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Driving Through Mexico to Yucatan

Editor’s Note: On our website and Facebook page, there probably isn’t a day that goes by where someone doesn’t ask us about the safety of driving through Mexico. Many Americans and Canadians want to drive to the Yucatan when they come to visit for longish periods of time, or when they move here to live. Often, they are driving their vehicles full of their belongings and carrying valued family pets as well.

Always cognizant of the media’s reports of violence in Mexico, everyone wants to be as safe as possible. By now they know they will be safe when they get to the Yucatan Peninsula, but how will they travel through Mexico with the same sense of safety? Dr. Stephen Fry has gathered statistics and experiences to help you map the ideal route through Mexico in the following article.

As always, we are not pretending that this is the definitive solution, but merely a good "serving suggestion" based on knowledge, investigation and experience. We welcome your helpful comments!

————

Traveling With Safety In Mind
Traveling safely through Mexico

There are a group of questions that pop-up regularly from Americans and Canadians who are thinking about visiting Mexico or moving to Mexico. With increasing highway violence on some routes, and the Drug War claiming over 40,000 lives in the past four years, safety has become a prime concern for many travelers and visitors to Mexico.

Fortunately, there is little or no evidence of Canadians or Americans being targeted for violence as they travel around Mexico or if they live there. Nevertheless, the reality is that some Mexican states have less-than-desireable violent crime rates on their roadways and in the cities. Some states have rates of violence that rival Detroit, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. Just as we tend to avoid dangerous neighborhoods in most cities in the USA or Canada or elsewhere in the world, we also want to avoid the dangerous neighborhoods of Mexico by choosing our travel routes wisely. We are not interested in going into gory details of violence here. Instead, we want to use some of the available tools that go beyond personal stories of uneventful trips or horror stories of hijackings, and try to approach the issue with a modicum of scientific procedure.

Realities and Risks

If safety and easy smooth travel are significant concerns, then check out this website that shows Murder Numbers and Murder Rates for Mexican Municipalities. This gives you a map of the past and recent crime rates for Mexico by state, by county and by city. You can click on either the murder “Rate” button or the “Absolute” button for numbers of murders. Putting the cursor on a particular municipality pulls up the last 20 years of data.

Based on the information in this site, you can pick a route based on a statistical level of risk based on the past five years. (Of course, as anyone who has ever invested money knows, past performance is no indication of future performance… but it’s the best thing we’ve got.)

Border Crossing Choices Aduana at the border crossing into Mexico

Your first choice for your route through Mexico to the Yucatan boils down to which border crossing you choose, since the city of your border crossing determines which state and what highways you use while traveling south. By checking the statistics and the map, Piedras Negras/Eagle Pass appears to be the safest and shortest route for travelers coming from east of the Rocky Mountains, but it will take Midwestern and Eastern drivers a bit further west than the most direct (but statistically more hazardous) coastal route.

Another safe border crossing choice is Laredo/Nuevo Laredo, going on to Monterrey and Saltillo. There are higher risk zones in Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey, but if you cross early and stay on the main highways, with no forays into town, the statistics are also favorable. Based on the numbers, this route is statistically safer than driving through Dallas, and you can check out the statistics for the state of Nuevo Leon (Monterrey’s state) to reassure yourself.

Let’s say you choose the Piedras Negras crossing. The low murder rates and low numbers of murder rates for Piedras Negras confirms why many Norteños on other Mexican travel web forums advise using the Eagle Pass border crossing (see links to this map at end of article). Piedras Negras has an annual murder rate of just 5.11 persons per 100,000, which compares very favorably with Miami (15.4 per 100,000) and Dallas (11.3), and is even less than San Francisco (5.9). Would you think twice about driving through San Francisco? You might be afraid of having difficulty navigating your way through it, but we doubt you would avoid it based on fear of murder.

When you leave Piedras Negras, you cross areas of Mexico that have had zero homicides in 2010. By comparison, if you investigate the various counties (municipalities) on the crime map we have been using for reference, you will find that the coastal route goes through the state of Tamaulipas with 290 murders per 100,000 people, making Detroit’s 41 murders per 100,000 pale in comparison. It also ought to make you think twice about traveling along the coastal route south of Brownsville, which goes right through the state of Tamaulipas.

Here’s another statistical resource you can use to check if you have chosen the right route. The statistics published by the FBI say that the city of Piedras Negras and the state of Nuevo Leon have a combined lower murder rate than Texas’s 1,250 murders for 25 million residents.

If you choose the border crossing with the lowest violent crime rates, you’ll find that there are excellent interstate highways into San Antonio from various directions, followed by good roads from San Antonio over to Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras. The route south out of Piedras Negras on Highway 57 is a good road. It takes you to the interstate 57D toll road to Infonavit, and then back on Highway 57 through to Monclova and on south to Saltillo, and then on to Queretaro.

We know the route through Brownsville looks shorter on the map, but actually the route south out of Brownsville to Veracruz is surprisingly slow. The road is a two-lane highway with hundreds of pueblos with 15 mile-per-hour speed limits, thousands of topes, and a lot of unmarked road construction that has damaged the suspension on our vehicle and number of friend’s vehicles in the past. Yes, it is a picturesque route. But if you are looking for speed and safety, it isn’t your best bet.

Because of the better quality roads and many four-lane high-speed super highways, swinging over through San Antonio and using the Eagle Pass crossing may look further on a map, but your actual travel time will probably be less. The route increases safety and speed for only a modest added distance:

  • Memphis to Piedras Negras = 875 miles
  • Piedras Negras to Merida = 1587 miles
  • Memphis to Brownsville = 928 miles
  • Brownsville to Merida = 1271 miles
  • Memphis – Piedras Negras – Merida:
    Total: 2,462 miles
  • Memphis – Brownsville – Merida:
    Total: 2,200 miles
  • Difference: 260 miles
  • Memphis-Laredo-Villahermosa = 2040 miles
  • Memphis-Brownsville-Villahermosa = 1860 miles
  • Difference: 180 miles

Would you rather drive 180 to 260 extra miles on excellent US Interstate highways, good safe roads in Northern Mexico, and mostly high speed tollways with no topes through the rest of Mexico? Or would you prefer the coast road’s thousands of topes, some dangerous mountain driving, hundreds of small towns and the statistically higher risk of robbery or getting killed on the coast route? Your choice, of course. If you are coming from west of the Mississippi, it is an easy decision to choose a safer crossing like Laredo or Eagle Pass. When coming from east of the Mississippi, our experience has shown that the central route’s faster highways and the ability to pass by small towns and their topes easily made up for the extra 260 miles of going over to the safest crossing west of the Rocky Mountains.

Do Not Drive Without Car Insurance in MexicoMiles to go before we sleep...

