Duh...I didn't notice that this thread is 5 yrs old.
Hopefully, you had a great trip and have photos to share. I have tons!
JEEPS INVADE CATAVIņA, BAJA MEXICO!
As for the question about Mechanics goes...Tijuana has scores of 4x4 shops. I did my most recent steering, front/rear brake pad install, body lift, motor mount lift, and 3/4" front coil spacer lift there for $450 cash.
Luis workin' that magic...
Best Chicken soft taco award goes to...(to be continued)!
Now almost to the day 3 months later, I am back in Panama City to get my Jeep out of storage. Dropped in to check on it, good news: it was still there, had not be pilfered or parted out and cranked on the first try!
Tomorrow its off to Customs to make a new temporary permit...then start the trek back to Guatemala, but taking a somewhat different route than our trip down.
Making a new permit in Panama was not bad just a bit time consuming because they were busy.
Left Panama City and stopped in David for some minor work on the Jeep. David is a good place to work on an old vehicle...lots of shops and parts stores. Esp like "Repuestos Carfis"....good shop w machine shop so they can rebuild old parts or modify new ones to fit....important for a '89 like mine.
Found a good electro-mechanico there to work around an ignition switch problem...the "guaranteed fit" part I had shipped in from the USA of course did not fit!
Now in Volcan....beautiful place at about 1400m elevation. Here for a few days and then back over the mountains to Bocas del Toro on the Carib coast.
Learned something new on drive back from Volcan....some of the check points have drug dogs...don't do this trip w anything illegal aboard.
Starting the return trip on Sunday. First leg is Almirante, Panama to San Jose, Costa Rica...about 4 hours assuming no major delays at the border.
Well..things rarely go as planned in Central America. Should have just stayed put on Sunday...first it was raining heavy Sunday AM and its about a 20 minute skiff run to where the Jeep was parked so we waited for the rain to ease up...finally get to the Jeep and it has a flat...then I discover the new jack I bought needs a couple inches more lift...had to dig below the tire to get the spare on the hub. We drive to the Costa Rican border at a minor border crossing (Sixola) and discover there is a paperwork problem which they cant fix here in little Sixola so we cannot enter Costa Rica here...must return to Paso Canoas (major crossing on the Pacific coast....about 6 hours away) and fix it there...we turn around and head back...only to run into a protest which blocks the road for a couple of hours...finally get back underway, stop for fuel...and discover my debit card is not working...long day...
Well...everything has an upside...getting turned back at Sixola, started the trek back over the mountains to Paso Canoas...a beautiful drive at least...we really like Volcan so decided to stop there for a night or two...found a place to rent there so will be in staying in Volcan for a few months (thats the up side).
Drove to Paso Canoas and walked over to the CR side to try and sort out the paperwork...left the Jeep on the Panamanian side just in case CR did not want to play nice. All went smoothly...a couple hours and $20 later it was all fixed.
For the future reference of others the paper work problem: When entering CR (and many other countries) you must complete a temporary import permit. You must also cancel this permit when you leave the country. If the permit expires and the vehicle is still in the country then you have a significant problem, big fines, and siezure of you vehicle. In my case we somehow overlooked canceling the CR temp permit when we crossed to Panama (most of the border crossings in Central America are a bit chaotic so easy to miss something). Fortunately, I had a good paper trail to show that the vehicle had indeed left CR before the permit expired and was now legally in Panama...so a few conversations w officials and much shuffling of paper and the problem was fixed. If you dont feel comfortable handling this paper chase on your own then there are guys you can hire at the border to help you (they will find you). At the CR-Pamama border many of them speak English and will work for a fair tip of about $10 for a normal crossing. Most of them seem to be good guys...as opposed to the hustlers who work the borders around Bahia Fonseca (El Salvador/Honduras/Nicaragua) who are mostly interested in ripping you off (being "gringo'ed" we call it).
The down side is now I am comitted to driving back...my plan B if I could not work out things at the CR border was to put the Jeep on a ship and send it back to Guatemala...no more expensive than driving and WAY easier, but first we're gonna chill out in Volcan for a couple of months....ahhh...
...so decided to import it into Panama. That should have taken just a couple of weeks, but some bonehead made a typo early in the process and the VIN is missing a digit in the system. Big deal to fix it. Dumped my original agent (probably the bonehead who made the error or at least for sure did not catch it). Hired a much better one. She will supposedly have the issue fixed by Monday (of course it was supposed to be fixed months ago).
This sort of problem is common throughout Central America. Usually the fix is to find a friendly and "flexible" official who will, for a small "propina" (tip), fix things that are virtually impossible to do officially. My new agent tried that route and surprisingly the official wanted to fix it within the system...admirable I suppose, but it takes much longer.
Yahoo!, got temporary papers yesterday. Plan to make a little road trip in the Jeep this weekend.
I drove a 1984 CJ 7 soft top from Florida to Costa Rica in 1993. I am still living in Costa Rica now and my daily driver is a 2004 TJ. I suggest keeping your lift low and your tires A\T's. Think about adding a "Big Break Kit" up front. Defensive driving on the pavement is just as important if not more critical as off road capability. A comprehensive spares parts kits and tools, tire repair, pick and shovel will be much more useful to you than mud tires. When you get into the red clay and deep mud you will be happier with a good set of tire chains and the knowledge of how to use theme hen worn out swampers.DO NOT carry a gun. There are many other ways to protect yourself without the risk and problems a firearm will cause during your trip. It is an awesome place to travel, read up on regulations and current information from those who have been there recently. You will be married to your rig so finding places to leave it or someone you can trust to watch it while you surf or hike is a big plus. A handy place to stay are "hotels" locals use to take there mistress or a hooker. These are rooms you drive in to can close the car inside the room with you. Everyone else is there for a few hour trust but the security of having you Jeep in the room with you is damn nice at the end of a long days journey.
Have a ball and bring extra leashes and board wax.
I also failed to note the age of this thread. I hope others enjoy the journey as well.
Yes, the OP is old (and aparently poster is no longer active here), but I've posted my road trip notes here more recently since they were relevant to the original subject. Hopefully that will benefit others.
My GF and I have joked about doing a road trip and staying exclusively in "auto hotels". A few are pretty fancy (most not I assume), one in Guatemala has in room Jacuzzi, round bed, mirrors everywhere, and a stripper pole!
We were so exhausted from the road and so stoked to find a room with a safe garage that I don't think we realized why the "auto hotel" room was set up that way until the morning. After being able to sleep with the Jeep in the room we sought them out when ever we were not camping.