With the name change of the thread from Is Mexico Safe? to Traveling In Mexico, it's time to expand and change the front end of the thread to include even more helpful information on riding Mexico. To that end, I will be including a ton more insights from other experienced riders and more FAQs from newbies.
One question continues to be asked, however:
Is Mexico Really Safe?
So for now I'll preserve at least my take on the answer to that question:
There exists a broad spectrum of opinion out there as to just how dangerous Mexico is for the motorcycle traveler.
Here in the Traveling in Mexico (formerly "Is Mexico Safe?") thread we respect all opinions. And we don't care if you change horses in the middle of the stream, that is to say, you once thought it safe to ride there but have now decided to take a pause on travel south. That's fine. Or, maybe reading about the adventures of the regular posters here you decide to saddle up and see Mexico and/or points south. That's fine too.
Many of us ride Mexico regularly. We love her people, her culture, her landscape, her food, her customs and often those things you just can't put your finger on. Most of us comment on how "safe" we feel once we cross the border out of the US of A and enter Mexico. There are some of us who only ride a couple of hundred kilometers inside the border, see a few things, and come home after a few days. Some, like Sjoerd, plot extensive routes inside Mexico and keep a history of off-the-beaten-path travels on a well worn map (he showed it to me at Casa Tricepilot). A lot of us have favorite areas of Mexico. Some of our current favs is the area surrounding Durango where SR lives, the area in and around Veracruz where MikeMike lives, and many of us enjoying my personal favorite part of Mexico, Oaxaca.
Not one of the regulars here say that travel in Mexico by motorcycle is without risk. Mexico is indeed in the midst of a drug war and some would say in certain areas the climate borders on civil war. BUT, and the reader of this thread has to listen here, the task is to size up the risk individually and make a personal decision to go or stay home. My decision to ride through Mexico to Guatemala in January is not a signal to everyone else that the same decision is right for them. Once in Mexico, I generally do not go out late at night to parts of town I don't know and stay late into the night. Others have this practice, its just not normally mine. Different risk management choices. Some people take great pride in riding solo in Mexico. I have ridden many miles solo in Mexico. Whether you ride solo, with another rider, or in a group - your choice is right for you.
Participation in this thread is not a stamp that those who regularly post here believe Mexico is without issues. Regular riders believe the risks can be managed and they press on. I have personally posted stories and follow-up commentary on those who have encountered danger in Mexico. I posted the letter to the editor of BMW ON magazine regarding the robbery near El Fuerte experienced by Tope_Stomper and her riding partners. The more we share these actual, credible experiences the more data points we have to use to make our go/no-go decisions and to adjust our habits and practices on the motorcycle should we decide to press on. Based upon her report, for example, several riders reengergized their practice of spreading money around their bikes and once again committed to carrying a "throw-away" wallet. Stories like hers have a definite home here in this thread. Also welcome is commentary by anyone who takes in such stories and changes their attitude about riding to Mexico.
Originally Posted by theshnizzle
....when riders share their stories with those who haven't gone yet, we can take their experiences under advisement and it helps us to guage our own personal comfort level of what we may or may not be able to deal with in regards to our own personalities and comfort level riding in a country where we don't speak the language and don't fully understand the customs.
It is true that most of the posts here in this thread are by frequent Mexico riders. Out of that association a bond has grown and we look forward to hanging out at the "bar" so to speak and having a virtual coffee or beer together. And from that, many of us have met via this thread and have gone "downrange" across the Rio Bravo and gone exploring Mexico together. These days, what we often like to do is point the bike towards an expat's house in Mexico and go and enjoy their hospitality and share in the discoveries they've made and go meet and enjoy the friendship of their neighbors. We often meet here in virtual space to shoot the breeze, have a laugh, and do what most regulars do on all threads that have legs on ADV.
Don't think that all the while, we're not keeping an eye ourselves on the news, the State Department warnings, intel from those living inside the country, and sending PMs to each other with "what do you think?" We keep in mind what we read from everyone here who post "this happened to me" stories. What is most useful, IMHO, are the local reports. Not the media, but stories and impressions of those who live in Mexico, who ride there frequently, and who can see past the media layering.
