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DanielSharpton

May 15, 2005, 7:06 PM

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I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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Ok...I feel like the little kid at the pool who is scared to jump off the high dive! First he walks up the stairs, nice and slow, then walks back down disappointed in himself. Then his friends make fun of him and he says, "what me scared?" Then he runs back up there and jumps without even thinking. When hits the water he realizes that it ain't all that bad after all. I feel this way about driving to Mexico next month. (with the exception of walking to a border town, I've never been to Mexico)

Family and friends always advice against the trip to Mexico. They all seem to worry that I will be robbed, car stolen, kids kidnapped, wife taken hostage, and me winding up in a Mexican jail. I've read a few books and they seem to reveal that the above is not likely to happen. However, the books may be out of date. Will you please set me straight?

We speak no Spanish at all. Will we be able to survive the drive to the tourist areas without being able to speak? I am looking forward to this trip, but am getting cold feet.



Don Moore


May 15, 2005, 7:10 PM

Post #2 of 34 (9970 views)

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Re: [DanielSharpton] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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Your fear is understandable and your honesty about it is commendable. However, the fear is without foundation. Many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of gringos have done what you are about to do without any problem. Follow the instructions given by the good people on this forum and then relax and enjoy yourself. That's what we have done.
Don Moore


DanielSharpton

May 15, 2005, 7:17 PM

Post #3 of 34 (9965 views)

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Re: [Don Moore] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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Thanks Don for your speedy reply! It is scary to me mainly because of bringing the young children. I read everywhere that people feel safer in Mexico then back in the USA. I have traveled the USA all over, and have never felt too scared. I'm hoping that once I get past the border town the fears will evaporate.


Don Moore


May 15, 2005, 7:26 PM

Post #4 of 34 (9955 views)

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Re: [DanielSharpton] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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I do not have children, so I guess I will never understand fully your feelings. But I know Mexico is a land that loves children. My hunch is that the ninos (that's children) will serve as a good way to establish rapport in many situations in Mexico.
Don Moore


cristalhombre


May 15, 2005, 7:45 PM

Post #5 of 34 (9944 views)

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Re: [Don Moore] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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Don has a great point about kids traveling with parents. They can be your life line. We spent some extended time (about 6 weeks, with little or no Spanish then) in Oaxaca three years ago and our then 10 year old daughter, turned into our guide. Mexicans love children and families seem to get a leg up in situations, nice hotel rooms, tables in restaurants, etc. She quickly realized that she was the 'star' of our three-some (Mom and Dad just paid the bills).

I would encourage you NOT to be afraid and know that you are likely MUCH safer in MX than you would be at Disneyland. IMHO.

Buena suerte!

ps. I also hope that your family vacation does for you what it did for us. That is to realize there is an amazing culture just to the south of the USA. You'll find warm and wonderful people, great food, amazing beauty, generally terrific weather (away from the oceans this time of year) and a pace of life that is truly authentic (as compared to the rat race in the states). Mexico is a great spot and your kids will talk about this experience forever!





"NOT ALL WHO WANDER ARE LOST...."



Don Moore


May 15, 2005, 8:14 PM

Post #6 of 34 (9931 views)

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Re: [DanielSharpton] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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I ran across your post about TV on the technical forum. I can tell that you are concerned about your children being entertained in Mexico. I assure you, they will not need American TV. There is plenty to do, and I suspect that they will be fascinated by TV in another language. If you steer them to things that are interesting, they will respond positively.
Don Moore


raferguson


May 15, 2005, 9:18 PM

Post #7 of 34 (9915 views)

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Re: [DanielSharpton] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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I did not see exactly where you are going in your post. As you know, the border towns are not the safest places in the world, but that has been true for decades. I suggest crossing the border in the morning, and then heading south, away from the border.

I tend to be more cautious than most about security issues in Mexico, but I don't let that concern stop me from traveling in Mexico. A little research can help you avoid the biggest hazards in the area that you plan to travel in, or alert you to any special hazards that you may not have considered.

http://travel.state.gov Go light on the general comments that Mexico is not safe, and focus on the specific suggestions that you can use.

