5 Life Saving Tips When Driving in Latin America

If your travels take you to Latin America, and driving is among your modes of transportation, get ready for an eye and an earful once you arrive.

While there are similarities to driving in the United States and Latin America, the differences can be alarming. However, the more prepared you are, the better chances you have at avoiding an accident.

Here are 5 Tips When Driving in Latin America:

1. Refresh your memory on basic driving tips in the United States

Look, we’ve all seen enough horrible drivers in our own communities… Drivers who don’t know the speed limit, those who weave in and out to save themselves ten seconds of travel time, and vehicle owners who apparently haven’t learned the function of their turn signal.

This doesn’t even include distracted drivers who are either eating a 4 course meal or putting on 8 hours of make-up (or both). Many of the drivers you see may not be very familiar with a Bluetooth headset. At the end of the day, no matter where you go, there are distracted drivers everywhere! Before you take on those kinds of distracted drivers in Latin America, refresh your skills here.

Gas gauge below a quarter tank? Refuel. Use your seatbelt. Lock your valuables out of sight. If you are renting a car, get used to the buttons and knobs before you hit the open road. These suggestions along with other basic safe driving tips are extremely easy to find on the web .

2. Avoid Distractions

Yes, cellphones can be a distraction. However, passengers and kids in the car can be just as much of a distraction. Other distractions include uncertainty of where to make a turn, confusing signs (or signs in a different language), and detours. Getting in to your zone and focusing as well as staying stress-free while on the road are of utmost importance.

If you don’t believe it for yourself, personal injury attorneys, ironically, can sometimes be the best professors of this kind of wisdom as they have many automobile safety tips. After all, they’ve heard every type of accident story you could imagine.

3. Watch out for young drivers

Car accidents are the number one cause of teenage deaths. Their lack of driving skills can have a sudden, negative impact on your trip. If you’re driving in Latin America, the last thing you want on your vacation is to get caught up in an auto accident with young, inexperienced drivers. There are endless reasons as to why you should pay extra attention to vehicles with more than one young person aboard.

4. Be Prepared for Chaos

When driving in Latin America, put away your mobile device– even if it’s a Bluetooth. Latin American driving can be chaotic. The road conditions of various countries certainly make a difference in how chaotic, but it’s always best to prepare for the worst.

Make sure your horn works and don’t be afraid to use it! Big vehicles sometimes feel that the rules do not apply to them. It is not unusual to be cut off by a truck or bus making a left hand turn from the right hand lane. Give them room and move on.

There’s an interesting article on driving in Peru that addresses the poor mechanical shape of many Latin American vehicles and why a rear view mirror can be a distraction.

5. Do your research

If you are driving between Latin American countries, know what passports, paperwork and insurance is required. Know the speed limits and other local driving regulations. Also remember to check weather conditions and be aware of the fact that you will be in a totally different season if driving in a Latin American country in the Southern Hemisphere.

One final tip before driving in Latin America? Get a map. Your smartphone and GPS may be useless… Have fun!

By Cody Belliveau (Cody studied auto mechanics and later pursued a degree in journalism. He now freelances for print publications as well as blogs.)
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