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Driving into Mexico

Ryan Rodgers , Oct 23, 2008; 08:31 p.m.

I'm looking into winter photo destinations and am considering Mexico. How do people feel about driving solo around Mexico in one's own car? It'd be either Baja, the eastern coast or Copper Canyon.


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John Behrends , Oct 24, 2008; 12:40 a.m.

Hi Ryan, I have driven many times from Portland Oregon to Los Mochis and Mazatlan Mexico. It is more safe and simple than most people think. From Nogales, Sonora all the way down the coast you can choose toll roads"couta" or the free roads. I suggest taking the toll roads , better condition, rest stops, police patrols etc. Don't drive at night if possible, no lighting on roads, people , bicycles and animals make for unsafe conditions. They also have military checkpoints looking for contraband. The Copper Canyon is a nature and people photogs dream. I have taken the first class train from Los Mochis to Divisdero, staying in a hotel perched on the rim. Long winding train trip indeed! I don't believe you can "drive" into the best parts of the canyon, however you can get close. I hope I have helped a bit, thanks

Jennifer Marshall , Oct 24, 2008; 10:18 a.m.

Your US auto insurance is not valid in Mexico. You'll need to have a policy issued by a Mexican insurance company; liability at a minimum and, if your car is leased or financed, physical damage coverage that at least covers your lienholder. They're relatively easy to get -- Google "mexico auto insurance" and you'll get a bunch of places to check for coverage. Have fun!

Hosteen Yendikeno , Oct 24, 2008; 11:31 a.m.

and if you are any kind of gun person, make VERY sure that all weapons, ammunition, etc., are out of the car before you venture into Mexico. If not, you might be staying there much longer than originally planned.

Ryan Rodgers , Oct 26, 2008; 11:43 p.m.

Thanks kindly for the insight, folks. That'll help me kick my planning up a gear.

Chad Hahn , Nov 06, 2008; 12:28 p.m.

Recently the State Department put Nogales Sonora on the watch list. There have been instances of Americans being harassed in that town and American cars being chased on the highway to Hermosillo. I don't know if this is because of the anti-immigrant sentiment in America or the escalating drug wars happening along the border or both.

I'm not saying to drive, but I would ask around. I have driven down into Mexico many times but in the last year or so things have gotten crazy along the border and I'm not sure if I would want to anymore. Of course a lot of times things are blown up out of proportion.


Rachid Dahnoun , Nov 06, 2008; 08:56 p.m.

Hey Ryan,

I am a pro photographer based out of South Lake Tahoe, CA (also used to live in San Diego). I have spent A LOT of time in Mexico, specifically Baja, including one trip for 5 weeks by car all the way down to Cabo and back. Word to the wise, Baja and Mexico have changed considerably in the last year to year and a half. I didn't use to worry and went down there a few times a month to photograph and surf. There have been numerous incidents involving Americans in the last year and simply put, I won't go down there at all right now. There is a lot of tension with the government and the cartels. The government is cracking down on the cartels so the cartels are cracking down on the tourist industry to hurt the government. It's a vicious cycle that you don't want to be caught in the middle of. It used to be that once you got south of Rosarito it was pretty safe, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore. I don't want to scare you off, but I just wanted to make sure you knew what you're getting into. I have traveled all my life and am not afraid to go to foreign countries. I only say that because I want you to know that I'm not one of these reactionary people who think they're going to die if they leave the comfort of their own home. Check out these links for some recent stories.



Many long time San Diego locals have simply stopped going down there. You might go down there and have no problems at all, or..... I view the whole thing as a big roll of the dice these days.

If you still decide to go here are some things to remember.

1. Bring only what you need

2. Keep your cash in different places in your vehicle and on your person

3. Don't bring a gun or a knife that is large enough to be considered a weapon

4. Make an effort to speak Spanish (it will get you a lot farther in most situations)

5. Don't advertise that you're an American (don't clean your car before you go or have the car so full that you can't see out the window, it's like putting a big target sign on yourself)

6. Don't drive at night...ever.

7. If you do have any run-ins with the police and they want money ask them to go to the station to pay whatever fine or ticket you received. Nine times out of ten you will be let go.

8. If your in a situation that feels bad or wrong, get out, it probably is bad and wrong.

9. Get through Tijuana and Rosarito as quickly as possible. Things are better down south. However, there still have been recent incidents south of Ensenada.

10. Get the Mexican car insurance before you get down there

Hope that helps. If you go, have a great time and be safe.

Rachid Dahnoun

Craig Gillette , Nov 08, 2008; 01:58 p.m.

The only thing I would add to that is don't get involved in use of illegal drugs or use legal drugs or alcohol to excess. I haven't been to Mexico in years (I live in SoCal) but many people I know go all the time, people I know with family there go all the time, etc. The people I know or knew that had problems down there had problems after drinking too much or were involved in vehicle accidents. One of my neighbors had marijuana in the car and was involved in a fatal accident. That was ugly.

Sac Bee , Nov 08, 2008; 02:55 p.m.

Probably this could be helpful for dealing with different situations, just in case you're caught by a cop. Don't forget to read the embedded links in the article: http://sachinb.blogspot.com/2008/11/10-driving-tips-for-foreginers-driving.html

Ryan Rodgers , Nov 15, 2008; 10:54 p.m.

Wow, that's a lot to think about. Considering the driving distance and social unrest I'm leaning toward Big Bend and maybe the western Gulf Coast. But when I do get a chance to cross the border I'll be much better off, thanks to you all, than before.

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