04 May Toll Roads vs Scenic Highways: Road Tripping in Mexico
Overlanding in Mexico is an art form. Many foreigners are nervous to do so, though our experience has been pretty positive. Often we’re asked about road tripping in Mexico – if we feel frightened, how we do it and what routes we use. It’s important to remember that Mexico is the 13th largest country in the world, comprised of 32 states. It has an incredible range of topography and biodiversity.
A handful of dangerous cities shouldn’t keep us from traveling in this fascinating country. That’s akin to saying because of Detroit’s violence, you wouldn’t visit Charleston. A lot of broad generalizations are made about Mexico, but it is an amazingly diverse country, certainly not limited to its pockets of violence.
Note: The police in and around Mexico City, the capital, and the Cancun area are notorious for getting bribes off tourists. Want to know more about this? Here’s an article I wrote on the subject.
One of the questions to ponder when planning a road trip in Mexico is whether to take toll roads (cuotas), scenic highways (libre) or both.
Just like toll roads anywhere else, you can make better time on these faster, larger and better kept highways. For that luxury, you pay a price ranging from 20 mxn (US 1.30) to 250 mxn (US 16.66) depending on the location and the length of that section of toll road. In Mexico, it also signifies additional safety. Since it is a highly patrolled area, there is nearly no crime at all.
When should I take a toll road?
Toll roads are great for passing through areas considered dangerous in Mexico. For example, we drive through some risky regions when overlanding to the United States, but have never had a problem using toll roads. While we generally avoid traveling at night in Mexico, if encountered the need to do it, you would want to utilize the toll roads. Another reason to take a toll road is if you are in any hurry whatsoever. Well-paved, ample lanes make a big difference in making good time on the road, and the scenic highways are slower than one might expect. Toll roads are great for traveling long distances, trying to get from city to city or state to state.
Just like scenic highways anywhere else, these winding, often beautiful highways are dotted with small towns. Usually 2 lane and often used by locals, it can be slow but can also give you a glimpse into the less-seen countryside. Unique cultural and natural scenes surround you as you take in the frequently isolated stretches of rural road.
When should I take a scenic highway?
Scenic Highways are safe in many parts of Mexico. Enjoy scenic highways if there isn’t a travel advisory over the area you are traveling in, if you’re getting off the beaten path and looking for unique small towns to drive through or stay in. Take scenic highways when you’re relaxing and aren’t in a rush to get anywhere. Take additional safety precautions like getting off the highway before its dark and not stopping on long stretches of isolated road where you could be a target. We take scenic highways often and love them; it’s just good to be safe.
Have you had a road tripping experience in Mexico? Have questions about road tripping in Mexico? Here’s another article I’ve written on the subject. Leave your queries and thoughts in the comment section below.