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User Content => Road Trips => Topic started by: corco on December 08, 2016, 10:01:44 PM

Title: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: corco on December 08, 2016, 10:01:44 PM
I bought me some plane tickets down to Oaxaca for 10 days in February. My plan is to take a roadtrip as such:

https://goo.gl/maps/pr3JiyP7BnN2

The idea right now is something like

F - Arrive, Oaxaca
S - Oaxaca
U - Oaxaca
M - Villahermosa
T - Campeche
W - Escarcega (via Calakmul)
R - Palenque
F - San Cristobal de las Casas
S - San Cristobal de las Casas
U - Oaxaca
M - Fly home

A couple questions:

1) Does this seem like a reasonable drive? I'm reasonably aware of the hazards of driving in Mexico - I've been a passenger in Mexico several times and have driven myself extensively in Eastern Europe, which was a similar driving style, so I'm comfortable with that part. My Spanish is competent enough to at least fake my way through any reasonably routine situation that may arise (e.g. speeding ticket, mechanical problem, military checkpoint).  My budget will allow me to stay in hotels with private, secure parking at night. Do the drive times seem reasonable - i.e. is Google Maps reasonably trustworthy? I think the main concern is Oaxaca-Villahermosa in one day - avoiding night driving with about 12 hours of daylight assumes an average speed of about 50 km/h, about half in the mountains and half on cuotas.

2) Has anybody spent any time in this part of Mexico? Is there anything worth seeing along that route that I'm missing? I have been to Cancun/Merida/Cozumel, though several years ago, and won't have time to go there on this trip. I've already bought plane tickets into and out of Oaxaca.

3) Also looking for tips on renting cars in Mexico. I have a good credit card with primary CDW that I've used before but no liability coverage on that card. It looks to me like the rental car includes a very minimal liability policy (something like 45,000 pesos) but that it is strongly recommended to buy a supplemental liability policy at the rental car desk. Does anybody have any experience with that? If so, what did you do?
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on December 09, 2016, 06:03:04 PM
(1)  Oaxaca to Villahermosa is an ambitious itinerary for one day.  Knowing you, it's possible.  But it might also be grueling.  There are a LOT of nonstop curves between Oaxaca and Tuxtepec, and it's very easy to underestimate how hard that kind of driving can be.  I would not plan for an average speed above 25 to 30 mph between those two towns.  Once past Tuxtepec, it should be fairly easy going the rest of the way.  If you decide it's too much to bite off in one day, there is a Hotel City Express in Minatitlán.  The rest of the itinerary seems reasonable.  Prevailing speed on divided highways or regular roads with shoulders is almost always at least 60 mph, on minor state roads (such as in Campeche) usually 40 to 50 mph but can vary substantially by the prevalence of potholes.

(2)  I have not been south of Jalisco.  I think you're smart in planning more than one day in each of Oaxaca and San Cristóbal, though, as those would be my top two picks in the area.

(3)  I've only rented a car once, and it was from a small private firm in 2006.  No experience with the big chains.  I will say that rental car contracts in México generally have a specific exclusion related to the undercarriage, meaning you really need to be careful not to dent the underside on any speed bumps.  And you will encounter literally hundreds of speed bumps along your planned route.  Unpaved roads are also generally a no-no.  I recommend asking around on internet forums, especially to find an American expat actually living in Oaxaca.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on December 13, 2016, 06:08:47 PM
I forgot to mention...

Road-geek opportunity in the city of Oaxaca:  traffic on Niños Héroes de Chapultepec switches sides for a few blocks to drive on the left.  (Google Maps link here (https://goo.gl/maps/6AHZLJT1v1H2))

Also, the Oaxaca airport has on-campus car rental from Alamo and Europcar.  Both are large chain operations.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: vdeane on December 13, 2016, 07:32:26 PM
Road-geek opportunity in the city of Oaxaca:  traffic on Niños Héroes de Chapultepec switches sides for a few blocks to drive on the left.  (Google Maps link here (https://goo.gl/maps/6AHZLJT1v1H2))
That's interesting.  Wonder why they do that.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on December 13, 2016, 07:41:04 PM
Road-geek opportunity in the city of Oaxaca:  traffic on Niños Héroes de Chapultepec switches sides for a few blocks to drive on the left.  (Google Maps link here (https://goo.gl/maps/6AHZLJT1v1H2))
That's interesting.  Wonder why they do that.

