From the deserts of the north, to the jungles of the South. The expanse of Mexico City to colonial villages. Volcanoes and beaches. Aztec and Mayan ruins...What else could one want?
Aztec and Mayan ruins
Beaches for surfing, diving, or just relaxing
Driving through Mexico
If you are just driving in the north states, and Baja; you will not need any special paperwork. (except maybe insurance, because your American insurance will not likely cover you here.) However, if you are driving further south, you will need to get a TIP, Temporary Import Permit. You can get this at a Banjercito.
When I drove through Mexico, I got mine at the "Sacar permisos de carro" along Highway 15 about 13 miles south of the border at Nogales.
Short term insurance for Mexico is absolutely required for driving through. You will get asked for proof many times. And, unfortunately, it is quite expensive. I got mine through GNP Seguros and, in 2019, I paid $332 for 30 days of coverage. The good news is that 3 months and 6 months, don't cost too much more.
If you have a loan against your car, you will need permission from the lender to take the car to Mexico. If you own the car outright, you should bring the title. You will need it along with your registration.
Now, that you have your title, insurance, registration, and TIP...you are good to go. When you are stopped at checkpoints, just show them those papers, and your drivers license and passport. And, of course, smile. You are not being hassled. Frequent checkpoints are a part of road safety in Latin America. You shouldn't have any trouble.
Always be on the lookout for these. They are everywhere unless you are on a freeway (Autopista). Many of them are painted to make them more obvious, but, occasionally, you will come upon one that is nearly invisible. Hitting a speed bump at 50 mph is not something you want to do to your car! I know from experience.
You will likely run into many of these, and they will not take credit cards. So, keep some pesos handy. As you go farther south, the freeways will be convenient. They are faster and better roads. But, you will pay for tolls. If you want to take the side roads and slower highways; then you can enjoy the towns, and save money.
No Drive Days in Mexico City and State
Watch out for the times Mexico City and Mexico State is running no drive days for pollution control. If you are driving in the city, you can only be on the roads on your proper days based on your plate ending number. The fine for violating this is hefty. I learned about this one the hard way. You can get an exception for this by submitting to pollution testing and getting the proper sticker. Though, for a short visit, that probably isn't practical. I have also heard of a tourist exception for 2 weeks without emissions testing. (Pase Touristico) Worth looking into!
Big city of about 1.5 million people that doesn't have the best reputation. However, I found it a wonderful place to visit. The city has some beautiful churches and architecture, along with fun street art.
Ultimately, I was offered drugs less in Guadalajara than some other places I have been and I never felt unsafe.
I did have a little fun on the way to it. Driving in on Federal Highway 15D from the coast, I was driving with the speed of the faster traffic and realized at one point that I was driving over 120 mph. Oops!
An amazingly colorful town in between Guadalajara and Mexico City.
It is not really a day trip location, though, because it is a 4-5 hour drive from Mexico City or a 3-4 hour drive from Guadalajara.
Visit the small Diego Rivera's House Museum, climb the hill to the Monumento Al Pipila for the city views, or just walk around the beautiful city.
Mexico City and Teotihuacan
Huge city to explore. But, I didn't spend a lot of time inside the city.
However, I did get out to the amazing ruins of Teotihuacan. These ruins were one of the highlights of the Mexico part of the trip. Probably a highlight of all Central America.
Beach town an hour north of Puerto Vallarta. A good place to go if you want some beaches and surfing, but not the crowds of Puerto Vallarta.
However, my experience, and those of other people I know, is that you will get the Mexican weight loss plan here...if you know what I mean. I spent 2 days confined to my room drinking Gatorade, and taking Imodium.
The surfing was okay, but I think it was that water that did me in. Plus, I think the surfing in Tamarindo, Costa Rica was much better anyway.
Valladolid and The Yucatan
I stayed for a few days in a cute village in Valladolid, so I could use it as a base to explore Chichin Itza, Ek Balam, and the cenotes in the area.
I stayed away from the more tourist centers on the coast, and was glad I did. I am not a big fan of crowds!
The town has a nice center based around Parque Principal Francisco Cantón Rosado with a 16th century church and plenty of restaurants. The town is big enough to have what you need for a base, but small enough to easily navigate.