RVs in Mexico
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Mexico RV Trip Reports

Winnie the Winnebago Goes To Mexico

Part lV

by Paige & Rich Demuth

published: January 2001

PS: Aloha from Kauai! Christmas is over now so I can finally add a few more things.

My strong advice to anyone traveling by motorhome: double check to make sure the VIN matches the one on the chassis. I am sure ours is not the only rig that is registered under the camper manufacturer’s VIN.

One thing I found essential, since I cut my foot towards the beginning of the trip, was a good first-aid kit. We took along some Hibiclens, which is a powerful disinfectant of the type surgeons scrub up with before they operate. I also brought along an extra new toothbrush and used those two to scrub the wound and to hopefully kill any nasties that might have come off the rusted piece of metal I cut my foot on. The skin closure strips I brought worked well to close up the wound, in place of stitches. 

Another item we found useful was a pre-paid AT&T phone card. Using a calling card from Mexico can be very expensive, as can almost any way you call from there to the U.S. The AT&T phone card was the most economical. I got ours at Wal-Mart (although they have them at Sam’s club, if you are a member, for a lower price) and I got a 120-minute card. To call the US from Mexico uses 6 minutes for each minute on the card, thus the 120-minute card was really 20 minutes of call time, at about 70¢ per minute. With our situation we had to make a lot of calls, so it really came in handy. (Lorena's Note: Check our article on Telephone Calls and Phone Cards in Mexico.

We found filling up at the Pemex stations to always be an experience. Luckily we had a locking gas cap, so that eliminated trying to get out of the motorhome before they started filling the tank and wondering if they zeroed the pump first. We always had the guy (or gal, which was the case several times) put in a bottle of gas additive first. We bought several before we entered Mexico, at Wal-Mart, and paid about 95¢ each. When those ran out we ended up buying it down there. The additive was more expensive in Mexico. Even getting it at a big Comercial Mexicana or other supermercado, it was about 2-3 times as much, so take plenty with you.

Our first gas stop was in Hermosillo and we stopped at a Pemex near the center of town. We soon realized that the Pemexes on the outskirts were much easier and calmer. In town we were accosted by kids who had absolutely no manners and had learned some pretty strong swear words in English, which they used them on us when we did not fall for their trick to charge us twice for cleaning the windshield!

Also, after the first few gas stops and realizing we were giving money to the guy pumping the gas and the kids cleaning the windshield and it was costing us each time, we decided to give them other things that we had brought along with us as ‘give-aways’. This included candy for the kids (and being that the stores were already selling Halloween candy before we left, we got some great deals) like bubble gum and dum-dum pops, which they loved, t-shirts with all sorts of cool stuff on them like names of places in Hawaii and many with the Ralph Lauren Polo insignia, and baseball cap and assorted other clothes. (We told friends we were going down and asked if they had any old clothes they did not want). We also took perfume, cologne and lotion samples that were given to us each time we went to see our friend at the fragrance counter at Neiman Marcus.

So there are lots of sweet-smelling Pemex station attendants with cool t-shirts along our route. They were thrilled each time we gave something to them, as we could tell when we were driving away and they were showing the other guys what they got. One time in a ‘cocina economica’ in Uruapan, I gave the young girl who served us a beautiful floral print, sleeveless rayon dress in lieu of a tip…she was stoked! We also took small boxes of crayons, bubbles, and simple toys for kids, and fishing lures, hooks and other fishing paraphernalia for when we were on the coast.


One time, while pulling out of Santa Cruz de Miramar and heading for the carretera, I saw a young woman with an older woman on the front porch of their very run-down and scantily built shack. The younger woman was sewing on one of those old sewing machines that you operate with a foot pedal. There were 3 small children playing on the ground. I had a huge can of beans that a friend had given us to take down and give away. I thought this family could really use them. So I got out of the motorhome and went up to their porch, very timidly and respectfully. I told them that we had too many beans and could not eat them all and would they be able to use them. They were so grateful, big smiles on their faces; it made my day!

On a more practical note, we came across a situation at the trailer park in San Miguel de Allende where the electrical voltage was irregular. Luckily we figured this out before any real damage was done. (The dead giveaway was when we got shocked each time we touched metal on the outside of the motorhome). So we unplugged and had to go without electricity for the time we were there. I would suggest investing in an electric current regulator before leaving home (about $65), if you plan to do a lot of camping in trailer parks. 

