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The First Timers RV Guide to Mexico Travel, Part I
by Gordon Jett
Gordon Jett is a retired public
relations and advertising executive. He and his wife, Betty, lived in
Singapore and Australia, but always planned to retire in Mexico. They have
lived in San Miguel de Allende for the past six years. The second half of this
article will appear in the November 2000 issue of The Mexico File.
My wife (co-pilot/navigator) and I have lived full-time in Mexico for the
last six years. One of our homes is in San Miguel de Allende, a beautiful
colonial town north of Mexico City. The other is wherever we park our RV. We
have driven and camped from the US border to the Guatemalan border and from
the Gulf Coast to the Pacific Coast.
The great majority of RVers we meet in Mexico love traveling here. “Wish
we’d come down years ago!” is a common response. Yet most of the RVers we
meet in the States think we are crazy. “Aren’t you afraid?” We answer
truthfully that after living in Los Angeles with its gang wars, drive-by
shootings, fires, mud slides, riots and earthquakes, Mexico is a tranquil
haven for us. Are there places we would not go in Mexico? Yes, but not nearly
as many as the places we would not travel in the US.
There are many, many differences between our two countries. And one of the
biggest differences is the driving conditions. In the States you can cover 600
miles a day with your brain on auto-pilot and your stereo going full blast. In
Mexico, driving 150 miles can be a long, exhausting day. There are many potential
driving hazards down here that you never encounter in the States. You really
have to stay alert.
Your co-pilot/navigator will earn his or her fare by adding an extra pair
of eyes. There is much to see and much you have to see to avoid problems. If
you consider right from the start that driving is a two-person job down here,
you will have a safer and more enjoyable trip.
My purpose in writing is not to scare people away from Mexico. Quite the
opposite, it is to acquaint you with the differences between here and the
States so you will be prepared, relaxed and confident about coming down. It is
designed to help you drive your RV to any destination or cultural treasure you
choose in Mexico and arrive safe and stress-free!
CROSSING THE BORDER
Taking your vehicle into Mexico is a simple matter of P & P¼preparation
and patience. Preparation means you have all your vehicles registration
papers, driver’s license, proof of US citizenship (birth certificate), visa
and proof of insurance. You don’t need a passport, but we always carry ours
Your US vehicle insurance in not valid in Mexico. All those signs selling Mexican insurance as you approach the border are there for a reason. You have to have it. You can buy it by the day, the week, the month and the year and it’s not terribly expensive. Some US companies have Mexican affiliates and you can buy your insurance before you leave home. My own experience with Sanborn’s Insurance in McAllen, Texas, has been excellent (1-800-222-0158). They pay claims in dollars and provide excellent maps and detailed travelogs. You’ll find other Mexican insurance brokers advertising in Trailer Life, FMCA Magazine, Highways (Good Sam Magazine) and Escapees magazine. My advice is to buy insurance before you leave home and you’ll have one less thing to worry about on “Border Day.”
No matter what, you will probably be waved across the border by a bored
looking guard. “Ah ha!” you’ll say. “What’s the fuss?” Truth is,
you crossed the day tripper’s border, where thousands of gringos stream
across for a few hours of mariachi music and margaritas. RVers may get a
cursory search before being directed to the “Aduana” or customs
agency. You’ll have to show your papers and will get a hologram for your
windshield. It will cost $11 if you put it on a credit card and over $300
dollars if you don’t have a card! Basically it is a guarantee that you will
return your vehicle to the US and not sell it in Mexico. This can be time
consuming, but don’t sweat it
If you are taking two vehicles into Mexico, you’ll need two credit cards
and the names on the cards must match the names on your vehicle titles. If
your vehicles have liens on them, you’ll need notarized written
permission to bring them into Mexico. Mexico can be very relaxed about many
things but paperwork regarding vehicles is not among them. Every document will
be carefully inspected – all names and numbers must be an exact match.