What is not helpful here is the broad brush on Mexico, one way or the other. Certain posts in the past that included wording to the effect that Mexico "has the smell of death, eminating from its bowels" is a perfect example. This is disrespectful, untrue, insulting and does not make a contribution. We will address these posts and posters, and attempt to draw out a more meaningful dialog. By the same token, if anyone can send me a PM with a link to a post where a regular on this thread made any kind of statement that Mexico motorcycle travel is completely risk free and without concern, provide your address in that link and I'll send you a case of your favorite beer, and I will personally issue you a public nod that we haven't done our job here in our endeavors to keep perspective in balance.
Free MEXICO Guide
I keep adding to and expanding this guide. If there is a topic you'd like to see added, send me a PM. The guide is as current as of the "Last Edited" date at the bottom of the post.
Appendix A: Insurance for Mexico.
I recommend at least liability insurance and, depending upon your budget and desires, bumping this up to include full coverage on your bike.
It used to be the case that you would not need to produce evidence of insurance while riding in Mexico unless and until you are involved in an accident and you are detained until guilt is sorted out. This has changed!
Baja example: Prior to 2012, drivers were only required to demonstrate proof of financial responsibility if they were involved in an accident which caused damage to third parties. Before 2012, Mexican authorities would only ask for proof of liability insurance AFTER a driver was involved in an accident. Now, Baja police are authorized to request proof of Mexican liability insurance during any routine traffic stop, and they are authorized to ticket any vehicle which is not carrying Mexican liability insurance. Having insurance will pave the way to get you out of a jam and most underwriters include a bilingual attorney to represent you in a court of law. Other Mexican states are sure to follow suit! Remember! Mexico insurance is becoming mandatory in more places!
I have for years used MexAdventure
but there are other equally good companies who have been around a long time.
A very huge side benefit of insurance is "Trip Protection" which varies by company but includes things like getting you and your bike to better places after an incident. Read carefully IN ADVANCE the language attached to any policy you may consider. The time to examine your policy is not roadside just after an accident!
Another great company is Baja Bound
Take a look at their fantastic list of FAQs on Mexico Insurance
Note that liability limits for the 32 Mexican states have increased! Here's your chart:
If you want to read more about these limits, and why they changed you can go to this LINK
I also recommend MedJet
air evacuation insurance. I will not travel in Mexico without it! It is good worldwide. If you are hospitalized in Mexico and need further hospital treatment back in the U.S., MedJet will come and get you and take you home in an air ambulance. If you don't think the cost of this coverage is worth it, consider the alternatives. If you ever need this type of service you will be glad you paid every penny of the premium. For an additional small fee, MedJet will also repatriate your motorcycle.
Note: Be aware the MedJet has two key stipulations:
(1) You have to be an inpatient at a medical care facility (not necessarily a hospital as we would define it). In other words, MedJet will not come pick you up roadside.
(2) A doctor (or medical provider) must recommend that you receive continued care in another medical facility back home. In other words, MedJet won't come to Mexico, pick you up, and take you to an airport to watch you get in a cab. Remember: medical facility in Mexico to medical facility back home.
Mexico insurance underwriters such as HID Seguros, ACE Seguros, and ANA Seguros as brokered by Mexadventure also offer air evac coverage as part of their policy. Look for details under variously titled "Travel Assistance" packages sold as part of the policy.
Mexadventure advertises: "Medical Evacuation Insurance and Plane Tickets Home are automatically included with our Mexican auto insurance policies"!
FAQ: So, why bother with the extra expense of MedJet?
Answer: If you need medical air evacuation, go with the pros whose job it is full time. Based in Atlanta, experienced on a daily basis doing this, always on their "A" game. When Whiskeysmith crashed in Mexico, and was hospitalized in Parral, we thought he had MedJet but all he had was Mexadventure's "Platinum" coverage which appeared to offer medical extraction as a bonus. I was on the phone with their rep all night long as was told to "call back tomorrow" - and this was a Spanish speaking operator in Mexico City. You want that when you are in a tough bind? I don't. Don't get me wrong, I've been with Mexadventure for years, and always go back to them. But I consider medical extraction by air the same way I do a parachute: you want some extra, seldom used, old model lying around the back of the hangar on your back when you jump? Or do you want the state-of-the-art, tested frequently, highly rated rig on the other end of the line when you pull the coord? Your body - Your money - Your choice.
