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Thread: mexico alone??

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    New Zealand eleanor's Avatar
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    mexico alone??

    Gudday. I'm a 31 year old woman who has previously been cycle touring alone in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. I had a marvellous time, and despite everyone's warnings met with no trouble at all. I would like to return to the Americas, and I'm thinking of Mexico, but many people have told me that this country is considerably more dangerous than many other Latin countries. Does anyone have experience of cycling there, and would like to offer advice? I want to know if I'm being naive or foolish to go as a woman alone, or if the warnings simply come from other people's paranoia. Cheers!

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    Member rimugu's Avatar
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    Well..

    Quote Originally Posted by eleanor
    Gudday. I'm a 31 year old woman who has previously been cycle touring alone in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. I had a marvellous time, and despite everyone's warnings met with no trouble at all. I would like to return to the Americas, and I'm thinking of Mexico, but many people have told me that this country is considerably more dangerous than many other Latin countries. Does anyone have experience of cycling there, and would like to offer advice? I want to know if I'm being naive or foolish to go as a woman alone, or if the warnings simply come from other people's paranoia. Cheers!
    I don't see how Mexico can be any more dangerous than Bolivia or Argentina (specially with the economic problems they have right now). If you have ridden that much alone you probably know as much as you should know about riding in third world countries, they all have the zones you would not want to visit and the zones are reallly nice, both in general security and pedaling security (that is true for any other country for that matter). The only time I have been arrased while riding my bicicle was in the united states, although I must recognize that the wider lanes in US are usually better.
    I live in Northern Mexico (next to USA). And I know both general and riding cultures, if you have more specific questions, ask me.

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    Dunno about Bolivia, but argentina and chile are generally much safer (and better developed) than mexico.
    However, it really depends on region and safety is all relative. If you know what you're doing, are fluent in spanish, and don't have anything flashy, I'd think you'd be fine.
    Note that facilities will be much worse. Where you'd drink the water in Argentina, I wouldn't in Mexico.
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    Every day a winding road spinnaker's Avatar
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    Well if you ignored the advice of others before why are you asking here? I say you already have used up all of your luck traveling through Bolivia. I would not travel alone through Mexico and I am a 6'1" 185 lbs. male.

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    New Zealand eleanor's Avatar
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    Hey thanks to all for the advice so far. In my past experience with cycle touring there will always be someone who tells you that it's too dangerous. People have even warned me against cycling in totally benign countries such as france and england. So in order to go anywhere at all I have had to ignore people's paranoia. However, I discovered in South America that asking other cyclists is the way to go. They give you real advice, not just fear mongering, and that's the reason I'm asking here.
    I imagine that yes, some parts of Mexico will be safer and more tourist-friendly than others, but as I'm only in the beginning stages of trip planning I still don't know which areas could be good and which should be avoided. Rimugu, perhaps you could help me with this? Are there any areas of Mexico you wouldn't go on a bike?
    I'm reasonably fluent in Spanish (still struggle for the odd word but can definately hold a conversation), and like to sleep in my tent. What do you think about camping in mexico? Is the wildlife dangerous? Are the men dangerous?!

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    You might want to check out crazyguyonabike.com There are two journals that have women cycling alone in Mexico. The latest is a featured journal entitled, "Bici and the Bee Head South". About 80 percent of her trip is with a partner, then she solos it to Guatelama. The other journal I highly recommend can be found by using the Hitlist, is by author Heidi Donn??? She wrote two journals, which I couldn't stop reading. She only mentions one incident with fellows being a nusiance. Heidi only stealth camps, so she just hid beside the road when the drinking fellows came back around. Bici, on the other hand stayed in campgrounds or hotels mostly when by herself. Currently, there are 3 female cyclists on tour in the US with journals on crazyguyonabike.com I am following their stories, as I would like to take off next year. I have been saving my vacation time for a couple of years. Debbie

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    I've travelled in Mexico 4 times, twice on my bike. My first bike trip there was in the Yucatan, the 2nd tour was in Michoacan & Jalisco states. The Yucatan felt extremely safe, as safe as anywhere I've been, thanks to the Mayan culture there. I'm a guy, but I later helped 2 women plan a tour in the Yucatan and they reported afterwards that they felt extremely safe, too. I preferred the touring in Michoacan, however, and I felt safe there, as well. I was with a friend on each of my tours, and I speak Spanish moderately well. If you're especially interesting in Mayan ruins & Mayan culture, then by all means go to the Yucatan, but I'd advise you to travel there only between December-February, when it's drier, less hot & sticky, and mostly bug-free. It's hot, steamy, and full of bugs in the wet summer season. My tour there was in February when it was fairly comfortable. I found the landscape in the Yucatan somewhat boring as it's mainly flat and scrubby. The Pu'uc hills south of Merida were an exception and it was my favorite part of the Yucatan.