Before you make your decision, we should also pass on that it has come to our attention that some car insurance companies are now denying insurance coverage if you drive between Brownsville-Matamoros and Veracruz, especially if you drive an SUV. While we’re on the subject, let us caution you about auto insurance in Mexico. Do NOT get caught driving without insurance in Mexico. Expats have reported being stuck in Mexican jails with no food and no phone for up to four days while the police sort things out. They are just doing their job within the law. In Mexico, if you drive without insurance and you are in some sort of accident, you must prove that you can pay for all possible damages and medical treatments before they allow you to leave the scene of an accident.

Day 1: Laredo/Nuevo Laredo Crossing

Let’s say you plan to cross at Nuevo Laredo. No matter where you cross, it is a good idea to cross the border first thing in the morning (7:00 AM – 8:00 AM) to avoid problems or to have time to solve them if you run into any. After the crossing, you will drive through Nuevo Laredo on an easy highway, with no stopping other than for Mexican Immigration (INM) and Mexican Customs (Aduana). Customs is at the border, but Aduana‘s internal checkpoint 25 km farther on, after you have crossed the border. If you take a high speed city bypass around Monterrey, we think you will be pleased with the combination of reasonable safety, excellent roads, and a shorter route than the further west Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras crossing.

By the way, there are actually three points where you can cross the border at Laredo/Nuevo Laredo. Most old-timers advise getting off I35, and going a few blocks NW to the second crossing. This downtown crossing is about four blocks upriver of I35, and the route has good signage. This is a secondary crossing and is usually less crowded than the primary, more obvious one.

US Border Control agents have advised against staying the night in the little towns south of Laredo, so we suggest you plan to stay the night in one of the many fine hotels on the north side of Laredo not far from I35. You should have no trouble finding a room at a Best Western, La Quinta, Holiday Inn or many other US chains that have set up shop there.

After making your morning border crossing, head straight through Nuevo Laredo. Do not stop or leave Highway 85 and the toll road 85D, except for the Aduana internal checkpoint that is 25 kilometers past the border.. Similarly, when you reach Monterrey, don’t stop or stay in Monterrey. For safety’s sake, take the bypass to Highway 40D, and continue on to Saltillo. At this point, your route connects to Highway 57 and 57D (toll road sections), and takes you to Saltillo and then on to San Louis Potosi and Queretaro. Experienced travelers over the past five years consistently say that the excellent road quality on this central Mexico route might take you a little out of your way to the west, but will allow you to avoid giant potholes, road construction, topes and other hazards that will slow you down and make your journey less pleasant.

It is a pleasant day’s drive between Laredo and Queretaro, but because there are few towns between Saltillo, San Luis Potosi and Queretaro, be sure to stop for gas and food when you see promising opportunities. Queretaro is a charming city with a beautiful Plaza Principal, central park and amazing architecture. There is a lot to see in Queretaro if you want to take the time. There are "auto hotels" (easy in, easy out, cheap, clean and very secure with secure parking), on both the northern and southern edges of Queretaro if you decide not to stop to sightsee. There are also some large hotels near Interstate 57 as you drive through town, and of course, charming and interesting hotels in the city center.

Day 2: Queretaro to VillahermosaTraveling through Mexico

After you pass through or stay in Queretaro, go south out of Queretaro, continuing on 57 and 57D, following signs to Puebla. When you reach it, take the Arco Norte bypass route, which takes you around Mexico City. This is a new option and much preferable to braving the intricacies of the Mexico City streets if you have no plans on stopping and sightseeing. Follow the signs to Highway 150D, another high speed toll road, and drive on to Puebla. If you want to make great time, stay on the toll roads and take the city bypass, still 150D, around Puebla. Continue on 150D toll road and then Highway 150 over to Orizaba in the mountains, and down to Cordoba on the coast. Continue on Highway 150 east out of Cordoba, until you reach Highway 145D. Take Highway 145D south to Minatitlan. At Minatitlan, you continue east on Highway 180D, where you have now joined the folks who took the troublesome coast route from Brownsville through Veracruz and on to Minatitlan.

We are going to mention the problems of the coastal route one final time. If you have been paying attention, you may have read that Veracruz has recently had so many problems with corruption, highway robberies and killings that they just fired ALL of their police, and have rehired a totally new group of law enforcement “professionals”. We are not saying these new police are corrupt or ineffectual, but we are taking note that they are new and we think it might be wise to give them some time to work out the kinks in their new system.

On the Highway 180 and 180D route to Villahermosa, there are not a lot of places to buy gas or eat between Minatitlan and Villahermosa. We suggest you refill all your gas tanks before leaving Minatitlan. Also, if you are a coffee fan, you’ll see people selling some fine highlands coffee from Los Altos de Veracruz along the route before you get to Minatitlan. Depending on the time of year, you might also see highway vendors selling pineapple juice. We can highly recommend stopping to stock up on both.

When you come to Villahermosa, you might also consider stopping and seeing a few of the Olmec basalt giant heads, various statuary and other attractions in the beautiful public park inside Villahermosa. There’s a broad selection of hotels in Villahermosa, ranging from Best Western and Holiday Inn to clean and modern local hotels for as little as $450 pesos per night. If you are traveling with dogs, the Hyatt just south of the city along the route to Merida accepts dogs in the room. Between the comfortable beds and room service meals, you’ll think you died and went to Mexican heaven.Champoton just outside of Campeche on the Yucatan Peninsula

Day 3: Villahermosa to Champoton, Campeche and (finally!) Merida

As you leave Villahermosa, you have a choice: to head up to the very pretty coastal route (Highway 180) to Ciudad del Carmen (the slower choice) or to go the faster Highway 186 inland route to Escarcega (and possibly on over to Calakmul or Chetumal if Playa Del Carmen or Cancun is your ultimate goal). The coastal route (Highway 180) is more direct and the shorter distance, but there are sections between Villahermosa and Ciudad del Carmen where there are 20 – 50 pueblos, with 15 miles-per-hour traffic, and a whole bunch of topes. In contrast, the southern route road between Villahermosa and Escarcega is mostly high-speed driving, with some sections of road construction where they are building a four-lane divided highway. Even with the construction sections, the Escarcega route is about one hour faster.

If you choose the scenic route, Ciudad del Carmen is a delightful place to stop and eat, and Highway 180 has opportunities for excellent fast driving after you navigate through Ciudad del Carmen.

If you choose the Highway 186 Escarcega route, be sure to stop and eat in Escarcega. There are few opportunities on Highway 261 between Escarcega and Asseradero. The southern Escarcega route now rejoins the pretty coastal Highway 180 route to Campeche City, (Campeche Ciudad in Spanish, to differentiate it from the State of Campeche). As you continue north, it can be worth stopping in Champoton. Champoton is a picturesque fishing city, with great places to eat along the water and gas stations… a good place to stop if you do not want to detour into Ciudad Campeche later.

