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Start Here: Which Route To Take While Driving Through Mexico

The Drive

The drive through Mexico and Central America is a wonderful experience, however, it’s not an adventure for everyone.

What type of person would like this sort of trip? First and foremost, you go to like to drive—if the open road turns you on then this is a great trip for you.

Even through you could rush the trip, ideally it is better to have an open agenda tat isn’t too pressured by time.

You don’t need tons of money but you should have a nice money reserve for emergencies and potential car issues.

Places and conditions change, thus be prepared to make variations or detours altered from the original directions; though generally speaking things in Central America change slowly—except for Costa Rica where it seems different every time I go back, which has been every six months for the last decade.

There is no one correct way of doing anything and therefore if you find a way or route that you feel is easier or less complicated, please send your comments to us at DriveMeLoco so that your information may be included in the next publication and so that the loco community gets updated—we are stronger together.

Which Route To Take While Driving Through Mexico

There are three main routes through Mexico, one is along the Atlantic Coast (actually the Gulf of Mexico), the second is through Central Mexico and Mexico City, and the third is by the way of the Pacific Coast.

From Texas the four main entry points are El Paso, Piedras Negras, Laredo and Brownsville.

There are several east-west, north-south links as you journey south through Mexico.

The Pacific Coast route is the hands down favorite among travelers. The roads are better overall, drivers don’t have to circumnavigate Mexico City, and there are plenty of beautiful sites along the way.

Those travelers that have driven all three route agree that the Pacific Coast route is by far the best.

The route detailed in the city-by-city portion of this guide is the Pacific Coast route of Mexico, until Chiapas where I recommend diverting to the interior to see the jewels left by the Mayan civilization.

If Central America is your goal, then the central route bogs you down too much in Mexico City and the surrounding areas.

The Atlantic route is just plain hard on vehicles and the scenic delightful places are fewer. Head for the Pacific Coast and then south through Mexico.

From Chiapas I always take the route into Guatemala heading directly for Antigua (one of my favorite cities in all of Central America.

From Guatemala you have two choices, continue through El Salvador or through the beautiful rolling hills of Honduras.

Surfers may want to head to El Salvador but if you need a break from all the great waves you got in Mexcio and would like to do some diving or spend some time in Copan, Honduras.

Gringo Behavior

Most often once officials see your gringo face an unrestrained passage can be expected, usually they ask a few questions and check your paperwork and send you on your way.

In all my years of travel I have only been hustled by the police around the USA border, most of the other officials are quite friendly.

In situations where you are motioned to pull over the officers will ask a few general questions and then check your vehicle or migration paperwork.

No problem, always present a polite and respectful attitude and the officers will do the same.

Idiotic, disrespectful travelers can expect a synonymous response from officials.

If you are traveling with a fluent Spanish speaker, have that person deal with the officials.

All things being equal in these situations, have a women talk to a man and a man talk to a women when dealing with border officials or customs inspectors.

Have a great trip, be safe and don’t drink and drive or drive at night!


15 Responses to Start Here: Which Route To Take While Driving Through Mexico

  1. E at #

    Hi there,

    I can’t find your contact info on your website so I apologize if this is the wrong place to post our questions.

    My partner and I are thinking of driving through central america start from LA. Is it possible to drive through all seven countries (Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama) ? Is it safe ? How many days do we need if it is possible ? We will fly back to LA from the last country. Do you happen to know the visa requirement for each country ?



  2. Joe at #

    When was the last time you drove through Mexico? If I’m coming from FL, would you recommend to go to the Pacific Coast Route?

  3. Hi, Im a Tico living in the US East coast fixing to move my family back to CR, however due to personal issues, flying isnt a choice at the moment but driving there, with a pit stop in Antigua then straight to Escazu for us..anyways, what route do you recomend to us, also what are the gas prices like from your point of view (driving full size 2002 Land Rover V8)..just any additonal info in your prospective would be great..thanks in advanced!

  4. SteveK at #

    Would it be ridiculous to try driving a basic Honda Civic from the USA to Costa Rica? The Civic is supremely reliable, sips the fuel, has good traction and can handle some pretty washed out gravel roads. It won’t mind a few scratches and minor dents either.

    But do I really need some 4WD SUV type machine for such a trip?

  5. Gringo Guru at #

    Depends on your objectives. I think the Pacific route offers the most diversity—but it’s not the quickest.

    ~ Gringo Guru

  6. Gringo Guru at #

    I love Antigua and think that’s a great place to hang—I always stop there for a few days on each trip south. Current gas prices can be found here: http://www.mexicomike.com/database/runner/public/mx_fuel_prices_list.php. Coming from the East Coast I recommend the closest route to get you to your destination and for you that’s the Gulf Route.

    ~ Gringo Guru

  7. Gringo Guru at #

    All that info is in the book—and yes, you can visit Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama on the trip.

    ~ Gringo Guru

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  9. Jack at #

    What kind of vehicle, brand, model, etc. is recommended for the drive to Costa Rica and touring the countryside in Costa Rica?

  10. RF at #

    Hey there,
    There are two of us planning on passing through Mexico Summer 2013 (June-Aug). For Mexico we were originally planning on going down the west coast, then were considering more central route/passing through Mexico City. The reason for the route change was that it appears as if most the tolls roads, which are claimed to be safer & faster, head towards Mexico City.

    So, was wanting your opinion on which way to go, any certain areas you’d recommend avoiding, or any general advice regarding route to take.

    Thanks, really appreciate it.

  11. john hotmail new finnegan at #

    I am in Costa Rica now with my U.S. car. I was told by a person(gringo) that if I drive to Panama I cannot return to Costa Rica for three months with my car. Has the law changed? Thanks. John

  12. Rica at #

    I am looking for road partner from New mexico/texas border to limon costa rica. I speak fluent spanish and taking my old but reliable subaru.

  13. Jim McCarthy at #

    Ready to go any time,..have new jeep.Would have to split expenses.Please call ASAP.I am in Arizona,…928 710 2950

  14. RF.

    Yea, the central route is becoming more popular these days as the coastal route has more narco activity. Those toll roads can sometimes be very lonely places, I’d recommend traveling caravan style if possible.


  15. Anything with high clearance and good shocks, 4×4 is the best alternative.

    ~ DML

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