    Michoacan is mountainous, green, and has some wonderfully diverse sights. My friend & I rode most of the way between Morelia and Guadalajara. Morelia, Patzcuaro, Uruapan, & Paricutin are all wonderful places to visit, on or off a bike. That was a January trip.

    It is very easy to put your bike on buses in Mexico. It was completely painless, and most 1st & 2nd class buses seem to have large areas underneath for luggage.

    I haven't camped in Mexico and wouldn't.

    I have heard of a few isolated areas where there have been problems reported with bandits. Specifically, I have recently heard of problems in southern Chiapas state, and earlier, I heard of problems in rural Guererro state and coastal Oaxaca state (but the mountainous part of Oaxaca state seemed quite safe to me when I visited there without my bike 18 months ago). Personally, I would also avoid most of the border area near the US, too. For the most part, Mexicans are wonderfully warm and kind people. The two best things about Mexico are the people and the food!

    Spinnaker, have you ever biked in Bolivia or Mexico? While you do make a point, I'll point out that you yourself seemed to ignore the consistent advice you were given by several folks regarding where it's best to bike in Italy. Eleanor makes a good point, however, regarding soliciting advice from experienced cyclists rather than folks who haven't done it.

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    New Zealand eleanor's Avatar
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    good stuff!

    Hey, thanks to everyone who has posted so far. Every bit of advice and information is really useful. I'm just off now to check out those links...Oh, and sorry for sounding ignorant outashape, but what's a hit list?
    Last edited by eleanor; 06-21-06 at 03:53 AM.

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    I remember quite recently reading about a couple cyclists who were attacked in southern Mexico. This, I think, has given rise to a few more reports or scare mongering but how many are urban legends and how many actual events is not clear. I can't remember the website of the cyclists who were attacked right now -- sorry -- but I think they were raising money for diabetes and I think I saw the link to their site on the Lonely Planet's On Your Bike forum. You might do a search. Best regards.

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    I wouldnt go to Mexico if i won a vacation and was given a free bike.
    Touch every 3rd person and you'll find an idiot.

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    Quote Originally Posted by avatarworf
    I remember quite recently reading about a couple cyclists who were attacked in southern Mexico. This, I think, has given rise to a few more reports or scare mongering but how many are urban legends and how many actual events is not clear.
    I read the same reports, and they were in southern Chiapas, not the Yucatan peninsula. Both are part of southern Mexico, but they are nonetheless very different areas, and I wanted to make sure folks reading this don't misinterpret it. I haven't heard of any reported problems regarding cyclists touring in the Yucatan.

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    jwa
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    Quote Originally Posted by eleanor
    I imagine that yes, some parts of Mexico will be safer and more tourist-friendly than others, but as I'm only in the beginning stages of trip planning I still don't know which areas could be good and which should be avoided.

    Jealous? Heck yeah, we're jealous.
    Except maybe shokhead.
    Nah, he is, too.


    http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_p...s/cis_970.html
    http://www.lonelyplanet.com/worldgui...merica/mexico?
    http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/mxtoc.html

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    I can't coment on Mexico, but I think danger is a somewhat useless concept. If you talk to people who travelled through Mexico (or anywhere else) and didn't get hurt it's rather like talking to people who walked through a sparse mine field unhurt. Doesn't mean there aren't any mines, and it only tells you so much about the density of their placement, and nothing about how powerful they are. Sure you probably need to gather some intelligence, but based on the CIA's recent experiences we know that A) people only hear what they want; B) much of the information is misleading.

    It really comes down to you. Some people think a bike trip through southern Ontario is a suicide mission, really. In your case by now, one hopes you know the kind of aura you give off, how people react to you, maybe you can anticipate something about mexican culture that is likely to jibe better or worse with those facts; you know how badly you want to do this trip; maybe you know something about how it will affect the rest of your life if some routine tragedy hits you; you can think through how you would deal with any problems, or try some other approach.

    Good luck.

