Estimating Travel Time in Mexico
Story by Jim Foreman
It happens nearly every day. A well-intentioned traveler making their first driving trip into Mexico will post up a question like this. “I’m in San Antonio, TX and plan to travel to San Miguel de Allende. I plan to leave early in the morning and make it in one day. Should I cross at Laredo or Mc Allen a little further south?” Google maps lists the distance as 706 Miles or 756 miles depending on which way you choose.
Now, 706 miles is a lot of distance to cover in one day in the USA. Factor about 12 hours with minimal stops for gas and restroom breaks.
Does anything strike you immediately about this scenario and question?
People in the USA and Canada have an excellent interstate highway system. One can usually travel along at 75-90 MPH on cruise control and reliably predict the travel time, and distance one can go, in a day.
The minute you cross over into Mexico and the rest of Latin America, those daily estimates go right out the window.
Despite that, most first-time travelers grossly overestimate the distance they can travel in one day in Mexico. There is also a curious compulsion to pre-plan every aspect of the trip, right down to the half-hour. This leads to missed hotel reservations or high risk behavior such as driving at night.
For some reason, people who have not driven outside of the USA or Canada don’t believe traveling can be any different than what they’re used to, back at home. Furthermore, many Gringos, mistakenly believe that because doing something is fine at home, such as driving at night, that it’s okay in other countries.
For seasoned overland travelers, estimating travel time in Mexico will probably seem second nature. Still, one can glean some useful tips and techniques here.
Travel time estimates in Mexico should be multiplied by at least 1.5. This means if it ordinarily takes 2 hours to get somewhere in the USA, it’ll take 3 hours in Mexico.
We’ll simplify it, in a moment. First off, Mexico like nearly all of the rest of the world uses kilometers for distance. One kilometer is roughly .6 miles. For gross estimating, 3 Km is close to 2 miles. (1.8 is closer, but we’re keeping it simple.)
Curiously, There are 1.6 kilometers in 1 mile. Here’s where it is simple. For time estimates, merely treat the kilometers as miles, and you’ll be traveling smart and safe with a reasonable prediction of how long it takes to get somewhere.
Don’t be in such a rush. It may be Bingo Night in San Miguel de Allende, but consider breaking your trip up over two or three days. The worst thing you can do, when in Mexico, is to act like everything is a rush. It’s not! Slow down. Take it easy. Stay a night in Monterrey. Stay another night in Zacatecas or San Luis Potosi.
Traveling like a white-knuckled zombie on the toll roads, recreating a version of the ‘Cannonball Run’ is foolish on dozens of levels.
There are lovely destinations in Mexico that may not be precisely on the fastest route. Check them out.
There are also 111 Pueblos Magicos in Mexico that are well worth a visit.
Tip #3Relax and enjoy the journey to your destination
Don’t make hotel reservations in advance unless you’re traveling during Christmas or Semana Santa. Reservations lock you into a destination and a schedule. Reservations also lead sensible people to do daft things, to not lose the reservation.
Embrace the Mexican culture and allow your mind and personage to be free. Set off without an exact schedule. Arrive when you arrive and enjoy this amazing country.
Estimating Travel Time in MexicoGuanajuato is one of those places people need to slow down and enjoy life
The worst thing an American or Canadian can do, when traveling in Mexico, is to act like a frantic American or Canadian. Chill out. Relax and enjoy the life you claim to want. That means not making neurotic up-to-the-minute plans and letting yourself be embraced by Mexico and its amazing culture.
If you’re good traveling 300 miles a day back home, expect to travel 300 kilometers in Mexico. If you prefer 500 miles per day, expect no more than 500 kilometers a day.
All things considered, traveling overland in Mexico is easy and should be part of the fun. Just make sure you have your passport, tourist visa, TVIP (if required for your route), high-quality Mexican Insurance, and a good attitude.