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Driving to Mexico - we're scared!
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deides
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 4:13 pm    Post subject: Driving to Mexico - we're scared! Reply with quote

well ok we're not scared, my wife is "a bit cautious" Laughing

We will have about a month's time in september and we are thinking of going to mexico for that period of time. Of course, we live in BC, Canada and we always hear a bunch of horror stories about people going to mexico, being kidnapped, carjacked, killed, tickled to death... and god knows what.

I tried telling my wife that a kid-napping is just a kid taking a snooze, but she won't believe me.

So here we are, i told her so many good things about the samba and this lovely community that she asked me to write here and see if in fact there is any major danger to going to mexico.

I've read the basics - camp in recognized campgrounds, don't drive at night.

so what about it guys.. i know many of you go to mexico every year. What are your experiences? Has anything major ever happened to anyone here? Is there a safe place to cross the border? where should we go/not go?

any help would be appreciated!! i would love to go on an adventure... no, we NEED to go on this adventure.
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George Evans
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You will not find me in Mexico. Your wife is smart!
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PDXWesty
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

whiteyak wrote:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Cactus/Boulder wonders down Mex 1


Send a PM to member whiteyak. He went from BC to the tip of Baja last year with his family. He might have some tips for you.

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/profile.php?mode=viewprofile&u=144865
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Williamtaylor33
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm an american and live in mexico.
Dont believe all the "horror stories" you hear.
I have yet to feel "unsafe".
Mexico is a great place to live and a fun place to travel.
Dont hesitate to contact me if you need advise crossing the border.


Are you planning on traveling the west or east coast?
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Last edited by Williamtaylor33 on Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:08 pm; edited 1 time in total
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levi
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This thread is sure to bring out all sorts of responses, but you can get yourself hurt anywhere, at the 7-11, crossing the street, whatever.
Bottom line is, if you're going to be afraid to live your life, might as well stay home and lock yourself behind bars.

To live, you have to be willing to die.
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Williamtaylor33
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=250359&highlight=
The black Xterra is mine...
I had an A/C westy at the time but it wasnt running...So we slept in our Xterra and was wishin there were two westys on the beach.
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schoonerman
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My friends have been travelling in their camper around Mexico for the last 4 years, 6 months at a time with NO problems.
They were stopped by a cop one time who asked for cash.. he told his wife to take a picture of him giving the cop cash...as soon as the cop saw the camera he waved them on and told them to vamoos
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patruck
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm heading down in April, first time, little to no spanish, driving from NS.
I am in your same boat, but all the research I have done tells me that we should be fairly safe, as long as we don't get involved in the cartel.
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Rhinoculips
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

levi wrote:
This thread is sure to bring out all sorts of responses, but you can get yourself hurt anywhere, at the 7-11, crossing the street, whatever.
Bottom line is, if you're going to be afraid to live your life, might as well stay home and lock yourself behind bars.

To live, you have to be willing to die.


Applause Applause Applause Applause Applause Applause Applause
I could not have said it better. To tell you the truth, I would be more afraid of some of the cities in the US of A, than Mexico. People of North America, in-particularly Americans have a limited exposure to what it is really like. All we hear is the bad news and assume that is all there is.

People thought I was crazy to backpack through Pakistan, post 9/11. Again, people were ready to lock me up when I was motorcycling through the Kidnap Capital of the world, Colombia. The people are amazingly friendly and helpful. Now I am not saying that something could not have happened. Sure, it could. But you can also get mugged/murdered or hit by a car just stepping out your door.

Go for it!
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SyncroChrick
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's actually quite simple - you will hear two types of answers:

-People who have never been will tell you how dangerous it is.

-People who have been there (and that includes me) will tell you how great it is.

Go, you won't regret it. Damn media.
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hdenter
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Relax!

Mexico is fine once you get away from the border area and the major tourist towns in Northern Baja. My advice is to cross the border with a full tank of gas and all your insurance and paperwork ready. If you plan to go more than 50 miles into mainland mexico you will have to make a monetary deposit to guaranty that you will take your car back out of Mexico and there may be some other paper work that you will have to do. But, if you stay in Baja you just need a visa. Also, you do not have to go to the immigration office right there at the border in Mexico. You have three days to get you visa stamped for your trip and you can do that at a deaper office such as the one in Guerro Negro at the border between Baja CA and Baja Ca Sur(north and south). On my last trip we crossed the border at 6 AM and drove strait to San Quintin, about 5 hrs south of the border. On the third day we reached the border between north and south and went to the immigration office there. Much nicer people, no tourists traps and no worries about getting shot by drug dealers.