I think one of the most important things on a trip like this is to have information and research before you go. Good guidebooks and good maps are the key. We took along 4 different guidebooks and used each of them for different things. Of course, the People’s Guide to Mexico is indispensable for so many things before and during the trip. For regional information we took along the Lonely Planet guide to Mexico (great restaurant info and city maps), and also found the Moon Publications Pacific Mexico Book to be an excellent guide. It is geared towards people driving to Mexico and giving excellent detailed information on trailer parks and driving routes. For maps, we took the AAA fold up map as a basic one to see where we were in comparison to where we were going, but for everyday driving we took your advice and got the Guia Roji Road Atlas, which was worth its weight in gold. Not 100% accurate, but pretty darn close.

All in all, our motorhome performed well, we just took it nice and slow and found it took two of us to navigate it, one on each side. After all the repairs back in Arizona and El Centro, it ran well and we kept a close eye on the oil, water and other fluids. We stopped for breaks in the shade with the hood up when it seemed necessary (although it is hard to find a shade tree without other cars under it doing the same thing!).

Since returning, however, and after reading all your excerpts on the Perfect RV for Mexico, I realize that I would not go down in a vehicle like that again. On the positive side, it was very comfortable and roomy, and nice to have a big bed and be able to take so much stuff back to the US with us. But every time we pulled into a town, I not only felt completely intrusive and obvious (gringos in town!) in our beastie vehicle from the United States, but I also was nervous that we would take out a roof eave or part of a car parked along the street! It was really just too big.

I agree with the guy who wrote you that he prefers one of those converted vans. As long as it has a toilet, which I think is muy importante! and you live out of it, instead of in it, and put up a screened-in covered tent thing. That sounds to me like a much better way to go. You save on gas, are not quite so obvious when you are driving around, can maneuver better, and don’t have to pay the higher tolls for having four tires in the back or more than two axles. 

So those are my tips, for whatever they are worth. On a final note, I suggest to anyone going down to take as much stuff as you can to give to the poorer people down there; food, clothing, toys, whatever you can, they certainly can use it and really appreciate it. The smiles you get in return are priceless.

Your fellow México Travellers,

Paige and Richard Demuth

PSS: I just finished making 2 batches of salsa - one from chipotles, tomatillos and garlic, and the other from tomatoes roasted on my comal (I recently found a source for organic tomatoes here on Kauai, a rarity due to the fruit flies here, I am in salsa heaven!) and poblano chiles from my garden with onion and cilantro - and then I came over to the computer to find your e-mail waiting...what perfect timing!!!

Bob the insurance man (can't remember his last name) was a huge help in so many ways. His business is called San Xavier Mexico Insurance, the number is 888-377-1570. This office is located in Nogales off the I-19 on exit 4, the Border Truck Route. He also has an office in Tucson that his wife runs. Our insurance for 6 months cost $171. His underwriter is a Mexican company called Seguros Tepeyac. Bob and his wife are a great source of information and travel themselves in Mexico each year by car. If you are crossing the border in Nogales I highly recommend getting your insurance from him. 

Thanks for the update on my story being on the website, I am excited. I think about Mexico everyday and am always remembering little things that happened down there, and it always makes me smile or chuckle.

We have started putting up the tiles. We put in two of the murals we got on the exterior of the house we are building. One is a beautiful scene with parrots and jungle plants, the other is a copa de frutas. Both look great and evoke feelings of being south of the border.

I said to Rich, "What if we get tired of seeing these same murals several years down the road?".

He replied, "You will think of Mexico every time you look at them. Do you think you will ever get tired of thinking about Mexico?".

I said, "Not in this lifetime!!!". When its all done I will send you a couple of photos. 

Thanks again for your interest in our adventure. And especially thank you for all the work and research you guys do for your books and articles and your website (all of which I thoroughly enjoy). It's a tough job, being down there in Mexico, but someone's gotta do it, right?!


The New Tourist Card for Entering Mexico by Land
Telephone Calls and Phone Cards in Mexico
Protection from No-see-ums
Our Favorite Mexico Books
Perfect RVs for Mexico
RVs in Mexico
Mexico Outdoors
Mexico RV Trip Reports

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