The People's Guide To Mexico


Letters from Our Readers
# 8

• How many gringos live in Mexico?


Thought your article about the number of US folks living in Mexico was pretty good but also thought it needed more clarification.

I've lived off and on in Zihuatanejo for 30 years. We have our full time US residents that have their migration cards and we have our half-time (usually Canadian) who live in Zihuat about 6 months a year and use only a tourist card. Then we have the full-time who go out of the country twice a year and live in Zihuat on a tourist card.

In 1995, I along with some friends, threw an xmas party for all foreigners living in Zihuat. I diligently tracked every one of them down and saw that they received an invitation. The number of foreigners at that time was 392. Of those 392 only about 40 actually were living permanently in Zihuat with the proper migration papers--the rest were on tourist cards.

I truly believe that the "official" count is only 10-20% of the real count. Anyway, that's my take on the situation for what it's worth!

Linda Fox


When we first published Bill Masterson's article I thought it might spark quite a bit of discussion, but to my surprise it hasn't. Your thought provoking letter, however, is exactly the sort of feedback I was hoping for.

If you have any further comments, we'd be pleased to have them. I'd also be interested in your observations on living in Zihuatanejo -- I will never forget our first visit there in the early seventies, when we bashed our way down from the north on an incredible coastal "road" (I use the word very loosely). Our VW was so trashed when we arrived that we couldn't open the front doors.

Zihua was also the scene of Arturo's kidnapping (our parrot). We eventually ransomed him, but it was another of those unforgettable Mexican melodramas.

Robberies at Toll Booths?


We recently found your website and have been enjoying it. In days past we have driven from Nogales to Mazatlan, but in recent years have not done so because of safety factors.

When we heard of people being robbed at the toll stations we were appalled.

We would appreciate if you could communicate any updates you may have as to this drive. We'd like to be able to do this again.

Thanks for your help,

Don and Irene

Carl Responds

I hadn't heard of the toll booth robberies you mention -- did you get this information from newspapers, or word-of-mouth? Any details?

Lorena and I have driven this route several times in the past couple of years. We didn't have a problem, nor have we heard from anyone who has. As long as you drive in daylight hours, you should be fine (well, we do fudge on the tollways, but always try to get off the road by 9 p.m.).

If you find that our information isn't correct in any way, please let us know.

Cost for Tourist Card to Visit Baja & Mexico?


I heard that it cost $15.00 a person to drive across into Mexico. This new tourist fee was started last year. What do you know about that? I'm thinking of visiting Baja in November and crossing at Mexcali.


Carl Responds,

The fee for a tourist card was initially $15 but just a few days ago it was increased to about $18. This is per person to enter Mexico by land, and applies to both mainland Mexico and Baja.

Have a good trip!

Visiting the Virgin of Guadalupe

I'm planning a trip to Mexico City from Dec.9th thru the 18th. Is Mexico City "swamped" with tourists etc. for the Dec. 12th birthday celebration of the Virgin? What accommodations do you recommend?

Thanks for your time, love your web site!


Lorena Responds:

Yes there will literally be millions of people in Mexico City for the annual celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It is a huge city, however, (about 24 million), so crowding is normal.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of hotels in Mexico City, so it is difficult to make recommendations unless we know more about your budget and travel plans. If you don't have a recent guidebook, check the Rough Guide on line, h

We'd appreciate hearing how your trip goes.

¡Que le vaya bien!

What to do in Cozumel off a Cruise Ship?

We will be stopping in Cozumel with our cruise ship. Since we only have a few hours what could you suggest we do. We like to shop and visit interesting attractions. thanks.

Carl Responds:

Because your time in Cozumel will be quite limited, I suggest that you hire a taxi and do a quick tour of the island. This is about the only way you'll a "feel" for the place -- the cruise ship terminal is basically a huge souvenir shop, so unless that interests you, get out of there as fast as your feet will carry you!

As for shopping... I suggest "downtown" Cozumel, rather than the cruise terminal.

Baja or Cancun: Tours & Wind Surfing

Dear Carl and Lorena:

I am a friend of Fred Stern. Yesterday he created a rainbow in DC celebrating the Senate declaring of January 1 a national peace holiday.

1. Are you still running trips to Baja? 2. Where would you recommend for wind surfing? 3. What are your favorite places with beaches. (we will be flying in during January.)?

Thank you in advance for responding in advance



It is good to hear from you, Linda, and good to hear that our old friend the "rainbow man" continues with his good work.

Lorena and I haven't done a Baja tour for a long while -- our attention has turned to the Copper Canyon region and the Sierra Madre of NW Mexico. It is a fabulous area that still holds a lot of undiscovered places and adventures.

As for wind surfing, check out the coast of Baja south of La Paz and north of San Jose del Cabo. We've met some serious wind fanatics there, so I'm sure you'll be appropriately "blown away".

As for our favorite beaches in that area, I'm sorry to say that most of them have been developed by now. Our favorite is always the one with the fewest footprints! But... explore the coast and check out side roads; you'll find something special, I'm sure.

By the way: if you do much surfing or swimming in Jan., take at least a shortie wetsuit. The water can be quite chilly north of Cabo San Lucas.

How about a travel report for the website when you return?

Linda writes again:

Looking the situation over, Steven and I have about decided on Cancun, where there is some sailing, probably more suited to us. And we would love to look at ruins. My son is an architect/bridge designer.

