Home How To Guide How To Navigate the Canada to Mexico Route: Ken’s Journey from Alberta to Mazatlán

How To Navigate the Canada to Mexico Route: Ken’s Journey from Alberta to Mazatlán

by Andrea Titzer


Embarking on a cross-country road trip is a thrilling adventure, especially when your final destination is the cosmopolitan city of Mazatlán, Mexico. Join us as we delve into Ken Jakubowsky’s incredible journey, filled with scenic landscapes, unexpected encounters, and invaluable tips for those considering a similar road trip.

Alberta to Mazatlán: The Route

Ken, a Bayside Real Estate Mazatlán agent, kicked off his journey in Medicine Hat, Alberta on November 30th, 2023, setting the wheels in motion for an approximate 4,500-kilometer drive to Mazatlán. With a love for exploration, Ken opted for an 8-10 hour driving schedule per day, covering the distance over five days and four nights.


Van Life: The Unconventional Choice

For his road trip experience, Ken decided to purchase an old van for the journey, leaving his newer vehicle behind in Canada. Equipping the van with a top rack, he created a nice space in the van for rest during the drive. A cot on one side provided a comfortable sleeping spot, and Ken spent two of the four nights under the stars in his trusty van.


The Scenic Route: Highlights and Pit Stops

Day 1: Alberta to Idaho

Ken crossed the border at Coutts – Sweet Grass Hills, traversed through Montana, and entered Idaho. He stopped and rested close to Idaho Falls after 10 hours of driving. Despite encountering a blizzard when he woke up, he navigated through winter conditions and carried on.


Day 2: Utah to Arizona

Driving through Utah, Ken visited the red rock desert in Moab before reaching Mexican Hat and Kayenta. An overnight stay at the Cameron Trading Post, near the Grand Canyon’s South Rim, added a touch of Western-style charm to his journey.

Day 3: Grand Canyon to Nogales

An early start led Ken to the Grand Canyon’s Southern Rim, where he enjoyed the breathtaking scenery from the different lookouts. Since it was early, he says he had the Grand Canyon all to himself.  It was -7. Passing through Williams, he stopped off at the Bearizona Wildlife Park, a drive-through wildlife safari through the Ponderosa pines. He continued on through Flagstaff, and Sedona, Arizona. He experienced the changing landscapes of Arizona, driving through several National Forests.   Temperatures went up through the forests as he came down off the plateau of the Grand Canyon.

He drove past Phoenix eventually reaching Tucson, then Nogales.

Ken slept in his van in a parking lot behind a Best Western in Nogales on the Arizona side. Ken had heard it was best to hit the border in the mornings and not drive in Mexico at night.


Crossing the Border: Navigating Nogales, Sonora

Reaching Nogales, Arizona, Ken geared up for the Mexican border crossing. Sunday morning brought a bit of confusion due to two border crossings in Nogales, but he quickly figured it out with the help of some friendly locals.

Nogales, Sonora, Mexico offers two border crossings from Nogales, Arizona, USA. The first, located in the city center near the end of Interstate 19, utilizes the old main streets of both towns. Upon crossing into Mexican Nogales, you find yourself on Calle Lopez Mateos, leading southward and transforming into Mex 15 – the primary highway connecting to Mexico City and various destinations across the country.

The second crossing, situated several kilometers to the west, is accessible via Mariposa Road, an industrial truck bypass stemming from I-19. This crossing has limited hours, open only from 6 AM to 10 PM. In Mexico, this route transforms into the Libramiento, winding through industrial areas before connecting with Mex 15 at the southern edge of town.

It’s important to note that stopping at the Nogales crossings is not necessary for obtaining the Tourist Visa and Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TVIP). These documents are issued at a roadside Customer and Immigration Terminal, Asadero 21, a little further along the route, located 21 kilometers south of the city at the km 257 marker alongside Mex 15. This facility features Banjercito services, accepting payments for all necessary documents and the mandatory TVIP security deposit. Major credit cards are accepted.

