Safest/easiest intro to riding in Latin America?

Discussion in 'Latin America' started by Meter Man, Jun 7, 2015.

  1. Meter Man

    Meter Man Long timer

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    I have Motorcycle toured extensively in the US, Canada and Western Europe.

    I have planned and not followed through with a few trips in Latin America.

    Suggestions on safest/least risky country and region to fly into and rent?

    My spanish is about a 2nd grade level. I can read it fine but have difficulty conversationally.
    #1
  2. 1Man2Wheels

    1Man2Wheels Been here awhile

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    My vote is Ecuador. It's got a varied climate; beach, jungle or mountain. It's almost a microcosm of Latin America : take your pick.

    The U.S. Dollar is the de facto currency so no exchange headaches with money. Also gas and accommodation - the two biggest daily expenses- are relatively cheap.

    I never had any security concerns in my time riding there. There were random crazy drivers for sure, but no more than here in Denver.

    Finally, Court Rand of Ecuador Freedom Rentals can set you up with a solid dual sport/adventure bike and advise you on routes.

    For these reasons, I think Ecuador would be the prime candidate for an intro trip to Lat-Am.

    Just my thoughts, but Wherever you decide to go, you will have a great time!
    #2
  3. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    While I agree on Ecuador completely, as presented above-why not Mexico? It's obviously a straight shot ride from USA!:deal:deal
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  4. Mainecoons

    Mainecoons Been here awhile

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    Mexico is great, I should know since I live there and ride there.

    Here's a blog of a couple who traveled extensively in Mexico and are now in Central America and on their way to South America.

    http://2rods2wheels2up.com/

    You can ride your own bike here in Mexico.
    #4
  5. markharf

    markharf Been here awhile

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    "Safest, easiest, least risky....fly and rent."

    Surely you can narrow the options further than that? Like fer example how comfortable are you among crazed drivers? In most places that's your primary risk, but often it turns out that people asking about safety really want to hear about terrorism, crime or corruption.

    And what sorts of places do you want to ride? Big cities or small, countrysides, deserts, mountains, jungles? What sorts of sights, and how important are they? Museums, colonial towns, architecture, ruins of past civilizations, exotic animals, beaches? Does local culture matter, or are you mainly interested in the quality of the riding itself? If the latter, paved twisties, wide-open highways, ripio and dirt, mud and rocks? Is cost an issue?

    Etc.

    Personally, my introduction to riding in Latin America was Mexico--for all the obvious reasons, including variety, convenience, and cost. From Montana you could be in Mexico on your own bike in a couple of days. But if money was no object and time limited, I might fly into Ecuador (per the above), Chile, or Colombia. Or Guatemala or Costa Rica. Or.....

    Ability to speak Spanish will matter only in the sense that the more you speak, the better time you'll have. But lots of us tour extensively with very limited language skills. Half of Latin America doesn't actually speak Spanish--think Belize, Brazil, Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, and most of Paraguay. And half of the indigenous people in most countries where Spanish is the official tongue still speak their own languages anyway--that includes most of Central America as well as large parts of South America.

    Hope that's helpful.

    Mark
    #5
  6. ChileGS

    ChileGS ChileGSer

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    Ecuador and Mexico are both great places to ride or just generally visit, but dont qualify as safest or easiest.

    I think Chile is the choice for this criteria.

    Timing is important here, south of Santiago is best done Nov to April.

    You can pick up a rental in Santiago, Osorno or even down south.

    One ways are more complex and expensive.
    #6
  7. Throttlemeister

    Throttlemeister Long timer Super Supporter

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    Colombia is heaven on a moto and off and exchange rate is doing good:deal

    Mexico would be a close second
    #7
  8. scguy

    scguy Been here awhile

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    Nicaragua was great when I was there two years ago.

    [​IMG]

    Beautiful country. Roads, not so much.
    #8
  9. BobinBahia

    BobinBahia Lifelong M.I.A.

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    All good choices, no bad ones! Of the comments Mark's are easily the most realistic and all inclusive: #1 You need to define what you want and why you're going. Everything else is secondary, in any adventure, including>>> #2. Need to define what you mean by "safety".

    Mexico and Ecuador are both great picks. Either one. Chile too, except the Carretera Austral if off-road is challenging to you. Most of the rest, however, too first world "perfect" for me, with local exceptions. I'd put Central America well down the list, for lots of reasons, as well as Brazil- in both of which I've lived many years (decades in fact, in Brazil). Colombia I don't know, but at the top of my personal list. I'd say it's hard t make a mistake with any of the countries mentioned. Just GO!
    #9
  10. BikeMex

    BikeMex Been here awhile

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    Hello,

    Mexico is for sure the country with the biggest variety of culture, landscapes and best food in Latin America. That's at least my opinion.

