California to Panama in a T100

#1
Hi all. My name is Matt.
I am traveling from California to Panama with my wife and our old Labrador. We are traveling in a 1995 Toyota T100 with a self-built camper.
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If you want to know more about the rig, check out my build thread http://www.expeditionportal.com/for...t-From-bought-to-built-in-a-month-(hopefully) I know its not the most thorough build thread so feel free to ask questions.

We had two years of budget for the trip, but I'm a bit late in starting this thread. We actually just crossed from Mexico to Belize, so we have 18 months left on the road. We are surfers, so we drove down the Baja peninsusla and ferried across to Mazatlan. Then drove the Pacific coast all the way down to Salina Cruz during the summer. We then headed back north threw the mountains and Oaxaca city for Dia de los Muertos. Then east across Chiapas and a loop around the Yucatan.
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The red line is our rout so far.

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Camped at Scorpion Bay, Central Baja

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We got some new tires after a blowout south of Puerto Vallarta. They are 31x10.5 BFG AT Ko2

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We were warned about Michoacan as being a dangerous area, but it ended up being one of our favorites.

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Roadside attraction in Oaxaca

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Camping, Hiking, and Exploring the mountains of central Mexico was a lot of fun and surprisingly cold.
 
#2
The Cenotes on the Yucatan were pretty cool and the beaches are beautiful.
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Ok. That's all the vacation pictures i'm going to try to force you to look at for now.

A few more useful thoughts for anyone else considering the trip:

-We had no safety issues, nothing stolen, and payed no bribes during our six months in Mexico. We took it slow, played it safe, and yeah, luck might of had something to do with it too.

-If at all possible, I would suggest driving a vehicle you have owned/driven/tested/maintained for a while prior to departing. We were living on Maui Hawaii, so this wasn't a practical option for us. As a result we purchased the truck and 7 weeks later we were in Mexico. Not nearly enough time for all the maintenance and modifications we wanted to do, let alone trying to take it out for test runs. I consider this the main reason we have had so many small problems on the road: starter battery, house battery, starter, ideler arm, shock bushings, and I think the ball joints need replacing. Its a 22 year old truck. It should be expected I suppose.

-The Mexicali border crossing from California to Mexico was very easy. Less then an hour. They laughed at me and waved me away when I tried to declare the dog.

-We entered Belize two days ago. The border was simple enough, though it was an expensive day for us. When you enter Mexico don't pay for your tourist card at costumes. You must pay at the Banjercito (bank) and keep your receipt or you will have to pay again(20usd per person) when you leave. Having a tourist card doesn't mean you payed for it apparently. Also, if you have the health certificate for your dog, they will let you in, but they will charge you double(extra 25usd per pet) if the info isn't on their form and submitted in advance.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to ask questions. I'll try to post again next time I get WIFI. Its a bit tricky on the road
 
#4
SWEET! I'm aiming to drive my 2002 Tacoma 4X4 (which I've done maintenance from top to bottom), from CO Peru, in June. But if all I do is get to southern Panama, I'll call my trip a success.

Questions: 1. Plan to surf all over the west coast of Central America, did you bring your surf boards, or bought them in Mexico. Should I buy it in the U.S. or South America?

2. The places that you rented, how did you find them?

3. I never carry cash, in the U.S. Is $100 a good amount to keep in hand, or would more be better?

Thanks!

Pic of my truck! 20160928_153251.jpg
 
#5
Sounds like a fun trip.
1. I already owned my boards, so I brought them with me. I would recommend buying in the USA though. Easy, cheaper, more options
2. If your talking boards, I didn't rent. If your talking rooms/camping, you gotta get the iOverlander app. It's a game changer
3. I personally carry more. ATM are not in every town and lots of places don't take cards. I take out a weeks budget at a time and have backup cash too.

Have fun. Maybe we will see you on the road/in the lineup.

Cool truck by the way
 
#6
1. I second buying in the US, check out Evolved surfboards, made in USA and fair priced.
3. I would also carry more than $100 I think $400 would be good, it helps at border crossing when you exchange some money and have some on hand before you can find an ATM machine.
 
#8
Sounds like a fun trip.
1. I already owned my boards, so I brought them with me. I would recommend buying in the USA though. Easy, cheaper, more options
2. If your talking boards, I didn't rent. If your talking rooms/camping, you gotta get the iOverlander app. It's a game changer
3. I personally carry more. ATM are not in every town and lots of places don't take cards. I take out a weeks budget at a time and have backup cash too.

Have fun. Maybe we will see you on the road/in the lineup.

Cool truck by the way
Thank you and look forward to see y'all!
1. I second buying in the US, check out Evolved surfboards, made in USA and fair priced.
3. I would also carry more than $100 I think $400 would be good, it helps at border crossing when you exchange some money and have some on hand before you can find an ATM machine.
Thank you!!!
 
