John, Lydian, and I drove from Tijuana to Guanajuato, Mexico (the city, not the state) between January 28 and January 30, 2017. I took videos along the way (See Driving from Tijuana to Hermosillo for video footage) and made notes of important aspects of the trip to make driving in Mexico more accessible to other people who’d like to undertake the journey. We drove this route in a 2008 Prius with our two cats, Garfield and Babylonia in the backseat.
We took the Highway 2 toll roads from Tijuana to Hermosillo. Below are my notes:
Check your tires before you start driving to Mexico and make sure you have a spare. Get good Mexican car insurance (which is incredibly affordable) that provides a service wherein someone will pick you up and help you fix a tire if you blow one somewhere along your journey. There are a lot of potholes along certain portions of the drive from Tijuana to Mexico City and without good tires, it would be easy to blow one.
I’ve included the cost of tolls that we paid on our way to Hermosillo by car, but we drove the route during the protests so there were a few toll booths where we were able to go through for free. Obviously, I don’t know how much those tolls were, so take out extra cash (effectivo) at the ATM before you leave Tijuana. Carry enough cash to pay for gas, tolls, and bribes (we didn’t have to pay bribe money to police, but you never know). Keep a separate wallet in a safe place with the full sum of money so that if you get stopped by police and they ask you for a bribe, you can open your wallet and show them that you don’t have very much (even if you do).
Tijuana to Tecate, Mexico: Toll = 11 Pesos
- The road was a very good, 2 lane highway the entire way except that there were 1-2 very large potholes. John avoided the potholes by getting into the other lane.
- There was non-potable water available in various locations along the side of the road for overheated vehicles.
Tecate to Mexicali, Mexico: 2 Tolls = 67 Pesos + 73 Pesos (140 Pesos Total)
- It was a 2 lane highway and there were a few large potholes in the right lane.
- The drive was very hilly.
- Near the city of Hongo, there were a lot of potholes in the right lane. This area looked a lot like the sandhills in Nebraska except covered in scrub brush.
- This is a higher altitude. There’s a little bit of snow in places.
- We stopped at a small restaurant called El Chipo in the city of La Rumorosa to use the restrooms. It was overflowing with local patrons.
- Just outside La Rumorosa is a toll = 67 Pesos
- The roads between La Rumorosa and Mexicali remind me of the Dead Sea area near Masada in Israel.
- There’s very little traffic, but a few “Watch for Bighorn Sheep” signs.
- A sign warned drivers to use caution because the area has “Tormentos de Arena” (Sand Tornados).
- The Cañon de Guadalupe (or the Guadalupe Canyon Oasis) is located near Mexicali. This is a cool tourist destination in Mexico that’s located just across the border where you can hike to the Cool Pools, take a therapeutic mud bath, go rock climbing, and see native petroglyphs and pictographs. The Guadalupe Canyon is located only about 50 miles southwest of Mexicali (135 miles southeast of Tijuana) off Highway 2. U.S. citizens visit this tourist destination in Mexico via through the border towns of Tecate and Mexicali.
- There’s another toll in Mexicali = 73 Pesos
Mexicali to Sonoyta, Mexico: No Tolls
- We stopped in Mexicali at the Pemex for gas.
- There were a lot of cotton and wheat fields in this area as well as a cotton processing plant of some kind. Lots of agriculture.
- No Textear signs. (Do Not Text)
- There was a vehicle inspection and agricultural checkpoint about 10 km outside of San Luis. We stopped there and the men just took a few minutes to briefly look in our trunk for food items.
- When we were passing through the Reserva de la Biosfera, there were all kinds of different “animal crossing” signs including: Eagle, Iguana, Wolf, Mountain Goat, Mountain Lion, and Cow Crossing signs.
- In an emergency, you can call 01-800-841-1801 on this route (apparently, although, we didn’t try it).
- This area was filled with Saguaro Cacti.
- There were strong winds in the mountainous areas around Sonoyta. This city is located near the U.S./Mexican border.
- There was an ATM (cajero automatic in Spanish) in Sonoyta at the VIP, about 2 blocks from the OXXO.
Sonoyta to Santa Ana, Mexico (where we turned onto Highway 15): Toll = 105 Pesos + ? (because of protestors)
- Highway 15 between Sonoyta and Hermosillo is mostly a 2 lanes highway that feels a lot like a U.S. Interstate.
- About an hour outside of Sonoyta, there was an area of the highway with some larger potholes.
- Caborca was about 3 hours away from Sonoyta.
- Outside of Caborca, the police stopped us and asked to look at John’s driver’s license. The officer asked where we were going (“Guanajuato”, John told him) then shook John’s hand and let him go. He didn’t ask for a bribe.
- Outside of Caborca, there was a toll for 105 Pesos.
- This route took us longer than the GPS said that it would (about 12 hours including restroom stops).
- In Santa Ana, there was a toll booth for getting on Highway 15, but we didn’t have to pay the toll because of protesters.
- From the outside, the Hotel Villa Santa Ana looks okay if you need a place to stay for the night. (If anyone who reads this tries this route and stays at the hotel, please let other readers know how the hotel was in the commentary!)
Santa Ana to Hermosillo, Mexico: Toll = ? (There were protestors)
- We did most of the trip from Santa Ana to Hermosillo at night.
- It was a 2 lane highway
- When driving at night in along Highway 15, beware of vehicles with dim or non-existent tail
lights. Watch out for animals on the road and bicyclists on the shoulder or mopeds with dim or non-existent tail lights. These were the biggest hazards that we encountered along this route at night.
Hermosillo has a population of 800,000 people. It’s the capital of Sonora and it’s a relatively safe community with lots of U.S. businesses like Carl’s Junior, IHOP, AutoZone, etc. The main drag looks a LOT like a U.S. city, in fact. Off the main drag, the streets have a more traditional Mexican architecture. We stayed in a nice AirBnB vacation rental hosted by a very friendly Hermosillo local named “Jesus”.
Crossing the Tijuana Border (video)
Somewhere Near Sonoyta (video)
Driving from Obregon to Mazatlan (video)
RVing in Mexico (video)