Road Tripping in Latin America

Road Tripping in Latin America

Have you ever fantasized about embarking on an epic road trip with your closest friends in Latin America? Picture this: laughter, bonfires, breathtaking sunsets, and the vibrant Latin vibes that will fill your souls.

But before you jump in your car and hit the road, it’s important to make sure that you take everything into consideration. Let’s dive into it!

Cross borders by road

If you have conducted prior research, you might be aware that not all countries in Latin America are safe to travel through by road. This fact might come as a surprise upon first reading, potentially leading to adjustments in your initial plans for the road trip. We would like to emphasize the importance of prioritizing your safety by checking the feasibility of crossing borders by road and with a car.

Border car paperwork and insurance

Ensure that your vehicle is equipped for cross-country travel, along with your valid driver’s license and appropriate car insurance. The vast expanse of the United States allows for extensive driving without inspections. However, when venturing into Latin America and heading south, border crossings become necessary, each country with its own unique laws and regulations pertaining to automobiles. It is crucial to have international travel coverage for your vehicle and a valid driver’s license to comply with local requirements.

Choose the appropriate car

Roads in Latin America may not always be smooth highways, but bumpy roads with holes and gravel. Depending on the terrain of your route, you may need to equip your car with full-tread tires and a suspension ready for any challenge. It is recommended that you choose a vehicle with four-wheel drive capabilities or an SUV for added assurance and safety during your trip.

Car top tent

For an unforgettable and comfortable road trip, consider investing in a car top tent. This type of tent is compact and lightweight, making it easy to store on your vehicle’s roof for the duration of the journey. Experiencing nature by sleeping outdoors with a car top tent allows for an immersive experience that you can’t get while staying at a hotel.

Invest in car maintenance

Before embarking on your road trip adventure, give your vehicle a thorough checkup with all the necessary repairs and replacements so it can withstand any long-distance drive: Get the following checked:

  • Engine oil changed
  • Brakes checked
  • Tires rotated and aligned

In addition, make sure your vehicle has all the necessary safety equipment and extra fluids.

Emergency preparation

Being prepared for any unexpected situation is important when traveling abroad, even more so if you’re going to travel by car. Have a basic emergency kit ready with items such as:

  • A first-aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Swiss pocket knife
  • Extra clothing
  • Blankets in case of cold nights
  • Refillable water bottles

Additionally, it’s highly recommended to research the best places for roadside assistance and make sure you have a working phone or access to a satellite phone in case of emergencies.


While it’s true that purchasing a local SIM card can provide data and keep you connected online, it is highly recommended to embrace the old-fashioned approach and invest in a road map. This way, you’ll have access to comprehensive information about the town, road types, and distances. It’s always a wise move in case your battery dies or you lose signal during your journey.

Routes and parking

Road-tripping in Latin America is not as common as in the USA, Australia, or Europe. However, it presents an untapped experience, waiting to be fully explored. Although you may not be the pioneer of this adventure, ensure to seek guidance from tourism agencies or websites to curate your own distinctive itinerary and explore the finest road trip routes.

Parking in Latin America is quite different from what you may be accustomed to. It’s still a rather rudimentary process, with a parking attendant using a small red fabric to guide you. No matter the country, it’s customary to provide a small tip or corner to show appreciation for their assistance in parking and helping you navigate in and out.

When opting for all-day parking, it’s advisable to inquire about the daily or nightly rates in advance. Forget about machines; here, it’s all about friendly negotiations. Just be sure to find a reputable parking spot to avoid any inconvenience.

Car parts in Spanish: car-related jargon

While you may have the know-how to fix your car in the USA, what about finding yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere with flat tires and no Spanish background? Not only are you unfamiliar with Spanish, or have only a basic understanding of it, but also, South American Spanish has its own unique slang and terminology.

Each country may have its own distinct vocabulary, adding to the challenge. And let’s not forget about Brazil, the only country in South America where Portuguese is spoken instead of Spanish.

Let’s aim to make sure you can communicate effectively with locals while you’re traveling on the road.

Before diving into the car part names, let’s learn how to say “car” in Spanish across different regions:

  • El auto – throughout Latin America
  • El carro – Mexico, Central America, and South America
  • El coche – Spain

Brake: Freno

Seatbelt: Cinturón

Steering wheel: Volante

Seat: Asiento

Door: Puerta

Window: Ventana

I have Flat tyres: Tengo las llantas pinchadas

I am stranded: Estoy barado

I need gas: Necesito gasolina

There is a leak here: Hay una fuga aquí