Better traffic flow for left turns, I'm assuming.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: corco on December 13, 2016, 08:35:07 PM
That's cool - it's like an at-grade diverging diamond! I'll definitely check that out.

Thanks for the tips Mr. Hoger. There is also on-airport with Hertz now, and I'll probably stick with them - I don't like Alamo much in the US and the Oaxaca Europcar location has particularly bad reviews. I booked a manual transmission economy car and really hope I'll end up with a manual transmission vehicle and don't get "upgraded" to an automatic (if I'm going to be driving some 90 hp shitbox I want to be able to row my own in the mountains - and I'd rather not be crusing around rural Mexico in something nicer than a 90 hp shitbox).
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on December 13, 2016, 08:51:01 PM
I do caution you that the cheapo cars might give a rough ride on the rougher roads.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: corco on December 13, 2016, 08:56:49 PM
I'm not too worried - you should have seen what I did to the Renault Clio I had in eastern Europe! I abused that car, but returned it in okay condition. I wouldn't own one, but it was just fine for the horrible roads in rural Romania/Bulgaria/Albania.

My ideal choice would be a Tsuru, but it seems like those aren't in the major rental fleets anymore.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: US 41 on December 13, 2016, 08:59:22 PM
You probably won't want to do this, but Mexico Route 200 from Arriaga to Tapachula (both cities are in Chiapas) is the southernmost 4 lane highway in Mexico. I've always thought it would be neat to drive on it, and it looks like it would be a fun and scenic road to drive on. The road is fairly curvy, the lanes are somewhat narrow (with no shoulder), and the speed limit is 90 km/h.

It would add 200 miles (6 hours) to your proposed trip.  https://goo.gl/maps/euheCEGozNw

I also like how you plan on taking those two toll bridges on 180 on the Isla del Carmen. That looks like that will be a pretty cool experience.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on December 13, 2016, 10:12:23 PM
The Tsuru was the rental of choice back in '06 when my wife and I rented a Chevy (rebranded Opel Corsa) stick shift on our honeymoon. One big advantage I've found in having a sturdier vehicle to drive in Mexico is the ability to take rough pavement, speed bumps, gravel and dirt detours, and potholes with more confidence and at greater speed. I actually did dent the muffler on our Chevy rental ten years ago (they didn't notice when we turned it in), and my friend's old Civic literally couldn't clear a couple of speed bumps when he drove it down to Parras with us back in 2010. Even in our old Grand Caravan minivan, I've had rocks knock the undercarriage many times off-pavement, but fortunately not poked a hole in anything.

Even if you're not planning on driving off-pavement, you should know that construction detours sometimes entail driving on unimproved dirt and sand, even on federal highways. It might never come up, but if I were you I'd rather have the peace of mind that comes with a little bigger vehicle than cheapo basic.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on December 17, 2016, 10:18:35 AM
Do the drive times seem reasonable - i.e. is Google Maps reasonably trustworthy? I think the main concern is Oaxaca-Villahermosa in one day - avoiding night driving with about 12 hours of daylight assumes an average speed of about 50 km/h, about half in the mountains and half on cuotas.

Oaxaca to Villahermosa is an ambitious itinerary for one day.  Knowing you, it's possible.  But it might also be grueling.  There are a LOT of nonstop curves between Oaxaca and Tuxtepec, and it's very easy to underestimate how hard that kind of driving can be.  I would not plan for an average speed above 25 to 30 mph between those two towns.  Once past Tuxtepec, it should be fairly easy going the rest of the way.  If you decide it's too much to bite off in one day, there is a Hotel City Express in Minatitlán.  The rest of the itinerary seems reasonable.  Prevailing speed on divided highways or regular roads with shoulders is almost always at least 60 mph, on minor state roads (such as in Campeche) usually 40 to 50 mph but can vary substantially by the prevalence of potholes.

I've now looked at the Oaxaca–Villahermosa route in more detail.  I give a rough estimate of 10 to 11 leisurely hours between the two—about half of which is Oaxaca–Tuxtepec and the other half Tuxtepec–Villahermosa.  I was greatly overestimating the number of small towns you'll be driving through along the way, meaning I was overestimating the delays.  February sunrise in that area is around 6:30–6:45 AM, and sunset 6:00–6:15, giving you a good window of daylight driving.  And I'm of the opinion that a road trip is best accomplished by making the first day one of the longest, leaving more room for the unexpected during subsequent days and also mitigating driver fatigue.

