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Long Road South, The Pan American Highway by Joseph Yogerst (published by National Geographic in 1999).

Excellent for city lovers, lots of information about history, culture, architecture, recommendations about little forgotten towns and attractions close to the highway. Not enough technical information or practical advice, but this is not that kind of book. Will not be much help for people planing to drive or cycle across the continents, no information regarding getting across Darien Gap, yet great for those going to immerse in local cultures.

Central & South America by Road, by Pam Ascanio with Robb Annable 1996.

Seams to be written by travel addicts. Excellent source for low-budget travelers. Extensive info about free camping sites, cheap motels, places to buy inexpensive supplies. Tons of technical information about preparing for a trip, regardless of how you travel: car, motorbike or bicycle. Practical advice for shipping your vehicle from across Darien gap and crossing borders. Contains maps with gas stations and campsites, information about road quality and closures. The only sad thing is that the info was accurate 10 years ago :-)) Still practical advice and fun stories makes it an excellent read for anyone thinking of Pan Am trip. You'll know what to expect.

AAA Essential Guide: Mexico (published by AAA in 2005)

If you are an AAA member, you can get this travel guide for free. However, some places they mention no longer exist, some nice places are not mentioned at all, and, judging from their hotel and restaurant recommendation, the book is oriented toward well-off travelers. For example, most of the hotels they list start from $100+ per night. We suggest you get the Lonely Planet Mexico instead...

Lonely Planet Mexico 2004, by John Noble

A much better choice than the AAA Essential Guide: Mexico.

Footprint South American Handbook 2005, by Ben Box

Useful checklist for preparing yourself for a trip. Many recommended tours (popular and less traveled), pricing information, low cost travel resources, best times to visit, climate info even bus and ferry schedules. Concise description of major attractions in each country and attractions by region helps to build a route... Useful, if you can put up with the British way of saying it...

Lonely Planet Central America on a Shoestring (published by Lonely Planet in 2004)

Very similar to the Footprint guide in terms of content, but has a couple of very nice additional features: abbreviated history of every country, and the best maps ever !!! The Lonely Panel includes maps of each town that is worth visiting with clearly marked hostels, ATMs, internet cafes, post offices, bus terminals etc. Comparing to the Footprint travel guide (see entry above), which includes maps of only the major cities, and even those are incomplete - many of the hotels, restaurants and other services providers or attractions listed in the book are not marked on the map.

Tip #1: The "Must see/Not to be missed" lists presented by Lonely Planet and Footprint are quite different. If you don't mind extra weight of your backpack, get both books for more objective coverage.

Lonely Planet South America on a Shoestring 2004, by Danny Palmerlee

Using it right now :-) Review will come shortly...

Footprint Central America and Mexico 2004 (15th Edition), by Peter Hutchison

Have not tried this one...

Darien Gap Guide, by Patricia E. Upton - Out of print!

This book has been written by people who have actually crossed the Darien gap. It is not for people who plan a happy-go-lucky cruising along the highway, enjoying vistas, sipping margaritas. The author has actually crossed the impassable portion of the road, survived the jungle, met bandits, had accidents, in other words - real adventures :-) The book is out of print, but maybe you will find someone who has it. The last time the author has made a trip to the region was in 1999, so due to the lack of updated information and high cost of publishing Patricia decided not reprint the book. Yet she is very helpful and willing to share her knowledge with anyone who is interested in making a trip to the region.

Author's web site

Central and South America Driving Packet, by South American Explorers

This is not a guide or manual for driving through Central and South America. This is a collection of reports from people who have done that. Many reports date back to 1994-1998, yet there are a few from 2000-2003. The best value of this packet is in detailed reports from several people who shipped their cars & motorcycles from Panama to Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Really very detailed descriptions on what documents to prepare, where to go, whom to talk to, selecting shipping company, prices, customs agents, and etc. The section about the mystical "Carnett de Passage" & "Libreta de Pasos por Aduana" is of little use - the same info can be found on the Internet, some travelers have done fine without these documents, others strongly recommend having them. Vehicle parts in Spanish and recommendations for outfitting your vehicle are handy. Same as list of vehicle shippers along with their contact details and feedback from travelers who used their services. Other sections: choosing a vehicle, security, buying & selling your vehicle in S.A., insurance, fuel prices, maps, health tips, recommended books & web sites, and finally detailed reports about every S.A. country. A bit outdated, but still worth those $35+.

