Saturday, April 14, 2007

Driving to Chacala from Puerto Vallarta

Driving to Chacala from Puerto Vallarta
And suggestion for driving in Mexico

Note that the time is Chacala is one hour earlier (Mtn time) than PV (Central). This is important when returning for your flight.

When you leave the airport, you will be following the signs to “Compostela.” If you are renting from one of the rentals counters at the airport, many of them are on the highway going north, and their van will take you from the airport to the car.

Then it is easy to go north (and trickier when you return). You want to be on Nayarít Highway 200, north. All the way from the airport to the turnoff to Chacala. The signs start out saying “Compostela,” which is much farther than Chacala. Nothing will say “Chacala.” Later in the journey, the signs will add “Tepic,” which is even farther, but tell you that you are on the right track.It takes about 90 minutes to get to Chacala, but it totally depends on traffic.

The first half of the drive is mostly in mountains. The highway is all two lanes, with no shoulders and few turnouts. Be patient. And watch out for impatient drivers.

Parts of this road carry a lot of traffic. You will pass by Sayulita, San Francisco, Lo de Marcos and El Monten. Then comes Guayabitos-La Penita, where there are four traffic lights.

The turnoff to Chacala is about 15 minutes north of La Penita.

The landmarks before the turn-off to Chacala:

When you pass a white LP Gas Station on the left, called “Global Gas,” you are getting close. About a mile past the Global station there is a string of fruit stands on the right. When you start seeing them, you know you are close.

The road to Chacala is a wide intersection on the left. In order to correctly make the left hand turn to get onto the Chacala road, you need to pull over to the right, on the gravel in front of the fruit stands, and stop opposite the Chacala road.

And then wait for a break in the traffic and zip across the highway. DO NOT stop on the highway and signal to make a left. You will probably cause a wreck if you do that.

There is a hotel called Dora Maria on the far left corner, across from the fruit stands. If you reach Las Varas, a town about a mile north of the turnoff, you will need to turn around and go back south.

To do that move over to the right lane of the highway and then move onto the lateral as it appears, on the edge of town. Drive on the lateral to the first signal, wait for a green arrow and go back out on the highway, heading south.


An important word to know when driving in Mexico is “Topes.” This word and the signs indicating them means that there is a major speed bump of some kind, often on major highways like 200. If you don’t see them and hit them at high speed, make sure your seat belt is fastened! They are used to slow down traffic at villages mostly. There are also areas with a set of grooves , intended to warn you of something.

Many drivers in Mexico over double lines, on curves, hills, etc., so stay sharp.

Passing: If you decide to pass someone, watch for the vehicle passing you while you are passing.
If you are behind a slow truck or bus grinding up a hill, and he gets to where he can see it is safe for you to pass (before you can see over the hill), he will put on his left blinker, to tell you to pass him. Of course, he may also signal left because he is making a left turn!

Left turns are variable, depending on road designs. In some towns like there is a single lane separate from the highway on each side. To turn left, you must get off the highway and onto this lateral, then wait at the intersection for a little green arrow to appear in the signal lights. Traffic will be stopped and you can make a left or U turn.

Other times there is a pull-out to the right, where you wait for your chance to dash left across the highway. The Chacala turn is like that. Do not stop in the highway with your left turn signal blinking.

Traffic signals begin to blink the green before they go to yellow and red. Most Mexican drivers ignore yellow, and many use the red to speed up. Your sudden stops at the first sign of blinking green or yellow will cause trouble. When in Mexico, do as the Mexicans.

Do as the Mexican drivers do. US-Canadian driving rules do not necessarily apply.The road may look the same but the rules are different. Pay attention.

Here are some road signs you might encounter:

No rebase = no passing

No rebase con linea continua = Don’t pass over solid line

Concede cambio las luces = lower your high beams (grant the changing of your lights)

Utilize su cinteron seguridad = fasten your seatbelt.

Moderate su velocidad = slow down (moderate your velocity)

Entroque peligroso = dangerous intersection or crossing (like truck crossing)

Topez a 100 meters = speed bump in 100 meters (300 feet).

No tire basura = don’t throw trash/ no littering

Obedezca las signales = obey the signals

Camino de bajo velocidad = a road of low speed

Conserva limpia la carretera = keep the road clean / no littering.

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