We just got back from a trip to Ensenada. We could only stay a week in Mexico because our kids are still in school.
We're a Hispanic couple in our early 30's with 3 little girls. We're not newbies, but we don't camp a lot because of our kids' school.
We'd like to travel to Nayarit someday, as that was where my mother was originally from and I never got to meet her family. But we're afraid to. We are not your typical RVers. We're hispanic and we're young.
On this trip to Ensenada from San Luis Rio Colorado, our fears were confirmed. We are immediately pulled over to the side at ALL check points and throughly inspected. We are hassled by cops, local and federales, because we don't fit the RVers profile of "gringos". By hassled, I mean, we get pulled over after paying our tolls and asked what we do, why we're there, where we're going, where are we coming from, what do we have, etc. everytime. Perhaps it's just getting old to us, and they're just doing their job. But in the states, although we do get searched at Border crossings, it's a fairly routine drive through Border Patrol check points. No internal searches. At least not everytime, all the time.
So, it's left us wondering, maybe we're just overreacting. Are you "gringos" (excuse me if I offend, don't mean to), hassled like we are?
It's irritating and gets under our skin sometimes, but we keep our cool and are as polite as possible, even though we might have just gotten searched 20 minutes before.
Our concern is that if we do decide to head to southern Mexico, we won't just be "bothered" by LEO's but by Bandidos! Will they think we're part of a cartel smuggling the rival's drugs? Because that's why we get searched and pulled over by LEOs, because they assume we're carrying drugs. They're certainly looking for "something" and if so, they want their share.
Just my humble opinion:
You will be traveling into Mexico in a love motorhome with a value that exceeds the multi-year gross income of many residents. Think in term of a Limo being left in down town LA or Chicago. Already you have experienced being singled out, maybe not because you are Hispanic but posibly because the number of motorhomes traveling into Mexico have decreased to such an extent that anyone who dares to make the trip becomes suspect. Hopefully the LEO's are acting with best of intent, trying to reduce the crime wave that has decimated the RV travel industry in Mexico. I will not even try to examine the intent of the Bandidos. We used to look forward with great anticipation our trips South of the Border. We loved our travels there and the people we met along the way. Sadly, no more. Until we can feel safe we will not head South.
Again, just my opinion, but I felt your rant required an honest reply from a fellow traveler.
You're not alone, we live in Mexico and our cars and rv have Mexican plates. I'm a gringo and my SO Mexican. It happens a lot but I believe it is more about whether we have imported our rv legally or not and the fact that we live here.
I wouldn't take it personally and the more you travel the more you will know the routine and be prepared to answer. We keep all our papers handy, we know where the VIN numbers are located on our vehicles and with this they seem to see that we are regulars and there is nothing irregular in what we are doing.
There is nothing to fear in getting pulled over, it happens to all of us. Mexico isn't accustomed to rvers, especially local officials who try to pull a fast one on us.
Come back and enjoy your trip to Nayarit. The coast is beautiful and the kids will have a chance to see their wonderful heritage and be proud that their grandmother is Mexican.
Unfortunately, I think you are being singled out because you are Hispanic and young. We are retirees who have been RVing to Mexico for 10 years. We do get stopped periodically, mainly at Army checkpoints, and they've only done perfunctory searches. Other RVers relate the same thing, although some have had their motorhomes searched more thoroughly. We usually cross the border in Texas, but sometimes at Nogales Arizona. We haven't done Tijuana area crossings, but we plan to this year since our tentative plan is to drive Baja on our return home (to Oregon). So we'll see how that goes.
If you go further south into Mexico you may be hassled less. You also might try to caravan with other RVers. You might get hassled less, plus it's a good idea anyway, for security. You can post on this web site for caravan partners. If you go when the snowbirds are going, you can sometimes find caravan partners in the Wal-Mart parking lot of border cities, such as Nogales. If you go to Nayarit, Nogales is a good entry point.
Maybe you should don white powder on your faces and hair so you look like Gringo geezers? Add a safari hat and some granny glasses, perhaps. :-)
I think your being pulled over will lessen the further south you go. There are less check points as you go inland. I am from the US and my hubby from Mexico. Last summer (2011) we RVed here in Mexico with our grandchildren in a 30' 5th wheel and had no problems. We did not however linger at the border.
