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Merida-Nuevo Laredo


Steve's Great Advice

Driving Down by Eric

Driving with Dogs

Phone Calling

Adding time to Phones

Bus - Cancun to Merida

Bus Information by Joanne

Vehicle Import Letter

Renewing Visas

































































































































































































































































































































!!!Day One!!! 


After reading of and being asked for driving tips on how to get from Brownsville TX. to Merida, Mexico I decided to compile what I hope is an accurate and useful description.


Since originally setting up this website, I have received many updates from folks who have made recent trips. Of those folks the most recent have been PETER and LINDA, who drove down in May, 2010. They kept a very accurate record of their trip and have graciously allowed me to incorporate some of their recommendations into this website. Where I have inserted their comments the text will be in BLACK. Peter and Linda were also travelling with 4 pets so I have added an extra page dedicated to travelling with pets and pet friendly hotels


To start with, I would recommend two things.


First, purchase a GPS unit. I like to recommend either Garmin or Magellan products because there are Mexican maps available for those two brands at the BiciMaps website.


Second, purchase a good Mexican road atlas like the one shown below. They are available online.




A note about traveling through Mexico in a car. If you have vacationed in Mexico in the past at resort areas you are probably used to the idea of being able to spend U.S. cash there. Put that idea away. Once you enter Mexico at Matamoros and get travelling down the road the only cash that is accepted is PESOS!!! The Pemex gas stations are all cash. The small tiendas are cash. The only places that I will use a credit card are reputable hotels. So, before you enter Mexico go to your home bank and order 5000-10,000 pesos. That will get you all the way to Merida without having to hit an ATM machine for more.





From Brownsville head south on US highway 77 and cross the Veterans Bridge into Mexico. Once you have crossed the bridge you will see the Mexican Immigration and Customs Checkpoints. Keep to the left and enter the area where you will obtain your tourist visa and vehicle importation paperwork. This is a simple map of that area.





Once you have parked your vehicle, as shown, enter the immigration building. The first thing to do is turn left and go to the Immigration counter to fill out your tourist forms and have them stamped.


The next step is to go to the Banjercito and obtain your temporary vehicle importation paperwork. You will need the vehicles registration/ownership certificate, your passport, your drivers licence, the tourist visa you just obtained and an international credit card like Visa or Mastercard. If you had not already done so before leaving home, you will also need photocopies of all of the above (except the credit cards of course). Fortunately there are 2 photocopy booths in the building. The officers at Banjercito will run your credit card in order to issue the paperwork, and will instruct you on where to place the holographic sticker on the inside of your windshield. (there will not be anything charged against the credit card, it is merely a way for them to ensure that you will be returning the car to the USA at some point) 


Just a side note. The car's ownership, the driver's licence and the credit card must all be issued in the same name. 


Once you have the vehicle paperwork done you can then go outside and walk around the corner of the building to the left and pay for your visa at one of the small bank branches located there. If you are too early for the banks to be open, don't wait around or worry. You can always pay for the tourist visa later at any bank anywhere in Mexico. On our last trip down the officers at Banjercito accepted the payment for the tourist visa right there where the car paperwork was being done. 


Once you have (or not) paid for your tourist visa you simply drive out of the parking space and exit that area. There may or may not be a red light/green light button to push before being able to get out of the area. If you get a green light, just drive away. If you get a red light, be prepared to have your vehicle inspected.


You need car insurance for your trip. We used Sanbornes. Mex-Pro is another one. 12 month policies are not much more than 3/6 month policies. Sanbornes gave free travel books which were pretty handy.You can get your vehicle permit at the Banjercito office at the border crossing or you can get it ahead of time via the web. I did the latter. I paid a little more but it came in less than a week via DHL and made my life at the crossing that much easier. I have seen over 20 people queued up waiting to get their permit at the office, other times I have seen nobody.


How does one get a car into Mexico???   These are the two ways I know of. These options also apply to other licensed vehicles, including motorcycles and trailers. There is also a third option when the vehicle becomes Mexican with Mexican plates but I am unfamiliar with that.

Option #1  With your Tourist Visa
With a tourist visa (FM-T), you are allowed to import your car and drive it in Mexico for a period of up to six months from the first date of entry of the vehicle into the country. These six months have no extension, which means that you have to remove your car before the end of this period.  If you have plans to stay longer in Mexico, then you have to leave the country with your car and return after completing the procedure again.

Option #2 With your FM2 or FM3 Visa
In this case, you can keep your car in Mexico for the same period authorized in your FM3 or FM2 Visa for your stay. When your visa expires, the permit for your car will expire too, but it will be renewed for the same period of time that the FM3 or FM2 visa is renewed. If you entered the country with a tourist visa and then applied for and received an FM3 or FM2 visa, the car doesnt have to be removed from the country. You only need to notify customs within 15 days of your change of immigration status.

Removing Your Vehicle
When the temporary import expires, you must present your vehicle and your temporary import permit to Banjercito and they will give you your return certificate. Make sure they take the sticker off your vehicle to be deactivated from their system.  


Next step, getting out of Matamoros!!!




Once you are out of the immigration area, you will automatically get onto a multi lane street. Just follow the signs to Matamoros and Ciuda Victoria. After approximately 20 or 30 blocks you will see the roadway between the lanes of traffic rise up into an overpass on your left (This is the SECOND overpass on the left.) As you can see the signage is a bit confusing, The trick is to stay on the ground lanes but get into the left lane. There is a traffic light at the next intersection. You will want to make a left turn under the overpass, but there are two options. The tight left turn will just put you onto the same road going in the opposite direction...You don't want that. Make a gentle left turn going on the far side of the cross street's median. There ARE signs indicating "Ciudad de Victoria", which is your first general destination.


