Camping Safely in Mexico
We all look for the great deals…boondocking on a deserted beach, the occasional Wal-Mart etc.
In Mexico, like the United States and Canada, common sense should always prevail. Never boondock unless there are several other campers at the location already.
Never boondock near a major City especially those near the border. Always plan your trip so that you drive early to reach your destination by early afternoon. If a breakdown or problem arises you can get it corrected during daylight hours.
Alternatives to trailer park if you do get caught at night are:
Pemex Gas Stations (Ask. Most will agree for the price of a fill up)
Police Stations (Just ask if it’s ok to park. Most will say yes and/or give you directions to a secure motel.)
Motels…Most Mexican roadside motels will allow you to park for a fee and will even string you a line for electricity. If not, rent a room and you’re parking goes with it.
Last but not least, in a pinch a restaurant will agree to have you stay in their parking lot. This is not the best strategy as restaurants close for the evening and you will look out of place. Sometimes the owners live at the restaurant, so this is the last end run.
This is not to make you paranoid, but these rules should apply wherever you travel unless you are very familiar with the area.
Be warned. The roads are narrow. Often Uneven or potholed. There are few fences so cattle and livestock can jump in front of your vehicle. There are rarely any shoulders in case of an emergency.
Every once and a while, usually when you approach a town or a school, you will read a sign that says “TOPE.” Roughly translated that means “speed bump that will rip your underbelly off if you go too fast.” Sometimes there are no signs at all and you just have to be careful.
Conversely, beware of Vados. These are dips in a road that can quickly fill with water in a rainstorm. We were almost carried away once by a temporary river that emerged after a storm in the desert. We just barely had traction to make it across to the other side.
The cities and towns often have narrow streets which make negotiating turn nearly impossible. There are low hydro wires and overgrown trees that scrape your roof and sides. You must constantly be on the alert for hazards to you and your vehicle.
One morning in Catemeco I was pulling out of a campsite and a peacock darted in front of my rig. I had to swerve to miss him. I was going slow so that maneuver was successful. The problem was I went over a speed bump as I swerved and the overhang on the building flattened my air conditioner. We spent at least a week getting it somewhat repaired and even then it was inefficient. We had to spend the next two months in the summer in Mexico with little comfort.
Back home you usually don’t have to worry about a peacock and a speed bump. We can go to the nearest RV supply house or Camping World to replace broken or damaged parts. The moral of the story is to be careful and expect the unexpected. Go slow.
Here are a few of our camping & driving recommendations:
- Never Drive at night. There are too many animals on the roads. There are no lights and too many hazards.
- Plan your trip daily so that you know exactly how long you can comfortably drive. Some people say 4 hours max. We drive for extended periods but spell each other off.
- Go Slow. Pitstop every 2 hours. Rest 10 minutes and proceed.
- Travel early in the morning – preferably at the crack of dawn. If your vehicle breaks down you can make arrangements before nightfall.
- Follow the signs and obey the signals. Don’t ask for trouble. If you get a ticket the police will take your drivers license and you will have to go to the police station and pay a fine. You are stuck overnight if the station is closed. I don’t know about you but we try to avoid police stations.
- Be cautious if you see rocks on the pavement placed in a pile by the side of the road. It usually indicates a road hazard or that the road has crumbled beyond the normal 3-inch shoulder. We have seen red Tecate beer cans also mark a hazard presumably because they are reflective.
- Don’t drive at night.
- Beware of Peacocks.