Our Route Into Mexico
When we first started planning this crazy idea of driving from Canada to Panama we had a rough idea on where we wanted to go. Our plan was simple. Drive down the east coast until we run out of pavement shortly after Panama, then head back up the west. We had no idea what our route into Mexico would be, or which towns or states were safe. As we continued to plan this trip, and even as we were making our way to the Mexico border we kept hearing differing opinions on which ares of Mexico were safe.
The situation especially along the US Mexico border seemed to change by the day or week. So as we made our way south from Canada, we stuck along the coast, down to The Keys, and around the gulf with a rough idea of where we would enter. For the exact route into Mexico, we decide to wait until we got closer. As we sat on the beach in Corpus Christi, on the Texas Gulf Coast, we realized it was time to figure out our route into Mexico.
Our Route Into Mexico – Government Opinions
Considering we’re both Canadian, we often check the Government of Canada travel advisories before traveling to another country. Overall for Mexico, the Canadian government recommends you exercise a high degree of caution. A common recommendation for popular tourist locations outside of the United States, or the European Union. For example, the Bahamas, and Dominican Republic both have same overall travel advisory as Mexico. In fact our last big trip in Africa, Namibia and Zambia both had the same overall travel advisory as well. One glaring difference though, Canada has some additional opinions on select Mexican states.
Canada actually isn’t too keen on any of the northern Mexican states apart from Baja California. Apart from flying directly into a couple cities in these states, the Canadian government is advising Canadians avoid non-essential travel to Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo León, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Guerrero, Michoacán and Colima. Well if you’re not that familiar on where all these state are, I’ve coloured them red in the map below.
Even if we were to drive all the way to Baja California and drive down to the ferry to the mainland, we still would have to drive through part of Sinaloa. According to the Government of Canada it’s not a good idea drive through Mexico. But thousands of Canadian and American snowbirds actually drive down every winter. So we decided to get a second opinion and checked out the US State Department for their take.
The US Governments Take
Considering Mexico is a direct neighbour to the United States, we wanted to see what they had to say. The US State Department ranks each Mexican state on a scale of 1-4. 1 being the best score meaning exercise normal precautions. No Mexican state actually achieved this score. A ranking of 2 however advises to exercise increased caution, and covers most of the lower mainland and the Baja Peninsula. A ranking of 3 means reconsider travel, and any state getting a ranking of 4 is advised not to travel at all. Canada and the US seem to agree on avoiding all travel to Tamaulipas, Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacán, and Guerrero. Again, coloured map below, with states scoring a 2 in yellow, 3 in orange, and 4 in red.
Our Route Into Mexico – Other Travelers Opinions
The US Mexico border is the busiest land border in the world. In 2017, 30.5 million Americans traveled to Mexico, the majority by car. So what route into Mexico do these people think we should take? Well, as we got closer to the border the number of Americans we met who routinely drive into Mexico increased. And seeing as we traveled along the Gulf coast of Mexico, the majority of these people were driving into Tamaulipas. Everyone we spoke to who’s driven it themselves all said the same thing. Don’t drive at night, be careful in the cities, otherwise you’ll be fine.
We also reach out to other travellers from around the world. The two biggest resources we use are the Facebook Groups “On The Road In Mexico” and “PanAmerican Travelers Association“. These two groups have 37,000 and 20,000 members each. The majority of the members have traveled extensively throughout Mexico. So how do they recommend people enter Mexico from the Gulf Coast? Well on both pages there are a significant number of users who claim to have traveled every state in Mexico (even the red ones) and have had zeros issues. Others mentioned driving through Laredo and having run-ins with unofficial road blocks and corrupt cops asking them to pay “fines”. The vast majority parroted what we’ve heard locally. Safety wise, don’t drive at night, be careful in the cities, otherwise you’ll be fine.
Which way is the easiest then?
As for ease of crossing however, the overall consensus is to travel just past Laredo, and cross into the state of Nuevo León. This border is usually the quietest and can handle everything from the temporary import permit for our vehicle, our tourists visas, and pets. This border tends to receive the majority of the “snowbird” travel from the US Canada and is easier with little to no Spanish. Lastly, the roads from there down to the south are in much better condition.
Our Route Into Mexico – Our Opinion
We’re heading inland. Our original plan was to cross in Brownsville into Matamoros and continue our drive along the Gulf coast. Another Canadian blogging couple we follow “Travel with Kevin and Ruth” recently crossed in the next town over (Reynosa) and had zero issues. However they are quite experienced with RVing in Mexico and speak a bit of Spanish. For us, this is our first time in the country and we speak very little Spanish. For this reason, we want to cross at Laredo, where English might be a bit more common.
So This is our Planned Route into Mexico
Right now we’re in Falcon Heights Texas, about half way between Brownsville and Laredo. We will most likely be here for another week as we wait for a couple parcels to arrive. From here we’ll continue to Laredo where we’ll spend one last night in the US. We’ll cross the following morning at the Columbia bridge just north of the city. From there we plan on driving south to a campground just north of Monterrey Mexico. We’ll spend at least one or two nights there before continuing south to the town of Matehuala. Once we make it to Matehuala we’re now in the state of San Luis Potosí, which has us out of the area that Canada does not recommend travel in.
Have other questions or suggestions regarding our route into Mexico? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook Page. Also if you’re ever curious on where we are now check out the map on the bottom of our home page. -Devon