The real border for you is about twelve miles down the road, where you’ll
be met by serious looking, well-armed guys in black uniforms. They will study
your papers and will probably want to look in your vehicle(s). Let them!
Your attitude at this and other checkpoints will determine how you are
treated. Be patient, be polite, be pleasant. Have all your papers ready for
inspection. We carry all our papers in a bright red binder, well indexed. My
wife has the book on her lap as we approach any checkpoint and can hand over
any paper requested in an instant. It is far better than frantically pawing
through the glove box while the inspecting officer stands sweating in the hot
If you are a belt and suspenders person, check all your papers for accuracy
before you leave home. We once registered a vehicle in Texas and covered half
the US in it before coming back to Mexico. A Mexican inspector discovered the
last two digits of our VIN number were reversed on our title. We had to turn
around and drive 150 miles in Texas to get it straightened out. Don’t
underestimate these guys.
If any officer wants to inspect inside your rig, go in first and invite him
in. Then stand back and allow him to open cupboards, closets and the
refrigerator as he chooses. You will not have left small cameras or wads of
cash lying around, any more than you would in the States.
At various points throughout Mexico you will find other checkpoints. Some
are Army checkpoints, some are drug agents, some are looking for illegal
aliens, and others for agricultural products. The Yucatán, for example, will
not allow you to bring in fresh meat. Our freezer was full of “pollo
congelado,” frozen chicken, and we had no trouble. One family we know
had lots of fresh meat and they were loathe to have it confiscated. They
unloaded and had a big barbecue beside the road and then proceeded, full and
If there is a problem at a checkpoint, keep your cool. Blustering, swearing
and threatening will only make it worse. If you’ve made an honest mistake,
admit it, even if it means going back across the border. Remember that Mexico
goes by Napoleonic Code, which means you are guilty until proven innocent.
Insulting a uniformed officer in Mexico can be very counterproductive!
I would not, under any circumstance, try to bribe my way out of any situation that revolves around hard facts such as mismatched numbers, expired registrations or the like. There may be a few situations where “mordita” (little bite) may be appropriate, but border crossings are not among them.
finally, DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES TRY TO BRING ANY FIREARMS OR
AMMUNITION INTO MEXICO. THEY ARE STRICTLY FORBIDDEN AND NO EXCUSES ARE
ACCEPTED. YOU WILL BE PUT IN JAIL FOR WEEKS, MONTHS OR EVEN YEARS, OR
PAY A HEAVY FINE. THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT CANNOT HELP YOU. YOU HAVE
ON MEXICAN ROADS
You won’t go very far in Mexico before you notice two things. First, you cannot count on any kind of signals from the vehicle ahead of you. No turn signals, no brake lights, nada! There are some well equipped, well driven vehicles, especially in larger cities, but you cannot count on them. Get used to it!
learned to drive by watching the signals ahead of you. Now you’ll have to
learn to drive by watching the driver ahead of you. You’ll see road
signs which say, “Garde su distancia” (Keep your distance) and
it’s damn good advice in Mexico. Always leave yourself as much room
as possible behind the other guy.
you’ll see farther along, your co-pilot/navigator will really earn his/her
keep in Mexico because staying safe is a full-time, two-person job.
the roads are much narrower than you are used to in the States. When it comes
to driving your RV into Mexico, bigger is not necessarily better. I’m not
saying you can’t bring your 40-foot, wide-body Juggernaut Supreme into
Mexico. Huge Mercedes busses and double semi-trailers navigate every road in
Mexico, so if you’re careful, you can too.
way to feel safer (and be safer) in Mexico is for you and your co-pilot to
practice hugging the right edge of the road before you cross the border. In
safe, no-traffic conditions, let the co-pilot tell the driver when your right
front tire is as far right as you can get it. Then make some kind of visual
notation of how it looks from the driver’s seat. For instance, my truck has
a ridge down the middle of the hood. From my normal driving position that
ridge intersects what I can see of the right edge of the road when I’m as
close to the edge as I can get. Try to get several hours of practice before
you cross the border.
secondary roads are so narrow you will have to drive like this most of the
time when there is traffic. The problem is compounded by the fact that Mexican
roads rarely if ever have shoulders. The drop-off may be anything from ½ inch
to ½ mile! Guard rails are rare, too. So get the feel of where your right
side wheels are at all times. It’s not all white-knuckle driving, but
practice will make your trip more enjoyable.
