Common Questions & Concerns
We get a lot of questions about traveling in Mexico, Central America and South America. The reality is that there are some locations in Latin America that are very unsafe. These include many Mexican border towns, some cities and towns in Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, the Honduras and Venezuela and, most recently, some cities and towns in Nicaragua (due to the protests against Manuel Ortega’s government). The good news is that we won’t be spending any time in Mexico border towns or in unsafe cities and towns in Guatemala and the Honduras. And we aren’t going to Brazil, El Salvador or Venezuela.
The rest of Mexico, Central and South America is relatively safe. In fact, I feel safer in the rest of Mexico, Central America and South America than alot of cities and rural towns in the US that are full of guns and have been ravaged by drugs, including opioids. With that being said, you always need to be smart. You should never leave anything of value somewhere where it is visible and could easily be stolen, e.g., in plain sight in your vehicle. And you should never wander into rough neighborhoods without a local, e.g., the barrios of Medellin or the Favelas in Rio de Janiero. But these guidelines are no different than the guidelines you need to follow in the US.
Nicaragua is a special case. There is violence in Nicaragua but it is between the government and students, not the government (and students) and gringos. We will be keeping an eye on the situation. If it turns into a civil war, of course we’ll have to figure out how to ship our vehicle around the country (which won’t be easy). But if it stabilizes (and it is relatively stable now), we may try to hire a local to help us get through the country safely and/or travel through the country in a caravan of overlanders. If we can’t arrange that, then we’ll put Leah on the top of the vehicle with a crossbow and gun it through the student barricades (at the end of the day, they’re only made of stones and our front bumper is massive).
Think Mad Max “Fury Road”
We get a lot of questions about self defense. In our opinion, the last thing you want to do is to carry a gun, knife or other deadly weapon with you when traveling in Latin America. Not only could you end up in jail for having one, but they could be used against you. In terms of self defense, it’s never a bad idea to take a self defense class. But the reality is that it takes a lot of time to develop self defense techniques that you could use effectively. For example, I have studied Jui-Jitsu. But what would happen if I wandered into a Favela in Rio and ended up in a fight with a Brazilian dude? I guarantee it wouldn’t end well. Pepper sprays and stun guns aren’t a bad idea, especially to deter petty theft (or aggressive dogs).
We also get a lot of questions about preventing vehicles from being broken into or stolen. This is an issue, especially since it’s difficult or impossible to insure your vehicle against damage or theft when you are in Latin America. Each vehicle is different so we can’t really provide generic advice on this topic. But we have a pop up camper which is more difficult to break into since there is no way to get into the camper, e.g., by breaking a window, when it is down. And there’s now way to get into the camper from the cab of the truck. But we are nevertheless taking extra precautions, including adding a break pedal lock, Jimmi’ Jammers (https://jimmijammer.com <https://jimmijammer.com/>), a few layers of Llumar Aautomotive Film (which make it hard for someone to break the windows of the cab) and RimLox wheel locks installed on our vehicle. We also installed a Ravelco Anti Theft Device (http://www.ravelco.com <http://www.ravelco.com/>) which makes it on the very hard for someone to hotwire the vehicle. Many of these devices are expensive, so weigh the cost of your vehicle agains the cost of these devices before investing in them.