The days are long, the flowers are in full bloom and the weather is beautiful in Puerto Morelos. To add to this, the resturants, beaches and accommodations are empty. As the weather grows warmer up north, people forget how wonderful it is to be here in the off season. You can have the beach all to yourself and you don’t have to make reservations or wait in line to get into your favourite resturants.
It is the same throughout all of Mexico. We just came back from 3 fun-filled weeks in Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta, where they are experiencing the same low season lull as Puerto Morelos. We never waited to get into a single restaurant and in Tlaquepaque (a hip suburb of Guadalajara) we rented a fully equipped apartment for only $20usd/night.
In Puerto Vallarta, we had the pool all to ourselves during the week at one condo. And at the other condo we stayed at, there were only two units occupied in the entire complex. Very quiet and very relaxing.
Right now in Puerto Morelos, you will find amazing deals because of the low demand. An apartment that usually rents for $118USD/night at Christmas (with a 7 night minimum rental) now rents for $57USD/night (with only a 5 night minimum rental). That is less than half price! And that is not the only place you can save money. To draw more people in, many of the bars and resturants have great low season specials. And there are loads of flights from many destination in the USA or Canada for around $350USD return.
Right now the water is calm, clear and warm. It’s a great time for snorkeling, fishing or diving. And whale shark season is about to begin. Something you must check off on your bucket list. So if you are looking to slip away and decompress, now is the time to do it and Mexico is the place.
I’m off to check out a margarita special. Hope to see you soon!
We are back in happy to be back Puerto Morelos. And that means the Alma Libre Books & Gifts is now open for the season. We have just returned from a buying trip in Texas and through central Mexico where we purchased thousands of new books, the latest maps, fish cards, calendars and lots of wonderful Mexican art.
Just a sample of the art, are these beautiful, handmade pillow cases embroidered by the Otomi people from the mountain village of Puebla. We only have a limited number of these.
We also visited the village of Tzintzuntzan in Michoacán where they hand weave these adorable Christmas ornaments from straw. The town is filled with thousands of them hanging like vines everywhere. We brought them back, just for you.
The USA Border to Puerto Morelos, Mexico
We have complied our stats from our latest drive from the US border, crossing at Columbia near Laredo,Texas to Puerto Morelos, Mexico and here is how it breaks down. You can compare these to our trip north in the spring of 2014.
Distance Covered: 3124 km or 1941 Miles
Hours behind the wheel: 39.5 (Google Maps is a little optimistic)
Number of Days Driving: 6.5 days
Camping at Mayabell
We took a total of 9 days to do this trip, taking an extra night in San Miguel de Allende and Cholua, Puebla. Our prices in gas and tolls are based on driving a truck and pulling a twenty-five foot trailer.
Cost of Gas: $10,490 pesos or $771 usd
Cost of Tolls: $4328 pesos or $318usd
Cost of Camping: $1614 pesos or $119 usd for 7 nights.
Cost of Repairs: $650 pesos or $48 usd
Road Side Service
While on the Arco Norte around Mexico city we heard a strange noise coming from the back of the trailer. We pulled over at the nearest Pemex to find that we had a broken trailer spring. This happens to us often, so we always carry spare springs. All we really needed was a mechanic who could change out the broken one. There was a mechanic where we stopped, but he was on the wrong side of the toll fence and he couldn’t cross over. We then went to a tire repair shop, they couldn’t help us, but they did have a buddy who was a mechanic. Within twenty minutes he was there replacing our broken spring. Forty-five minutes later we were all set to go…. but as we pulled out of the parking lot, we heard this terrible grinding sound. So back to the mechanic, only to discover that one of our brake assembly had fallen apart. All of the pieces were still inside the wheel so he was able to fix it and we were back on the road after only an hour and a half delay.
The first night after we cross the border, we only aim to make it to Saltillo. If you are in car or care to push it harder you could make it to Matehuala (where there is a campground) or even San Luis Potosi. With the border being stressful and the time there an unknown factor, plus the shorter fall daylight hours, we just drive to Saltillo.
Once there we stay at the Hotel La Fuente. The website make it looks much nicer than it actually is, but for one night, it is fine. If you are staying here with an RV there are a couple of tricks you should know. First the gate is always locked. When we arrive I run in and pay for the night, $200 pesos, while Rob waits in the truck on the very busy road in front. Do not try to go through the archway, it is too low. There is a large gate at the end of the hotel’s lot that, if you ask, they will open for you.
