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 got to like driving. Any way you look at it, this trip is over 4000 miles of driving. If the open road turns you on, then this is a great trip for you.
Take Your Time Driving Through Mexico
Even though you could rush the trip, ideally, it is better to have an open agenda that isn’t too pressured by time. You don’t need tons of money but you should have a nice 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. The third is by the way of the Pacific Coast.
From Texas the four main entry points are:
- El Paso
- Piedras Negras
The Pacific Route
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 and surfers. The roads are better overall, drivers don’t have to circumnavigate Mexico City, and there are plenty of beautiful sites along the way. I have driven all three routes and the Pacific Coast is my favorite by far, you won’t want to miss the following cities:
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. From Chiapas, I always take the route into Guatemala heading directly for Antigua—Antigua is one of my favorite cities in all of Central America.
The Central Mexico Route
The Central Mexico route bogs you down around Mexico City, but this is the route most of the trucking companies and RVers take. Therefore, you’ll have plenty of accommodation and food options. Mexico City is an amazing place, but driving in Mexico City is not for the faint of heart. You could take one of the other routes and fly to Mexico City for a week to see the sites without having to drive it.
The Atlantic Route
The Atlantic route is just plain hard on vehicles and the scenic delightful places are fewer. My recommendation is to head for the Pacific Coast and then south through Mexico. However, if you got your heart set on the Atlantic please check out this post here.
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 and hit all the great point breaks. If you need a break from all the great waves you got in Mexico and would like to do some diving or spend some time in Copan exploring the Mayan ruins, then Honduras has some great options. If you are into diving there is some excellent diving in the east coast of Honduras.
Gringo Behavior on All Routes
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. The law of karma is always strong.
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 woman talk to a man and a man talk to women when dealing with border officials or customs inspectors.
Have a great trip, be safe, and don’t drive at night.
Derek, Author Gringo Guide
Last Updated: August 2021