How to read car indicators in Peru

Gum trees by the side of the road!

Gum trees by the side of the road on the way into Abancay… we could even smell the eucalyptus. So good!

25 October – Day 95

Ayacucho, Peru to Abancay, Peru
Distance: 390kms

We drove further than expected today because – not withstanding the 90 minutes we spent riding around Ayacucho in circles and in the morning peak hour traffic looking for a petrol station that sold 95 or 97 octane fuel (*sigh*) – we made relatively good time to our intended stop.

For this reason, we pressed on to Abancay so that we had a shorter day to Cusco tomorrow. We’ll be having a few days off there, and we need it.

Yesterday’s post contains a good summary of the road conditions; it was pretty much more of the same today: windy, roadworks, river crossings, uphill, downhill, gravel etc.

So instead of talking about the day, I figured I’d provide a helpful summary of how to interpret car indicator signals on the roads in Peru and the central/south American region more generally. It’s based on extensive firsthand experience, and other travellers may find it of use.

Left indicator:

  • Please overtake me.
  • I am about to pull out and overtake the car in front of me.
  • Although I am driving very slowly, if you pull out to overtake me I will speed up and move across the road to reduce the amount of space you have to do so.
  • I am turning left.
  • I am turning right.
  • I am continuing straight ahead.
  • I am pulling over to the side of the road.
  • I am doing a u-turn in the middle of the road.
  • I am stopping unexpectedly and have my hazard lights on but I’ve blown one of the bulbs.
  • I am driving “normally” and have my indictor on for no apparent reason.

Both indicators simultaneously (ie hazard lights):

  • I am stopping unexpectedly because there is traffic/animals/an obstacle in the road ahead.
  • Please overtake me.
  • Don’t overtake me, it’s dangerous right now.
  • I am turning left.
  • I am turning right.
  • I am continuing straight ahead.

Right indicator:

  • See ‘left indicator’ above.

Panama City!

View over the ports on the Panama Canal

First look at the Panama City ports

27 September – Day 67

Boquette, Panama to Panama City, Panama
Distance: 484kms

Not too much to report from today other than that the roads in Panama City are crazy! I got a quick look at the canal / shipping ports on the way in and wow – it’s a big port. I’m looking forward to having a much closer look over the weekend.


By Adrian

It was a long day in the saddle today and close to our longest distance covered in one day through Central America. Not that Panama is lacking in scenery or potential stopover destinations, however the lure of South America and the chance to escape the ongoing heat, humidity and rain combination was enticing. That speeding in Panama has been noted as a potential show stopper was made worse by the inconsistent signage along the way… Basically I stuck on 100 where indicated and slowed for towns and built up areas. In the one area showing 60, I had just overtaken a car and was slowing down using the engine, low and behold there were the boys in blue, just off to the side in the shadows. A quick look for a radar gun showed nothing and although I was speeding I called their bluff as they guessed at least 20 over what I had actually been going.

The driving is similar to the rest of Central America in its haphazard, aggressive, five rows of cars in three lanes behaviour, although most notable were the number of accidents. We passed two rollovers and one in a ditch and witnessed a very near miss. Suffice to say that there is a distinct lack of actually driving ability in Panama. Be warned if you think about renting a car here. The usual drive around to check out a few hotels would have been a nightmare and we aimed for and stayed at the first hotel I plugged into the GPS.