Having these coverages is an element to my Risk Management Strategy. Yours may be completely different. I can point you in the direction of riders who have been on both sides of this fence and their stories tend to back up my recommendation on this topic.
Appendix B: Trip Planning for Mexico & Sjoerd's Guide
Frequently we see posts asking for route suggestions and what-to-see type lists. All well and good but remember the typical novice mistake is to try to pack a hundred pounds of potatoes into a fifty pound sack. IMHO you're much better off with a general direction and a few highlights and then modify your daily itinerary to fit how things are going. It is a BIG MISTAKE to, let's say, arrive in San Miguel de Allende in the afternoon, hit a restaurant and a bar, and then shove off early the next morning. Mexico is if nothing else a destination to be savored, not approached like a cruise ship docking schedule.
There exists a fine listing of hotels produced by our own Sjoerd Bakker which if nothing else should find a home in your tank bag. I don't care who you are you don't have the experience in Mexico that Sjoerd does so pay attention to his posts and send him a PM for specific advice about this or that Mexico state you are eyeing.
When planning your trip leave out ideas about taking your sleeping bag and tent, for there is simply an overabundance of options on any given route. While you may be the type to carry an emergency bivy sack, you won't need your Yellowstone camping package in Mexico and with just a little thinking you can choose very affordable places to stay.
The "Three Finger Rule" means when you hold you hand up to the horizon and the sun is about three fingers above, start thinking about your map and putting a close to the day. You certainly don't want to be riding at night in Mexico primarily due to livestock on the road and other road hazards, so operate in daylight and save dusk and night time for a cold Indio and some street tacos.
Originally Posted by PlznMySoul
Riding South of the border is not like riding here in the US. For the most part, we can ride most US Tarmac without any "major" concern of hazards. The roads are in good shape, etc. we can even ride at night. Less stress on the senses and body as we cruise. In Mexico......Your body will get fatigued a lot quicker because you're on FULL alert 100% of the time (or should be), monitoring road conditions, looking for hazards, the unknown coming around the corner AND taking in the view. This will keep you tense. As a result, you ride at a slower pace than you typically ride. Don't get me wrong, you will have times of relaxation when riding. It's just a different kind of relaxation...
You should have room in your time frame for weather and unexpected change of route/plans.
Hands down the most knowledgeable and experienced Mexico traveler who is not from Mexico itself is ADV inmate Sjoerd Bakker, from Canada. Sjoerd has been on more hiways and byways of Mexico than anyone I know, and his depth of knowledge is unsurpassed. He has created a set of guidebooks, self-published, on economical hotels and travel in Mexico and Central America
Where has Sjoerd been in Mexico? Take a look at his map:
And that's a dated photo. He keeps adding to the routes he's been on. There isn't anyone more experienced in Mexico. Period.
Here is the LINK to that guide
Details on how to acquire his guide are at that link.
Here's a tip on a great mod for Sjoerd's Guide:
Originally Posted by theshnizzle
I took the books to staples and had them spiraled.
The colored tabs are my own. Red for south route to zeewah. Yellow for coastline up to oaxaca, blue for northbound route. I wrote on the color coded tabs the towns where I will be stopping.
Appendix C: Temporary Vehicle Import Permits
Originally Posted by SchizzMan
Came in yesterday's mail. Thanks Sjoerd!
Now I'm off to the office supply to get them "shnizzled"
To operate your bike south of the border zone and outside Baja and the western part of Sonora state, you will need a TVIP. A TVIP can be obtained online or at a border aduana. You can PM me for details and advice about how to get a TVIP online. Documents you will need to obtain a TVIP either online or in person include the bike's "ownership document", which can be satisfied using either your title or state registration.
For online TVIPs you can click HERE
The "ownership document" and your passport, passport card or drivers license need to match each other. If you have a lien on the bike, you either need a letter from the lender stating you have permission to take the bike to Mexico, or select a document that does not reflect the lien.
Note that Mexico now requires possession of a passport (or passport card) past the border zone. Since you need one of these to re-enter the US anyway, it's not an issue.
