Sunday, February 8, 2009

Driving and Tolls

Before setting out on a drive in Mexico, we perform several rituals to ensure we get to our destination. Google maps and GPS devices are first-rate resources in the US, but here, hard copy maps are essential if you own a car. First, we pull out two varieties of the Guia Roji, must-have maps for this country. The first one we consult is the Mexico City Guia Roji to guide us out of our metropolis. It seems a little ridiculous to consult a map to get around in your own city, but I swear we'd be dead if we left home without consulting it first. Not only does this city love one way streets, the streets go by several names. (I think the only street that doesn't change names is the longest one, Insurgentes. Ironic.) The second Guia Roji we then consult is the country guide that then gives us a sketchy idea of how to reach our destination. It's more of a rough guide that we're going in the right direction (as in, "Oh good, we're going east!"), not necessarily a detailed play-by-play. 

Another equally important ritual we endure is thinking about how much cash we should bring just to pay the toll fees. It's a pricey luxury here to use a paved road without potholes or speed bumps (for example, round trip from Mexico City to Acapulco is 1008 pesos ($72)!). Everytime we approach a toll booth, I worry that we don't have enough cash with us, and then my imagination wanders into bad places like Mexican prisons. It's ridiculously expensive, and if you plan to use the toll roads, be ready to hand over your life savings.

All this to say that I've found a lovely website created by the Secretary of Transportation that will not only give you a detailed route of how to get from point A to point B, it also gives you the exact toll fees. This site is the equivalent to Google Maps for Mexico. So no more sweaty, desperate searches in your wallet for cash--you can prepare all your tolls in advance and surprise everyone with your god-like knowledge. Although you can't enter in the exact address of where you want to go, it gives you enough information and then you can ask around for the rest. 

And the final ritual is to pray to Montezuma that he won't have his revenge on us as we indulge on edible delights that await us.


  1. If you do a lot of traveling in Mexico you might want to consider and IAVE card. IAVE stands for Identificación Automática Vehiclar or Automatic Vehicle Identification that allows you to pay tolls electronically. The initial cost of the transponder is about 50 dollars but after that you can either prepay your IAVE account or have the tolls automatically charged to a credit card in a monthly billing. There is a discount on toll charges of about 6% for using the IAVE system so it doesn't take too long to cover the cost of the transponder. If you go to the site

    and click on the tab "Contratación" you will find a list of places where you can arrange for this. Don't worry. There are a lot of places. I have an IAVE card and I find it quite helpful.

  2. Thanks, Bob, for the info. We'll be looking into it. Does the toll tag privy you to a lane where you can pass through without slowing down?

  3. No, Alice, you still have to slow down but it is very easy and pain free. I generally don't even come to a full stop. Sure beats fumbling around with money.