Links to sport fishing boats for charter, scuba diving vacation planning, mexico real estate and travel tips from First Choice Property Management, San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Phone: 226-1800
1-866-374-9753 San Carlos, Nuevo Guaymas
Sonora, Mexico 85506
Driving into Mexico-Hints and Tips

Ok, you want to drive to Mexico (good for you!) and now you need to know what it will take to get you and your vehicle into the country. Here is the straight scoop.

First thing – there are excellent medical facilities in Mexico in Hermosillo. However, if you are involved in any serious accident (other than diving) or have a serious illness you may well want to be returned – TO YOUR HOME – for medical attention. Using the services of SKYMED, you are not dropped at the nearest medical facility – but returned to your home city anywhere in the US or Canada by plane. Membership plans are available weekly, monthly and for the year – and it applies to North America – anytime you are more than 100 miles from home. It is easy to purchase on line or through their toll free number at
1-800-475-9633 Agent 391346.

All minors (under 18) need either both parents with them, or notarized permission from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian. I suggest you have your car insurance purchased prior to arriving at the border.

If this is your first trip to Mexico – be advised. You are not just crossing a border or a time zone – you are entering into a time warp. Things happen differently down here and – they don’t happen on your schedule. You will need to be patient, flexible and able to maintain good humor. Manana does not mean tomorrow – it means not now. All the essential services that you feel are your due may, or may not happen here. This means water, electricity, garbage pick up and for sure postal delivery. It has improved greatly in the last few years but, there are no guarantees that when you get back from fishing you will have hot water. It is just the way things are. The border may treat you differently the next time you come down. Try finding and reading "The Peoples Guide to Mexico" by Carl Franz.

Crossing the Border

Crossing the border from the United States into Mexico at Nogales can seem to be a daunting experience the first time because there is very little that is clearly marked. It is important to know this and not expect to find directions. It is now my understanding that the toll booths will accept only Mexican pesos. Make sure you have at least $100 USD in Mexican pesos for tolls and any emergency.  Sometimes it is easier to cross downtown and find a bank machine ATM and get your pesos that way. There are Mexican banks on the road heading out after you cross the border.

There are two border crossings at the town of Nogales. One goes through the center of the towns of Nogales AZ and Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. The other and by far the least confusing is to take the truck route. It will cost 50 pesos but can be well worth the saved time. There is an exit sign on the highway for the truck route - follow it. This exit is Mariposa Road and really your last chance to fill up with gas, go to the Safeway store or an American bank. These stores and services will be on your left at the bottom of the exit ramp. The border crossing is to the right and several kilometers along Mariposa.

Follow Mariposa past the American border crossing. You may have to stop. Do not veer right after the USA border – it takes you into the town. Once through, the road continues up a long corridor. Go up the 4 lane divided corridor to a toll station (several kilometers). The toll is about 50 MN (short form for pesos) or the equivalent in US dollars. Once you pay the toll you will note buildings in front of you and truck inspections on your right.  All toll booths only accept pesos-no dollars

We prefer and recommend the newer Mariposa crossing on Hwy 189. If coming from Tucson, exit I-19 at Hwy 189 and go west. If coming from the east on Hwy 82, take North Business 19 and turn left at the second traffic light. The crossing is open daily from 6AM to 10PM, but is much less constricted. It is the way to go if towing anything bigger than a jet-ski or ATV.

If you have nothing to declare you proceed straight ahead until you see what appears to be a traffic light. When you pass through the traffic light the light will either turn red or green. This is customs and supposedly an arbitrary method of determining whether they will search your vehicle or not. If it is red - pull over and speak with the customs officer. If it is green proceed without stopping. If you have something to declare, pull into the parking lot to your left and park.

Please note that as of Dec. 5, 2013, SAT/Aduana has issued new Duty Free limits for people entering Mexico by air and by land. The new year round limits are $500 US dollars per person entering Mexico by air, and $300 US dollars per person by land. If you have to pay duty, you MUST pay at the bank in Mexican pesos and not dollars. Cash only.

You are now in what is called the "free zone" where you could stay indefinitely. However at this border it only extends 21 kilometers from Nogales.

At kilometer 21 you will have to do several things so pull into the parking lot and have copies of the following documentation: Your passport or birth certificate, driver’s license, vehicle registration and depending on who is on the registration and who will be temporarily importing the car. Temporary importation is only required if you will be traveling beyond Guaymas. If you are staying in or north of San Carlos you will not need to temporarily import your vehicle but you will have to get a tourist visa and clear customs.

It you are pulling a trailer with or without an ATV you MUST have all documentation and ownership papers. You may or may not have to import the trailer or ATV – the rules are a moving target and depend on the day.

