Travelling Mexico by Van
Replies: 15 - Last Post: Apr 10, 2013 4:18 PM Last Post By: gortman
Apr 4, 2013 8:44 PM
Travelling Mexico by VanI am just curious as the best means to rent a van in order to travel Mexico (and potentially more Central America) for 2 months. I am hoping to sleep in the van with someone else or camp for the 2 months. I am 21 years old with a Full Drivers Licence. Where is best to rent the van from and how much should I expect to pay?
Thanks in advance.
Apr 4, 2013 9:31 PM
Apr 5, 2013 8:00 AM
Apr 5, 2013 9:34 AM
3Off the beaten path!
Traveling through Mexico by van is a great way to go. #1 is correct. It will be next to impossible to rent a van and cross the border. You will need your own vehicle. We have had fantastic experiences all through Mexico and central America. I highly recommend it as a way to get off the beaten path and see Mexico.
Apr 5, 2013 9:43 AM
4Look into travelling by bus and short hops in plane. Stay in cheap hotels/hostels. There are virtually no legal places to park and sleep in a van in Mexico, if you insist on this idea there are some RV parks but they are more costly than hotels and bus.
If you park illegally your problems will surge when being arrested,, like you will go to jail till your parents bail you out. The tramites, the cross the border fees for each country in Central America are huge and the problems of crime are much larger than here in Mexico.
Nice idea but dumb given the realities. You can rethink and repost to here, we have lots of experience between us here on TT.
Apr 5, 2013 9:44 AM
Apr 5, 2013 1:31 PM
Apr 5, 2013 1:42 PM
7If cost is your concern, using the extensive public transportation system in Mexico and finding cheap places to sleep (and bathe and wash clothes) will prove to be a lot cheaper than renting a van and sleeping there for the night, With Mexican insurance, a rental is going to cost US$35-$50 a day minimum.
You can typically go 30-50 miles between places for 6-15 pesos on a local bus and they go everywhere. Traveling between two large cities on an express bus will cost about the same as the tolls you would pay driving on a cuota, and you still have gas to buy if you're driving. Plus you get to meet people on a bus. They just might know good places to stay at your destination.
Apr 5, 2013 2:43 PM
8Zapfilms -- If I remember correctly, you live in the Zacatecas and have given TT some great posts from there. Your concerns about people being arrested for informally van camping within that city may be justified. But, there are many other places where people can vehicle camp satisfactorily in Mexico. I have done so in the past, accompanied by van owning companions from South Texas. Those trips always, explored, or at least passed through, Northeastern Mexico, specifically the states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo Leon. Unfortunately, in recent years those two states become afflicted by battles that drug cartels fight against each other, the military and police. So, my friends now drive their vans elsewhere. Not all places in Mexico and Central America are equally safe for either their residents or visitors.
People can learn a bit about van camping in Mexico from two excellent books by Carl Franz and Lorena Havens “The People’s Guide to Mexico” and “The People’s Guide to Backpacking, Boating, and Camping in Mexico”. The ‘backpacking’ in that second title is the "outdoor" activity. It consists of wilderness travel/overnight camping away from roads. That’s different from ‘tourist backpacking’, the use of a backpack as one’s luggage traveling light, and lodging at hostels and/or cheap hotels.
Apr 5, 2013 3:10 PM
9Kirsopw—I agree with others that buying or renting a van for this particular two month adventure would not make sense. Two people can travel more cheaply and comfortably using public transportation and staying at inexpensive hotels (or sometimes hostels, where those exist).
But, camping, hiking, and contact with the natural world may appeal to you. Fortunately it is possible to enjoy ‘outdoor Mexico’ without having your own vehicle there. Public vans, buses, and local taxis, used in combination, can take you almost anywhere in Mexico that roads go.
One way to get outside is to lodge at inexpensive hotels (U.S.$12 to US $25 per night for two people) in small mountain communities and take day hikes outward from there. Or one can bring from home lightweight equipment for ‘outdoor backpacking’. I’ve camped at a Pacific fishing village’s attractive beach that way (Faro de Bucerias, Michoacan during winter) and also camped from a backpack in mountainous areas, such as Puebla State’s Sierra Norte.
Apr 6, 2013 8:05 AM
10Rental cars/vans are always a problem as they are viewed a source of replacement parts even if you are sleeping in it. You would have to make sure the van was located in a secure place each night. There exist many low cost places to stay and the bus system is wonderful in Mexico, Crossing the border with a rental van would be as mentioned almost impossible. Even if the van is stolen most insurance that you would have to buy will not cover the full cost and a couple of thousand would have to come off the credit card who's info you gave to even rent the van. It is not a problem at all to travel around with a backpack on the bus and get to anywhere you want including crossing the borders to other countries. Besides bus there are shuttle vans you can take to almost anywhere.
