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Author Topic: Places to walk into Mexico from south Texas?  (Read 718 times)

Jim

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Places to walk into Mexico from south Texas?
« on: October 28, 2017, 10:44:35 PM »

I'm going to be in Austin for a conference and arranged to fly down ahead of time (into SAT) so I have all of Saturday and Sunday next weekend to do some exploring.  My current plan is a loop down to the lower Rio Grande Valley area, possibly taking I-35 down to Laredo, then following the valley to Brownsville (day 1) and then back up to Austin (day 2).  I'm wondering if there's an especially good place where I could take an hour or so to walk across into Mexico. I'd be looking for a place I could park a rental car securely with all of my things locked inside, walk across to some tourist-friendly spot to check out a small piece of Mexico, and come back without too much delay.
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US 41

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Re: Places to walk into Mexico from south Texas?
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2017, 07:48:27 PM »

Personally I'd go to the Big Bend Natl Park and go to Boquillas if you really want to go to Mexico. I've been there. It's neat, it's Mexico, and it's safe. There is secure parking and I have spent the night in this town. The Big Bend itself is also way more scenic than anywhere along the lower Rio Grande Valley. According to Google Maps you would be in for 12.5 hours of driving, but if you have 2 days that is perfectly reasonable. I've visited the Big Bend twice and I have enjoyed myself both times I've went. The Santa Elena Canyon is probably the best part of the park. And then there's the mountains and the hot spring.

If you cross into Mexico in the lower Rio Grande Valley I would advise against visiting Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Matamoros. All three of those cities are somewhat dangerous and are known for having cartel violence. Larger border cities in general are the more dangerous parts of Mexico. The interior of Mexico is generally much safer. Smaller border towns should be okay however. I've heard of people crossing into Nuevo Progresso. That is probably the safest place to cross in that area. I looked and there is parking on the US side available for $2. Looks like the driving is about 11 hours if you go that route.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2017, 07:53:07 PM by US 41 »
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Jim

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Re: Places to walk into Mexico from south Texas?
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2017, 08:49:27 PM »

Thanks, Big Bend sounds like another option to consider, regardless of whether I decide it's worth trying to cross into Mexico.

Good to know about the bigger cities to avoid also.
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kphoger

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Re: Places to walk into Mexico from south Texas?
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2017, 02:31:26 PM »

Personally I'd go to the Big Bend Natl Park and go to Boquillas if you really want to go to Mexico. I've been there. It's neat, it's Mexico, and it's safe. There is secure parking and I have spent the night in this town. The Big Bend itself is also way more scenic than anywhere along the lower Rio Grande Valley. According to Google Maps you would be in for 12.5 hours of driving, but if you have 2 days that is perfectly reasonable. I've visited the Big Bend twice and I have enjoyed myself both times I've went. The Santa Elena Canyon is probably the best part of the park. And then there's the mountains and the hot spring.

If you cross into Mexico in the lower Rio Grande Valley I would advise against visiting Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Matamoros. All three of those cities are somewhat dangerous and are known for having cartel violence. Larger border cities in general are the more dangerous parts of Mexico. The interior of Mexico is generally much safer. Smaller border towns should be okay however. I've heard of people crossing into Nuevo Progresso. That is probably the safest place to cross in that area. I looked and there is parking on the US side available for $2. Looks like the driving is about 11 hours if you go that route.

I've studied Mexican government-issued data regarding the drug violence in Mexico to quite some extent.  The data set I had was for between December 2006 through September 2011, broken down by month and location.  I don't remember Reynosa and Matamoros specifically, but I do remember what I found out for Nuevo Laredo.  I looked into that city quite a bit, because we were crossing the border annually near there at the time.  Nuevo Laredo has a low level of violent crime, nothing to be concerned about.  But, every few months or so, a violent incident would erupt and there would be a spike in the numbers.  During those times, there were incidents of innocent bystanders being in the crossfire, the violence was making headlines, etc.  But, within a couple of days, things were under control again for a few months.  So I wouldn't worry about hopping across the border there for an hour or two.  I suspect Reynosa and Matamoros are similar but, as I said, I can't remember offhand if I looked at them with any real scrutiny or not.

Ciudad Juárez is really the only border city that I would advise avoiding period.  That city was off the chart every month back when I was crunching data, with a homicide rate consistently surpassing even the worst of US cities.  Even that violence was not targeted at tourists, of course, but the city has been known as one where the cartels are stronger than the police force.  It is also where a couple connected to the US consulate was targeted and killed by a cartel while I was in México in 2010.  I remember that story vividly, because I saw it on live TV news while sitting at the dinner table of the children's home we were serving at, and because it was the first mission trip I had led down there.

As far as convenience goes, Nuevo Laredo is pretty easy to reach from Laredo.  I haven't crossed in town since I was a kid, but parking should be pretty easy to find.  It looks like there's even a big parking garage very close to the border.  As I said, I haven't crossed in town since the streets on the Mexican side were dirt (in recent years, we've crossed upriver at Colombia), but it looks like you'd get more of the typical experience you're looking for by crossing at Bridge #1 (Convent Ave).
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US 41

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Re: Places to walk into Mexico from south Texas?
« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2017, 10:29:17 PM »

Did you end up going to Mexico? Two weeks ago I ended up driving from Ojinaga to Mazatlan and then from Mazatlan to Nuevo Laredo without any issues. I'll definitely not hesitate to drive into Mexico again in the future if I'm ever near the border.
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Jim

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Re: Places to walk into Mexico from south Texas?
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2017, 09:46:40 AM »

Did you end up going to Mexico? Two weeks ago I ended up driving from Ojinaga to Mazatlan and then from Mazatlan to Nuevo Laredo without any issues. I'll definitely not hesitate to drive into Mexico again in the future if I'm ever near the border.

