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Mexican insurance

I promised I would write about the preparations for Mexico, so here's an update. Joe and I have been going back and forth on the details as they turn up. The latest snag has been insurance -- it's expensive. US auto insurance is worthless in Mexico, and if you get in an accident, the Napoleonic code that Mexico uses considers you to be guilty until proven innocent.

What that means from a practical viewpoint is that a fender-bender is treated as a criminal offense, and so the parties involved will be "detained" in a prison cell until the authorities are assured that the responsible party can pay for the damages. So it becomes a matter of having good Mexican liability insurance, along with bail and legal services riders, to be sure you aren't the person left rotting in a cell at the end of the day.

Fortunately, there are dozens of websites that quote Mexican auto/RV insurance online. We've been comparing coverages and shopping prices for days. For visits of less than 30 days it's usually cheaper to buy a daily policy, and beyond that it's cheaper to buy the 6-month policy. For combined truck and trailer value of $60k, on a 15-day visit (for example), I'm seeing premiums of $377 to $700 -- quite an impact on the overall cost of a trip!

Of course, there are many variables that affect the price. Optional riders, medical payments levels, liability levels, and obscure details such as whether payouts are in pesos or dollars and where bodywork gets done. It's much more expensive to get a policy that allows you to get repair work done in the USA rather than Mexico. And some companies have a good reputation for easy customer service over the phone in Mexico, whereas others ...

So we're proceeding with caution. I'm reading threads on forums, visiting various insurance websites, reading policies (and wow is that tedious!), and comparing the experiences of people who have gone before us.

To further complicate things, we need to figure out our exact dates of entry/exit if we are going to buy a daily policy. We can buy extra days while we are in Mexico, but it would be a nuisance. So the decision to buy a 15-day policy at, say, $403, versus a 6-month policy for $560, has to be considered carefully. It might be better to buy a 6-month policy for the flexibility in dates, and to retain the option to go back into Baja later this spring if we feel like it.

I've also made a checklist of things we need to do in advance of crossing the border: buy a telephone card, collect our documents (passport, vehicle registrations, and in my case a notarized letter from myself affirming I'm authorized to drive the company vehicles into Mexico), sanitize the water tank, buy a phrasebook, etc. Really, there's not that much we need to do. I'm over-preparing this time because its our first trip.

Tucson desert walk.jpg

Today I took a short walk out into the desert for a lunch break. The area immediately around the campground isn't particularly interesting except for the birds, but I could see taking a mountain bike out for some real exploration. I spotted some cardinals in the brush, and there seem to be a lot of songbirds in one area. The desert floor here is mostly brush with cholla (CHOY-ya) cactus, but it varies a lot depending on whether you're on high ground or in a dry wash. The saguaro cactus (the ones with the "arms") start a few miles north of here. We'll see more of those when we go to Saguaro National Park.

Tucson cactus cookout.jpg
Cooking out under the bright desert stars


It may be cliche, but I definitely believe that you get what you pay for, and insurance, especially in a foreign country, is integral to piece of mind. $160 extra for some flexibility in dates with a possibility of going into Baja (my dream trip btw) sounds pretty reasonable to me. Now, as far as that Napoleonic code concept ... hmmm, wonder how that would fly in my little jurisdiction ...

I assume someone has told you to get a copy of "People's Guide to Mexico". But just in case, I couldnt live with myself if you went without it. It is the most practical guide to Mexico for the real-life, real-road traveller - but not a Fodor's guide book. This one tells you about customs, relations, and just other helful info gleaned from years of travelling in Mex. Forgive me if you've already read it. It was recommended to me before I took a train to Mexico when I was 19, and I've been passing it forward ever since. Have fun planning!

Hi Rich -

A great way to gather, store, and make easily available those documents (passport, vehicle registrations, health records, etc.) is to store them online. Then they are available to you (at least in "duplicate" form) from most anywhere.

This can be helpful no matter where you are traveling (from the developed to the undeveloped worlds, and everywhere in between now that internet access can often be found in some mighty out of the way places!

There are multiple ways to do this including simply emailing the documents to yourself via a webmail accessible email account that you have to the fancier version of storing them in a password protected web or ftp space from which you can download them when you need them.

This, in general, is a great way to provide peace of mind when it comes to these "necessary but hopefully never needed" documents!


Hi everyone,

A few months back we bought a 1995 35 foot Airstream with wall to wall carpet (even in the bathroom! yuck) So I have gutted it, removed all the carpet, added new flooring , upholstery etc. We are wanting to go to Baja for the winter on the Sea of Cortez. Looking for some place peaceful, good beaches and secure. If anyone has experience or knowledge of such a place or wants to caravan out of either Nogales to ferry across to LapPaz or caravan out of San Diego please contact. Safety in numbers, We are planning a November departure from Seattle.

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