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Thread: Safe Driving to PDC

  1. #1
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    Default Safe Driving to PDC

    Since I'm new to this forum, I'm sure this has been covered before.

    Driving from the Midwest (Minnesota) to PDC

    1. How safe is it?
    2. Has anybody driven it recently?
    3. If you did - what routes did you take?

    Thanks for any info

  2. #2
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    We drove from Texas in August 2010 and crossed in Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras. It was really remote through several areas. We had originally planned to cross in Laredo/Nuevo Laredo, but there were travel warnings for car jackings and shootings issued in that area almost on a daily basis so we changed our route. There had been flooding at the border/Rio Grande and a bridge washed out and we waited over a month for the water to recede and a temporary bridge to be built. I haven't watched the border news lately to know if things have changed. I think chances of something happening are slim, but there is a chance and you have to decide if it is worth it. There is a company that will ship your vehicle in Florida and the cost was around $600 excluding insurance, but it has to be empty. We considered that while we were waiting for the river to recede. I also just met someone who her husband is driving down now. I will see if I can find out where he crossed. I know there have been others that have driven, but I don't know the details. I will let you know if I get more information.

  3. #3
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    Great info. What highway(s) did you take?

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by lberndt View Post
    Since I'm new to this forum, I'm sure this has been covered before.
    Welcome to In The Roo. Are you making an official move to PDC?


    Quote Originally Posted by lberndt View Post
    1. How safe is it?
    Unfortunately, this is a difficult question to answer. It really depends on current events, and your planned route through the border towns, etc. I'd suggest monitoring the US Department of State Travel Warnings for any updates. Here's the most recent one for Mexico, from April 22, 2011:

    Mexico

    Before you travel across the border, ask others living close to the border for more up to date information before you cross.

    We have not made the (driving) trek across the border in more than 4 years. Therefore, I can't give you more specific information about best routes. Susan may be able to help you more with that as her experience was much more recent.

    Here's hoping for safe and happy travels for you!

  5. #5
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    We drove Piedras Negras to Satillo to avoid Monterrey. We spent the night in Eagle Pass, San Juan Del Rio, and Villahermosa. If you put these places in google or bing maps, it will map the highways. I thought I modified the route to go around Mexico City, but we ended up there anyways or maybe I didn't modify it enough. We still don't really know where we were there. Our GPS didn't always have the same highway numbers as the road/Guia map.

    We got an early start and we only drove during the daylight. We brought snacks and a cooler with drinks and toilet paper for the gas station bathrooms. We drove 8 hours the first day in Texas and 3 days in Mexico between 12-13 hours a day. I drove the morning shift for 6 hours and traded off. For the most part, the roads were pretty good. The drive through Eagle Pass and Satillo added about an extra hour for us. We drove every toll road/cuota that we could. We crossed the border at 7 AM and didn't stop until Allende (customs) and then for gas later in the day . I read that most of the carjackings were when people stopped. There are 2 crossings from Eagle Pass. I chose the commercial bridge because I thought it would be less crowded. I drove into the declare line so I automatically had a red light. The aduena agent glanced at the car and told me $300 USD each ($600) and I said I had my list of items to declare and I had calculated the import tax and asked him where to pay. He still wanted the money and I told him the same thing again and he told me to go to Allende 30 minutes into MX. We didn't get our passports stamped when we crossed and we should've. We also didn't get FMMs even though we already had the initial work done for the FM3. The laws had just changed and I'm sure that is better now. I think the commercial crossing probably doesn't deal with those issues as often either.

    In Allende, they were able to stamp the passports, but he didn't know about the FMM either. They were incredibly nice. We stopped at a police station less than 5 minutes before we got to customs at Allende, because we were afraid we had missed it or went the wrong way and he was very nice. We found out we should've received the FMM when we went to immigration in Playa since it was our first crossing with FM3. We also had an issue in Mexico City on the highway after going through a toll booth. I was driving during 5AM-11AM and was pulled over and asked for $400. I ended up getting him down to 1,000 pesos, but he did have a tow truck pull up in front of me and put chains around my tires. I thought our route was avoiding Mexico City, but it was very confusing around that area. I've read of many people getting lost there. One of our toll roads ended after the policia incident and we were in a very busy downtown area. It was still not 11 and I was afraid of getting pulled over again. We found the highway again and a gas station and sat there for about an hour until 11. If I did it again, I would drive an extra hour out of my way to avoid Mexico City. We lost cell phone service between Mexico City and Puebla in the mountains. We breezed through all checkpoints and never had anyone check the vehicle. They seemed more concerned about travelers going north.

