With the metropolis of Mexico City approaching quickly my worries also grew. I love riding a motorcycle but I prefer the more quiet roads, paved and the sun in my back. Mexico City appears to offer none of that. Looking at maps, I saw endless roads, flyovers, red markings for heavy traffic, and tons of road crossings and bypasses.
On top of all that I heard some pretty bad stories about riding a motorcycle in the Mexican capital. People told me I would be robbed while waiting for traffic lights and I would be pulled off my motorcycle.
Not the kind of stories I wanted to hear and that made me ride very stressed. I seriously considered taking down the GoPro and the GPS that day because they’re in plain sight. Me with my vivid imagination was totally worked up and nervous the night before.
Luckily for me the road towards the city was quite awesome. Arnan picked a twisting road through the mountains with lots of nature, forests and sunlight filtering through the trees. It was a good road too. You really had no idea that you were approaching one of the biggest cities in the world. Well, have a look for yourself.
After arriving safely at our hotel in the middle of Mexico City I realized that things weren’t as bad as people make it out to be.
In 2021 Arnan and I did a motorcycle trip through Mexico
Driving through Mexico City was but a small part of our large trip through Mexico.
More than 9500 kilometers (~6000 miles)
From Cancun to La Paz
Avoiding toll roads where possible
We drive through the heart of Mexico
from north to south
from the East coast to the West coast
from state to state
from Pueblo to Pueblo
You can download our routes from city to city Cancun to La Paz here. These routes include all the information you need for an amazing and hopefully safe road trip through Mexico in GPX files that you can import into most GPS systems.
Included with the routes you’ll get Points of Interest which include:
Illegal checkpoints and caution zones we encountered
And for some segments; Road Conditions and warnings
The entire route is split up in segments which makes it easier to use the routes also for day trips.
There are lots of stories going around about Mexican government checkpoints, not all of them are good. And many people experience checkpoints as the scary part of their motorcycle trip filled with uncertainties and risk.
Mexico has a lot of checkpoints. Especially in the Yucatan and Quintana Roo area and in border areas there are plenty of them. Commonly found at important intersections in rural areas, in front of rural police stations/compounds and on state/city or municipal borders. Sometimes a stop is required, but often times most traffic is waved trough. It’s common curtesy to slow down to a walking pace, even if a stop is not required, this helps officers on duty to see what you’re up to and do a quick visual inspection without having to stop you.
We use the iOverlander app a lot to scout routes and attractions and when you check their database you read the most outlandish stories of checkpoint experiences mostly jotted down by paranoid American citizens. During our motorcycle trip from Cancun to La Paz we waited in line on several occasions while a vehicle from the USA before us bursted out in panic and overly dramatic nonsense when a the checkpoint police officer ask simple questions about where they’re going or where they came from.
We all know the stories of illegal checkpoints and roadblocks, often operated by cartels stopping you or sometimes corrupt police officers. But during my trip I noticed something; Checkpoints aren’t half as scary as some of the overly-dramatic Americans make them out to be.
If you are uncertain about checkpoints during your motor ride through Mexico, just ignore the ‘reviews’ or stories. But also if you’re curious if there are any on your chosen route every route all routes available on MotoTravel have a points of interest file with the checkpoints and chokepoints we encountered on our travels. This will help you plan and prepare for such eventualities.
The federal government is working hard to eliminate corruption
This is a big focus point in the modern Mexican army and amongst the various police services, both municipal and state police. But also within the Guardia Nacional, who took over the Federal police a few years ago. Simply because the Federal Government wants every citizen and tourist in Mexico to feel more safe.
Do not make drama when you get stopped, these people are simply doing their job in most cases.
For the most part I have found them to be very polite, for safety purposes they document everything they do, either through a body camera or a colleague with a camera or phone, expect documents such as your drivers license or ID card to be photographed as well.
A few army checkpoints near the US border seemed a bit more strict and demanding with a hint of impatience for you to open bags and cases if they want to look inside though. Some of them were build-up like proper defendable positions with sand-bag barriers, walls and machine guns.
These look a bit scary and the realization of a gun barrel pointing at your from the fortifications is a bit weird.
Overall though, most of the inspections and checkpoints we’ve gone through were done professionally and without foul play.
And that is exactly why I write this post, to give balance to the idiocy that is going around on the internet over checkpoints in Mexico.
In my opinion, many of the stories floating around are fuss about nothing or outdated, or are just incidents. I suspect due to the skittish behavior of the passengers in the vehicle being stopped. The drama I have witnessed when US citizens get pulled over in a checkpoint is beyond belief. I do not envy the persons on duty that have to deal with these people.
