Some safety and emergency considerations during your drive to South America.
Safety IS an issue. You will definitely feel more unsafe in some places than the other. Colon, Panama, for example, is one extreme example, while Antigua, Guatemala feels extremely safe. Here are some tips:
Before you Leave for your Drive to South America
Visit U.S. Department of State’s International Travel website, and print out safety information for each country you plan on visiting. They contain important information regarding safety situation of each country and consular / embassy information in case of emergency.
- If going out, leave all important belongings at the hotel. (Example: passport, credit cards you know you won’t need, driver’s license, and checks.)
- Leave your hotel keys with the attendant.
- Pay attention to who is behind you. Pay special attention when walking out of a restaurant or hotel and look both ways before walking out the door.
- If staying at one place for a long time (>5 days), make sure you don’t have a daily routine that is easily noticeable and distinguishable.
- Pay attention while walking down the streets and be on the lookout for alleyways. Stay on the far side of the sidewalk and walk faster.
- Make sure you have photocopies of all the important documents (Passport, Vehicle Title, Driver’s License)
Note: firearms are illegal in Mexico, so don’t bring any in your journey. However, it is up to you whether you want to carry a knife around just in case.
If stranded without shelter
- Prepare a snow cave for protection from the wind
- Build a fire for heat and to attract attention
- Don’t eat snow because it will lower your body temperature. Melt it first
- Wrap your body with extra clothing, newspapers, blankets, etc.
- Cover your mouth and minimize talking to protect your lungs from the frigid air
- Stay awake; alertness will make you less vulnerable to cold-related health problems
- Keep warm by huddling with other people
If stuck in a car
- Stay inside unless help is visible within 100 yards
- Run the heater for 10 minutes an hour, keep the exhaust pipe clear to avoid fumes and crack a window
- Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area
- Move your arms and legs to keep your blood circulating
- Attract attention by attaching a cloth to the antenna
- Never pour water on your windshield to remove ice or snow; it may shatter the glass
Winter survival kit for your car
- First aid kit
- Waterproof matches
- Road maps and a compass
- Tire chains
- Windshield scraper
- Tool kit and a collapsible shovel
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Water and canned or dried foods
- Bag of sand or cat litter (to pour on ice or snow for traction)
- Mobile phone and a brightly colored cloth