Leaving ChampotonMerida, the end of the rainbo

Continue going north to Campeche City. Campeche also has exceptional seafood, but if you do not take the Highway 180 city bypass, count on roughly a half hour of city driving to get through Campeche City. When you leave Campeche Ciudad, stay on Highway 180 north to Merida.

Before you know it (about two hours… and we’ll be the first to say that they seem like very long hours because you are ALMOST there…), you will find yourself in one of the Northern Hemisphere’s most charming and historic cities: Merida. Lucky you!

Bienvenidos, and glad you made it safely!

****

Piedras Negras – Eagle Pass Border Crossing Map

FBI Statistics on violence in Mexican States

Stanford’s Murder Numbers and Murder Rates for Mexican Municipalities

Steven Fry writes for Yucatan Living when he isn’t writing for his own blog, Yucalandia, for which we are very grateful.


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78 Responses to “Driving Through Mexico to Yucatan”

  1. Absolutely terrific in every respect !!!

  2. thank you for posting this article…i am planning on visiting – driving through Mexico in the near future and this puts my mind at ease…i will also be forwarding this to my family so they know I will be ok when my dog and I visit your beautiful cities in my hunt for a small home on your beautiful coast…

    thanks again for this article

  3. Good article Steve.
    The road construction between Villahermosa and Escarsega, is really dangerous, so, for me, coastal route thru Ciudad del Carmen is a must, because it’s beauty and places for eat and services.

  4. Thanks for a truly informative article. I’m looking forward to trying out these ideas. I think for many the fastest way offers a great opportunity to see some wonderful parts of Mexico. I suggest you not zip around the outskirts of Puebla, but rather go into this great city and spend a day or two. You could easily spend a day just looking at the remarkably diverse architecture and the wonderful tiled walls. Enjoy, there is so much to see before you arrive in our beloved Merida.

  5. Having just driven the coastal route Brownsville to Merida myself less than a month ago I can vouch for the saftey along the way. Like all gringo’s we are up early and at it and we shut down before dark. We saw no evidence of any violence! Yep some of the roads are poor but in many parts of Mexico the roads are poor. There is a by-pass around Vera Cruz and we never even get close to the city. We often stay in the “auto hotels” which we find are secure, clean, cheep, and safe. I think that “safe” is a way of thinking and a way of doing. If you think saftey and behave in ways that ensures saftey you will be pretty well off.

  6. This is a very timely article. Can someone cover the costs of ‘toll roads’ ? Also, should we be using the Mexican $$ for tolls, gas, etc.? Are there restrictions as to the type or age of car we can have in Mexico ?

  7. We just did it for the first time in November, crossing in Laredo. Friends advised us to use the Columbiana Bridge Aduanas checkpoint, about 15 miles west of Laredo. (It is not readily visible on AAA maps or on 2011 Guia Roji.) It was great. Very little traffic. Reasonably quick processing of docs. We stayed overnight in a motel on west side of Laredo before heading for it, as there are few motels closer than San Antonio. (Have double copies in hand of your insurance docs and passport to save time and money.) Columbia Bridge crossing is located at end of Texas Route 255.

    We really enjoyed Las Palmas motel in Matahuala, which was like stepping back into the 1960′s. Got stopped by Federales on busy superhighway in Puebla. They checked our insurance docs. Very polite. No shakedown. Be sure your auto insurance back home does not expire while you are in Mexico, as some insurers here insist that you have a valid policy there before they will pay claims.

    Be prepared for some roadwork which is poorly marked. We drove over raw dirt for miles which was being bulldozed while we were on it! But largely, the inland highways are modern and amazingly well made.

    We are planning to drive it again next year.

    ~eric.

  8. Another winner, Doc! How about an article on the best way to transport my furniture and car? I figure I can rent a u-haul and get it moved to the border but have no idea how to hook up with transport thru Mexico to my final destination or the name of movers to contact. Help!

  9. What about driving through the western part of Mexico ? Through Guadalajara on to Nayarit , Sinaloa and Sonora to enter the U.S. through Nogales north to Tucson to catch U.S 10 to Los Angeles ? any advice on that route ???

  10. I recently drove my SUV to Texas to bring back my household belongings, taking the shorter coastal route and trying to avoid Tampico I was assaulted in the small town of Altomira just north of Tampico, on the main divided road in the middle of town at 1:30 in the afternoon. I was hemmed in by a car behind me and a pick up in front, four guys jumped out of the pickup with guns demanding me to get out of my car. I refused and put my car in reverse and smashed into the car behind me, the 4 guys started firing their guns. My two passengers and I are lucky to be alive today. They fired 39 rounds of bullets into my car and windshild. I was stuck in Altamira for two weeks having the car repaired and then continued on. My trip back was no problem other than finding tires to fit my trailer which I had overpacked and had problems with. I wish I had read this article prior to my trip. Thanks for your great information even though I hope to never have to make the drive again.

  11. Thank you for a most informative and helpful article!

  12. Great article.

    I wonder if you have any recommendations for those of us who live west of the Rockies? Any thoughts on western border crossings and trans-Mexico routes to Merida?

  13. Dear Working Gringos & Dr Fry,

    I have not even read this article and I want to thank you for having both written and published it. I moved from Southern California to central France 2 years ago and have kept my car stashed in a friend’s garage ever since just so I could drive from Long Beach to Mérida and stay for several months with the possibility of touring the peninsula by car. You have really made my year! Thank you sooooo much!

  14. Hi Steven, just want to thank you immensely for your article. I have driven through Mexico a few times but that was over 6 years ago and I must admit that all the negative media coverage has gotten to me. Neverthless my wife and i and our dog are moving down to the yucatan this fall and I have been researching safe driving routes for months and your article was the most comprehensive I have read, great detail on the border crossings and highways as well as helpful tidbits about dog friendly hotels! You’ve made a guy wanting to keep his family safe feel much better. We are going to follow your advice precisely and cross at Laredo taking the 85d and then the 57d. Thanks again!

  15. Glad that our experiences could help.

    We haven’t driven the western routes from California or Arizona, so, I hesitate to offer advice on something we haven’t personally tried. When we reviewed other possible routes, the crime statistics map shows that pretty much all of the other routes through Mexico’s border states using major highways take you through much more troubled/troubling areas than the Eagle Pass / Piedras Negras crossing. Fortunately, millions of Canadians and Americans cross the Mexican border safely every year, so, our advice of heading over to Eagle Pass may be unnecessary for most travelers – while the high quality of the central Mexico route allow fast safe travel that we found much better than driving the coast route. (Choosing your route includes more than just the border crossing.)