“right on the edge” driving problem is further compounded by the fact that
the right edge frequently crumbles away. Grossly overloaded trucks take a
fearsome toll of road surfaces and potholes are a way of life in Mexico. If
your way is clear, steer around them – but if you can’t, just hang onto
your steering wheel. Better a bump or even a busted wheel than a head-on
all more reason to keep your distance behind the vehicle in front of you. I
was following a truck too closely one time and hit the mother of all potholes.
The truck was wide enough to straddle it but I wasn’t. I bent a wheel and
had to cut my trip short because I didn’t have two spares. If I had kept my
distance, I would have seen the pothole in time to avoid it.
Keeping your distance also helps avoid rear-ending the vehicle ahead of you. Trucks are so heavily loaded that they creep up hills at a walking pace. Coming around a curve on a hill you’re very likely to find a huge truck RIGHT THERE. Breakdowns and blowouts are frequent and, because there are no shoulders, the busted vehicle is still in traffic lanes.
fact, there may have been a danger signal but you missed it. It may have been
a small tree branch in the middle of the road. It may have been a red rag or
even a red snack wrapper on a branch. Or even one rock piled on another in the
road. This latter is so common that you will see signs that say “No deje
piedras en el camino.” (Don’t leave rocks in the road). Drivers
are so happy to be moving again that they frequently leave the rocks in the
road and drive off. You’ll see many false alarms but take them all
seriously. The rig you save may be your own!
finally, there is the problem of making a left turn in Mexico. In the States
we have one way to do it, Mexico has five.
In cities there is probably a left turn lane and a green arrow for protected
left turn. All well and good if you remember that you can turn left only
with the protected arrow. It’s a no-no to turn left on a green light after
the arrow turns off even if the coast is clear.
If there is no green arrow it’s up to you to judge when it’s safe. Do not
count on Mexican drivers to give you any leeway here.
3.) On some roads you must exit to the right onto a lateral (side) road and
then turn left, across oncoming traffic when it is safe
4.) On a two lane road, do not indicate a left turn and stop in the traffic lane. Pull off to the right onto a paved shoulder and wait until traffic is clear before making your left turn.
On a divided highway, wait until you see a “retorno” sign and pull
into a special left-turn lane and turn around when it is safe to do so.
a rural road with no traffic signals, you’ll often see a Mexican driver turn
on his hazard flashers before turning. But again, don’t count on it.
to add a note of Mexican “quaintness” to this chapter, a left turn signal
from the vehicle ahead of you can also mean, “It’s OK to pass.” It may
sound confusing, but in practice it all works out pretty well.
the way, never pull out to pass another vehicle without checking in your left
side mirror. Mexicans hate to wait in line. The guy six cars back may decide
to pass a whole string of cars and by the time he is starting to pass you
he’s going 80 miles an hour. On a three lane road I’ve been passed by a
truck as I was passing another truck. Three abreast!
finally, the ubiquitous “tope,” pronounced “toe pay.” In the
States they are called speed bumps and are not very common. In Mexico they are
everywhere, especially entering and leaving every pueblo in
Mexico. Some are clearly visible and/or have signs. Most are not
marked. A few are a small ripple in the road. Most are truly axle busters. In
traffic the vehicles ahead of you will be slowing down. If you are on the road
alone, keep a sharp eye out. You must learn to spot them in time to slow down.
