Driving south: Laredo to Lake Chapala

articles Travel & Destinations

Warren Howard

As of July 2001 – Thanks to “Mr. Bill,” Warren Howard, and others

NOTE: There are two versions. The first is Annotated and the second, Point Form. At the end are additional comments.

Annotated – Incremental Mileage
Warren Howard

The following assumes you have an FM-2/3 visa and a car permit. Make sure you fill the tank before leaving the US, as the gas prices are close to 40% cheaper in Laredo than in Nuevo Laredo. (The fueling stops noted below are spaced about 230 miles apart.) We make this drive in about 11 1/2 hours. That means that your border crossing is before 7 am if you are to make the trip during daylight.

If need a tourist visa and/or a car permit you need to follow the signs on the US side of the border for “tourists”. (With FM2/3) at the end of the I-35 pay bridge toll and cross bridge into Mexico. If you have dutiable items to declare keep to the right as you end the bridge and enter the customs lot. If you have nothing to declare stay to the left and note that there will be severe “topes” (speed bumps) just following the end of the bridge.

If you have declared something you will reenter this same road just south of the topes. Turn left at the first intersection (there are stop signs at the next two intersections following your turn). Stay on this road (it bypasses central Nuevo Laredo) for several miles until you come to an overpass. Go under the underpass and turn left onto high 85 to Monterrey.

If you did not fill in Laredo there is a PEMEX a few miles down on the right. Continue south to the “21 click” checkpoint, about 10 more miles. (Be observant of traffic police with radar. The speed limit along this road is as low as 35 mph.)

ADUANA AND IMMIGRATION FINAL CHECKPOINT. You will be guided off highway 85 stopping first at immigration. They may want to see your visas. Customs is then just a few feet ahead. You will drive up to a red/green traffic light which is triggered by your car’s arrival: green pass on through, red pull to the left for a customs inspection. (Although the programming of these lights changes there is about a 1 in 10 chance of pulling a red.)

“Y” IN ROAD: Left fork says Monterrey Quota (toll), right is Monterrey “libre” (free). Take LEFT fork. This is a four lane divided highway with very light traffic.

TOLL BOOTH N$. Note: Facilities at toll stations are generally very good. This one only has coke machines (and restrooms) although you will find others with snack bars and mini-markets.

END OF TOLL ROAD: Start 4 lane divided highway. In 1-1/2 miles you will see an airport on your right. Continue on.

SIGN “SALTILLO”: Turn right off of Hwy 85 (start Monterrey by-pass)


SIGN “SALTILLO”: Curve right (end bypass)

HUGE COMMERCIAL SIGN “APASCO” (cement facility on right) and a wind generator: Past this sign a little way is a left turn that says “MATEHUELA QUOTA”. Curve left to take “MATEHUALA QUOTA”. (Begin Saltillo by-pass).

If you need to stay the night in Saltillo, go straight ahead at the APASCO sign instead of turning left. You will come to a Holiday Inn Express on the right in a few miles. Further down there is also a “Quinta Royal” on the opposite side of the highway. You will have to pass it then and do a U turn.


SIGN “HUACHICHIL”: EXIT, about 1/2 mile further is a TOLL BOOTH N$.

SIGN “SALTILLO”: Turn to the right. This is a two-lane undivided highway with light traffic.

PEMEX STATION: At this intersection you will turn left but you first may want to turn right and fill up. The restrooms here are usable but not outstanding. When you leave the PEMEX turn left (south). (End Saltillo by-pass.) The next 140 miles or so are on a two-lane highway with fairly light traffic. There are sometimes sections with potholes.

Also there are three or four military checkpoints. They generally do not stop you when you are southbound, although there are exceptions. Presumably they are looking for “guns and drugs”. The only time we were actually stopped in this direction was to inquire where we were coming from.

PUEBLO “CONCEPCION DEL ORO”: Highway curves to the left here. Stay on the highway. A couple of blocks past the PEMEX station on the right are a small hotel/restaurant. The restaurant is clean with clean restrooms and can serve you the local favorite of goat.

PUEBLO “POZO DE GAMBOA”: Turn to the left at the first street to begin the Zacatecas by-pass. (There is a “mini-super on the far corner and a restaurant on the near.) Note: After about 8 miles on this by-pass you will come to another pueblo that has several TOPES. Use care. The next village has two.

“T” IN ROAD: At this intersection you will want to turn left. However you may want to first turn right to go to the PEMEX that you will be able to see as you approach the intersection. You will have to cross over the dirt median strip to get to it (you will see where most people have done this.) There is a mini-mart, small café and very clean rest rooms here. Also there is a motel behind the PEMEX (basic) along with two restaurants just south by 1/4 mile or so.


“PUEBLO LUIS MOYA”: (You will be driving through the center of two or three pueblos on this stretch.) On the south side of the pueblo is a “Y” in the road. Stay to the right.