    For perspective on safety in Mexico, here’s a link to some facts about the 22 million or so annual safe visitor visits to Mexico, that helped us put things into perspective: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/a-vacation-to-sunny-mexico-safety-wise-you-could-do-a-lot-worse/article2313883/page1/

    For Californians & Arizonans who choose the currently safest border state to cross: I would expect that taking I-8 out of San Diego or I-10 across Arizona & New Mexico to San Antonio would make for fast easy east-west travel – likely faster than traversing Mexico east-west?? We have driven I-10 from California through New Mexico, and found it pleasant. (You get US scenery vs. Mexico scenery.)

    I’m confident that there are other safe and fun routes, especially for those who like a more leisurely drive.
    Happy Trails!

  16. Ron,
    Sorry to hear of the troubles you had on the coast route – shocking. I’m very glad that none of the 39 hits on your vehicle resulted in personal harm to you or others. Tamaulipas has had a bad reputation for roadway violence for a long time among my Mexican family and friends.

    Best wishes for Happy Trails to all of you.

  17. Great article. I do have two questions. We are looking at transporting personal property in a company owned vehicle with the company listed on the title and insurance. The last name of driver matches that of the company. Problem???
    Next. Is diesel fuel available on these routes?

  18. Patti,
    If the car is not registered in your name, you will need a notarized letter granting you permission to import the vehicle into Mexico, signed by the owner or business. This is the same letter as when the vehicle has a lien against it or if it is leased.

    I believe that all the Pemex stations we stopped at, also carried diesel fuel – because these are also major truck routes.
    Happy Trails.

  19. Someone asked about tolls. I find this Mexican Government website to be and excellent source of information:

    http://tinyurl.com/3k79dbf

  20. Thanks so much for posting! I will be moving to Mérida and will use your advice! I was very leary about entering via Matamoros and going down along the coast! I’m glad to see that your route is not many more miles. I encourage anybody who makes this trek to post their experiences! Please!!!

  21. There are reports from the internet that some sections of the central route’s tollways are now in need of repair – unraveling since we last drove through – outside of the road construction in and out of Escarcega. We’d appreciate specific updates of what sections of road have deteriorated.
    Happy Trails

  22. This website,give you Kms, miles,and cost on routes all aroun Mexico
    http://aplicaciones4.sct.gob.mx/sibuac_internet/ControllerUI?action=cmdEscogeRuta

  23. We have driven hundreds of miles around the Yucatan without incident (it is easier and safer than driving in the UK) As long as you take care in the towns and have the right documents you will be okay. For longer, less circular trips we prefer to take the bus, but still think driving would be okay.

  24. Dr. Fry, thank you so much for taking the time to share this information in a matter of months I will be taking this journey from Houston to Merida as well, it is a very welcoming to read your comments.

  25. What a great article! My wife and I recently spent some time in Merida (Dec. 2011) during our vacation in Cancun. My father was born in Merida and I wanted to spend more time there than I had when I first vacationed in Cancun (Jan. 2001). Loved it!

    This article is making me think long and hard about driving the next time I visit Merida and the Yucatan. Very helpful and practical information. Thanks again.

  26. I admit that I have not read all of the comments, so apologize upfront if I am repeating information. I would not cross from Laredo to Neuvo Laredo. About 20 miles before Laredo is the Columbia International Solidarity Bridge that leads directly to the main toll road. The crossing is speedy as few people move through this route. I’ve crossed there for over 10 years. It is safe and fast. I by-pass Mexico City via the Archo de Norte Auto Pistao. A dream of a hwy with stunning vistas. It takes you directly into Puebla Centro.

  27. Benne’
    Perfect. Do you know the current operating hours of the Columbia bridge crossing?

    We understand that the bridge is only open for limited times, especially on Sunday:
    (Past) Hours of Operation
    8:AM – 12 Midnight Monday – Friday
    8:AM – 4PM Saturday
    12 Noon – 4PM Sunday

    Can you describe the specifics of where to exit and enter on both sides of the border?
    Steve

  28. I have driven hundreds of miles around the Yucatan Penisula without any trouble of any kind. Most roads are easier and less crowded than the UK. We are thinking of extending northward toward Oaxaca, then maybe a trip south from US next year.

  29. I have heard that the police in and around Saltillo are notorious for demanding mordidas, but have not personally had the ‘pleasure’ of driving through there.

    Any thoughts from readers?

    Great article. Thanks!

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we do not recommend driving if you don’t know the city.

  30. March 14, 2012 Border crossing and minor route updates:
    There have been some particularly nasty events reported for Columbia Bridge crossing, esp. one on March 1. Local expats who live in Nuevo Laredo report that they continue to use Bridge 2 as their choice safest route for their daily border crossings in the area – and warn people off the Columbia Bridge crossing.

    I think that I forgot to mention in the main article to take city bypasses when possible. Case in point: if you use the Piedras Negras / Eagle Pass crossing, recent local reports strongly advise taking the Saltillo bypass.
    Happy Trails,
    Steve

  31. Due to recent violence in Nuevo Laredo, the Piedras Negras/Eagle Pass offers the safest route these days across the border.

    EARLY MORNING Nuevo Laredo city crossings at Bridge 2 – center of town – with NO stopping in Nuevo Laredo (fill your tank before leaving Laredo, Texas), or outside Nuevo Laredo is also a safe way. Tamaulipas – the Coast Route – continues to be quite dangerous in both cities AND rural areas (especially vs. the historically small risks of morning violence that occur inside Nuevo Laredo City – and even lower rural risks along the rural sections of the Central Route).

  32. Heading from Daytona Beach to Tulum and your article should be required reading for everyone driving !!! I have been online for days looking for an article like this and its much appreciated..

    Looking from your last post there seams to be big issues there…..
    I know your suggesting the Piedras crossing and obviously safety is a concern but that adds almost 500 miles to my trip. Im driving a 2003 Ford Expedition……. I lived in Puerto Aventuras for over a year and Im pretty familiar with the overblown reports….. But there is still some obvious border crossing concerns…..

    Any other advice or suggestions will be fantastic…. Thanks to everyone in advance..

  33. Yet more trouble (again) on the Mexican highway to Monterrey coming from the World Trade Bridge and Columbia Bridge crossings. The Laredo Morning Times reported gun battles in areas outside of Nuevo Laredo, and gunfire on Monday at the World Trade Bridge.

    Current advice from a local expat who lives in Nuevo Laredo still recommends using the downtown Bridge #2 crossing – or drive the few extra miles over to Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras crossing.

  34. Updated information on US-Mexico border crossings – from Mexconnect:
    There is a newer crossing just to the west side of Nogales…. the Mariposa Crossing. Going north-bound, the Mariposa truck crossing is faster because the trucks are diverted into the right lane while cars travel in the left lane right to the border. I never travel through the town of Nogales…..day or night.

