Travel Tips for Mexico
When to Go: For the Valles, the season is from October through December. October can be too high. I think end of November is usually ideal for having padded runs. I think we got a little lucky our year thanks to high water earlier in the season that resulted in medium flows continuing through the new year.
Border Crossings: There are lots of Border Crossings. On the way down we used Laredo, TX. On the way back we used Fort McAllen. I would recommend the second one as it resulted in less in country driving. One thing to keep in mind is that not all borders are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Check it here. Also, don't ever use El Paso as it drops you off in Juarez which is the most violent town in Mexico
Passport: If you are American, you need a passport but not a Visa. Always keep your passport on you.
Immigration Offices: So, on your way into the country the immigration offices are easily missed at many border crossings and thus many people pass them, can't find an easy way back to them wihtout going back over the border, give up and continue into the country. This will come back to bite you. At every police inspection, federale inspection, and random cop pulling you over to shake you down, your papers will be inspected. Without them you could face jail time thought most will take $20 and turn the other way (this may be changing with the current war on drugs). On your way back across to the US, at several border crossings the sign for the immagration office is after the turn and immediately upon the bridge of no return, thus screwing you out of going back. This is important because if you don't cancel your tourist visa and car permit, they charge your credit card hundreds of dollars a year. And of course they will tell you that the only way to cancel the permits is to be in person at the border you crossed... which is a problem if that border is a 30 hour drive away from your home. So... find the office before reentering the US.
Mexican Car Insurance: If you are going to be taking your car with you, Mexican Car Insurance is required for your car at the time of crossing the border. Thus, obtain it via a google search prior to driving down across the border. They will verify that you have the insurance when you get a car permit at the immagration office.
Tourist Car Permit: To take your car into Mexico you will need a permit. Obtained at the Immigration Office at the border (or I believe online), it costs ~$45 but also requires a substantial deposit on your credit card ($200-$400 depending on age of car) that is refunded at the time of permit cancelation. And this is where they get you. (See Immigration Offices bullet)
Tourist Visa: Avoid shake downs and/or arrest. The visa is not a "Visa" like you think of for travel to foreign contries. Every tourist in Mexico requires one of these. Pick it up for ~$20 at the Immigration OFfice at the border. Make sure you cancel it at the Immigration Office before crossing back into the US.
Driving: First thing, cross with a full tank and drive it until it is nearly empty before filling up. The border area is the most dangerous right now, it is best to not stop anywhere near the border. Second, the driving is a bit crazy there... be ready for scary passing on narrow roads. Good luck. Also, bring a map.
Airport: The nearest airport to the Valles area is in the city of Tampico. Not sure what the rental car situation is there.
Water: Don't drink the water, don't eat veggies that are washed in water (salads, apples, etc), don't get ice in your drink even if they say "Gringo Ice" it isn't worth the risk, and brush your teeth with bottled water.
Vaccinations: Hepatitis A and B are required. If you are going to a tropical region, Yellow Fever can also be vaccinated as a precaution though rare. I am not aware of any places in Mexico requiring Malaria.
Food: Find a Taco station which consists of nothing more than a grill and some chairs (optional) next to a busy road in a city and get some tacos. So good...
Boats: Kayak Huasteca and Agua Azul rent boats as do a couple of other outfits down there.
Accommodations: There is camping and tent-cabins on the river throguh Kayak Huasteca and Agua Azul (we camped 10 feet from the water, and took off of the Micos section at our camp... wonderful. Huasteca also has an inn 15 minutes away in Ciudad Valles (or some connection with a hotel or something).
Weather: Some days in November/December/January are hot, others are rainy and cold. Even in our short 6 day trip I was glad to have shorts and t-shirts as well as pants and sweatshirts.
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