Central America & South America Updates Wanted

Discussion in 'Latin America' started by El Stigo, Sep 6, 2019.

  1. El Stigo

    El Stigo Hey Ese its EL STIGO

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    Currently in Mexico City and leaving for Tierra de Fuega tomorrow.

    Any updates available on best routes once entering Guatemala?

    Best suggestions on recent riders going thorugh Honduras or El Salvador (which is best) and then Nicaragua.

    No concerns once in Costa Rica and Panama as I have friends there.

    Also any updates of sailing schedules and issues out of San Blas, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia would be grateful to anyone with recent knowledge here as well.

    Thank you

    El Stigo
    #1
  2. bmwarabia

    bmwarabia Harvey in Antigua

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    Probably best to enter Guatemala away from Peten as there are some problems in the Rio Dulce area, though it is unlikely they will effect travelers.
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  3. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    We ran into a roadblock leaving Guatemala for Honduras near Rio Dulce, mid-May timeframe. But I was able to talk my way past it. No personal safety issues, they are not protesting tourist, but could be inconvenient/problematic if whatever protest that was about is still festering (I never completely understood, something about workers wages). But we loved Rio Dulce (stayed at a jungle lodge) and Utila island off of the Honduras Caribbean coast, so I’m glad we went that way.
    #3
  4. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    And we loved Nicaragua- they are hungry for the tourist to return, we were greeted with thankfulness every where we went. Spent five days on Ometepe island. We never felt threatened or taken advantage of in Nicaragua. Border crossing however (from Guatemala) was one of the worst. I hired fixers, was worth it for the most part. But I did get ripped off by the fixer on Guatemalan side, realized it after I had crossed to Nica side of border. No issues with Nica fixer.
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  5. Bhuddy21

    Bhuddy21 Adventurer

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    +1
    [​IMG]
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  6. El Stigo

    El Stigo Hey Ese its EL STIGO

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    Thank you bmwarabia, JimsBeemer & Bhuddy21 for your updates.

    JimsBeemer, what did the "fixer" cost you and did they speak English?

    FYI, I am a fluent spanish speaker and am assisting a friend that does not speak Spanish to him to South America so I may be leaving him at the Mexico/Guatemala border or taking him as far as Panama and making sure he has passage at least to Colombia.

    Unfortunately I do not have time available to do the entire trip with him and he was not willing to wait until I could go with him the entire route.

    Best and thank you to all for your help.

    Stigo
    #6
  7. bmwarabia

    bmwarabia Harvey in Antigua

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    If you speak Spanish you won't need a fixer. I know more them one person that has been ripped off by fixers.
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  8. WANDRR

    WANDRR Adventurer

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    Be careful with the fixers. I got robbed by mine and four of his friends after he jumped on a scooter at the Nick/Honda border, with my papers, and rode behind a fuel station 2 kms up the road.
    #8
  9. El Stigo

    El Stigo Hey Ese its EL STIGO

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    OK. Then can I help him with all of his paperwork at the border and then let him go off on his own?

    Which route is better for NON Spanish speaking and unexperienced traveler in Central? I am mostly concerned with him traveling alone in Guatemala (less) and MUCH MORE through either El Salvador or Honduras. Need to pick one of the 2.

    Nicaragua, I am not too concerned about and once he is Costa Rica and Panamá even less concerned.

    Then his route through South America is not much of a concern at all.

    Thank you
    #9
  10. El Stigo

    El Stigo Hey Ese its EL STIGO

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    Thank you.

    Where would these FIXERS be needed for him?

    Guatemala I can probably take care of. What about Honduras, El Salvador (depending on rec´s) and Nicaragua?

    Stigo
    #10
  11. bmwarabia

    bmwarabia Harvey in Antigua

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    In Guatemala la mesilla is probably the easiest crossing. I have not met any travelers that had problems in either El Salvador or Honduras, but it is probably easier travel through El Salvador. I found in the past the smaller border crossings with Nicaragua were easier, but it is best to check once you are in country as things change rapidly. We are in Antigua and see many travelers.
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  12. El Stigo

    El Stigo Hey Ese its EL STIGO

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    Great to hear and thank you very much.
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  13. klebs01

    klebs01 Been here awhile

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    I'm currently on my way south and ilve made it to Costa Rica just fine. Didn't speak any Spanish before the trip and barely know any now. Haven't used any fixers either. Just do a little bit of research before reaching the border.

    I thought El Salvador and Honduras were fine, but only spent 2 nights in ES and 1 night in choluteca.
    #13
  14. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    I do not recall but I think it was around $10, and that was for two. My wife and I (two motorcycles) used fixers at several of the Central American border crossings, and were generally pleased, with the one exception mentioned where the guy ripped me off for $20 more than was supposed to be by inventing a fictitious fee, and if I had been on my toes I would have caught it. Most of the fixers we used were VERY helpful - at one border I was short of cash, and the guy got someone to drive me back into town to an ATM, for a reasonable fee (Our bikes were already in "no mans land", stamped out of the exiting country, so I could not ride back myself!).

