Route we took Driving from Calgary, Alberta, Canada to Merida, Yucatan, Mexico

Our family drove in September of 2012 leaving on the  Labor Day Monday with two adults, two kids, and our dog in a fairly loaded up van complete with a roof top carrier and a bike rack. The drive itself was amazing and we are so glad we did it. Driving through Mexico was beautiful and the scenery we saw was very unexpected. Definitely worth taking the time to see.

I do have many pictures of the trip, but unfortunately I need to recover them from my computer before I can post them. I will post them as soon as I am able.

This is the “coles notes” version of the trip.

Road Trip

Day 1

  • Lethbridge, Alberta  to West Yellowstone , Wyoming 
  • Highway #4 to  the Coutts border (Kurt decided to get a gusher of a bleeding nose 3 cars before we hit the immigration officer)
  • Highway #15 -Border to Great Falls- stopped for  Lunch and Gas. **  Thanks to Dave and Monica for packing us delicious sandwiches!
  • Highway #15 –Great Falls to  Helena to Butte
  • Highway #90 – Butte  to Bozeman
  • Highway # 191 – Bozeman to West Yellowstone
  • Dinner in West Yellowstone (Pizza), highly recommended by front desk and was very good!
  • Stayed overnight in West Yellowstone at Comfort Inn $180 per night ( including Pet Fee)

Day 2

  • West Yellowstone – Grizzly/Wolf Rescue Sanctuary – Family of 4 -$32.00 – definitely worth seeing and supporting if you like bears and wolves- our son Evan said it was his favorite part of the trip.
  • Spent the day in Yellowstone National Park
  • Park Pass -$25
  • Saw Old Faithful, Morning Glory Pool, Many Geysers, Painted Mud Pots
  • Left Yellowstone National Park from the East
  • Highway # 20 towards Cody.
  • Dinner in Cody (Wendy’s)
  • Highway # 120 – Cody to Thermopolis.
  • Stayed overnight in Thermopolis at Days Inn -$118 (including Pet Fee)

Day 3

  • Highway # 20 Thermopolis to Shoshoni  to Casper.
  • Highway # 25 – Casper  to Cheyenne àDenver
  • Highway #70 – Denver to Burlington
  • Lunch in Cheyenne (Subway)
  • Dinner in Burlington (McDonalds)
  • Stayed the night in Burlington at Comfort Inn -$145 (including Pet Fee)

Day 4 

  • Highway #135 – Salina to Wichita
  • Highway #35 – Wichita to Oklahoma City
  • Lunch in Salina (Taco Bell)
  • Dinner in Oklahoma City (Western Sizzlin Buffet)
  • Stayed the night in Oklahoma City at Best Western -$130 (including Pet Fee)

Day 5

  • Highway #35 – Oklahoma City to Dallas/Fort Worth to Waco to  Austin to San Antonio
  • Lunch in Fort Worth ( Panda Express- Chinese)
  • Dinner in San Antonio on the River Walk  (Hooters)
  • Stayed in San Antonio 2 nights  at La Quinta -$157 per night (including Pet Fee)

Day 6

  • San Antonio
  • Alamo- Free + Alamo IMAX -$45 (45 min show-worth seeing if you have no clue about the Alamo)
  • Lunch (Jack in the Box)
  • Dinner (Italian on River walk-downtown san Antonio)

Day 7

  • Highway #35– San Antonio to Laredo
  • Lunch in Laredo (Arby’s)
  • Dinner in Laredo (Sushi)
  • Stayed at La Quinta -$95 (including Pet Fee)

Day 8

  • Laredo / Mexican Border
  • Bridge #1 – went into the line “Items to Declare”
  • Had all of our items in numbered bins and a corresponding list itemizing each bin ( In English and Spanish) + Had our dogs Rabies Certificate and Vaccine records.
  • Charged us  $626 MX  ($50 US) for all of our things.
  • After  the border went to Aduana/Immigration  to register our Van (attach our van to our FM2 visas)

When you leave the customs area you turn right.. follow that road until you see a “U-turn” sign on your right hand side (this is maybe 500 meters down the road …follow this road around to the right and under a bridge and the Immigration Building will be on your right hand side (It will feel like you are driving back towards where you just came from)

Inside the building go to Booth 1- this is where you show them your Passports, Visas and tell them you want to register your vehicle with your Visa. They will stamp your passport and send you to Booth 2.