  35. Here are some subsequent comments with good details about using the previous Nogales – Mariposa Crossing info above, borrowed from Mexconnect.com:
    “Use the Mariposa crossing which is Exit 4 off I-19 going south. Turn right (heading west) and Mariposa Rd ends at the border crossing. Answer some questions, drive past some barricades and cross over. Stop at KM 21 to complete paperwork and get vehicle permit.

    I would also suggest staying in Navojoa overnight as it’s only about a 4 hour drive to San Carlos and another 3 hours to Navojoa. Navojoa has many nice motels to choose from. ”

    One other tip: follow the truck route when traveling through Hermosillo to circumvent the downtown area. “

  36. I know it has been asked already but I couldn’t see a reply. Is there a company that you can have your vehicle shipped? Or is there a group like Vagabudos Del Mar in Baja that you could drive down in a caravan?
    Thanks for the great information. !!!!

  37. Linea Peninsular will ship an auto to Progreso for you.

    http://www.lineaships.com/

  38. We are planning to repatriate to Merida. We where thinking of driving (on a tourist visa) and getting the paperwork done down there. We are bit concerned about having to drive back just to visit US. Is it possible to leave the car in Merida while we return for a weekend?

  39. Of course! People do it all the time…

  40. Working Gringos is not aware of the laws on this. Your car’s Temporary Import Permit is valid only as long as your visa is valid. When you fly out of Mexico, INM takes your FMM and your car permit expires on that day. You signed an agreement with Aduana to take the car out of Mexico before your INM permit expires – plus you forfeit your $$$ deposit.

    One legitimate option is to fly out, forcing the expiration of your Temporary Import Permit. When you return, do not drive the car, but instead apply for a Safe Return Permit from Aduana.** This permit is good for 3 – 5 days, and you then legally drive the car to a border (5 hours to Belize at Chetumal) . You take the car into Belize briefly (into the Free Zone) and immediately return into Mexico, using your new FMM to register the car under a new Temporary Import Permit.

    Alternately, you could convert your FMM (tourist visa) into an FM3 while you are here, and your car’s permit would be good and the car would be legal, for as long as you keep the FM3.

  41. Does anyone know a shorter route between Cancun and Merida…that does not pass through Valladolid?

  42. Linde, if you take the cuota road (the highway), you don’t actually drive through Valladolid. This is the fastest way between Cancun and Merida and takes about 3.5 to 4 hours. The other road, the one that actually goes through Valladolid, also goes through every other little town along the way. That’s called the libre road, because it is free. You don’t have to pay a toll. But it takes easily two more hours.

  43. Wonderful article! thanks so much

  44. In 1973 we drove through the jungle to a hotel from Merida. There was in the jungle an English restaurant (awesome), a very chic restaurant just arising out of the jungle. It was hours before we got to the hotel (British, I think). Owners of the hotel got us gas so after 3 days stay at this most beautiful hotel, we could drive on a well traveled road to the airport. So much for stories cautioning us to not get lost in jungle as the natives would cut off our fingers to get rings, etc.

  45. A friend and I are planning to drive to Merida between August 15th and September 1st. We are thinking of crossing the border from the US at Eagle Pass in Texas and then head down Highway 57. We will have the car filled (including stuff on the roof) with personal household stuff. Thinking to stop at night at Saltillo, Queretaro, Puebla and Villahermosa. Does anyone have an update if this is the safest way to travel and also, anyone know of particular hotels with secure parking in any of these areas? Any info would be really helpful.

  46. I’ve posted some useful details about crossing into Mexico near Laredo here: MeridaGOround.com

  47. Thanks, Eric! We know our readers appreciate as much information and first hand accounts as possible!

  48. Thanks to everyone posting! If I drive from California to Merida any other suggestions? Will be my first time crossing the border by car. Will be in a passenger van with cats and belongings. At border crossing will I have to remove/ unpack my belongings for border patrol to inspect my van? If so, I need to prepare my cats for that. Also, does anyone have comments on me doing this drive alone? safe? 46 white male, speaks some rudimentary spanish. Pleasant travels and thanks for any comments!! -Jack

  49. Jack, we did the same thing (California to Merida). Our advice to you is to plan to leave the States early in the morning and get as far into Mexico as you can for the first night. We spent the first night in San Carlos, which was beautiful and definitely doable (we crossed in Arizona). No, they don’t ask you to unpack at the border… in fact, they don’t even look in your car 99% of the time. Pretty sure they will not ask you to take the cats out either. You cross the border, and then about 30 miles into Mexico, when you are leaving the “free” zone, you have to fill out paperwork and pay for your car permit… and that’s about it! We had a blast traveling through Mexico… have a great trip!

  50. I am moving to Merida in September with some furniture. Are these ‘auto hotels’ mentioend in one of the posts safe to leave the truck there overnight? Any recommendations? Thanks.

  51. In most auto hotels, you bring your car into the hotel, and sometimes even into your own personal garage. It is probably the safest place to park a car full of furniture!

  52. Agreed: They are generally very safe, where many have you park your car in a personal private garage that locks the vehicle in with you, in with your suite of rooms. The auto hotel on the southern edge of Queretaro that we enjoyed also had a large lot, directly adjoining the hotel buildings, surrounded by a 12 ft high stone wall, thick solid steel gates, and a night watchman there all night – which was great for our pick-up truck / trailer combination.

  53. These “auto hotels” are meant for couples-only, right? I have been turned away, as a family with children. I got the impression that they were questionable places that came with some interesting services…but I know a lot of retirees that love them because they can sneak their pets in (since they have garages). My husband and I have drive all through Mexico, and our favorite border crossing is actually in Arizona–the Lukeville. We’ve also done Laredo and Eagle Pass…and Eagle Pass wasn’t bad, either! We’ve driven all over the country with 3 kids in tow, and have fortunately never had even an inkling of trouble (okay–minus one corrupt cop bribery incident in Acapulco)!! Mexico is definitely worth the visit!

  54. After driving a fifth wheel RV down the East Coast from Ottawa, Canada for fifteen years to the Yucatan without problems other than corrupt well dressed police in Tampico with their portable speed signs, we feel very comfortable on the coastal route.

    We cross at Los Indios, a small crossing south of San Benito. It unfortunately only opens at 9 am. Takes about 45 minutes to clear border. Continue south past open farm fields on level highways towards Victoria. Before reaching Victoria, take the unusual exit towards Tampico Alto. The road is very good. At the fishing vessel on the pedestal on the outskirts of Tampico, turn right to the bypass. Watch your speed here as the police here LOVE your money. We usually drive to Naranjos 700 km, first day, parking at a Pemex among the trucks.
    Second day, to Villahermosa 820 km, use toll roads were possible at a cost of $1229 peso this year. As for pine apple juice, only purchase what you can drink that day as it will forment in fridge overnight. There has been steady inprovements in the road bed in receint years with few poor sections left. Bypass Vericruz and Posa Rico completely. We have stayed in a Wal-mart parking lot in Villahermosa without problems for years, up and down.
    Third day. Villahermosa to Merida 600 km. Take inland route to Champoton via Escarcega but make sure to refuel before leaving in the am as no fuel for long stretches then four or five stations in 2 or 3 km. Roads are excellent.
    From Campeche to Merida, expect delays as the whole section in State of Campeche seems to be under construction to a divided highway.’