Just so you know, I plan (and have begun) to compile and send you information about your planned route, as well as some Mexican driving tips from my own gringo perspective.  Don't try to stop me; it's what I do for fun.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: US 41 on December 17, 2016, 10:32:12 AM
There's this site that the Mexican government provides that will estimate how much a trip will cost. It will calculate toll costs and it will estimate how much money you will spend on gas. http://ttr.sct.gob.mx/mappir/

There's also this site that provides maps of each "estado" that you can print or download. It is also run by the Mexican government. http://www.sct.gob.mx/planeacion/cartografia/mapa-por-estado
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: Mapmikey on December 17, 2016, 10:39:41 AM
Road-geek opportunity in the city of Oaxaca:  traffic on Niños Héroes de Chapultepec switches sides for a few blocks to drive on the left.  (Google Maps link here (https://goo.gl/maps/6AHZLJT1v1H2))
That's interesting.  Wonder why they do that.

Better traffic flow for left turns, I'm assuming.

I agree with this conclusion.  On one of the directions there must be a lot of traffic making a left that would otherwise cause backups.

For the one-way pair that crosses this, both directions allow left turns onto what would normally be the wrong side of the highway.  How would somebody know that was what you had to do...there don't seem to be any signs directing this?  If there are dedicated left turn lanes than the cross median could be extended so that you couldn't cross over to what would be the normal side...
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on December 23, 2016, 02:44:54 PM
There's this site that the Mexican government provides that will estimate how much a trip will cost. It will calculate toll costs and it will estimate how much money you will spend on gas. http://ttr.sct.gob.mx/mappir/

There's also this site that provides maps of each "estado" that you can print or download. It is also run by the Mexican government. http://www.sct.gob.mx/planeacion/cartografia/mapa-por-estado


Both of those sites look like great resources.  The state maps are better than others I've found, and the toll calculator appears that it is kept up to date.  Thank you very much for sharing the links!
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on December 26, 2016, 07:28:57 PM
corco,

I'm well underway compiling trip info for you.  If you're a route-shield-picture-taking kind of guy, then I have a little nugget for you.  Along your planned route in Campeche, the stretch between Dzibalchén and Xpujil is incorrectly labeled on Google Maps as a continuation of state highway 269.  As far as I can tell, it is in fact not part of the Campeche state highway system, even though there are plenty of state highway shields floating around through there.  But there are some old, faded highway signs in Xpujil that correctly identify the road as tertiary.  There are, in fact, a couple of numberless "RURAL" shields (a relative rarity) pointing the way from federal highway 186, and getting a photo would mean no more than a couple of blocks' detour.

Example #1 (https://goo.gl/maps/9ARFkMAjcDn)
Example #2 (https://goo.gl/maps/bMdvBL3uruC2)

Note that even the overhead signs at these same locations incorrectly display a state highway shield.  The ground-mounted ones are correct.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: US 41 on December 30, 2016, 04:11:54 PM
There's this site that the Mexican government provides that will estimate how much a trip will cost. It will calculate toll costs and it will estimate how much money you will spend on gas. http://ttr.sct.gob.mx/mappir/

There's also this site that provides maps of each "estado" that you can print or download. It is also run by the Mexican government. http://www.sct.gob.mx/planeacion/cartografia/mapa-por-estado


Both of those sites look like great resources.  The state maps are better than others I've found, and the toll calculator appears that it is kept up to date.  Thank you very much for sharing the links!

No problem. The mappir site is fairly new and I've used it quite a bit planning for my upcoming Mazatlan trip (although I'm still not sure when I'll do it).
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on December 30, 2016, 07:48:37 PM
Interestingly, the mappir tool is part of the SCT website—and so is the old "traza tu ruta" tool, which is still online and functioning.  Both have the option to estimate fuel cost, but the mappir one is easier to use.  I suspect they're using the same source data and mappir is supposed to replace the older one, but they're currently operating side-by-side at this time.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on January 05, 2017, 10:14:28 AM
Be prepared for trip complications due to flux in the Mexican oil industry.  You'll be traveling in middle of what is perhaps the biggest change in that industry in the last 80 years, and there are some ongoing hiccups because of it.