If you are driving, I suggest the biggest hazard to you and your family is an auto accident. Wear your seatbelts, drive defensively, do not drive at night, do not drive when you are tired or impaired in any way, etc.

Mexico is less safe than the USA in almost every way. For example, there are unmarked holes in the sidewalk in Mexico that would not be tolerated in the USA. Construction safety practices would make OSHA inspectors turn white, etc. Electrical wiring is often grossly substandard. It is an issue of awareness more than anything else, the USA 75 years ago was like Mexico today. Do not assume that Mexico is like the USA.

Have fun, but use reasonable care and caution.

Richard


http://www.fergusonsculpture.com


Ed and Fran

May 16, 2005, 6:09 AM

Post #8 of 34 (9896 views)

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Re: [DanielSharpton] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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Family and friends always advice against the trip to Mexico. They all seem to worry that I will be robbed, car stolen, kids kidnapped, wife taken hostage, and me winding up in a Mexican jail.

That's the standard advice from people who have never actually crossed the border themselves, but have read plenty about the country in the alarmist press up north.


We speak no Spanish at all. Will we be able to survive the drive to the tourist areas without being able to speak?

Sure, people do it all the time. Of course, getting a (Mexican) Spanish phrase book and practicing a little will also help with the most important needs, like finding the bathroom. Don't worry about being able to construct whole sentences. When you stop at the Pemex station for gasoline, don't bother trying to say "Would you please fill my tank with hi-test unleaded gasoline." It's just "Lleno con premium." Or "Lleno con magna" for regular unleaded like I use. You can probably get away with saying "full", and pointing at the gas you want (premium comes in the red hose, magna in the green), they know what you're looking for.

Incidentally, speaking of Pemex stations, unless you really get out in the boonies you'll find gas stations at pretty regular intervals on all major roads. Most of them are franchise operations these days, most have little convenience stores attached, and the bathrooms (at least the ones I've seen lately) seem to be pretty decent. The price of gas is government controlled so it's the same at all stations. Don't worry about looking for a station with a good price.

Enjoy the trip. Your feet will warm up once you're down here.

E&F


Miguel Palomares


May 16, 2005, 7:47 AM

Post #9 of 34 (9878 views)

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Re: [DanielSharpton] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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Keep the little receipt you receive on paying autopista tolls. Its also insurance. While you are on the autopistas, you are automatically covered by some government insurance policy. Ive known people whove benefited by it significantly after a mishap.

Gas stations do not accept credit cards.

When stopped at Army checkpoints, always exit your car with your hands held high so they will know you are unarmed. Everybody does this. If you dont, they may shoot you.

That last paragraph is untrue! It is humor! However, the first two paragraphs are very true.
From Tzurumutaro, Michoacan, "The Village of the Darned."
_______________________________________

The nuts and bolts of moving to Mexico:
http://michaeldickson.blogspot.com/
The dark side of living in Mexico:
http://mexicopeeks.blogspot.com/
Scintillating life in a Mexican pueblo:
http://tzurumutaro.blogspot.com/
http://tzurumutaro2.blogspot.com/


DanielSharpton

May 16, 2005, 7:54 AM

Post #10 of 34 (9875 views)

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Re: [Ed and Fran] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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Thanks everyone for your good advice and tips!


johanson


May 16, 2005, 9:07 AM

Post #11 of 34 (9850 views)

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Re: [palomares] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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Hey Palomares:

I haven't been stopped at an Army checkpoint for a couple of years. The last time was when the Army had a checkpoint on the 4 lane highway between Chapala and Guadalajara. The soldiers would stop an occasional car. I have also been stopped in Michoacan. What am I missing here? Never have I been asked to get out of my car. Often I needed to if they wanted to look in the trunk, but never was I asked to and never were they pointing guns at me. It was all very casual

You say every one does this. I'm not disputing you, Maybe that actually happens in your area. But I have never seen this during the 8 years I have been living in Mexico (8 months per year)


Rolly


May 16, 2005, 9:17 AM

Post #12 of 34 (9847 views)

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Re: [johanson] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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I've been stopped 4 times. Only once was I asked to get out of my pickup. The guy wanted to look under the seat. He also used a flashlight to try to look inside the door by looking down through the window slot. His partner was checking everything in the back seat of the king cab. What really amused me was the fact that we had suitcases and several boxes in the back of the truck, but the soldiers showed no interest in those. Odd.