Apr 6, 2013 11:36 AM
11Traveling Mexico by Van
We have driven my van all over the place in Mexico. The great part of traveling in the van is the flexibility. The Pacific Coast is the easiest for camping. There is a long tradition of gringos camping on the beach. Sometimes it is easy to find a place to camp, and sometimes we have slept in the Pemex or Walmart parking lot, or out in the cactus in Sonora. I really enjoy a cheap or nice hotel every few days, or for a few days at a time. Get one with a wall and gate if you are paranoid. Sometimes you have no choice, you either sit in the van, or get a hotel. Carry your own locks. People are ready to help, and want to meet tourists. Talk to locals to get the vibe. If you pay a local family to camp, they will watch your stuff. Six weeks at one nice beach in Michoacan. We had a nice three days beach camping south of Acapulco, next to a restaurant, by agreeing to eat there. Free camping, and mariscos, maybe $30/day! We end up parked in a side yard in Sinoloa, just by asking. He would not take money, but we bought some sodas. We camped for a week at a ranch in the mountains of Michoacan, with our friends from the beach. Let's go visit my ranch, and meet grandpa! My van, of course, and lots of food from town. Six weeks in a sweet house in Oaxaca for $100 a week, again by asking around. While on the road it costs about $100/$150day USD for two of us. When we get to nice camping, such as el Faro de Bucerias in Michoacan, the costs go down to $30/$50 USD a day. Up and down the Pacific Coast is great camping and etc, but if you are on the bus, you will have to walk in from the highway. I will give you a ride if I can! How much beer can you buy? Your local fishing buddies like to drink beer. Plus they need everything for their kids. Bring lots of fishing hooks and gear to give away. Hot wheels, shoes and pencils for the kids. Bicycles are handy, as is the snorkel gear.
Van travel is not the cheap route. You need enough money to fix the van. Use a couple of different debit card accounts with limited funds in each. I usually have maybe $1000, pesos and USD, hidden in the van and a spare debit card. We spend about $2000/$4000 per month for the two of us. Cheap fun!
You need to be ready to give it all up, walk away. Don't bring your best computer, and a bunch of flashy gear. Don't bring your brand new van. We have an old van that we use only in Mexico. It ain't pretty.
You need to be tuned in to your sense of danger. If it feels dangerous, fire up the van and leave. Pemex is a good place to get ripped off, as are the street gangs out there washing your windshield. Everything on the outside of your van needs a lock and chain. Bash the heads of the screws holding your licence plates so they cannot be easily removed. Thieves can enter through your roof vent, so don't have one.
The cartels consider you as a potential customer. But don't hang out at the bars. Don't seek it out. They already know you are there.They will find you if you want to purchase.
There are criminal gangs everywhere in the world that are trying to steal your stuff, or worse, so be careful.
For your safety updates and warnings and places to avoid, see the blogdelnarco.com
See you there!
Apr 9, 2013 7:05 PM
Apr 9, 2013 7:15 PM
Apr 10, 2013 2:15 PM
14Traveling Mexico by Van
carracar is zeroing in on the problem of using the bus for a surfing/camping vacation.
When the bus drops you off at the scheduled stop on the highway, you might be far from the surf. You are on the side of the road with two boards, a backpack (with a tent), and a long walk to the beach. If you really want to camp, you are going to need some gear. Then you have a day where you want to be surfing at a different beach nearby. What now, walk back to the highway? With or without the tent? It can be done. Some opinions on this forum advocate superlight travel, but that is not you and your two surfboards.
A place like Rio Nexpa or Pascuales has boards for rent or sale, quartos, abarottes, etc. Great places for surfing! and near the highway. A good option for a bus trip. A beach like Playa la Llorona is a dusty two miles from Mex #200, No services except camping, a mile back to la tienda, and great surfing/camping. Pretty tough to visit la LLorona without a vehicle.
There are lots of surfers in vans, cars, trucks, and rental cars. A word of caution. If you have a surfboard on the outside of your vehicle, you are a magnet for the police to stop, and search for drugs. Revision. Been there. Don't ever have drugs in your vehicle.
If you have the money, take the van. Or maybe a rental car. Buy an older car that runs well. In 2000 I took an 84 Volvo sedan down to Oaxaca for camping and sightseeing. It was a $1200 runner. On the return, I forgot to stop on the Mexican side to cancel the visa on the car. La Aduana has never questioned me about that car in all the years since. No charges on my CC, nada. The next day I had more trouble with the Utah cops then I ever did in Mexico. Lucky thing I did not have any drugs in the car! That's a bad place to get busted.
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