Pemex was nationalized in 1938, with no foreign investment and prices being regulated by the federal government—often with substantial subsidy—since that time.  México is now in the process of denationalizing its oil industry, and gas prices are supposed to float daily by the end of March.  In February, they are scheduled to be set biweekly instead of monthly.  In preparation for this, the government is having to raise the artificially low price of gas at the pump.  The price of regular gas went up by 35 cents per gallon overnight on January 1.  Adjusting by median equivalent adult income, that's like a $2.10-per-gallon hike in the USA, except that Mexicans have been used to steady, regulated gas prices for decades prior.

Since the price hike, there have been protests and gas shortages across México—all in the middle of the holiday travel rush.  The coworker of one of my good friends was driving back from visiting family on Tuesday and spent 15 hours trying to cross the border because protesters blocked the entire highway leading to the border.  With the exchange rate topping 20 pesos to the dollar, she struggled to find a vendor who would take anything except cash dollars, while motorists were literally running out of gas while stalled on the highway.  Some Mexican cities have seen a third of the gas stations close down.

I assume the situation will have improved by the time you travel, but I also foresee the price of gas going up again on February 1, and then again two weeks later.  What exactly will happen at that time is anyone's guess.  As it relates to your travel plans, I should strongly encourage you to fill up more often than you might be used to, understanding that the next gas station or two you come to might be closed.  There is also the possibility of more highway-closing protests, although your planned driving route doesn't appear to be along what I'd consider top-pick highways for that kind of thing.  For what it's worth, the maps I've been preparing for you include the location of last-chance gas stations—where there is no more gas available for at least 50 km.

It should be fun!
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: US 41 on January 05, 2017, 02:57:16 PM
Yeah Mexico really screwed up on this one.

I don't know all the details, but here's my opinion. They needed to have a transition of American (or elsewhere) companies actually building gas stations down there before they got rid of the regulated max price. Now they have a big problem because now Pemex can charge whatever they want because there is no other competition.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on January 05, 2017, 05:08:18 PM
Why would Conoco (for example) want to build gas stations in Mexico while the state franchises still had prices that were set artificially low?
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: corco on January 05, 2017, 09:08:33 PM
Thanks for your comments so far,  hoger!

Yeah - this is definitely throwing a little bit of a wrench into these plans, that and the US Embassy is now saying

Quote
U.S. government personnel must remain in tourist areas and are not allowed to use public transportation in Oaxaca City. U.S. government personnel are prohibited from traveling on Highway 200 throughout the state, except to transit between the airport in Huatulco to hotels in Puerto Escondido and Huatulco, and they are not permitted to travel to the El Istmo region. The El Istmo region is defined by Highway 185D to the west, Highway 190 to the north, and the Oaxaca/Chiapas border to the east and includes the towns of Juchitan de Zaragoza, Salina Cruz, and San Blas.

because apparently some municipal elections didn't go well and there have been a bunch of roadblocks, from what I gather in spanish-language news. Which is bad, since there's really no other viable route between San Cristobal and Oaxaca that doesn't involve a ton of backtracking.

That said, a lot can happen in six weeks so I'm not worried.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on January 05, 2017, 09:46:36 PM
Yeah, I wouldn't worry about it. The State Department issues widespread warnings and restrictions for its employees whenever anything happens. Where we drive for mission trips every year has been under such warnings for a good six years now, and we've had zero issues, as has everyone else we know, including someone who does the drive from Mississippi on a monthly basis.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: corco on January 05, 2017, 09:48:45 PM
Yeah, I wouldn't worry about it. The State Department issues widespread warnings and restrictions for its employees whenever anything happens. Where we drive for mission trips every year has been under such warnings for a good six years now, and we've had zero issues, as has everyone else we know, including someone who does the drive from Mississippi on a monthly basis.

Yeah I'm not worried about that, unless the road is physically blocked, because then the road is physically blocked and I'm screwed - it sounds like the issue is municipal workers (including the policia) not getting paid, which means there's little hope for getting through. But I can cross that bridge as I get there - with modern communications it should be possible to figure that out day-of.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on January 05, 2017, 09:53:49 PM
It's not like they're going to have the road blocked continuously, disallowing trucks and buses, for the next several weeks on end.

It's just something to keep in mind. And I've read that roadblocks in that part of the country sometimes let you through in exchange for a "donation" to support their cause. So carry a little extra cash in case, both USD and MXN. But that's a good idea in general.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: corco on January 05, 2017, 09:55:52 PM
It's not like they're going to have the road blocked continuously, disallowing trucks and buses, for the next several weeks on end.

