I obviously wanted to have my vehicle in good condition for this journey. Despite keeping the 4Runner well-maintained, I had it looked over and did a round of preventive maintenance. I drive a 2005 4runner Limited with 4.7L V8, 4x4, 4.88 Gears, and Shrockworks front bumper. For suspension, I went with ToyTec Boss 2.5 coilovers with rear HD springs. The 4Runner rides on 285 KM2 tires with SCS SR8 wheels. Even though I traveled with a 7-gallon RotoPax for fuel, I never had to use it.
Travel Tip: to drive through Mexico, you need Mexico-based auto insurance. If you’re going over the border for a few hours, you'll be alright. For multi-day trips, I would highly recommend the insurance, which is cheap. Full coverage for six months cost me $318.
My original plan was to enter threw Reynosa, but I was informed that is not as safe and I should enter through Laredo. I entered through Laredo/ Nuevo Laredo 85/85D. Upon crossing the border into Mexico, I was asked several questions: my destination, vehicle contents, why I'm going, and what do I do for a career. After about 3 minutes, I could continue.
I didn’t think I needed to have my vehicle registered with a Mexico temporary registration. About 45 mins out of Nuevo Laredo, I encountered a checkpoint where papers were being checked. They asked me for my temporary registration. I told them I didn't think I needed it. They informed I did and that I had to goback and get it. I had to drive 45 mins back to the border to a registration station. After 30 mins, I was handed a form for the vehicle, along with a holographic sticker to put on the windshield. I headed south and returned to the checkpoint, only to find no one was there!
My first destination was Monterrey. The highway resembles U.S. highways, with some parts rougher than usual. With a temperature of 60 degrees, Monterrey was cooler than I expected. Stopped at Pemex for fuel. This appeared to be the only fuel supplier in Mexico. They have a great monopoly game going on!
I encountered another checkpoint about 30 minutes out of Monterrey. The official requested vehicle papers and passports. Same questions as at the border: destination, where I'm coming from, how do I know the person that’s with me, what’s in my luggage, etc... Once all that was out of the way I wanted to know about the security in the area. He told me that from Monterrey to the border north, be careful because sometimes the cartel sets up fake checkpoints. South from Monterrey is safe.
We set out for San Luis Potosi. The mountainous scenery was nice; hilly and wide-open...we could see far off. We used Airbnb to find a nice BnB place and found the hosts to be amazing. Luckily, they both spoke English.
Woke up toan amazing breakfast, complete with fresh orange juice. Filled up with fuel and kicked the tires! Arrived in Mexico City that evening in the rainy 60-degree weather. We couldn't see much, but I could tell that we were going up in elevation because my ears kept popping and my Suunto watch was going off like crazy. This drive was smooth and without issues. We arrived in Vera Cruz about midnight. We could tell the climate changed, palm trees, humidity, and the smell of the ocean in the air. This is what I was waiting for. We checked into a hotel at Holiday Inn in the downtown area. The hotel has private parking, so the 4Runner was safe there.
Our plan the next day was to head towards Campeche and stay the night. Again, the drive was smooth...nothing crazy other than my debit card not working at ANY of the gas stations, so I switched to using a credit card. We arrived into Campeche late and dined at Chili’s. When I started searching for a hotel, I realized we were only about 4 hours away from our destination of Merida.
About one hour into the drive, we encountered another checkpoint. Two officers asked the routine series of questions. While I'm talking to one officer, the other officer is talking to my girlfriend, who speaks fluent Spanish, and he's telling her that there is an issue with my 4Runner not having a front license plate andan issue with the rear seats being down. They refer to a ticket an infraction. The officer advises us on our options: I can either pay the ticket with him now, or they are going to take my license plate, and I should pay the ticket when they open the next day. They claim the infraction fine is 2,000 pesos, which is roughly $100 USD. After further back-and-forth discussion, I ask how much they want to let us go. We settled on about $60 USD.
With this delay now behind us, I started traveling at a higher rate of speed. Supposedly they don't issue speeding tickets in Mexico. We finally made it to Merida at about 2:00 am. We drove to the Center where I still remember it from my previous visit: cobblestone roads and vendors on the side of the road selling food. We checked into Piedra De Agua, which I highly recommend. I also recommend the Presidential Suite...you can thank me later.
To get your copy of the
Winter 2017 Issue: