The People's Guide To Mexico



Jan 17, 2000

Renewing Car Papers from Zamora

Condolences on your friend Steve's death. I knew him only through your books; he sounds like a great friend.

We are living in Zamora at the moment and will need to renew our vehicle's six month permiso by the end of March. Our personal tourist visas will have been extended by virtue of visits home by plane, but we wonder if you have any advice on how to extend or renew the car's permiso without having to drive to the border. We are quite close to Guad. and could go to D.F.

If we drove out of Mexico a month after our permiso expires, what penalties could we expect? Would one border crossing be better than another to avoid penalties?

We are are not missing the NW winter. Hope this message finds you in a sunny place.

“Muchisimas gracias por qualquier info que nos podrian enviar.” Nos vemos, Pat and Gaby


Dear Pat and Gaby,

Congratulations on escaping Bellingham's winter -- whenever I feel homesick, I just check the weather report at the Seattle Times. Instant cure.

Lorena and I are currently living in Ajijic, working on a book on living and retiring in Mexico. (You can follow our progress at

About your car paper question: I do not recommend letting your car papers lapse. If you do, you are subject to severe penalties... I'm not exactly sure, but it might include confiscation of the vehicle. In other words, don't let it happen....

What are your longer terms plans? It has gotten much easier to attain FM3 status, which allows you to keep the vehicle (and yourselves) in Mexico for 5 years.

Que tal Zamora? I'd be very interested to hear more about life there.

Best, Carl


Thank you for such a prompt answer to my last inquiry about car permisos. I have another related question, and that is: can one cross out of Mexico at a different city than the original crossing and still make a "hot turn-around" in order to receive a new 6-month car permiso? Some friends of our have heard a vicious rumor that they must go back across the same border crossing where they entered Mexico. We say this is baloney, what say you? This car thing is a pain.

You asked about life here in Zamora. It is a fast growing small city surrounded by agriculture. Strawberries, papas, cebollas, and avocadoes for export. There are the usual conflicts between the need for more housing land and the need to conserve the valuable farmlands, as well as the strains on the existing infrastructures, i.e. water, power, roads, etc. New maquiladoras are being built, as well upgraded facilities for the processing of produce. All in all, Zamora is a prosperous little city with a very vibrant and well stocked market. The plaza central has been reclaimed from the ubiquitous car traffic and hosts a spectacular sunday night paseo with live music on the bandstand.

You're probably aware that the Zamoranos are working on a cathedral that was started at the turn of the century, but abandoned during the agrarian reform wars of the 'teens. Work was restarted recently, and when completed, the cathedral {Santuario de la Virgen de Guadalupe, no less} will be the largest in Latin America and 14th largest in the world. It is already magnificent.

My wife is working teaching English at a campus of Univa here in Zamora. She finds the college age kids a delight, and we have been made to feel very welcome by the people we meet. Zamora is not on the gringo trail and that's just fine with us. We've rented a small house and have made ourselves quite comfortable, although homesickness is a big problem for us. We've just turned fifty, our kids are grown and sucessfully on their own, we have a seven-year-old grandson, and we are finding that therein lies the problem: we seem to need them at least as much as they need us. Anyway, I'm not sure how much longer we'll be able to stay away from them.

Good luck with your enterprises, perhaps we'll meet someday, maybe back in B'ham.

Pat and Gaby


Carl replies: Re the car “permisos”: Although you are technically allowed only one stay per year of up to 180 days, in practice many people do "quick turn arounds" at the border.
As for entering from one border point and leaving via another... yes, no problem. Just be sure to stop and cancel your car permit before you leave Mexico. This is normally done at a checkpoint about 20 -25 km south of the border.

I enjoyed your description of Zamora and sympathize with your homesickness. My mother lives alone -- if it weren't for our almost daily exchange of emails, I don't know if I could handle such a long separation. It was easier back in the "good old days", when we had abundant youth and a larger family.

RVers Online head for Copper Canyon & Mazatlan

Hey Carl,

...We'll be testing the waters for a couple of weeks in January south of Nogales -- Copper Canyon and Mazatlan. A fairly quick trip, but we've spent most of our Mexico time in Baja, and we're curious about things elsewhere. We'll be on the lookout for any online access we can get along the way -- but I'm assuming that will be a tough task.

Best regards,

RVers Online (

Carl replies: If you don't get a chance to visit our website before leaving, there is a very good cybercafe in San Carlos, Guaymas. (If you are interested in "free camping", let me know and I'll give directions to a good spot north of San C).

You should find cybercafes in Mazatlan -- I would guess that there are more than a few by now. The quality is quite variable, however, as many of the cafes are of the "instant business" variety, with cheap PCs and dubious tech support. Mexican keyboards also have additional characters, which can be quite confusing -- and for a gringo Mac user, all but impossible.

If you plan on visiting the highlands of Chihuahua, take warm clothes and bedding. Nights can get very cold there in Jan.

