To Ship or to Buy?

When we were planning the trip, we began by researching the various shipping options and associated costs. This information would be pivotal in helping us to decide whether to buy a vehicle here in the UK and ship it over, or to buy a vehicle upon arrival in South America.

Initial quotes came in at the £2,000 mark each way! We then oscillated between the two options of shipping versus purchasing on arrival, weighing up the pros and cons of each. Needless to say the Land Rover purchase in the UK won in the end.

Container or Ro-Ro?

Having made the decision to purchase a Land Rover here in the UK, our next decision was how to ship: container or Ro-Ro? We have opted for the container option. Although this will be about 75% - 100% more expensive, the extra security and peace of mind this method offers, seems worth the additional expense. We had read a number of warnings and horror stories regarding people who had opted for the Ro-Ro option, arriving at their destination, only to find their beloved vehicle somewhat lighter than it was when they had left it at the port of departure.

Where to ship to?

A tricky decision as this would ultimately be the start of our trip, and ideally we needed to aim to be in the right countries at the right time of year. Initial research suggested that the best option would be to ship to Argentina due to ease of unloading and customs handling there versus other ports in Brazil, for example. So we started planning our route based on shipping into Buenos Aires, travelling in a circuit through Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, back down through Peru and then onto Chile and Argentina.

Obviously, the biggest flaw in this itinerary was the fact that we would need to drive up and down the length of both Peru and Ecuador before moving on to Chile. This seemed a waste of valuable time. The obvious solution would be therefore to ship to Ecuador and start our itinerary there, covering the same countries, but ending up in Argentina or Brazil and shipping home from there. This had the added of advantage of learning Spanish in Ecuador, where it is supposedly easier to pick up than in other South American countries.

The Quotes

We got quotes from about four or five different companies for shipping to both the east and west coast, just in case shipping to Ecuador worked out prohibitively expensive. On average, it is working out at about £300 more expensive to ship to the west coast (due to having to go through the Panama Canal) and there is also a time penalty - whilst it takes about 14 -16 days to ship to Buenos Aires, it takes almost twice as long to the west coast, with about 25 - 30 days average sailing time. After careful thought we have decided to ship to Guayaquil, Ecuador, as the additional time needed to ship there, would be negated by the travel time we would be saving by not having to retrace our steps in both Ecuador and Peru. This is despite the fact that the Footprint Guide to Ecuador suggested that shipping into Guayaquil could go one of two ways - quickly with a minimum of fuss, or with the vehicle being impounded for days at great cost.

Of the five companies we phoned for quotes, one never got back to us, whilst another did not inspire us with much confidence, when they informed us that it would be very difficult to ship to Ecuador, as it was a landlocked country! Who knows in which country the Weasel would have ended up with them, let alone in which continent!!!

The remaining three companies were very good at getting back to us, generally within a day or two:



We have chosen Ocean Express, a company recommended by Conrico. Although all three companies above were really helpful and gave competitive quotes, Ocean Express were not only the cheapest, they also specialise in shipping to South America in particular, and we felt their local knowledge would be really useful.

We are currently finalising details with Ocean Express and will update this page with further information in due course.

(Sue 6th July 2003)

Update 8th August

Sailings to South America through Ocean Express depart every week (Sundays) from Felixstowe, so it was just a case of confirming the date of our preferred sailing, sending them a copy of both the Vehicle Registration Document and the vehicle owner's passport, and then paying the total amount due. Ocean Express also arranged our marine insurance. This was a little on the steep side, at 6% of the vehicle's value, plus a 4% premium for contents insurance, should we require it.

Next step: drive the vehicle to Felixstowe Docks by 12 noon on the Friday before sailing, and then onto the container, where we could watch our landy being lashed down and the container sealed.

To ease customs' clearance at the other end, Ocean Express have provided us with an agent in Guayaquil, who we will contact upon our arrival in Ecuador. The agent has already advised that we will definitely require a carnet.

It has all been relatively painless arranging the shipping, and Ocean Express were helpful when we had to slip our confirmed shipping date by a week, due to complications in the preparation of the landy (see the Blog updates). And they did not charge us for the last minute change. The only problem we had was in the last couple of days prior to shipping, when we contacted Ocean Express to check if we were able to carry small amounts of oil for repairs and top ups if we had any leaks in the first few days in South America. They advised that we couldn't as they were deemed dangerous goods.. It also then materialised that we would not be able to take fire extinguishers in the container for the same reason and that there may even be a problem with taking our fridge! After a lot of emailing back and forth and various telephone calls, they finally confirmed that as the fridge would not be connected, this would not pose a problem and also that we could take the 1kg extinguisher, provided it was in a bracket. But they still said that we could not take the 2kg extinguisher. For this we would need a Dangerous Goods Notice and they could not help or advise on how we could get the necessary paperwork. The only solution now is to buy another extinguisher on arrival in Ecuador. It was just unfortunate that we were not advised on these matters when booking.