Planning a Driving Trip
to San Carlos Mexico

Drive with instructions
and pictures all the way!

Table of Contents


Are you a bit nervous about driving to Mexico? Not sure what paper work you need? You can’t read the road signs because they’re in Spanish? You looked on the Internet and have been overloaded with information but cannot find exactly what you are looking for? Well, let us help you. Get yourselves to Tucson, Arizona and Gary and Donna’s Trip Guide will take you to San Carlos and back.

Allow us to introduce ourselves: we are Gary and Donna Goldstein. We own Gary’s Dive Shop and Boat Trips in San Carlos, Sonora Mexico. We immigrated to Mexico from Tucson and have lived and done business in San Carlos for thirty-four years. We have driven safely and enjoyably from Tucson to San Carlos and back for all of these years. We have learned through experience and customer feedback that if you know what comes next on the trip you will have a safe and fun adventure, instead of having a trip fraught with uncertainties.

Driving Guide to San Carlos, Mexico

We have created a step-by-step pictorial guide for driving to and from San Carlos departing from Tucson. With these instructions and pictures you will feel very secure in your adventure. The tips that we are passing along answer our friends and customers most frequently asked questions.

We will discuss:

  • Need-to-know tips before leaving
  • Obtaining visa’s (tourist permits) including bringing minors
  • Car papers
  • Recreational vehicles including boats, jet skis, ATV’s, and motor-homes
  • Insurance
  • The easiest route south to San Carlos
  • A listing of some of our favorite businesses and folks
  • Emergency telephone numbers

With this guide you will be comfortable traveling into Mexico because you will not have to guess where you are or if you are going in the right direction. We will explain the tollbooths, highway signs and your best plan of action if you are stopped by the highway patrol. We will take all of your worries out of traveling from Tucson to San Carlos for an enjoyable, fun vacation.

Special Mexico Travel Safety Advisory

  • CRIME in the USA vs. MEXICO:
  • Just about every country in the world is now experiencing increased crime rates. However, there are usually safe areas in every country where the crime rate is lower or non-existent. The U.S. State Department put out a warning about the violence in Mexico. The report states that 128 Americans were killed in Mexico between January 2006 and December 2008.
  • Looking more closely at the data for the northwestern part of Mexico, including Rosarito Beach, Ensenada, Mexicali, San Felipe, Tecate and Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point) had 42 Americans killed, from all causes (there were at least four suicides) in the last three years combined. Those are the largest tourist areas of Northwest Mexico, excluding Tijuana. In Los Angeles County, there have been 103 murders in the last six months. In 2008, there were 324 homicides in L.A. County. People in Los Angeles would probably say that there are certain unsafe areas to avoid. According to the latest FBI crime statistics, Phoenix, AZ is the kidnapping capital of the US. People in Phoenix would probably say that there are certain unsafe areas to avoid. People living in Mexico would say the same thing.
  • For more than a dozen years more than five major US Motor Coach Tour Companies travel the Mexican Copper Canyon route every week with around 40 older/retiree passengers per coach. They travel through Nogales to San Carlos, then through the Copper Canyon, then up through Chihuahua and Juarez. There is even one company that travels exclusively from El Paso/Juarez to the Canyon and back; the areas covered by news reports. That's over 7000 tourists per year. In all those years, including 2009, there has not been one incidence of drug related violence against any of them.
  • Recent FBI statistics show the murder rate per 100,000 inhabitants in Baltimore is 43.3, Washington DC is 29.1, and Detroit is 47.
  • Mexico, which suffered an especially violent year in 2008, recorded a murder rate of about 10 per 100,000 inhabitants. Life is statistically far more dangerous in the north.

More information from the latest 2009 US State Department Travel Advisory: While millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year (including thousands who cross the land border every day for study, tourism or business), violence in the country has increased recently........Common-sense precautions such as visiting only legitimate business and tourist areas during daylight hours, and avoiding areas where prostitution and drug dealing might occur, can help ensure that travel to Mexico is safe and enjoyable........U.S. citizens should make every attempt to travel on main roads during daylight hours, particularly the toll ("cuota") roads, which generally are more secure.

Reports of violence are extremely overblown. Some recent visitors to Mexico say the reports of disorder have been overly exaggerated. Paul G. from Arizona said "I would definitely say that the impression that the Americans get in the media is more intense and hyped-up than reality." Richard L. from New Mexico said "Millions of people go to Mexico every year without any incident whatsoever. However, I never drive my car at night and I always use the toll roads rather than driving through towns and cities. It's faster that way, too." Henry G. from Nevada said "The situation is grave in some sense, but it's not that significant for most tourists......But people need to be careful and stay informed where the major incidences are happening." Nancy K. from California said "People who know Mexico will keep going. It is less expensive than many places, and it is easier to get there." She continued "But then, I'm cautious. I don't do stupid things. I dress appropriately and I'm not rude to people. I try to speak Spanish as much as possible," she said, "These are all the things that I do as a traveler anywhere." Looking at crime statistics, it would appear that Americans are safer in Mexico, especially Sonora, than they are in many parts of the United States. There is violence in Tijuana and other border towns, however generally the violence is Mexicans against one another (much like gangs or gangsters of 1930's Chicago prohibition), the vast majority of Mexico's murder victims are themselves involved in the drug trade. This is also true with kidnapping, it's not tourists or snowbirds. It's also important to remember that the rise in violence is due to the pressure being placed on the cartels and corruption by a Mexican President and new administration that is dedicated to clean things up and removing as much corruption as possible.

On a personal note, Donna and I have traveled to and from San Carlos for more than 40 years. We have always traveled the main Federal Highway 15 and used common sense. We follow the rules. Neither we nor our friends or customers, to our knowledge, has ever been the victim of any drug related violence. We are not experts and we can't tell anyone what to do, but we do personally travel back and forth. Please feel free to contact us at our toll free number 1-866-356-1236 or see

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Copyright © Gary and Donna's Pictorial Driving Guide to San Carlos, Mexico 2006. All Rights Reserved.