Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A leisurely drive from Laredo, Texas to Xcalak, Quintana Roo, Mexico

I left Laredo Texas in early May at 6:00 AM - before bridge II, I stopped for gas & to change dollars to pesos.  I passed through U.S. customs, who just waved me on,  paid the $3.00 toll, entered Mexico.  Mexican customs consisted of a 15 second search of the car, by opening & closing the hatchback door,  and I was waved through.  I followed the directions to obtain car permit, but because I missed making a very wide U-turn,  ended up going into a side street of Nuevo Laredo.  When you get to the stop light to U-turn back toward the bridge & get papers,  make  sure you swing way over to the right most lane of the road ;  yellow topes (speed bumps)   should be on drivers side of  car !!   Once I did that, simple to find the building.

Enter, turn right  go to Paso 1 - ask for a tourist Visa -  take it to a table & fill it out - completely.
Return to window,  pay $,  proceed to Paso 2 -  where they will make copies of everything needed -
I made my own before hand, so only copy needed was of the tourist visa ( $ 0.25).  Take papers to Paso 4 -  Banjercito -   Since I applied for,  paid for  & obtained this sticker online -  this was a snap.
This whole procedure took no more  than 20 minutes.   I  left, applied the car sticker under the rear view mirror, & drove to Route 85.  About 26 KM further, you will come to the 2nd customs -  I  was waved through .

I followed Route 85  until it joins Route 57 / 57D until I reached Matehuala.  I wanted to stay at the Las Palmas hotel since I had read much about it on the Internet.  Do not follow signs to Hotel zone - the hotel is right off (with a bit of maneuvering) Route 57.  Glad I stopped there -  it was clean, secure, good A/C, TV w/ some channels in English, & a very good restaurant.

Due to unforeseen circumstances ( OK, I overslept ),  I didn't leave the next day until 8:30 AM.  I reached Puebla sometime between 3:45 & 4:00.  Do yourself a favor - do not reach the city between
6:30 - 9:30 AM  or  3:30 - 7:30 PM -  traffic is backed up for kilometers due to road construction &  well, just too much traffic.  There was a Cityexpress hotel on the same side of the road, so I pulled in there for the night.  It was about $80.00 U.S.  -  clean, modern, A/C, TV w/ some English channels, but no restaurant.  Right across the small side street the hotel is on, there is a Taco Express &  a Subway sandwich shop.

Next morning at 6:30 I left the hotel,  but still was caught in a 20 minute or so back-up - eventually made it through the city.  Coming down from Puebla - elevation about 7,200 ft  was fun.  Mountainous roads - the twisty turny kind & an accident which backed up traffic for a while was the highlight of this day.  Look for & take the Arco Norte -  tough to spot after the 1st sign pointing the way to it.  This by-passes Mexico City -  you do not want to drive in Mexico City -  period !   Fill gas in car in Puebla -  there is a Pemex station being built on the Arco Norte, other wise - no fuel available the whole road.

I arrived in Palenque around 4:00 PM -  this was a must stop for me - I love the place, my favorite Mayan ruins site .  The town has certainly spread out & grown since I was there last, but  if you go through the town following signs for  the ruins,  there are some hotels on this road.  Prices range from $300.00 U.S . / night  down.   I stayed at  Los Leones -  about $42.00 U.S. / night.

I would only stay there again if I had to.  Terrible restaurant, A/C  barely worked  - I would try a different hotel next time -  but not spend $300.00 / night;  that place was beautifully landscaped & had a small replica of a Mayan pyramid on site -  but still.

From Palenque to Escarcega & perhaps 50 miles beyond expect some pretty major road construction - which means one lane roads, &  long delays.   Once you get through all of that,  you begin to experience the joy of Mexican topes  until  15 or so  miles past Chetumal,  on Route 307.
Keep an eye out for Bacalar -  you will not believe the color of the water in the bay.   Take the exit for Mahahul a  while beyond Bacalar.

I stopped at the Hotel Mahahual - it was OK - but very convenient because there were ATM machines in the back parking area - by the way, you will see signs for parking for the hotel, but drive past that to a narrow opening in the building itself - turn left there (2nd sign for Hotel Mahahual parking).     Ten feet beyond the ATM machines  is a pedestrian walk w/ Internet cafes, restaurants &  etc.  -  take your laptop & stroll around until you are able to get on to the Internet.  Oh,  and  the Caribbean -  how could I forget that .....   sitting on a tropical beach (you really are in the tropics now) , with Internet access,  a cold cerveza or 2 or 3  .........  priceless.    Green Iguana had great  Internet signal, ice cold cerveza,  helpful waiters,  &  great Chicken Parmesan  w/  pasta.

Left next morning, after buying some tequila & a few veggies.   On the road back toward Route 307,  stop at the Sol distributorship on the right,  to buy beer;  about $12.00 U.S.  for a case of  warm Sol.
Buy gas just beyond .......  take  a left a little way past the Pemex.  Follow the road for about an hour to  the T- junction,  turn left  -- for a few miles to the soccer field.  Go left around the soccer field - facing ocean to a cross road.  Turn left to center of town &  stores & etc.    -  turn right to  Rancho Portillas  - bear left  when road goes straight or  left . 
You  will feel you took the wrong road the whole time you are on this -  it  is not a fun 2.5  miles -
persevere,  just before the edge of the earth appears -  on the left side -  the sign for  ----
Rancho Portillas  -      down the  driveway  .................      yes.  Do not attempt this road at night -  until you have driven it a few times - you will understand why after you drive it !

Note -    I didn't put all the  route names &  mileages  -  I  used Google  Maps  to get them -  they are pretty accurate.   I  also did not include  every place you will pay tolls .    Please take   toll roads whenever possible  -   it is  a bit less than $200.00 U.S.  for  tolls -  but  worth every penny.   The  roads are better -  not as crowded    &  I  never  felt like I was in a threatening situation the whole drive down.   Pay attention to signs,  do not  drive  30/40 KPH  faster than posted speed limits (like  almost everyone else) ,  stop at a hotel before dark  -   relax  &  enjoy.   You will be safe.

Check the links below  for  addition information -  note -  some info may be a little out of date.

Driving in Mexico information    Driving in Mexico :Mexico driving

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