Looking for articles on places other than Guadalajara area

I think it's a GREAT IDEA to turn the travel letter into an online publication.

Let me know whether you'd like a (free) article written for it....I'm doing a lot of travel articles these days.

A suggestion: Include timely articles on living (if only during the winter) in Mexico. The emphasis could be on places other than the Guadalajara area, about which quite a bit is already known. Costs, ambience, and recreational opportunities are all important.

Looking forward to the EMail version.



Carl replies: Yes, of course, absolutely: we'd be very pleased if you'd send us an article for the PG website/eletter.
Also, your suggestion about including timely articles about living in Mexico is "dead on" target for us. You can expect to see much more on the topic on our website. I also agree that the Guad/Chapala area has been well covered. We're currently interviewing foreign residents in other areas, including Puerto Vallarta. Keep checking back.

Missing Link

Just thought I'd let you know that your linked page to describe the purchase of cheap meds in Mexico does not work. I noticed because I have asthma and have been attempting to purchase a bronchial dilator called clenbuterol (a.k.a. Clenbumar or Spiropent) from Mexico. It's outrageously expensive here, and I can barely afford it since my insurance doesn't cover it.

I know I can get it in Mexico for about $1-2 per tablet which is what I am seeking to do. Do you know of any farmacias that would have an English speaking employee that I could contact to get info on getting a 90 day supply (the legal US limit for mail order prescription meds) of clenbuterol? Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

!Muchos Gracias! (Okay, it's been a while since I've used "la lingua de Espania") :)


Lorena replies: Sorry about that... the link to “Buying Prescription Drugs In Mexico” is working now. In addition, you’re going to want to read Part II, where David “El Codo” Eidell updates his first article, and answers the question of “Can I have medicine mailed to me in the US?

Do you have a pharmacy phone number?


I found your site so attractive & David Eidell's article re buying prescription drugs in Mexico very informative.

In it he recommends phoning ahead to a "farmacia" for prices etc. I looked around the net to see where I could find a listing of them & one site I found was the BDZI Pharmacy Watch. Would you recommend this or possibly another?

Thanking you in advance.... Charlotte


Lorena Replies: David has just sent us an update on Calling the Farmacia El Fenix in Tijuana.

Homeowners Insurance

After several years of consideration and looking at Mexico we have decided to buy a condo. Does Mexico offer homeowners insurance or do people take their chances? Another question is, this will be held through a bank trust as it is privatized but after the 50 year bank trust is up does it roll over as easily as people say it does, and will this (without a huge fee) roll over to my children?

I know that I sound very gringoish with these questions but hey, "no matter where you go there you are"

Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Patti Morgan


Carl replies: Yes, you can get homeowner's insurance in Mexico.

The 50 year trust should be a routine roll-over, either for you or your children. Of course, no one has yet reached the 50 year limit, so we don't know with absolute certainty. But, the Mexican government really can't afford to renege on this, so I wouldn't worry. As for the fee, I also doubt that it would be unreasonable.

Are you familiar with the Mexico Connect website at ? If not, I urge you to visit the site, and to participate in the Forums there, especially the new one on Living & Retiring In Mexico.

You'll find serious experts on Mexican law and real estate there, including Jennifer Rose, our own legal advisor.

Don't be embarrassed by asking us questions -- hey, that's how The People’s Guide To Mexico got started!

Let me know if you need more help....

Problem's for Americans traveling to Mexico?

Hello Carl, Hello Lorena,

I saw your website and I plan to travel to Mexico in January. Is there any problem for american citizens? I hope to hear from yu soon...have a nice evening and happy xmas...



Hola Petra,

No... don't be worried, especially if you use common sense. We're American citizens ourselves, and have almost 40 years of trouble-free travel behind us. Relax!

Where should we go to study Spanish?

My husband and I have been enjoying your incredibly thorough and down to earth book. We are planning to rent a place -- either apt. or home -- for approximately three weeks this August either in San Miguel de Allende or Cuernavaca (we've never been to Mexico). On the internet, we've seen numerous enticing, reasonably priced places offered through private owners, and we're wondering how we can protect ourselves, and make sure that these are on the up and up.

Any suggestions and guidance would be vastly appreciated. Thank you very much.


Janice Eidus


Carl replies: Thanks for the kind words -- we'll post your message on the wall over our desks!

Both SMA and Cuernavaca are excellent choices. Lorena and I recently rented a rather odd but very enjoyable little house in Cuernavaca for $300 a month. Big private garden and large swimming pool (shared, but we were the only ones who used both), secure parking, good neighborhood, gracious landlady -- the house was a "tower"; three floors, formerly an artist's studio, with the world's tiniest kitchen (in a closet). We were sorry to leave....

Cuernavaca is a much more "Mexican" experience than SMA -- and if you're interested in studying Spanish, it is the best choice. (ask us for a tip on an excellent school).