Rolly Pirate


Ed and Fran

May 16, 2005, 9:56 AM

Post #13 of 34 (9835 views)

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Re: [johanson] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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Pete, I think you missed his disclaimer in his last paragraph...............


However I will say that at the army checkpoints on the east coast, if they do select your car to check they will always ask you (very politely) to get out of the car while they check it.


Regards

E&F


Bubba

May 16, 2005, 10:03 AM

Post #14 of 34 (9834 views)

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Re: [palomares] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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If I am not mistaken, the autopista (toll road) insurance policy covers you for damages as a result of defects in the road bed and nothing else. If you believe in the tooth fairy and plan to stay here for the next five years you may want to try to collect that insurance settlement. On the other hand, if you save all of your toll receipts you may want to shoot yourself when you add them up.

And, do not believe Palomares. If you come upon an Army checkpoint and they wave you over and ask you where you are from and where you are going , the proper response is "San Franceesco y Guatamala ." The army guys love this joke around here and never tire of hearing it. They may even invite you over to the barracks for lunch - and dinner and perhaps some free lodging for a few days.


(This post was edited by Bubba on May 16, 2005, 3:15 PM)


gpk

May 16, 2005, 10:18 AM

Post #15 of 34 (9825 views)

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Re: [DanielSharpton] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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I do not find driving in Mexico very pleasant. If this is a vacation for you, are you sure you want to spend it lost/confused/frightened/tied up in traffic, etc.? The pot holes/toll expenses/drivers who use their testosterone for fuel/pricesses on cel phones/questionable police practices, etc. make driving here challenging and not easy. I live here and my Spanish is approaching mediocre, and I would not consider driving anywhere I didn't have to. Go by bus--easy, pretty cheap and safe.


johanson


May 16, 2005, 10:33 AM

Post #16 of 34 (9822 views)

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Re: [gpk] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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Gee, I ought to read the disclaimers before commenting about being stopped by the Army. On another matter. Driving in Mexico. The traffic congestion is getting worse, especially in cities like Guadalajara. But the congestion is still less than what I have experienced in the states, especially in Houston, LA, SF, or Seattle.

I feel safer when driving in Mexico, by having a cell phone with me so that should there be a problem, I will be able to call someone I know for help.

For those of you who find the Mexican drivers a little wild, try driving in Paris or Rome. The drivers in Mexico are down right tame compared to what I have experienced in some larger cities in Europe. I too find it a little intimidating driving in the larger cities of Mexico, but I blame that on my age, not about anything terribly challenging, especially if you have a good map. Oh and I love that compass my Ford Explorer has. With a map and car compass, one can go almost anywhere.



jennifer rose

May 16, 2005, 10:56 AM

Post #17 of 34 (9811 views)

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Re: [DanielSharpton] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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You'll have the most rewarding and enriching travel experience of your life by driving to Mexico. At first, it may seem a little confusing to you, getting the car permit and getting out of the border town past the 26 km. mark, but once you're on your way, you'll find that there's no better way to see Mexico.

This is a great country to drive around in. I've found the drivers -- and particularly truck drivers -- to be polite, the gas station attendants courteous, and the experience unbeatable. Did I mention that I love driving in Mexico?

Your friends are simply wusses and ninnies. Get yourself the AAA Mexico travel book or something akin to that, and read the chapters on driving in Mexico. Since this is a new experience for you, count on allowing twice the normal time to get from Point A to Point B, thinking of 100 miles in Mexico as the equivalent of 200 miles in the US, and don't drive at night.


Ed and Fran

May 16, 2005, 11:06 AM

Post #18 of 34 (9806 views)

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Re: [DanielSharpton] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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Daniel: ...the drive to the tourist areas ...


Okay, now that this has become such a popular thread, enquiring minds (and those of us with nothing better to do) want to know, where are you going?