    I also checked the consulates around where we were driving. The links are at the bottom of the link John provided. They will issue warden messages for their area like these (it looks like there have been fewer warnings in 2011). http://monterrey.usconsulate.gov/acs_warden_02172011.html
    http://nuevolaredo.usconsulate.gov/20110128.html

    I looked on every forum, US border town news channels for Facebook, blogs, newspapers in Mexico, etc. I was also looking at updates on the flooding, new bridge, violence, and other drives through Mexico. I found a guy living in Laredo whose wife went to Nuevo Laredo often and I really appreciated his advice. Sometimes I felt that situations were exaggerated and sometimes I felt they were downplayed. I believed the truth was somewhere in the middle. We had family begging us not to drive and they were talking to others from Mexico who said they wouldn't. Opinions were one extreme or the other (no concern or extreme concern about safety). That is why I appreciated the guy from Laredo and he personally knew the area. We read so much about the violence on a daily basis that we started to become very concerned. I didn't want to overreact, but we didn't want to be stupid either. I didn't even want to tell my husband some of it, because I didn't want to alarm him more. We decided to drive and knew we needed to do it ASAP so it would be over and our families and we could be free of that stress.

    We found another couple in TX who was going to make the drive during our wait and we talked and I told them our concerns. The next day they spoke to a friend of a friend missionary who had frequently crossed the border and who advised them not to drive and they flew instead. They didn't plan a permanent move and in the long run, I think it was better for them.

    I've messaged the lady I just met to see where her husband just crossed. They also drove down 3 months ago.

    We know another couple who are planning a drive to Canada this summer. I don't see them very often. I think they are still planning the route and decided not to go through Tamaulipas.

    Hyde shipping is out of Florida. Linea Peninsular, Inc in Florida, and Ship Overseas were the companies we contacted. We figured we’d need a customs broker and we’d need to unpack the car and remove the cargo holder on top to clear the freight container.

    It really is an individual decision and I’m sure others wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. I am glad we went ahead and drove. If we ever decide to go back, we’ll have to look at the current situation and weigh the options of driving, shipping, or nationalizing and selling the vehicle. For now, we don't have any plans to return to the United States. For the record, I don’t like long car drives and amazingly the 4 day drive wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. I wish you the best and look forward to hearing about your experience.

  6. #6
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    The lady I mentioned said they crossed in December at Matamoras and her husband crossed at Nagaloes and arrived at 5 AM today with no problems. She said he avoided the "red" zone which is supposed to be unsafe. I'm not familiar with the red zone term. They obviously drove some at night if they arrived at 5 AM.

  7. #7
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    Not making the move just yet. Wife & I spent a month in PDC Jan/Feb 2011. Thought we would try for 3 months (Jan-Apr 2011). I do thank you you for the info.

  8. #8
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    Thank you - very informative and eye opening. Not planning on driving until winter- we'll let you know how it goes.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by lberndt View Post
    Since I'm new to this forum, I'm sure this has been covered before.

    Driving from the Midwest (Minnesota) to PDC

    1. How safe is it?
    2. Has anybody driven it recently?
    3. If you did - what routes did you take?

    Thanks for any info
    I'm going to go out on a limb and say it isn't safe now. A lot of Mexicans stayed home for Semana Santa and avoided the Emerald Coast. The Zetas and CDG are pulling bus loads of people off the road (innocents, not pulling off their target but emptying busses) and IIRC there are have now been 2 mass graves found. You would think a caravan would be the answer but just last year 3 RVers left the peninsula (here) and were carjacked around Ciudad Victoria and lost their vehicles and RVs and possesions but were not harmed. A missionary (US) was recently shot in the head and died en route to the US. The dead are piling up and they are no longer narco-related - more and more are innocent bystanders, tourists and nationals alike. A few months ago the tourism board of Mazatlan offered to convoy travelers up from Maz to the US (to keep them safe over on MX15). MX180 is known as the "death route".

