Tuesday, November 9, 2010


A few details about driving your vehicle and yourself out of the country for an extended period of time. For some related posts, you can view everything labeled Logistics.


International Driving Permit Available through AAA. Valid for 1 year. Having a few of these ($12 each) seems to be a good idea in case a corrupt cop threatens to hold on to one. Laminated copies of our US driver’s licenses are also a good idea. We were told they can “pass” in most countries and it’s no prob if a crooked cop threatens to hold on to it. In reality, our experience was that it didn’t really matter what you had or didn’t, if a cop wanted to try to get a bribe, he was gonna try anyway. As we’d been trained from reading other overlander blogs, a simple “No” or claiming not to speak Spanish got us out of all situations. Read about our most intense experience in Panama.
Vehicle Insurance From what I’ve read, there’s no way to get a policy that will cover the truck for the whole trip. For the first leg in Mexico, we opted to pre-purchase a policy from MexInsure ($280 for 6 months, a better deal than paying daily for 60 days). For the rest of Central America, you can buy a short-term policy (which may be required in some countries) at the border in the ballpark of $12 a month.

Check out the first post in each country on the Index of Stories page for border info including insurance.
Borders Not much you can do til you get there but we did “pre-register” for a temporary import permit into Mexico at https://www.banjercito.com.mx. Supposedly there’s an express window if you’ve preregistered.

For the rest, check out the first post in each country on the Index of Stories page for border info including insurance.
  • Vehicle title (copies and digital)
  • Vehicle registration (original, copies and digital)
  • Vehicle insurance (will change country by country)
  • Drivers Licenses (original, copies and digital)

We kept copies of these close at hand while driving, more copies squirrelled away and the originals buried in the bowels or the truck. 


Budget The goal was to take this trip AND maintain our life at home in a state of hibernation for about the same amount as being at home would cost. That meant we rented the house to cover the mortgage and the money we would have spent on things like satellite TV, electric and other utilities, car/motorcycle insurance, etc went towards our life on the road. Food evened out since you gotta eat wherever you are. Shipping, border and increased gas costs are balanced by the generally lower cost of living and decreased random day-to-day spending on anything from lattes at Starbucks to that 1949 Martin D-18 I seem to think I can’t live without.

Yeah, yeah, I know you want numbers. Nicolas Rapp, Transworld Expedition, estimated his one year trip around the world would cost about $50K and after 9 months or so, he was just about on target. Interestingly, this comes to $1 a mile. Depending on where you look (and the season and which bridges are out etc), the PanAmerican Highway from San Francisco to Tierra de Fuego is probably about 10,000-15,000 miles. My guess is that it’ll cost us more like $2 a mile for a total on the road cost of $30K.
Finances For security, we won’t go into too much detail here other than to say that our primary account will be our E-trade checking account. We’ve been very happy with it for international withdrawals. 99% of the time, you get a good exchange rate and there are NO fees.

We also got a Capitol One card after reading a few blog entries about them not charging foreign currency transaction fees. 
Language While we both took Spanish on and off through high school, we refreshed with a once a week class for about 4 months before the trip. While on the road, we also took a week of intensive Spanish in Antigua, something I would recommend doing as early as possible in your trip. May as well be able to take advantage of it!
Vaccinations The Adult Imunization & Travel Clinic (AITC) in San Francisco gave us all the info (and shots!) we needed. Helps if you can find old vaccination records and be sure to allow at least 6 months to get everything you need.

We ended up getting vaccinated for Yellow Fever, Meningitis, Tetanus, Typhoid, Hep A/B, Rabies (first couple shots which makes treatment in the event of exposure easier) and a flu shot (with H1N1).

Also some great info on the Trans World Expedition site.
Medical Insurance Both of our basic insurance policies will cover emergency care anywhere in the world and when we return. To supplement, we bought a family policy with MedJet for about $1000 a year which would cover medical transport from anywhere in the world home.

On top of all that, the SPOT comes with an option for additional GEOS Search and Rescue coverage for something like $12.95. Couldn’t pass that up.
  • Passports (original, copies and digital)
  • Marriage certificate (copies and digital)
  • Health insurance (original, copies and digital)
  • Credit Cards/ATM (copies and digital)

AT Home

House Through Facebook and friends of friends, we found a couple moving out to the Bay Area with a 7 month old looking for a place to while they settled into new jobs. We locked up one room with our personal stuff and rented the place furnished. Win win for everyone!
Vehicle Insurance/Registration One option is to register any vehicles  left at home (motorcycles in our case) as “non-op” with the DMW but if you want to use them at any time within the next year, you have to pay the full registration. We just went ahead and registered them. 

In addition, CA requires all registered vehicles to be insured. That is, IF they are used or parked on public streets. But if you file an Affidavit of Non-Use, you can drop your insurance without raising any red flags at the DMV. Since ours were stored in driveways and garages, we opted to keep theft/damage coverage but still saved a bunch of money.

For the Xterra, we filed the ANU above and canceled our insurance effective a couple days after we planned to be in Mexico.