1.Safety in Numbers: On a caravan, you are safer in areas considered dicey and the chance of being hit up by crooked police are less. 2.You learn where you can take your rig without damaging it: Mexico is full of physical hazards for RV’s. 3.You learn how to handle paperwork: There was a couple in the RV park I was in in Feb 2016, who crossed the border without realizing they needed to do paperwork. 4.They are now in big trouble and at risk of having their rig seized. 5.Our company is trying to assist them in whatever way we can even though they are not customers. 6.You may find that perfect spot to return to. You will visit locations impossible to get to on your own in an RV. 7.Assistance if you breakdown. 8.Social activities.
They are like AAA but with quasi-police powers. They are excellent mechanics. We use them on some remote sections and often to get us in and out of cities. They regularly patrol the toll roads, so on those we will just call them if needed.
We are actually a Mexico registered tour company. This enables us to operate cheaper and run more cost effective tours. We are a contractor for some other companies (Our competitors) and we can operate Caravans in English or French, but we keep them separate.
The trip is operated by Caravanas de Mexico, a licensed Mexican tour agency with 25 years in the RV caravan business. Our Wagon Masters are all very experienced and traveled since many years in Mexico. See Certification document.
Yes, in fall 2017, spring and fall 2018 and more to come in 2019. We ran our first one in Spring 2016
Our caravans start at Nogales or Laredo and may end at either.
It generally depends on the caravan. In the case of our Yucatan loop, the border with Belize & Guatemala.
We like a minimum of about 10 to make the trip viable, maximums depend on the route. Generally our Spring caravan ends up at under 12. We do not run 20 rig craavans. The caravan often has Green Angels as tail-gunners (like AAA).
No, our friends at Baja Amigos & Vagabundos do the Baja.
We have tried this with mixed results. It depends on the individual as to how it works out. You need to discuss the issues with us. The best option is to purchase a second hand tent trailer which can be had quite cheap & resell it at the end of the trip.
You are on your own. We will not cover any of your expenses while you are not with the caravan, plus you are driving at your own risk. People do this every season, and while we assist them in whatever way we can with information, they are on their own for that period.
You will need Mexican insurance and a vehicle and/or RV permit – We will assist with paperwork.
Starting in the 2015/2016 season we l require all participants to have a CB radio in their vehicle. (no handheld’s) for trips of over 30 days. These are very cheap these days. Our recommendation is the Uniden Bearcat 980 or 970. It runs around $90 – 120. Walmart sells the 980 online for $112. See LINK . You will also need a magnetic mount antenna ($25-$80). This particular CB can be installed temporarily and can even sit on the dash, as it is small. You can run it off a cigarette lighter socket with this adapter. If you do not want to keep it after, we can probably match you up with a future customer who needs one. CB’s usually require a magnetic antenna and metal body on the vehicle. If you are fiberglass, you need a “No Ground Plane” antenna. They are tough to find, you have to go to specialty CB shop. We also require you to have a pair of inexpensive FRS walkie talkies, as these assist with getting you set up in the RV Park and for communication while on tours that involve walking.
Yes, Aguascalientes, Puerto Vallarta, Hermosillo and Puebla. We do have detailed instructions in case you become separated, and hopefully the rig in front of you will be visible, even if you get caught at a light. We will brief you the day before we transit any of these locations. We try to provide you with photos of turns in the manual we provide. Out of all those cities mentioned, Puerto Vallarta is the worst, but it is is also the one we tackle last, so you will be a pro by then. It is also easier northbound than southbound. The Mazatlan bypass is now complete. Aguascalientes is long, but not bad. Hermosillo involves a few turns, but we have it well mapped out for you. We place any single travelers behind the wagon master on these stretches as they do not have another individual to read out instructions. Where possible, we will pull over to allow rigs to bunch up again.
We try to follow the speed limits. All participants are expected to travel at or just below the limit & keep up, especially on long travel days. We usually try to stay around 55 MPH or 90-95 KPH depending on the road. We do not exceed 60 mph or 100 kph. We slow down if roads are rough, but expect people to keep up when they are not. We do not want to be on the road after dark, and we cannot avoid 2 or 3 long days. We do make stops, we try to get a consensus on whether a couple of longer stops are preferred or many 5 min stops. We had one trip where a participant complained every time we exceeded 40 MPH (60 KMH). We do not want to go through that again.
