Tips for Crossing Borders
Conditions of Roads and Suggestions for Spare Parts
The roads throughout much of Central America can be rough (lots of pot holes, washouts, livestock resting in the highway), but passable with care. I'd strongly suggest that you follow everyone's advice and only drive during the day. You'll want to allow more time to travel, too. We averaged 35 to 40 miles an hour driving the 3,120 miles from the US-Mexico border to San Jose, Costa Rica. Most of the Mexican and Panamanian highways were in good repair.
I'd suggest that you get at least 3 spare air filters and at least 6 fuel filters for your vehicle. This is enough for years in the US, but you'll need them in a single trip in Central America. Or you'll have a dead vehicle until you get the filters shipped in, as we did more than once. The dust in the desert and the impurities in the gas are tough on filters ... and, it's not always easy to find them in the middle of nowhere. If you can find a matching fuel filter with replacable foam inside, which are sometimes available in Mexico, protect it like the treasure it is. Also, make sure your tires are in good shape, including the spare, and that you have a reliable car jack ... we had 4 flat tires in one week ... it's a record I hope we never repeat ... or break.
Border Crossing We Used
We wandered through Mexico and only paid attention to roads to the extent that they were generally heading south. As we approached Guatemala, we got onto the Panamerican Highway and followed that road most of the way through Central America. We did vary our route through Nicaragua to avoid the capital and were rewarded by finding one of the best resturants along the side of the road -- my mouth waters at the thought! And, we used the smaller crossing into Panama, but you must be willing to drive on one of the roughest roads in Costa Rica that we've ever used -- and that's saying a lot.
Basically, to discover the major highways we used through Central America, just get a good map and connect the dots (i.e., the border crossings).
Eagle Pass, Texas - Piedras Negras, Mexico: 45-60 minutes
Cuidad Cuahtemoc, Mexico - La Mesilla, Guatemala: 30-45 minutes
San Cristobol, Guatemala - San Cristobol, El Salvador: 90 minutes;
Amatillo, El Salvador - Amatillo, Honduras: 3 hours;
El Triunfo, Honduras - Somotillo, Nicaragua: 2 hours
Sapoa, Nicaragua- Penas Blancas, Costa Rica: 2 hours
Sixola, Costa Rica - Guabito, Panama: 30 minutes one time; 2.5 hours another
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