#9
Thanks Jaunt. Back at ya.

The_Driver, I thought of something else regarding your cash question. Look into a Charles Shwab high interest checking account. It's basically a normal checking account that you can manage online, but it's great for long term traveling because they reimburse ATM fees. It's probably saved me a couple hundred bucks by now.
 
#10
So far Belize has been an interesting experience. It wasn't until we got here that we realized how comfortable we had become in Mexico. For the first five days I was converting prices into Pesos.:Wow1: The considerably higher cost of EVERYTHING makes it tough for the budget conscious traveler to have much fun, but we figured we have a 1 month visa, we will give ourselves 1 month of budget, and if we run out of cash or things we really want to do then we will move on to Guatemala.

We have gone to Copper Bank, Sarteneja, Orange Walk, Belize City, Caye Caulker, Cockscomb Basin, and now at Hopkins. The snorkeling in the Hol Chan marine preserve was awesome, and the Cockscomb Basin jaguar preserve has some great hiking trails, but the rest of the areas we've gone were a bit disappointing. The water along the beaches has been consistently murky and uninviting and we've been a bit unfortunate in having an unusually rainy December causing some of the hiking trails to be closed or very muddy. Almost every activity that you would really want to do in Belize requires a boat and/or a guide and a park entrance fee(money, money, money) so, I understand why most travelers we met in Mexico planned to skip Belize altogether and head straight for Guatemala.

The people of Belize have been extremely friendly. They're always saying Hello and waving. It has been quite a novelty to casually chat in English with anyone I meet after six months of struggling to improve my Spanish in Mexico.

We are waiting for a package to arrive in Belize City that got hung up with the Holidays. Hopefully it arrives within the next couple days. Then we will be headed for Guatemala for more adventures and and some Spanish lessons.
 
#11
Yeah the Schwab checking account has been great for us as well, definitely a no brainer. Also I can't remember the last time I ever got interest paid on a checking account!
 

RMP&O

Expedition Leader
#12
Not sure what you are getting in Belize package wise but I was able to not pay the importation fee on a part I had shipped to Belize. The coastline of Belize is not the best and that is because the reef is so far out off the coast. Out on the cayes is where it is super nice as I am sure you have seen.

I will make a few suggestions for Belize in case you want to do a few last thing before moving on.

Off The Wall Dive Resort is awesome with super great hosts/owners. I spent a week out there getting certified in scuba back in 2008. All up it was not super cheap, cost me about $1000, but that was a week on a very beautiful island and it included my diving certification course. They are out on Glovers Reef Atoll.

Th Caves Branch Jungle Lodge is pretty cool as well. They have in house guides with lot's of day trips offered out of the lodge. Very nice setting at the lodge with hiking trails out the back door. You can even do overnight trips into the jungle right from the lodge. I highly recommend this. I did it and still talk about it 8yrs later.

Island Expeditions does some great kayaking trips all over Belize. Their best trip is the Ultimate Adventure but it is also a long trip. I did this trip with them and it was beyond a great experience. The best part to me was the few days we spent white water boating down the MoHo river. Super awesome experience!

Cheers
 
#13
Thanks for the suggestions RPM&O. It sounds like you had an awesome time in Belize.

I'm afraid we have already annihilated our budget, so no more tours for us, and every time we call the post office they give us a later date for our package eta. Standard. Not to complain though. We are hanging out at the tropical education center next to the Belize zoo. It's a nice spot to camp. They have the nicest bathrooms/showers, some short hiking trails that the dog is allowed on, wifi, and super nice staff. We have also seen a lot of wild life walking around the property: crocodiles, turtles, fish, iguanas, rodents, and a bunch of different birds.

The hiking in Belize has been pretty great (although wet). They know how to make nice trail networks and offer tasteful facilities. The parks are clean and seem to genuinely want to preserve the areas. I felt it was worth mentioning this after visiting many disappointing national parks and reserves in Mexico, where there were often restaurants or campers blasting music and trash all over the parking lots and trails.
 
#14
We are planning on entering Guatemala this weekend. We will be going to Tical and have a basic plan of heading south west across the country before making our way back up the pacific coast for some SURF! We are planning on doing some Spanish lessons around lake Atitlan and are considering some in Monterrico.

Anyone have a must-do thing that they did in Guatemala? How about a Spanish school that they attended and enjoyed?
 
#15
I loved the TEC...Was there last week and stayed in a guest house. Was very hard to leave. When you get near to the Guatemala border I would recommend Clarissa Falls very friendly a great place to relax. In Guatemala spent a day at Tikal, well worth the side trip. Now at Lake Atitlan also looking for Spanish schools.
 
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