Getting to Querétaro...
Important Notice on Travel Documents:
"The U.S. Departments of State and Homeland Security have announced that beginning January 23, 2007, pursuant to the Air portion of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), United States citizens and citizens of Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda traveling by air between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda (Western Hemisphere) will be required to present a valid passport to enter or re-enter the United States. There are two additional documents that will be acceptable for air travel. The first is the Merchant Mariner Document (MMD) or “zcard” issued by the U.S. Coast Guard that will be acceptable for use under WHTI by U.S. citizen merchant mariners traveling on official business. The other document is the NEXUS Air card, for which enrollment is limited to citizens of Canada and the United States, lawful permanent residents of the United States and permanent residents of Canada.
Travel to the United States through land and sea border crossings will be addressed in the second phase of WHTI, which is expected to be implemented as early as January 1, 2008. Under Phase Two when implemented, U.S. citizens traveling between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda by land or sea will be required to present a valid U.S. passport or another secure identity document as determined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
U.S. citizens can find information about how to apply for a passport on the Department of State’s website at www.travel.state.gov. Foreign nationals should contact their country’s passport office or consulate in the United States.”
Computers and/or Printers:
If you plan to bring a personal computer and/or printer, please note that laptops are exempt from custom duties so you can bring your laptop without any worries.
Direct Flights to Queretaro
The new Queretaro International Airport (QRO)has direct flights from Houston on Continental Airlines. There is only one flight a day each way so that often it will be more convenient to connect through Mexico City airport or take the bus from the Mexico City airport.
Before departing, the ticketing agent will check your passport and give you a form to fill out for your entry into Mexico (tourist visa). Remember that you will enter Mexico as a tourist. This is an important form and should be kept with your passport at all times. Also, on your flight, you will be given a card to fill out with items to declare, the flight number you are arriving on, your address in Queretaro, and other general information.
Mexico City Flights
Upon arrival at the Mexico City airport (MEX), you will deplane and go through the process of Customs clearance. Have your passport and both forms you filled out, ready to hand to the officials. Your passport may or may not be stamped - don't worry about it. At this point, your tourist visa will be completed. The tourist visa will be valid from one to six months. If asked how long you plan to remain in Mexico, say six months.
After this is done, you will proceed to the baggage claim area to collect your luggage.
From this point, for your last "clearance" you will be instructed to push a button on a "traffic light". If you get the green light, you may proceed with your luggage to the arrival hall. If you get the red light, your luggage may be inspected.
The most up-to-date information can be obtained at the Mexican National Immigration Institute's web site. Remember that you will enter Mexico as a tourist and all forms given to you must be protected and should be kept with your passport at all times.
If you plan to return home on a plane originating at MEX, be sure to get to the airport 2-3 hours before your departure time. Expedited check-in is generally not available for international flights, you must go through several security checks before boarding your plane and many of the gates at MEX use shuttles to get to the airplanes on the tarmac, so you must be at the gate 20 minutes before departure.
Getting to Queretaro from MEX by bus.
There is very good bus service that takes you directly from the Mexico City airport to Querétaro.
Upon clearing customs you exit the area through double glass doors. Straight ahead are metal posts. We suggest that you hire a porter to carry your bags. You have a ways to go to get to the bus and they can show you where it is. They are paid by the load, not particularly for their time. So, if it takes a bit of time to get through the terminal, not to worry. They expect to be with you until you are finished with a need for their service.
You can ask the porter to take you to the bus stop by saying: “Llévame a Primera Plus para Queretaro”.Money exchange houses are in this area. On the way to the bus stop you might exchange some money there to use for the rest of your journey-as dollars are not readily accepted for services.
Your porter will take you to the place where you buy yopll catch your bus. The bus is “Primera Aero Plus”, a first class express bus that will take you directly to the first class bus station in Querétaro. (About a three-and-a-half hour ride)
Buses leave about every hour from 7AM until the last bus at 10PM. It sometimes happens that a bus is fully booked and you may have to buy a ticket for the next one.
After arranging for your ticket, the porter can leave your bags with you to wait for your bus. (A typical tip might be 10 pesos (about $1.00 per bag) When the golden colored bus arrives it will say "Primera Aero Plus" on the sides. In front on the window will be written "Querétaro".
Take your bags to the baggage handler who will load them in the storage area below the bus and give you claim tickets for your luggage.(tip-5 pesos per bag- (about $.50 cents per bag) You will typically receive a small lunch upon boarding the bus. Your ticket is for an assigned seat. You will find monitors showing videos features during the trip. A bathroom is located in the rear of the bus.
Getting to Queretaro from the US by bus.
There is also a bus service that will take you directly from San Antonio to Querétaro. The trip is about a 15 hours overnight and costs about $60 each way. Omnibus Mexicanos is the name of the company and it also offers service to Houston. You you will still need to fill out your form for entry into Mexico (tourist visa). Remember that you will enter Mexico as a tourist. This is an important form and should be kept with your passport at all times. If entering Mexico by bus or car it is wise get your visa paperwork taken care of before you leave since the bus lines are not as diligent about helping you with your immigration papers as the airlines are.