    I would think long and hard before driving down and this year we will not be going back to the US for the first time in 7 years. We have traveled extensively throughout mainland (and Bajas) Mexico and have been in many of the little town that are now ruled by the cartels. A recent one in the apple growing area of NL (remote and incredibly beautiful area) just had 10 cops killed and is now under cartel control. It is a very sad day in Mexico these days.

  10. #10
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    Default Scary

    Sounds really scary -- may have to rethink this driving thing

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamnkats View Post
    The dead are piling up and they are no longer narco-related - more and more are innocent bystanders, tourists and nationals alike. .
    Link please to tourist bodies piling up.
    Link please to the violence not being narco-related.
    Me thinks you are reading Foxnews.com

  12. #12
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    I found this after about a 5 second search on the Internet:

    U.S. missionary shot in Mexico, dies in Texas - World news - Americas - Focus on Mexico - msnbc.com

    Not sure if this is the same missionary discussed in this thread or not.
    "The Donkey and Elephant have finally mated and live in the same house." - John Stanton

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Babaloo View Post
    Link please to tourist bodies piling up.
    Link please to the violence not being narco-related.
    Me thinks you are reading Foxnews.com
    If you need a link to tourist bodies piling up you obviously have you head firmly encased somewhere. Or maybe you don't count the Acapulco massacre or the mass graves full of bus passengers?

    Of COURSE the violence is narco related, Rick. Sheesh! The problem is that now the carjackings, fake military stops (which aren't actual military after all) and mass graves (over 200 bodies in the largest) victims are not involved in the drug trade at all. Things in Mexico are changing. The peninsula is still a very safe place to be. Unfortunately when the government is out of synch with the Cartel you will have violence. Do you read any of the Spanish language press?

    Eran albañiles ejecutados en troca | Noticias De Monterrey | La Policiaca | La Nota Roja De Mexico
    Five construction workers killed because they were wearing the wrong shirt.

    Suman 209 los cadáveres hallados en fosas de Durango | Noticias De Nacionales | La Policiaca | La Nota Roja De Mexico
    We're up to 209 bodies now in one of the mass graves

    Sicarios torturan y ejecutan a una alumna de primaria en Coahuila | Noticias De Policiaca | La Policiaca | La Nota Roja De Mexico
    Little girl from Primary tortured and killed

    'Expropia' el narco casas de campo en NL
    All you have to do is own a house in the campo to be targeted

    Borderland Beat: Saltillo falling under narco-violence
    Why the roads are getting dangerous

    Some English for you. (LA times and Washington Post)
    Mexican drug cartels targeting and killing children - The Washington Post

    Mexico bodies: The killing in Tamaulipas, Mexico, has been going on for months - Los Angeles Times

    People keep saying that since we're in a tourist zone the war will never kill off the golden goose of tourism and we'll be "safe" here. I would look at Mazatlan and Acapulco before sticking your heads in that particular sand pile. I still feel safe here. For now. But I'm keeping as close an eye as possible given the lack of press here in Mexico. I would NOT drive down the Emerald Coast and I would think long and hard about MX57. And I would not drive the cars/trucks desired by the carjackers. Course that was no help to the caravan of RVers who were removed from the their homes and vehicles at gunpoint.

  14. #14
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    I haven't looked at the links yet, but I found Borderlandbeat before we drove and it was one of the reasons we almost reconsidered the drive. I stopped reading it after we arrived.

    My understanding is that trucks and SUVs are desired vehicles. I read before we drove that they like white, but then I've seen something about black. My Laredo guy told me they specifically like larger trucks and SUVs. I don't know if they're that picky. People driving really nice cars could be targets too because they think you have money. What vehicles have you read that are desired?

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by susango View Post
    I haven't looked at the links yet, but I found Borderlandbeat before we drove and it was one of the reasons we almost reconsidered the drive. I stopped reading it after we arrived.

