gracias por ese, yo no podrá ahora ir a dormir
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Update 22 June 2012:
Is Mexico Really Safe?
There exists a broad spectrum of opinion out there as to just how dangerous Mexico is for the motorcycle traveler.
Here in the "Is Mexico Safe" thread we respect both opinons. And we don't care if you change horses in the middle of the stream, that is to say, you once thought it safe to ride there but have now decided to take a pause on travel south. That's fine. Or, maybe reading about the adventures of the regular posters here you decide to saddle up and see Mexico and/or points south. That's fine too.
Many of us ride Mexico regularly. We love her people, her culture, her landscape, her food, her customs and often those things you just can't put your finger on. Most of us comment on how "safe" we feel once we cross the border out of the US of A and enter Mexico. There are some of us who only ride a couple of hundred kilometers inside the border, see a few things, and come home after a few days. Some, like Sjoerd, plot extensive routes inside Mexico and keep a history of off-the-beaten-path travels on a well worn map (he showed it to me at Casa Tricepilot). A lot of us have favorite areas of Mexico. Some of our current favs is the area surrounding Durango where SR lives, the area in and around Veracruz where MikeMike lives, and many of us enjoying my personal favorite part of Mexico, Oaxaca.
Not one of the regulars here say that travel in Mexico by motorcycle is without risk. Mexico is indeed in the midst of a drug war and some would say in certain areas the climate borders on civil war. BUT, and the reader of this thread has to listen here, the task is to size up the risk individually and make a personal decision to go or stay home. My decision to ride through Mexico to Guatemala in January is not a signal to everyone else that the same decision is right for them. Once in Mexico, I generally do not go out late at night to parts of town I don't know and stay late into the night. Others have this practice, its just not normally mine. Different risk management choices. Some people take great pride in riding solo in Mexico. I have ridden many miles solo in Mexico. Although under the current climate, and in a tip of the hat to concerns of Tricewife, I have modified my risk management profile to endeavor to ride with another rider as much as possible.
Participation in the Is Mexico Safe thread is not a stamp that those who regularly post here believe Mexico is without issues. Regular riders believe the risks can be managed and they press on. I have personally posted stories and follow-up commentary on those who have encountered danger in Mexico. I recently posted the letter to the editor of BMW ON magazine regarding the robbery near El Fuerte experience by Tope_Stomper and her riding partners. The more we share these actual, credible experiences the more data points we have to use to make our go/no-go decisions and to adjust our habits and practices on the motorcycle should we decide to press on. Based upon her report, for example, several riders reengergized their practice of spreading money around their bikes and once again committed to carrying a "throw-away" wallet. Stories like hers have a definite home here in this thread. Also welcome is commentary by anyone who takes in such stories and changes their attitude about riding to Mexico.
It is true that most of the posts here in this thread are by frequent Mexico riders. Out of that association a bond has grown and we look forward to hanging out at the "bar" so to speak and having a virtual coffee or beer together. And from that, many of us have met via this thread and have gone "downrange" across the Rio Bravo and gone exploring Mexico together. These days, what we often like to do is point the bike towards an expat's house in Mexico and go and enjoy their hospitality and share in the discoveries they've made and go meet and enjoy the friendship of their neighbors. We often meet here in virtual space to shoot the breeze, have a laugh, and do what most regulars do on all threads that have legs on ADV.
Don't think that all the while, we're not keeping an eye ourselves on the news, the State Department warnings, intel from those living inside the country, and sending PMs to each other with "what do you think?" We keep in mind what we read from everyone here who post "this happened to me" stories.
What is not helpful here is the broad brush on Mexico, one way or the other. The recent post including wording to the effect that Mexico "has the smell of death, eminating from its bowels" is a perfect example. This is disrespectful, untrue, insulting and does not make a contribution. We will address these posts and posters, and attempt to draw out a more meaningful dialog. By the same token, if anyone can send me a PM with a link to a post where a regular on this thread made any kind of statement that Mexico motorcycle travel is completely risk free and without concern, provide your address in that link and I'll send you a case of your favorite beer, and I will personally issue you a public nod that we haven't done our job here in our endeavors to keep perspective in balance.
Appendix A: Insurance for Mexico.
I recommend at least liability insurance and, depending upon your budget and desires, bumping this up to include full coverage on your bike.
You will not need to produce evidence of insurance while riding in Mexico unless and until you are involved in an accident and you are detained until guilt is sorted out. Having insurance will pave the way to get you out of a jam and most underwriters include a bilingual attorney to represent you in a court of law.
I have for years used MexAdventure but there are other equally good companies who have been around a long time. Another side benefit of insurance is "Trip Protection" which varies by company but includes things like getting you and your bike to better places after an incident. Read carefully the language attached to any policy you may consider.
I also recommend MedJet Assist. I will not travel in Mexico without it. It is good worldwide. If you are hospitalized in Mexico and need further hospital treatment back in the U.S., MedJet will come and get you and take you home in an air ambulance. If you don't think the cost of this coverage is worth it, consider the alternatives. If you ever need this type of service you will be glad you paid every penny of the premium. For an additional small fee, MedJet will also repatriate your motorcycle.