Make sure when acquiring your TVIP that you pay attention to the length of validity, which should be 180 days (by law it must match the valid period of your tourist card). There have been anecdotal stories of riders being "asleep at the switch" as the TVIP is being prepared and finding out the official made it valid for only 30 days.
Be sure to turn in, in other words, cancel, your TVIP as you exit Mexico, and do this prior the TVIP expiration, so as not to forfeit your TVIP deposit. You will have bonded your moto either by cash or by credit card up to an amount of $400 U.S. depending upon the age of the vehicle (see the chart) - so don't skip the cancellation process due to a fit of "border fever".
No TVIP required in all of Baja and in the Sonora Free Zone:
Vehicle Deposti Fees, payable by credit card or cash bond:
2007 and newer models, USD $400.00 deposit required
2001 - 2006 models, USD $300.00 deposit required
models previous to 2000, USD $200.00 deposit required
And as to the cost of the TVIP and the amount of money you tie up to bond the bike, there is no discount for paying in cash.
As of this writing, your TVIP is tied to your passport (or passport card) number and your VIN number.
You can aquire the TVIP online or at a border aduana, but to cancel it, you and the bike must both be present at a border aduana where the actual VIN on the bike will be examined and compared against the VIN on the TVIP itself.
Most riders keep the TVIP hologram and the form it comes on safetly tucked away somewhere on the bike. There is currently no requirement to display the TVIP hologram sticker on your windscreen.
Click LINK to understand the One TVIP Two Vehicles
For questions about vehicle permits you can call Banjercito direct at 011-52-555-328-2329
Appendix D: Tourist Cards
Tourist cards (FMM) are required past the border zone and can be purchased for around $23 US. They are currently not tracked like TVIPs and are not bonded. Bear in mind that if you exit Mexico to the south via Guatemala, you must obtain a Mexico exit stamp in your passport before the Guatemala aduana will issue you an entrance stamp. To get the exit stamp in Mexico, your tourist card must have the payment receipt attached to it.
Appendix E: Topes
A Tope is in effect a speed bump, you'll hear the term "topes" all the time, because topes are all over the place in Mexico. They are commonly built before and in towns of all sizes, to control speed. They may be signed or not, tall, short, wide, narrow, and be made of asphalt (the familiar berm) or consist of low profile metal domes, or even ridge bumps. If hit at speed, they can, and have, thrown riders off their bikes.
Here is a great shot from Jim, "Our Man in Mazatlán" (Going South) on what the "metal dome" topes look like:
Originally Posted by going south
Ground clearance is an issue sometimes. Dual sport bikes with long travel suspension often have no issue with topes when taken at low speed. Sport bikes and cruisers can "bottom out" to the point that a hole is created in the oil pan or bash plate (I've seen it happen). Low clearance bikes sometimes take topes at an angle to assist with clearance.
An ideal technique to deal with topes is first of all, to anticipate where they might be. Watch the behavior of traffic ahead of you to guage just how severe the tope is. I like to stand up in "topes zones" to stretch, but to also help the bike bounce over. Bending at the knees and elbows permits the bike full flexibility - take them slow and go with the flow.
Good Topes News #1: Yes! There are good things about topes. They are great for slowing down big trucks so you may pass with ease. In twisty mountain sections it can be a challenge to pass large, slow trucks. When you come upon an ejido, all the trucks will have to reduce to a crawl, that's when you can blast by them.
Good Topes News #2: Because traffic has to slow to a crawl over any typical size tope, you will often find folks selling everything from drinks to dried shrimp right there at the tope. You will have fun discovering just how many things are sold there on the street with traffic at a snail's pace in both directions. Observe people holding cans for donations to various causes as well. You may have your hands full with your motorcycle, and change not readily available, but the opportunity is there for a true Mexico version of "fast food!"
Tip: I keep my jacket in my top case to help pack things down. Bouncing over topes can cause your valuables to jostle (is that the word?) around, and you want to avoid damage. However you pack, remember in Mexico that off the cuota it's never a smooth ride. Topes will shake things up, the more you do to keep things packed down, the better.
