Can You Drive From North America To South America?


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Ever wondered if it’s possible to traverse the entire length of the Americas by road?

To put it in other words can you drive from North America to South America?

This intriguing question has led countless adventurers to dream about embarking on a journey spanning from icy Canada to vibrant Buenos Aires.

However the reality is a bit more complicated.

While much of the journey can be covered by road there are significant obstacles such as the notorious Darién Gap a roadless region in Central America extreme temperatures potential landslides and the vast Amazon rainforest add additional challenges to this ambitious plan.

So is it all just a dream or could it become a reality with the right strategy and preparation?

Do we gear up for an epic road trip or settle for airline tickets and the comfort of commercial flights?

Can You Drive From North America To South America

Table of Contents

Driving From North America To South America

It is indeed possible to drive from North America to South America with one important exception the Darien Gap. This geographical challenge located between Panama and Colombia interrupts the otherwise continuous Pan-American Highway.

This region lacks a road connection owing to its challenging terrain including dense rainforest and swamp areas. Therefore while one can drive nearly the entire length of the continents the Darien Gap forces drivers to find alternative means of crossing.

Understanding the Darien Gap

The Darien Gap is a 150km stretch renowned for its impenetrable rainforest swampy surrounds and lack of roads. It is only accessible by hiking flying or boat.

Despite its beauty the area is dangerous and not recommended for traveling especially alone or during the night. Thus anyone considering driving from North America to South America must plan for this part of the journey.

Overcoming the Darien Gap

The solution to crossing the Darien Gap involves shipping your car. Options include using a shipping container or a RORO (roll-on roll-off) service.

With prices starting at $1000 for RORO and $2000 for a container most services depart from Manzanillo in Panama arriving in Cartagena in Colombia thus opening the road to South America.

Processing Time and Information

There are weekly ferry services available thus reducing the waiting period. However arrangements need to be made in advance for the car ferry.

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Additional paperwork including passport VISA and other documentation must be prepared beforehand for both you and your vehicle.

Overcoming The Darien Gap

Driving from North America to South America is challenging due to The Darien Gap a region with no roads in Panama. This makes it impossible to drive the entire Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Argentina without interruption.

The 150 km Darién Gap is a mixture of impenetrable rainforest and swamp and it’s not feasible to cross it using a rental car or hire car.

Various risks such as intense extreme temperatures landslides and treacherous steep cliff edges make driving through the Darien Gap dangerous and unpredictable. It’s an area known to harbor dangers beyond natural obstacles such as guerrillas activity.

This makes it especially risky for those contemplating traveling alone.

A common solution for those wishing to continue their road trip on the other side is shipping their car from Panama to Colombia. The options for this include putting the vehicle into a container or using RORO (roll on roll off) services.

Most services depart from Manzanillo in Panama and arrive in Cartagena Colombia.

The price for shipping a standard vehicle starts around $1000 for RORO or $2000 for a container. Despite the cost this is a considerably safer option than attempting to drive or hike through the Darien Gap.

Timeframe For North America To South America Drive

The timeframe for driving from North America to South America greatly depends on your starting point and the speed at which you choose to travel. The total distance from Prudhoe Bay Alaska to the southernmost tip of Argentina in Ushuaia is roughly 11000 miles (17700 km).

This journey could theoretically take anything from 20-30 days to complete if you were to drive non-stop. However part of the allure of such a road trip is the opportunity for exploring various sovereign states and capitals tasting local cuisines experiencing indigenous life and taking on adventurous hikes.

Many travelers choose to extend their journey over 6 months or even up to 1 year making stops in popular locations. Some hotspots include Belize Guatemala Costa Rica and the Amazon rainforest before finally reaching the Andes Mountains and fascinating destinations in South America such as Bolivia’s Salt Flats and the Inca City of Machu Picchu.

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If you were to start from the Mexico-Texas border the journey to Argentina would be just over 7000 miles (11200 km) and would take approximately 16-26 days to complete without stops.

Important Considerations For Driving Across The Americas

The possibility of driving from North America to South America is a tantalizing adventure for many. However there are some key considerations that must be factored in.

One of the most significant obstacles is the Darien Gap a road connection between Panama and Colombia which does not exist. This makes it impossible to drive through these regions.

To overcome the Darien Gap many explorers employ a ferry service or ship their car by container or RORO from Panama to Colombia. The prices for a standard vehicle start at $1000 for RORO and $2000 for a container.

Most services leave from Manzanillo in Panama and arrive in Cartagena in Colombia.

Another crucial consideration is the inherent risks associated with such a long road trip. The conditions along the Pan-American Highway can be challenging with extreme temperatures steep cliffs and landslides notably in the North and South regions.

Traveling alone or at night can further increase these risks in many South American countries.

It is also important to have a valid passport for all Sovereign States you will cross. For example US citizens do not require a VISA for visits to Colombia under 90 days.

Planning is key for a successful journey.

Exploring South America After The Drive

After navigating the complexities of driving across continents what awaits in South America is a reward beyond compare.

Cities like Cali and Medellin in Colombia are popular starting points for exploring South America. They offer numerous attractions including Salsa Capital of the World Iglesia de la Ermita and Río Pance.

You can unwind with some Colombian coffee after a night of salsa or explore the Rio Danubio.

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Moreover moving further South other natural wonders await. The breathtaking Amazon Rainforest and the majestic Andes Mountains are certainties that should not be overlooked.

The journey also allows you to experience highlights like the Bolivia’s Salt Flats and the ancient Inca City of Machu Picchu.

Consequently although the journey is peppered with challenges such as the Darien Gap it offers an unmatched opportunity to immerse in the indigenous life culture and captivating landscapes of South America.

Recommended Starting Points For The North-South Journey

If you’re planning on driving from North America to South America selecting a starting point is crucial. Some popular options include U.S cities such as Atlanta Charlotte Orlando and Miami.

You can also start the journey from Canada’s prominent cities like Toronto. These cities offer easy access to the Pan-American Highway that traverses North Central and South America.

Another recommended starting point is Mexico due to its geographical location. From Mexico you can drive south into Central America which includes countries like Belize Guatemala El Salvador Honduras Nicaragua Costa Rica and Panama.

The Pan-American Highway however doesn’t allow continuous driving as it’s interrupted by the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia. This area of impenetrable rainforest and swamp increases the already extreme temperatures landslides and steep cliff edges that comes with such a road trip.

Therefore one usual solution to cross the Darien Gap is to ship your vehicle from Manzanillo in Panama to Cartagena in Colombia. It’s a great time to rest catch a commercial flight or explore Panama and Colombia’s highlights before continuing your road trip.

Shipping prices start from $1000 for RORO or $2000 for a container.

In South America recommended starting points are Colombian cities like Cali often known as the “Salsa Capital of the World” or Medellin famous for the Silleteros flower festival.

It’s recommended to plan your journey meticulously be aware of the potential risks and have all the necessary information such as visa requirements airline tickets prices and alternative transport options. Remember safety should be your top priority especially if you’re traveling alone.

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