FAQ: Mexico insurance underwriters such as Mexadventure also offer air evac coverage as part of their policy. Why bother with the extra expense of MedJet?
Answer: If you need medical air evacuation, go with the pros whose job it is full time. Based in Atlanta, experienced on a daily basis doing this, always on their "A" game. When Whiskeysmith crashed in Mexico, and was hospitalized in Parral, we thought he had MedJet but all he had was Mexadventure's "Platinum" coverage which appeared to offer medical extraction as a bonus. I was on the phone with their rep all night long as was told to "call back tomorrow" - and this was a Spanish speaking operator in Mexico City. You want that when you are in a tough bind? I don't. Don't get me wrong, I've been with Mexadventure for years, and always go back to them. But I consider medical extraction by air the same way I do a parachute: you want some extra, seldom used, old model lying around the back of the hangar on your back when you jump? Or do you want the state-of-the-art, tested frequently, highly rated rig on the other end of the line when you pull the coord? Your body - Your money - Your choice.
Having these coverages is an element to my Risk Management Strategy. Yours may be completely different. I can point you in the direction of riders who have been on both sides of this fence and their stories tend to back up my recommendation on this topic.
Appendix B: Trip Planning for Mexico
Frequently we see posts asking for route suggestions and what-to-see type lists. All well and good but remember the typical novice mistake is to try to pack a hundred pounds of potatoes into a fifty pound sack. IMHO you're much better off with a general direction and a few highlights and then modify your daily itinerary to fit how things are going. It is a BIG MISTAKE to, let's say, arrive in San Miguel de Allende in the afternoon, hit a restaurant and a bar, and then shove off early the next morning. Mexico is if nothing else a destination to be savored, not approached like a cruise ship docking schedule.
There exists a fine listing of hotels produced by our own Sjoerd Bakker which if nothing else should find a home in your tank bag. I don't care who you are you don't have the experience in Mexico that Sjoerd does so pay attention to his posts and send him a PM for specific advice about this or that Mexico state you are eyeing.
When planning your trip leave out ideas about taking your sleeping bag and tent, for there is simply an overabundance of options on any given route. While you may be the type to carry an emergency bivy sack, you won't need your Yellowstone camping package in Mexico and with just a little thinking you can choose very affordable places to stay.
The "Three Finger Rule" means when you hold you hand up to the horizon and the sun is about three fingers above, start thinking about your map and putting a close to the day. You certainly don't want to be riding at night in Mexico primarily due to livestock on the road and other road hazards, so operate in daylight and save dusk and night time for a cold Indio and some street tacos.
Appendix C: Temporary Vehicle Import Permits
To operate your bike south of the border zone and outside Baja and the western part of Sonora state, you will need a TVIP. A TVIP can be obtained online or at a border aduana. You can PM me for details and advice about how to get a TVIP online. Documents you will need to obtain a TVIP either online or in person include the bike's "ownership document", which can be satisfied using either your title or state registration.
For online TVIPs you can click HERE
The "ownership document" and your passport, passport card or drivers license need to match each other. If you have a lien on the bike, you either need a letter from the lender stating you have permission to take the bike to Mexico, or select a document that does not reflect the lien.
Note that Mexico now requires possession of a passport (or passport card) past the border zone. Since you need one of these to re-enter the US anyway, it's not an issue.
Make sure when acquiring your TVIP that you pay attention to the length of validity, which should be 180 days (by law it must match the valid period of your tourist card). There have been anecdotal stories of riders being "asleep at the switch" as the TVIP is being prepared and finding out the official made it valid for only 30 days.
Be sure to turn in, in other words, cancel, your TVIP as you exit Mexico, and do this prior the TVIP expiration, so as not to forfeit your TVIP deposit. You will have bonded your moto either by cash or by credit card up to an amount of $400 U.S. depending upon the age of the vehicle (see the chart) - so don't skip the cancellation process due to a fit of "border fever".
Vehicle Deposti Fees, payable by credit card or cash bond:
2007 and newer models, USD $400.00 deposit required
2001 - 2006 models, USD $300.00 deposit required
models previous to 2000, USD $200.00 deposit required
And as to the cost of the TVIP and the amount of money you tie up to bond the bike, there is no discount for paying in cash.
As of this writing, your TVIP is tied to your passport (or passport card) number and your VIN number.
You can aquire the TVIP online or at a border aduana, but to cancel it, you and the bike must both be present at a border aduana where the actual VIN on the bike will be examined and compared against the VIN on the TVIP itself.
Most riders keep the TVIP hologram and the form it comes on safetly tucked away somewhere on the bike. There is currently no requirement to display the TVIP hologram sticker on your windscreen.
Click LINK to understand the One TVIP Two Vehicles
Appendix D: Tourist Cards
Tourist cards (FMM) are required past the border zone and can be purchased for around $23 US. They are currently not tracked like TVIPs and are not bonded. Bear in mind that if you exit Mexico to the south via Guatemala, you must obtain a Mexico exit stamp in your passport before the Guatemala aduana will issue you an entrance stamp. To get the exit stamp in Mexico, your tourist card must have the payment receipt attached to it.