Yes some, most are short segments. There are some short (maybe 200 foot) segments on unmade roads into some RV parks. We will crawl over those parts at 5 KPH if needed. Even some sections of toll roads can have some rough pavement if the rainy season (summer/early Fall) had a lot of rain. While potholes on toll roads will have at least been patched, you may need to secure loose objects in your RV better than you would in the US or Canada. Roads in Mexico are harder on your RV, Topes notwithstanding. We are not going to sugar coat. The Yucatan loop involves more rougher roads once we get further south.
We have had to re-route or delay stops in the past due to weather, even in the dry season. The wagon master watches the forecast and in Fall especially, we are able to make last minute changes fairly easily, even doing the loop in reverse. In Spring it’s a bit more difficult, but we manage. An El Nino year like Spring 2015 was, presents challenges. Obviously if we know something like a hurricane is approaching we will vacate an area, ASAP, and head inland. If we have to extend days of a caravan due to bad weather & delays, we charge only $22 a day per rig extra to help cover extra RV park expenses.
Propane is available, ULSD diesel (mid 2007+ trucks) is not fully available until the end 2018, but I have a list of 3200 stations that are pumping it as of mid 2017. Lots of people ignore it and do not seem to have any issues. Use of non ULSD diesel in a post 2007 truck will not harm the engine. It may, however, cause a premature regeneration cycle on your particle filter, lowering its life span. We have not had any customers experience issues it the past and we check with other caravan companies to see if any of their customers have. It is, however, at your own risk. There are kits to replace the particle filter, and shops which will install them. This solves the issue, but you did not hear us advise you to do that. The downside is you get better fuel mileage. We have a lot info on this subject here. Also when it does come time to replace your particle filter, consider getting an aftermarket one that can be cleaned.
Yes you can bring an ATV. They are Street legal and great for the beach.
– 90% of the time. (except in the Yucatan). However when we stop for the Copper Canyon excursion, there is a good chance you will have no power for 4 – 6 days. Please ensure your RV batteries are in good shape as some power is required for your fridge even though you may have it on propane. It is best to have your freezer almost empty before this segment.
Please note that power can be, and often is, unreliable. You should have a power protector (available at Camping World – Surge Guard) and expect power to go off & on frequently in most RV parks. A surge guard will protect sensitive components like your fridge board. They are even a good idea in the US and Canada. One saved my bacon at a brand new RV park in the US, where my pedestal was wired incorrectly.
Wi-Fi internet is available in many RV parks (slow speed) but we will also carry 2 or 3 Telcel internet sticks for those who must have access, if you have a laptop.
Some US & Canadian cells will roam in Mexico. AT&T GoPhone roams on Telcel’s network @ 25 cents a minute. Our company is a Telcel dealer and we will loan them to customers who do not have roaming. Everyone has to have a working cell phone.
Sirius/XM works well in Mexico, Sirius works better due to higher orbits
We suggest 10-15% in restaurants. We suggest you tip the tour guides 50 pesos per couple and the driver 20 pesos. If you wish to tip the wagon master at the end of the trip, it is up to you. If you wish to do that, we suggest between $2 & $5 per day. Most wagon masters do this because they enjoy it, not to make a living at it.
