How dangerous would it be for an American to drive to Panama?

If someone wanted to drive from the Texas or Arizona border all the way to Panama. You hear that the Police are corrupt and also there’s the drug war in Mexico. Regarding the drug war, I’ve read 2 conflicting points of view. POV 1 says you may get kidnapped/killed. POV 2 says it’s all internal and they wont mess with gringos because a bunch of kidnapped/executed Americans would eventually bring a response that would affect their business.

Which is it?

Every year, thousands of people do at least part of the trip going north instead of south; it can’t be that difficult. I suppose it would depend on a) how good your Spanish was and b) how well you could not stick out.

But I wouldn’t want to be the test case.

I know a guy who did it about 20 years ago and have always wanted to do it. I’ve heard SUV’s are pretty popular for carjacking, so I’d be hesitant to take my 4Runner. I’m thinking if I could take a POS minivan and get it registered in Baja, I might be able to sneak under the radar and do it.

On the other hand, those cartels are not fucking around and if they decide to kidnap you, it would probably end very badly. There are certain known hotspots, so you may improve your odds if you can avoid them.

Well, I wouldn’t want to be on most of those roads without 4WD; even the Panamericana has many areas (specially during and after the rainy season) when it’s more akin to a mule trail than to a freeway.

Well, that makes sense, but my friend managed to make it in some pile of shit compact Datsun. Funny enough, as soon as he got back to Santa Barbara, someone pushed his car off the cliffs into the ocean.

Here’s a pretty cool video of Corvairs crossing the Darrien Gap in Panama. They made it all the way from Chicago.

I thought about mentioning the Darién Gap, but the OP only said he wanted to drive to Panama. The Gap is on the far side of the country (in land travel terms); you can drive all the way to the canal without having to deal with it.

Although, if you’re gonna drive all the way to Panama, it’d be a shame not to go right to the very end of the road.

Where, exactly? My understanding is that the Panamericana is fully paved, although there may be potholes in some areas. Any major road I’ve been on in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Panama has been OK.

The Panamericana in Panama is paved its full length now, all the way to Yaviza in Darien (the start of the Darien gap). It’s a good four lane highway most of the way. It can easily be driven in any 2WD car.