The following paragraphs regarding importation only applies if you will be going further south of us.  If the owner of the car is your wife and you are bringing it in, you MUST have a copy of your marriage license. Also, a valid credit card. (The truck is registered to Tom but he brought in the Motorcycle that is also in his name so I "imported" the truck). Leased and rental vehicles may be temporarily imported into Mexico, but you need a notarized letter from the lien holder authorizing you to bring the car in. A Company car must have the same letter printed on Company letterhead.

Crossing at Naco Az. – there is not a "Km 21" at Naco. All immigration papers are done here. Car permits are available in Cananea. Go to the left as you enter where the Bank office is. If you miss this, you will have to return many km./miles from the checkpoint to the south. For more details on this route, see the Route of the Rio Sonora web site.

For All of Mexico

  1. Vehicle Title or Registration Receipt. Owner is considered the name(s) on title only.
  2. Birth certificate, passport or notarized proof of citizenship, or voter's registration card.
  3. Visa, MasterCard, Diner's, or American Express card with the same name as on title.
  4. Valid driver's license (with photo and same name as on title).
  5. Notarized letter of permission from the bank or lienholder is required on financed cars, rental cars, leased cars, or company cars (on company stationary).
  6. No borrowed cars or borrowed credit cards are accepted.

First go to immigration and fill out the form. They will ask you the usual things that immigration officers ask. The immigration office is now the first building you approach from the parking lot. There may be some young English-speaking people to point you through the process.

With your visa in hand you then go to temporarily import your vehicle. This building is the first government building from the parking lot and faces you directly from the parking lot. It is here that you will require copies of all of the documents noted above.

It is close by the immigration office and you have to get an All of Mexico permit. You will have to leave a credit card imprint – when you leave the country you MUST stop and return the sticker and declare your car "Out of the Country". If not – fines are put onto the credit card.

****Put all papers in a safe and easy to find place – you may need them at any time. When you leave the country – You MUST have these papers – they can be requested at any time.

The sticker goes on the inside of your windshield and they will tell you where it must be placed.

Failure to turn in your vehicle permit before the expiration date may result in fines. Your permit is good for multiple entries, but you MUST turn it in at border BEFORE it expires. When you depart Mexico, stop at Km. 21 (other side of the road) and have the sticker removed.

Once you have done all of these things then you must once again go through the customs routine by going past the "traffic light". The same drill applies with the Red/Green . . .show

We might as well warn you about customs before it is too late to do anything about it. Technically, both foreigners and Mexicans who are driving are only allowed to bring $150 worth of "merchandise" (mercancia, a word you will soon learn). Since nobody takes long trips to Mexico with only $150 worth of stuff, this is obviously impossible to enforce. What customs is looking for are new items that could be sold. The secret is not to have new-looking items with you. For example, if you have new clothes, take the tags off. If you have new camping gear, take it out of the shiny boxes and throw some dirt on them to make the boxes look old. One thing that will get you into trouble is a lot of stuff in Wal-Mart bags and shopping bags with merchants name. Also, new packaging. If you bought a lot of items for your trip, take them out of the bags, remove the price tags and get rid of the packaging. Get the idea? You can bring in 3 bottles of wine per person – and we are always appreciative of people bringing us some that we can purchase. Allow at least 30 minutes for customs clearing. Early in the AM (6-7:30) is best. After 9:00 AM, it could take 30 minutes up to an hour. Usually, it is best to roll down your windows as you are going through the customs zone. Let them see who is in the vehicle. Weekends are the worst time, especially holidays. If you got a late start, please spend the night in a border town and avoid driving at night.

Laptop computers are never (a dangerous phrase to use in Mexico) a problem. There is lots of Wi-Fi in San Carlos. Be honest and friendly and things will work out. Be arrogant and you will have trouble. Used desktop computers cannot be imported but new ones can (in their boxes).

Before leaving – check your vehicle for fluids and pressures. The Sonora desert can be nasty – you can go from a hero to a zero on the side of the road very quickly. Carry drinking water.

Driving in Mexico is not as dangerous as you have been led to believe, but it is more challenging. There are plenty of four-lane toll roads that (for a price) can make you feel as comfortable as if you were back home. The two-lane roads vary in width and conditions so that some of them are usually in great shape, and others are often full of potholes. You will have to learn a few rules of the road It is no more difficult than driving in the U.S., though defensive driving is a requirement. Despite what you have heard, Mexicans are very polite -- on the open road. In cities, a certain amount of aggression is required. Still, that's true in our country, too.

Don't drive at night on the two-lane roads. There is a lot of loose livestock and I have yet to see a cow equipped with tail lights. My tip for driving at night is - DON'T. On the toll roads (which are as good as or even better than those in the U.S. or Canada), you can drive at night, but not recommended.

