South America Living

Traveling by Caravan in South America

Driving throughout South America is becoming increasingly popular as more Immigration offices relax their border controls and tourists choose to rent a car or RV rather than traveling by bus through the continent.

Travelers on the Road in Patagonia

Travelers on the Road in Patagonia

There may be no better way to do this than with a caravan. While it will undoubtedly be a great experience, is it essential that you do your research beforehand and find out all you need to know about the countries you intend to travel through; such as driving regulations.

Below is a brief summary of things to consider before leaving on a trip via automobile in South America.

  1. Insurance

    Insurance is important in all parts of the world when traveling but in South America especially. Before you go, take a look at the Caravan Club website they will be able to help you with affordable insurance and other forms of advice for anywhere you are going.

    Also, ensure you check that your insurance is valid in each country as this can sometimes be a problem with policies that are not all-inclusive.

  2. Spare parts

    Just because you own a caravan or RV that is popular at home does not necessarily mean it will get the same reception in the middle of Bolivia. In case of a breakdown, this would mean you may struggle to find what you need to get back on the road.

    Map of the Pan American Highway From Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina

    To counteract this, bring some essential spare parts with you such as tyres, parts for the exhaust, refills for oils and anything else that you think you might need.

  3. Driver’s License

    Each country sets its own rules for obtaining a driving license to be legally allowed to drive a vehicle in the country. And these rules vary from country to country.

    International visitors have an inclusive ‘all in one’ driving permit at their disposal – the International Driving Permit.

    The International Driving Permit is accepted worldwide and offers driving privileges in foreign countries for a limited time frame i.e. up to one year.

    If you have a valid driver’s license in your home country you can apply for the permit here: International Driver’s License.

  4. Crossing borders

    Every border is different. Crossing the border is not as easy as driving on a road through the rubble of Hadrian’s Wall. There is a lot of history and tension between many of these countries that has not lifted. Do your research and find out the regulations required before you attempt to enter the country.

    Generally, all you will need to do is fill out a vehicle permit and pay a fee. Be prepared to show all your documents, have some cash-in-hand and don’t get riled-up. There will be an inspector checking out the vehicle at all border crossings.

  5. Conditions of the road

    As you can imagine the conditions of South American roads are not always the best. You should not drive at night and should always carry a full jerry can (spare gas container) with you as the length of drive is not always accurate and you may run out of gas.

    Be aware of potholes and use care when driving – especially on off-roads – as there are animals and construction everywhere.

    Research your driving route online before you head out from point A to point B – to see if there are any driving warnings in place. Check the weather forcast beforehand also, so you are not inadvertently caught in a storm in some remote area with no hostel or lodging nearby.

  6. Get some experienced knowledge

    Nothing is better and more reassuring than hearing someone else who has done the trip before talk of their experiences. Check out Caravan Talk for plenty of great advice and anecdotes from other caravan users.

While this may seem like a long list of things to worry about, it isn’t so bad once you start tackling it. Once all the research and route planning has been completed you are ready to drive through South America for what is sure to be the trip of a lifetime.

Final note: Like in North America… South Americans drive on the right side of the road. Cheers!

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