The Top 5 Mistakes Expats Make When Shipping Their Vehicle to Mexico

As a native of the United States planning a move to Mexico, you may find that it is nearly impossible to address all facets on your own. With all of the wonderful moving companies and transporters throughout the world, finding local businesses with the right services and qualities to assist your relocation shouldn’t be too complicated. Of course, you will need to make sure that the companies that you call for more information and quotes are verifiably experienced in international transport.

For more information on shipping your vehicle to Mexico, or to get a free quote see https://www.a1autotransport.com/ship-car-to-mexico.php or call 1-800-452-2880.

If it is a vehicle that you wish to transport to another country, it is nearly impossible to conduct the process without the services of qualified worldwide transporters. International auto transport companies like A1AutoTransport understand the difficulties of getting a vehicle into another country. They will do everything they can to make the process of shipping successful. Nonetheless, the outcome of the vehicle’s import into Mexico is also the vehicle owner’s responsibility. Without being aware of the most common mistakes that expats make when it comes to shipping their vehicle internationally, you could easily put your vehicle and your pocketbook in harm’s way.

 

  1. Paying a large down payment or for full services before the shipping process begins.
    Unfortunately, those unfamiliar with how auto transport works can easily fall into the hands of a scam artist. Nearly all reputable transporters won’t expect payment until the job has been completed and the vehicle has safely arrived at its destination. Be cautious of any company asking for money upfront.

  1. Not researching the transport company before hiring them for services.
    Researching the companies that are local to you is important. Find a transport business that specializes in international auto shipping and carries a well-noted reputation for their successful deliveries. They should also have proof of DOT approval and other facts validating their authenticity as a shipping company.

  1. Not asking if the company carries insurance coverage.
    It is quite uncommon for anyone to receive damages on their vehicle during the transport. Despite of this, if an accident were to occur while the vehicle was in the hands of someone other than its owner, insurance coverage is important. Your personal insurance policy is ineffective when the vehicle is the responsibility of someone else and therefore it will not cover the automobile during its shipping process. The added protection is a requirement for all transport companies and it helps guarantee their services.

  1. Not preparing the automobile as asked by the transporters.
    Despite the more arduous task of complying with the Embassy of Mexico in regards to the country’s import policies, the vehicle will need to be readied for its travels. The prep work is all in the best interest of the vehicle and those handling it during the shipping process. Fortunately, the requests include simple tasks such as cleaning the vehicle and making sure the fuel is less than a quarter full.

  1. Not presenting the proper documentation to Customs.
    If you hire a reputable overseas transport company, it is more likely that you will comply with the regulations of the import policy in place. The transporter will have experienced personnel help you gather the proper documentation. However, there are many individuals who fail to present the proof asked for. This will immediately put a damper on the transport process especially in a time crunch. Until all regulations are addressed and satisfied, the vehicle will not be permitted into the country.

Off The Grid Paradise in Tolantongo

My friends Aldo and Ray recently started a lifestyle brand called Cholula Nation with another friend of theirs, David.  In a nutshell, Cholula Nation seeks to share  the authentic experiences in Mexico with foreign students who come to study in Puebla. They promote personal and community development through trips, events, and activities. The trips are designed to help the foreign exchange students  to really understand Mexico in the short time they are here while they explore the wonders of the country with their friends. So yadda, yadda, Cholula Nation ran their first trip the first weekend of July. They were headed to Las Grutas de Tolantongo in Hidalgo. I wasn’t very psyched about the trip, but I wanted to support Cholula Nation, and I just happened to have two friends from the US coming to live in Cholula for the month so I thought it would be a good way for them to  travel a bit and get to know some people.

Now, after spending some time reasearching “Las Grutas de Tolantongo” and trying to get excited, Aldo later told me that the trip was actually to “La Gloria Tolantongo“, which was different than the main one. He explained that there were much less crowds and that it was much more awesome. Downside (for me), La Gloria only offered camping in a tent, while Las Grutas offered a hotel. I sucked it up and on Saturday morning Eddy, my two girlfriends and I headed towards La Gloria Tolantongo in Hidalgo. All was merry up until an hour away from La Gloria; cell phone service cut out (no GPS), and all you have to guide you are a few signs. Well, the only way to get to La Gloria is an hour ride twisting and turning up and down a narrow, unpaved mountain. I’m not going to lie, this caused me a lot of anxiety! But eventually, we arrived, and seriously, I was at a loss for words when I saw La Gloria.

