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Tailor-made Manager Ben Line draws from experience to give his top tips for anyone embarking on a self-drive holiday in Latin America: an extremely rewarding way to see the continent but also one that requires some forward planning!

  • When picking up your car it’s worth checking it over thoroughly before you drive away. As well as the usual checks for dents and damage it’s a good idea to make sure your lights, indicators and windscreen wipers are all working perfectly and that the tyres are in good condition. Also make sure to check you know which side the petrol cap is on and what type of fuel the car takes!
  • Before setting out on your journey make sure you have checked on local road laws such as speed limits, right-turn rules, roundabouts and so on.
  • Carry some loose change for toll roads, telephones or parking.
  • Before you go try learning a few basic direction-related words in Spanish:
Derecha Right           Todo recto Straight ahead
Izquierda Left   Derecho Straight ahead
A la derecha/izquierda On the right/left   Atrás Behind

...as well as what the most important road signs mean:
 

Despacio Slow                     Ceda / ceda el paso Give way
Peligro
Danger   Camino cerrado Road closed
Salida Exit   Entrada prohibida
No entry
Alto / pare
Stop   Sin salida No exit
Estacionamiento Parking   Desvío Detour
Peaje / cobro Toll      
  • In addition to the above, ensure you also have a phrasebook with you in case you find yourself in a tricky situation. You never know when you might need some help!
  • Although not officially required, you might want to get an international driver's license just to be on the safe side. Valid for a year and available at the Post Office, it’s a useful piece of documentation to have, particularly for any road side police checks.
  • Always fill up when in a city as petrol stations in some areas outside of the larger cities and towns can be few and far between.
  • Road signs tend to be located just before the turnings they designate so driving at a slower pace helps not to miss them (especially on the motorways where slip roads can be very short).
  • Roadworks are often not signposted ahead so be prepared for lane changes without much warning.
  • If you find yourself on an uneven, unpaved or bumpy road, reduce your speed and take your time.
  • For safety try not to drive too close to the edge of gravel roads.
  • On dusty roads make sure you stay a safe distance from the vehicle in front to ensure you have good visibility.
  • Although an unlikely occurrence it’s worth making sure you know who to contact in the event of an emergency (for example if you have booked with us, keep a note of our 24-hour emergency contact number). It’s also worth reminding yourself before you go of how to change a wheel, check the oil and fill up the radiator.
  • If you’re on a long stretch of the journey make sure you have some food and water and ensure that your mobile phone is charged and topped up.
  • For obvious reasons, don’t leave without checking you have a map and directions!
  • Always keep some water in the car in case you need to fill up the windscreen washer or radiator.
  • Relax, enjoy and take your time! The journey is half the fun of a road trip so make sure you leave enough time to stop along the way and take in the scenery.

Browse our Self-drive holidays.

Tailor-made holidays

Flexible, custom-made holidays to Latin America created to match your exact requirements: our tailor-made itineraries are as unique as the clients for whom they are designed.

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Papagaio

Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • JimAshworth
    Jim Ashworth - Travel Consultant

    Jim first caught the Latin American travel bug in 2001 when he decided at the last minute to join a friend travelling around Central America – he hasn't looked back since.

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Consultant

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our Sales team.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.

  • Kathryn Rhodes
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Consultant

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

Meet the team