Should we cancel our vacation to Mexico in December?

Nov 25th, 2014, 08:08 PM
  #1  
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Should we cancel our vacation to Mexico in December?

We've planned the trip in summer, bought the tickets, and were anticipating it very much. This would be our second vacation in Mexico. The first one was three years ago, driving around Yucatan, we liked it so much that wanted to go to Mexico again. This time we decided to spend a few days in Mexico City and then rent a car drive around Tequisquiapan, Patzcuaro, San Juan Teotihuacan, Guanajuato, Lagos de Moreno, and other little towns in that area.

Our trip starts in a week, but listening to the news, my wife and I are on the verge of canceling the whole thing and cry over our plans and non-refundable tickets.

Can someone please tell me that we are overreacting? I sure hope we are...
andbel is offline  
Nov 26th, 2014, 06:30 AM
  #2  
 
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Do not cancel. That'd like me cancelling a trip to Omaha because of what's happening in Ferguson. That said, there is always a chance of a demonstration that may block a highway for a short time, which while frustrating, wouldn't be violent. We were recently in Guanajuato and Leon and the traffic in Leon was awful, but not because of protests, but rather the international balloon festival. We drive throughout the Bajio weekly and don't give it a second thought.
PS, think about adding Bernal to your itinerary if you haven't already. IMO, it's a better destination that Tequis.
PPS, I think you are overreacting. It's good to be aware, but after you get home from your trip, you'll wonder what was the big deal.
baldone is online now  
Nov 26th, 2014, 06:43 AM
  #3  
TC
 
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Do NOT cancel. I agree completely with the above statement. As you would anywhere, be thoughtful and careful as you drive.

I have posted this before, but here it is again.....a link to an article with a few more facts on safety in Mexico which states in part:

"....from the UN Office of Drugs and Crime:

"Recent FBI statistics show the murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants in Baltimore is 43.3, Washington D.C. is 29.1 and Detroit is 47. Mexico, however, which suffered an especially violent year in 2008, recorded a murder rate of about 10 per 100,000."

In drug offenses, US recently ranked 4th in the world, and the Mexico ranked 12th. When it came to homocides with firearms, the US ranked 7th and Mexico 17th, (39.56 per 100,000 vs. Mexico’s 20.6). Yes, that means the US has 92% more homicides with guns than Mexico."

"Mexico is roughly the size of Western Europe. Of Mexico’s 2,500 municipalities, only 18 have been considered to be a security problem.......that leaves 2482 very safe options if you want to travel to Mexico......the majority of Mexico’s organized-crime killings last year took place in a mere three of Mexico’s 31 states: Chihuahua, Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon."

http://www.theyucatantimes.com/2012/...st-media-hype/

If you want information about safety in Mexico:

(Murder stats)
http://howsafeismexico.com/

(General perspective)
http://www.mexicomike.com/safety/saf...epartment.html
TC is offline  
Nov 26th, 2014, 08:20 AM
  #4  
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Thank you for the reassurances, much appreciated. My concern is not about the demonstrations or traffic jams, but about general safety when driving around that part of Mexico. I understand that it's rather safe in the usual tourist areas, but what about in-between? When we were in Yucatan, we liked to take the smaller roads and drive through the small towns and villages, from one pyramid to another. We would like to do the same now, too, but this time west of Mexico City. Is it still safe in the area between Mexico City and Guanajuato? Or show we stick to the bigger highways between the larger cities? Or maybe we should not rent a car at all and just travel by bus? Thank you for the advice.
andbel is offline  
Nov 26th, 2014, 09:16 AM
  #5  
 
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I agree with the above - do not cancel.

Any particular reason you insist on driving? It is doable, and I would tend to stick to the "cuotas" as much as possible (toll roads).

BUT public transportation (bus) between cities and towns is really good in MX, and is very comfortable. It would be certainly much less expensive, even factoring in the cost of taxis to/from the bus terminals. You would also avoid the possibility of "mordidas" by corrupt policeman, but more importantly all the "tips" you would likely be giving along the way - i.e. gas station attendants, street parking "assistance" and "guarding" of your vehicle, traffic light "services" such as washing your windshield/vendors of food/slinkys/small toys/etc. being pushed on you as you wait at the red light ... To me all of this is a source of stress as well, even though the amounts involved tend to be small.

Also not to be underestimated - do you speak spanish? Even more important if you are driving.
kanadajin is online now  
Nov 26th, 2014, 09:35 AM
  #6  
 
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I would not cancel. but I don't like to drive and have never rented a car in Mexico myself. So I would not be doing what you describe exactly. I would not do it unless you speak fluent Spanish and have experience renting cars and driving in the country.