Tolantongo is made up of waterfalls, baths, grottos, and rivers of hot spring water. It’s seriously a warm-bath paradise in the middle of absolutely no where in the mountains. I can’t really explain it so these picture will have to do!

La Gloria Tolantongo

grutas-tolantngo-cascada grutas-tolantongo-2

Las Grutas de Tolantongo

Las Grutas de Tolantongo

 I spent the day drinking in the warm rivers (95-100°F) and grottos as if I was a college kid again and actually had an awesome time!

grutas-tolantongo-jess grutas-tolantongo-3

 

The next morning, I realized there was a bridge that connected La Gloria to the main part, Las Grutas. To have access to “the other side” you have to pay an additional fee. Despite Aldo being right– there were tons of people at Las Grutas and practically NO ONE at La Gloria– I wish I would have known they were connected. Ideally,  I would have spent the day at La Gloria and then cross the bridge, pay the fee, and slept in the hotel at Las Grutas! I also heard that the road to Las Grutas is not as bad as the road to La Gloria (they are completely different paths). I probably would never make the ride up (and down) to La Gloria again, it was just too rough (and it rained at night so returning back to civilization was even worse). But now that I know that they are actually connected, I might try to go through Las Grutas.

La Gloria Tolantongo

mountaiins

 

For more information on Tolantongo, I advise first reading their Wikipedia entry here, then visiting their websites (linked above) and checking out all the Youtube videos– they are awesome. Special thanks to Cholula Nation for inviting me along on the trip!

Monarch Butterflies in Piedra Herrada

Mexico’s migrating monarch mutterflies is a miraculous event that happens not only in Michoacán, but just outside Valle de Bravo in Estado de Mexico too! A visit to the Monarch  Butterfly Sanctuaries of Mexico should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

Monarcas Mariposas everywhere

The migration of the monarch butterfly is something that I have been wanting to see for a long time; and for some reason, I thought the only place to witness the phenomenon was in the State of Michoacán.  After some planning to check it off my travel list this winter, I realized there was a  Santuario Mariposa Monarca (Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary) at Piedra Herrada near Valle de Bravo, only about an hour drive away from where we live in Mexico City!

There are actually several Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserves in Mexico, all designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In case you don’t know, the reason the monarch migration is so spectacular is because between late October-ish and March, millions of these butterflies come to Mexico every year from Canada– and it’s not the one, same butterfly that makes the roundtrip– it is a span of four generations! The first three generations only live weeks, and the last generation (which is the one that is in Mexico) sustain six+ months. No one is sure how the last generation of butterflies know the way to navigate to the exact same place every year, but they somehow make it! You can read more about it here.

[Read more…]

What’s New in Puerto Vallarta

Malecon Puerto Vallarta

The New Malecon

One year and 3 months had passed since I last visited Puerto Vallarta (the place I once called home when I first moved to Mexico). I consider Puerto Vallarta to be the best beach destination in Mexico; it doesn’t have the crystal clear waters like the Riviera Maya but it has the perfect blend of personality, Mexican culture, modern nightlife, and decent beaches. After so much time had passed, I was happy to return to Puerto Vallarta and I was excited to see how my old stomping grounds had changed.

Around the time I was getting ready to move from Vallarta to DF, the city was working on a complete remodelation of the Malecon and I didn’t get to stay long enough to see the finished product. Besides the remodeled Malecon, there were other new additions that I was excited to see , like restaurants, hotels and the Old Town Pier!

Here are some of the highlights and my thoughts of the ‘New Puerto Vallarta’:

Malecón
I wasn’t exactly thrilled with how this attraction turned out. In case you don’t know, the Malecón is the main ocean boardwalk lined with restaurants, shops, and night clubs. It took mountains of money and time for this remodelation and I was expecting something SUPER spectacular, like jumping fountains! What I found was dimly light walkway during the night and an overkill of street performers. The intricately talented sand castle makers where no longer prominent, the stone stackers were hidden beyond the ledge, and the Papantla Flyers in the middle of nowhere. However, with my high expectations set aside, it still remains one of my favorite things of Puerto Vallarta.  Some positives to this new layout is that cars are no longer allowed on a majority of the boardwalk and the outdoor theater has more space.

