On my trip from California to Argentina, I spent a month traveling through Mexico. Here are some things I learned along the way. This is not a complete guide, just some things that might help you plan a trip or get a sense of what it’s like. If I posted something wrong let me know but I don’t want to start a whole discussion here of Mexico tips. Just my take on it. You can find additional info on an ADVRider post here.
Temp Vehicle Import Permit
If you’re traveling outside the free zone of Baja you need to get a Temp Vehicle Import Permit for your motorcycle. You can get these online or at certain border crossings. I suggest getting it before you go. I know of two places inside Mexico where you can get these. At the La Paz ferry SAT office and south of Guaymas on Mexico 15 at a SAT building. More info at Baja Bound
You need it. Your USA or other insurance won’t cover you here. Round the World insurance plans won’t work here either. Mexico is a country that if you don’t have the right coverage you can go to jail if you cause an accident. There are a lot of online insurance brokers to choose from. I found this site to be helpful and purchased my insurance through Sanborns.
Throughout Mexico I found the roads overall to be in good condition. Roads that needed work usually had construction already underway.
- Libre – Free roads. Usually older, less maintained roads that pass through town centers. Lots of speedbumps.
- Cuota – Toll roads. The toll roads I was on were mostly really nice and well maintained. They’re often 4 lane highways but sometimes 2 in more rural areas. Motos pay about half the cost of what they charge cars. The fees are clearly marked on a sign before or there’s a digital sign at the toll booth. Go to the toll booth with the cash sign. Not the express prepay lane.
Gas Stations – the toll roads typically have gas stations/rest areas along the road. Since I have a relatively short fuel range (180 miles) I kept my eye out for gas stations. See more below.
Throughout the country I passed through 5 or 6 military checkpoints. There are signs letting you know they are ahead. They will either wave you by or have you stop. When I was stopped they would ask where I was coming from and where I was going. I think it’s best to be specific. I didn’t say California to Argentina. I said the town names. I didn’t take my helmet off at these and it was always really brief and they’d wave me on.
Signs on the Roads
- Alto – this one is obvious. Stop.
- Curva Peligrosa – Dangerous Curve
- Topes a 100 meters – speedbumps in 100 meters
- Disminuya Velocidad – Slow your speed
- Despacio – Slow down
- Poblado Proximo – There’s a town ahead
- Cruce de Peatons – Pedestrian Crossing
- Cassette de Cobro – Toll Booth
- Highway signs are marked but they never use North, South, East, West. They just list highway number and the major cities the road goes to. Know the cities along your route and follow the signs.
Rules of the Road
- Speed Limits – signs were posted regularly. On the main highways or toll roads it was often 70km-110km per hour. On regular roads it was 50 or 60kmph. Through towns it was pretty slow, 20 to 40kmph. Plus remember there are topes to slow down for.
- One lane with dotted line on shoulder – this was something I had no idea what it was about. Basically the dotted line on the shoulder turns it into a lane. Cars ahead who are about to be passed will move over into this half lane so the vehicles behind can easily pass on the left. Some people will stay in that lane. It’s fine to pass them on the left.
- Trucks on mountain roads drive slow. Before going to pass make sure you check to see if the truck in front of you has a large sign on the back that reads Semi Doble Remolgue. That means there are two trailers being pulled so make sure you have enough time to pass both.
Left Turn Signal – on two lane roads this almost always means the truck, bus, or car in front of you are saying it’s ok to pass. They will usually move over slightly to the right. I didn’t have any problems where they signaled and it wasn’t safe but use your own judgement. If you are driving on a two lane road, don’t use your left turn signal when YOU are going to pass as you just told the person behind it’s ok to pass you and you might get hit.
Things In The Road
- Topes (speedbumps)
- Dogs, Burros, Cows
- Pot Holes
The federally run Pemex gas stations are abundant. Most all of them are full service so you pull up and they fill up for you. In the small towns they’ll likely only have Magna 87 Octane. Main roads and cities usually have Premium 91 Octane. As of February 2016 it was $13.98 MXN per liter for Premium. 1 gallon = 3.79 Liters. So about $2.81 USD per gallon of premium. Get the latest fuel costs here.
It’s rare they accept card so have cash and they generally round to the nearest peso. So if it’s $50.33 just give them $50 and you’re good to go. Most Pemex’s have convenience stores and clean bathrooms. Some charge 2 pesos for the banos. If I was ever lost, needed to make a call, or stop for something, the gas stations were always a place I felt safe in cities or neighborhoods I didn’t know. The major roads have signs telling you how many kilometers to the next gas station. The only stretch that exceeded my fuel range was in Baja from El Rosario to Guerrero Negro. It was 318 km between gas stations. But there was the small town of Catavina about halfway where they sold gas from cans on the side of the road.
Common Sense Things
Be smart. Don’t ride recklessly and don’t drive at night. I had to drive once at night because the ferry to the mainland was 3 hours late.
I saw the most accidents (usually involving cars or pickups) in medium sized towns at intersections. Take your time, ride slow through town and most importantly stay alert. If you get hit doing 30kmph it won’t be as bad as if you’re speeding through.
I stayed at inexpensive hotels and used couchsurfing throughout the country. Just about every place I stayed had secure parking. I did use a cable and disc lock, and used a motorcycle cover.
I had never ridden my motorcycle in Mexico before this trip and had no problems. I loved traveling through Mexico. The people were kind and welcoming.