E&F


DanielSharpton

May 16, 2005, 11:08 AM

Post #19 of 34 (9806 views)

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Re: [jennifer rose] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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I will for sure drive, I am looking forward to it! The driving in Mexico is not as of a scare to me as not speaking Spanish. I'm a professional driver and I teach safety classes to the employees that we hire for the trucking company I own. I know I can drive in Mexico. The biggest scare I have is the language barrier. Thanks to everyone for reassuring me of the safety and the risk of not being robbed.


jennifer rose

May 16, 2005, 11:11 AM

Post #20 of 34 (9804 views)

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Re: [DanielSharpton] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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You really won't have a problem with the language. Get yourself a phrase book, read the glossary in the back of the AAA book, and don't fret about using the wrong word for muffler. I've known people whose Spanish amounted to zero, and who knew even less about how a car runs, who have successfully and enjoyably driven throughout Mexico.


DanielSharpton

May 16, 2005, 11:30 AM

Post #21 of 34 (9804 views)

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Re: [jennifer rose] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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Going to drive from Oklahoma City to P.V.

I'm going to cross over north of Laredo most likely on a Thursday morning before 7 am. Then drive on the toll road to Monterrey, Then take 40 all the way to Torreon. Stay the night in Torreon, then wake up and drive the the rest of the way into Puerto Vallarta.

Anyone got a better route to take?


Bubba

May 16, 2005, 12:14 PM

Post #22 of 34 (9789 views)

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Re: [DanielSharpton] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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I must say, guys, that Jennifer is right. Get used to driving here and it's beyond easy. You just need to get to know the "informal" rules of the road. Both Mexico City and Guadalajara are easier to drive in than all big U.S. cities; especially Guadalajara which is laid out better than any other Northern American city I have ever experienced. I lived and drove in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Paris, Bangkok, Singapore and God knows where else in my life and Mexico ain't even in the competition. A pussy cat could drive in Guadalajara.


Marta R

May 16, 2005, 12:21 PM

Post #23 of 34 (9785 views)

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Re: [DanielSharpton] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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Daniel, everyone who has recommended that you get a phrase book is spot on. I have never met any people like the Mexicans for being deeply delighted when visitors try to use Spanish, even if they butcher it (as I often do). A good heart, a warm smile, and a phrase book will take you far, I promise.

Marta


(This post was edited by chrisnmarta on May 16, 2005, 12:21 PM)


gpk

May 16, 2005, 1:06 PM

Post #24 of 34 (9771 views)

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Re: [johanson] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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It really isn't the normal drivers or the amount of traffic--it's the cows, burros, dogs, cyclists, peregrinos, drunks, doble-remolques(?), lack of enforcement of speeding and other laws, sudden downpours, lack of use of turn signals, cars/trucks without brake lights and sometimes without headlights... there really is no end to this list. I do drive in Mexico, but again, I do not find it the best way to travel.


Professor


May 16, 2005, 2:44 PM

Post #25 of 34 (9753 views)

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Re: [DanielSharpton] I'm little scared TO DEATH!

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Believe NOTHING that family and friends say about driving or living in Mexico unless they have actually done it themselves. If they haven't, ask yourself, where are they getting their information?? Most opinions that people have isn't based on deep research, they're based on stereotypes or fillers. This is how lazy people come up with how things are.
If I want to learn or know something about a plane, I'm going to go to a pilot not a farmer or a CEO. The same is true when you're looking for information on other countries. Listen to the people on this website because most have or do LIVE IN MEXICO, which QUALIFIES them to tell you the truth about how things really are down there. As far as driving in Mexico, I took a bus from Dallas Texas to Mexico City two months ago and had NO PROBLEMS. People I knew thought they would never see me again. These people had never done any type of research on Mexico, so I didn't take their opinions to hold much water. We got to Laredo around 12:30am and drove through Mexico the whole night without any problems. Perhaps it's different in a car.
And I must say that I disagree with the one who said in this forum that Mexico is more dangerous than the States. In California, there is someone shooting at people on the highways. In Mexico at least the criminals want money or something, while in the U.S., you can get shot for no reason. Just make sure that you read books from those who are or have lived in Mexico and take with a grain of salt what people say to you about Mexico who've never been there.
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