My round-about way of saying I would do the trip, but probably not exactly as you anticipated or describe. I'd stick to more mainstream routes not be off somewhere wandering around areas you are not familiar with.
suze is online now  
Nov 26th, 2014, 10:27 AM
  #7  
 
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I wouldn't cancel, but I would take the bus.
Fra_Diavolo is offline  
Nov 26th, 2014, 10:50 AM
  #8  
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Thank you all for the encouragement. We would like to rent a car and drive around because that's our idea of having a good vacation: we don't like to spend a lot of time at the usual tourist places, we like to drive between the smaller places and "discover" them We did rent a car and drive for two weeks in Yucatan before, and it was no problem whatsoever. I speak very little Spanish, just the very basics, I understand it could be a problem, but again, from our Yucatan experience three years ago, we did not have a problem with the language barrier, although (fortunately) I did not have an opportunity to test it in a real emergency situation or dealing with the police, etc. So renting and driving a car in Mexico does not scare me, what does scare me is the situation on the smaller roads: I certainly don't want to become a subject of a 'highway robbery' or anything like that. Is west of Mexico city much more dangerous than Yucatan? Or am I being paranoid?
andbel is offline  
Nov 26th, 2014, 01:37 PM
  #9  
 
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I find I can usually hire a car & a driver for less than a car rental with insurance, gas etc costs.
IE I have a English Cabbie in Zihuatanejo who will take me almost anywhere I wish for 400 pesos a day plus lunch.
Stewbear is offline  
Nov 26th, 2014, 02:56 PM
  #10  
 
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The Yucatan is probably the safest part of Mexico. The US border area the most dangerous. Now, when you say "west of Mexico City," what all does that encompass? Friends and my wife and I as well were recently in Valle de Bravo without incident nor even the thought that there would be one. You also mention driving from DF to Guanajuato. There are about 50 different routes you could take, where the biggest dangers would be getting lost or delayed by construction. Road signage on Mexico's secondary roads & highways is often confusing at best if not totally absent. Sometimes, what looks like a good secondary road on a map might start out nice blacktop, but end up being nothing more than ruts and rocks. Generally, you're better off sticking to the toll/main roads between destination cities. Sometimes, you'll have no choice, like between GTO and Lagos de Moreno.
So, here's my take (FWIW): Most of your main destinations can easily & comfortably be reached by bus. The villages around Patzcuaro, for example, can easily be visited with a guide or hired driver. IMO, I think you'll find that some of the smaller towns and villages enroute to what your main destinations may be are just not all that appealing. With certain exceptions, like some of the Pueblos Magicos, or course. That said, having a car will let you see parts of Mexico that a typical tourist just doesn't see. A couple of examples; the Sierra Gorda and Huasteca Potosina (some of the best scenery in all of Mexico) are best visited by car. Doing the wine and cheese route in Queretaro at your leisure in your own car is the only way to go. It would be helpful to know just what some of the towns are that you might want to visit.
I probably drive some 5,000 miles a year in Mexico and another 2,000 back to the states. After driving I-35 in Texas, my nerves are shot and can't wait to get back on Mexican highways where I can relax again.
baldone is online now  
Nov 26th, 2014, 07:35 PM
  #11  
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Again, thank you all for the suggestions. Our driving plan was: from Mexico City to Tequisquiapan (and see Bernal, as well.) From there a drive to Lagos de Moreno (the longest leg of the trip). Then coming back, making stops at Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, and Santiago de Queretaro. Finally, a drive to San Juan Theotihuacan, and then back to Mexico City. We plan to stay two nights in each town listed, making side trips to the smaller places around them. Does this sound like a good plan, safety-wise?
andbel is offline  
Nov 27th, 2014, 01:33 PM
  #12  
 
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I guess when you said "west" of DF, I took that to mean west as on in to Michoacan. Not to be pedantic, but your route is NW of Mexico City, which certainly changes your route options. Anyway, you'll have absolutely no problems, once you get out of Mexico City. 57/45 is highly traveled and quite safe, as is the road to Tequis/Bernal. Since you'll have a car, it would be a shame to not visit the Sierra Gorda as I mentioned before, as Bernal and Tequis are both at entrance to the area. https://www.google.com.mx/search?q=s...w=1064&bih=887
It just seems it kinda defeats to purpose of renting a car if you're not gonna take advantage of the freedom.
Last, I'd be curious on how you settled on Lagos de Moreno as a destination; it's not the first place that comes to mind for most visitors to this area.
baldone is online now  
Nov 28th, 2014, 07:15 AM
  #13  
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Sorry, that was NW, you are right. About Lagos de Moreno, I'm not sure, my wife read something about it in a travel book and put it in the schedule Maybe we won't go there, it's all flexible. Thank you again for the advice and reassurances, it decreased our anxiety significantly
andbel is offline  
Nov 28th, 2014, 07:40 PM
  #14  
 
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Have fun.
baldone is online now  
Dec 1st, 2014, 10:43 AM
  #15  
 
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As some have suggested, hire a driver and cab in the different areas. You could take a bus for longer treks. We NEVER rent a car and drive in Mexico. Some of the roads are terrible, there are open fence laws (cows, livestock in the road), Bandidos are always a possibility (police included), and NEVER drive after dark.
Plus, the drivers are so grateful, so affordable, so knowledgeable, why would you want the hassles of a car?
And check the U.S. govt advisories. Some areas are dangerous, and it changes all the time. Unless you know people who know Mexico, follow your govt's advice.
Have fun. It's a beautiful country, but it's not the USA. But that's why you're going, right? Bien Viajé.
sbmargo is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2014, 07:56 AM
  #16  
 
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Best advice: Stop Listening To The News!
cabron is offline  
Dec 25th, 2014, 11:38 AM
  #17  
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We did it and we are back! I'm glad we did not succumb to our fears, thanks in large part to the replies I've got to my question here. For the benefit of those who might have similar doubts and come across of this thread, here is a report of our trip.

