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gringoinmexico

Mar 27, 2009, 4:50 PM

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Driving to Merida from California

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Hello fellow travelers. .My friend and I are driving from San Francisco to Merida, where she will be living. We have a van full of stuff and want to go the safest route possible, especially given the recent violence. We plan to cross at Tecate, drive south on the West coast and then cutting over to Guadalajara then north of Mexico City. . . We're going to AAA to consult with them, but are hoping to consult with folks here (or perhaps get a referral to someone who really knows the lay of the land). We only will be driving during the day and hope to find secure hotels at night. I speak passable Spanish. . . We'd love ANY and all tips. Thanks (and my email is acester (at) gmail dot com



jreboll

Mar 27, 2009, 5:00 PM

Post #2 of 27 (9925 views)

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Re: [gringoinmexico] Driving to Merida from California

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If you are concerned about safety wouldn't you be better off doing most of your driving within the U.S. Let's say driving all the way to south Texas and crossing over where you would be closer to your destination?


Hound Dog

Mar 27, 2009, 8:00 PM

Post #3 of 27 (9912 views)

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Re: [gringoinmexico] Driving to Merida from California

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This is a no-brainer and forget about remaining in the dreadful and crime ridden U.S. as long as possible. Drive from the Bay Area to Nogales as we did when we retired here and cross there and head down the excellent Highway 15 to Guadalajara - a wonderful and easily negotiable city - and then on to Mexico City, Puebla. The Veracruz State cities of Orizaba and Fortin de Las Flores and Córdoba and from there down the excellent autopista to Merida and perhaps somewhere in that journey you will come to your senses and detour over to Chiapas, the nicest place in all of North America but if you continue southeast you will end up in Yucatan which is also a fine place if there ever was one if a bit flat and scrubby.

Do not, if you continue to desire to live in the Merida area , buy a home there. Continue on to the beautiful "yellow" city of Izamal about one hour out of Merida and perhaps the most charming town on the Yucatan peninsula to say nothing of a hell of a lot cheaper.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Mar 28, 2009, 8:51 AM)


Altahabana


Mar 28, 2009, 8:31 AM

Post #4 of 27 (9878 views)

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Re: [gringoinmexico] Driving to Merida from California

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The reason to stay in the US as long as possible would not be to avoid violence, but to drive on better safer highways. The risk of being injured or worse in a motor vehicle accident is infinitely higher than being a victim of narco-violence. However the highways on the Nogales route suggested are good and perfectly safe for prudent drivers.

But if you do choose to go farther east to cross the logical point would be El Paso/Juarez. Chihuahua state has had the most intense violence recently and it is centered in Juarez. Even at its worst though there was little--if any--risk to tourists in transit during the day and that risk has probably dropped to zero since Juarez was unofficially placed under martial law about six weeks ago.

There is an excellent online resource for highway travel in Mexico maintained by the government called Rutas Punto a Punto. It may not be working right now but the general address is http://aplicaciones4.sct.gob.mx/...action=cmdEscogeRuta


edited to fix link


(This post was edited by Rolly on Mar 28, 2009, 9:13 AM)


Hound Dog

Mar 28, 2009, 9:25 AM

Post #5 of 27 (9866 views)

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Re: [jreboll] Driving to Merida from California

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Now. look guys, the OP´s friend is moving to Merida so why would she be freaked about driving in Mexico? The reason I suggested Nogales to Guadalajara to DF to Veracruz State to Southeastern Mexico is because we maintain residences both a Lake Chapala and in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. We also have good friends who live in a village near Oaxaca City so we often drive between Lake Chapala and Chiapas sometimes down the route I suggested and sometimes via Oaxaca City so we know these roads to be certainly as safe as South Texas and one is far less likely to become a victim of road rage initiated by some beer swilling Texas latter day cowboy or stopped and harassed by some highway patrolman who thinks he is a Texas Ranger and loves the look of those California license plates. Remember Thelma and Louise who drove a thousand miles out of the way to get to Mexico in order to avoid Texas? This is an Alabama boy who moved to L.A. and often has driven through Texas and Mexico back before Mexico had autopistas so I did not make my route selection lightly. After one leaves Guadalajara it is all autopista to Tabasco or Chiapas or Oaxaca and most of the roads are excellent. Add to that the fact that the drive through Mexico City is a lot easier than it is reputed to be if one drives defensively, avoids the periferico and sticks to the inner circuit through the heart of the city. I have done this many times and the east/wset drive takes a little over an hour and helps to reinvigorate the driver who is wide awake by the time he/she leaves the Federal District and enters the beautiful parklands that surround the city east and west..


