Driving To Mexico City From The United States
We left for Texas from Ohio in the evening to drive straight to Eagle Pass, Texas to then pass on through and continue driving to Mexico City. The Jeep was all packed up, Shelly's car is stored in the field with our Rhino Bags and we said our goodbyes to our families.
We drove all night into the next day. We took turns driving and made it to Eagle Pass in the late afternoon. We booked the Maverick Inn near the border and rested that night to wake up early and head on through the Piedras Negras border the following morning. The Maverick is a budget hotel, however the rooms are huge and has ample semi-private parking which was good for not having to unload our over-packed jeep.
Piedras Negras, Mexico
Piedras Negras Border Check Point
In the morning we woke and at the headed for the border. As we crossed into Mexico, we were sent to secondary inspection where we pulled up and sat for a few minutes. A guy comes out, has us open up our back hatch to our Jeep, points to a duffel bag and says can you open that bag. We opened the bag for him, he looked in and said we were all set to leave. That was it? Incredible!! We were happy to be moving our way through Mexico without getting searched. We were bringing with us a lot of electrical items to Roatan, Honduras including a 32" television, Blu-ray DVD player etc. and were worried about getting charged import taxes in the countries we were traveling through. One border down...3 more to go.
The Zona Frontera
We didn't know this, however there is a "free zone" where you can travel around Mexico without a stamp in your passport, visa, or paperwork for your car. There is a 40-50 km or so border zone that is basically no-man's land. We thought we had passed immigration and customs office at one point until finally we made it to the buildings off highway 57 on the way south. Just before the city of Nava, we finally hit the checkpoint. We walked in, stood in line, and got our passport stamped, then we went to get the "permiso" for the Jeep.
Getting Vehicle Paperwork in Mexico
To drive in Mexico you need a "permiso". This means literally, permission. It's a piece of paper and hologram sticker you get if you want to venture further than the 40km border no-man's land. You will need Mexican Insurance (your US insurance won't work) We bought ours for 2 weeks in Eagle Pass the previous day before heading to the border. You will also need the title to your car. Not a copy, the original. Make copies of the original, because they will need a copy of it to process your permission. A current registration is also needed. That's it! Once you provide them with this information, they issue the "permiso". It is advisable to make multiple copies of EVERYTHING including your passports, title, registration, insurance and driver's license. You will need to provide copies and some borders don't have copy machines or will charge you to make copies.
Highway 57 To Saltillo
Mexican Driving Etiquette
We headed out for our fist stop of the trip through Mexico and arrived in Saltillo in the evening. The drive to Saltillo through the desert mountains is beautiful and what surprised us the most is how awesome the highways are in Mexico! Smooth and well maintained. There is also a different way of signaling and etiquette in Mexico. When someone wants to pass you on a two lane road, they will come up behind you and hit their left turn signal and flash their lights, you will then turn your left turn signal on head over to the right berm on the edge of the highway, signaling they can pass you on your left.
The cars coming from the opposite direction will also see the left blinker on the passing car pull into their side berm. This creates a center lane where people can pass. It's brilliant and works well. When we first saw it, we were wondering why people in front of us had their left blinker on in a place where you couldn't turn. They were signaling to me, that I could pass them and it was safe. Such a great way to drive, I wish they had this system in the States. The Mexican drivers really are more conscious of other drivers.
We arrived after about 5 hours in rush-hour traffic in Saltillo and suddenly I noticed out of the corner of my eye a police car and the passenger inside waving at me to pull over. I just waved back and nodded as if I didn't know what they wanted. They persisted and I pulled over. The police man and woman got out of their car and told asked me "Do you have paperwork for your car?" I responded, "of course we do, do you think we would drive through Mexico without it" He then said he wanted to see it. I showed him the paperwork and he showed me that there was a sticker attached to the paperwork.