    My understanding is that trucks and SUVs are desired vehicles. I read before we drove that they like white, but then I've seen something about black. My Laredo guy told me they specifically like larger trucks and SUVs. I don't know if they're that picky. People driving really nice cars could be targets too because they think you have money. What vehicles have you read that are desired?
    Well, they have definitely the fame for the SUVs and pickups for but if they're looking vehicles to create a roadblock, they'll take anything. There was one family (who lost the (IIRC fuzzy memory) the father, grandmother and daugher?) who had their minivan taken and 2-3 members killed. Father and a couple kids survived.

  16. #16
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    For those thinking of driving down this summer, I hope you're keeping your ear to the ground. I suspect with the 2 recent CDG busts that the last letter will all too soon in full control of Tamps and it will dissolve into another narcostate like Durango. I can't stress strongly enough how dangerous I feel this drive would be.

  17. #17
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    Default Winter?

    Hopefully this Winter things might have calmed down -- sure hope so

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by lberndt View Post
    Hopefully this Winter things might have calmed down -- sure hope so
    Iberndt... I've made the drive 4 times in the last 14 months. All of my trips have been through Tamaulipas via International Blvd in Brownsville. Each time I've gone, I've been concerned about safety and have closely watched a blog for locations of violent activity before I cross. I've altered my path somewhat based on the info I find.

    We cross early (always before 8am) at the full service 24-hour crossing in downtown Brownsville. There are no lines then and their customs staff is more likely to open the gated area without going through our cargo. Besides, they know we'll hit a secondary customs checkpoint 30-40 miles down the road.

    In the northern part of Tamaulipas on Hwy 101/180, Federale presence is quite noticeable... they're everywhere! Especially near San Fernando where those mass graves of victims from the hijacked buses were found. The highway takes you within 5 miles of that small town. Just beyond San Fernando, I take a turn-off heading through Soto la Marina, so I can avoid troublesome Ciudad Victoria. It's a quiet country road in superb shape with very few topes.

    From the border, it's roughly an 8 hour drive to the sprawling gulf city of Tampico. It's there that we cross a suspended bridge over a river into Veracruz state. Used to stay in Tampico but now days drive two more hours, so I'm far removed from Tamaulipas. The rest of the drive is relaxed and mostly safe.

    If you're looking for the shortest quickest route to Playa, I probably wouldn't be much help. But... if you're looking for a safe journey with some scenic and cultural stops along the way, I'd be happy to offer some advice.

    By they way, I'm also from Minnesota (Saint Paul) and am planning to make another drive in either November or January. Feel free to caravan and see some of Mexico with us.

    Here's a report for a drive I made in 2010 (Feb & April)

    Jimmy

  19. #19
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    Loved the TR Jimmy. I wish we could've taken the time and enjoyed our drive, but the car was loaded down and we were on mission to get to PDC with 12-12.5 hours behind the wheel each day.

    Iberndt-I heard yesterday that the Canadians arrived in Texas safely. I don't know their route, but I'll let you know if I get it. I think a caravan is a good idea if you decide to make the drive especially with others who have experience with the drive.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by susango View Post
    Loved the TR Jimmy. I wish we could've taken the time and enjoyed our drive, but the car was loaded down and we were on mission to get to PDC with 12-12.5 hours behind the wheel each day.

    Iberndt-I heard yesterday that the Canadians arrived in Texas safely. I don't know their route, but I'll let you know if I get it. I think a caravan is a good idea if you decide to make the drive especially with others who have experience with the drive.

    All of my most recent trips involved vehicles filled beyond capacity. After so many successive drives, I've found locations that truly have secure parking where our belongings are safe when we sleep. I'm always on the lookout for more.

    The advantage of caravaning with someone who knows the way, is that you're not stopping on the side of the road trying to figure out if you missed a turn and gaining unnecessary attention from the wrong people.

    Was looking at the US Government report that Libby recently posted. Tamaulipas and Michoacan are on the list as states to avoid "non-essential travel". Michoacan I understand... but I'm surprised they don't have Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua, and Guerrero on the list because it's worse there than Tamaulipas. I'd love to learn more about Americans/Canadians killed in Mexico, where the incidents occurred, and circumstances surrounding them.

    By the way, I follow the violence in Mexico on "El Blog del Narco" (you can google it) but I don't recommend visiting that sight with Internet Explorer or without up-to-date security software. It's still the best place for unadultured information but also an easy place to pickup the latest malware or trojan.

    Jimmy

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