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Home Panama Advice Advice on driving from Canada to Panama

Advice on driving from Canada to Panama

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On Dec 18, 2009, at 6:50 PM, Allyne M wrote:

My sister and I (with our Boyfriends) are driving our RV from Canada to Panama with our dog Trooper.  We have about 4 months to go there and back.   My mom and dad own a house in Panama, and referred me to your site.   I was wondering if you could let me know how the boarder crossings were like, and what papers did you need for your dogs to get across.  Also if you needed to send anything in a head of time for certain crossings or countries.  Panama seems to be the worst from my research (we have to get papers certified by the foreign affairs office ,then send them to the embassy in canada).  Could you let me know if you had to do this as well??

Let me know,

Dear Allyne,

Yes, Panama was the most complicated paperwork, especially as we were staying here with our dogs - the others were aware we were "in transito" but in practice Panama was the easiest country to enter (It was Dec 23rd, they were packed - and I paid $10 because there was no vet to inspect - and we were in). They are trying to clear up the corruption at Immigration. 

If you live closer to Toronto you can do all of Panama paperwork there at the Consulate on Bathurst St. 
DO NOT pay attention to statement that the paperwork for Panama must be "within 10 days". That rule is only for arriving through the airport, and put in by the vets, not the government of Panama. You do not have to send paperwork ahead, but if you call ahead, they will have a vet ready to inspect, cuttting down your waiitng time.
The way to get paperwork done for Panama is to first get the correct forms,  get them notarized, then get the notary's signature authenticated by Official Records Office (Toronto or Ottawa), then make photocopies, and then take all of that to the Panamanian consulate or Embassy.
All countries need an international vet certificate and recent shots list. Check the website of each country to see if they need anything else.

The only county that does not have an embassy in Ottawa is Nicaragua. You will need to go to their embassy in Washington DC (sort of on your way anyhow).
We did the trip in 30 days, stopping for a week in Guatemala to visit friends. You have lots of time. 
DO NOT DRIVE AT NIGHT. I almost t-boned an 18 wheeler at 80 km an hour because it was across the entire highway — completely dark without even a reflector. The engine died when it tried to cross the major highway and the driver just left it there. Small kids, entire families, and farm animals all over the roads are equally dangerous/hazardous.
A tip - pack everything in clear plastic containers, and have a list of everything (in Spanish if you can) - taped to the top of each box - that way the customs guys can just look in, see what you have and you won't have to haul everything out for them to inspect. The dog will discourage them from coming inside to inspect as well.
Always use the young guys at the border to help you. They are well worth the $5. 
Try to arrive at each border in the morning. Every border - entering and exiting -  will take 2 - 3 hours - so bring coffee, something to read and relax. Vets only work day hours and take lunches off - so mornings are best, and not Sundays.
It was an amazing trip - if you stay on the pay roads it will be smooth sailing. The free roads are much, much rougher, but more interesting sites.
Check the web for news of any problems - but know that every country you go to, they will tell you the NEXT country is very dangerous. We did not go through El Salvador - but others have (see Chris and Kristin - www.drivetheamericas. com) They loved El Salvador. They have just driven from California to South America and are on their way back.
The book - Traveler's Tool Kit:  Mexico and Central America by Rob Sangster and Tim Leffel was the most useful book (and I bought them all)
I bought a Magellan GPS - it took us to the front door of the Nicarauguan Embassy in Washington - a godsend. They now have fairly good maps of Central America you can buy online - Google "GPS maps for Central America". About $150 per country. GPS maps for Mexico and Costa Rica were really needed.
The so called World Phone from Rogers and Blackberry's so called "global services" did not work - useful only in Canada and USA. Buy cheap cell phones with SIM cards and pay as you go minutes. 
Good luck, write it all down, take lots of photographs and send them to me - I will post them on the site. 
Drive carefully during the day, don't drink and drive and for God's sake - don't let anyone near your vehicle if you think they have smoked/touched or even thought about drugs - it is more serious than you can even imagine.
E-mail me along the way.  I look forward to buying you guys your first cold one in Panama! Roberto Chocolat√©
PS: it's now Dec 19th - it is 94 degrees and sunny. Bring sunscreen.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 May 2010 19:03  

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