Booth 2 was where I showed her all the documents needed to attach my van to my F2 Visa

    • FM2 Visa –Original and copy
    • Drivers Licence – Original and Copy
    • Car Registration – Original and Copy
    •  Mexican Car Insurance –Original and Copy (we got this organized before we left Canada)
    •  Certificate of Car ownership-Original and Copy
    • ( We had a letter stating that the van was paid in full from Honda)
    • You tell her how you want to pay- If you pay Cash – it is $50 + $350 deposit
    •  If you pay by Credit Card –they only charge the $50
    • Then she will send you to Booth 4 which is where you Pay.

Now that we have all of our documents in order we are on our way!

**NOTE– When possible take the Quota Highway (toll road) –the  number usually has a D after it or if you see a sign that gives you an option of Quota or Libre to your preferred city ALWAYS take the Quota. Sometimes you will drive a little ways on the regular highway and then get on a Quota for part of the time.

  • Highway #85 and 85D – Laredo to Saltillo
  • Before you actually hit Saltillo you will get onto the Quota to go to San Luis Potosi
  • About 20 km from Laredo you will come to another Immigration stop where you will get the Green light or Red light….we got the Red Light…L but after showing the officer our Duty receipt she just let us go (thank goodness we didn’t have to empty the Van again!)
  • Highway # 57 and 57D -Saltillo à San Luis Potosi à Queretaro à San Juan del Rio
  • Stayed the night in San Juan del Rio- $480 MX ( $40 US) **Tried to stay in Queretaro but could not  find a hotel that would take pets.
  • Lunch –was snacks in the car
  • Dinner- San Juan del Rio (McDonalds which had wifi and from there we looked up hotels in San Juan del Rio)

Day 9

Highway #57 and 57D – San Juan del Rio à Mexico City


  • Arco Norte – Mexico City to Puebla
  • Highway #150D – Puebla to Orizaba to Cordoba to towards Veracruz
  • Highway #145D –towards Minatitlan
  • Highway # 180  and 180D – Minatitlan to Villahermosa  (careful on part of this highway-TONS of potholes)
  • Lunch in Puebla (pizza)    No Dinner-just beer for Kurt-stressful day!
  • Stayed in Villahermosa at the Hilton $145 (including Pet Fees)

**Drive all the way through Villahermosa on the main drag-stay in the left lane-once you are through town follow the signs to the airport-DO NOT TAKE THE AIRPORT EXIT-keep going and just past the airport exit you will see the Hilton on your left on a hill. As you pass it get in the left lane and take the Retorno (about 1 mile) past the hotel. Get into the right lane as you come back towards the hotel and you can pull into the driveway heading up to the Hilton on your right.

Day 10

  • Highway #186 and 186D – Villahermosa to Escarcega
  • Highway #261 – North to Champoton ( Stay Left at the Burger King in Escarcega)
  • As you approach Champoton you need to make a LEFT towards the coast. Turn left at the Intersection with a statue in the center of a traffic circle…when you get to the coast take a Right and follow it through town (curvy  road with lots of topes) This is Highway 180 along the coast.
  • Highway 180D – Quota to Campeche then Highway 180 again- to Merida.
  • Once you get to Merida you get on the Periferico and head towards Progreso!  HOME!!


Gas (Van)       

Yes, fill up when you can!! even when you might not be empty. You can see a couple of times where we were very close to empty and driving in to gas station on fumes (my dad would not be impressed!).