You never know when you’ll hit a “biggie.” Believe me, a “biggie”
hit at speed can ruin your whole day, if not your rig.
same goes for railroad crossings. Even if you can see a mile on either side,
slow down to a walk for every crossing. Mexican RR tracks are rarely graded to
match the road surface and many have no fill at all between the tracks. All
the more reason to drive slow in Mexico!
one is simple: Never, never, never drive at night!
this entire phrase and memorize it word for word. Rephrase in your own words.
Discuss it with your co-pilot/navigator and see if you agree on its meaning. A
complete understanding of this point will save your life.
THE PEMEX STATIONS
is the Mexican government’s monopoly gasoline and diesel fuel chain. Within
the last few years there has been an amazing transformation here. The green and
white logo used to signify the greasiest, grossest “gas station” you could
imagine. I’m happy to say they are rapidly being phased out in favor of new,
large truck-stop type operations. The new ones tend to be clean, well-lit and
often have snack-shops or restaurants. They’re now large enough to handle even
the biggest rig. (And wonder of wonders, the bathrooms (baños) are now
usually clean and some even have toilet seats. But of course, that won’t
affect you. We all know the real reason you bought an RV in the first place is
so that you can travel with your own bathroom!)
pumps usually have their own islands but the hoses only have truck-size nozzles.
If you have a notoriously slow drinker like my Ford diesel pick-up you are in
for a long fill-up. A company in Chico, California, called “Transfer Flow”
has retro-fit, fast-fill kits for Fords and other brands, as well as auxiliary
tanks for most RVs.
of the oldest tricks in Mexico is that the attendant will start pumping your
fuel with the previous sale still rung up. You have no recourse when your
“sale” shows twice your tank capacity but to pay the bill. If you do get
caught , pay up and chalk it up to experience.
you must do is get out of your vehicle, stand by the pump and verify that the
pump was re-set to zero. The newest pumps even have a sign that says, “Verifique
marque cerros” (verify it shows all zeroes), indicating how common the
scam really is. Do not check your tires or your oil or go to the rest room until
your tanks are full and you’ve paid your bill. Stay at the pump and pay
attention! One way to make sure you do that is to have a locking gas cap that
you must unlock before taking on fuel. A friend of mine was watching the pump
when a second “attendant” told him he had a low tire. My friend got out his
tire gauge and checked the tire, which was OK. But when he got back to the pump
it showed 50% more than his tank capacity. He had no alternative but to pay the
are two grades of gasoline currently available in Mexico – Magna Sin
(unleaded) at 87 octane and Premium Magna Sin at 89 octane. Prices are the same
all over Mexico. New Pemex stations are being built on virtually every road in
Mexico, often within sight of each other. Availability is not the problem that
it was a few years ago, but it’s still wise to fill up whenever your tank gets
the way, Pemex does not accept credit cards, checks or US currency. You’ll
need to pay in pesos, so get some at a “cambio” (currency exchange)
either before you cross the border or immediately after.
Pemex stations have a regular army of peddlers hanging around, selling
everything from cold tortillas to religious medals. I just say “No hoy,
gracias” (not today, thanks) and wave my hand horizontally in front of me.
You may have to repeat it several times. A particular hazard is a swarm of kids
with greasy rags who want to “clean” your windshield. They are apt to be
more determined than the old lady tortilla seller and harder to dissuade. But
you should do it, unless you like greasy footprints the length of your
(Editor’s Note: Look for the second half of Gordon Jett’s guide to RV travel in Mexico in the November 2000 issue of Mexico File.)
The First Timers RV Guide to Mexico Travel, Part II
by Gordon Jett
no RV industry and very few Mexicans have RV’s, as we know them. But they
all love to camp and any kind of campground will be wall-to-wall with tents
and pickup trucks during Christmas Week and Santa Semana (Easter Week).
The rest of the time it will probably be U.S. and Canadian RV’ers and a
surprisingly large contingent of Europeans. The latter tend to drive vans or
pop-ups. A lot of old VW vans are still chugging along in Mexico.
but not all, Mexican RV campgrounds are along the Gulf and Pacific coasts.