Information packets


Belize, by ITMB, published in 2005. We are a bit disappointed with ITMB maps because most of them omit information very important to road travel, but the Belize map is not too bad. The roads are not numbered, but at least they have names and there are not too many of them anyway, gas stations are marked, index of cities is included and the inset map of Belize city is usable. Amazon.com sells 2001 edition, but 2005 edition can be purchased directly from the publisher.

Central America Map by ITMB, published in 2005. Complete map of entire Central America. Nice if you want to see the complete view (split on two sides), but not detailed enough. National road numbers are not marked, no gas stations. Inset maps of San Jose, Panama Canal area, Coco & San Andres islands. Includes index of cities. Get maps of each individual country instead.

Chile, by Rough Guides, published in 2005. Waterproof, large and easy to read. Major road are numbered and attractions marked. But no gas stations and no inset maps of major cities, not even Santiago.

Ecuador Map, by ITMB, published in 2003. Would be OK, but the Pan-American route is not marked... And the inset map of Quito is not detailed enough.

El Salvador Map, by ITMB, published in 2003. Why ITMB always "forgets" something? Like for example national road numbers, or one of the biggest volcanos in the country... Inset map of San Salvador without street names is also very "useful". Unfortunately this is the only El Salvador map that we could find.

Guatemala & Belize Country Map, by Rough Guides, published in 2004. Waterproof, detailed, large and easy to follow. Has all the usual stuff like road numbers, beaches, national parks, tourist attractions. But again no gas stations and inset maps of major cities. An it is OUTDATED with quite a few roads missing...

Maya World of Mexico & Central America Adventure Map, by Quimera Editores, published in 2002. Good driving map with all roads numbered, gas stations, beaches, national parks, tourist attractions. Inset maps of major cities would be much more useful than inset maps of archeological sites. Also includes a book with descriptions of major attractions of the region.

Mexico Map, by AAA, published in 2005. Excellent map with road & traffic conditions, popular routes, travel times, things to see and roads to avoid. Mexico City & Vicinity, and Downtown Mexico inset maps.
Free if you are an AAA member :-)

Nicaragua Map, by ITMB, published in 2004. This is a joke, not a map. Inset map of Managua has no street names, roads are not numbered, some highways and cities (i.e. Masaya) are missing, Pan-American highway is not marked either. Amazon.com sells the older 2002 edition, but the new 2004 edition that we bought directly from the publisher does not fix the mistakes mentioned in the Amazon review.

Paraguay Map, by ITMB, published in 2003. We are a bit disappointed with ITMB maps because most of them omit information very important to road travel, but the Paraguay map is not too bad. The roads are numbered, gas stations are marked, index of cities is included and the inset map of Asuncion is usable.
Not available on Amazon.com, but can be purchased directly from the publisher.

South America, by International Travel Maps (ITMB), published in 2000. Not enough detail for driving, road names/numbers are not marked. Shows altitude and has short descriptions of places to visit, country statistics, inset maps of vegetation, agriculture and minerals, Inset maps of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Asuncion, Santiago, Cusco & Caracas areas, Titicaca lake, San Andres, Fernando de Noronha, Easter, Trinidad, Margarita & Galapagos Islands. Since half of South America is on the front and the other half is on the back of the map, it is not even good for hanging on a wall.

South America, by National Geographic, published in 1992/2001. This is the one if you are looking for something to hang on your wall and keep your motivation up while you are getting ready for the trip. You'll smile every time you see it; and periodically check on the places that you are about to explore.

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