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Author Topic: Mexico road trip planning  (Read 4925 times)

MrDisco99

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Mexico road trip planning
« on: January 05, 2015, 02:01:11 PM »

I'm considering taking a road trip into Mexico in my own car.

I've read up on the bureaucratic requirements like getting Mexican auto insurance and a vehicle permit and all that stuff.  I have some logistical questions, though.

I thought about arriving in Laredo the afternoon before and crossing the border then, getting my paperwork and sticker, then crossing back to spend the night in Texas, so that in the morning I could head straight in without having to stand in line.  Any problem with that plan?

Is it feasible to make it from Laredo to Mexico City in one day?  Seems to be doable based solely on distance, but I'm wondering if there are other considerations.

I see on streetwiew there are some new Banjercito kiosks on the Mexican approach road to the main bridge.  Can I turn in my vehicle permit there on my way back out or do I still need to go to the office under the bridge first?

Do the Pemex stations take credit/debit or should I plan to bring cash?  Any recommendations on where to stop for food (or where not to stop)?

My plan is to head into DF and spend a few days there, with an excursion to Teotihuacan while there.  Then from there drive to Villahermosa, take a day trip from there into Palenque and back, then drive back to Queretaro, then back up north.  I'm sticking to the big roads, toll roads where available.  Looks like I can count on 4-lanes the whole way except near Palenque.  Anything I should know about the route?

Will my Georgia plate make me a target driving that far south?  I'm hispanic and can speak Spanish OK, but I doubt I would pass for local.

Any advice is appreciated.  Thanks!
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lordsutch

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Re: Mexico road trip planning
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2015, 04:34:59 PM »

I can speak a little bit to the Laredo end of things. There wouldn't necessarily be a problem staying the night on the US side after getting your paperwork in order on the Mexican side, although you might have a long wait crossing back. The crossings would surely go quicker at the Colombia Bridge, although I don't know if there's a Mexican import permit office there or not. You can generally get the Mexican insurance in the US before crossing, although again I'm not sure if anyone sells it at the Colombia Bridge meaning you might have to backtrack.

My experience in Nuevo Laredo at least is that US plates, Texas ones at least, are very common, although once you get past the border zone (where I suspect a lot of the US plates are on vehicles used by Mexicans, but registered to American relatives and not legally imported to Mexico) they'd be less common but certainly not unheard of. If anything I suspect appearing Hispanic would make you more of a target rather than less, at least to the cartels (they generally avoid messing with gringos if they can help it). As always the general advice to only venture beyond cities in daylight is sound.
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vdeane

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Re: Mexico road trip planning
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2015, 01:27:31 PM »

where I suspect a lot of the US plates are on vehicles used by Mexicans, but registered to American relatives and not legally imported to Mexico
In Mexico it's illegal to drive a car if the registered owner isn't in the vehicle (except for rentals)... always wondered why they had that law, and this might be it.
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US 41

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Re: Mexico road trip planning
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2015, 03:01:12 PM »

I am planning on eventually driving to Mazatlan to drive the new autopista Durango-Mazatlan, so I may be able to help. The following web link will tell you how much tolls will be for the whole trip.
 http://aplicaciones4.sct.gob.mx/sibuac_internet/ControllerUI?action=cmdEscogeRuta

It is around $52 USD in tolls to drive from Laredo to Mexico City (so $104 round trip). Google Maps says it takes 12.5 hours to get from Nuevo Laredo to Mexico City.

 The Colombia Crossing does have a Banjercito where you can import your car. You may have to take a slight detour to get there. The TX 255 Toll Road is an automatic toll road and from what I've read you must prepay tolls before you use the road. It is called a day pass. However if you go south of the I-35/TX 255 interchange and go to Exit 8 you go west toward the commercial crossing, then take the next exit and go northwest on TX FM 1472. The Colombia Bridge has a toll booth ($3.50 to cross). This detour is an extra 13 miles longer, but it will save you $4 each direction and you won't have to prepay tolls on TX 255.

(I don't know if you plan on buying insurance online or in Laredo somewhere, but make sure you have it.)