RickS


Mar 28, 2009, 9:56 AM

Post #6 of 27 (9861 views)

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Re: [gringoinmexico] Driving to Merida from California

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Well, I'm with jrebol on this one.... You have stated that "We have a van full of stuff and want to go the safest route possible". While there is nothing inherently dangerous about driving down the west coast (regardless of what the US gov/press is currently reporting), over to Guad. and then north of D.F. etc., I would ask 'why', unless it is also your desire to see more of Mexico as your friend goes to live in Merida.

Here is why I would stay in the US until around McAllen Tx:

Ease of Travel Staying in the US you can 'plan' your trip much easier... no trouble finding a cheap Motel 6 anywhere, and you could drive into-the-night if you found you needed to do so.... you will make 'better time' on US freeways vs Mexican Toll Roads... your cellphone will work in case you have a road-side emergency.

Cost Toll Roads: you will want to use the Mexican toll road system as much as possible, and by coming down the 'west coast' route, you will probably spend US $250 more than you would had you stayed in the US.
Fuel: Using the current (very high!) dollar/pesos exchange rate of 14:1, the cost of Regular in Mex. is around $2.09/gal.... $2.45/gal. at 12:1. You'll see it currently for $1.95 across Ariz/NM and Texas.

If you want the 'adventure' and decide to take the west-coast route, I would second Hound Dog's recommendation to cross at Nogales (Mariposa) or maybe even at Juarez (Santa Teresa). I would strongly advise you not to cross at Tecate and drive Mex. Hiway 2 all the way to Toll Road 15. If you decide to take the 'McAllen' route, there are folks here that can advise you as to the best route to take (almost a no-brainer).

(This post was edited by RickS on Mar 28, 2009, 1:03 PM)


RickS


Mar 28, 2009, 10:07 AM

Post #7 of 27 (9857 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Driving to Merida from California

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Dawg, since you have driven through D.F. many times you have probably gotten it down pat. You also probably know the 'best' route to take if one wants to go north around the City or go south.... with the intent of ending up around Puebla. Would you consider posting those routes, por favor?


gringoinmexico

Mar 28, 2009, 11:31 AM

Post #8 of 27 (9846 views)

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Re: [RickS] Driving to Merida from California

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This is a great discussion and very helpful. . . I'm the one driving WITH my friend. I should add that we are two women. The *only* intent of this particular trip is to get there safely. Someone said that driving along the coast was safer. And we were concerned about the border crossings. But it sounds like maybe it's safe? Personally, I would prefer to stay in the US as long as possible for all the above mentioned reasons (phone access, hotels, safish roads, etc.) But the state department warnings kind of scared the you know what out of us. I do speak decent conversational spanish, which I'm sure will help -- but am not fluent.


jreboll

Mar 28, 2009, 11:45 AM

Post #9 of 27 (9841 views)

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Re: [gringoinmexico] Driving to Merida from California

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If you do decide to come through Texas, take Highway 10 from L.A. to San Antonio and then go south where you will find a wide range of choices for crossing into Mexico. If you hear of any hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico avoid eastern-most routes.
Other than that all the roads you encounter will be in excellent condition and you will not be paying any tolls until you get into Mexico.


Hound Dog

Mar 28, 2009, 11:46 AM

Post #10 of 27 (9840 views)

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Re: [RickS] Driving to Merida from California

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Good points Rick. You make a well thought out argument for entering Mexico from the east. Let´s just say that there are alternatives and, while the highways are quite good along the routes suggested, Mexican highway tolls are certainly very expensive.

