I'm just a few days back from a long road trip. I and four other guys delivered a big yellow school bus, with which we towed a Ford truck, from Michigan to an orphanage in central Honduras. We made the trip, and are all back in the U.S.
I'm writing this as a heads-up to other folks that may be planning to drive through Mexico to points south.
First off, you will probably want to use the services of a 'coyote' at whichever border you cross. They genuinely do help speed up the process of getting into Mexico (a few hours as opposed to a few days), if you're in transit and not a tourist. They also provide (crappy) maps of the suggested route. For us, this route was roughly from the McAllen, Texas crossing, south along the Gulf coast (avoiding Tampico and Veracruz), heading south across the state of Oaxaca, and through Chiapas along the Pacific Coast.
It is very important to try to convoy with other folks who are on the same route. Meet them at gas stations or hotels along the way--you'll spot lots of semis and cars towing cars huddled together in the same areas at night. There really is safety in numbers--you don't want to do this alone. We were fortunate enough to hook up with a small convoy of three other vehicles, and they helped us immensely. If someone gets in a wreck, or is hassled by the police or military, the others can help. Also, you'll need help with the routes even if you have great maps; signage is very poor and it's easy to lose your way. Do not drive at night; this is extremely dangerous and there is no reason to do it. You'll be at enough risk during the daytime (particularly for accidents), so don't push it.
Your biggest trial will be the driving. About half the roads we were on were atrocious--no shoulders or guardrails, potholes big enough to park a Volkswagon in, and the driving--let's just say that you better drive defensively or you don't have a chance. Take the toll highways; they're generally in better shape and worth the money. Nearly all of the route is two-lane, and a huge danger is with vehicles passing you. No-passing zones are ignored when they're even posted. Many vehicles are forced off the road when the vehicle passing them meets another head-on. We saw so many accidents, some affecting people we met along the way. Another hazard is unmarked speed bumps, which are common in nearly every town along the way. Slam into one of these at 40 mph and you have a major problem.
We were stopped at military and police roadblocks often. This is a hassle you learn to live with. Money is all they're after generally, though be careful to have all valuables safe and out of sight. Someone with a gun may decide they need that camera more than you do. I'd say we passed through fifteen or so of these checkpoints. Sometimes they're happy with a dollar, often it takes more than that. We heard that some people that do this trip often take a stash of beer or adult magazines to hand out at the stops. I would bet it's cheaper to throw some pesos at them till they let you pass.
Be extremely careful of stoplights in the towns. We blew through a red and it ended up costing us an hour and a half of bickering and $40. The cop wanted $200, to impound our vehicles, and take us to the station. It took a long time to talk him down. It is best not to get the police involved in any matter if possible. They are not out to help but rather to prey on the victims. If you do get in an accident, I would recommend trying to pay off the other party if it is your fault, and do it before the police arrive.
For your information, the roads are in much better condition in Guatemala and Honduras (at least the main routes), though you still need to be extremely cautious of other drivers. We were not hassled at any checkpoints in these countries either. It's a cakewalk compared to Mexico.
Don't get me wrong, I really love parts of Mexico and will undoubtedly return to my favorite spots for vacations. However, I know that transit through Mexico has its, ahem, challenges that you should be aware of.
Best of luck, and next time ship your vehicle--I will.
Read all 117 Reviews
Write a Review