    • Lethbridge- $67
    • Great Falls – $60
    • West Yellowstone- 38
    • Thermopolis – $54
    • Cheyenne – $42
    • Salina – $60
    • Limon -$27
    • Oklahoma City – $40
    • Wichita – $60
    • Fort Worth – $60
    • San Antonio- $60
    • Laredo – $60
    • Saltillo – $51
    • San Luis Potosi – $40
    • Puebla – $60
    • Arco Norte- $42
    • Minatitlan- $37
    • Villahermosa -$35
    • Escarcega – $42
    • Total – $935


TOLLS in Mexico:

Ok, so tolls in Mexico… Lots of them! and they add up quickly. Be sure to have enough pesos just set aside for tolls.  Have about 1500 pesos just for tolls! Many parts of Mexico as you drive on the toll road do not have bank machines. Our credit card company activated the anti-fraud on our card and we were unable to use it at and we had depleted our pesos. If you are using your credit card for tolls and gas be sure to let your credit card company know in advance!

  •  Total – $103

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10 Responses to “Route we took Driving from Calgary, Alberta, Canada to Merida, Yucatan, Mexico”

  1. Gunther says:

    Nice job! Enjoyed the specific information you provided. Waiting for pictures! Dad

  2. Jen says:

    Fantastic overview! We are from Calgary as well and are planning a move to the Progreso area in the next few months, would love to make that road trip but I’m sure my 2 cats would have something to meow about.

    • Kurt says:

      Yes, I am not sure cats make the best travelling companions! Our little pug who is quite old, did fantastic. It seems like it doesn’t matter to him where he is sleeping, just as long as he can sleep most of the day. Have a great trip!

  3. Philippe D. says:

    Great road trip. We are from Calgary too, almost ready for pre-retirement in a couple of years. The Merida area is at the top of our list due to many factors including its relative proximity to Canada. Although I work for an airline and have access to standby travel to and from practically anywhere in the world, the fact that we can drive back home is a big factor in our choice of destination.

  4. John Sellhorn says:

    Bought a home in Merida 4 years ago. Best thing we have done in years. Great article.

  5. Julie says:

    Hi Kurt – Thanks so much for the article. It’s helping me quite a bit. We are going to make an extra stop at Mount Rushmore but the rest is fairly similar. Your trip from Laredo to Progreso looks like quite an aggressive timeline. Did you have to do any night driving or were you able to make the stops before dark? The one I’m particularily concerned about is the first stretch after doing customs in the morning, can you make it all the way to Santiago de Queretaro before dark? Do you have any wiggle room if you get stuck at customs for a while. Thanks, Julie

    • Kurt says:

      Hi there, we tried not to do any night driving and except for a couple of hours right before Villahermosa we did not drive at night. We had tire trouble that day and had to drive very slow for the last 150km or so to Villahermosa. The first day really depends on the border crossing and how early/quickly you get through. Have a plan for either a very short day of driving to get settled in before dark, but have an option that if you get through quickly you can keep driving. We made to about 100km short of Mexico city that day. Queretaro was a goal and we got their in the day light, but they had NO hotels which would take dogs so we had to keep driving to the next city that would take dogs.
      Safe travels,

  6. Dhalia says:

    so appreciate this post! We are a family of 6 From Arkansas, that are planning to make this move hopefully in the next 6-9 months. Ive been all over the net looking for ever bit of info i can find.

    We are planning on coming in on a tourist visa and renew at the 6 month interval for a year. I hope this is a do able idea! We are trying to decide between the Lake Chapala area and the Merida/Progreso areas.

    great blog :-) thanks

  7. Elaine says:

    Awesome read thanks so much. We are in Edmonton and just bought in progreso. Will hopefully remember all this cause we might make the drive in a year or two when we are finally retired.

  8. Barb Croft says:

    Thanks Kurt! I sure appreciate hearing from u as I was getting very annoyed at some of the responses on Mexican Amigos! I am sure and I have checked your blog that it will not cost us anywhere near what we pay to rent a Merida. And as there is just the two of us and we r kinda old we will be spending even less than u folks did! I have followed yr blog for a while now but just couldn’t Remember what it was called. Thanks for replying and if u don’t mind can I ask u questions directly? I don’t need those folks to tell me anymore to buy a car down there! I just wanted a route! Some people’s children! Muchos gracias!

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