Arriving in the Queretaro Bus Station
- You will get off the bus at the first class terminal in Querétaro. Upon retreiving your bags, you exit the area through double glass doors. Straight ahead are metal posts. We suggest that you hire a porter to carry your bags. You have a ways to go to get to the bus and they can show you where it is. They are paid by the load, not particularly for their time. So, if it takes a bit of time to get through the terminal, not to worry. They expect to be with you until you are finished with a need for their service.
- If you have lots of bags, ask for a porter to help with them. They are paid by the load, not particularly for their time. So, if it takes a bit of time to get through the terminal, not to worry. They expect to be with you until you are finished with a need for their service. “Llévame a taxi”.
- Follow the people leaving the bus to enter the terminal. There you will pass through a room with a turnstile at the end. Past the turnstile is a ticket booth where you will purchase your ticket for a taxi to take you to where you are going. Show them the address and they will sell you a ticket at the proper rate.
- The porter will take you to a line of people waiting for a taxi to town (tip- 10 pesos per bag). The porter or the driver will load your bags into the cab (tip-10 pesos per bag), the cabbie will collect your ticket and take you where you are going. You may choose to tip the cabbie if he is helpful with handling your bags upon arrival at your destination. ( tip- 10 pesos per bag ~ $1)
Arriving by Car
This may the most practical way to travel if you are bringing your family or if you want to spend several days visiting various cities in central Mexico. Make sure you leave yourself enough time for a relaxing journey. Also, it is a good idea to plan to cross the Mexican border before 9 AM. This will give you ample time to account for border delays (count on several hours). Your first driving experience in Mexico should definitely be in the daylight.
Crossing the Border
There are two major border crossings most commonly used on the way to Queretaro: Laredo, and MacAllen. Choose the one that seems most convenient to you based on your driving route through Texas.
Once you have paid your toll to leave the U.S. side and crossed the border onto the Mexican side, you will drive through Mexican immigration. They have a random system for checking vehicles. As you drive through the gate, you will either trigger a "green" light or a "red" light. If you get "green", you do not have to stop. If you get "red", you will be directed to pull over and your car is subject to inspection. (Common "red" items are: stereos, CD's, computers, - pack on the bottom, not visible).
Once you proceed, you should look for the small blue signs that direct you (in English and Spanish) to the vehicle registration office where you will obtain your personal tourist visa and a permit for your car. You can not drive to Queretaro without obtaining:
- A personal tourist visa
- A permit for your car
To obtain your tourist visa and car permit (importacion sticker), you must have your driver's license, your title of car ownership, your passport and a credit card. All of these documents must be in your name. The only person who can drive the car across the border is you. No exceptions!
This procedure is done by lots of people every day so it is not a very difficult process. If you are lucky and arrive when there are no lines, you can be out in 20 minutes. If there are a lot of people, it may take as long as one to two hours.
Get your personal tourist visa first, this has nothing to do with the car. The Laredo/Nuevo Laredo office is the largest. It tends to be a little busier, but probably demands the least amount of sign language by non-Spanish speakers. They are geared up for tourists and are the most efficient and well-organized.
MacAllen is smaller and there are no signs directing you to the counters. The people here are friendly, but do not speak much English. A big smile and a lot of patience will go a long way. You will probably bump into an English speaking person who has done this before and will help translate.
After obtaining your tourist visa and car permit, you will continue on your way first towards Monterrey. You will come to another immigration stop about 26 kilometers later. You will once again go through the gate and either hit "green" or "red". After completing that process, you head on towards Monterrey and later on to Queretaro.
The major raods in Mexico comein three basic classes:
- autopista = freeway (like a superhigway)
- carrertera prinicipal = main road (could be federal or state)
- carretera secundaria = secondary roads (like country roads or farm roads)
The autopistas (or libramientos) usually have 2 ways to get to a destination; the toll road which says "CUOTA" and also the side road that is free. We strongly recommendthat you take the toll roads. They are faster, safer, and more visible, although we have heard reports that many of the "libre" are just as good. The tolls are pretty expensive (at least in mexican standards). Don't be surprised to pay 140-170 pesos on each toll road.
There is an excellent toll highway for most of the route to Monterrey from both the Laredo and MacAllen border crossings. Look for the signs that say, "Monterrey" or "Mexico". The basic route to Queretaro from McAllen/Reynosa goes like this:
- Federal Libramiento 40 that takes you from Reynosa towards Monterrey and to Saltillo
- Before reaching Saltillo, take take federal highay 57 towards Matehuala
- Reaching Matehuala, take Libramiento 57 that leads to San Luis Potosi.
- Go around San Luis Potosi and head to Queretaro on 57.
If you decied to drive in Mexico spend the money to get a good Mexico Road Atlas...if you get a good one, it will give you tips on cool things to see along the way.
Having A Car
Taking a car to Querétaro is not a necessity but gives a great deal of flexibility for your trip. Car repairs are inexpensive relative to U.S. standards since labor costs are quite a bit cheaper, though getting import parts can be tricky. Gasoline costs are twice the U.S. prices.
If you decide to bring your car into México, be aware that your American car insurance will not be valid here. You must purchase Mexican car insurance before you cross the border. This insurance is only valid in Mexico. This insurance is available through insurance agencies based in the border towns. One such company is Sanborn's of Texas, located in either Laredo or McAllen, but you may get cheaper insurance elsewhere. We suggest you compare rates. You may purchase a policy for a two week time period to cover your immediate needs.