It's just something to keep in mind. And I've read that roadblocks in that part of the country sometimes let you through in exchange for a "donation" to support their cause. So carry a little extra cash in case, both USD and MXN. But that's a good idea in general.

Yeah, I'm familiar enough with Mexico/other developing countries to know to keep a mordida in my front pocket with my driver's license separate from the rest of my cash.

If I can bribe my way through, I would accept that. I have no issues playing that game, and experience doing so.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on January 05, 2017, 10:01:54 PM
I've only bribed my way out of a speeding ticket, never encountered an illegitimate stop.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on January 06, 2017, 09:38:17 AM
Yeah Mexico really screwed up on this one.

I don't know all the details, but here's my opinion. They needed to have a transition of American (or elsewhere) companies actually building gas stations down there before they got rid of the regulated max price. Now they have a big problem because now Pemex can charge whatever they want because there is no other competition.

Why would Conoco (for example) want to build gas stations in Mexico while the state franchises still had prices that were set artificially low?

I forgot to add...  Foreign firms don't need to actually build gas stations in order to start selling gas.  They could instead buy existing Pemex stations and re-brand them.  Also, not knowing the details of Pemex's legal existence, I wonder if they might be able to supply the fuel to Pemex-branded franchises—leaving Pemex stations selling Mobil gasoline, for example.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: US 41 on January 06, 2017, 11:20:32 AM
I'm not sure. There's part of me that wonders if maybe they should have just left it alone and then there's another part of me that feels like this will end up being better for Mexico (and Mexican drivers) in the future.

I think within a couple of years we will begin to see quite a few non-pemex stations in Mexico. I also think that we might end up seeing some real truck stops in Mexico (ex: Pilot, Loves, etc), which would be great for Mexican truck drivers. I don't think Pemex offers any really good truck stops in Mexico.

So this is probably going to be a good thing for Mexico in the long run, but currently it is kind of a mess right now and people are understandably angry about the prices going up over 20% in one night. Maybe gradually raising the max over several months would have been the correct response, until it was high enough that they could just get rid of the max without too many people caring. Just getting rid of the max overnight was kind of iffy I think.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on January 06, 2017, 12:22:52 PM
I also think that we might end up seeing some real truck stops in Mexico (ex: Pilot, Loves, etc), which would be great for Mexican truck drivers. I don't think Pemex offers any really good truck stops in Mexico.

There are plenty of awesome truck stops in Mexico.  But only the gasoline part is branded as Pemex.  The restaurant, motel, and lounge areas carry other branding because they are not operated by Pemex.

So, for example, the truck stop between Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo has a Pemex gas station, a Subway restaurant, a Church's Chicken restaurant, an Helados Sortana smoothie vendor, a nice sit-down restaurant with awesome restrooms, the El Rancho motel (closed, last I knew), plus a US driver's insurance vendor.  If, say, this Pemex were to be taken over by Texaco, I'm sure all those 3rd-party enterprises would still carry their own branding.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: Jbte on January 10, 2017, 04:00:20 PM
Surprisingly I just did something really close to what you have in mind this last December, right before the petrol prices protests. My trip was this route; https://goo.gl/maps/rXZBmdQRRYu

DAY 1
My trip started from Puerto Escondido, I decided to take the road from Pochutla to Ocotlán, because its considered by many an very scenic route with so many flora diversity. Road conditions in this area may vary with some few potholes, but many speed bumps in towns. I just drived to "Hieve el Agua o Cascadas Petrificadas" or Petrified Waterfalls in English, there are some ugly cabins which I used just for sleep, as little as 15 dollar night.
(https://s30.postimg.org/t4w9r4o01/Collavi1.jpg)

This is the petrified falls during in the morning;
(https://s30.postimg.org/7wil9p9j5/Collavi2.jpg)

DAY 2
In this day I took the road to Tuxtepec as you have in your plans, definitely it's a good choice, unfortunately for me I, there was a cold front which was raining all the road, even there was some ice which caused my car to slice for a second in a curve segments. The road it's in good conditions, the pavement it's new, however there are so many curves in route, which will make the trip longer and will take you all day to cross the mountains. I did 10 hour drive from Oaxaca to Tuxtepec. And another 2 hours to Tlacotalpan. In Tlacotalpan I suggest you to stay at Hotel Doña Lala and its restaurant, its a great deal and confort (comparabvle to a Holiday Inn stanrads...)
(https://s30.postimg.org/nw18t95kx/Collavi3.jpg)

DAY 3
Tlacotalpan it's in the UNESCO list as a cultural town, definitely worth the visit, and to the Eyipantla falls and Catemaco lake. Roads are bad in Veracruz state, so I warn you to drive slow and watch all time for potholes. If you believe the main toll highway 145D it's fast and free of potholes... you're wrong (yeah you're paying for a terrible road), the worst segment it's the libre segment past Minatitlán, with huge potholes, where you can't travel fast until you arrive to Tabasco state.

