South America Drive

Lost in paradise. Need a GPS. TomTom vs. Garmin

January 30, 2013

“Good lord…there are no signs for streets, towns, beaches, etc. We brought TomTom with us; however, we can’t get a download for Uruguay. Argentina they have…Uruguay no! We’ll download Argentina when we enter – want the newest update – the current one is due. Bought a map. Right now, Chris just uses the GPS for the MPH or actually the KPH – easier to see than the dashboard display. Don’t want to get a speeding ticket here.”

TomTom - GPS

TomTom – GPS. Notice our road does not exist.

We would highly recommend having a GPS unit in South America. The lack of signs is amazing. Seriously…no street signs…not even to let you know it is a one way. Hate when that happens.

We can check a map for distance to a town, but we seem to always be guessing how far we have gone.

We chose TomTom for our GPS. The model that had downloads for countries outside the US. Unfortunately, even after talking with the company representative, we learned they had nothing for Uruguay. Yet, when we got to Uruguay we found TomTom selling there with Uruguay. Yet the company kept insisting we could NOT buy it separately from the factory. So we just used maps for Uruguay.

Six months later we bought the update for Argentina. We had waited to get the latest and greatest version. Low and behold….there was Uruguay!! None of the numerous reps we talked to knew this. If we ever go back to Uruguay…now we have it on TomTom.TomTom worked great in Argentina.

Originally, we chose TomTom over Garmin since it offered the best options for all of South America. We learned this was not necessarily true.



Eventually, we broke down and bought a Garmin. Knowing what we know now, we would only buy the Garmin. Garmin had more of the South American countries we were visiting AND they did not have to be bought individually. Ecuador was the only country we wanted that was not available from the company. Chris went online and found an authorized third party offering Ecuador; it worked great. Always look outside the official offerings. You may get lucky.

Roads in Uruguay are fairly decent. Most of the driving could have easily been done with a sedan. However, if you are going up the coast to Punta del Diablo, the streets are not paved and you may find the strong winds have rearranged the sand dunes. Drifts occasionally crossed the road. In this case, a 4-wheel-drive vehicle was nice.

the road to - brown gravel

No road signs

We did not see much of inland Uruguay. Since travel means choosing what you want to spend your time and money on, we chose to see most of the coast. There was no place inland that grabbed us. However, if you crave a great “goucho” experience, I would go inland. We saw much of the western border when we drove to Iguazu Falls in May.

Our Spanish lesson for the day. GOMAS

Depending on where you put the emphasis, it means:

TIRES…you will see it written on an old tire outside many tire shops…

OR . . .  it means BOOBS! Yeah…be careful how you say it. You might not get tires!

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