Is a garmin GPS useful in South America

Discussion in 'GPS Tracks - Mexico, Central & South America' started by dgeorge, Jul 6, 2004.

  1. dgeorge

    dgeorge n00b

    Jan 17, 2004
    Sacramento, CA
    I am thinking about getting a garmin V for my trip to South America but I am wondering if it will be useful enough with just the low detail base map.

    Has anyone used one down there or in Mexico or Central America.
  2. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter Supporter

    Sep 13, 2003
    Mt. Vernon, Illinois
    You can purchase the Garmin "World Map" CD and get some better detail than the base map has---but it's still not nearly as detailed as the USA software that is available----but its still very useful---I loaded the World Map software when I went to Mexico and it was a big help-------but don't expect every road and back road to be on there.
  3. larlec

    larlec Been here awhile

    Nov 22, 2003
    Bellvue, Colorado
    I work in Cental and South America regularily, doing environmental and conservation projects. I find the GPS quite useful for general navigating and, although not complete, it is amazing the amount of detail they have. Several times they have helped me figure out best routes, where I was or what alternatives were available. I'm currently upgrading, probably to a Garmin 76 CS. I recommend something that has an electronic compass that works when you are stationary. The altimeter is nice as well but you'll need a topo to use it for navigating. Maps of south American countries tend to lack lots of detail in general and be quite hard to find in some areas, so the GPS helps here as well. The newer ones are so inexpensive for what you get it blows my mind. Like computers they maintain "sweet spots" for pricing so last year's $500 model will be this year's $350 model, and so on. Depending on your needs, you probably don't need the latest, greatest model. On the other hand, like computers, if you have the resources, buy the best model that fits your needs and then keep it as long as you can use it. I have one that is 10 years old and one that is about 4 years old and they both do the job, although the older one does not have build in maps! Good luck.
  4. Simon

    Simon Guest

    The maps are based on very old infomation. Going down the Pan Am this year I found that about 50 per cent of the towns on my world map did not exist. Not a trace. Having said this, sometimes the smallest of tracks did.

    A GPS is more useful for marking your hotel in order to find your way back and keeping on the right vector towards the main road on the morning departure.

  5. dgeorge

    dgeorge n00b

    Jan 17, 2004
    Sacramento, CA
    Thanks for the help. I called garmin and they said that I could fit all of the South America world map on the V. I'm also considering the ique PDA for the extra features but worryed about the ruggedness of the unit.
    I am still questioning the purchase. with the poor map detail and quetionable database. I would hate to be headed to some town on the gps for food or gas and then find nothing there. however it may come in handy if I can't find any local maps.
  6. CROM

    CROM Canuck del sur

    Sep 1, 2006
    Terrace BC
    Couple of comments.
    With the Ique..there is a company called "Otterbox" that makes ruggedized, waterproof cases for pda' pretty good, and have used one for a couple of years. I run a program called Ozi explorer on mine, in combination with a blue-tooth gps, and it works pretty good. The problem for me when I was working in Peru, was the inaccuracy of the maps. But even with the innacuracy, this was a pretty helpfull tool. Biggest problem I had with my I-que, is that when the battery goes dead, everything sets to the factory defaults! this means a couple of hrs of re-installing programs/mapping etc..evry frusturating! The new models may not have this issue.

    Another option, could be to buy a handheld garmin, or other, and bring along an old laptop running the Ozi explorer software. If you are good with computers, you can go ahead for the areas you will be riding to and pre-build tracks and download them into the Gps, then you would still have the Garmin world maps available, along with any tracks / waypoints you had installed into the unit.

    Kind of long winded...hope this helps!
  7. sapster

    sapster Lost

    Oct 19, 2005
    Pickering, Ontario, Canada
    I agree with Simon.

    You do need the GPS. It makes life so much easier, even with the nothingness of the World Base Map in latin america cities.

    Just keep track of where you have been in a city when you get lost is useful, so at least you don't keep going around in circles. Locating the hotel is so wise and useful.

    And of course once you get a second reference point in the city, such as a bar or a moto shop, you are set. Only two points on the empty map but now you can see where you are.

    I did not realize how useful GPS is until I got my batteries and cable stolen and could not use my 276C. I missed it enough to order another set all the way from Canada.

    Above all, without that I would not remember where I have been. Too much partying has a way of being part of these trips, so it is nice to be able to backtrace your trips later. I still amaze myself where I have been..

