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El Monte RV

Driving in Mexico

Tips for Driving South of the Border

Driving an RV in Mexico can be an enjoyable experience, but it's important to take certain precautions to ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road. If you are planning on driving an RV in Mexico, there are several things you should keep in mind to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure your RV is in good condition: Before you hit the road, have your RV thoroughly inspected to ensure that it's in good working condition. Check the tires, brakes, and other mechanical systems to make sure everything is in good shape.

  2. Get Mexican auto insurance: It's important to get Mexican auto insurance before you drive your RV into Mexico. Your U.S. auto insurance may not be valid in Mexico, and Mexican law requires that you have valid auto insurance from a Mexican insurance company. Your US or Canadian insurance policy may not be valid in Mexico, so it's important to purchase a separate policy that covers you while driving in Mexico. If you are renting an RV in the US, you can ask your RV company to be sure you have the proper coverage.

  3. Obtain the necessary documents: You will need to have a valid driver's license and vehicle registration documents. If you are driving a rental RV, make sure you have a copy of the rental agreement and insurance documents with you at all times. See below under border crossings for more details on the documents required.

  4. Be prepared for road conditions: The roads in Mexico can be narrow and winding, and some areas may not be well-maintained. Be prepared to encounter potholes, speed bumps, and other obstacles on the road. Be aware of the road conditions: Some roads in Mexico may be in poor condition, especially in rural areas. Be prepared for uneven pavement. Take your time and drive cautiously to avoid accidents. So always drive cautiously and expect the unexpected. 

  5. Drive defensively: Driving in Mexico can be chaotic, with drivers weaving in and out of traffic and not always following traffic laws. Drive defensively and stay alert to avoid accidents.

  6. Know the rules of the road: Familiarize yourself with the rules of the road in Mexico, including speed limits and other traffic laws. Make sure you have a valid driver's license and all necessary paperwork with you. The rules of the road in Mexico may be different from what you're used to in the US or Canada. Make sure to research and understand the local traffic laws, speed limits, and road signs. 

  7. Be aware of your surroundings: Mexico is a beautiful country, but it's also important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to avoid becoming a victim of crime. Park your RV in well-lit areas and avoid driving at night in unfamiliar areas.

  8. Be respectful of local customs and culture: As a visitor to Mexico, it's important to be respectful of local customs and culture. Learn some basic Spanish phrases to help you communicate with locals, and be mindful of cultural differences. Also consult locals there as to the practices of the Mexican Policia – as many places have various customs when dealing with their police. As a side-note, Bribes are illegal – If you are pulled over by the police, keep in mind that a “mordida” or bribe is illegal. Always ask for a copy of the ticket or ask to go to the police station to pay the fine directly. 

  9. Be prepared for border crossings: If you plan on driving across the US-Mexico border, be prepared for potential delays and increased security measures. Make sure to have all the necessary documents ready and be patient. This includes having the appropriate permits that are necessary for the duration of your stay. You, and anyone traveling along, will need to have a few documents. These include valid passports, a U.S. driver’s license, proof of vehicle registration, a temporary vehicle importation permit (TVIP or TIP), a Mexico tourist card/entry permit (FMM), and a Mexican tourist auto insurance policy for your vehicles. Those towing a travel trailer or fifth wheel will also need to purchase more permits. Research this before you go.  You will need a TIP (temporary vehicle importation permit) if you are going to be traveling outside of the “Free Zone.” A TIP is a document that allows your foreign-plated vehicle to be driven in Mexico for a specified period. Your vehicle must be driven out of Mexico within the specified time frame. The Free Zone is defined as:

  • within 25 km of the land border (15.5 miles)

  • all of the Baja California peninsula

  • a specified area in the northern state of Sonora (the road to Rocky Point is included in this)

  • the southern state of Quintana Roo

  • If you are traveling anywhere outside of the above areas, you must have a TIP to avoid fines and potential impounding of your vehicle. You must purchase your TIP immediately after crossing the border into Mexico or online.

  1. This is the most important point:  Plan your route carefully: Plan your route well in advance and make sure to avoid any areas that may be unsafe or difficult to navigate in an RV. It's also a good idea to research the location of gas stations, rest stops, and other amenities along your route ahead of time. You want to be sure you can obtain a fill-up before you venture out on any unfamiliar roads. 

  2. We recommend RVers stick to the “cuotas,” also known as Mexican tolls roads. These are the nicest roads available in the country and are comparable to the United States interstate system. Some local roads have “topes,” large speed bumps that can appear seemingly out of nowhere.

  3. The Green Angels are another reason to stay on the toll roads. These workers, similar to AAA, are available to assist tourists in need. They patrol the roads and offer free assistance but require you to purchase the necessary parts.

  4. Don’t drive after dark. You may not realize it, but many roads and highways in the U.S. have lighting. This increases your ability to see objects in the middle or along the side of the road. However, this is not nearly as common in many parts of Mexico. The streets can be very dark and full of potholes, debris, and even animals. You can also forget about the “topes” we mentioned earlier, which may or may not be painted a bright color to make them easy to see. Hitting a tope at a high rate of speed can do a tremendous amount of damage to your vehicle and RV. It’s a good idea to find a spot for the night in time to watch the sunset. This not only gives you an excellent view but increases your safety.

  5. While public lands are readily available in the U.S., that’s not the same in Mexico. You may think an area looks like a great spot to park your rig for the night, but it’s private land. Some landowners are more forgiving and graceful than others. Even on public lands, you can make yourself an easy target for anyone up to no good. We strongly recommend only staying in established RV parks and campgrounds.

It may surprise you that RV parks are becoming increasingly popular in Mexico. You’ll find everything from minimalist campsites on the beach to full-fledged, luxury RV parks. While the prices may not be as low as you would assume, they’re still typically more affordable than camping in the U.S. One of our favorite resources, Campendium, makes it extremely easy to find some of the best RV parks and campgrounds in all of Mexico. You can also find campgrounds in Mexico with a quick search on RV LIFE Campgrounds.

 

It’s also a good idea to check out the Department of State’s travel warnings for Mexico before planning your route. However, incidents involving RVers and travelers are typically rarer than the news and other media portray. The Baja California peninsula is one of the safest spots to visit in the country and has plenty to offer RVers. 

 

And when you have decided on a destination for your south of the border RV trip, check with your local El Monte RV Dealer! Their RVs are road-ready, tuned up and optimized for the best possible gas mileage. 

 

Rent an RV for a week or longer to take in all the sights around whatever area you choose for your next RV adventure. Be sure to check in with your local El Monte RV Dealer for a great RV rental deal before you go. He will help to make your trip just right for you and your family. He can even recommend good places to visit in Mexico!

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