So if you have ideas about a small town near Cancun, or any other hints -- we don't have much money. Thanks so much. My bill to create a global holiday of inclusion for all people passed Congress last week, so I'm celebrating after five years of 80 hour weeks, unpaid, plus all my life savings. Success. It's sweet.

Carl again:

Congratulations on the holiday bill... with any luck, Lorena will let me have half a day off!

As for your plans... small towns near Cancun are in short supply, so the choices are really Playa del Carmen or Isla Mujeres. Playa has the advantage of being on the mainland, so you can make sidetrips by bus.

If you like ruins, however, and also jungle, try Coba. Our friends there, the Itza family, have a small hotel that isn't much on comfort but the price is right.

Isla Mujeres has many small hotels and some good beaches, and less traffic. The Isla is not quite as upscale as Playa del Carmen pretends to be. But, both are good choices.

On the other side of the Peninsula, you could try Celestun... fine birding, small hotels, smaller crowds, beaches not quite as fine as the Caribbean but still good.


Great advice. I have senior coupons (and I'm broke) so I could fly to some US destination and then travel by some other means to these locations. Which one would work and are there boats or some cheap way of getting there? Are the buses okay? What US city should I fly to, and can Steven do something similar from Oakland SFO?

I do appreciate Fred having such wonderful friends, thanks for taking the time to help.


Mexican buses are among the 7 Wonders Of The World -- especially if you take the so-called Luxury or Executive level buses, which rival anything anywhere in terms of comfort and service.

As for where to enter Mexico, senior coupons, etc. I'm afraid these are questions I don't have answers to... perhaps a travel agent would be best.
If you're broke, however, consider travel to Mexico's Pacific coast, as it might be cheaper and more convenient -- for Steven especially. As a rule, airfares are cheapest to major resorts -- Cancun, of course, but also Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. A friend did well on a discount ticket to PV using, but you need to get moving on this, as the high season is in full gear.

•Tlazazalca, Michocan?


Need some information about Tlazazalca in the state of Michoacan; it's not listed anywhere

Any information would be helpful or source for same

Thank, Joanne

Carl Responds:

All I can find is its location on the map: Tlazazalca is a very tiny place in the upper left hand corner of the state of Michoacan.

Have you looked for it at Mexico Desconocido? This excellent website is probably your best hope

I'm curious: what is your interest in Tlazazalca? If I had more clues, I might be able to come up with something.

Carl follows up later....

Now you've put a bug in my ear and I'm very curious about Tlazazalca. I used Google (an excellent search engine) and came up with a surprisingly long list of resources. Here's the URL:

Many of these documents are in Spanish, so if you need further help, just ask.

Where to live and work in Mexico?

Carl and Lorena:

I hope you can spare the time to help us. My husband and I are wanting to move to Mexico or South America. We speak limited Spanish. Are there jobs available? My husband is retired law enforcement (a captain in charge of14 counties) and has an associate degree in business. I am a paralegal, insurance agent, pianist/vocalist, writer and am working on an associate degree in applied computer science through Harcourt (correspondence).

Would there be anything for us there or in the surrounding areas? What about living arrangements? We want to make our move within the next year. Where do we begin??? We are 45 and 47.

Rose and Jimmy


You ask a "big" question and I'm afraid there's no quick answer. In fact, Lorena and I are working on a book right now about living, retiring, and working in Mexico. Until it is finished, however, my suggestion is that you follow the articles and discussions about living in Mexico on our People's Guide website, as well as the forums at Mexico Connect.

As I'm sure you can imagine, it is very difficult to recommend a specific place for you in Mexico without knowing more about your personal preferences, budget, goals, etc.

You can't go wrong, however, by taking the time to travel before you make a decision -- there's so much to see and do here, and so many possible choices, that it would be a mistake to settle down without looking the country over first.

I hope this helps.

•Driving Nogales to Guadalajara: Is it Safe?

hi carl and lorena

i will be traveling to mexico for the first time in my truck with two other friends. we will be traveling from california to arizona to cross at nogales, nogales all the way down to guadalajara with stops in ciudad obregon and mazatlan.

I wanted to know how safe this route is. i have heard parts of sinaloa could be dangerous. any advice appreciated.

later we will be going from guadalajara through or around mexico city to oaxaca and oaxaca to tapachula and into guatemala. i was not too pleased to hear about the bus hijacking between oaxaca and tapachula. how safe do you consider this route. a nervous first time traveler. any advice or warnings well appreciated.  



Hola Patrick,

The toll highway between Nogales and Mazatlan is "first class", and with the exception of a relatively short stretch between Mazatlan and Tepic, it is excellent all the way to Guad, and also from there to Mexico City. Smooth sailing, though I always advise people not to travel at night if they can avoid it. Especially late at night... the "wee hours", when there is virtually no traffic.

I presume you've read our article on the website about driving from Nogales to Guad? If not....

There's also an excellent freeway to Oaxaca that starts near Puebla. South of Oaxaca the highways are "free", usually two lane. Bus hijackings occur here and there throughout Mexico, but more likely in the southern portion. If you drive in daylight hours, your own chances of being jacked are extremely low... much less, in fact, than in L.A., Tucson or El Paso. Don't worry.

Also, by the time you leave Oaxaca you'll feel like an old hand at Mexico travel. Your itinerary sounds very good... enjoy it!

One thought: our favorite route into Guatemala is Oaxaca-Tuxtla G.-San Cristobal de las Casas - Comitan - border. Cooler than the lowland route and much more scenic.

saludos, Carl

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