Tabasco state has nice roads (almost no potholes) and they have better infrastructure for traveling in the state, in the same day I managed to travel to Palenque, but you can stay in Villahermosa.
(https://s30.postimg.org/7z2gwjd6p/Collavi4.jpg)


DAY 4
If you're going to visit Bonampak and Yaxchilán mayan ruins I suggest to to depart early in the morning from Palenque, the road to the ruins Bonampak and Frontera Corozal it's in good conditions except for the speed bumps in towns (even in really small towns not noticeable in the area), the road past Benemérito it's in terrible bad conditions until around Las Nubes and there are more than 3 military checkpoints, I got a revision, so no problem, and I feel safer in this area even I drove at night. If you plan doing this I suggest you to stay at eco-tourist area of Las Nubes. It's a long drive in this remote area. There are few services in area, but 2 gas stations at Benemerito town.

However in your plan, you plan driving in a difficult area controlled by the Zapatistas between Palenque and San Cristobal, I drove this area in April 2015, was exhausting long because the road it's full of speed bumps (topes) all the way (6 hour drive), even in middle of nowhere... the road it's occupied all segment by illegal construction of indigenous people. Some are brave which I suggest caution and not to mess with them, I found a drunk pedestrian in middle of road.... so watch out... lol, some which have their own rules and laws such for speeding for example, where they impose arbitrary fees of about 500 pesos (20 dollars). There are sections where you might find arbitrary checkpoints (in my case I found some girls doing it, lol), where you MUST pay a low fee, about 1 or 2 pesos for allow to pass. In security it's all good, no problem, but just in caution.

(https://s30.postimg.org/5699cicu9/Collavi5.jpg)

DAY 5
In this day I drove to Lagunas de Montebello National Park, its a really beautiful area next to the Guatamala border, I found this area similar to Lake Tahoe in CA, Chinkultic Mayan ruins, Tenam Puente and Cascada El Chiflón (El Chiflon Waterfalls), road it's in good conditions, few topes, no problem. Comitán it's also a big town with many services such Walmart, hotels, etc. In the same day I managed to drive to San Cristobal.
(https://s30.postimg.org/r6plt4vi9/Collavi6.jpg)


DAY 6
In San Cristobal there are many places to visit in town, such the chuchrcs and plazas. Early in the morning I left the town to Grutas Rancho Nuevo (Rancho Nuevo Caverns) somewhat like Carlsbad caverns in NM, but smaller. Also I recommend you to take 190D to Chiapa de Corzo, where you embark to see the canyon walls of Sumidero, woth the visit. You pay a national park fee where they place a paper bracelet, which its valid for the viewpoints north of Tuxtla in the same National Park. Road conditions are good all in this area.
(https://s30.postimg.org/6b3bhvzb5/Collavi7.jpg)

DAY 7
I did all travel back to Puerto Escondido from Tuxtla. The roads around Istmo are in good conditions (no problems), Salina Cruz it's a big town with good hotels comparable to holiday inn standards, shopping malls, etc. And a sunset in Puerto Escondido;
(https://s30.postimg.org/rys9sbzpd/Collavi8.jpg)

As you route to Campeche state, you should not worry about anything. Campeche its a really safe state in Mexico and roads and in good conditions, there are services in big towns. In my opinion I recommend you to visit Yucatán state too, the best place to visit in my opinion (except for the Chichen-Itza) its the Grutas de Calcehtok in Calcehtok town and Grutas de Loltún in Oxkutzcab, both amazing caverns you can ever visit in world!... worth visit!

As for the petrol prices protest... well it's a mess nation wide, but by June I think it will be calmer, so just wait for now.
Here some more details in spanish of this travel I did;
http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1509907&page=117

Cheers.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: corco on January 10, 2017, 06:54:02 PM
This is really good stuff- gracias! I'll be doing the trip in late February- I already have plane tickets, otherwise I would consider waiting for summer. Do you think it'll be advisable to travel in five weeks?