As for Mexico City, I´ll have to get back to you on that as just yeaterday I fell and broke my reading glasses and can´t read a map until I can get them repaired so I´lll try to work from a 67 year aold´s deficient memory. One of the reasons I have avoided delineating this route in detail before is that every time I drive through Mexico City, public works has changed the route as street work is never ending there and the city´s street department has a fiendish way with signage intended to cause the stranger in town to get lost at least a couple of times each journey.

Keep in mind that the route we almost always take takes us through the city from the environs of Toluca to the Puebla Highway. We always avoid the periféricos if we can because they are the worst perpheral highways we have ever encountered and the city´s crooked cops like to troll for tourists on these roads whereas they are loathe to pull over drivers on interior boulevards as they might impede traffic and be lynched by irritated drivers.

I now realize I cannot handle this task without reading glasses but here is the big picture for those of you who want to have some fun. I´ll be going west to east.

Whether you are coming from Guadalajara or Queretaro take the new librmiento that bypasses Toluca and you will drive over a steep, forested mountain to arrive in the Federal District through the striking suburb of Santa Fe. Your goal will be to drive through the heart of the city on boulevards through such places as Chapultepec Park and the historic center of the city until you see signage for Puebla and Oaxaca. Now, if you are heading for Cuernavaca or Acapulco this will not work so this narrative in intended for east/west traffic.

Tomorrow, I will try to get back with some street names assuming I can see again.

Keep these things in mind:

It normally takes about one hour to get from Santa Fe to your next toll booth on the eastern side of the city as you head for Puebla. The most it has ever taken us and this was during terrible traffic, was an hour and a half.

Try to stick to left lanes but not the high speed lane left and drive cautiously but not like a hick from El Rancho Grande.

Never drive through the city with out-of-district plates before about noon. Never, ever drive through on the day or days you are not permitted to drive. These laws are now more complex and they will get you good. Sunday and some Saturdays are best for this excursion.

If you are driving west to east, once you enter the high Puebla plain, you will find lots of roadside branches of the Puebla based Italian Coffee Company where you can stop for a much needed espresso or sandwich where you can relax and comgratulate yoursel for besting the beast once again and then proceed on down into beautiful Veracruz state-


Hound Dog

Mar 28, 2009, 11:58 AM

Post #11 of 27 (9838 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Driving to Merida from California

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Rick:

I am afraid I did not read you post as carefully as I should have. Before we started driving straight through the city we drove from Guadalajara to Queretaro to Pachuca to Tlaxcala to Puebla. We did this route because our friends are rug makers and sellers from Oaxaca who felt the State of Mexico cops were among the most crooked on the planet who would invariably stop their loaded van and shake them down for free rugs so they did not want to evenenter the stat of Mexico at all. This is a long detour and, now that we know the city, we would not do that again. The only time we tried a southern route around the city (through Cuernavaca to Pueble) we found the route through the mountains to be a pain si never tried that again.

Now, another way to go would be along the Oaxaca and Guerrera coasts to Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan and then north to Uruapan, Michoacan and points north.


Altahabana


Mar 28, 2009, 2:09 PM

Post #12 of 27 (9798 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Driving to Merida from California

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"we know these roads to be certainly as safe as South Texas and one is far less likely to become a victim of road rage initiated by some beer swilling Texas latter day cowboy or stopped and harassed by some highway patrolman who thinks he is a Texas Ranger and loves the look of those California license plates. Remember Thelma and Louise who drove a thousand miles out of the way to get to Mexico in order to avoid Texas? "

I don't know if the quoted comment was supposed to be comedy or advice, but it was lame if the former and worthless if the latter. Thelma and Louise was a freaking movie. You will see beer swilling, road raged cowboys and red neck, Texas Ranger wannabe DPS officers only in your imagination when you drive through Texas.

If you choose to stay as long as possible in the US, that is certainly a reasonable plan. I would cross in El Paso, Eagle Pass or Laredo as those are the gateways to the main highways to the interior. Eagle Pass is the crossing I would recommend because Highway 57 from Piedras Negras and points south is easy to navigate and in excellent condition. Highways in northern Mexico are very good although hardly the quality of those in South Texas. Again, I would encourage you to find the website Rutas Punto a Punto I mentioned earlier as it is an excellent resource to use in planning your route.
,


(This post was edited by Altahabana on Mar 28, 2009, 2:10 PM)


Hound Dog

Mar 28, 2009, 3:22 PM

Post #13 of 27 (9788 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Driving to Merida from California

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I don't know if the quoted comment was supposed to be comedy or advice, but it was lame if the former and worthless if the latter. Thelma and Louise was a freaking movie. You will see beer swilling, road raged cowboys and red neck, Texas Ranger wannabe DPS officers only in your imagination when you drive through Texas.