After NAFTA was passed, all sorts of factories popped up over the border and people moved up to the border areas for jobs. A lot of them live in shanty towns and are poor. This area of Northern Baja is not a pretty sight with lots of trash and dead cars strewn about. However, I have never had a problem here. Once you get south of Encinada it gets a lot better. The people are wonderful and the land is beautiful. Baja CA Sur takes it to the next level. They (the state) have more money and take better care of thier roads and infrastucture. Make no mistake, this is still Mexico and the standards are no where close to what we are used to.

Use safe camping practices, don't drive after dark. Stay away from the water AND ice unless you are in a major hotel or resort that has its own pure water system.

The only unplessant thing for us in Mexico where the random check points for drugs. You will run into them every 150 miles or so. There will be ten or so solders with machine guns. They will ask to see your visa papers and such and may ask to see in the back of your car. We ran into four check points on our way to Loretto and two on the way back. Only once did we have to unload some of our camping stuff. Be courtious and friendy and if they ask to see something, don't make a big deal out of it.

A cop in Tijuana pulled us over for no real reason and after 15 minutes and 20 bucks he went from no english to broken english to perfect english and all smiles. It's just a part of traveling in Mexico. I don't think they go after Canadians as much as US tourists.

Something to keep in mind about traveling in September is that it is the end of Hurricane Season and there can be significant rain stomes. There are two travel clubs for Baja. One is called Discover Baja and the other escapes me. Look on line, they have lots of helpful advice and can help with the paperwork.

Go for it! and have fun. Lots of good fishing in the summer months in Baja.

Hans
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Chris_L
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We drove most of the length of Baja a couple of years ago with our 5 year old son. We met up with friends along the way, including another couple with their 4 year son who flew in to meet us about halfway down. The only part that I did not like was getting back into the U.S. at the TJ crossing. That and 3 weeks was not anywhere near long enough.

Avoid TJ unless there is something specific there that you want to see. To me, the border area has way to much of a wealth-gradient and is pretty depressing. But, get south of that area, and things are pretty cool until you get near other areas with too much gringo money making local wealth-gradients. In Baja, there is really only Cabo that is like that.

It is hard to explain this wealth-gradient thing; We were generous and tried to spend what we could and share what we had, but the economic forces at play especially along the border cities are unfathomable. People seem like they can be content with less, as long as more isn't constantly being flaunted/consumed/wasted nearby.

The best places, we stumbled upon, while almost lost or mostly so. There are many other RV and truck/van campers, you can get some great beta on amazing spots that are not on maps or in books.

Here is a link to a big bunch of photos. Would love to go back, this time to the mainland!

http://fairweather.gps.alaska.edu/chris/images/baja/index.html
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Rodknock
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Baja is a walk in the park, especially once you are past the border towns as others have noted above. Watch your fuel level too. The mainland is a different story. I've not had problems traveling the mainland either (on motorycle), but it is much more diverse, big cities, and has much more poverty.
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Williamtaylor33
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hdenter wrote:
If you plan to go more than 50 miles into mainland mexico you will have to make a monetary deposit to guaranty that you will take your car back out of Mexico and there may be some other paper work that you will have to do.
Hans

You should only have to make a "deposit" if you pay with cash...
I think its 100 us dollars.
Pay with a credit card and you wont have to pay it.
Make sure your passport and credit card are in the same name.
Sounds wierd and unlikely but it happend to me.

When i traveled baja i carried an extra fuel can. I had to use it once.

Why put off getting the necessary paperwork?
And you shouldnt have to pay a Mordita. I have never viewed that as something you have to do to get the transito off your back.
If you break the law drivin in mexico. Pay your fine.
And in some parts of mexico you can even pay your ticket at OXXO service stations. This is to reduce corruption.
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JunkYarDog
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I will tell you most of the border cities are blacklisted for military folks to go to. Reason given is there is an increase in violence related to the drug cartel activities. But I work with friends who are from towns beyond the border city of Juarez, and they are given permission to go there and visit family. They have not had any issues in the 5 years I've known them. However there was a young man who was in Juarez recently from here who got killed in a club, but I don't know the details. IMO travel anywhere has it's risk, just know your surroundings and have plans.
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BlackDogVan
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd be more worried about everything between Nelson & the MX border! Wink
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0to60in6min
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yup... you will hear 2 versions...