On the open road, a left turn signal is an invitation to the guy behind you to pass. Trucks and busses frequently turn their left blinker on to guide you around them. I trust them, but use common sense. Sometimes they have optimistic views of your acceleration capabilities. Don't use your left turn signal on a two lane road when you are about to pass. You might get hit. A few readers have pointed out that on the toll roads, people use turn signals as they do here. My advice -- use 'em as you are used to on toll roads, but don't expect the other guy to do the same.

Left turns are different! When there is a left turn lane, there will usually be a left turn arrow. Look for lights on signal. You MUST wait for arrow.  Right on red is usually not OK, unless there is a sign saying that it is. Lately, however, I have been honked at by locals when I wait for a green light. What to do? If there isn't a cop nearby, (and the coast is clear) I turn.

Traffic cops are more honest than you have been led to believe, but there are some in towns who are looking for bribes, especially in Mexico City. When this happens, stand firm and tell them you want to go to the comandancia. Otherwise, pay the fine if you have done something wrong. You should get a copy of the paperwork. Try not to give up your driver’s license. Once they have it you are at their mercy. You are now in Mexico (sigh of relief after getting past customs without a search) and 4 – 5 hours’ drive from San Carlos. Bring a map of the state of Sonora. The only gas stations are Pemex and there is one in every town along the highway. The highway is a toll highway and there are three tolls from the border to San Carlos.  In the small villages and towns along the way they are quite deliberate about vehicles slowing to do the speed limit. The use of speed bumps is liberal. These are called topes and some are marked and some are not. Be on the look out for them. Read that last sentence again – I almost blew Diane off the back of the bike by not seeing one and hitting it at speed.

The only major city you will have to go through of any significance is Hermosillo. To get through this you go around the east side. There two left turns. One is at a well marked intersection – the other comes after going down a 2 lane road that has about 4 “topes”. At the end, there is a “T” intersection – make a left, then the right. After that, you go past the jail about 2 miles further then make a right to head to the west. Do not go straight to the FORD plant or Yecora.

In order to head south, you will have to be in the right lane before the overpass (about a mile of so). It is NOT marked in advance. You go down the ramp on the right, then make a left at the lights. From here, it is straight south to Guaymas/San Carlos.

Once south of Hermosillo it is clear sailing to the turn to Guaymas or Obregon. Heading south on #15 - there is a big Pemex station left side as the highway forks left to Obregon. Go straight to Guaymas, then right in about 5 km. to San Carlos on Mex 17.

SAN  CARLOS  -  Have a look at our travel guide at

Still divided hwy going west - to San Carlos. Dead ahead is “Tetakawi” mountain (Goats teat) – upside down. San Carlos is several kilometers from highway #15 Once you enter town ( kilometer 10 on white pillars) you will see the following land marks on your right: Gary’s Dive Shop, Jaxx Snax , Banamex then the first of two Pemex stations.

Our REMAX / FIRST CHOICE PROPERTY OFFICE is at Blvd. Manlio Fabio Beltrones Local 5 Interior Plaza Arrecifes Behind the Pemex Gas Station. If you arrive during business hours, 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. , Monday to Friday, Saturday 9 – 1pm your keys will be at the office.

If you arrive later than 5 p.m. please follow the rest of the directions to get your keys:

Go to the first Pemex in front of our Re/Max office and ask at the pumps for an envelope with your name on it. There should be an envelope with your name on it and it should contain keys, directions to the property that you have rented and the balance owing. If you have any problems have them call our home number  226-0894  and leave a message or try my cell at 044 622 228-9756 or Sergio's cell at 044 622 855-9539. Or – call the office number on the Re/Max sign – it is call forwarded to Sergio. Do not take out your frustration on the Pemex staff – they have nothing to do with it. We either had a mistake or a hole in communications.  

We appreciate you coming by the office the next day to square up the remaining portion of the bill.

Things to bring and think about

Your beach towels (we prefer ours do not go there), anti bug juice, sunscreen (expensive here) and wine – if you are wine drinkers. Also, we appreciate it if you would smoke outside all the rentals.  Mexican plumbing is not the same as American/Canadian so large quantities of paper and things normally flushed down at home will not “make it” here. When someone plugs a toilet – I generally have them assist me to remove the blockage . . . Often – the garbage is a better disposal. Please pass this on to the kids. The A/C defaults to 16 or 18 deg C – which is like a meat locker. Best to use the remote and set to 24 C - (75F)

When you leave – please turn OFF all the air conditioning and TAKE OUT the garbage. There are times we do not get in a unit after a busy weekend for 2 – 3 days. There is a key drop – a white mail box outside the office if you depart early
Thanks for all this – we hope you have a good stay. If there are problems in the unit – please drop a note so we know about it and can do the repairs. We hope to see you again.

Welcome to San Carlos!

Tom & Diane