The comment was meant to be both humurous and informative.

It was also supposed to expose the soft underbelly of the easily obfuscated Texas Jingo which it obviously did. Texas is the land of the vulnerable, simple-minded tart heads but also a land of some of my closest and most admired friends. The reason I prickle the most shallow Texans with gratuitous commentary is that they are so easy to offend witout intellectual effort and this especially pleases me as I am a native of Alabama where the populace of all races and ethnic origens are fair game just because all four million of them live there.

I presume you think Thelma and Louise was an art film my flat plains drifter correspondent.






Carron

Mar 28, 2009, 5:10 PM

Post #14 of 27 (9771 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Driving to Merida from California

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This ole Louisiana gal loves your distinctly Southern attitude. I have the same. Had to live with Hubby in Texas for 25 years but moved to Mexico 11 years ago. The experience tends to mellow out one's sensibilities. (Ooops! Am I off topic??)


Altahabana


Mar 28, 2009, 5:58 PM

Post #15 of 27 (9764 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Driving to Merida from California

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I am new to this board so I didn't realize you were doing a stand-up routine in addition to tossing out travel advice about how to get from California to the Yucatan. I was hardly offended by your comments, I just thought they were stupid. Thanks for explaining what you were doing and what you accomplished. I see now that you are really quite the wit and intellect and you certainly got over on me. You are also one funny dude. Before I thought you were just another arrogant, opinionated, know it all assclown sitting behind a computer.


(This post was edited by Altahabana on Mar 28, 2009, 6:00 PM)


Hound Dog

Mar 28, 2009, 6:00 PM

Post #16 of 27 (9763 views)

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Re: [Carron] Driving to Merida from California

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Thank you, Carron. You have pleased me to no end.

Actually. The Dawg thinks that anyone who takes pride in where he or she was spit out of the womb is an imbicile. Dawg was spit out of the womb on a cold and violent night in 1942 near Montgomery and I´m a sumbitch if I understand why I should take pride in where my mama excreted me upon the planet. It tells you a thousand times more about me that the s mnute I could leave South Alabama I was within four days in Los Moutherf-in Angeles and I never regretted a day I spent in that town Thank You Jesus!

I cannot handle more now but just you lissen to this. I´m living in Chiapas on the fringe of reality. Beat that.


Hound Dog

Mar 28, 2009, 6:17 PM

Post #17 of 27 (9759 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Driving to Merida from California

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Before I thought you were just another arrogant, opinionated, know it all assclown sitting behind a computer.

You were right the first time. Never second guess yourself.


Carron

Mar 28, 2009, 6:34 PM

Post #18 of 27 (9754 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Driving to Merida from California

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When I first moved to Mexico I lived in a Zoque Indian village just upwind from Tuxtla Gutierrez and spent many a weekend in San Cristobal. Coldest place I have ever been in my life!!! Stayed for 3 years, then moved north to the state of Coahuila for personal reasons (mostly to be closer to relatives, a dubious advantage).

I love reading your posts. When I can get my thoughts together, I am going to write more about the Southern lifestyle (in Mexico).


Hound Dog

Mar 28, 2009, 7:40 PM

Post #19 of 27 (9748 views)

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Re: [Carron] Driving to Merida from California

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I find you endlessly amusing, Carron.

You are OK in my book.

More stories later.

Bob


Hound Dog

Mar 28, 2009, 7:49 PM

Post #20 of 27 (9745 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Driving to Merida from California

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When you insult others with trivial repartee you only demean yourself hogbreath.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Mar 28, 2009, 7:51 PM)


Altahabana


Mar 29, 2009, 6:06 AM

Post #21 of 27 (9720 views)

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Re: [Hound Dog] Driving to Merida from California

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When you insult others with trivial repartee you only demean yourself hogbreath.