I think I might have seen one cartel checkpoint but did not have to pass through them, but they did not look all that scary. Even though the dudes were heavily armed, they only seemed to stop trucks coming from the opposite direction as we were going to. We did encounter many illegal checkpoints, and at one point I used a car as a shield to pass through the checkpoint simply because I did not feel like stopping to pay a their illegal tolls.
We also passed a few Immigration Checkpoints. Most of the time I could just ride through without stopping at all. In another checkpoint I had to unpack my bags, and a few times I had my paperwork for the motorcycle checked.
One time it was a sanitization stop for covid-19 and I got sprayed down with something – probably a disinfectant. That was hilarious, I could hear Arnan through our helmet intercom talking to the guy like: “What is this stuff, why do you do this???” as no explanation was given. It made me laugh.
Other times such checkpoints are to counter things like birdflu. These have no interest in civilian traffic and only check trucks with livestock and food stuffs.
In the videos below you’ll see some checkpoints we passed through.
A large Immigration checkpoint near the Chiapas/Oaxaca border.
And a compilation of various other checkpoints throughout Mexico.
Are you planning on taking a Mexican Road trip?
Don’t let the bad stories deter you and start planning your adventure.
Please check out our tracks and routes in the MotoTravel webshop.
These routes and segments have been carefully prepared so everyone can use them. They include many Points of Interests including all checkpoints, official or otherwise, we’ve encountered as well as hotels, fuel stations and more.
When you are riding in the Philippines and follow the the Pan Filipino Highway through Quezon heading south, towards Bicol you’ll find the old Bicol ZigZag route between Pagbilao and Atimonan. A 2-lane twisting road through a forested group of hills which is pretty amazing to do by motorcycle.
We I left the hotel that morning I did not know what was coming, Signs at the intersection happened to point us this way and seeing that most heavy highway traffic would go the other direction way this was my chance to ride at ease for a while. TYP
The whole area has the main highway build around it but the old route still exists for a more leisurely crossing through the nature preserve. It is the old version of the Pan Filipino highway, leading through Quezon protected landscape. Inside the preserve there are several spots to stop and take in the sights, explore some of what the park has to offer and just enjoy yourself in the forest.
It is as if time had stood still here, the ancient old forest makes you forget all the business of the surrounding area.
It is known by many names
The road come with many names. And therefore it might be confusing to find information about it. But on Google maps it’s simply called the “Old zigzag road”.
Some of the other names include;
Altimonan Zigzag Park
Altimonan Forest park
Altimonan Zigzag route
the old Zigzag route
Quezon Zigzag route
Butikang Manok Road
And I am sure locals will come up with more names for this road.
The Zigzag route
When you take the turn of the highway and enter the forest, the first thing you notice is that there is way less traffic, certainly no heavy trucks and trailers. A few kilometers in you’ll see why. Steep slopes and hair pin turns make up the famous Zig Zag road. Impassable for modern large trucks.
Yesterday we were headed out to Todos Santos for lunch and icecream and just a leisurely drive. After stopping for fuel near the Walmart in La Paz the BMW G310GS wouldn’t start anymore. Dead battery – Not just low voltage, but actually dead.
We know a local guy which provides great service – And also does comes to your aid as it turns out. So with waiting and checking the battery and replacing it we were back on the road 2 hours later.
But it made me wonder, the symptoms match a lot of quirks my F850GS Adventure has… Maybe that one is bad too?
Update: I have recently replaced the battery in my F850GSa and since then none of the software, abs, brake and brake light issues have reared their head. Which made me realize all the electronics on it are kind of a luxurious pest.
Yesterday I went to the Cabo area for some exploring and alone time. Along the way I found a jungle like area that reminded of me of the Philippines. Having barely dodged a rain storm everything was nice and freshly green after the rain forced the dust to the ground.
In May of 2022 I drove down to Cabo san Lucas for lunch and a bit of fun. Living in La Paz is great, but the city as a whole doesn’t have much to offer and a change of scenery is nice from time to time. Cabo is supposedly only a few hours away. And it almost is. The plan was to leave somewhat early, have some fun in Cabo and ride back at the end of the day. Simple as that. Continue Reading…
If you’re looking for a more fun way to get from Cancun to Merida but you don’t want to ride a boring and straight toll-road, MotoTravel has you covered!
Once you’re past Nuevo X-Can on the Quintana Roo – Yucatan border there are quite a bunch of options for more fun and adventurous routes.
I’ve been to Merida from Cancun a few times, and every time I took a different route. For a mid-week roadtrip I followed a rural route to Merida through the Northern part of Yucatan and spend a few days in Merida before heading back via a more southern route. Along the way to Merida I passed through several small and developing towns with old Spanish era churches and squares. Some with a market, others with just some shops. Continue Reading…
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