They are usually close enough together to make an easy day of driving. In
central Mexico you may have to plan your route carefully to get from one to
another in a day.
1997 a couple named Mike and Terri Church published the most complete guide to
camping in Mexico since Carl Franz’s justly famous People’s Guide to RV
Camping in Mexico was published in 1989. Mike and Terri’s book, Traveler’s
Guide to Mexican Camping, even has maps to show you the exact location of
each campground. It’s an absolute must before heading south. You can contact
Mike and Terry at 1-800-265-6555, www.rollinghomes.com, or P.O. Box
2099, Kirkland, WA 98083-2099.
any event, don’t expect to find U.S. standards in Mexican campgrounds.
“Hookups” can be just about anything from an extension lamp cord out of
the owner’s house and a sluggish garden hose on up. Many have no hookups at
all, so you are essentially boondocking. On the other hand, there are a few RV
parks in Mexico with all the amenities you are used to.
of the better campgrounds are used by RV caravans and can fill up for weeks
– or even months – at a time. Along the coasts the better campgrounds fill
up as soon as snow flies in the States and they stay full all winter.
in any Mexican campground must be treated before drinking or cooking. We use
an external filter at the end of the supply hose and then treat the water with
a bacteriastat. We use one called Sinbac. We add a capful per gallon and let
it sit for five minutes. It has no taste or odor. We soak all unpeeled
vegetables in it too. At popular campgrounds you’ll often find a guy with a
pickup truck who sells five-gallon bottles of purified water.
can vary wildly in Mexico. Make sure you have plenty of fuses and other
voltage protection before you head south. Reversed polarity is not uncommon,
so a polarity checker is a good investment. RV’s with 30 and 50 amp service
will need an adapter to use with 15 amp receptacles.
sites also vary widely in Mexico and all of them are in campgrounds. There are
no RV-friendly gas stations or roadside dump stations. Make sure you have at
least 30 feet of black water discharge hose (I carry 40 feet) and a good
supply of holding tank additive before you come down.
never had a problem with thievery in a Mexican campground, but I do take
prudent precautions. Don’t leave tools or hoses or hitch parts lying around.
Make sure your doors and windows lock securely. Don’t tempt fate.
Road Signs and Maps
road signs are not the highly visible green monsters we are used to in the
States. This is a fact of life you’ll have to get used to. They may be
hand-painted, they may be hidden by something or they may be far outside your
normal range of vision. Or there may not be any signs at all. So how do you
as I mentioned earlier, four eyes are better than two. Second, have at least
two maps of your route and go over them carefully before you head out in the
morning.Your dashboard compass will be very useful.
Roji puts out a book of detailed maps that are very good and easy to follow.
They have been known to put in roads that aren’t built yet, but that
situation is pretty rare. You may be able to find Guia Roji in the States and
they are easy to find in Mexico
will often see two destination signs for the same place: “Libre” and “Cuota.”
Libre is a free road and will have very heavy truck traffic. That road will
probably be severely damaged by overloaded trucks and very bumpy. “Cuota”
is a toll road. Most are recently built and are usually almost empty. They are
boring and very expensive by U.S. standards. It’s not unusual to spend
$100US or more on a day’s drive. Considering wear and tear on your rig and
lighter traffic, I think the Cuota is a bargain.
approaching a town of any size you will often see two arrows. One indicates
“libremiento” and one indicates “centro.” Always take the libremiento
if you have a choice. It is a bypass around the center of town and all the big
trucks and buses will be on it. In many small towns, especially in Colonial
Mexico, the central streets are hundreds of years old and were built for burro
traffic. You can easily get your rig stuck and never get out!
you take the centro there is no guarantee that what looks like a wide main
street will go straight through town. We tried to drive through Pachuca one
time. Within two blocks, the four-lane divided street dwindled down to a
narrow one-way street which ended in a “T” intersection. I could not turn
and I could not back up. The usual crowd of curious spectators quickly showed
up as did a squad of police. They reversed traffic on a one-way street and
moved several parked cars and I finally got free.
a cop indicated I should follow him¼to
the station house. We spent four hours there as a full deposition was made of
our “infraction” and we paid a 400 peso fine. It was all very polite and
non-threatening. Once freed and back in our rig, a police car showed up and
the driver indicated that we should follow him. Lights flashing , he led us to
the road out of town and made one more indication that clearly said,
“Don’t come back!”
