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Tips to plan a road trip to mexico

Mon, 30 Jul 2012 11:24:54 -0700

For many tourists, the thought of driving to Mexico
is a big question mark. Will it be safe? What will I do if my car
breaks down? What happens if I get a flat tire? Is Mexican fuel
comparable to what I put in my car back home? There may be dozens of
questions that potential visitors to Mexico will have. 

More than forty million people cross the border each year between San
Diego and Tijuana, making the region the busiest land-border crossing
in the world.

Not long ago, I published an article on ‘10 Tips for Ensuring a Safe Road Trip Across the Border
including precautions you can take to ensure a safe trip in Mexico.
Certainly all 10 tips are important, but one of the most important
pieces of information to be aware of is the contact for the Green

The Mexican government has a free service called The Green Angels.
Mechanics patrol the main highways everyday in white and green pick-up
trucks and provide free 24/7 road side assistance to visitors with
mechanical problems. They have a communication network via radio with
various government agencies and provide tourist information and
additional visitor assistance. For Tijuana, Ensenada and El Hongo toll
roads, call 01-800-990-3900 or for Tijuana to Tecate toll roads, call
1-800-888-0911. Amigo Mexican Insurance also offers one of the best road side
assistance plan.

Thanks to the power of social media, I recently met Mexico travel experts,
Bill and Dorothy Bell, a dynamic Canadian couple who now live in the
town of La Peñita de Jaltemba, Nayarit, Mexico where they operate an
English online newspaper called the “Jaltemba Sol.” They have been
instrumental in numerous charitable activities that raise hundreds of
thousands of pesos annually for good causes. 

Fifteen years ago, they created a website focused on their road travels to Mexico called On the Road In.
The site is a comprehensive travel guide to RV’ing, camping and safe
travel in Mexico and is considered one of the best sources out there
today. The site is a platform for trip planning, safety issues and
entice readers with a plethora of stories and photographs of the
benefits of Mexico travel.  “We wanted to share with others the joy of
traveling in Mexico,” said Bell. “While many people have traveled to a
resort destination, we found a vacuum in terms of awareness in other

Additionally both of the Bells operate their corresponding On Road in Mexico Facebook page
with the purpose of helping would-be road travelers and by providing
up-to-date information in a fun and enthusiastic manner. Their Facebook
page was started a year ago and was built in response to hundreds of
email questions they were receiving on road travel safety in Mexico.  

Their page offers a “Travel Buddy” service; a matchmaking system that
marries travelers who wish to travel together for safety and
confidence. It also gives traveler recommendations on routes, sites to
see, pet friendly hotels, highway construction and much needed “real
traveler” assurances driving in Mexico.
“Many people are intimidated and in some cases scared to drive in
Mexico,” he said.  “We try to give them the tools, the advice and
knowledge to be able to explore this wonderful country by road.”

When I asked Bill for his top recommendations for road travel in Mexico he suggested:

1. When you can, stick to the
toll roads in Mexico. They are usually in good condition and are well
marked and patrolled on a regular basis.

2. Avoid driving at night.  As
road conditions are different in Mexico, you will need light to see
topes (speed bumps) animals and rocks on the road.

3. Plan out your trip so as to
leave early and arrive at your destination early. If you have a
breakdown you have an opportunity to get help before darkness. 

4. In Mexico a left turn
signal on the highway is usually an invitation to pass the vehicle; but
be careful, it could mean they are turning left.

5. Drive defensively. Mexicans
are generally very laid back people who have a flexible attitude
towards arriving on time. Put behind the wheel of a car, the situation changes drastically. Expect impatient drivers, passing on solid lines other dangerous stunt car driver tactics.

Bill also addressed some frequently asked questions relating to driving in Mexico:

What type of permits does a vehicle need?
If you drive in Mexico (other than the Baja, Northern Sonora and
border towns) you will need a six month importation permit (Recreational
vehicles can get 10 year permits) which you can obtain on line and at
most border crossings.  

What should you do if you get pulled over?

If you get pulled over by the police, be prepared and have all your
documentation; drivers’ license, vehicle permit, your FMM tourist visa
or FM3 and registration. In Mexico it is common for the driver to get
out of the car to greet the police officer.  The police will be most
concerned with seeing your driver’s license.  They will tell you if you
have committed an offense and what the offense is.  Unlike in United
States and Canada, if you do it nicely, you can often dispute the ticket
with the police officer.  If they end up giving you a ticket, they will
confiscate your driver’s license. It will be returned to you once you
pay the ticket. We recommend being friendly and paying the ticket. 
What type of auto insurance do you need?
American and Canadian vehicle insurance is not accepted in Mexico. We
recommend that road travelers get quotes online so they understand the
language in the policy. We advise people to get a legal component and
liability in case they get into an accident. At, you can quote and buy your Insurance Policy in minutes.

How long can travelers by car stay on the road in Mexico?

The vehicle permit is issued for no longer than six months. If you
apply and receive an extended visitor’s permit (an FM3) then the vehicle
permit extends to the life of your tourist visa. 

Top recommended road itineraries?

Beach Lovers? Solitude in Nature

You cannot beat the diversity and mystery of the Baja. The beaches
are magnificent and the deserts are intense. Bahia Conception is a
dream. You can pet the whales in Guerrero Negro, Camp on the isolated
beaches on the Sea of Cortes and be dancing with the stars in Cabo a few
days later. Diversity, beach, desert, scenery.

Culture, Colonial and Charm

A circular route of Guadalajara, Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende,
Querétaro, Morelia and Patsquaro will give you an appetite for more
colonial city exploration. This circle route will charm you with
history, cuisine, music and more. This is the colonial heart of the
Yucatan Peninsula

Take the complete circle route and explore the ancient Maya. From
Cancun, (or Isla Muljeres if you don’t want the party) drive slowly down
the coast to Chetumal around to Palenque and onward to Campeche and
Merida. Enjoy the powder white beaches but also discover the mystical
cenotes and ancient sites along the way. The flamingoes on the Gulf
coast are magnificent. Campeche and Merida are beautiful and diverse
cities to discover. You would be rushed to do this in 10 days. You would
also be rushed to do this in a year. There is simply too much to see,
climb, discover, taste and touch.

Indigenous Cultures

Oaxaca to San Christobal to Palenque

The drive through small towns and larger cities gives you a glimpse
of the lives of indigenous peoples in Mexico. You will experience the
ancient cities and sites, the handicrafts and customs of rural peoples
and well as the gorgeous natural elements in the countryside such as
waterfalls, rivers, mountain passes and cloud forests.

Why Mexico?
Mexico always excited us; its natural beauty, its rich history and
the friendliness of its people. The light and colors make photographs
very special. Mexico is exotic – different than the day to day life in
Toronto, Vancouver, Chicago or LA. 

When you drive in Mexico, around every corner you can expect to be
delightfully surprised; a beautiful church, an ancient pyramid,
villagers in native costumes, a farmer plowing his fields with oxen…it
never ceases to amaze....