There are relaxing, longer term stops at beaches & hot springs. (not so much in our shorter Fall caravan) We are also totally honest with our customers as to what to expect, what they need to consider, and what possible snags they may encounter. We are open and honest. We do not want to discourage anyone, but we also believe an informed customer is a happy customer, and that can mean mentioning some of the negatives. We work personally & extensively, one on one, with all our our customers via phone & email, before they commit, to ensure all their questions are answered, and they know what to expect and what is expected. You will not experience this with any of our competitors.We believe that if you are properly prepared & informed, this will be a wonderful trip of a lifetime and will expand your RVing horizons. We want our customers to have the confidence, knowledge & skills to RV in Mexico on their own, in future years. I am hoping people appreciate our frankness & honesty for what it is: a means to ensure you approach the adventure in an open frame of mind, embracing experiences that are new, different and exciting. We would rather lose a customer than deceive one. Life is not lying on the couch watching the National Geographic Channel. We are selling Mexico as an RV destination & experience, not just a caravan. We want you see the real Mexico & its people, not the facade you see from the pool of an all inclusive resort. We are aiming at the boomer market and I believe the boomers are much more adventurous than their parents, and are looking for something beyond the same old – same old. We hope that at least 30% of our customers will become regular snowbirds to Mexico once they see what it has to offer. We are already seeing some of our customers booking for following years at RV parks we stop at. This country can quickly kill your enthusiasm for snow birding in Arizona or Florida.
The 2 main other companies are Adventure and Fantasy. Both are well established, reputable companies. There are others out there that we would label “fly by night”. Adventure and Fantasy also happen to be our customers, as we provide services in Mexico to both. While that may sound rather odd, they tend to provide caravans that are shorter, and suitable for those who have less time, or simply want a shorter caravan. They generally do not go as deep into Mexico as we do, although Adventure usually does every second year. As such, they are not really our competitors as they generally serve a different demographic. We concentrate on those looking for an entire longer term Snowbird experience and that generally means retirees and seasonal workers, not those with 9-5 jobs. If their time frame suits you better, we whole-heartedly recommend either of them. Also since we are based in Mexico, we are much more in tune with the current conditions there. You may encounter what looks like a better deal. However there can be traps. For example when you see 40 events in a 30 day tour, that should tell you that stepping onto the bus counts as one tour. Do they give you good meals or a soggy sandwich? Do they blind side you with extras? These are all things you need to check carefully. Are they following Mexican laws? If they are running tours by themselves without a Mexican resident partner or organizer, they are not. Are you going to traveling at a breakneck pace? To be honest, the first half of our trips tend to be intensive, but you get plenty of beach relax time in the second half. We do tend to add some more “off-the-wall” ad hoc tours.
Both, we set them early in the year and once you pay a deposit, you are protected. You may pay in Canadian dollars if you are Canadian. Prices are listed on our Prices page. Once you pay a deposit, you will pay that price, or less if we lower them during the year before departure. Never more.
Per rig assuming 2 people. The single discount is $750 US or $1000 Canadian on our longer trips, $250 on short ones. That is approximate, based on 80 days & 30 days respectively. Contact us for the surcharge for more
We usually have a $500 non-refundable deposit on signup, with final payment around 60-70 days before departure. We can take visa or bank transfers or Canada Forex or MTFX transfers or US Forex (now called OFX). f the trip is far enough away we can also take personal checks. If you are willing to pay some of cost in US cash, we will accept a portion of the final deposit upon departure from (negotiable). I know that sounds strange, but Mexico is still largely a cash society, and that assists us in meeting some US dollar expenses that we have to pay up front. Our taxes are not included in our prices.
You will be required to sign a standard release of liability and provide you medical information in a sealed envelope that will be returned to you unopened at the end of the trip. See the “Terms” section.
I just added this, based on experience. I have to stress the practice of using your passenger as a hazard spotter, and listening to them. If it is your first experience driving in Mexico you will find you are concentrating on the big items and running the risk of being blind sided with the small ones. If you have a passenger, use them. The main problems are tree branches, low archways, phone lines and the large number of Topes (speed bumps). You do not want to hit a Tope at high speed. In a caravan, remember the wagon master will go over them first so you will know where they are. They are the prime reason not to follow the rig in front of you too closely. We also recommend purchasing a dash cam. These are now obtainable for about $25 plus the cost of an SD card. If you do have an accident you have a video. I have a very nice one of myself when I fell asleep at the wheel in North Nevada. (the rumble strip woke me up & I recovered in time). If an incident is your fault, stash the dash cam before the police arrive. BTW it is illegal in Mexico to move a vehicle that has been in an accident before the police arrive, even if you are blocking traffic. It is also illegal to turn right on a red light. The biggest thing you have to learn is that using your left hand turn signal on the highway, is a signal to the person behind you that it is OK to pass. As you can imagine, that is an accident waiting to happen. We will go over all of this before departure. If you are in a minor fender bender, sometimes it is easier just to pay for the damage. In Spring 2015, I backed into a new pickup truck owned by a Mexican and bent his rear bumper. It cost less than $200 to repair. It would have been over $2000 in the US. It was not worth getting insurance involved.
