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
www.skymed.com/sancarlos 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
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
$50.00 in cash before crossing the border.
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. Gas up after crossing the
border – both unleaded gas and diesel fuel
are cheaper in Mexico.
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 42 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.
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 35 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. Hint:
If you have no pesos, pay the toll with
a US $20 and get the change in pesos-you
will now have enough pesos to pay the
remaining tolls. All other toll
booths only accept pesos-no dollars
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.
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 anything to
declare pull in to the left before
getting to the lights.
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.
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.
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
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.
All of Mexico
- Vehicle Title or Registration
Receipt. Owner is considered the
name(s) on title only.
- Birth certificate, passport or
notarized proof of citizenship, or
voter's registration card.
- Visa, MasterCard, Diner's, or
American Express card with the same
name as on title.
- Valid driver's license (with photo
and same name as on title).
- Notarized letter of permission
from the bank or lienholder is
required on financed cars, rental
cars, leased cars, or company cars (on
- No borrowed cars or
borrowed credit cards are accepted.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 $50
worth of "merchandise" (mercancia, a
word you will soon learn). Since nobody
takes long trips to Mexico with only $50
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
*** It would not hurt to have pesos before crossing the
border. Tolls are easier – as are gas
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 are three left turns – 2 are
well marked intersections – 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. The marked turns
are obvious – follow the highway 15 to
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.
straight to Guaymas, then right in about 5 km. to San Carlos on Mex
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
If you arrive later than 5 p.m. please
follow the rest of the directions to get
Continue heading west toward Tetakawi.
Next, there is the new Pemex on your
left. To your right is the entrance to
the golf course and Solimar condos. Go
straight west. Continue down the road
until the next traffic circle (glorieta).
Go straight after the STOP down the hill
to the marina. Go around behind the big
building, circle to the left and you
will find the “MARINA CANTINA”. Ask
there for keys from - First Choice.
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 are
told it is not there, they should look
behind the picture of a football player.
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. Do not take out your
frustration on the Cantina staff – they
have nothing to do with it. We either
had a mistake or a hole in
We appreciate you coming by the office
the next day to square up the remaining
portion of the bill. However, if you
arrive on a Tuesday the Cantina is
closed so we will have to figure out
something else with you.
Things to bring and
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