INSTEAD OF DOLLARS
US dollar and the Mexican peso use the same sign, “$,” but at this writing
the peso is worth about a dime, at 9.75 to the dollar. It usually fluctuates
daily within a narrow range that won’t affect your budget. Once in a while
there is a major devaluation. The actual rate is published in daily papers and
is displayed at all “cambios”( money changers).
you get south of the border tourist towns, U.S. money is not accepted by local
merchants. You must either pay with Mexican money or use credit cards. Only a
few large stores in Mexico accept credit cards so you may as well get used to
bills are in denominations of $500, $200, $100, $50, and $20. Coins are in
$20,$10,$5, $2 and $1 peso and $.50, $.20, $.10, $.05 and $.01 centavo
denominations. With the exception of the 50 centavo coin the centavo coins are
of so little value that they are rarely asked for or given.
strange thing about Mexico is that there seems to be so little actual currency
in circulation. Even in a major supermarket a checker will often have to ask
the cashier for change of a $100 peso note. In smaller stores the proprietor
will have to run next door or across the street to make change of a $50 peso
note. Just be patient and you’ll eventually get the correct change. By the
way, even Mexicans are confused by the similarity of the coins, so don’t be
embarrassed to examine them carefully as you count out change.
will have trouble cashing or paying bills with American bank checks in Mexico.
U.S. traveler’s checks will be accepted only at banks and major hotels.
Major banks with ATM machines will accept major credit cards and debit cards
on PLUS, STAR and EXPLORE systems. You can withdraw $1500 pesos ($150US) on a
daily basis. ATM’s in Mexico tend to run out of money more often than those
in the U.S., especially on weekends. An increasing number of supermarkets now
have ATM machines, as do Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco.
Mexico’s largest bank, has a program you may want to check out before
heading south. It’s called the Amistad (“friendship”) program and is
designed just for tourists. Banamex has a branch in Los Angeles called the
California Commerce Bank. A checking or savings account at CCB can be accessed
with their ATM card at any Banamex branch in Mexico. We have all our income
deposited automatically in CCB and use their ATM card for all our cash
requirements. The exchange rate is as good as you can get and you don’t have
to pay either credit card or bank charges. For more information about CCB and
their Amistad accounts call 800-222-1234.
A MEXICAN GROCERY STORE
is a much wider variety of grocery stores in Mexico than in the U.S. There are
Walmarts, Sam’s Clubs and Costcos in Mexico, but they are located only in
are also several large supermarket chains in which you’ll feel very much at
home. Gigante (“he-gan-tay”), Soriana and Commercial Mexicana (commer-see-ahl
may-he-cana) are just three of them. Many sell household goods as well as
food, and an increasing number have ATM machines. Incidently, supermarkets
will have a bunch of kids waiting patiently (or impatiently!) to help you bag
your groceries and get them to your car. Please use their services and tip
them several pesos for helping you. They may be a major wage earner in their
family! The same goes for the guy who waves you in and out of a parking spot.
likely you’ll be doing your shopping in something much smaller. “Mom &
Pop” stores take on a new meaning in Mexico. It’s not unlikely that the
“store” will be a few dusty cans on a shelf in someone’s living room.
Save that kind of shopping for emergencies only.
tends to be leaner in Mexico than in the US. Chickens are plentiful and fresh.