Once you cross the Colombia Crossing and take care of everything, you will go left onto Highway 2. It is a 4 lane road. You will take Highway 2 all the way to 85. 2 will bypass Nvo. Laredo, so you will never have to go into that mess. Just south of the 2/85 interchange their is a Pemex gas station. Pemex is the only gas company in Mexico. Right after this you will come to a checkpoint. You will have to show them your FMM Tourist Card and your Temporary Import Permit. Once you clear this you will continue to take 85 south. After a while 85 will split off into 2 different routes. The "Cuota" and the "Libre". If you want to get their within a day take the Cuota. The cuotas are the 4 lane toll roads similar to our interstates and most have a speed limit of 110 km/h (68 mph). Libres on the other hand are 2 lane highways that will slow you down in small towns. Most libres only get up to a 50 mph speed limit.

Now 85 will go all the way to Mexico City, but it is not the way to go. Once you get to Monterrey the free road will merge with the toll road. South of that interchange you will come upon 40D (Monterrey's Bypass). Go west on it. (See link below.) It will take you Saltillo where you will go south onto 57 all the way to Mexico City. There may be some military checkpoints (I don't know for sure). If there are they are just checking for drugs, guns, and ammo. If you don't (which you shouldn't) have any of those things then they will let you continue.

In Monterrey: https://www.google.com/maps/dir/25.8935435,-100.2228274/25.8411821,-100.2564839/@25.8631958,-100.2300481,13z

In Saltillo: https://www.google.com/maps/dir/25.6168565,-100.8236436/25.580491,-100.8754084/@25.5985859,-100.844166,14z

If you get pulled over by the police my advice would be to treat them like the cops here. I wouldn't bribe them.

If I think of anything else to add to this I will. If you need more advice/help just ask and I'll be happy to help. I've never been to Mexico, but I have done a lot of research since I'm wanting to go to Mazatlan and enter Mexico at Colombia.

To answer some of your other questions. I've read that some Pemexes will accept debit/credit cards and others won't (especially ones in remote areas). Gas is also about $3.50 USD a gallon there. It used to be cheaper in Mexico I guess, but it isn't anymore. I think with the FMM tourist Card, once you leave Mexico it expires so I would stay the night somewhere in Mexico or just go to the Colombia Crossing at 8 in the morning (it opens at 8am and closes at midnight). Almost all Mexico goers will say not to drive at night. A lot of them say that driving at night on the toll roads is okay though, just don't drive on the libres at night. Whether or not this is true, they claim that animals (cows) will sleep on the roads at night since they are not heavily traveled. The toll roads are full of federal police and military that patrol the roads. I think the libres would even be safe to drive on.

Now I'll add in some more about the libres, etc. 85 between Monterrey and Nvo. Laredo is really the only place on your trip there will be something like this. Between Monterrey and Saltillo there is actually a libre route that is a 4 lane highway. The toll road is just much straighter and faster. Until 15-20 years ago libres were the only option. There were no toll roads. I've talked to Mexico Mike by email and he told me driving Mexican Highways is just as safe as driving highways in the US and Canada. Basically my point is that if you should choose to take libres they are probably just as safe as the toll roads. The only benefit to libres are the fact they are free. Between Saltillo and Queretaro the road (57) is 4 lanes all the way and it is free unless you bypass San Luis Potosi, which I would. There is no libre / cuota option here. I would also recommend buying a Guia Roji Mexican Road Atlas. The RandMcNally Map isn't really all that good. Heck it shows a large part of 57 being 2 lane (which it isn't).

Another important thing I should tell you about is that there are no drive days in Mexico City based off the number of your license plate. See link below.

http://www.sanbornsinsurance.com/drivingtips.php
« Last Edit: January 07, 2015, 03:44:20 PM by US 41 »
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NE2

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Re: Mexico road trip planning
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2015, 03:07:47 PM »

However if you go south of the I-35/TX 255 interchange and go to Exit 8 you go east toward the commercial crossing, then take the next exit and go northeast on TX FM 1472.
West and northwest (but if you're taking a trip without checking a map, you deserve to be misled by typos).
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MrDisco99

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Re: Mexico road trip planning
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2015, 04:37:13 PM »

I think with the FMM tourist Card, once you leave Mexico it expires so I would stay the night somewhere in Mexico or just go to the Colombia Crossing at 8 in the morning (it opens at 8am and closes at midnight).

I don't have to show that to anyone until the interior checkpoint, though, right?  So if I pocket it and leave and come back in the morning, it shouldn't matter?

I'm just wanting to get an early start into the interior and DO NOT want to spend the night in Nuevo Laredo.

Yeah the Colombia crossing is an option, but it opens at 8am and I'd have to backtrack from Laredo to get to it.  I'd rather cross at sunrise and go straight in if I can.