    DO NOT DRIVE AT NIGHT! Bring enough pesos with you for tolls and fuel so you do not have to visit a bank machine on the way down. HAVE A GREAT TRIP! YOU ARE SAFER THAN IN MANY US PLACES!

  55. Thanks for those tips, guys!! Many people will appreciate them.

  56. For the last 8 years I have driven from Dallas, TX to Acapulco in a 2002 Ram pick up with only 2 Dogs. I have never had any problems………BUT today I would be more cautious and drive an OLD Reliable truck. Even though I am Mexican, I feel that I need to take more precautions. Acapulco is not Yucatan……This is just my 2 cents of info.

  57. Crossed @ Laredo – Bridge II May 8th 2013 – cursory inspection – paper work completed in 20 minutes (pre-purchased car permit online). Followed 85 to 57 – good roads. 1st night at Las Palmas in Matehuala – great place by the way.
    2nd night in Puebla @ Holidayexpress – right hand side of rt 57 because if you arrive in Puebla between 7-10 AM OR 3-7 PM, there is a HUGE traffic backup due to construction and well, traffic. Arco Norte is great – easy to miss – buy gas before getting on – one Pemex being built – no other chance the whole Arco Norte. 3rd night in Palenque (had to re-visit the place). Stayed at Los Leones after going thru town on road to ruins. OK place – no hot water and food was not that good! But close to ruins. Federales were staying at the hotel – nice guys – felt secure ! Road from Puebla to Palenque good, but lots of down the mountain type roads. Stayed 2 nights there. 5th night in Mahahual. The construction before and after Escarcega is not a happy experience and I drove it on a Sunday! Then the topes really start on Route 186 and the beginning of Route 307. But arrived in Mahahual around 2 PM. Stayed at Hotel Mahahual. OK place. Some AC, some TV channels in English, but no WiFi. ATM machines right there and the beach is 50 yards or so away. There are plenty of cafes/restaurants on the beach w/ WiFi – just take the laptop and stroll until you find one. I felt no trepidation at any time – never stopped by police and was treated kindly by all I met on the way down. Gotta love this country !

  58. Thanks for the report, Andy! And glad that all went well!

  59. I drove from San Francisco California to Merida Yucatan a while back. Crossed into Nuevo Laredo and drove all the way to San Luis Potosi (Like 13 hours drive). I stayed there for the night. Next day I drove from San Luis Potosi to Villahermosa Tabasco (Like 21 hours drive) stayed there for the night. Then the next day I drove from Villahermosa to Merida (12 hours drive). during my trip I drove day time and night time (12 midnight the latest) there is a lot of traffic on the highways, day and night. it was safe and even tho I got lost in Monterrey for a few hours I got to Merida in 3 days from the time I crossed the Mexican border. as long as you stick to driving and staying near the highway you are fine. is like driving across the U.S. Don’t get off the freeway if you don’t know the area and stick to your route.

  60. Hola! Thank you for all of the great tips thus far. I was wondering if anyone knew of any good reliable companies that relocate vehicles from Texas to the Yucatan area. My husband and I are moving to Cozumel in August and are not having any luck with finding a company :( OR are we better off just buying a used car once we get there?
    Thank you in advance for any advice!

  61. Buying a car once you get here is not that difficult, and it allows you to avoid all the import and visa restrictions and fees.

  62. What a great article! We are thinking of hauling our car (and a motorcycle on a trailer) down there and my daughter was really concerned about the safety factor. Driving seems to be the only way to reasonably do it and be able to take the dogs and some household stuff as well. We’re leaving from Oklahoma City, so access to a good crossing point should not be a big issue. Driving the full length of Texas may be the worst of it!
    Did I read someplace that it’s not possible to haul a trailer down there? Something akin to a small U-Haul?
    Do the customs people at the border want to go through all your boxes and stuff? It would be something to know in advance, for sure.

    I really appreciated the article and have sent it on to her. I’m so glad I found this site. The information here is so interesting and valuable.

  63. As far as I know, things have been quiet for tourists crossing at Nuevo Laredo and Piedras Negras for the last 2 years. Cross early in the morning – say by 8:00 AM – using the #2 bridge in downtown Laredo, and you will find an easy, quiet, safe crossing (based on the past 4 years of history for tourists and expats). You can definitely bring a small trailer. Just make a nice spreadsheet describing everything in the trailer, with names and model numbers – translated into Spanish (Google Translate’s crude translations typically work). Most people with small trailers of allowed goods are waived through with either small duties ($300 pesos) or no duties. Occasionally they want to look in a box or two… so, on your spreadsheet – group things by the box they are in – and include serial numbers on electronics or computer.

  64. Hi Jessica. Moving to Cozumel, I have been driving cars and trucks from the US for 18 years. I know all of the rules and regs. E-mail or call my US cell 240-372-3483. I do door to door delivery, with all happy customers. I live in Akumal most of the winter. My nickname is Redbeard.

  65. Thanks so much for the article and all the comments. My husband and I are driving to the Tulum area in Spring, 2014 to become permanent expats. We are driving a 2007 Nissan Frontier and pulling a small trailer with our household effects. Thanks to your timely advice, we’ll be jumping off at Laredo instead of taking the Matamoros coastal route as originally planned. All the info here really puts my mind at ease. I’ll post a firsthand report when it finally happens!

  66. Great, Kristi! We look forward to hearing about your trip (you could even write an article about it… we’d love that and our readers would too!)

  67. All the comments are really helpful….my husband, myself, and 3 dogs are driving to Puerto Morelos for a 5 week stay and we plan to cross in Laredo. Is there any updated info regarding crossing safety and route South then East? Our families are going nuts about us driving and want us to purchase ransom insurance…is this necessary? We will be traveling in a black 2010 F150 with paddle boards & bicycles. I have read a lot of posts on various sites warning about SUV’s or large late model trucks. Thank you in advance for any feedback.

  68. Karen, most people that make that trip make it safely. You might want to check in with Yolisto.com and see if anyone has more information there. We cannot honestly recommend one way or another… just relate our own experience.