    And > Half of Latin America doesn't actually speak Spanish < is just not true.
    Spanish is THE LANGUAGE you have to speak if you want to travel through Latin America, besides the Guayanas. Even in Brazil you can survive with some Spanish. At least if you travel away from very touristy areas. Whole Mexico and Central America speaks Spanish, besides parts of the very little and espensive Belize.

    Saludos Jürgen
    #10
  11. markharf

    markharf Been here awhile

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    Well....my Spanish is pitiful, and I traveled through Latin America. You don't need it, although there's no denying it comes in very handy.

    As far as "half of Latin America," I stand by my words. Half of Latin America does not, in fact, speak Spanish. Want to nitpick? Sure: go right ahead.

    best,

    Mark
    #11
  12. Meter Man

    Meter Man Long timer

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    Safety in terms of robbery, theft of secured valuables and kidnapping.

    I have never been bothered while traveling. I am very large and a bit "scruffy" looking. people cross the street when I am walking toward them.

    In Ecuador or Nicaragua or Chile, will I walk back to the bike to find the hard cases broken open and everything taken?

    Will I be shaken down by the police in these countries?

    I don't have flash gear or electronics, but I don't want hyper vigilance to ruin an otherwise awesome trip.

    A friend taught school in colombia for many years and escaped one attempted kidnapping, one attempted rape and several robberies. Hence my trepedation.

    Perhaps an organized tour would be a good start?

    I am not really interested in Mexico.
    #12
  13. kantuckid

    kantuckid Long timer

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    That's yer loss! Gotta ask this one: What do you want that the other countries have more of than Mexico? Gotta ask that one since were're talking Latin American travel...:huh
    #13
  14. Meter Man

    Meter Man Long timer

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    Mexico seems mundane and not particularly exotic in my mind. Certainly a preconceived notion with no basis other than the dozens of Mexicans I've met being very Americanized.


    I think my anxiety is mostly related to the unknown and lack of experience traveling in 3rd/2nd world countries. Although Europe is filled with diversity, the major customs are essentially the same and thus I am able to navigate without offending or getting myself into trouble.

    i will choose somewhere and will go. I will have to work through fear of the unknown.
    #14
  15. pax maac

    pax maac Been here awhile

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    I know you said fly into and rent, but if you want easy then why don't you ride down to Monterrey? It's a fine intro to Latin America and if you hate it you're back in the US in a couple of hours. If you love it then you can delve further in.

    Mexico can be as mundane and exotic as you want it to be. You want to only speak English and eat McDonalds? Totally doable. You want to only speak Spanish and eat tacos? Just as easily done. It's on you.

    I invite you to come and stay at my house. I'll show you around. The only difficulty is renting a bike, as far as I know it's just not a thing anywhere down here, except for renting a Harley at the beach resorts. Bring your own bike.
    #15
  16. GypsyWriter

    GypsyWriter Yup, I'm a girl.

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    Fixt. :deal Central America is usually pretty understandable for Spanish speakers (there are pockets of areas that speak Mayan but those are usually remote), but as you get further south the accents become very interesting, or people start speaking a mixture of Quechua and Spanish for example.
    #16
  17. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

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    I like how somebody asks a question, gets good advice, and despite the good advice, starts spewing ignorant shit about Mexico.

    Oh shit, now I'm going to be called a bully again.

    The first time I rode a motorcycle in Mexico, I thought every Mexican was trying to kill me.

    Whoever says Ecuador is safe... shit. Compared to Ecuador, Mexico is like South Dakota. But Ecuador is fun. Seriously fun. In northern Peru I met a American who, a few days earlier, had been maced and robbed in Quito.

    There's no such thing as dangerous or safe. It just depends how much fun you want to have.

    Leave your preconceived notions at home. Take a good camera. Be prepared to be scared shitless, meet fantastic people, get sicker than a dog, have the best meal of your life, and be changed forever.
    #17
  18. John Ashman

    John Ashman Adventurer Wannabe

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    I think if you're actually just trying to get your feet wet and see how it goes, Mexico makes the most sense. It's easy, it's fairly safe, people speak some English in most places. [65% of Latin America speaks spanish and the other 35% speaks portuguese, unless you want to count some small indian tribes and areas] Baja is certain an easy way to get an idea and get some confidence. Not exotic, but fun, with lots of great people, and it's a great intro. More old fashioned and quaint, with lots of little dive bars and places to eat.

    The other option, I would think, would be to go in the winter to Chile, buy a bike and ride through Chile one way and Argentina the other. Sell bike, come home.
    #18
  19. BikeMex

    BikeMex Been here awhile

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  20. pax maac

    pax maac Been here awhile

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    Hey Jurgen,

    Good to know! I hope business is booming! I haven't been to PV in a few years, maybe it's time for a return trip. Of course I'll be bringing my own bike! :beer
    #20