I really want to get to Tlacotalpan - and may shift some things around to do so.

I will keep in mind that I may have to pay some informal tolls between Palenque and San Cristobal - I was kind of expecting that anyway as a gringo. As long as they will take my money and let me pass, I'm okay with that within reason.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: Jbte on January 10, 2017, 07:58:25 PM
This is really good stuff- gracias! I'll be doing the trip in late February- I already have plane tickets, otherwise I would consider waiting for summer. Do you think it'll be advisable to travel in five weeks?


Honestly... I don't know, everything can happen, last year was the teacher protests for the educational reform, this time is for the petrol prices but haven't hear anything horrible for now in Oaxaca and Chiapas states for the petrol prices rather than protests, worst things were last week in Veracruz and Mexico state were many stores looted, but by February I guess (and hope) things will be calmer, even this week it's getting calmer than it was last week but still many gas stations closed according to this article.

http://eleconomista.com.mx/industrias/2017/01/10/van-180-gasolineras-cerradas-desabasto-e-inseguridad

Even there are people buying gas in the US and selling it in northern Mexico... lol

Problem I fear for the coming months basic products will rise in price due the petrol prices, which probably will cause some more protests from rural communities and poor people. EPN promised to enforce to keep same price to basic products, but can't believe his promises were he had said things that were not possible to achieve. If it happens, well consider not traveling between Palenque and San Cristobal or either around Oaxaca city communities, there are many conflictive people which will be mad for this.

I'll keep you informed.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: Jbte on January 21, 2017, 05:08:35 PM
I guess It's calmer by now, honestly If you go there, most likely everything will be alright, just travel and have fun.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on February 08, 2017, 01:05:12 PM
corco...

I've slacked off in preparing info for you.  The main culprit is that I've been needing to use up a bunch of PTO, so I've taking off work early instead of piddling around working on maps for you.  Secondly, I've frankly been more concerned with planning a trip of our own in June and one for our best friends in April.

I had already prepared detailed info from Oaxaca to Campeche, but not from there down through Chiapas and back to Oaxaca.  Included would be distances, locations of toll booths and inspection stations, guide signs, and locations of "last chance" gas stations—all overlain onto official state maps.  I'm also not sure if you've amended your travel plans since reading some of Jbte's recommendations up-thread.

What I'd like to know is how useful any or all of that info would be to you.  I still plan to send you a document describing Mexican driving from an American's perspective—what to expect, tips and warnings, laws and conventions, etc.—but I don't know how much research you've already done on your own ahead of time.

Let me know, OK?
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: corco on February 08, 2017, 02:49:41 PM
Thanks Mr. Hoger! As of now my plans are the same - it seems like things have settled down down there enough that there's no point in changing plans.

I've done a good amount of research myself, but am definitely also interested in your perspective... so anything you've already put together is greatly appreciated, but probably no need to do too much more.

I appreciate your help!
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on February 08, 2017, 04:10:47 PM
Roger that.  I might go ahead and put things together through the state of Campeche.  There are a lot of forks in the road.

Several days in advance of your trip, feel free to send me a PM and I'll give you my cell phone number to have with you.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: Jbte on February 08, 2017, 06:55:36 PM
You might find this useful...
https://drive.google.com/open?id=1polzeQWNjUoK1CKL6L-NNPs06V8&usp=sharing

I did somewhat according you have in plan, added some must go places in Yucatan state.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: corco on February 08, 2017, 07:39:31 PM
Whoa, very cool - thank you! That's going to give me a lot to chew on.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on February 20, 2017, 01:48:00 PM
When do you leave, corco?  I have maps prepared from Oaxaca to Escárcega, but that will probably be as far as I get.  I'll also hunt down a file of driving tips and expectations and edit that for you.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: NE2 on February 20, 2017, 03:53:38 PM
He's bedding Mexican crime bosses as you speak :D
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: corco on February 20, 2017, 09:20:03 PM
I'm actually in Villahermosa right now! So far all has gone smoothly - though has been somewhat interesting. Will post a detailed trip report when I get back.

In the meantime - still absolutely interested in your thoughts because I feel like I have a lot to learn!
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on February 20, 2017, 10:24:53 PM
My main thing to tell you, then, is that gas is very infrequent between Campeche and Escárcega. Some stretches are more than 100 miles between stations along your route.