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US 41

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Re: Mexico road trip planning
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2015, 04:41:40 PM »

   Basically if you cross at Colombia, take the toll roads, and you don't drive at night this will be a very easy trip and you won't have anything to really worry about. On the toll roads there is a service called the Green Angels that will tow you for free (tips are appreciated) if you break down. Their phone number is 078, although some signs say 074, so if one doesn't work the other will. Also if you get a flat tire the toll road will pay to fix it. Keep your toll receipts. There's a pretty good chance that the green angels will patrol all of 57 between Monterrey and Mexico City even though it isn't a toll road.
   You have a bonus since you can speak some Spanish. I only speak English and I'm going to go to Mexico. Since it will be your first time in Mexico I would just take 85D and 57. Ignore the libre stuff I tried to explain earlier, just stick to the toll roads. Take the 4 lane highways and get there. I'm not sure if you will be able to do it all in a day or not. Another thing to keep in mind, I've read the toll booths only take cash (pesos).
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US 41

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Re: Mexico road trip planning
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2015, 04:43:37 PM »

I think with the FMM tourist Card, once you leave Mexico it expires so I would stay the night somewhere in Mexico or just go to the Colombia Crossing at 8 in the morning (it opens at 8am and closes at midnight).

I don't have to show that to anyone until the interior checkpoint, though, right?  So if I pocket it and leave and come back in the morning, it shouldn't matter?

I'm just wanting to get an early start into the interior and DO NOT want to spend the night in Nuevo Laredo.

Yeah the Colombia crossing is an option, but it opens at 8am and I'd have to backtrack from Laredo to get to it.  I'd rather cross at sunrise and go straight in if I can.

Yeah stay the night in Texas. I don't know if you can pocket it though. It still might expire and you might be fined if they see you left without cancelling it.

Just found it answered for you on FAQ.

Q:Is it possible to enter and exit Mexico multiple times with the same tourist card (FMM)?
A: Tourist cards (FMM) are not multiple entry, therefore each time you enter Mexico, you will need a new one

Q: Does the tourist card (FMM) have to be returned to INM?
A: Yes. The back of the FMM document states "...surrender it upon leaving the country."
« Last Edit: January 07, 2015, 05:00:15 PM by US 41 »
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lordsutch

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Re: Mexico road trip planning
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2015, 05:22:52 PM »

Apparently you can request a multiple-entry tourist card that's valid for 180 days at no additional charge, even though the "default" is a 90-day single-entry card; just ask for the 180-day stamp. This thread at FlyerTalk, although geared more to those flying than driving, should be helpful: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/mexico/1364009-requirements-visiting-mexico-tourist-fmm-tourist-card-visa-etc.html
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US 41

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Re: Mexico road trip planning
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2015, 05:43:16 PM »


I'm just wanting to get an early start into the interior and DO NOT want to spend the night in Nuevo Laredo.

I wasn't clear on this, but I agree I wouldn't want to stay the night in Nvo. Laredo either. By staying the night in Mexico I meant like Monterrey or Saltillo. Both of those cities are fairly safe and Monterrey is probably the most modern city in Mexico.
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MrDisco99

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Re: Mexico road trip planning
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2015, 07:46:09 PM »

See, I thought the FMM was needed only to get past the border zone.  Even if I cross back and go back in the next morning, I haven't used it yet.  Do they collect it at the outbound interior checkpoint or at the actual border?  I would think the interior checkpoint since you don't actually need an FMM if you're just hanging out in the border zone.

I guess asking for a multiple entry card would be playing it safe.

Also, I've seen where you can get your vehicle permit online, which is great, but it sounds like you still need to stop by the office and get your FMM card?  Is that right?

I may have to look into hotel options in Monterrey.  The more I see about that city the more tempted I am to check it out rather than bypass it.
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US 41

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Re: Mexico road trip planning
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2015, 09:45:02 PM »

See, I thought the FMM was needed only to get past the border zone.  Even if I cross back and go back in the next morning, I haven't used it yet.  Do they collect it at the outbound interior checkpoint or at the actual border?  I would think the interior checkpoint since you don't actually need an FMM if you're just hanging out in the border zone.

I guess asking for a multiple entry card would be playing it safe.

Also, I've seen where you can get your vehicle permit online, which is great, but it sounds like you still need to stop by the office and get your FMM card?  Is that right?

