Driving In Mexico During Summer

Mexico September 16, 2010 2:32 am

A lot of changes take place in Mexico during summer. While there are many such changes, there is one in particular that doesn’t become apparent until you get behind the wheel of a car.

The defining feature of a Mexican summer, particularly so the further south you are from the US border, is the heavy, ever present tropical rains.

The rain itself changes the face of many Mexican towns. Streets flow with water, local kids float about their neighborhoods on their bodyboards and nobody but the gringos carry an umbrella.

While the locals love or ignore it, tourists of the time are doomed to have it affect their trip. Not least of all those taking to the roads.

Number one casualty of the summer rains is the road surface quality. In other words, the sudden appearance of angry, lurking, crater of the moon sized potholes all over the place. Driving in Mexico can be daring enough at the best of times, and potholes are ever present regardless of the season, but when you start to multiply both their number and their size, an every day car trip quickly becomes a sadistic and dangerous “don’t hit the cones” type driving exam.

They hide where there are shadows, disguise themselves by filling with water, and cloak their severity by clouding with dust. And just when you think you’ve dodged one, BOOM – another one gets ya!

Oh, and if you are skilled enough to deal with the pot holes… next up you’ve got road closures.

The rains do tremendous damage as tree branches get blown down, and mud and debris get washed over the roads. In Puerto Vallarta this year a 60m long chunk of a bridge on the main highway flat out washed away – certain drivers narrowly avoiding plumeting to their death!

The difference between Mexico and say Australia or the US is that when roads get damaged, the cleanup process is slow and notifications are severely lacking.

Just this week we tried to drive from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita – normally an hour or so drive. We turned down a road with a sign pointing to Sayulita – everything looking normal – until we started to watch the road become gradually more precarious. We passed a lone horse rider shaking his finger at us and finally got the hint. 2 minutes later the road became a death trap and we were forced to turn back.

No signs, no notification, no one minding.

I don’t mean to be totally doomsday or put anyone off from a planned driving trip in Mexico. It’s a superb experience and if you’re ready to take it all in your stride, a highly enjoyable one.

I guess this is mostly a warning for those who are considering it. If you happen to read this before you take off, I hope it will provide sufficient warning. Be ready! Prepare yourself for battle.  Load up on coffee or red bull or your stimulant of choice before you go, and get ready for some fun. Oh, and make sure you’ve got your spare tire good and ready!

Otherwise, enjoy the trip and come back to let me know how it is.


  • George

    What border town did you cross. Thank you, Joanne

  • Andrew and Elysia

    We didn’t drive across the border but from the experience of MANY people we spoke to, the easiest way (assuming you’re coming from mid to west coast) is to cross at Nogales at Arizona. Still a slightly tense area but nicer than crossing at Tijuana or somewhere further east. Hope this helps.

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