Puerto Vallarta Malecon

Hotels
Puerto Vallarta needed new hotels—desperately. It had been almost two decades since something new hit the scene close to downtown. If you cross the state border into Riviera Nayarit , you’ll find plenty of new, streamlined resorts…. but the problem with that is it’s too far and too expensive to get to Puerto Vallarta’s Centro from there.  Vallarta is a city to be experienced, not a place to hide in your hotel.

The newest property to be added to the Hotel Zone of Puerto Vallarta is the All-Inclusive Hilton Vallarta Resort, only 7 minutes from the airport. Opened in October 2012, this hotel is equipped with 259 hotel rooms, 7 restaurants, and an impressive spa (all which I got to experience first-hand). Although there are some kinks to be figured out, the Hilton brand stands out among the older branded hotels in the area. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this hotel to people looking for something clean and an all-inclusive hotel near downtown Puerto Vallarta.

New Hilton Vallarta

The second newest property comes from the line of AM Resorts, Secrets Bay Vallarta and Now Amber Vallarta. Opened in April 2012, these hotels are connected yet separate (Secrets is adults only and Now is family-friendly). This property really surprised me with how much personality and variety it had, I was literally captivated with something new every time I moved from the oceanside bali bed. It was classy, dramatic, clean, and unique. Hands down, if you are looking for the best hotel in Puerto Vallarta, this is it. I truly felt on vacation here! (Check out their YouTube Channel, and Secrets Society to earn FREE gifts!)

New Hotel Puerto Vallarta

Restaurants
Sadly, the Malecón had many newly closed restaurants with nothing to replace them. The only new restaurant that stood out was La Cerveceria Union. They had a very nice open-air atmosphere and advertise a Mexican-menu and fresh osyters bar. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and some-what authenticity of the food.  I have also been told that the oysters are legit (myself, not a fan). My mouth is watering just thinking about this place!

Another cool place I was surprised by was Los Muertos Brewing Company in Old Town –the first craft brewery in Puerto Vallarta. The beers were delicious and the batches are always changing, with wonderful variety and presenation accompanied with decent prices, this brewery is pretty cool. While I was there, they had a  Chili Ale that had a nice kick.They make their own brick-oven pizzas and other American favorites like BBQ ribs (but I would only come back to this place for their beer)!

Old Town Los Muertos Pier
After a  controversial three year wait for the pier, everyone is happy that it is finally open, including myself. It’s nothing wow, kind of random, but it’s good for generating  traffic to all the restaurants in the area ‘over the bridge’. You can never have too many pedestrian friendly walkways and it is a nice addition to the Malecon. 

 

Los Muertos Vallarta

 

So there you have it, the ‘new and improved Puerto Vallarta’. Besides the hotels, it isn’t all that shiny if you ask me.

Tequileros Making Tequila in Tequila, Jalisco

Headed to the Magical Town of Tequila? It’s a very informational and fascinating town especially if you visit one of the many tequila factories. I myself learned lots on a Jose Cuervo Factory Tour!

Tequilero

What comes to mind when I say “tequila”? Or actually, what type of face do you make when someone says “tequila”? I bet you’re doing it right now! If your reactions are not of beauty and fascination, you have some learning to do about Tequila. Tequila is more than a Jose Cuervo that burns your throat, it’s a beautiful town and landscape in Mexico.

I don’t know what it was like back in the day, but apparently the drink has been gaining popularity (45% consumption increase in  past 5 years) which is  no wonder why now all the rappers “got patron in they cup”…  People usually have a love/hate relationship with tequila but recently, its origin  have been gaining appreciation.  Tequila, Jalisco is the birthplace of the most representative beverage in Mexico is the proud producer of the worldwide spirit that bears its name.  ABC, MSNBC, and USA Today  all ran an article about this small town in Jalisco, Mexico – just outside Guadalajara. Living in Puerto Vallarta, Tequila was only about 4 hours away from me, so Eddy and I decided to rent a car and go see what the hype was about.


