Buckle Your Seatbelts, We’re Heading South of the Border!

Welcome to Mexico!

Unlike American highways that have limited access – no bikes, etc. allowed – in Mexico you see just about everything on the roads.

You will also notice a huge amount of people walking. I don’t mean just in the towns, but way out in the boondocks you see people walking along the road. You’ll run into herds of cattle eating the grass in the median and along the sides of the roads being tended by horse-riding Mexicans. You’ll see men riding mules with ponchos and big sombreros, and old and young men on ancient bicycles.

It’s important not to speed at any time – you’ll make good time anyway. There is definitely less traffic on most toll roads in Mexico than you will encounter on highways in the US.

Driving at night is highly discouraged.

Besides the obvious dangers, you can easily be confronted by stray cattle wondering around, people walking, etc., and you could lose the whole bottom of your car if you don’t see those Topes!

In the cities – be on your toes!

You will be assailed by people with sponges and rags jumping on your car to wash you windows – they expect paid. You really have to almost drive over these guys to get rid of them. Keep your window rolled up tightly and brace yourself for the crowd at the next corner. In the bigger cities the traffic picks up and there seems to be no rhyme nor reason as to how and where the cars go – so be careful – a lot of the roads in towns are very rough and not particularly well marked – so be on your toes.

Then there are the adorable children – tumbling in front of your car, walking on their hands, juggling – for pesos – and knocking on your windows with the saddest little faces they can conjure up… and they ask for anything – and everything – they can see in the car. My advice is to completely ignore them – or you’ll be overwhelmed! They can spot an out-of-town car two blocks away!

soldiers at checkpoint croppedEvery once in a while, there are checkpoints set up.

I would not suggest even trying to talk to the officials at these spots.  Very few of them have any knowledge of English and this is not the time to show off any of your limited Spanish, nor act like a big-shot American. These guys have big guns and are not there for fun.

We did not have any trouble at all along the way – hope you’re that lucky. There are a lot of these check points – just smile and just keep your cool. Mainly they are checking for drug runners and illegals.

Then, in between the checkpoints, there are toll stops – many. Of course, you don’t have to take the toll roads (cuota)… until you are very familiar with the roads in the areas. But once, when Dick and I took the wrong fork and started down a free road, a truck full of smiling men cut in front of us and waved us back! They knew the gringos were heading in the wrong direction.

Keep all your receipts when traveling on Mexican Toll Roads!

If you crash, or are involved in an accident, you will need to present this receipt in order to avoid paying road repair and maintenance charges.

Cuotas (toll roads) are nonetheless the best way to go, physically and safety-wise.

Here are some words you’ll encounter on the roads of Mexico.

I suggest you at least become a bit familiar with these, because signage on the roads is in Spanish:

A sign with a capital E crossed out means Don’t park here

Alto – STOP

Aumento – to increase

Cambio – change – as a place to change or exchange money

Carril izquierdo – lane on left

Cinturon de seguridad – safety belt

Concedia Cambio De luces – concede to change of lights – this may refer to the fact that when you come to a bridge etc., where there is only one lane, the person to hit their lights first has the right of way!

Concida – is to concede – to give way

Di no la Basura – di is to give, no is no, la is the, basura is rubbish.  In other words, don’t litter.


The Powerball numbers for 11-28-2012 were:  5,23,16,22,29 and the Powerball is 6.  We didn’t win – darn it…….. ;) Not sure if anyone noticed, but it was darn near impossible to get the results online because EVERYBODY was looking for the winning number! Servers were crashed everywhere and I couldn’t even find the results online, but Dick was watching TV (and wrote down the winning numbers) and came in while I was searching for them online. Sometimes the “old fashioned” TV beats the computer :)

Addition Feb 3, 2013 – the amount you need to move to Mexico has changed – see – http://consulmex.sre.gob.mx/detroit/index.php/info-english

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10 Responses to Buckle Your Seatbelts, We’re Heading South of the Border!

  1. Deborah Stone

    November 30, 2012 at 4:40 am

    Thanks for the infobon the cuotas, but I wish you would have mentioned the cost and the major roads this happens on…I have wanted to go to Mexico, but I am a single female, 62y/o and I have a parrot…I have read that it is best to fly the parrot in so that when I leave he could be flown out w/o issue about bird transport…I heard this was the easiest way to avoid this. My age and the fact that I am traveling alone has made me stop and think that it might not be the safest thing to do…I might join a carravan…to check outvtraveling in Mexico, to get my bearings.

  2. Ron Karch

    November 30, 2012 at 5:51 am

    Hi Barbie, as always, I enjoy reading your articles about travel in Mexico. My wife and I will be heading to Puerto Vallarta again this Jan. , thru March. If you happen to be in the area, look us up, maybe we can do lunch..:)

  3. Alan

    November 30, 2012 at 7:19 am

    I know when anyone comming towards your car at red lights, with or without your window being rolled up. that a one finger wave, which means NO will do in getting them to move onto the next car. Alan

  4. Alan

    November 30, 2012 at 8:15 am

    “Concedia Cambio De luces ” I thinks this means to lower your brights [head lights] when oncoming traffic approaches. These signs are everywhere on the cuotas now and possibly something newer as before I had to put up with people driving constantly with their brights on 2 lane highways. Alan

  5. Barbie


    November 30, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    I think the caravan is a great idea. Until you get the hang of it, at least. Then you will feel more confident to head out on your own. Barbie

  6. barb

    November 30, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Hi Alan – Sort of means to concede to the change of lights. Whomever turns on the brights first, when coming to a one lane bridge, etc., supposedly has the right of way. Yep – using brights in Mex is sort of a habit, I guess.

  7. Alan

    November 30, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Hi Barbie.

    I have another driving safety tip I have learnt from driving in Central and West Central Mexico. Turn on your emergency flashers when you see something up ahead and are going to stop suddenly and leave them on until a couple of more vehicles stop behind you.

    Also when on a wide 2 lane highway expect cars and trucks to past on the inside center of the highway 1/3 over the center line while the ones they are passing move over to the shoulder to let them pass. You also will have to move over to drive on part of the shoulder to avoid a head on collision. This is expectional popular in Michocan. Alan

  8. Lizzz

    December 3, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    To Debra Stone…DO NOT TRAVEL ALONE! This is not a trip you want to do by car alone. Even in a caravan you will be signled out! Fly in to your favorite place and take a taxi to get around. You can hire one for the day or by the hour. It is very reasonable and you CAN negotiate a price. If you are only visiting for a little while I would not suggest to bring your Parrot.
    To Barbie: please correct me if I am wrong.

    Thanks, Elizabeth Center

  9. George Puckett

    October 31, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Barbie! I would like to interview you for my Podcasting Website. I am very interested in seeing if a Podcast would be a Positive impact on book sales.

    I have just submitted the Podcast on Thursday, October 30th and I’m expecting an approval in a few days.

  10. Barbie


    January 23, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    Well, it’s been quite a while – how are things going for you?

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