Are you referring to you or me? Look Dude--I posted on this thread to talk about driving routes and options not get into a pissing match with some internet character. And I'm not sensitive, shallow or busting out with state pride---I grew up in SoCal in the 60s if that matters. Like I said I wasn't offended by the original remarks, I just thought they were stupid. But I get the picture. I bit once, but I won't again.


jerezano

Mar 29, 2009, 7:50 AM

Post #22 of 27 (9709 views)

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Re: [gringoinmexico] Driving to Merida from California

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Hello gringogoinmexico,

Getting away from all the hyperbole about Texas etc, let me comment that your plan to drive down the Pacific Coast to Guadalajara to Mexico to Mérida is perfectly sound and logical. That coast highway (51D? or 15D?) is in excellent shape as far as Guadalajara but it is costly in tolls.

I would suggest you take the interstate from California to Texas and there take interstate US 83 to Harlingen, and just south of Harlingen take the Paso Real exit to the international bridge at Los Indios (probably the easiest crossing paperwise and time wise anywhere on the frontier) and continue south to Cd. Victoria then via corta to San Luis Potosí and then on to Mexico etc. There are no tolls along this route at all until south of San Luis Potosí.

Roads are in excellent shape and just as safe as anywhere else.

As you know most violence is occurring in the border cities. Los Indios doesn't even have a border city. The first small town you will encounter in Mexico is Valle Hermosa about 20 km inside Mexico and the first large city is Cd. Victoria which you actually bypass. The check point is just south of Valle Hermosa. Just be sure and keep your gas tank as full as possible. And you might try additives from time to time as recently I have been encountering bad gasoline. Three times in the last year or so.

If you leave Harlingen at 7 in the morning you can breakfast at Valle Hermosa, lunch at Cd. Victoria and will reach SLP about 4 in the afternoon, overnight there and continue on.

Hopes this helps with your planning.

PS: If you see a long line of cars along the side of the road waiting to cross into Mexico at Los Indios, DON'T put yourself in that line. Those are cars in transit to Central America (Nicaragua, San Salvador, etc). All require special handling. Just continue on normally.

jerezano


Carron

Mar 29, 2009, 9:04 AM

Post #23 of 27 (9701 views)

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Re: [jerezano] Driving to Merida from California

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One slight correction. US 83 is not an Interstate highway but an often 2-lane only road that meanders through miles of little towns with lots of red lights. The faster and better way is to go to San Antonio on I-10, then turn south on I-37 and remain there almost to Corpus Christi. At that point you turn right onto Hwy 77 which takes you right on into Harlingen. A small jog to the right on 1479 just before you get to Harlingen connects you to Los Indios.

An equally good alternate is to take I-37 south to around Pleasanton and and catch 281 straight through McAllen to Hidalgo, where 281 turns east,following right along the river to Los Indios.

The turn-off in San Antonio is very well marked, letting you know miles ahead of time which lane you should be in before you exit.

Suggest you google-up both routes to compare differences in travel times and mileages. Both should be about the same.


jreboll

Mar 29, 2009, 9:57 AM

Post #24 of 27 (9692 views)

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Re: [gringoinmexico] Driving to Merida from California

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If you do decide to come through Harlingen, Texas and have questions, post them so we can guide you through. Some of us live along that route.


Altahabana


Mar 30, 2009, 10:31 AM

Post #25 of 27 (9628 views)

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Re: [jerezano] Driving to Merida from California

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I referenced Rutas Punto a Punto, a website that is published by the Ministry of Transportation and in my opinion is the best free online resource for driving calculations and directions available. The link should work.

You have a variety of options if you choose to drive through to Texas and cross. There are about 13 different bridges between Del Rio and Brownsville. Most have CIITEV stations where you will pick up the temporary import permit you will need to drive in the interior. Basically the further east you travel in Texas the less distance you will travel in Mexico. If you cross at Eagle Pass for example you save 325 miles of driving to Brownsville/Harlingen/Los Indios, but it is a 350 mile longer drive to Merida.

Which route to use is mostly a matter of personal preference. The highways on both routes are generally good and there are no real security issues connected with either.

http://aplicaciones4.sct.gob.mx/...action=cmdEscogeRuta
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