This  Magic Town sits against the Tequila Volcano which overlooks the valley encompassed by endless landscape of perfectly lined of blue agave plants. Built around Tequila’s main square of beautiful fountains and fresh flowers are the distilleries of popular producers such as Sauza and Jose Cuervo.  Despite being the “Disneyland” version, Eddy and I decided to tour the Jose Cuervo factory. The tour slots for the next 2 hours were full so we were scheduled for late afternoon and in the mean time decided to stroll around the zocalo.

Starting off with a visit to the 17th Century stone Santiago Apostol Church  we then hit all the ‘highlights’ listed on the map I picked up from the Tourist Info Kisok. The town was cute, however I think the true highlight was eating a juicy Torta Ahogadas (pork sandwiches drowned in a spicy red sauce – famous to the Guadalajara region) and sipping on nothing other than some tequila.

When it came time for us to head over to Mundo Cuervo, we were ready! Let me start by saying that what many people do not know is that tequila is not something that should be taken as a shot; rather it should be treated as a fine wine, acknowledging the various aromas and savoring ever nuance in flavor. Appreciating the smells and tastes of the actual liquid is one thing, but a true appreciation of Tequila comes from seeing the process of its creation from start to finish. In a small VIP group, we visited fertile agave fields, wandered through picturesque courtyards of the hacienda and toured the actual production factory. With the largest distillery in Latin America, the Cuervo brand started distilling a private tequila called ‘Reserva de la Familia’, reserved only for the Cuervo family. As time went by, they decided to share a very limited amount which is exclusively made in Mundo Cuervo, housing only barrels of Reserva during a specific season. I was able to try a very small sample of this limited edition tequila, and not exaggerating, it was one of the best Tequila Anejo’s I had ever tasted. No joke.

At the end of the tour, we learned how to distinguish quality tequila – much like you can distinguish a fine wine. One way is to swivel the tequila around in a glass and notice if any drops stick and form along the glass, the more droplets that adhere to the glass, the better the tequila. The other way, which I found most fascinating, is that Tequila has three very distinct scents depending on which part you smell.  Starting at the bottom portion of your glass, this is the scent where you appreciate the key ingredient, the aged agave plant, distinguished by its pungent scent of alcohol. Moving up to the middle portion, it is differentiated by a sweet fruity floral smell, much less harsh than the fragrance at the bottom. Reaching the top one-third portion of your glass, the aroma changes from a nice spring day to a warm cozy fire, emitting a rich wood smell due to the aging process in the barrels. Detecting and savoring each scent and learning about the long process and stages it makes to produce tequila, I developed a strong appreciation and understanding of the intricate process.

After a 3 hour tour around the facilities and numerous taste testing and margaritas (complements of the tour), I headed to the National Tequila Museum where, through its collections, I gained an even deeper understanding regarding the cultural values of the tequila region, which I learned was recently declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

 

Reflecting on our day trip, I learned more about Tequila then I ever thought imaginable, both the drink and the town. Both are unique and representative of the country in which they reside. Having only spent a day in Tequila, there’s still more to discover. The town has many other “tourist friendly” facilities and tours, including the infamous Tequila Express train ride and the giant tequila bottle-bus city tour – which are on my list next time!

 

Alebrijes in Mexico City

Giant alebrijes in Mexico City have become a modern and cultural tradition bringing attention to this unique Mexican folk art. Vibrant colors, intricate designs, and imaginative animals line the street on Reforma every October. 

Intricate Neon Alebrije

A big plus to living in a big city is that there is always something going on. Most of my favorite happenings in Mexico City occur on its main road, Paseo de la Reforma. This road can pretty much take you across the whole city and it is where the iconic Angel de la Indepencia is located.   Never is there a dull moment or shortage of pedestrians on Reforma because it is always lined with interesting art and photos, exhibitions, and sculptures that usually revolve around a theme.  I’ve been living in Mexico City for exactly a year now and I have to say, the most impressive by far has been the display of giant alebrijes.

[Read more…]

The Nanciyaga Experience in Catemaco, Veracruz

Catemaco, Veracruz is known for its beautiful wildlife and spiritual shamans. Take a trip to discover the mysticism that can be experienced on Nanciyaga Island.