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    Member rimugu's Avatar
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    You ask, I answer as best as I can

    Quote Originally Posted by eleanor
    I imagine that yes, some parts of Mexico will be safer and more tourist-friendly than others, but as I'm only in the beginning stages of trip planning I still don't know which areas could be good and which should be avoided. Rimugu, perhaps you could help me with this? Are there any areas of Mexico you wouldn't go on a bike?
    I'm reasonably fluent in Spanish (still struggle for the odd word but can definately hold a conversation), and like to sleep in my tent. What do you think about camping in mexico? Is the wildlife dangerous? Are the men dangerous?!
    Yes I can help you. Mexico has different types of cities and climates, do you have a preference?

    Places to avoid would be, south Chiapas, federal district, Oaxaca and local areas within each state, tell me what you would like and I will tell you what I know.

    In Mexico there hardly any camping specific places, but there are lots of places to camp either getting the owner acceptance or just by camping making sure not to bother anyone.

    Water quality varies greatly from city to city so it depends. It may taste different in each place, but that is not necessarily directly related to quality (Plano, TX water is the second worst tasting water I have ever drank, yet they told me it was safe). It is food that tends to hurt more, the different type, the condiments, the chile, you know the Moctezuma revenche.

    Roads are usually narrower and or with limited shoulder than in US, but that also depends on if it is a federal or state road and if it is a toll free road or a toll road.

    outashape suggestion is really good. I just read the journal by Heidi and it was really fun, she went thru all my state and had some really weird experiences.

    You ask, I answer as best as I can

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    05 Roubaix Comp Double
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    Quote Originally Posted by jwa
    Not! Anyway, why go when its just like Mexico in North Long Beach where i go everyday to work. Viva banditos.
    Touch every 3rd person and you'll find an idiot.

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    New Zealand eleanor's Avatar
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    Gracias

    OK. Thanks everyone for the advice so far, and the great links. I'm checking them out.
    Here's what I have in mind (only in beginning stages of thinking about it, but getting more enthusiastic by the day)...
    I have wanted to visit Baja for a long time, and still do even though I hear it's sort of like little-U.S. with all the tourists. Might be a good place to start though, I thought, to acclimatise. After that, I'm not sure exactly....I would like to experience different climates, some desert (I LOVE deserts, especially ones with lots of cactus) and some greener places too, jungle maybe.
    A few people now (not just on this forum) have told me that Chiapas is somehow less safe, even a bit menacing in atmosphere. Can anyone tell me why this might be? Is it a lot poorer than the rest of the country; are there drug plantations or something??
    I'm reading about Chihuahua right now on Heidi's weblog. Sounds just like my sort of thing...lots of backroads and unsealed surfaces, plenty of places to camp and friendly people. That's the sort of thing I'm looking for. I really love camping, but am always sure to hide myself from the road. I always think that the likelyhood of anyone finding me is so tiny, that the likelihood of that person happening to have murderous intentions is extremely small. It COULD happen, but then again so could getting run over by a taxi in London (actually, there's a pretty big risk of that!) In towns I always take a cheap hotel room, and if I ever feel unsafe when camping then I keep going till I find somewhere really hidden, or find a hotel. Axolotl, you say you wouldn't camp in Mexico...can I ask you why this is?
    And another question for anyone who knows...If I do end up camping someimes, would I need to be worried about scorpions or snakes?
    I don't have any particular desire to visit big cities, prefering smaller towns or provincial capitals to the hustle and bustle and traffic and pollution of the metropolis. I do love new cities, but prefer to visit them when I'm not on my bike, and as I'll be escaping the clutches of London I will be more than happy to stay out in the back-woods for a while!
    My plan so far goes: Fly to San Diego, cycle to the south of the Baja Peninsula, cross to the mainland and... from there my plan goes hazy. The Yucutan sounds nice, as does Michoacan.
    Rimugu, thanks for your advice about roads and water. It sounds like you know your country pretty well, is this because you've cycled around it yourself?
    No doubt I'll have dozens more questions when I've done more reading. So please keep checking this thread!
    Muchisimas Gracias a todos.
    Last edited by eleanor; 06-22-06 at 06:36 AM.

  17. #17
    Member rimugu's Avatar
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    Keep asking

    Some areas of Chiapas (not all of it) are not good to visit, since about 10 years ago there was something like a small armed pseudo-independentist revolution. Now they are more like a radical political movement, but still I won't go there (yet).