    I hope this helps. Get it. The utility is certainly worth the price.
  8. triumphant

    triumphant Been here awhile

    Mar 6, 2006
    Dallas, Tx
    Rode from Dallas to Ushuaia with a 276c loaded with Worldmap. Had no maps and made no route preparations. I have never been one to spend time on planning or dwelling on specifics. When I get the urge, I throw stuff into a bag, load the bike, point it and go. The GPS was my sole direction finder and never let me down. Not to say Worldmap is perfect. They aren't! Rode down indicated roads that were incorrect, but learned quickly to make allowances. But there is one thing certain. When you need to know where you are and need to establish a route - nothing beats GPS. Knowing distance travelled for fuel purposes or travel time before dark sets in ... nice to know. And damned important many times.
    My power plug broke at one point. I went days trying to repair the plug until I got it fixed by simply taking it apart and determining which pegs went in the proper hole. When it worked - I felt like I had brought a friend back from death.
    Don't make a ride like that without GPS. It allows you to make adjustments to your route making your ride more interesting, and fun.
    One more two-cents-worth. The Garmin V is barely minimum. Shake loose a few more bucks and upgrade. You'll be glad you did!
    Enjoy South America - I did!
  9. Frank Warner

    Frank Warner Traveller

    Mar 14, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Think you'll find smelly bikers 'wanderlust map' better than Garmins ... for detail and accuracy in that part of the world ... new version coming out may have even more detail, topographic? and routable too..... Yes it too covers the world and suffers the same problem with lack of detail and accuracy in some parts (Monglolia, Africa .. ) but in others has much more detail (Russia, )... And you get free updates ... and some of the money goes to a good cause... :deal
  10. BMWRC

    BMWRC Nuckin' Futs!

    Oct 13, 2007
    Fredericton, NB, 7,871 km to Inuvik
    Just a quick note. Smelly Biker Bob has changed things around a bit in the past few months. One year's subscirption is now 25. British Pounds or approximately US$50. You get unlimited updates during those 12 months. Additional 12 month access is available for 10. British Pounds or about US$20.

    From what I've read elsewhere, Smelly Biker Bob's maps are much more detailed as compared to the Garmin World Map and I will be signing up and using them on our trip to South America.
  11. Cacahuete

    Cacahuete n00b

    Feb 14, 2005
    Check this out
    They have Argentinian maps for Garmin. It is the most acurate maps you can get for Argentina. Very good and they are free.:clap
  12. dare2go

    dare2go n00b

    Jan 10, 2008
    on the road in Central & South America
    First of all G'day - this is my first post...

    There are some decent Garmin maps available for South America, so it's worthwhile taking a GPS. The above mentioned maps from SmellyBiker (which I have) go down to street level / street name level for many parts of SA, though the new pricing structure makes them a little expensive considering that they are all based on "public-domain"-maps (so you can find them for free - you just have to put them together like SmellyBiker did...).

    On our Useful Links Page right at the bottom I have a number of links to free Garmin-maps, including Argentina, Brasilia, Venezuela...

    A very good site to find free GPS maps (covering all the world) is - funnily there you'll find SmellyBiker's maps for free, too...:scratch

    Hasta Luego from Costa Rica

    travelling (by camper - not bike) in Central- & South-America:
  13. ExDesertDog

    ExDesertDog Been here awhile

    Jul 23, 2006
    Pahoa Hawaii
    Only if you get lost
  14. Dmotorider

    Dmotorider Adventurer

    May 10, 2008
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
    Over the past 19 months I've met several riders in Central & South America that don't use a GPS, and honestly, I don't know how they do it.

    I get lost even with excellent street-level maps in allot of these cities because the road systems (lots of one-way streets & construction) and signage is so bad. Highways are not much better, but it's pretty easy to see when you're going the wrong way so they're not too much trouble. It's the cities that you have to worry about because you can find yourself driving around for hours with your heavy bike in all your riding gear in hot, sweaty, traffic-congested, polluted cities, possibly even in the wrong part of town at the wrong time. I also use MapSource (MS) allot with several different maps (see below) to help plan and estimate my next day's/week's/month's ride, and to organize and store valuable track & waypoint info on my laptop.

    I originally started my trip with a Palm pilot running Fugawi software in an Otterbox waterproof case because I was concerned about not having good maps for a Garmin (based on all the negative things I heard about Worldmap and the shortage of any other maps for these areas at that time). The palm GPS setup only lasted about 6 months for me because of the way that Fugawi handles maps (and Fugawi's customer service really REALLY sucks!), and because I was finding myself in cities more often than I expected. In Colombia I bought a Garmin GPS60CSx - which I love.

    Here are the maps I have uploaded and used on it from my laptop along with my comments:

    > Worldmap: Good basic highway coverage. Helpful in planning routes in MS. I use it regularly.

    > Wanderlust (smellybiker Bob's software): Helpful for those areas where there is nothing other than Worldmap, but not nearly as good as I was lead to believe. It is not a professional quality product and does not organize or display information in a helpful way. Haven't received any updates in the last year since I bought it.

    > Tracksource: Excellent free maps for Brazil. I used the "TM" (Metro - for citys & towns) & the "TRR" (Routable highways) versions and they are very accurate and easy to use. Wish all mapping software was like this.

    > Venezuela Routeable: Good free map. Not the quality of Tracksource, but still very helpful. Routing does not always work perfectly but streets & highways are accurate.

    > Colombia Routeable: Free map that looks OK for highways but very little detail for city streets. Haven't used it on the GPS yet though, riding back next week so will know better soon.

    I know this may be a little off the direct topic, but I consider all this info relevant because without good maps you may as well not even have a GPS. This is something that allot of people considering GPS's don't know, because it can be very confusing until you've had one and used it for a while.