Our Plan: Drive from USA to the tip of South America

Since SparkleGirl and I got married a year ago, we have dreamed about taking a long trip traveling around the world. I wanted to come up with a main “goal” for our trip, and my first idea was to circumnavigate the globe by sailboat. SparkleGirl talked me out of the idea, pointing out that she gets seasick easily and that we didn’t know anything about sailing. I reminded her that I spent a summer sailing on lake Mendota in Wisconsin during college, but to no avail.

After a few months of hard thought while drinking Pacifico beers, my mind made the following leap, see if you can follow it:

Yachting Around the World


Land Yachting Around the World


Land Yachting to the Tip of South America

Is it possible to drive from the United States to Tierra del Fuego, the southern tip of South America? Could I set a new record to be the first to try this? After a little research on The Google, the simple answer to both questions is NO.

The trip has been done by many people – Lonely Planet has an online guide on how to do it, and this couple are doing the trip for a second time in a 40 foot RV! Someone walked half of the way, some people have biked it, I am sure someone’s grandma did it in her walker by now. It’s hard to be the first at anything out there with 6 billion people competing with you. That’s not even counting all the people that have lived since we stopped being apes or were magically put here, depending on your beliefs. I just need to think of a smaller niche to be the first person in, such as the first person to drive from the US to the tip of South America wearing a cowboy hat, or something. Let me know if you come up with any ideas for me.

The not so simple answer to the second question is a little less straightforward. The Pan-American Highway goes from Alaska to Argentina, except for a small section between Panama and Colombia called the Darien Gap. In the past you could at least get a guide and hike through to Colombia, and people have successfully crossed it using once again on foot, by bicycle, motorcycle, and off road vehicles. At this time, drug runners, rebel groups, and locals that are fed up with outsiders make it too dangerous for even a foot crossing. So, you can drive to the tip of South America, if you ship your car around the Darien Gap.

So that is our plan. Everything but the Darien Gap should be simple – just get on the Pan-American Highway and drive south. Oh, and of course a few other details we will be working out. Stay tuned…

8 thoughts on “Our Plan: Drive from USA to the tip of South America

  1. hey all, my wife and I are planning to drive from the wonderful city of Tucson Az to the tip of South America any advice? We are driving a big ford 35o cargo van. We have driven all over Mexico so no problems or fears there.

  2. Hi – nice to meet you. In fact, we have built a wiki for people just like us who are interested in driving in Central and South America – it's called Drive the Americas. Information on border crossings, paperwork, getting your car ready, other people driving, hopefully everything that will make your travels easier. Hope you find it helpful. And when you do start your trip, make sure to email us through Drive the Americas, and we'll profile you as roadtrippers.

  3. Hey,

    I am also wanting to make the trip to SA. I plan to drive a SPORTSMOBILE there. I understand that the GAP is tricky and requires shipping the van but can anyone comment on driving South after that? What is it like for a USA automobile driving the rest of the way? Any trouble?
    Thanks for the help!

    Michael from Washington State

  4. OK so this is the plan on how to reach SA.
    as far as getting there, i was thinking of a small truck like a Toyota or something like that those little trucks last a lifetime. i plan to lave next year, i live in southern California fontana, not to far from San Diego where i will be leaving from. i got my passport all set. haven't really started buying stuff. i thought what for? ill just buy it along the way. i do speak fluent Spanish, i have been to El Salvador and stayed out there for three months with family. my mom is from El paso TX. and my pops from El Salvador. the only thing that has me worried is Mexico. boy ill tell you i heard some stories. well that's not gonna stop me. my destination is Cali Colombia and maybe settle there and who knows maybe ill teach English or something. my friend Alfonzo will be with me once there i plan on staying there for a long time. i told my self if i wanted to come back i was going to work for it and get payed buy the ticket and fly back. so what do you guys think

  5. I think that sounds like a great idea. We have heard many scary stories ourselves about Mexico and other Central and South American countries. Just make sure to play it safe- stay off the roads at night, cross borders early in the morning, don't camp in remote areas or beaches, don't carry large sums of cash, etc.

    ¡Buen viaje!

  6. Hi,

    I’d like to do a Pan-American road trip this summer and need to buy a vehicle. My plan initially was to fly to Mexico City, buy an SUV, drive to Buenos Aires, and sell it there or ship it home. If someone doing the trip now would like to sell me their vehicle in South America, I’d be happy to agree to sell it back to them in the U.S. I can’t lease or rent it though because I believe ownership is an issue when crossing borders. Presumably a 3k+ mile trip through pot hole ridden Central America would depreciate the vehicle so we could discuss before hand simply selling it back for less than I bought it or paying for repairs or both.



  7. Hi Brian,

    Nice to meet you. I have a couple of recommendations for you. First, check out our other website at Drive the Americas. On this website we compiled comprehensive information on cars, borders, shipping, scams, gas and road conditions, hotels and camping – in essence everything we wish we had known about when we started this trip. We have a forum for roadtrippers on this website as well, and I know there are several cars for sale in Buenos Aires listed on this forum.

    Second, you may want to consider purchasing the car in the US. We met several Europeans who flew to San Diego, purchased a car, and went on their way. We only met one couple who tried to buy the car in Mexico and it sounded like it was a very difficult process.

    And you're right, you need to prove ownership of the car when you're crossing borders. Also check the your vehicle page of the Drive the Americas website for more information on purchasing vehicles, insurance, and vehicle modifications you might want to consider.

    Best of luck, and be sure to contact us when you do start your trip – we'd love to profile you in our roadtripper profile section of our Drive the Americas website.

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