Driving in Mexico
Red Tape
The Perfect RV

Driving an Unimog in Central America?

from Matthew Solomon

Dear Carl and Lorena:

We would appreciate your thoughts regarding a trip I my son and uncle are planning. Taking much of the Mayan route in Guatemala, Belize and Mexico.

We are planning to use an old military style vehicle which is converted into a camper, known as a Unimog and are anticipating mostly living in the vehicle while in Guatemala, Belize and Chiapas, Quintana Roo and the Yucatan in Mexico. Opinion varies on the wisdom of using this type of vehicle or camping out in relation to safety because the vehicle is quite conspicuous and we may not be able to find a camping site.

We are planning the trip for next winter, 2000/01. At that time my son will be 12, I will be 39 and my uncle will be 69.

Any advise you can give on the wisdom of attempting such a trip using this vehicle or what you may recommend would be most helpful.

Thank you,

Matthew Solomon

Hello Matthew,

You pose an interesting question... in general, I avoid using military surplus or pseudo-military camping gear in Latin America. It tends to make the Army nervous, and there is always the chance that you'll be mistaken for the Army by the wrong people, or suspected of being some kind of CIA agents, etc. etc. This sounds fanciful to some people (who haven't been there) but in regions where guerrilla/Army movements are common, few people casually use military clothing and hardware, and suspicions run high.

Having said that, I personally wouldn't worry too much about using the Unimog. First of all, the Unimog may be quite rare in the US, but it has been seen in Central America for quite a few years. In Belize, for example, a tour company out of San Ignacio used to run tourists into the jungles in one. The main reaction you'll get is open admiration and envy.

What color is yours? If it's khaki or camo, I'd definitely paint it -- preferably white, which is the usual color of United Nations vehicles.

Again, I'd avoid using military surplus clothes or camp gear, but otherwise, go for it!

By the way, I'm sure our readers would enjoy hearing about your trip -- please keep in touch, and send a photo or two if you can.

saludos, Carl

©1972-2001 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens