Conversion van roadtrip of a lifetime!

Discussion in 'Surf Travel' started by mbs05c, Feb 8, 2012.

  1. mbs05c

    mbs05c Active Member

    May 15, 2011
    I've been fantasizing about this trip in my head for years, but it's looking like I could make it a reality in this coming year. Either now or probably never. I want to take roughly 6 months to a year off of work and drive down the coast of North America, through Central America all the way to South America. And then back. Or maybe not back.

    My first step is to buy a conversion van. Anyone have any experience roadtripping in one? I have mostly been looking at the older VW Westfalia's. I have seen lots of Dodge, Chevy and Fords for sale, but the reason I am leaning towards the VW's is because they were sold internationally. Along the way I will undoubtedly need to pick up some parts for repair and it seems it will be easier to find parts for the VW than it would for a US manufactured van. Anyone have thoughts on this?

    I want to buy the van soon and drive it around for a while, so I can put work into it and find out all the quirks about it. Craigslist has seemed to have the most for sale in my price range, but a lot of them are on the West Coast, I live on the East. If anyone knows any other sites I could search or any other helpful info about conversion vans, I would really appreciate it!
  2. TBrown

    TBrown Active Member

    Jul 27, 2011
    I have a 93 vw eurovan weekender id be willing to sell. It only has 123k miles on it which is about as low as you'll find on these. I've camped in it a bunch and its a blast. Plenty big. I paid 12k for it and had it shipped to vb from co, put about 6k in repairs into it. Id let it go for 11k firm if your intrested pm me or email [email protected]

  3. Swellinfo

    Swellinfo Administrator

    May 19, 2006
    you should talk to someone who has done something like this. Going through all those border crossings isn't very easy, so I've read. And, going through some areas in Mexico and some other countries can be scary, so I've read.
  4. kendawg1

    kendawg1 New Member

    Feb 13, 2010
    You wont be able to drive into South America unless you barge your van from Panama to Ecuador or Columbia. Two words : Darien Gap. Gnarlyyyyyyy place, do your homework. Otherwise, good luck on the trip, it sounds fun!
  5. RhodyPedro

    RhodyPedro Well-Known Member

    Jan 24, 2012
    I've driven and camped on the coast of Mexico and Costa Rica. I love VW buses and think they're great for going to your local break but I wouldn't take one on the trip you're proposing. The road down there can be brutal and dangerous if you go off the beaten path. I wouldn't go in anything but a 4x4 toyota pickup or a landcruiser; however, I did see some guys from Seattle roll into Costa Rica in a Buick Roadmaster Wagon! They got down there in six days from the Texas border and probably would have ditched the beast if it broke down. Toyotas are everywhere down there and you can get a cool pop-up tent to go on the roof of a truck. Anyway, good luck. Wish I was going.
  6. oipaul

    oipaul Well-Known Member

    May 23, 2006
    See if you can find a used Toyota HIACE diesel 4x4, those things are awesome. We rented one about 8-9 years ago in CR and it was great. Never got stuck and a tank of gas lasts forever...
  7. mbs05c

    mbs05c Active Member

    May 15, 2011
    Thanks for the tips guys! TBrown, your Eurovan sounds nice, but a little out of my price range. I'm looking to find something for less than $8,000.

    Toyotas do seem to be very popular and I am a little concerned about being able to get to some good spots that are off the well traveled path. I read somewhere that recommended to NOT get a diesel, but I can't remember the reason. I will look into the pop-up tents that go on the truck beds.

    As far as the Darien Gap, I plan on having the car shipped from Panama to Colombia. I'm hoping to find a ship that will allow me to Roll On, Roll Off. I think it's cheaper do it that way.

    Rhody, have you traveled on the east coast of Mexico? If so, any good spots you'd be willing to share?
  8. battelax

    battelax Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    Being slightly interested in expedition vehicles always made me want to take a trip like this. The reason some don't recomend diesel vehicles is because you won't know about the quality of fuel that you are getting. You are much more likely to find gas than diesel. I can tell you that any American diesel 07 & up won't run on fuel from south america without removing emissions equipment from the american vehicle.

    Be very careful with insurance. I've heard from people that made the trip you literally have to make sure you're vehicle is insured in every place you're passing through.

    There was a dude on the that took a trip like this from Alaska down to south America in a Jeep Wrangler. I can't find a link but with some google searching you'll should be able to bring it up. Good luck!
  9. cheese

    cheese Well-Known Member

    May 7, 2011
    when i was a kid my family lived in bolivia and three times we drove from santa cruz bolivia to brazil and back in a diesel toyota 4runner. as someone mentioned earlier the problem with diesel is that in a lot of these remote places the fuels you buy are likely to be diluted and diesel is hard to find. On the other hand, diesel is more fuel efficient and if you can, bring along a container with extra fuel. my dad never brought any extra fuel along but he did bring those injector cleaning additives cuz they're small and inexpensive.

    like other ppl said, i'd highly recommend a toyota pickup or suv with 4x4. you'd be surprised to see what people call a road in some countries and when you're traveling in a remote place you can't afford not to have 4x4. if you get stuck it might be days before someone else comes along and if they do you have to hope they're friendly. Also, toyotas are all over the place there so if something does happen you can get it fixed easily. the second time my family drove from bolivia to brazil the shock absorber broke when my dad hit a bump going 90kph down a dirt road. the 4runner held up just fine until we got to the next town and a guy at a hole in the wall shop was able to find a replacement and fix it before the day was over. im biased towards toyotas and i believe there a few cars that can withstand a beating and keep running the way they do.
  10. cheese

    cheese Well-Known Member

    May 7, 2011
    i got some pictures from the last time i went back to bolivia ill post them when i get a chance! also since youre gonna be traveling just wanted to give some suggestions:

    - expect delays. things will go wrong that you never thought possible but use them as opportunities to make friends or learn something new. one time as my family was returning to bolivia less than four hours from the brazilian border there was a mob in the middle of the "road" armed with sticks and machetes. they told my dad they were striking against the government and would not allow us to pass. we ended up spending the night in the car (five of us) by the side of the road and i dont think either of my parents slept. at the time i was nine but i dont think ill ever know how my mom must have felt that night. the next day the people decided to end the strike and let us on our way.i think its in times like those that you really grow your faith

    - bring lots of goodies to hand out. we always had a cooler with ice cold cokes and we'd give them to soldiers at the border stops or even just construction workers sweating in the sun. we'd give the soldiers cookies too. they didnt get paid well and as soon as you'd give them cookies they'd stash it immediately. being nice to people goes a long way
  11. surfingwasteland

    surfingwasteland Well-Known Member

    Jul 24, 2011
    might be a long shot, but try to get in contact with alan weisbecker. hes an author that has made a couple journeys just like this. Guy seems pretty intelligent but crazy as hell and he might have some good insight