You will need photocopies of your vehicle insurance, driver’s license, tourist visa and passport.

It took Ken about 3 hours to work through the process, which was easy enough in itself. The detail was that Sundays proved busier than other days because people are able to drive down to this crossing and renew license plates. So Ken suggests choosing a day besides Sunday to cross the border.

Read more:

How To Import a Car to Mexico

Day 4:  Nogales to Ciudad Obregon

Continuing on Highway 15, Ken passed through Hermosillo and to Ciudad Obregon, choosing to stay overnight at the Holiday Inn. He emphasized the importance of not driving at night, opting for a leisurely journey with daytime driving hours.


Day 5: Ciudad Obregon to Mazatlán

Then next day, Ken drove another 7 hours to Mazatlán. By getting on the road at sunrise, he arrived in Mazatlán around 2pm.

Read more:

Travel Roadmap – Driving to Mexico – West Coast Route from Canada to Puerto Angel


Warm, Friendly Locals and Great Food

Throughout his drive, Ken interacted with locals, emphasizing the warmth and helpfulness of the people. He sampled roadside taco stands, enjoyed homemade offerings at toll booths, and appreciated the beauty of each region. He always made every effort to stop and talk with people along the way.


Recommendations and Reminders

  • Ken’s advice for anyone considering the road trip includes making sure you have Mexican insurance on your car. It is mandatory in Mexico. Ken says he found very reasonable insurance with Mexpro for about $230 for 6 months of insurance.
  • Night driving should be avoided.
  • Ken says being open to spontaneous conversations will allow you to easily talk with people.
  • He says ensure you have the necessary documentation for police checks, just the usual document: vehicle registration, insurance, passport, tourist visa.
  • Ken says he felt it was important to have two wallets, one with an old id, expired credit cards, business cards, etc. and a small amount of cash in each.
  • Ken recommends knowing your directions and not depending completely on Google Maps. He says sometimes there is no signal for a while so it’s important to know your directions.
  • He says it’s important to be careful around the toll booths just for the amount of people coming around selling homemade food. He says don’t be hesitant about buying this food. It’s all homemade and delicious and is another opportunity for conversation.
  • He says if he had more time, he would have taken the opportunity to visit more things on his trip. So he says if you can plan to take some extra time, the beauty of the scenery in the heart of North America is well worth it.
  • You will likely be stopped by the police for routine checks. Ken was stopped twice where the police checked his paperwork and the amount of cash he was carrying. Since 2020, the Federal Police who were famous for bribes, have changed. Lopez-Obrador reformed the National Guard to take over the Federal Police force and this change has created a significant difference throughout the country.
  • Gas in the U.S. was slightly cheaper than in Canada but gas in Mexico is more expensive. Ken suggests using Premium fuel in the car once you get in Mexico especially for older vehicles.
  • Ken says you will need to have cash in pesos to pay for tolls. Toll costs vary from 28 to 300 pesos. He recommends having about $100 CAD in pesos on you.
  • While Ken says the highways are in good shape all the way down, he says you have to always be careful in Mexico for the famous “topes” or speed bumps.

Read more:

How to Drive Safely in Mexico


Wrapping Up the Adventure

Ken’s road trip from Canada to Mexico was an incredible journey filled with unforgettable moments. From the snow-covered landscapes of Idaho to the warm hospitality of Mexican locals, Ken’s trip is a testament to the joys of the open road. Ken says he felt safe during the entire trip and is considering doing the trip in reverse when he drives back to Canada. At one point in Mexico, he ran out of pesos and was looking for a bank. A person got in his car and led him to the bank. He says people were helpful and warm.

If you’re considering a road trip from Canada to Mexico, Ken’s story is full of insight. So, buckle up, plan your route, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime!

If you’re ready to invest in your condo or investment property in Mazatlan, get in touch with Ken.

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