Secondly, the road between Campeche and Xpujil has a million bypasses of tiny towns, so you might get confused once or twice. Follow signs for Dzibalchén and then Xpujil, and that should straighten out... all but one on them.

Thirdly, there is a large customs and immigration facility shortly after crossing into Chiapas, just past the cutoff for Emiliano Zapata and Tenosique. It was recently reconstructed, and I'm not exactly sure how it's to be navigated in the southerly direction.

Lastly, if you suspect you've gotten a bad tank of gas (small town stations and all), then you might consider a fuel additive to clean it (depending on your confidence with the rental agreement).

Other than that, if you've made it to Villahermosa in one piece, then you're probably good to go. (Did you miss your turn in Valle Nacional?)
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: corco on February 20, 2017, 10:46:52 PM
Very cool - thanks! My rental Spark made it from Oaxaca to Mintatitlan on 3/4 of a tank, so that is good - I suspect I'll be able to make it from Campeche to Xpujil on less than half a tank. The Spark has held up surprisingly well.

Quote
(Did you miss your turn in Valle Nacional?)

Yep! And then ended up in tope hell trying to get back on the main street (why they put particularly steep topes across intersection legs is beyond me).
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on February 21, 2017, 07:16:56 AM
The answer to that, I believe, has to do with a the general rule of "uno y uno," b meaning that people take turns at intersections. This general rule can even trump signs. Speed bumps at intersections slow you down so you actually do take turns.

In Ciudad del Carmen, there are two important traffic circles to turn at. Go right at the one with a digital clock tower on the middle. Go left at the one with a big squares-and-half-circles monument in the middle.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on February 21, 2017, 09:40:21 AM
I'm going to assume you'll have an internet connection to see this tonight.

You'll probably be leaving Campeche by way of Avenida Gobernadores, signed for Mérida.  The last gas station before leaving town is about four or five blocks past the point where the raised median ends.  From there it's 81 km to the next station.

Distances below are measured via the bypass routes; they will vary slightly if you go through towns instead.  In case you're wondering, the letter X in these place names is pronounced as "sh," which is a centuries-old way of pronouncing that letter and therefore the way that sound is written in the local indigenous languages.

Campeche — Hopelchén via Mex-261
77 km from the Periférico (Campeche bypass) to the Hopelchén bypass
Veer left to go through Hopelchén or veer right to bypass it

Now entering the Tierra de Mil Periféricos (Land of a Thousand Bypasses).  Most of the towns bypassed are dinky; they're probably not worth seeing, unless you really want to see small-town life in Campeche.  The state highway department must have a bunch of extra money or something, to have built bypasses for such insignificant villages.

Hopelchén — Dzibalchén via Camp-261
11 km from the Hopelchén/Dzibalchén split to the Xcupil bypass (left to bypass, right to go through town).
7 km from there to the Komchén bypass (left to bypass, right to go through town).
13 km from there to the Pakchén [a.k.a. Pac-Chen] bypass (left to bypass, right to go through town).
11 km from there to the Dzibalchén bypass (right to bypass, left go go through town).
Gas is available on the Dzibalchén bypass, last station for 143 km.

Dzibalchén — Xpujil via unnumbered tertiary highway
This route is signed with state highway shields, but I find no record of it being commissioned as a state highway.
53 km from the Dzibalchén/Xpujil split to an unmarked Y in the road; keep right, avoiding Xmabén.
88 km from there to Xpujil.

Entering Xpujil from the north, turn right at the first signalized traffic mini-circle; this is not well marked.  The other legs of the intersection have the only examples I've found of the correct shields for the road you just came down:  unnumbered "Rural" shields.  Gas is available shortly after leaving town to the west, last station for 148 km.

Xpujil — Escárcega via Mex-186
Not much to see through here, just a handful of small towns.
Gas available immediately upon entering town.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: corco on February 24, 2017, 04:48:56 PM
Just made the drive from Palenque to San Cristobal, and it was completely roadblock free which was kind of disappointing - after having read the horror stories on the road both here and elsewhere on the internet. I was actually kind of excited about it.

I had folded up in each pocket clockwise around my body a 50 peso bill, a 100 peso bill, a 200 peso bill, and a 500 peso bill, prepared to negotiate and whip out one of them once we agreed on a price without them seeing how much money I actually had on me.
Title: Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
Post by: kphoger on March 14, 2017, 01:02:42 PM
waiting for pictures...