Your safety is our prime concern. We feel a caravan is a safe way to see Mexico in an RV – nearly any size rigs (except HDT’s -semi truck based RV’s for which you cannot get a permit) are OK, including tow cars. However, smaller is better. If your RV (Class A or 5th wheel or trailer) is over 40 ft, it will present challenges at some of the RV parks we use, but we have managed in the past. We stick mainly to toll roads as they are better suited for larger rigs. The Yucatan route is tougher for longer rigs, you need to talk to us first. Our Copper Canyon/Mazatlan route is more suited to larger & longer rigs than is our Yucatan loop.
Usually we will allow partial trips if the caravans are not too full. You may go down in Fall, stay on the beach for 3 months & come back in Spring. There will be a surcharge for any extra days involved. You may decide on the spot, since it gives us 3 months to re-adjust reservation. If you may do this, make sure you take out a 6 month vehicle insurance policy.
No, for those days you are responsible to pay your own. We only pay the date & location stated on the itinerary, unless we change it ourselves. If you give us warning before the trip starts we are able to factor it in and come to an arrangement where we may cover some of it.
Enough clothing for 4 days. walking shoes, clothing for cold evenings and a bathing suit. Please note that starting in 2015, we will be routing our caravans inland to some colonial cities. Some of those cities are at 8000 feet and you can expect evenings close to freezing, with sunny moderate days, especially in January.
All we ask is that you have a good open minded attitude. We don’t care if you are gay or straight, black or white, single or extraterrestrials in disguise, and we do not tolerate any sort of discrimination based on race or sexual preference. Our customers come from wide variety of backgrounds (even some Mexicans themselves) and that is what makes our trip so interesting. All you need is to enjoy seeing new sights, making new friends and most importantly, having fun.
Yes if you are a single traveler and would like to share the trip and costs with somebody else in this situation we will try to match you up. You may also consider posting on one of the many Forums & Facebook groups for single RVers.
Participants really need to be able to walk a bit, even if it is only a couple hundred feet. We have had an individual in a wheelchair, and it is really tough. In this particular case, she was quite light, and we were able to lift her onto the train to Copper Canyon, for example. Anyone over 175 lbs would be pretty much impossible. If you are in a wheelchair, and want to come along simply for the experience, we can discount you all the tours and allow you select some that may work, a la carte. Mexico is not really set up for people in wheelchairs. The fall caravan is probably better for those with mobility issues, as is is smaller and the wagon master has more time to cater to special needs than when he/she has a lot of individuals to deal with.
Pets (dogs and Cats only) are OK. You cannot bring exotic pets like rats, snakes or birds into Mexico. Pet care can be arranged for the Copper Canyon excursion and most other tours . Pets require a certificate of health from a registered Vet.
I always hesitate to bring this up as it tends to make people disproportionately paranoid. However, you should consult a travel health clinic. Mexico is in the topics and travel to the tropics is always a disease risk. There is a small Malaria risk in some areas we travel and you can protect yourself by using Chloroquine as a preventative, it is 100% effective. Dengue may also be a risk in some areas. There is no preventative for Dengue (yet) other than ensuring you do not get bitten by an infected mosquito (it is also present in south Texas, to keep it in perspective). The mosquito that carries Dengue is a daytime biter, by the way. Use repellent for any jungle tours or the like. Please check to ensure your typhus & tetanus shots are up to date in case you get bitten by a dog or step on a nail.
You may have time to have inexpensive Dental work done depending on the trip. We can recommend dentists in both the Guadalajara area & Melaque.
We have a separate section on this, but for Americans we suggest you switch to Progressive which will cover you for Collision in Mexico. You will then only need to purchase liability insurance. Check with your current carrier to see if they offer something similar. Our official insurance agents are either Vagabundos del Mar or Lewis & Lewis and we suggest everybody uses one of those. There are coverage differences between the 2, so the choice is yours. We will provide participants details a couple of months prior to the Caravan. Every particpant has to join Vagundos del Mar, but we pay the fee.