The next thing to know is that if you drive straight in, to the end of the hotel, there is a water spout on the last post of the hotel. You can fill up here before you park your unit in place. There is power on the lamp post opposite the water. Once you are done filling up, you can drive your unit into place next the the light pole and have power for the evening. When we visited here in the fall the restaurant at the hotel was out of business. There is a pizza place, pharmacy, OXXO and Bodega Aurrera within short walking distance. Also the hotel no longer offers Wi-Fi. In the morning you will have to ask them once again to open the big gates to let you out.
Also, there is a pool that you can use at this hotel. It is not heated and could be the coldest water I have ever encountered. It’s too cold swim in but you could skate on it! Here is more information on Saltillo from our trip north in the spring.
This is the route we take from Laredo, Texas to Puerto Morelos, Mexico. Pulling a 25′ travel trailer it takes us about 40 hours behind the wheel. Our average speed is about 70km/hour or 44 miles/hour. In the USA we easily roll 100km/hour. The difference between driving in Mexico and the USA is the road quality and those unexpected delays that you are bound to come across.
We recently crossed from the USA into Mexico at the Colombia Solidarity International Bridge. This crossing is a bit out of the way, but Bridge 2 in downtown Laredo is a bit tight for RV’s and the permit process is easier at Colombia. The Colombia crossing is 26 miles to the west of downtown, off of a toll road (if you are coming from the north). There are no toll booths on this road. We have used it twice and happily waited for the state of Texas to charge us. They never have.
This year we stayed at Vaquero Village & RV Park, just off of the I-35 and Highway 285 the night before we crossed. We had never heard of this place, but it worked our very well as a jumping off point for crossing at Colombia. The owner is a very nice Mexican who couldn’t understand why we would want to cross the border. This place has good Wi-Fi if you park at the back of the campground near the office. One tip make sure you get gas before you leave the I-35.
There is a toll to cross the Solidarity International Bridge, it can be paid in pesos or dollars. Once you cross the bridge you are at the Mexican border. Keep to your left and go through the gates where you will get a red light or a green light. We suspect this is done on weight as we are heavy and usually get a red light. It doesn’t seem to matter, which colour we get, they always stop us. This year to our surprise, after getting a red light, they sent us to the x-ray machine. This crossing now has a new vehicle x-ray, large enough to fit our truck and trailer into easily. Once you drive into the x-ray you are asked to to remove any pets and yourselves from the vehicle and stand behind a cement wall under a shade cover while they scan the vehicle. This takes about 5 minutes.
Once you are cleared to go, you can move on to getting your visa and car permit. The entire adventure took us about 40 minutes. The 25km check point that was always a big hassle seems to have been made redundant for Aduana. They only checked our immigration papers and waved us on. Then it was off to Saltillo.
Have you ever seen road signs like this?
We’ll get used to them. You will see them often when driving in Mexico. There are a few more things to take note of, the first is to make sure you have good maps. And I do say maps. One will not do. We recommend that you make sure Mexico maps are loaded on your GPS. Most GPS’s (we use Garmin) say they contain maps of North America, but for some reason Mexico is no longer in North America.
You will find that your GPS will not always pick the best route. It will usually take you right through the middle of most Mexican cities instead of taking you via the much, much easier bypasses that are usually available.
This is where “The Mexican Guide to Camping” comes in. Although a few years old, this book it still worth it’s weight in gold. Not just for the campgrounds, but for the information on crossing borders, city by-passes and general rules of the road.
If you want a good physical road map, we recommend Guia Roji. We have found it to be the most accurate and detailed featuring highway maps, city maps and toll road information.
Another thing you need to know is Mexican road sign and signals. Did you know that a left turn signal has more than one meaning? If someone in front of you puts on their left turn signal they may be turning left or they may be letting you know that it is clear to pass or…. there are a few other things. To familiarize yourself with all the quirks of the road along with a ton of in sites into the culture, we recommend reading “The People’s Guide to Mexico”.
Once equipped with these things you will have a better chance of having a relaxed and happy journey.