  69. Hey guys. My husband and I came to Merida for a 3 month stay in October, driving from Georgia and crossing through Brownsville, TX. We decided to drive because we wanted to bring our dog, and went despite the state department warnings of the area. We crossed the border on a Wednesday morning (we were first in line), and about an hour outside the border, just after the first checkpoint, we were approached by a car on our left carrying 4 men in an old model white Nissan waving guns at us trying to get us to pull over. We were very lucky in that we were able to out run them easily (although all advice says NEVER to try to do this), and were able to get away. They pursued us on the road for about 4 minutes before we left them so far behind that they stopped. I understand in speaking with everyone in Merida that this was VERY isolated, and that no one else had experienced this themselves, or known anyone who had experienced this.

    I wanted to share this just so people will understand that the danger is real, and not the typical state department, overly-cautious jargon that we had assumed it was when we planned our trip. That being said, we were also driving a luxury SUV (Audi) with Georgia plates, and crossed at what we have been told is the most dangerous spot, so I’m pretty sure we painted a fairly large target on us. Needless to say, we will be flying home with the dog, and shipping the car. Best of luck to everyone making the drive.

  70. My nightmare in Mexico:

    I am from the United States and have lived in Cancun for 7 years. I have my residency card. I love living in Cancun and have made it my home…..last year October 2013, I decided to purchase a car in the USA and drive it to Cancun. I checked into having it shipped, and should have done that in hindsight. I have a friend who lives in GDL and she said she would drive half way with me. so I decided to drive from Texas, crossed at Nuevo Laredo, head to GDL then we would continue on to Cancun. I researched everything I could. I followed everything I was told or read, but I did not make it to GDL. After driving 11 hours through Mexico, traveling the majority of time on Toll roads. I stopped to get gas in the state of Zacatecas, in town called Ojo Caliente.

    While parked at the gas station in broad daylight with locals 10 feet from my car, a car with 3 young guys (18-25) pulled up next to me and asked me where I was going, asked me about the car. They were just talking and being friendly until I said “I need to go. I am late”. The driver said we need to see your ID. I asked why. He said that was their job. I refused and tried to back out. They backed up and blocked my car in. The driver held up a pistol and the passenger held up a machine gun. The guy in the back seat got out and started pounding on my window for me to unlock the door. He got in my car and put a gun to my head while the guy with the machine gun pushed his way in from the drivers side and put the machine gun in my back. This entire time the locals standing 10 feet away stood there and watched. They told me to drive and follow the other car. As we drove away there were about 50 kids and teachers in the street from a nearby school that had to part so we could drive through. Everyone could see the gun to my head and no one did anything.

    They took me into a field and told me to get out of the car. The “boss” put a gun to my head and asked me if I wanted to die or if I wanted my car. I told him to take whatever they wanted. I now noticed that all 3 of them were covered in blood. Their clothes were all bloody. When I saw that I said to myself “I am dying today”. They proceeded to ask me questions while going through my luggage. One guy got in my face and said “We are going to kill you. Where do you want your body, in a hole or in the field?” The “boss” said “No, we are not going to kill you.” The two of them proceeded to argue about killing me. They asked me more questions (all in Spanish). They took my wallet, but gave me 400 pesos and said I was going to need it for a taxi. They let me keep one small bag which i told them had my medicine, but which in reality had my passport and other documents and an ID.

    They put me in their car in the backseat with a hood over my head. The “boss” stayed with my car. They drove for about 20 minutes and then stopped the car, opened the door and pushed me out and drove off. I was able to make it to a house where they called the police, who came and got me. But since they were state police (Aguascaliente), they could not go back to the scene because it happened in state of Zacatecas. They took me to hotel and said they were going to put me under police protection. I did not understand why they were not calling the police from that area. Later, I found out why. When I was with the police they told me that two hours before they found me, the same guys car jacked a local from Monterrey, and beat him almost to death. Later on it came over the radio that they got another vehicle, owned by a local, and beat him also. I was the only American that day and the only one they did not physically harm. I think I drove into a car theft ring and if they would have hurt me, it would have brought too much attention. They could hurt a local and it wouldn’t draw as much attention. That’s my theory.

    When we got to the hotel, we tracked my phone and iPad that was in the car with GPS. We could see it on the screen. I signed into Facebook to tell my friend who was waiting for me in Guadalajara what happened. While I was telling her the story, messages started coming through on my Facebook. The car jackers had my phone and iPad, and neither one was protected with a password. So now they were reading my conversation with my friend. They knew where I was, and they knew I was with the police. The reason they started messaging is because my car is one wtih a push button start. It does not have a key. When I got out of the car, I left it running but kept the key fobs. They could drive my car, but once they shut it off, they could not restart it. So they were asking for the keys, and for the pin # for the alarm system because you can start my car with my phone if you know the code.

    I changed my password on Facebook because now they knew where I was and that the police knew where they were. I was assuming they took the battery out of the phone because I could not track it after that.

    My friend came to the hotel that night, and she and I went back to the town where it happened to find the police station. I was hiding in the bus station waiting for her to get a taxi because since it was daylight, people were everywhere and I was the only blonde white boy in town. I told the taxi driver that I needed to go to the police station. He started driving and asked me why. I started telling him what happened and he stopped me and said “I know what happened to you yesterday. What I am asking is why are you back here? The police here will not help you. This town is controlled by the cartel and if they help you, they will be killed. And if they see you on the street, they will kill you. You need to leave”. He was saying this as we pulled up to the police station.

    This town was tiny and it only had four police officers, if you can call them that. The taxi driver waited for us as we went inside. Inside there were two cops, neither one of which had guns. I told them what happened. They said “We can’t help you.” I said “I just need a police report. I don’t want the car. I don’t want to find the guys. Just a police report for insurance.” They said “No one can do that for you today.” At that point, my friend said “Let’s just get to Zacatecas, which is the state capital.” The police officer said “No one there will help you either.” I turned to my friend and said “Let’s go! I just want to go home.” I was getting a very bad feeling and just wanted to leave. We got in the taxi and the driver took us to the bus station again. There was a bus leaving for Zacatecas in ten minutes, so we got on. When we got there, we find the police station. At first they were hesitant to help me, and told me to go back to the town where it happened. I explained that no one there would help me. The woman then took the report. I called the Mexican insurance company after that. They came to the station and took a report also. The lawyer from the insurance company came as well. I contacted the US Embassy too. We finished everything with the police and got on a bus to Guadalajara to go to the airport. I flew out the next morning back to the USA.

    The Mexico insurance was really good, except for they said my car was worth $4000 less than what i bought it for. This entire process before, during and after, was all in Spanish. I do not know what I would have done if I didn’t speak Spanish! I stayed in the USA for 3 months before I decided to go back to Cancun. I have always felt safe in Cancun and I still do to some degree, but I will never fully trust anyone here. I for sure will never drive across Mexico again. I should have spent the $800 US and had it shipped from Florida to Merida.