Produce in supermarkets is not usually as fresh as you are used to, but street
vendors often have day-fresh produce. Milk in Mexico is more convenient than
it is in the US. It is ultra-pasteurized and sold in one-liter cartons. It
does not require refrigeration until you open a carton. We buy a case
regularly and keep only one or two in the refrigerator.
Liquor, beer and wine are plentiful and easy to buy in Mexico. Mexican beer is excellent. Mexican wine is so-so, but rums and tequilas are great. Imported stuff in any category is expensive. If you have to have your own special brand of single malt Scotch, you’d better bring it along.
our last trip down the Gulf Coast we met a couple in a huge motor home who
were desperately racing back to the States. They had brought along every bite
of food and every drop of liquid they had consumed on a four-week trip into
Mexico. And they were running out! Granted there are a few common-sense
precautions about eating and drinking in Mexico, but to pass up everything in
Mexico is to deny yourself one of the great joys of this marvelous country.
the very next RV’ers we met had a custom of eating at whatever
restaurant they passed at exactly 1 p.m., no matter how humble. They claimed
they’d never had any problems, but somewhere between these two extremes
would seem to be a prudent course to follow.
HEALTHY IN MEXICO
it what you want – “Montezuma’s
Revenge,” “The Turistas,” “The Mexican Two-Step,”but diarrhea is
pretty common in Mexico. However it isn’t fatal and it is, by and large,
preventable. Most of the cases you hear about are from people flying down to
Acapulco and trying to cram a year’s worth of partying into a two-week
vacation. You are different.You are unstressed and unhurried. You did not eat
airline food on the way down. And you will be doing your own shopping and
water requires a simple but crucial purifying process. We use a product called
SINBAC, a liquid bacteriastat. It’s available at almost every grocery store
and farmacía (pharmacy) and comes in a ½ liter (1 pint) white plastic
bottle with a red and green label. Put one capful in a gallon of water and let
it sit for five minutes. It has no taste and no odor. Other brands are
available widely available too.
and vegetables you won’t be peeling should be scrubbed with a brush and
soaked in a double strength solution for ten minutes. This simple regimen soon
becomes second nature and we have never had any problems with it.
Meats need to be thoroughly cooked. If you usually eat your steaks bloody rare, please change your eating habits in Mexico. I assure you that you will enjoy your trip more. Fish and shellfish are great in Mexico if you are near the coast, but I pass on seafood inland.
suggest you avoid food from street vendors no matter how enticing it may be.
Restaurants are usually OK, but you’d probably be wise to drink bottled
beverages even if it is only agua pura (awa poora), bottled water.
you do have an internal problem. Pepto-Bismal and Imodium are readily
you need more medical care than that, good medical care is widely available
and at refreshingly low cost. Mexico’s Guadalajara Medical School has
trained innumerable American doctors. Many doctors in Mexico speak some
English. Their offices and equipment may not be up to Beverly Hills standards,
but they are caring and will do their best for you. It is a distinct pleasure
to walk into a doctor’s waiting room and be seen in ten minutes instead of
making an appointment three weeks hence and having to wait an hour, as is
common in the States.
year I had reason to want to see a cardiologist. I drove to our local
brand-new hospital. A US- trained, English-speaking cardiologist saw me almost
immediately. He gave me a 12-lead EKG on the spot. No problems were evident
but he asked me to come back a week later for a stress EKG. I did so.
doctor’s treadmill was connected directly to his computer so he got both
measurements and diagnosis on the spot. Again, no problems. Both appointments
included a half-hour of unhurried consultation. Total cost: $150US!
care in Mexico has the same high standards and low cost. I recently had a root
canal done, including five visits and x-rays for $75US. The equipment and
technique were up-to-date and the dentist spoke excellent English. I’m not
saying that every village and pueblo in Mexico can offer this kind of care but
large cities and places where there are lots of tourists will certainly be
able to match what I’ve experienced.
surgery, such as plastic surgery is available and inexpensive here, too. San
Miguel de Allende, where we live, must be the face-lift capital of the world.
