driving to Nicaragua

Recently I have seen more comments about driving to Nicaragua. I am planning to move in the middle of June and am curious and also a little trepidatious. Driving through Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras seems like a risky plan, perhaps my fear of the unknown in a foreign language. My starting point would be either Laredo or Brownsville, Texas. I know that the trip would be about 2500 miles but have no idea of the timing or safety in the roadside accommodations. The consideration of the trip would be to transport goods and a vehicle. I had the idea that it was best to purchase a vehicle in Nicaragua, probably diesel, rather than import all the environmental bells and whistle from the US. The goods that I would bring are only books, several thousand. They weigh a ton, So... risk versus freight, I would imagine that the tax on books would be the same.

Charles Slane


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Personally, the biggest negative for me would be having a vehicle. Once you have residency you can import that tax-free but there are other issues -- all discussed previously -- about a non-local vehicle.

As for shipping costs, I would look into a freight forwarder. Sending stuff to Nicaragua (and virtually everywhere else) by boat is based on volume, not weight.

Books are zero rated for IVA (15% Good and Services Tax)

The law also states that those goods (that are zero rated in this county) can be imported without duty (tax), however it says:

Exempt imports:

"the imports of goods whose sale is not subject to local VAT (except used goods)"

does that mean no second hand books? you may need to check with an import agent here.

In fact it may be wise to have them do the paperwork on the books in Texas and you carry them.

It could be different where you are bringing them in to set up a business selling books as opposed to making a donation to the local library.

Also, the law speaks about applying to Natural and Legal Persons...if you don't have a residency yet, you may not be one of those.

I'm In Mazatlan

at the Shrimp Bucket (shrimp season in the sea of Cortez) on my way down. This is a fast trip, this detour cost us two hours but we wanted some fresh shrimp.. We hoped to drive Mexico in three days this time, it will wind up being four.

You can search here and on The Real Nicaragua for my previous trips and others. Promised Land will bring up a pic of the last rig I brought down.

Mexico is a piece of cake, no customs or duty issues whatsoever. CA can be more difficult, depending on what you are carrying. Books, clothing, food (I have a freezer full of bacon, baby backs, and some really good steaks) -come in free, as well as personal articles.

Mexico roads are great, just expensive, CA roads are more challenging.

I'm coming back again in March . . . June gets pretty warm.

It's one hell of an adventure, beautiful scenery, warm and welcoming people everywhere.

PM me with an email and I can answer any specific questions. I'll send you a pic . .

With all the container problems people have been having, I think it might be easier and cheaper to drive your stuff down.

I have a 38 foot International truck that I plan to bring down next winter . . .. it's all do-able.



Edit Tehuacan (north of Oaxaca):

Our attempt to drive Mexico in three days failed when the cooling thermostat stuck shut. It might have been that way for some time,, we discovered it when we were aggressively climbing from Mazatlan to Tepic. I watched it for a day, trying to definitively diagnose the problem and still make some distance . . .

The engine would progressively heat up, and eventually boil out the (now water) from the system. There is water available consistently along the autopista, usually in cute concrete "wells", and we would stop, cool the engine, re-fill with water, and continue on. This was a chore at 3-4 hour intervals, depending on how much climbing we did,, but we got it down to 15 minutes and it gave ,me an opportunity to get out and stretch.

Possibilities included a head gasket leak (but no water in the oil, no vapor out the tail pipe, no combustion smell in the coolant); a faulty water pump (but it looked and sounded good and didn't leak), and finally, some blockage, the most likely culprit being the thermostat.

I think the heavy loading of the van (about 600 lbs on top and 1500 in the van itself) contributed to the problem. We had absolutely no problems on the flat, from Nogales to Mazatlan, but once we started up the problem appeared.

I was apprehensive about finding the right part, but the Auto Zone in Tehuacan had three different possibilities in stock. Using the same computer parts system as that in the US, the clerk and I settled on one that was manufactured in Israel, imported to the US by some outfit in Memphis, and then re-exported to Auto Zone Mexico. The world gets smaller and smaller.

We could HAVE made it the distance to Nicaragua, but we are heavily loaded, and there won't be the convenient infrastructure available in CA that we enjoy here. It's a simple job, but I'm going to hire a mechanic to do it.

We will still make the Guatemala border in 4 days, which isn't bad.

My brother in law just left

My brother in law just left Huston headed back to Nicaragua. He does this about every other month.

