For adventure travelers, a marathon overland journey can be the trip of a lifetime. If you decide to take your own vehicle, make sure you choose this essential companion wisely.
If you plan to drive thousands of miles, it’s important for your vehicle to be in good condition. Have it checked out by a mechanic about a month before you plan to leave. Have all the major systems checked and all your fluids topped off. A lube, oil and filter change is essential. Tell your mechanic about the trip you’re planning to take, and ask his honest opinion regarding whether your vehicle is up to the challenge.
You also need to think about type of terrain you’ll be driving through. Do you need 4WD for crossing landslides on Himalayan mountain roads, or will you be traveling on well-paved superhighways?
Choose a vehicle that can be easily fixed along the way should any problems arise. Do not choose an obscure model that you won’t be able to find basic parts for. Cars are machines, and they do break down. This means that you need to think about what makes and models of cars are driven in the countries you plan on going to. It might seem like a great idea to drive your camper van or RV throughout Asia in order to save on hotel money, but when it breaks down in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where are you going to get the parts? Some types of vehicles are only driven in certain parts of the world. Driving a camper van in Asia will not only attract unnecessary attention and potentially endanger your lives, but you will be spending a long time waiting while parts are either ordered or custom-made to fit your vehicle if you break down. The money that you’ll spend on parts fixing a rare vehicle may even leave you stranded and penniless in a strange land. Think carefully about spare parts availability before choosing what vehicle to use for your overland trip.
Make sure to have a spare tire, replacement fluids, a new battery and jumper cables packed with you. It’s also a good idea to always have plenty of water, snacks and a blanket or warm sleeping bag in case you get stuck somewhere. Travel with an unlocked mobile phone and get a local SIM card in each country you’ll be driving through. You want to have a way to contact others in case of an emergency.
This guide was inspired by an Italian traveler driving from Nepal to Italy in a Fiat camper van. The brakes went as soon as he got to Lahore and he had to spend two weeks waiting, plus hundreds of Euros, while a mechanic attempted to fix the vehicle with parts from a Landcruiser. Choose the right vehicle for your trip and don’t end up in his situation!