busy and can be a hassle if you hit it at the wrong time. Expect to slip the customs officer 10-20 bucks - I had to in both directions to avoid taking everything out of the truck.

Not sure how you handle Costa Rican insurance if you don't cross a land border. I imagine there will be a customs office at the port that will help you, but that would be a good question for the shipper.

The Lonely Plant Costa Rica book is fine. I had a map as well but never used it. Costa Rica is very easy to navigate.

garymeares@yahoo.com's picture
Joined: Feb 26 2008

san jose

dole ships the van to san jose and parks in custom warehouse. we will grupo taca to san jose. try and find freight forwarder in costa rica. maybe my guy in port everglades fl can recommend one. however, we are going to head the pacific route and enter in the border crossing which is hell.

we are planning to keep the car in panama and not sell it so hopefully we can negotiate the inflated value they use for taxes. we are not repairing busted doors. bring a blue book to contest the vluation and then pay the 5% duty tax. we will a return flight ticket out of Tocumen airport in panama city. i will get my insurance agent in panama city to see if he can insure the car. costa rica requires insurance we should not be in the country no more than 2 days.

any idea how to fight forwarder in san jose to help us get into panama with proper paperwork. we will sight see later that is why we are bringing the van they way you suggested. this will save us lots of money. we may stay a couple of days in san jose and one day in rainforest. we will travel panamerican highway all the way to our town in san carlos, panama.

YOU HAVE BEEN A GREAT SOURCE OF INFORMATION. THANK YOU

garymeares@yahoo.com's picture
Joined: Feb 26 2008

San jose, CR to Paso Canos PA border

hi
by now everybody has given me great suggestions about shipping my van. I am shipping on Dole during Junre to San Jose, CR where a freight forwarder will take care of necessary paperwork for CR and to get me to Panama.

My question you can head south towards the pacific side on C1- 2 pan american highwaytp Paso Real where it makes left a heads west towards towards pacific side of CR it heads west about an hout then makes right to Paso Canos , Panama border crossing.
However, at Paso Real on the C1-2 you can head south on a paved primary highway (route 237) going through San Vito direct Cuidad Neily where you connect with the pan american highway and drive directly to the border.

Has anybody done this, would you do it appears to cut several hours off the trip because its shorter and more direct. however, it maybe heavy congestion with slower speeds.

any suggestions? just stay on the pan american and suck up the hours because the border crossing is the worst in panama.
thanks,
gary

robertdjung's picture
Joined: Oct 31 2006

Hmmm. Hard to say in those areas from memory. I recall some roads in CR that seemed quicker on the map, but were 5 hours vs 2.5 hours on the "longer looking" road.

steve80545's picture
Joined: Apr 17 2008

The road from CA 1 to San Vito is very bad. Very slow going and rough. From San Vito to Cuidad Neilly is not too bad and very scenic. The other way to Palmar Sur is faster, easier, and also very scenic.