Do an oil change, check your brakes, especially trailer or 5th wheel brakes. We will inspect those before you cross, so make sure they are functioning. We advise a fuel filter change for diesels, before and after the trip, we have experienced no problems with Mexican diesel, but it’s never a bad idea.to change filters. In fact for any diesel, driven anywhere, I personally advise installation of a lift pump double filtration system like that made by FASS. I speak from experience with my injector problem-prone Duramax (See this info). Carry a spare oil, fuel & air filter. It is not a bad idea to change your serpentine belt out and keep the old one as a spare. Inspect all your hoses. To summarize, I personally carry all 3 filters, a serpentine belt and spare radiator hoses. I also have a spare sewer hose plus a spare bayonet fitting for it, and an RV water pump. I also carry a container of distilled water to top up my batteries, both truck and RV. I am probably over cautious, but I also have spare circuit boards for my fridge and water heater, but I spend 6 months a year in Mexico. You obviously cannot carry a spare for everything. RV technicians in Mexico are as rare as hens teeth, but I have seen locals perform miracles.
Try to arrive in the vicinity of the departure point a few days before if possible, unexpected vehicle issues can cause you to miss the rendezvous. In the spring 2014 caravan, 3 rigs had serious mechanical issues before reaching Nogales (including mine). All resolved in time, fortunately. There is no guaranty we will wait for you.
An extra spare tire (used is OK) off rim is a good idea for your truck and/or trailer, certain tire sizes are hard to find. If you have a 5th wheel or trailer, please read this page. You need to be aware of some special considerations with these RV types. We strongly advise those with Class A’s, not fitted with a spare, to have a carrier welded for an “off rim” tire that can be installed into your rear hitch. You may be able to modify a bike carrier. A used tire is fine. We strongly advise trailers & 5th wheels to carry a spare leaf spring. I have broken one in the past.
Although mechanics in Mexico seem to be excellent, and often miracle workers, obtaining parts can be an issue and cause major delays, especially for diesels. With that in mind, it is prudent to ensure your vehicle is in top shape. There are dealers for all 3 major brands, but they do not sell diesels.
POWER It is extremely important to buy a power protector. This will cost you $250-$350, and must protect against too high or too low voltage. In Spring 2016, we had 3 rigs do damage to their electronics by not being protected, including a blown digital clock, a Converter board (produces 12V from A/C in your rig) and a satellite receiver PVR. These are made by Surge Guard, Progressive Industries and also Camco. Be careful that it protects against high or low voltage, not just surges. If it costs less than $250, it probably is not the right one. You can also purchase a voltage regulator in Mexico that will correct the conditions at Home Depot for less than $100, but it will usually trip when you try to run an air conditioner through it. There are some tricks to make it work even with an A/C..
We highly recommend you look at upgrading your RV/tow vehicle with products from Torklift. (www.torklift.com) If you have a Truck Camper, we highly recommend Torklift tie downs. They are much stronger, than the alternative, and I have seen truck beds damaged by the use of the style that mount to the truck bed. For those with trailers, campers & 5th wheels, we recommend the addition of Torklift stable loads to improve your suspension & stability at the rear. Fortunately in a caravan, you will see the guy in front of you hit a Tope (speed bump) or rough road first, and of course the Wagon Master hits everything first, so the warning passes on down the line. However, these are improvements that will reinforce the resilience & handling of your rig in Mexico or anywhere else.
Most RV parks will be full hookup. (read the section on power earlier on). The Yucatan loop has less infrastructure and more dry camping. However, you need to buy bottled water to drink (cheap). These are the big 5 gallon jugs, and they are available everywhere. Look for the screw top variety, not the compression caps. You need to find a place to store one, preferably outside, or in the back of your truck, or in your shower of bathtub if you can secure it in there. You do not want one breaking open inside your RV if you hit a speed bump too hard. You can fill your fresh water tank with Mexican water, use a cap of chlorine or Hydrogen Peroxide and an inline filter (the blue ones you see at Camping World or Canada Tire). Do not drink out of it, however, use it for showers & dishes only, not drinking or brushing teeth. Use a good dose of chlorine and flush it when you get back to the US. Many parks have very low water pressure, so direct water hookups will not work. Maybe carry a large funnel so you can transfer water from jug to jug if the brands are not the same. Please note that Yucatan trips have much more dry camping days.