Half the gringas in town have 40-year-old faces and 70-year-old hands!
summary, a little common sense and a few simple precautions will keep you as
healthy in Mexico as you would be in the States. Perhaps even healthier!
FOR YOUR PETS IN MEXICO
seems like half the RV’ers we meet in Mexico are traveling with a pet or
two. If you’re not happy without Fluffy or Spot, bring them along. Your vet
in the States must provide all the precautionary shots and a letter saying
they have been given. I suggest special attention to flea, tick and heart worm
prevention. There are lots of new products on the market. There are excellent
vets in Mexico if you need one. Many have trained in the States.
to keep your dog or cat on a leash or confined at all times in Mexico. Never
let them run loose. Fleas and ticks are very common, and rabies is not
uncommon in Mexico. Any place you stay will have a pack of campesino
dogs running loose and they may look at Fluffy more as a snack than a new
do not have the same fanatical love of animals that we do. You’ll see packs
of roaming dogs that will disgust you. They will be starving and mangy and
many will be limping from encounters with cars and trucks. Mexican truck
drivers will not slow down or swerve for dogs – and the roadsides are
sometimes littered with canine corpses. You must make up your mind that you
will not take evasive actions to avoid hitting dogs in Mexico! The drivers
behind you will not be expecting it and you could cause a major accident. That
may sound cruel but one mangy dog saved is a high price to pay for crashing
your rig. Trust me on this.
horses, sheep, goats and cows are also common on the roads in Mexico. Do your
best to avoid hitting one of these because they could do major damage to your
rig – all the more reason to drive slowly and keep alert south of the
finally, check with Customs before you bring a pet bird into Mexico.
Quarantines are very strict in both directions.
YOUR RIG FOR YOUR FIRST TIME IN MEXICO
hope you are not so eager to travel in Mexico that you will buy a brand-new
rig and head south. You’ll need several thousand miles of “shake-down
cruise” (literally!) before you cross the border.
the other hand, just because “Old Blue” has served you faithfully for
100,000 miles in the States doesn’t mean it will hold up in Mexico.
roads are much rougher that even secondary roads in the States. Curves are
sharper and hills are steeper. You must have absolutely first class steering,
brakes, tires and cooling. Engine belts should be brand new and you should carry
OE spares. I recommend two mounted spare tires for each tire size you
use. Make sure you’ve got adequate jacks and lug wrenches and know how to use
particular attention to your wheel lugs. I’ve heard of two cases recently
where wheel lugs failed in Mexico because they were not factory spec lugs. One
was a very high priced rig so don’t feel complacent just because you paid big
bucks. Have a knowledgeable mechanic check them before you leave home, and check
them every day or so to see if they are tight. A torque wrench would be a very
good investment here. Mexico is quite literally “hell on wheels.”
that there are no “Camping Worlds” in Mexico. Mexican mechanics are famously
talented and eager to please, but they aren’t magicians. In the old days there
was very little that a Mexican mechanic couldn’t fix. But the advent of
computer chips has changed all that.
the most important thing you can do to make sure your rig serves you faithfully
in Mexico is for you to have the right attitude! If you are relaxed and
confident and willing to go with the flow, Mexico will reward you with the
finest RV’ing in the world. But if you are in a hurry, up-tight and determined
to do things your way, either you or your RV will break down. You’ll cross
10,000 topes in Mexico and if you ease over them you’ll do fine. But if
impatience is driving, you’ll bash your rig to pieces.
is absolutely no reason why any well-prepared rig with well prepared drivers
cannot take you anywhere you want to go in Mexico and get you home again safely.
Bien Viaje !!!
AND SPARES YOU’LL NEED
least one mounted spare tire and wheel for each size you use
wrench and nut-breaker (extension handle)
pump, either manual or 12-volt
oil and coolant
light and turn indicator repair tape
of windshield washer fluid
hoses with hose clamps
with spare batteries and bulbs
or “Chilton’s” repair manual
and fuel filters