Originally Posted by PlznMySoul
I was not paying attention and went air born for the 1st and LAST time on an unmarked TOPE aka man made mini mountain WTF?!?!?! Good thing I was not going too fast. This day is marked as my TOPES DAY. I think I’ve seen every kind of tope, bump, rumble, hole, whatever you want to call or think of today. Great lesson learned and it actually forced me to take a slower approach to observe while cruising through the small towns.
Heed this advice about being careful with topes. Here's my buddy Turkeycreek, Tom, and his helmet showing the end result of hitting an unmarked tope at speed:
I took this photo of Tom at his Hotel Los Arcos de Sonora
in Banámichi, Sonora, in October 2013. This is a must visit place! Ask Tom to make you some of his adobe oven pizza!
Originally Posted by andyc740
I just ran across this YouTube video. What happens when a presidential motorcade motorcycle cop encounters an unexpected tope? The tope lives up to its name.
Can't stop watching.
I guess the takeaway is; Don't be on the front brake as you go over or you may go over!
Be careful out there! Stay alert!
Appendix F: Regular Mexico Riders & Trusted Resources
Here are some of the guys who regularly ride Mexico, and whose knowledge, respect for Mexico and her culture and customs, and consistent demeanor mark them as good guys, recommended advisers, and knowledgeable resources on all things Mexico:
I have met most of these guys. Many of them have stayed at my house. I have corresponded with all of them. There are obviously others who should be on this list, but these guys are whom I'm most familiar with and highly recommend. I'm sure they'd be happy to answer any Mexico questions via PM. I will continue to add to this list as time goes on.
*Full or part time Expat living in Mexico
**Our "Top Expert" on Mexico - All of us combined could live 100 years and combined would not have the knowledge of Mexico Sjoerd Has. Sjoerd has been to Casona Tricepilot a couple of times and I always marvel at his experience in country. Sjoerd is the go-to guy for routing questions.
Note: Make sure to review Arte's ride reports on Mexico. Excellent!
Note: Make sure to plan a stay at Turkeycreek's Hotel Los Arcos de Sonora
in Banámichi! Superb!
Note: Off-road Mexico riders on this list include SR, Jimmex, Arte, and Kiko. Ask SR about the Durango to Mazatlán event.
Note: Mexico photography aficionados on this list include MikeMike and Mark883
Note: Bill Eakins is our Butler Maps
guy - great company for all kinds of motorcycle maps. Also our Sayulita expert.
Note: rockymountainoyster is our KOTO Radio
guy in Telluride. Listen in via the net when he's on the air!
Appendix G: Recommended Gear: SPOT Tracker
At the time of this posting, we have a missing rider in Mexico, Harry Devert
Based upon this case and the discussion of being able to be tracked in Mexico, I'm adding this appendix for "breadcrumb" devices like the SPOT satellite tracker and SPOT TRACE, pictured above.
Originally Posted by gatogato
SPOT Trackers need to be mandatory. If Harry had one, it would be much easier to find him right now.
And I'll admit, I need to get back on the bandwagon and consistently use my own SPOT tracker more.
Here's a sample "breadcrumb trail" from last October's run through Sonora and the Copper Canyon and back through Texas:
You are strongly encouraged to consider using a device such as a SPOT tracker, to keep family and friends aware of your location at all times. Your family will be able to track you in real time. Your current position will always be known.
The latest SPOT devices allow you to configure how many "pings" are sent at timed intervals.
SPOT Unlimited Tracking:
"Only available with SPOT Gen3. Unlimited Tracking allows you to choose your tracking rate. Before you go, program your SPOT to transmit a track message every 5, 10, 30 or 60 minutes. Unlimited Tracking doesn't stop until you do; with Unlimited Tracking your SPOT will continue to send Track Messages until you turn SPOT off or the batteries run out."
SPOT Extreme Tracking:
"Only available with SPOT Gen3. Get all of the great features of Unlimited Tracking but with the added ability to vary your track rate down to every 2 ˝ minutes. Perfect for pilots and the ultra outdoor enthusiast"
Like MedJet Assist, the cost may make this device seem like an unnecessary expense, but they are priceless when you need them.
Continued prayers that Harry Devert is found and returns home safely.