    Scorpions and snakes can be a problem but only in certain areas, for example, the state of Durango has the scorpion as a local symbol and there are sure scorpions in the area.

    My cycling experience around Mexico is very limited, I have been a life long cyclist, but I am a novice tourist. I have traveled since I was a kid, I don't know the any of the peninsulas yet (Baja California and Yucatan), but I know Michoacan since my wife was born there and she lived there for about ten years. Since I married here I have gone there about twice (by car), a nice place although I am more of a decert and forest person.

    Now some advices about people. Mexico is mostly mestizo (mixed indian and european), but there are indian people, mostly south but also some in north. Most of the indians are really shy people and usually look with suspicion anon familiar event or person, they don't like talking much but in general are calm people. You may be mistaken by a gringo (US people) but although the term gringo used to be derogatory and war shout (it was derived from "green go") these days is just a way to avoid calling them Americans.

    Anyway if you want to send me a private message or keep asking in the open thread you are welcome.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eleanor
    Axolotl, you say you wouldn't camp in Mexico...can I ask you why this is?
    And another question for anyone who knows...If I do end up camping someimes, would I need to be worried about scorpions or snakes?
    I don't have any particular desire to visit big cities, prefering smaller towns or provincial capitals to the hustle and bustle and traffic and pollution of the metropolis. I do love new cities, but prefer to visit them when I'm not on my bike, and as I'll be escaping the clutches of London I will be more than happy to stay out in the back-woods for a while!
    There are a few reasons why I wouldn't camp in Mexico. 1) I got sick of camping many years ago. 2) I'd rather not carry camping gear. 3) Hotels are fairly cheap in Mexico (though not as widely available as I would like). 4) In the 2 regions in Mexico where I have biked, there was rarely a secluded spot away from civilization. 5) It seems to me that there's more inherent danger being in a tent than in a hotel room.

    Accounts I have read from people who have camped in Mexico have usually recommended asking permission. They said the answer is nearly always "yes", and the locals will then look out for you. Sometimes you will get an invitiation for a meal or a roof over your head, too.

    As for snakes, I've never seen one in Mexico, but the entire country has venomous snakes. Probably the northern half of the country, which is mostly desert, has the most, mainly different rattlesnake species. Gila monsters, too.

    This anecdote won't matter for cycling, but I recall reading a herpetologist's comment that the only place in the world where he was ever afraid was an uninhabited Mexican island in the Gulf of California (off Baja), because there were rattlesnakes everywhere he looked.

    Many Mexican colonial towns are wonderful places to visit and should not be missed. In north-central Mexico, the high desert town of Zacatecas, for example. Further south where it's greener, Guanajuato. Morelia, Patzcuaro. Many more throughout the country.

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    gnz
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    Hi, yesterday I finished a three month tour of Mexico. Im the male partner on that "bici and the bee" expedition mentioned earlier in this thread. You can see my journal here.

    As you can read in our journal pages, we had to finish the trip on our own since we had different destinations and had to split in Oaxaca.

    We camped a lot and let me tell you that it felt totally safe all of the way except for one single time where my partner got someone peeking into her tent at night. That only case we had camped inside someone's yard (with permission) but we were in plain view from the road and near a town where many people had seen us earlier when we stopped for dinner.

    From that experience and all the others while camping I have refined some pointers for successful stealth camping in Mexico:
    • Dedicate at least the last hour of sunlight to find a suitable camping spot.

    • Avoid camping near towns, leave some 5km distance more or less.

    • Look for a way into the bush where cars cannot pull over, otherwise you will be nervous trough the night as people pull over for various reasons including going to the bathroom and such (I had drunken guys stop to sing, then another stopped for a kid to throw up.. etc.. was such a miserable night).

    • Most fields in Mexico will be barb wired near the road, in my experience this is to keep livestock in and not to keep humans out.

      Which reminds me... more than once we were visited by livestock during the night, so be prepared for the sounds of a huge animal wandering near your tent... In my experience it was never a problem other than the disturbance at night, the animals seemed to be really quiet and minding only their pasture business.

    • A few times early in the morning some farmer spotted us/me and we just exchanged "good mornins" (just say the generic 'buenas' as a short for either 'buenos dias' or 'buenas tardes'). By their looks it seems they're amused from the extremely rare sight rather than anything else.