You will know if you made it correctly because as you turn onto the CD Victoria road you will see a H.E.B. store on your right.








Once you have made the correct turn towards Ciudad de Victoria it is a straight run on that road to get out of town. I would advise that the navigator make a note of several "landmarks" on the left, such as the "Office Max" store, the "Chrysler" dealership, etc. That way you can count down the landmarks on the way home to be sure and find the correct turn-off to get back to the border.


The road you are on is Hwy 101/180 and it is a well maintained 2 lane highway with shoulders wide enough to drive on, making it a "virtual" 4 lane highway. The local custom on this stretch of road is to drive straddling the dotted white line of the shoulder, moving to the right to let faster vehicles pass easily. You will stay on this highway for approximately 3 hours or 293 km.


Speaking of local driving customs, I should mention one that seems to be country wide. When driving the highways it is customary for slower vehicles to pull towards the right side of the road and put on their left turn signal. This is the way that they indicate to you that it is safe for you to pass. This is a very useful gesture, especially on winding mountainous roads. Just a couple of reminders however, other drivers have no idea of how fast you can accelerate and be aware that many times the slower trucks are slow because they are overburdened by towing double trailers. (These usually, but not always have lettering on the back saying "Doble Remolque") The one thing the left turn signal does well is let you know it is at least safe to stick your nose out and have a look at the oncoming situation for yourself. The left turn signal situation is reversed in cities, however. In cities, a left turn signal means exactly what it does north of the border.


A comment on washrooms.

Donde esta el bano???  A critical question indeed. Pemex stations generally have a bathroom. However the level of cleanliness varies from sparkling to horrific. In my experience your best bet for bathrooms are at the toll locations. Immediately before or after a toll plaza is a small white building with a small snack area. These bathrooms are free and are regularly cleaned by the attendant.



At approximately the 15 km point before Victoria there is an exit that you will take that is signposted "Tampico". After taking the exit you approach the first of some of Mexico's strange exit procedures. You will be required to take a right exit then curve left and wait for traffic to clear before crossing the road and then following the signs to Tampico.









This new highway you are on has, as of the Spring of 2008, been upgraded to the same 2 lane with wide shoulders that the previous road was like, all the way into Tampico. The only exceptions are through the towns of Gonzalez and Manuel, where there are many potholes and topes (speed bumps). As you approach Gonzalez the road takes a fairly sharp curve to the right and goes over railway tracks. Once you get into Gonzalez you will need to make a left turn to head towards Manuel. Once you approach Manuel just follow the main road over a bridge and through a couple of curves. Just keep following the signs to Tampico and this leg of the trip will go by quickly. Recently a new overpass has been constructed just before making the turn towards Gonzales. That bypass intersection is shown below. According to Peter and Linda it takes you past Gonzalez and Manuel and ends at the Tampico road. This sounds like a major improvement to me. For those who wish to stop in either of those towns for food or gas, that is still an option.





Below is a map of the old route.





There is a bypass around Tampico, but after trying it out, we found it to be just as much of a hassle and just as time consuming as simply driving through the city. Besides, we prefer to make Tampico our first overnight stay. For those who wish to use the bypass, I have included a couple of pictures below. The bypass starts in Miramar, but there is a unique landmark at the exit. It is a large fishing boat, colorfully painted in bright colors and says "Altamira" on it. The actual exit lanes are before the boat.






Below is a map of the bypass route. As you can see it is a pretty long run, but if you would prefer to avoid downtown Tampico this is the route for you.




The run through Tampico is really not that difficult. As you approach Tampico from the north just stay on the same street and watch for airport signs. You will easily see the airport on your left as you drive by. After the airport try to stay in the right hand lanes. After the airport there is a university on the right. After the university start watching for signs to Tuxpan. The road you are on is called Blvd. Adolfo Lopez Mateos and it makes a right turn a few blocks past the University. (Hint, the majority of the local traffic will be making the right hand turn also, so follow them.) Once you have made the right turn watch for a forested area on your right. After that you will notice a flat park-like area on the right also. In that park area, immediately after passing under an overpass, there is a curving right turn that will take you up onto the overpass, around and back over Lopez Mateos and to the bridge that leads south out of town towards Tuxpan.




As I mentioned earlier we prefer to stay overnight in a nice hotel in Tampico, however, if you prefer to stay at a less expensive hotel there are several in the first few miles south of Tampico. From what I have been told those run around 200-400 pesos per night. The reason we prefer the nicer hotels in Tampico is that they all provide underground or guarded parking. Below are a couple of pictures showing how to get to Hotel Grand Royal. It costs about 1000 pesos a night but we feel it is worth it after the first full day in Mexico. It has a pool, underground parking and an exceptional restaurant. Wi-Fi is a plus also.


As you drive along the main road you will see an overpass rising in front of you with a large mall and Soriana Grocery store on the left. Keep in the right hand lanes, which are at ground level. There is a cross street/retorno with a traffic light, on the ground level lanes, at the mid point of the overpass. Go straight through and as the overpass starts heading back down to ground level the hotel is on your right. Just swing into their reception parking area.





This first day has been the shortest of the three days it will take you to get to Merida/Progreso and it also involves some of the best roads. Tomorrow is a different story!!!


Day 2 Tampico to Minatitlan