My Route in Mexico

Reader Kim asked:

So I’m curious why you aren’t traveling through El Paso/Ciudad Juarez to Durango and then west to Mazatlán? There’s a new Durango/Mazatlán highway with the Baluarte Bridge which appears to be an engineering marvel, not to mention very beautiful.

Primarily because I have been strongly discouraged to do so.

While Juarez is safer now than it has been in a very, very long time, the stretch of the highway between the city and the Durango highway is apparently quite desolate and there is still lot a lot of bandito activity. A single woman with out of country plates, even with strong language skills, would be a target. The only people who have suggested that route are men who just don’t approach travel security with the same mindset as a woman. This advice to avoid that route comes from Mexicans I met last winter (when I was thinking of taking this route to go north).

The secondary reason is financial. While this route is shorter, there is more travel in Mexico at their crazy gas prices. Doing the longer route to Nogales actually saves me quite a bit in fuel.

A tertiary reason is that I like the drive down MX 15. The stopover in San Carlos is rather like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia. Taking this route again will mean basically zero stress to Isla, but still some new adventures. For example, I intend to stop in Santa Ana to get my phone set up, instead of waiting to get to Guaymas!

Thanks for your question, Kim. I’ve been getting it a lot and keep forgetting to post an answer to it!  I had hoped to do the drive to Durango last winter, but ended up canceling. I am planning to do it this winter instead! So I will be doing the scenic part of the drive you mention.


8 thoughts on “My Route in Mexico

  1. Unfortunately, just like here in Monterrey and the Texas Rio Grande Valley, many Mexicans will speak of the dangers but have no personal experience or they cite some hearsay of some distant cousin, relative or friend living in Mexico.

    Highways 45, 49 and 40 are all toll roads to Durango. There haven’t been any official notices for problems on that route. That route passes through some of the most beautiful scenery in Mexico.

    People in McAllen and Reynosa can tell me some pretty scary stories about driving to the border but they are not first hand. I drive back roads to get to the libre and the cuota on a regular basis heading to the border. We’ve traveled Chihuahua for work and pleasure even during bad times. They’re not interested rvers or a foreigner just passing through. They re looking for their rivals. Personal experience is best. JMHO

    • One of the persons who gave me this advice is an American woman who has been living in Juarez since the height of the drug war. She loves her adopted city, feels safe there, has tons of perspective on the situation, and says she wouldn’t do the drive alone.

      I just checked the map and the bit that is concerning everyone is Juarez to Chihuahua. There’s apparently nothing out there.

      Remember, you’re a man driving a Mexico-plated vehicle. I am a single woman driving a foreign vehicle loaded to the gills with almost everything I own of value. I have made similar decisions while route planning in the US and Canada. Has nothing to do with Mexico per se.

  2. It is too late now but I would have told you to go to El Camino Real or La Fonda in Deming. I’m guessing that you stayed, and ate, at the Grand Motor Inn. I have eaten breakfast there also and it would not be my first choice.

  3. Hola Rae!

    Well, your reasoning is sound. The fact of the matter is that no one knows what will happen. While you’re likely safe on the avoided route, you never know.

    Last year when I did my drive across the border at Laredo, I was fortunate to have my Mexican friend, Tino, along for the ride. Still, I was very nervous until we got to Monterrey as the northern border area in general has a bad reputation. Still, route 15 goes right through Culicán, and there are plenty of narcocorridos that have references to highway 15, so I’m sure there’s cause for concern there too.

    But all that said, the odds of something bad happening to you are slim. And most importantly, it’s best to travel a route that doesn’t make you nervous.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where your trip is reawakening my desire to do another Mexico road trip.

    P.S. While in Guadalajara last year, I ran into a family from Chihuahua city who said that it was now safe there, something I had not expected to hear.

  4. I don’t think that men have any idea of the thinking a woman has to do when considering her safety…

    I had a troubling experience on Mex 15 coming north last fall, with a government official. Last thing I want is to be traveling alone through a 100+KM of desert with the knowledge that there is really no one I can trust if I get in trouble.

    Again, this has nothing to do with Mexico per se. I’m just as cautious in my route planning in Canada and the US.

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