I didn't.  Mainly due to time constraints and a hesitation to leave all of my things in the parked rental car.

I'd be interested in hearing more about your drive.
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US 41

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Re: Places to walk into Mexico from south Texas?
« Reply #6 on: November 25, 2017, 06:28:27 PM »

I'd be interested in hearing more about your drive.

November 7- I bought 4 days worth of Mexican auto insurance (liability only) in Presidio, TX for $44. I then proceeded to head into Ojinaga. I filled all my paperwork out (my visa and car permit) in less than a half hour. I then headed south on Chihuahua State Route 67 to Jimenez. CHIH 67 is a very desolate 2 lane road that runs out in the middle of no where for several hours. Once I got to Jimenez I hopped on the toll road (49D) and took it south to Torreon. On the way I was pulled over and searched for drugs. I ended up sleeping in my car at the Cuencame rest area on the toll road.

November 8- I set out for Mazatlan. The point of my trip was to drive on the Autopista Durango - Mazatlan which has around 60 tunnels on it and the continent's highest suspension bridge. On the way to Mazatlan I was stopped at two police checkpoints and waived through a military checkpoint. I decided to drive into Mazatlan to go see the Pacific Ocean, which I had never seen before. Mazatlan has a very large police / military presence which is kind of an eery feeling. I drove around Mazatlan with the windows down however and felt safe enough. Once I had reached the ocean I decided to go head back east and made it back to the Cuencame rest area once again.

November 9- I left Cuencame very early in the morning and made it back to the US border around 4PM or so. The drive from Monterrey to Nuevo Laredo is considered dangerous by many, but I didn't have any issues and I would do it again without hesitation. The truck only crossing was very backed up and I had to cross the median and drive the wrong direction for a couple of miles on MX Hwy 2. US border patrol sucked as usual, but it is what it is. They aren't going to stop me from visiting other countries (which Canada and Mexico are the only two countries I'm willing to travel to).

Overall thoughts on Mexico- After visiting I definitely would not hesitate to go back to Mexico again in the future. Overall Mexico seems pretty safe. I wasn't at any point fearing for my life or worried about being a victim of violence. The police down there are almost too honest in many ways. They were all very professional, but if you go down to Mexico getting pulled over and getting questioned / searched should almost be expected.

I should also add that I am only 21 years old and I did this trip alone (around 1400 miles in Mexico). I also arguably drove through some of the so called sketchier areas of Mexico. While I did mostly stick to toll roads, I would most definitely take the free roads in the future. The major benefit of the toll roads is that you can avoid cities, they are a lot smoother (for the most part), and there is probably a less chance of getting stopped by police and/or military checkpoints.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2017, 06:37:12 PM by US 41 »
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kphoger

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Re: Places to walk into Mexico from south Texas?
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2017, 01:33:50 PM »

Mazatlan has a very large police / military presence which is kind of an eery feeling. I drove around Mazatlan with the windows down however and felt safe enough.

You should have felt safe.  Those are the good guys.   :D  A large city with no visible police force would have been more eerie.

The drive from Monterrey to Nuevo Laredo is considered dangerous by many, but I didn't have any issues and I would do it again without hesitation.

I've only really heard that about the free road.  Of course, only part of the route has a toll option anyway...  I get the impression that specific area used to see more action than it does nowadays.  I used to see a lot of military presence there.

Overall Mexico seems pretty safe. I wasn't at any point fearing for my life or worried about being a victim of violence 

Of course, that can be deceptive.  But the numbers just really aren't all that alarming.  Mexico, before the recent war on drugs, had been seeing declining rates of violence for decades, such that the uptick since 2007 has only put it back to where it used to be in the 1970s.  And, statistically speaking, safer than Jamaica and Belize and even Puerto Rico.

The police down there are almost too honest in many ways. They were all very professional, but if you go down to Mexico getting pulled over and getting questioned / searched should almost be expected.

Polite and honest in my experience also.  But it's important to remember that they are the authority and they carry powerful weapons.  And they are on the lookout for seriously dangerous people.  I don't know if you were aware, but there were two guys from Wichita who were shot dead at close range by a special forces checkpoint in Saltillo while they were on there way to Guanajuato, right around the timeframe you were down there.  The investigation is still ongoing, and the officers have been imprisoned and face up to 50 years behind bars, but there is so far no apparent reason for the attack.  The officers claimed they were fired at first, but the Americans had no weapons in the car and tested negative for GSR.  Not to frighten you or anything, but I just wanted to say that sometimes things do happen.

I also arguably drove through some of the so called sketchier areas of Mexico.

Not the sketchiest.  Those would be Ciudad Juárez and Ciudad Chihuahua.  Torreón is up there, but I'm not sure if you actually went into the city at all.  Overall, you weren't in any places that are more violent than, say, East Saint Louis—and I bet you never think twice about driving I-55 through there.
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