Tell Your BIL

to stop by as he passes Condega . .

He can just ask for the "Gringo's house". We're a couple of blocks north of Salvadora.

Is he the guy with the mission south of Managua?



Final installment:

We finally arrived at El Espino late on Noche Buena. I had quite a bit of expensive stuff with me so decided to do the right thing and declare some of it. We had got up that morning at four to exit Guatemala and enter El Salvador. Unfortunately, honesty required unloading and going through my stuff. I finally got them to agree to just take the bins (total of 24) and store them in a locked room for my re-arrival at 8 AM Christmas morning. We couldn't do the paperwork anyway until the next day, and we desperately needed some rest. Much of the road from Amatillo to Espino is badly potholed, and requires careful attention. We took turns driving and kept awake by arguing about who hit more potholes. I went back to Espino at about 8:30, got everything taken care of, paid an amazingly small duty (handed out more in "navidades" to various outstretched hands :)

I went across the street and got a couple of those big bags of M & M 's at the duty free, and we managed to complete everything including payment in about two hours. They had let me take the freezer with me the night before , the Christmas tree, and a bunch of other stuff that was obviously not dutiable, so reloading the van was less of a chore, and they released the bins as soon as they looked through them.. .. .

When they say border is open 24-7, that doesn't mean you can cross . . everyone at Espino was awake, but leaving Guatemala the guy with the stamp to cancel my car permit was asleep somewhere. I finally found him, got the stamp, but then needed the photo copies of passport, license, etc, and of course, a copy of the cancelled car permit for aduana. You could travel with a shitload of copies, but you always need one or two made on the spot. I took a pedicab into El Salvador, got the copies made and returned to Guatemala. Nobody paid any attention to my crossing back and forth . . .I could have just kept walking.

Once back, the aduana guy had disappeared. He was there previously, helped a couple of truck drivers. He finally showed up from a house across the street an hour later, about six AM, the same time the photo copy guy appeared and opened his little booth. It WAS peaceful there, sitting on the bench watching the sky lighten. I pondered the contrast between the squalor of the border crossing, and the natural beauty of the dawn and the shadowed trees -for about five minutes.

The aduana guy was a little surly, but did the paperwork quickly, didn't bother looking at my car or stuff, probably went back to sleep . .

El Salvador is always professional, passports quickly stamped, aduana guy picked me out of the waiting line, did my paperwork, We walked out to the van to check the VIN but when he saw the 8 Tuff Boxes on top, he turned to me, smiled and said: "agencia". I found the customs agent office, got the form in about ten minutes for $30, returned, got my paperwork. He asked a young colleague to get my sticker (different building); she walked me over and immediately processed it. The sticker doesn't go on the car, but on the back of the car permit. They never did look at the VIN or my cargo. There was a lot of Salvadorenos from the US returning with towed cars, big refrigerators, etc. A long haul truck driver from LA, Jose, who comes down for three months at a time, another guy from Las Vegas who claimed he made it in three days towing a car. ??? Now, that's driving. It seems everyone in El Salvador has lived in the US for some amount of time.

Driving north to San Miguel through the numerous small towns required a type of "nudge driving". The streets were thronged with people, every pickup crammed with people going somewhere . .Smiles and music everywhere, but so slooooow.

But, it was all worth it. We probably did it for the cost of two person's flights from LA, but you can't put a price on the experience and the interaction with the people on the road. Attitude is everything, with a healthy dose of acceptance and resignation. That's how the people who live here cope. . it's different.

No he lives in condega.

No he lives in condega. This is his job. Driving back and forth from huston to Nicaragua He was in el Salvador yesterday

If we can get in touch with him I will tell him. Since he is working he may wait till he drops the truck off before he gets back to condega

hi vern..

glad to see u posting over here..hope u and ure family had a good christmas..and lets all have a great new year


Merry last Christmas to you and your family I have not been very active lately. Been driving way too many trains

Really hate that u had

Really hate that u had problems with the thermostat. Especially on a drive like that. Very dangerous for the motor yet it is also one of the easiest repair jobs.

If it is stuck closed something you can remove it and press the spring and it will start working again.

Or you can remove the part that opens and closes.

Or in more extreme cases you can remove it all together.

You do what you can in the situation that you are in.

I replace them every 100k miles. And I always drill a little hole in the lip of the new one. Then I put the hole toward the twelve o clock position. This allows air to pass through on initial start up preventing air from getting traped and not allowing it to open.

Glad u made it.