You must leave any firearms or ammo behind in the United States. We can arrange storage in Tucson.
We get asked this question a lot and I will be frank about it. For the Fall caravan which has short stops, I would say no. For longer caravans, maybe. Despite the obvious advantages, the problem is tight RV Parks, extra insurance, up to double the tolls and the fact that the vehicle may be a temptation for theft when you venture out separate from the caravan. You are on your own when you do that. We are not responsible for you driving alone without the caravan. Many customers tell us they are glad they took their TOAD, others say it was not worth it. That signaled to us that we needed to plan longer stays closer to areas where taxis and buses are more accessible, and people have options rather than sitting in the park. We have done that for the most part. One big issue with TOADS is that Mexicans are not used to them. We had one accident where an aggressive driver decided to force his what between a Class A and the jeep following it, The jeep was attached.
It pretty much boils down to what you decide. We can discuss it on an individual basis. For most caravans, nearly all the parks we spend more than a few days in have good access to taxis and buses. From our point of view, we prefer when people store their towed cars back in Arizona. Towed vehicles are more of a hassle for us, as they complicate the parking situation and increase the chances of one of our customers being a victim of vehicle theft, and all the paperwork & hassles (a lot), that entails. It has never happened to one of our customers, but we know it is an unpleasant thing to deal with if it does. Caravanes Soleil, a huge Quebec operator deals a lot with towed vehicles, as most Quebecois seem to drive Class A’s. As far as I know, none of their customers have ever had an incident as well. However, they take their caravans for long stays of 3 months in Puerto Vallarta where having a car makes sense. All we ask is that you tell the wagon master where you are going in a tow vehicle, so he can warn you of any possible issues in that area. We are not trying to make you paranoid, but let me put it into perspective. If you were from Europe and we were going to New Orleans or Detroit or Los Angeles, for example, we would warn you not to drive in certain areas alone in a car there, either. The same thing is true for using your towing vehicle to explore. Please let the wagon master know where you are going.
Eventually we require new Wagon Masters. They tend to be retirees and eventually age catches up. The normal way is to recruit from former customers. Most customers, after a trip have a pretty good feel for what is involved and whether it appeals to them. If you feel you have what it takes, let us know and we will try to use you as a tail gunner on one of our larger caravans. I say larger, because we often have to split those in 2, at least prior to pulling into a park. Many parks will also provide one free spot for every 10, so the tail gunner gets it for free as well. If you feel you may want to do it, take route notes on your trip. You would have to pay your own expenses (fuel, tolls, and maybe some RV park fees) for that trip, although tours would be free. You would be trained by the current Wagon Master, and then when an opening occurs, you would get the opportunity to lead a caravan and get paid a daily amount & RV park fees ,plus maybe some fuel & toll allowance on larger caravans. It is a good way for a retired couple to get their winter for free. In the meantime, you would be welcome to accompany caravans as a volunteer tail gunner to get more experience, if you are a former paying customer and the position is not taken. Obviously, a working knowledge of Spanish is a huge advantage, but as long as you are willing to learn enough to get by & maybe take a few courses on your own, we will consider you. With our owner a cell call away, most language situations can be handled. You have to be a people person, obviously.
As of Spring 2017, they are quite a bit higher than Arizona. Gas is about $3.50 US a gallon. The Mexican government has systematically been raising prices for the last 2 years ahead of competition coming in mid 2016, ignoring the collapse in world prices.. That competition will hopefully cause prices to drop back down again. You also have to allow for $400-$800 in road tolls (depending on rig size) over the entire trip. The most expensive toll is the new Devils Backbone Toll Highway at $80-$120, but believe me, its worth it. Vehicle travel in Mexico is no longer cheap.