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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!

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  • 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:
Bolivia Altiplano llama sign

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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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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Meet our team

Real Latin american experts

  • Charlotte
    Charlotte Daubeney - Travel Expert

    Charlotte's fascination with Latin America began with a family holiday to Belize. She went on to study Spanish in school and at university before spending a year living in Santiago, Chile.

  • Millie
    Millie Davies - Travel Expert

    Having caught the travel bug as a child, Millie has travelled all over Latin America before making her home in Buenos Aires for 3 years.

  • Sallly
    Sally Dodge - Travel Expert

    A former Journey Latin America tour leader, Sally spent 7 years working, travelling and living throughout Latin America before returning to the UK to help people arrange their own adventures to this wonderful destination.

  • Lina
    Lina Fuller - Travel Expert

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Carrie
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

  • Alex
    Alex Walker - Travel Expert

    A globetrotter since her childhood, Alex spent a year studying abroad in Guadalajara and has returned to Latin America countless times since then.

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