    We do speak some Spanish, which certainly helps, but we are far from fluent. It is certainly possible to do the crossings without using a fixer, but you should be prepared to 1) be basically rude to the fixers that will try to help you, because they will really put the hard sell on and do not easily take "No" for an answer. Even when you think you have clearly said "No thanks" they will continue to "help" even if you don't ask. At one border where I decided I wasn't going to use fixers (I forget which border), I had to be so rude to get rid of the guy that was determined to "help" me, that my wife felt I went over the top - but it got the message through :-) We have friends who speak fluent Spanish - and their tactic is to simply tell them "you can keep helping me, but I am not paying you, so you are wasting your time", and repeating this often if the person keeps helping. Eventually they leave. And 2) you need to be prepared to take longer - because unless you have done that border crossing before, you are not going to know exactly what to do and where to go, no matter how much reading you do in advance. You will spend some time in the wrong line, going to the wrong building - it is inevitable. I bought an e-book on the Central America crossings that was only a few years old, which was useful. But even with that, we found that the building layouts described in the book had changed at several borders, and even the documents required were not always the same as in the book. I find IOverlander to be the best source of up to date info. Also, the fixers can sometimes/somehow manage to move you to the front of a line where I wouldn't try that on my own.

    You have to exercise situational awareness it pays to read up in advance so you have foreknowledge of the sequence of events and requirements so that you can tell if something seems not right - I failed to act on what I knew, and that is how I got ripped off for $20. It was for a fumigation fee that I knew was not needed, and in any case no fumigation fee cost $20! But I was tired and didn't act on what my brain was telling me until we had crossed the border to the next country, and I couldn't go back and argue. And I remember one other time - Guatemala, where a official requested a "fee" that I knew was not right - but that time I was aware (and even had read that this was common) and simply decided it was just part of the cost of doing business - I wasn't going to stall our progress for $10 (it was about that) to argue with him.

    It pays to negotiate and agree on a fee with the fixers up front. As I said, I think we usually paid around $10USD, but honestly, I'd be happy to pay twice that for an honest fixer who can get me through quickly. In the grand scheme, the border fees are a pain but they are not the big expense, overall - depends on your budget obviously.

    FWIW: My wife just walked in and she thinks that we generally paid around $10-$15, and agrees that only with that one exception, the fixers we used were helpful and not trying to rip us off.

    Loving South America - much easier borders, officials seem honest, to my knowledge we have not been ripped off. We are in Peru now - have not used a fixer at any South American crossing :-) And no or very little cost associated with the crossings, just paperwork.
    #14
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  15. stormdog

    stormdog Long timer

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    Jim
    What was your actual time spent at the various crossings?
    I am in the early stages of planning a trip to Costa Rica and am trying to figure out how much time to allow.
    I’m pretty good from here to bmwarabia’s door but after that not so much.
    #15
  16. bmwarabia

    bmwarabia Harvey in Antigua

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    One to two hours, but you never know. The woman in Guatemala took 40 minutes trying to take a photo of my VIN number. You need to go with the flow or go crazy. As an aside we have a small BnB (casa Elena) in Antigua that we offer a 50% discount to touring riders, so for $25 you can stay at a nice place (check on bookings.com) with a bountiful breakfast
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  17. markharf

    markharf Been here awhile

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    I've been through Central America a couple of times, and always allow one to two hours per crossing. Every so often I'm pleasantly surprised when things go very smoothly; other times the reverse happens and it takes three or more hours. "You never know" is a good rule of thumb. My Spanish is minimal, but that's not been a big deal.

    I don't use helpers unless I'm feeling unusually befuddled or worn. They can definitely speed things up, but their interests do not align with mine; invented fees and taxes increase their profits drastically, and some will slow you down as leverage. When I've hired helpers I've always bargained on initial prices, keeping my tone jovial and non-accusatory. I wouldn't ever pay more than five dollars, and that's stretching it on most occasions.
    #17
  18. Misery Goat

    Misery Goat Positating the negative Super Moderator

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    Having photocopies of your passport, title, import/export paperwork ahead of time will save you a lot of time at the borders. As others have said be careful with the handlers, some are honest but some aren't. If you speak Spanish you can disregard.
    #18
  19. JimsBeemer

    JimsBeemer 2017 R1200GSA Supporter

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    Seems to be 2.5 to 3 hours. Remember there are two of us and two bikes. Seems in general that being two people doesn’t add much time in immigration, but when it comes to customs and the bikes, it definitely adds significant time.

    Jim
    #19
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  20. stormdog

    stormdog Long timer

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    Minor thread hijack, but speaking of Casa Elena, my hope is to stage out of your place for a few days in late January
    Thoroughly enjoyed my last short stay with you, I just
    hope I can get my schedule firmed up far enough in advance to secure a room
    #20