  71. Wow… that is quite a story. And you are one lucky man!

  72. I had the same experience as “Kelly” who posted on Dec.30, 2013. Mine started in the town just before the first checkpoint. This was March 2011… …1/2 hour in from the border….

  73. Utterly terrifying! I’m so very sorry that you had this experience. Thank you for sharing. Until 3 years ago, when I finally moved to Merida, I had driven from Texas to DF for about 20 years. On this last drive down it had been about 4 years before that I made the drive. The atmosphere was very different and I admit that I was nervous the whole first day. You story has convinced me to get my car back to the States via shipping. So very sad for you!

  74. OMG Brice, Thank you for sharing… and accept my sympathies… now I am a bit concerned. We are moving to Isla Mujeres and was planning on driving from Colorado to Cancun in the end of June with my child and my mother…we would fly but we have a house and are moving a bunch of furniture and things down in an SUV and a trailer… now I am not sure what to do… I was never really worried about making the drive, but now I am a bit freaked out. Not sure what to do… any suggestions?

  75. @Beck: Please do not worry. Things like this can and do happen every where, even in the U.S. I very well recall German tourists who were chased and murdered in Florida some years back, as just one of scads of examples. And, in traveling the U.S., my husband and I can recall three very bad close calls. All that has been said here about traveling the Laredo 85, to 40D, to 57 and 57D route is totally on target. My husband and I, and literally dozens of our expat friends who live in central Mexico, drive that route all the time, as often as once a month. We have a home in the state of Michoacan, and even there, with all of it’s issues, we have never had an incident of any kind, and neither have our friends. My friends and I travel to the villages of the areas west of Morelia, weekly to buy artisan goods, in the countryside and never, ever have problems.

    Now, I will be the first to tell you that never would we travel any of the eastern Gulf of Mexico routes. In 12 years of intensely following blogs and forums, I have read way too much to trust those areas. That region has been fiercely fought over by two competing cartels for their drug trafficking merits and it seems the thugs in that area, as well, are taking advantage of the instability of a general lack of effective policing. Most all cartel activity does not effect tourists or expats, at all. But, one must exercise caution anywhere one goes in the U.S., or the world.

    The central and western corridors are safer, but the central corridor is very safe. It is very well traveled and heavily patrolled, in addition to many Federal Police stations along the route. Once you swing over to the routes that go east, taking the Arco Norte, you will be safe as well. We travel in a large pickup truck and for the last four trips we have been pulling a 10′ trailer each way with our belongings. We are almost always directed to pull over for checkpoint inspections, two or three, but all times they are professionally done and very cursory once they know where you are going (first question,), where did you come from (second question), and last, what is on the trailer.

    Lastly, I was born in Mexico, but grew up in the U.S. I have traveled the country all of my life, and now retired. I never question our decision to move there. In fact, Isla Mujeres was our first choice, but after living in Texas we chose the cool mountains instead. You will be happy there. Learn to live with less and enjoy life more. Get to know your neighbors and the expats there and you will adjust quickly.

    Just make sure you understand all of the new immigration policies to stay out of trouble, and have a list of your household goods and their U.S. garage sale values, in Spanish and English for the Aduana, or customs agents at the border. You may or may not have to pay the 16% tax, after your now $300 USD deduction per person. Most likely they will briefly check a few things and tell you to go on, but we have noticed since the new Mexican president is pushing the collection of taxes, they now want you to pay up.

    Blessings to you and yours.

  76. Thank you for your feedback, Mary. Very helpful and informative!

  77. I drove from California, picked up a friend in San Antonio airport. In deciding on Eagle Pass or Laredo to go to San Miguel, we chose Laredo to eliminate 2 extra hours of driving the next day.

    We crossed at Bridge 2 around 7am (open 24hrs). Followed the directions to turn right immediately to travel a few blocks to get to the other side of bridge 1, making another right to get to immigration (and get vehicle permit mailed to you in advance to make it easy). You will get a temporary immigration permit online when getting vehicle permit, but still need to go into immigration and pay for permit to get that little piece of paper that stays in your passport. At Bridge 2 nobody seemed to know anything about where immigration was and there was no inspection. I think they are used to commercial or visa’d passengers. So have the directions in advance as Nuevo Laredo isn’t a place you want to be wandering around lost but Bridge 2 is the best crossing.

    After getting the immigration permit, we got on 57 and all roads were great. Nobody ever bothered to look in our car. We got to San Miguel around 4:00 pm. Stayed at Rancho hotel el Atascadero (very quaint but will need to taxi into town – not walking distance). We had fabulous Italian food on the same road of main cathedral, just a block or two south. Left around 10:30 am and took Arco Norte to avoid Mexico City. Arrived in Villahermosa around 7pm (didn’t want to drive in the dark but there really aren’t many nice places inbetween SM and Villahermosa.) In Villahermosa, we stayed at Hotel Maya Tabasco, which is at the end of the highway coming into town, on the frontage road. It made it easy to get back on 180 but the hotel is only 3 stars, clean and comfortable.

    We got off on 186 to go down to Palenque. Stayed at Hotel Maya Tulipanes…another great find, with a very nice pool/restaurant. There are 2 choices to go to Akumal or Playa Del Carmen from Palenque: south through Chetumal on 186 or north on 180 via Merida. Going North takes you through Chichen Itza (be sure to visit the Balankanche cave near there. Very unique energy in that cave!). If you go south, you have the opportunity to stay in a great eco hotel at the opening to Calakmul (amazing and rarely visited ruins) or drive to Chetumal to visit the Mayan museum. You can get from Palenque to Akumal in about 9 hours, but we chose to break the drive up since the prior days were 8 hours of driving each.

    We had absolutely no issues except for a bizarre road construction project just before Villahermosa where, if you were not paying attention (it was dark), you missed the sharp turn off (unmarked) for East bound traffic and found yourself coming up against the westbound traffic. But we were warned – NO DRIVING AT NIGHT! It was a good thing my friend and I are quick thinkers with a sense of humor. We literally had to back up into oncoming traffic and four wheel down an embankment.

    Have a great trip! Mexico is an amazing country with lots of variety and this drive takes you into the heart of it all while avoiding places like Monterrey, Veracruz and Mexico City. It cost about $500 USD in tolls and gas. And yes, we suggest you always pay close attention at PEMEX stations because they are the only banditos you will encounter. They will take your 500 pesos and say you gave them 50. They will not fill the car to the asked-for amount and take your money anyway if you don’t watch the pump. They will gladly show you they are starting the pump at zero but have many tricks to skim a little money from you.

  78. Any information about crossing the border with THREE dogs? We have done it with one but having been hearing rumors about only allowing two dogs? Is it two per person. If so, we should be only as I travel with my husband!

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