1- dangerous --> don't go

2- relax --> go and have a good time

it's up to you... count me as in the #2 group...

Tecate (east of TJ) is the border to cross, specially on your way back. I recommend Tecate in and out of Baja. Also you will have a chance to visit a lovely church build by Gustave Eiffel.. YES.... the same guy who built the famous Tower in Paris...
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fatboypaul
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My wife and I spent sixteen days down in Baja over this last holiday period. Our Westy isn't the prettiest vehicle on the block, and thus doesn't attract any attention. We drove through Tijuana mid morning, immediately onto Ensenada, picked up our visas, changed some money and then checked into a great resort, very quiet and clean, a few miles south of town. We had a great vacation, absolutely no problems, the people were very friendly, the roads although slightly narrower than California, were in very good condition, and not congested, food was excellent, (fish tacos) no gas problems, no sickness (careful about the water). Campsites were a little lacking, some were closed, the hurricane that blew thru in Sep really did some damage, the tour guide books we brought were often wrong.
Bahia Concepcion, where you camp on the beach, fifteen feet from the water's edge made me more relaxed than I have been in years. I'd seen the photos in travel guides, it was brillant.
La Paz for Christmas Eve, stayed in a hotel, used Skype to call our families in Europe, very friendly, hotel was totally cool with us having a dog in the room.
I'll post some photos, I'd go again in a heart beat.
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Wildthings
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Every border crossing is different so check ahead of time to find out where customs and immigrations are located. In some places you have to go through immigration right at the border and in others you don't get your papers until the inspection station 20 miles inside. Don't expect anyone at the border to be able to tell you what you need to do at any given crossing, they won't know and there won't be signs telling you anything. We crossed at Juarez one time and I would swear the signs intentionally pointed us in the wrong direction. I don't like to stop within 50 miles south of the border for any reason going either way.

You have to be alert to drive in Mexico, it is usually a real wake up to a norte americano to find that Mexicans consider driving towards you in your lane normal, and you are expected to get out of their way. I get hyper after driving in Mexico for a few hundred miles and start to take unnecessary chances myself. I really have to remember that it is my life and that of my family and friends that are going to be killed if I take too many risk.

Driving at night is not as bad as it once was. I do it routinely anymore. It used to be that Mexican trucks would just park in the middle of the road at night with their lights off. I haven't seen that in years and the number of free roaming cattle is way down as well. Use common sense though and slow down when traffic approaches in the other direction, as you can't see cattle when blinded by oncoming lights.

One thing I have learned when traveling north and passing through a military check point is to just give them the name of the last city you passed through when they ask you where you are coming from. You will not be lying and they will be way more comfortable with that answer than if you say you are coming from somewhere 500 miles farther south.

To me Mexico is worth some risk. It is a great land with great people.
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singler3360
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My wife and I drove down from Oregon to Mulage, Baja back in the early 90's. It was a fantastic trip. Can't wait to do it again, this time in our Westy with our 10 year-old. Do your homework on how to negotiate TJ and get south of it as fast as you can. South of Ensenada it's absolutely wonderful with small Mexican villages,, children in school uniforms helping their mothers serve the best fish tacos you'll ever have, etc... All the locals are very helpful and seem very honest. The Eiffel church is in the first town you come to as the main highway meets the Sea of Cortez. The locals look French there if memory serves. The military roadblocks (I think we counted 25 down and back) are not a big deal. We quickly learned to pack my wife's feminine napkins in the first satchel they come to; stopped the 19 year-old soldiers cold every time and we made better time. Mulage, Bahia Coyote and Loreto were really great. I'm not pretending to know what the border area is like with the drug cartel thing of more recent years; I'll let those with more recent experience explain that. One thing I've noticed driving in MX (Baja and Yucatan to Belize) is that on a 2 lane road, there is an assumed third lane down the middle for passing. Once I got the "rule" down and anticipated cars in that "lane", driving got much less stressful. Also, big trucks you're stuck behind will put on their passing blinker to signal that it's safe to pass. The system works.

GO!
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