Sometimes we were checked and sometimes waved on. I think the border areas are more vigilant, and unfortunately the local police do try to get bribes, but that seems to be lessening.
Your best bet would be to take well traveled roads, travel only in the daytime and like Chris says, have your papers ready. There are many blogs you can read about rving in Mexico. Check them out. While there are cetainly less RVers than in other years, it is still a great way to know Mexico.
Also if you travel in the summer like we did when our kids were little, call the rv parks ahead of time to make sure they are open. Many close for the summer here.
As for bandits, there are bad guys everywhere, just keep your eyes open and no RV or pickup truck is worth anyones life, so if they want it, let them have it(just like at home) and then deal with the insurance company. Have fun.
We have been RV'ing in Mexico for over 15 years.
1. Roads are MUCH better
2. Road signs are better
3. Topes are the only thing that will slow a Mexican driver down
4. Figure on being stopped at every state border by the Mexican Army. They may come in but I only allow one in at a time.
5. I do believe Nationals are more likely to be detained longer at stops than US or Canadians.
6. The transitos tend to stop foreign RV'rs more than Mexicans. They are always seeking a bribe, but no matter what they NEVER get anything from me. I out wait them and point to my sign (In Spanish) that says no bite.
Don't linger near the border towns and never drive in the dark.
Pemex-24hrs have been a very safe overnight rest stop, not supermarkets.
We always travel alone at our own pace but like to stay behind other cars and trucks so that they hit the topes first.
Ignore all responses on this board from helpful people who are not in Mexico every year. They add nothing but fear, and respond with opinions rather than facts.
Look at the La Penita RV Park web site, they run a caravan every Oct to arrive in the park on Nov 1. The caravans, in our experience of 4 years, are just waved through the checkpoints.
We left our trailer in storage down there this spring and drove back in our 06 Dodge Quad cab and were searched north of Los Mochis at an Army check point. While it was not a thourogh search it was more than a quick glance. We were also Xrayed at Benjamin Hill along with a group of vehicles including both Mexican and gringo vehicles.
Travel on the mainland will require you to have a TIP (Temporary Import Permit) hologram on both your tow vehicle and your trailer, or your Motorhome and towed. You will also need a FMM which is like a Visa. I won't describe more details here, if you decide to go next fall you can find more details at www.ontheroadin.com.
Stan & Linda
Hobo the Cat
06 Dodge 3500 CTD 6 sp Quad Cab Bighorn
04 Laredo 29GS
06 Arctic Fox 245N
"Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference"
Thank you everyone for your responses.
As suggested, we have talked about heading down to Mexico with a caravan of RVers. I linger in this thread a lot and read about it all the time. DH and I have discussed it, a little, but mostly we've discussed our "situation". We're most concerned with the safety of our kids.
The reason I ask if gringos are being stopped and searched as often as we do, is to verify if my fears are unfounded or not.
I lost my mom and 5 year old nephew in a terrible accident, and know the value of life and how quickly it can be taken. So, no I will not argue over "things" with anyone. But the experience of such an occurrence would be traumatizing to anyone, especially kids. I'm not so afraid of being robbed, as I am of being confused for a member of a cartel (as we are being accused of at check points and LEOs near the border). I'm afraid of being shot at over nothing.
DH has family in Sinaloa, who are not allowed to drive crew cab trucks because they will be taken by "sicarios ".
Time will tell. For now we will wait until the new Mexican president is elected, to see how the cartels and people react to that. But if we decide to, I will be on here asking when a caravan leaves!
Plus the convenience of going with others that know the way. We've been to Mazatlan, but not in an RV (before the drug wars).
Finding an RV park in a place we don't know was difficult, as in Ensenada.
I am a gringo that lives in QROO. I travel around in a truck/camper. I get pulled over every time at every checkpoint. Most of the time it is a quick look. I think these kids (Army) just want to see what the RV is and are usually impressed with the amenities it has. Remember that you are traveling in something nicer than the Army is providing them to live in.
It is just part of the routine of RV'ing in Mexico.