Rob’s Ramblings: Drive or Fly to Mexico?

I recently had a conversation with a few people debating their first road-trip to Mexico this coming snow-bird season.

It was a great discussion, with much debate on the pros and cons. Here are a few thoughts from this discussion. There is obviously a lot more to this topic than can be covered in one short article.

Depending on what you drive south, your fuel costs will be a major factor, so I will let you handle that calculation. We drive from Vancouver Island and the trek is 5,000 km each way, or roughly 3,400 km through the USA and 1,600 km through Mexico. If you need a vehicle to drive while in Mexico, and don’t plan to buy a cheap local vehicle, this might simply be a cost of the trip.

Before tallying the costs of driving, check airfares from your area so you can get an idea where the trade-off point is between driving and flying.

Crossing into Mexico, you will be issued a 180-day temporary Import Permit for roughly US $40. Your stay in Mexico is now limited to 180 days, as you must also provide a US $400 cash/credit card deposit (varies with the age of your vehicle) that will be forfeited if you stay longer than 180 days. This is a sore point for those who would like to stay in Mexico another month to avoid northern climates. You can extend this period if you are a Resident, though that is another discussion. It is best to shop and purchase Mexican vehicle insurance online from a broker for coverage while in Mexico. Prices and policies vary, though a broker will shop for the best package for your needs. Also, check with your insurance carrier at home. As they won’t cover your vehicle for time in Mexico, they will likely credit you for time out of the USA and Canada.

Editor’s Note: International Insurance Group (IIG) has been providing travelers, snowbirds and expats with the best Mexico insurance coverage available since 1999. IIG prides itself on offering home, auto and watercraft coverage from the finest, most respected “A rated” insurance companies in Mexico. All Mexico insurance products are available for quote and purchase entirely online, or you can call one of the experienced bilingual agents at their headquarters located in Flagstaff, AZ. Visit International Insurance Group for more information.

(top photo) Nice easy cycle along the malecón in Mazatlan.

San Blas


Now for the drive south. You will drive on Free/Libre roads and Toll/Cuota roads. The tolls vary with distance between toll booths, number of axles/tires, what you are towing and the quality of the road. This sounds rather ambiguous. For an example, my single rear-wheel one-ton truck and camper is the same cost as a small passenger car, however a dual rear-wheel truck will pay more. A bus or dual rear-wheel vehicle towing a tandem or tri-axle trailer will really cost you. Northbound last April cost us $487 pesos, however we take the free roads north from Jaltemba Bay to Culiacán and free roads around Guaymas and Hermosillo. Honestly, we have found some free roads to be in much better condition than toll roads, with minimal traffic, and you might only add a few more minutes to your trip.

Fuel in Mexico is set price and generally cheaper than fuel in the USA. Things to watch for at Pemex stations can be found in another of my articles (Rob’s Ramblings: A Few Things to Watch Out For). Topes and vibradores comments can also be found in another of my articles (Rob’s Ramblings: Topes, Turn Signals and Other Oddities of Driving in Mexico). We’ve had no problems with the drive through northern Mexico or problems with police (touch wood…), however, I make sure my vehicle is not too flashy to draw attention and I always make sure another motorist is driving faster than me, so they can be the speed-trap bait.

San Pancho

Grand Teton National Park

For the foreseeable future, we will still drive to Mexico with our cat along for the ride (Ally’s airlines and animals article is another good read for those traveling with pets). We still enjoy exploring parks and corners of the western USA, and never seem to get tired of the trek.

by Rob Erickson

This story was submitted by one of our regular contributors. To learn more about the author/photographer, click on the “Contributors” tab near the top of the page. If you want to join in and share information, stories and photos of Jaltemba Bay, Mexico, please email them to

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2 Reviews on “Rob’s Ramblings: Drive or Fly to Mexico?”

  1. :

    I am interested in finding someone for the drive from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego. Where would I start to look for help?

  2. :

    With all due respect, I'd ask everyone to consider the most sustainable and conscious choice for travel to Mexico: Public transport. Many of us have grandchildren, and the idea that we're handing them a catastrophic situation... the inevitable atmospheric warming caused by human activities such as driving and flying... is unacceptable. So consider our choice, which is fun, inexpensive and ecologically preferable: The Amtrak trains to San Diego (from north-central Oregon), plus buses and ferries south through Mexico. The trip is always fun, sometimes challenging, but never dull. And we arrive at our destination... last year it was Guayabitos... feeling good about our environmentally-conscious choices. Our first choice from San Diego is to head south thru Baja, stopping for a day or two in some of the most interesting towns and villages, then continuing to La Paz, where we catch the ferry to Mazatlan. Easy and fun! Flying is the absolute worst choice if you care about the future for your grandchildren and their grandchildren. Driving is horrendous too. But public transport... the environmental cost is low, the fun quotient is high... is the way to go. Please consider the future in your decision to bask in the warmth of Nayarit this winter.

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