Nanciyaga Kayaks

This year, Mexico hosted their first ‘Adeventure Travel Mexico’ trade show, ATMEX, in Veracruz. Lucky me, I was invited to participate on behalf of the Mexico Tourism Board and because of Journey Mexico’s affiliation with ATTA. Not only was I invited to attend the conference, but also to travel for several days prior! The conference’s theme was “Breaking New Trails” and showing off the adventurous side of Veracruz. The pre-trip included stenurous days of mountain biking, ziplining, and white-water rafting in Jalcomulco with Mexico Verde. After we were all worn out, the group of 50 was transported to the nearby town of Catemaco.
Catemaco is located in la Sierra Los Tuxtlas region and is pretty much the only pueblo that borders the large lake, Laguna Catemaco. It is known for many things: birdwatching, alligator island, monkey island, los brujos (witch doctors) and fishing. Our group had the choice of either kayaking to see wildlife or visiting the nearby island of Nanciyaga, where the witch doctors are. Me, being totally into the universe and psychics and all that, I was totally psyched to visit witches!
Our call time to be transferred to Nanciyaga was at 6:30AM. I was miserable that morning- I hadn’t woken up that early since high school! Thankfully, my grumpiness soon faded as I boarded the lancha (boat) and saw the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen in my life. The local fisherman were already out on the waters bringing in their nets…. and watching them do this as the water and sky transformed into different colors…. was really just an amazing and serene moment for me. When we arrived to Nanciyaga we feasted on a home-grown, vegetarian-friendly breakfast followed by a tour of the property. We all got purifying mud mask treatment before partaking in the spiritual ceremony.
The spiritual ceremony was intense. The shamans gave us limpias (cleansings) of our negative energies and bad auras. We sang, danced and many of us transformed and healed (no joking– this stuff can be powerful). I recorded it all on tape (yes, VHS ;-)) and put it into a lovely show for you!

This ceremony is open to the public during the Festival de Los Brujos, or better called, “Vive la Magia en Catemaco”.  It happens once a year, the first Friday of March.

XelHa or Xcaret

Want to know the difference between Xelha and Xcaret?  If you’re like me and find yourself short on money and/or time on your upcoming trip to Cancun and can only choose one eco-park,  let me help you pick!

Beautiful Xcaret

In the last ten years,  I have had the pleasure of visiting Cancun and the Riviera Maya a total of seven times. I always called it “Mexico’s Gateway Destination” and after a three year break of discovering other places and beaches in Mexico,  I finally returned to the crystal blue waters of the Riviera Maya. One thing that was on my to-do list was to visit one of the several eco-parks, something I had never done on my many spring break trips. I knew I wanted to see either Xelha or Xcaret , but I couldn’t decide which one or tell the real difference between them. I found myself asking the same question I am sure many vacationers strapped for time ask themselves, “Xelha or Xcaret?”

[Read more…]

Desierto de los Leones

Wondering what to do in Mexico City that isn’t in most tourist guides? Desierto de los Leones National Park is the most underrated place for picture perfect natural beauty, history, and great eats!

Ex-Convento del Desierto de los Leones

When people think of the parks and green areas of Mexico City, what usually comes to mind first is Chapultepec Park. While Chapultpec is on most tourist’s to-do list alongside other modern and ancient attractions, what usually is overlooked is Desierto de los Leones National Park. It is hands down my absolute favorite getaway located just outside the business district of Santa Fe, inside the limits of Mexico City (Cuajimalpa). A true sight of natural beauty and fresh air, it is a refreshing contrast to the bustling life of the millions that engulf the megalopolis every day. [Read more…]

Huasteca Potosina and Xilitla

My most favorite places in Mexico are in the Huasteca region of San Luis Potosí.  Skeptical of what would be there and wondering how to get to Xilitla, I soon discovered it truly is a surrealists dream set in the jungle.

Hands reaching out of the Earth

In 2011, the town of Xilita was named a Pueblo Magico, or Magic Town, in the state of San Luis Potosi. Xilitla forms part of the Huasteca Potosina region along with  Ciudad Valles,  El Pozo de las Golondrinas, Tamúl, Tamasopo, Consuelo and Taninul. In case that makes no sense to you,‘Huasteca’ refers to the northeast part of Mexico (compromising of some of the states around the Pánuco River) and home to the indigenous Huastec people and speakers of the Huasteca Nahuatl dialect. ‘Potosina’ refers to the state, San Luis Potosí. [Read more…]