The first thing you need is Mexican Auto Insurance. You will find that most insurance companies will not cover you south of the border. We use a company called Lewis and Lewis Auto Insurance out of California. They work with a Mexican insurance company, Qualitas. They have rates from 10 days to 1 year, plus you can configure your insurance on their website before you commit to them.
If you are in an accident, you call the number they give you, an agent shows up at the scene of the accident where they asses the claim, deal with the police and if there are other parties involved they work with them on your behalf. In the 13 years we have lived in Mexico we have made two claims. The service has been good in both cases, but extremely slow taking 4-5 months to settle claims. However, we were happy with the results in both cases.
When we drive through Mexico we also usually purchase a road side assistance package. With either buy Good Sam or AAA. We do this because they cover towing. They do not have their own operators in Mexico, but they will reimburse you should you have to be towed a long distance. Fortunately we have never had this happen to us. There are other programs available, you can check them out here, but make sure they include Mexico.
Do you know who these guys?
You should. This is a “Green Angel” or “Angeles Verdes”. The Green Angels are a roadside assistance program operated by the Mexican government. You will see the white and green trucks parked by the side of the road or driving down highways. If you should run into vehicle trouble, flag one of these guys down, they provide free service and information (gasoline and parts much be paid for). You can also reaching them by dialing 078 on a Mexican cell.
This is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site is in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, only 9 km west of the City of Oaxaca. Inhabited by the Zapotecs, Monte Albán (which means White Mountain) is one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica. The ruin features an excellent variety of paintings and stone carvings from the period.
The site was literally carved out of a mountain and then inhabited for over 1000 years. In 1987 it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Structures have been constructed over large parts of the ruin to protect it from weather and sun. The site is large, but most of it can be seen once you reach the top of the mountain where the ceremonial area is. The hillside below the ceremonial area was covered with more than 2,000 terraces for houses and farms.
It is estimated that over 100,000 people lived here. Over 170 tombs have been discovered on the site. The ruin can be easily visited from the City of Oaxaca by taxi or shuttle. For more information visit Monte Alban Oaxaca.
On our last day we drive from Saltillo to the border of the USA. It takes us just over 3 hours to get to the crossing at Colombia, just west of Nuevo Laredo. We cross here, instead of in Laredo because the crossing has more room for RVs.
People ask us all the time how long it takes and what it costs. So here are the states from our trip from Puerto Morelos to the US border.
Hours: 41 behind the wheel
Average Speed: 71km/hour or 44 miles/hour
Tolls: $3484mxn ($271 USD)
Gas: $9079mxn ($706 USD)
Camping: $2028mxn ($158 USD)
Total Cost: $14591mxn ($1135 USD)
Tolls for a truck and travel trailer are about double what you would pay for a car. If you were not towing an RV you could do this trip much faster and much cheaper. Flying would be cheaper and fast again, but not as fun.
We took 11 days to do this drive in so that we could stop and visit friends and some of our favourite places along the way. Temperatures ranged from 37C (99F) to 7c (45F). We were as low as -6meters (-20feet) below sea level to as high as 2616 meters (8523feet), all in a five hour drive. This completes our 12th round trip from the US border to Puerto Morelos and back. It may be time to start flying.
We still have 3,494km (2171 miles) to go. We’re not even half way there!
From San Miguel de Allende we head to Saltillo in the north eastern state of Coahuila. As you leave San Miguel you pass stand after stand of fresas con crema (strawberries with cream).
The nicest Pemex in Mexico on the bypass around Matehuala
The highway north is filled with trucks. They pack the road heading to the US border delivering goods to the states. The roads are generally good with some toll and some free.
The drive takes about eight hours and at the end of it we park at La Fuente Hotel on the outskirts of Saltillo. To get into the hotel parking area you have to go to the front desk and ask them to let you in. They also like you to pay before you park. The cost is $200mxn ($15.50). For this you get a place to park with a plugin on a nearby light pole. There is also water on site and the world’s coldest swimming pool.
Saltillo is the home of the Mexican sarape and the city is very proud of its weaving. This city is also a commercial, communications, and manufacturing centre.
The Saltillo Cathedral, Catedral de Santiago, is an excellent example of beautiful baroque architectural and makes the trip into downtown Saltillo worth a stop.
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