How to drive in South America – 9 rules (if you need exactly ten, repeat the ninth one more time)

1. Never, never drive at night. You might be forced to do so on a few occasions, but believe me, avoid it if possible. South American drivers (applies at least for Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru) hate to switch their high beam on to low for some reason. Additionally, the roads become dangerous at night as the Police or Military forces (South Colombia) leave their posts.  According to the locals, you might find them at the local Motel working hardly on the improvement of their social skills (Hotel/ Hostal – sleeping alone; Motel – sleeping with company). And, besides it, didn´t you watch “From Dusk till Dawn”? There just doesn´t happen anything good on Latin American roads at night.
2. Expect the unexpected. Some drivers seem to think that overtaking in a curve is a perfectly safe maneuver (or that the “Jesus protects this car” sticker actually works). On the other hand, some road engineers didn´t take into account that a truck needs a little bit more space in a curve than a New Beetle. For this reason they have to invade your lane to be able to pass the curve.  Believe me, nothing keeps you as awake as a truck appearing right in front of you on your side of the road.
3. Five hours. That´s my time for a daily ride. Establish your own “hours per day” rule, but do it – it will help you to arrive in a good mood at your destination and you´ll get there during daytime (see first rule).
4. Take your time. Hey, you´re about to blow your savings through the exhaust pipe of your car/ motorcycle and to make a serious contribution to the global warming– you may as well enjoy the landscapes (as long as they are still there). Generally, rushing will bring you only faster to the next construction site (all the countries) or blockade (Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru), where you´ll meet all the cars you just overtook so laboriously risking your life. And here come the good news: Driving slower means burning less fuel means planting fewer trees to balance your environmental imprint after your travel (but it will be still the size of a respectable forest).
 5. Observe the other drivers – there is a logical reason for their behavior…mostly. For example, in Bolivia there are roads where you´ll have to switch between the right and the left side of the lane. Yep, that´s right, lane, as some main roads leading to the North of the country are often just wide enough for a truck.
 6. Don´t expect a ride into the sunset on a never ending dirt road if you´re planning to keep to the Panamericana – the infrastructure keeps up to any (so called) western standards. You may do the road with a 10 years old Daewoo Tico as well.  Actually, I know a guy who went from Colombia to Ushuaia in a classic car dating back to 1928. If you wanna to justify the purchase of your waaay too big 4×4, go to Bolivia or get your ass down from the main road and visit remote villages in the mountains (may be not the best idea in Southern Colombia).
7. Get a GPS – it will help you a lot! If you´re planning on visiting cities which you don´t have good GPS maps for – ask a cab driver or even let him show you the way. It´ll save you a lot of trouble.
8. Don´t trust your GPS – especially if using free maps. It will try to kill you a few times.
9. Way too important to mention it just once: Enjoy the ride!

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