You might also like to subscribe to the Cuernavaca Lookout, published by Greg Mebel. You can email him directly at:

I suggest that you participate in Mexico Connect's Forum: Living & Retiring in Mexico. This is also the Forum that Lorena and I will be using to answer questions on the subject.



Thank you so much for your prompt, informative reply to my query.

We are definitely interested in learning Spanish, so yes please do send me the name of the school in Cuernavaca that you mentioned.

I'm a writer, and one of the things I'm really looking forward to during our three weeks in Mexico this summer will be time to write! I'm working on a new book, and my ideal vacation consists of studying Spanish, getting a lot of writing done, and doing some exploring (and of course meeting people). John will probably get to do a bit more of the exploring part than I, since he's not a writer, and will have more time.

I've long harbored a fantasy of one day being able to move to Mexico, which is why I'm glad that we're actually finally going to get there. I'm sure this will be the first trip of many. And your new book sounds like it will be tremendously beneficial in so many ways.

Thanks again, Janice Eidus


Lorena replies: Cuernavaca is the home of more language schools than anywhere else in Mexico. Last Spring I attended 3 weeks of Spanish classes at Encuentros. Jeannie, the director, is extremely competent and was very helpful. Most language schools will assist students with housing. Jeannie found us a place to live within hours of arriving in Cuernavaca.

As a results of years of learning a bit here and a bit there, my Spanish is a real mishmash. Jeannie designed a study program for me that improved my Spanish very rapidly. I would tease my teachers that anytime I made the same mistake three times in a row, that mistake became my next day's lesson. By the end of my three weeks, I'd even started reading Mexican newspapers. All of my teachers were women, many of them single and single mothers. We had a great time together, including regular salsa dancing lessons and local outings.

Retiring in Mexico or Honduras

I retired last July and hoped to be living in Mexico by now, but my home has not sold. Anyway, I purchased your book a few weeks ago and your suggested trips to the different regions in Mexico has excited me. I am also very interested in Honduras as a place to live, but my wife is afraid and uncertain. Thank you for a wonderful book. We will be driving to Mazatlan the end of February to visit some friends who live there. Your comments about driving in Mexico will be helpful.

Tom Ferron


Carl replies: I'm glad to hear that the People's Guide excites your imagination. This is a huge country and it would take more lifetimes than any of us have to thoroughly explore it. Are you aware of the book on retiring to Honduras, also published by John Muir Publications (part of their Adventures In Living series)?

Unfortunately, the book was published at the same time that Hurricane Mitch hit Honduras. As you may know, the country was severely damaged and has yet to fully recover. My advice would be to take an "inspection" trip before making any commitments to move there.

Mazatlan in February sounds like a good plan, too, especially if you live in Oregon. (Lorena and I have our "base" in a cabin in the Cascade foothills. Too much rain!)


Thank you for responding to my e-mail last weekend. I read your book up to the point of Hiring Help and Mary of the Light. What an adventure. When we sell our home we will be moving to Lake Chapala so I hope to meet you folks in person. My cousin lives in Ajijic. We spend a week with my cousin last November and it looks like an excellent base from which to visit the rest of Mexico.

I have been looking at your photo album of Copper Canyon. I hope we have sold our home and moved to Mexico by next autumn because I want to join one of your back-packs to the Copper Canyon. For the past three years I have been packing with my two llamas around Oregon so the idea of using burros to carry the load sounds great. Your pictures are beautiful and the history and beauty of the country sure have my interest. I will definitely keep intouch.

Thank you so much for your efforts in writing Peoples Guide and your web page. We cannot wait to sell our home and move to Lake Chapala area.

Best wishes, Tom & Carol

Celebrating 20 years of marriage in Yelapa

My husband and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage in 2000. I found Yelapa Mexico like Heaven on earth. We would LOVE to rent a house/villa there in Sept., but because it is so off the beaten track, are having difficulties finding rental info......

Do you have anything listed in Yelapa??? Where can I find this info.....................

Thanks, Victoria Dunlap


Carl replies: First of all, congratulations on your 20th anniversary. Lorena and I just celebrated 30 years together, so hang in there, it almost gets easy.

We don't have real estate listings on our web site, but I do come acrosss them from time to time. Have you tried Mexico Connect, That would be my first choice -- posting a message on one of the Forums there, asking for help, usually brings good results.

Have you tried the Puerto Vallarta websites?

Here's some recent info from the webmaster at

The trouble with Yelapa is the communications, only 3 phones and one is the Hotel's. There are some Bed & Breakfast places, one with my friend Miki Shapiro (see Dream Rentals at <> or e-mail Dolores at
<>), but that can be expensive for a long stay. Would help if I had a budget and an idea as how long.


The website and email newsletters described below are also good places to start searching for rentals, though I can't vouch for the quality of their listings -- just came across this myself. In fact, if you check them out, I'd appreciate some feedback from you: good, bad, indifferent?

I just recalled, too, that we might know someone with direct contacts in Yelapa, but I don't have her email close at hand. keep plugging away. Meanwhile, I've got my spies out....

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