Curve to the left to by-pass S. J. DE RAMOS

XEROX PLANT (on right): At the first signal past this plant there is a sign in the divider and overhead which says “3 er ANILLO”. Turn left. Begin Aguascalientes by-pass. You will actually be driving on the outskirts on a boulevard with moderate traffic. There are a few traffic lights. (If you continue straight there is a McDonald’s about 1 mile further.)

SIGN “MEXICO”: Turn left. End of Aguascalientes by-pass. There are two hotels on left just after this turn.


TOLL ROAD: Stay in left lane to enter toll road.

TOLL BOOTH: Pay your toll in the far RIGHT HAND booth. You are leaving the toll road here. There are clean restrooms and a mini-store here.

Turn to the right upon leaving the toll station. You will now start a 14.5 mile stretch of two lane undivided highway which could have some heavy truck traffic. You pass through one pueblo with two TOPES.

PEMEX STATION: Just past this station is an intersection. CROSS CAREFULLY as there are no signals nor stop signs and there may be high speed traffic. Just beyond the intersection you will see an overpass. That is the highway to Guadalajara. Enter the transition ramp ahead just after the intersection. The sign says “GUADALARA QUOTA”.

At this point you have a clear shot to Guadalajara and Lakeside.

This stretch of the trip is on beautiful highway and will take you to GDL in about two hours. After you pass the third tollbooth you will rise onto a bridge that curves slightly to the left. You will begin to see Chapala signs. As you will have to exit to the frontage road you need to move to the right hand lane.

About a mile further down you will see a “Chapala” sign pointing to the right. Go under the overpass and exit the frontage road turning right and up onto the overpass you just crossed under. From here on follow the signs to the Airport and Chapala. (As the highway divides a little ways up you need to merge a few lanes over.) You will soon pass the Hotel Tapatio on your left and about a mile later go under an overpass (Periferico).

At this point you are about 35 minutes from Chapala/Ajijic. Continue straight and follow the signs.

Point form – Laredo to Chapala
Mr. Bill


0.0 – Crossing at bridge #1, you pay toll of $1.50 USD.
Turn immediately to your right into parking lot for customs to give your Car a cursory check (I only go into this area if police officer directs me to do so: otherwise, I go about 20-30 feet and turn right toward immigration.)
When your auto has been checked, exit back onto hiway heading south to immigration where you get your tourist Visa and car permit.

1.1 – Exit left into immigration parking lot. It has white stucco wall around it. There will be a railroad station and rail cars on the right, just before you reach immigration.

14.5 – to Check Point. Keep in extreme right lane, which is for autos. If you get the Green light proceed south – The Red light pull over to your left under shed for further checking. When this is completed, continue south.

45.2 – Road forks. Take left to Monterrey via Cuota

73.4 – Tollbooth

122.2 – Exit right to Saltillo

136.1 – Toll booth

170.0 – Exit left on hiway 57 to Matehuala.
Note: if it is late in the afternoon, you may wish to stay in right lane and go on into Saltillo and spend the night. About 5 miles in Holiday Inn Express..$100.00 per night for one person.
About ½ mile further on is the Fiesta Inn for $63.00. Should you spend the night the next morning goback to the fork in the road and continue to Matehuala.

172.0 – Toll booth

331.1 – Las Palmas motel in Matehuala. You are now ½ way from border To Chapala. Continue on hiway 57 to San Luis Potosi.

382.7 – road forks-bear left on hiway 57 to San Luis Potosi

434.4 – Road forks-take right on hiway 57 to San Luis Potosi. Go thru SLP and after you leave the city, road curves with mountains for 10 miles.

450.6 – Road splits – take hiway 80 to Guadalajara (approx. 4.3 miles of road construction run parallel to main Hiway. Follow the cars.

502.3 – Turn right to Guadalajara

503.9 – Toll booth

505.7 – Turn right to Guadalajara

547.8 – Sign to Guadalajara – turn right

551.5 – Intersection-sign to Maxipista – take middle road

552.9 – Cross railroad tracks

555.4 – Pemex on right

573.0 – Road forks – take right to Guadalajara via Cuto

591.3 – Tollbooth

622.0 – Tollbooth

660.1 – Take left to Chapala and follow signs to Chapala

Additional comments

Nancy: We prefer this route also, and on going north we usually stay in Saltillo. We prefer, however to go into the city from the southeast turning left immediately after the Pemex on the left after the Autopista winds through the mountains. This route is labeled 57, but so are a couple of others. I believe the street name is Fundadores. We stay at the Okey Motel, which is clean and very nice for $400 pesos for the two of us. We walk across the street to a much more expensive motel, where we enjoy a delicious meal. Coming back down south, we stop in Matehuala. We have stayed in Las Palmas, but also in a couple of less expensive places. One was small (the toilet was practically in the shower) but very clean, and it cost (get this!) $160 pesos.

Published or Updated on: June 1, 2001 by Warren Howard © 2009
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