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Author Topic: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)  (Read 6723 times)

corco

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Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« 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?
« Last Edit: December 08, 2016, 10:09:19 PM by corco »
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kphoger

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #1 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.
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kphoger

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #2 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)

Also, the Oaxaca airport has on-campus car rental from Alamo and Europcar.  Both are large chain operations.
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vdeane

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #3 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)
That's interesting.  Wonder why they do that.
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kphoger

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #4 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)
That's interesting.  Wonder why they do that.

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

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #5 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).
« Last Edit: December 13, 2016, 08:48:09 PM by corco »
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kphoger

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #6 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.
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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #7 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.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2016, 09:00:15 PM by corco »
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US 41

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #8 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.
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kphoger

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #9 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.
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kphoger

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #10 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.
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US 41

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #11 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
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Mapmikey

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #12 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)
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...
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kphoger

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #13 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!
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kphoger

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #14 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
Example #2

Note that even the overhead signs at these same locations incorrectly display a state highway shield.  The ground-mounted ones are correct.
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US 41

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #15 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).
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kphoger

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #16 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.
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kphoger

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #17 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!
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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #18 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.
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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #19 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?
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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #20 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.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2017, 09:11:29 PM by corco »
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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #21 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.
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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #22 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.

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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #23 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.
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Re: Southern Mexico (Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche)
« Reply #24 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.

 


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