I may have to look into hotel options in Monterrey.  The more I see about that city the more tempted I am to check it out rather than bypass it.

Online it acts like you fill out the information on the FMM. The official in the building will then stamp it when your done. Actually if you remain within the border zone for more than 72 hours you are required to get an FMM card. When the customs official stamps your passport they can see when you arrived and when you've left. It sounds like you get the FMM at the same place you get your car permit. If you entered at Colombia you would have to get it stamped there, then once you leave you would just return it to the same building. (You don't have to return your permits the same place you got them.)
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kphoger

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Re: Mexico road trip planning
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2015, 11:15:30 AM »

I've crossed at Colombia six times, driving to southern Coahuila every time. I've stayed in Pearsall five of those times in order to make it to Colombia shortly after opening. I have a Camino Colombia day pass, and have gone the Mines Road route once as well. I've never come right through town before, but some associates of mine do so every time.

If I were going to stay the night at the border, I'd choose the Holiday Inn Express in Nuevo Laredo. It's right on the Colosio bypass on the south end of the city, and has decent security from what I've read. IMO, crossing the border three times would be a waste of time.

Pretty much everyone recommends not talking the free road between Laredo and Monterrey; I never have either, but the toll is just over $200. The free bypass around Monterrey is free of stoplights and can be done at around 45-65 mph, depending on traffic; it's dirty and full of trucks, but the toll is no longer worth the cost IMO. The toll road out of Monterrey toward Saltillo is totally worth it, even for that short distance to the Matehuala highway; it was finished in 2010 or so, has much less traffic, is in pristine condition, and doesn't cost very much.

If I were you, I wouldn't plan on making Mexico City in one day. I think it's possible (I've seen DF license plates near the border in the evening, leading me to believe they made it north in one shot), but it would be a hard day of driving. Driving in Mexico takes more energy because you have to pay closer attention. Pavement quality varies, you have to deal with 20-mph trucks and 100-mph BMWs, and other things. Time spent at roadside checkpoints varies as well: they might not bat an eye at you, or they might search your vehicle, not to mention the length of the line of cars. Mexico City traffic is reportedly very thick and it's easy to get lost in. You don't want to have to find your hotel after dark.

If I were the one making the drive, I would plan my crossing and lodging in one of two ways:

(1) Stay the night in Cotulla, cross at Colombia right after it opens. Plan for 1.5 hours to complete all paperwork, go potty, put the windshield sticker on, etc. Drive to San Luis Potosí and spend the night there. Arrive in Mexico City in the early afternoon.

(2) Cross at downtown Laredo in the evening, and stay the night in Nuevo Laredo (my pick would be Holiday Inn Express). Drive to San Juan Del Rio (Qro) and stay the night. Arrive in Mexico City the next morning.
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kphoger

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Re: Mexico road trip planning
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2015, 11:31:28 AM »

Regarding your paperwork... You could get your FMM and vehicle permit at the border, then drive back into Laredo, then back south the next day. Technically, I think maybe you're supposed to turn it in and get a new one every time you cross the border, but there's no possible enforcement of that. And it might not even be a rule, at all I'm not sure. They don't ask to check for it at the border itself, since it's not required for short visits to the border zone. They usually ask for it at the km-26 checkpoint, and some traffic cops and troopers might as well. None of those people care which side of the river you stayed the night on. As I said, I think multiple border crossings would be a waste of time.

Upon returning, you do not turn in your papers at the km-26 checkpoint. It is your responsibility to return them upon leaving; nobody will double-check you, since some people live in Mexico on a visa and don't necessarily have anything to turn in. (This info varies by crossing point, but holds true for both Laredo and Colombia.)

At Colombia, there is a small shack/kiosk on the road between Hwy 2 and the river; it's on the left. You peel the sticker off there, they take a picture of your VIN, and give you a receipt. You turn that receipt in at the customs building along with your FMM. If you paid cash for your vehicle deposit, you'll get cash back on the spot; if you paid with a card, you'll get a refund within a week. To get to the customs building from the permit kiosk, you make a left turn to the parking lot. To get from the parking lot back to the bridge toll booth, you do what looks like it'll get you in trouble: drive a short distance the wrong way towards the guards, then veer back across the same crossover you used to get there (FYI, driving is on the left on that crossover). It looks like the wrong way to do things, but it's quicker than doing a big loop to the south, and I've been specifically directed to do it that way twice by security guards.
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