We hadn't realized that there was a sticker and that we had to put it on our front window. He said he had to write us a ticket. I pleaded with them, and even tried to bribe them, and they were unwavering. I said I didn't know how to read Spanish that well and that I could only speak it, he then showed me where the directions are in English as well. I was stuck! So I resorted to begging! Finally after a while, they let us go and we put the sticker in the window. That evening we drove around the downtown Saltillo streets in search of food and took in some old colonial architecture. It has an immaculately clean downtown area and looks really nice! We would have liked to spend more time exploring it. That night we hunkered down at the Microtel Hotel in Saltillo which had secured locked gate access parking and didn't have to unload the jeep that night. Driving to Mexico City from Saltillo is only a 10 or 11 hour drive, however we decided to make it two more days to minimize fatigue and driving at night.
San Luis Potosi, Mexico
San Luis Potosi
San Luis Potosi was our next stop the following day which is around 6 hours down 57 from Saltillo. We continued down Highway 57 though the desert and really enjoyed our drive. Driving in Mexico so far was a pleasure with beautiful landscapes and no real issues whatsoever. There was another checkpoint on the other side of the highway stopping northbound traffic, however none on our side until we arrived into San Luis Potosi.
We didn't have cell service or internet yet, and we were looking for a hotel by driving around in the afternoon . As we got off the main highway, I saw a few police on the side of the road waving me over, I acted like I didn't see them and kept driving by. There was no reason to pull me over and it appeared they were just interested in what I was doing so far from home with a loaded Jeep. No one had a vehicle and the police were just standing on a corner so I just kept going
We ended up finding a hotel called Hotel María Dolores. It is a really nice hotel with a Jacuzzi tub in the room and great secured parking. Again, we didn't have to unload the jeep! YEAH! We are dreading the day when we will have to unload everything into our hotel room and back in the jeep the next day. The next day we would be driving to Mexico City.
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City, Mexico
We headed out from San Luis and noticed that this stretch of 57 was far busier and had more toll booths than previous legs. Still nicely maintained and easy to navigate, we made our way to Querétaro, about half way to Mexico City. We got something to eat and went to and got sim cards and service for our phones with TelCel.
As we made it into Mexico City we were amazed at how congested the highways and how bad the traffic was. We were simply overwhelmed. Our Garmin GPS was taking us to the City Center because we didn't know where to go and didn't have anything booked. We stopped off near the airport and tried to find some AirBNB rooms and were unsuccessful getting a hold. We finally found a hotel in the Reforma Neighborhood called the Krystal Grand Reforma Uno. We got a great deal on the Junior suite which was huge! We wanted Shelly and Buddha to be in a safe neighborhood and well taken care of.
I had to go fly back to California to take care of some business related things and would be gone for a few days and I wanted Shelly to be comfortable as it was our first time being separated in a foreign country. The Grand Krystal Reforma was perfect! We made it to Mexico City in 3 days and absolutely love this City! We don't like driving in it, but we were able to explore a little and enjoy the street food stalls. We were glad to have made it this far without incidence and realized how easy it is to travel by car deep into Mexico.
Change In Perspective
Driving to Mexico City from Ohio is full of challenges and preconceived ideas. The largest change in perspective is how full of crap people are that tell you driving in Mexico is dangerous and how wrong our preconceived ideas were. Alright, maybe not full of crap, only half full. We didn't drive at night and were always in a secured place by sundown. But, this is traveling. You stay smart and it's not as dangerous as people say. We ignored the government warnings and suggestions from online forums and did it anyway. It was great! We loved driving in Mexico and had no issues that weren't easily remedied like what happened in Saltillo and that was my fault for not reading the paperwork.
We think it's important that you follow your own path. Don't give much heed to other's negativity. Follow your dreams and do exactly that which makes you happy. Get out and don't be afraid to try something different, do something new or travel somewhere "dangerous" because after all, it's your experience and it will be unique to whatever anyone else says their experience is. Just be smart and take precautions.