    • Just one time did my parner find a huge scorpion had taken shelter under her tent floor while camping on the desert, well.. if you're camping in the wilderness you will have to accept there's wildlife around, just take care.

    • We also tried the 'asking for permission' approach, I wouldnt reccomend that in Mexico because: It is so hard to tell who owns or is in charge of the fields, you would have to ask around town for quite a bit. Asking is usually when in towns where there's lots of people (curious, good/bad intentioned) around. If there's people you will have noise. In towns they have the custom of announcing things over loudspeakers from early in the morning until late at night... Of course this doesn't mean that asking wouldn't work all the time, I remember one successful 'asking for camping' where the owner of a restaurant let us stay on the parking lot.



    Okay what else? I'll be glad to answer any specific questions so let me know.

    --
    Gnz

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    Member rimugu's Avatar
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    Nice

    I am reading your partnes journal, I will read yours next.

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    Mexico Maps

    There are several sources for Mexico maps with different degrees of accuracy and detail.
    You can start with these online resources:

    - For a good general overview in English
    http://www.maps-of-mexico.com/

    - Road atlas from the government agency that handles transportation (not exactly bike oriented, but nonetheless useful) Spanish
    http://portal.sct.gob.mx/SctPortal/a...geLabel=P24095

    - Interactive map from the government agency that handles statistics (you can even get elevation curves) Spanish
    http://galileo.inegi.gob.mx/website/...423&s=geo&md=d
    These same guys have printed topographic maps of all Mexico.

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    What a great trip journal, gnz, and superb photos! You even made it all bilingual. You really give folks a good idea of what to expect when touring in Mexico. Thanks for putting it all together. (and I will certainly defer to your experience and advice when it comes to camping in Mexico, since you've actually done it.)

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    New Zealand eleanor's Avatar
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    Hey thanks a lot GNZ (how do I pronounce that?...I've been wondering!) I have been reading "Bici and the Bee" which really has given me a great idea of what it feels like to cycle in Mexico, especially from a woman's point of view. I'll definately read your journal now too. This forum is GREAT for meeting people who actually know what they're talking about.
    Thanks for the tips/advice about camping. You sound very sensible but not at all paranoid. In fact, if I had to write camping tips for anywhere in the world, I would have said pretty much exactly what you have recommended. I never camp near towns, because, as you suggest, the more visible you are the more chances you give to anyone with bad intentions. And yes, the few times when a farmer or passer-by has come across my tent they are usually surprised and friendly, as well as sometimes delighted that I have chosen their land or strolling spot for a campsite.
    I'm off to read your journal now, and I may very well fire some more questions at you soon...
    And Rimugu thanks heaps for the map links. I'll check those out. Also the info about Mexican people. I've experienced this shyness and slight wariness from indigenous people in Bolivia, so I know what you're talking about. In my experience there they were only really (REALLY) talkative when they were totally drunk. Which seemed to be quite often!
    And what's this about private messages? I'm new to all this forum stuff so I don't know how to do that...I'm just a little bit behind the times.
    Axolotl, I'm curious to know where you're from? Thanks for your rattlesnake story. I actually want to know if it's necessary to carry anti-venom incase of a bite. Or is it already too late if you get bitten by a rattler? And are scorpions deadly? Or do they just make your legs drop off? ha ha.
    Oh and one more question...how come you Mexicans speak such damn good English. żY como puedo llegar a hablar tan bien en Espaniol?

    ĄGracias Muchachos!
    el

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    In the right lane gerv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gnz
    Hi, yesterday I finished a three month tour of Mexico. Im the male partner on that "bici and the bee" expedition mentioned earlier in this thread. You can see my journal here.
    May I say these are very captivating journals. When I started "Bici and the Bee", I couldn't put it down. Now I'll have the chance to look at yours in detail. Thanks for this.

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    You may never even see any snakes, though if you're camping, you have a better chance. I've gone on a couple of long bike camping trips in the western US, and I've never seen a rattlesnake. I once saw a big timber rattlesnake in the Appalachian mountains in the eastern US, however. I was camping, though not biking, that time. I'm american, since you asked, eleanor.

    By the way, rimugu gave a link for INEGI maps. I went to an INEGI office in Mexico City and bought a couple of nice topographic maps. I haven't had a chance to use them yet, however. Supposedly every Mexican state capital has an INEGI sales office. The one I went to in Mexico City was out of some of the maps, but the people in the office were quite helpful.

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