General Question

nikipedia's avatar

Can you drive from California to South America?

Asked by nikipedia (28049points) April 9th, 2008

According to googlemaps there aren’t any roads in the southern part of Panama…

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17 Answers

judochop's avatar

yes there are and yes you can.

kevbo's avatar

That doesn’t appear to be true, unless you are prepared for jungle and swamp.

judochop's avatar

I thought that went all the way down and was finished years ago? (scratches head) Hmmmm, my bad.

steelmarket's avatar

Had a cousin drive down to Cozumel about six years ago. If he hadn’t had a four wheel drive pickup, he says he would not have had a chance of making past the car-swallowing potholes. He said that the scariest part of the trip was getting shaken down for cash by both the “good” and the “bad” police.

kevbo's avatar

@steelmarket, that is totally true (the “fines” you pay on the way down). The other huge risk is being made an unwitting drug mule/theft or scam victim at border crossings. One of my coworkers who made the trip to Costa Rica said that you have to watch out for people planting drug packages on your vehicle, because not too far after you cross the border, you usually have to go through another police/military checkpoint, and they don’t really care that it’s not your drugs.

Also, bandits run rampant in certain sections. He said they (he and his buddy) started getting real twitchy at about 4 p.m. and preferred to find a place to stay very soon thereafter.

occ's avatar

It’s also not particularly safe for Americans to drive through Columbia right now. I knew some people who drove to Panama and then had their car shipped to Peru. So they drove almost the whole way from North America to the tip of South America, but skipped parts of Panama/Columbia. FYI, the roads are way better in Chile than in Peru, so if you want to go all the way south you’ll experience more wear on the car in Peru and you’ll be pretty much fine in Chile, which is the last 3,000 miles of the trip since it is such a long country.

syntak's avatar

My buddies rode their mopeds from here (SF, CA) to the southern tip of Chile. They encountered a couple barriers but they made it through the trip. This was bout 5 years ago. I doubt much has changed. Just be careful.

gailcalled's avatar

There are also some single-lane mountainous rds in Chile and Peru, I think, that are one-way north on alternate days and vice versa. Turning around is very difficult if you are driving against the traffic. And backing up some of those 3000 miles would be a challenge for the most skilled driver.

evander's avatar

I’ve driven from from El Salvador to Washington State in a VW camper van, camping all the way and had no problems (except a few mechanical ones—but pretty much every mechanic in Central America and Mexico is a VW expert).

To get all the way to South America is a little different. Passing from Panama into Colombia requires passing through the dense jungle in Northern Colombia. This area is controlled by the FARC and/or the ELN (FARC=largest guerilla army, ELN=another substantial guerilla army). Both use international hostages as leverage, and thus it is not safe to travel through this part of Colombia. Anyway, you will probably get stuck in the mud on some dirt roads in the jungle, if they even go through. Don’t try it.

In Panama you can drive your car onto a barge/ship and skip this northern part of Colombia and enter further south where the FARC is not in control. Not all of Colombia should be skipped in my opinion—it is an absolutely stunning countryside, with beautiful colonial towns and cities, and some very cosmopolitan, modern cities. Do your research on what parts are safe to travel in. Don’t just use US state department recommendations—research a little further.

One can also skip Colombia altogether and disembark further south in Ecuador or Peru. From there you will definitely hit some windy mountain roads, but should be able to cruise all the way to the southern cone.

mtirado's avatar

Yes you can I hear the roads get a little dicey my friend ian is currently doing said drive check him out his last name is creelman on

cnovak's avatar

You can drive from the Arctic Circle in Alaska to the Southern tip of Argentina, except for a 70 mile gap between Panama and Columbia, called the Darien Gap. You can ship your car around the gap, which many people do. The website has information on how to plan for a trip like this, and how to ship your car over the Darien Gap.

gailcalled's avatar


Kevisaurus's avatar

If you have a vehicle then you can drive to there.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I’d dread having to drive from IL to CA, I can’t imagine what type of person wants to drive to South America.

YARNLADY's avatar

Theoritically yes but it has been named by as the most dangerous road in the world

yazspun's avatar

do you think you could get a bus from cali to sth america??
would there be some form of public transport that goes from nth to sth america??

gailcalled's avatar

@yazspun: By nth to sth america, do you mean from the Beaufort Sea to, say, Tierra del Fuego?

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