The short version: during the three weeks in Mexico in December 2014, we did a lot driving, on both the small roads and on the toll ones, as well as a lot of walking in both the capital city and the smaller towns, and at no point we felt any danger or threat of violence. I feel I can share an advice now: just use common sense, don't do stupid things, and you will be fine.

A bit longer version: we've spent the first week in Mexico City, using the metro to move around. We walked a lot, mostly in Centro Historico and Coyoacan, but also walked Paseo de Reforma, Universidad, and made trips to the Basilica and Xochimilco. There is a heavy presence of police everywhere, you can't walk more than a couple of blocks without encountering a policeman or two.

Then we renter a car at the airport. Here let me rant a bit. After researching the rental options, I decided to go with National, because they had their car lot right at the airport, and the rates online were good. Imagine my surprise when we walked to their counter at Terminal 1, and the girl who could hardly speak English told us that they did not have a car for us, and directed us to a competitor (Europcar), at the next counter. I mean what the point of making an advanced reservation??? OK, the girl promised us that Europcar would give as the same deal, so we went to their off-the airport facility. Turns out their deal was about 50% more expensive, and they also refused take the optional insurance off the bill. (I have a separate car insurance via American Express that would cover that.) After trying to sort this out for about an hour, with their almost non-existent English, and my almost non-existent Spanish, I finally got fed up and walked out. Fortunately, there were many other car rental offices at the same location, so we walked to Avis next door. What a contrast it was: they spoke quite a good English, they offered a very good deal, even better than the one I was hoping to get via National, the car they gave us was almost new, long story short, I'm very happy with Avis. If you are going to rent a car at the Mexico City airport, you can't go wrong with Avis. (And no, I don't work for them, just a happy customer.)

OK, having rented a car, we made sure to get out of Mexico city as quickly as possible, so we got on the tollway 57D and drove it north to San Juan del Rio. The total toll was about US$20. The highway was not very fast, with a lot of road work, and a lot of traffic. Still, it was much faster than trying to drive the same using the 'libre' roads, with all their 'topes' and traffic.

In San Juan del Rio we took the exit to road 120 to Tequisqiapan and then to Bernal, where we stayed two nights. From Bernal we drove road 100 to Queretaro, and then roads 57, 111 to San Miguel De Allende, through Dolores Hidalgo, and finally road 110 to Guanajuato, where we've spent two more nights.

After that, we drove back to San Miguel De Allende (on the same roads) for two nights there. From there to Queretaro for two nights.

All those places are the usual tourist stops, and they were great. We especially liked Queretaro.

Then it was time to start going back to Mexico City, but we had a few days left so we decided to go by the smaller roads, to see the 'real' Mexico. We drove through Tequisquiapan to Tecozautla, (roads 120, 126) and spent a few hours at the Geiser. We were kind of disappointed with Tecozautla, it's in the middle of nowhere, and there was nothing to do or see there. So we've spent only one night there. The road out of Tecozautla was the worst one we encountered: cobble stone for most of it, with some parts unpaved. We've spent an hour driving those 26 km. I would not recommend driving there, unless you have no better plans. Anyway, after taking the roads 45 and 85 (those were paved and great) we've reached Pachuca where we've spent another night. From there, we took a detour to Mineral del Monte, and then drove to San Juan Teotihuacan, and spent 2 nights there. (The pyramids there are great, highly recommended!) At the final morning, we drove back to the Mexico City Airport, returned our car, and flew home.

Again, maybe we just got lucky, but at no point we had any trouble. We saw a lot of police, but they did not stop us. The most annoying part of driving in Mexico cities were the topes, but once you get used to them, it's OK.

Now we are back, very happy we did it, and determined to go to Mexico again in a couple of years!

Thanks for listening, hope this helps someone.

Thanks again for all the advice we've got here.
andbel is offline  
Dec 25th, 2014, 08:29 PM
  #18  
 
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Beautiful! Feliz Navidad.
suze is online now  
Dec 26th, 2014, 06:56 AM
  #19  
 
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Thanks for the report!

What are the attractions of Bernal?

How did you find driving through the labyrinth of tunnels in Guanajuato?
Fra_Diavolo is offline  
Dec 26th, 2014, 03:12 PM
  #20  
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About Bernal: it's a cozy little village with a main square, a church, and a few streets with shops. The main attraction is the Pena mountain nearby that you can hike (we did). We were there just before the Maria Guadalupe day, so there was a lot of related activity on the streets: the marching bands playing, people carrying Maria's images, etc. It was nice to feel the festive mood of the people. We would stay there longer if we could.

As for the tunnels of Guanajuato, we did not dare to drive into them: we came from the north and parked the car at the hotel, and then only walked the streets, up and down.

Hope this helps.
andbel is offline  

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