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Mexico Travel - How To Get To Mexico
( Originally Published 1939 - Presented For Historical Purpose )
The MAIN RAIL ROUTES run down the east side of Mexico, from eastern and central United States, and down the west coast of Mexico, from points west of the Rockies. It is also possible to enter Mexico by rail from the south, by way of Guatemala (through sleepers run from the Guatemalan border to Veracruz), and thence, with a change of cars, to Mexico City.
On the WEST COAST ROUTE the Southern Pacific Railroad runs direct sleeping cars to Mexico City. These cars operate from Los Angeles over two routes: one by way of Nogales, Guaymas, Mazatlan, and Guadalajara; the other by way of El Paso and then through the Central Plateau of Mexico via Chihuahua.
The EAST COAST ROUTE is the more beautiful, the faster, and the more comfortable of the two. By far the best trains operating into Mexico City are those from St. Louis over the tracks of the Missouri Pacific Railroad and the National Railways of Mexico. The Sunshine Special runs from St. Louis to Mexico City daily, and the very elaborate City o f Mexico leaves St. Louis every Sunday, returning from Mexico City every Thursday. This is not only the best train operating into Mexico, but it is one of the finest trains in the United States.
The rail schedules fluctuate so frequently that it is useless to include them here. Naturally, as the railways within and without Mexico are being improved, the schedules are being improved along with them. The most convenient way of reaching Mexico by rail from New York, Chicago, and other points east of the Rockies is by one of these trains through the Laredo entrance. The route within Mexico that passes through Monterrey, Saltillo, San Luis Potosi, and Queretaro is very beautiful. Any of these towns is interesting for a stopover, as, of course, are Guaymas, Mazatlan, and Tepic on the west coast route.
Travel in the United States is generally divided into two classes, day coach and Pullman. In Mexico it is divided into three. There is Pullman (or sleeping car or special car) travel, corresponding to our Pullman class at home; first class, corresponding to our day coach class, the cars usually being upholstered in leather like our smokers; and second class, where the seats are wooden benches, very hard ones, too. To the average American tourist second-class travel is bearable only for a very short trip, and even then he is likely to find it more interesting than pleasant. First-class travel is not bad at all, although it is naturally extremely dusty during the dry season. Of course, on the crack trains the Pullmans are air-conditioned, and little dust ever seeps through.
The WATER ROUTES TO MEXICO deserve serious consideration. On the west coast water travel is not so good as it was when the great American steamship lines were operating the New York-San Francisco services, most of which had ports of call at Mexican points. There are, however, foreign services stopping at Acapulco and Mazatlan, and American services using somewhat smaller ships than before, notably those of the Panama Pacific Line.
On the east coast you have the New York and Cuba Mail Steamship Company, with regular sailings by way of Havana and Progreso. This is an interesting way to go, for from Progreso you can make a side trip into Yucatan, and visit the ruins of Uxmal and of ChichenItza.
If you live in the Middle West, you will probably find the Standard Fruit Company's ships from New Orleans the most convenient way of traveling. These steamers are not so large as those from New York, but they are spotless, well run, and comfortable.
Either of these lines lands you at Veracruz, which gives you an opportunity to make the famous rail trip from Veracruz to Mexico City as your real introduction to the country. Although Veracruz leaves much to be desired, the glory of the rail trip to Mexico City will quickly obliterate any bad impression that this state may have given you.
The AIR SERVICE to Mexico and within it is excellent. One of the most thrilling rides you can take in an airplane is the one from Brownsville to Tampico and Mexico City, which is the principal route into Mexico at present, even though it is possible to go by way of Florida, Cuba, and Yucatan, again with the possibility of an interesting stopover at Chichen-Itza. If you want an exciting trip, try going by one route and coming back by the other.
There is an air route down the west coast from Los Angeles, stopping at Mazatlan and Guadalajara, and one from El Paso through Chihuahua and Torreon. These lines are all operated by the Pan-American Airways, which also operates a service from Mexico City to Guatemala and the other Central American countries.
Locally within Mexico there is a recommended service from Mexico City to Acapulco and Oaxaca. The air services in Mexico are constantly improving, and any city of even minor importance can now almost surely be reached by air. Any tourist agency will be able to give you up-to-date information about all the services.
AUTOMOBILE TRAVEL to Mexico is becoming more and more popular. At the moment there is only one good paved road leading from any border far into Mexicothe Pan-American Highway from Laredo to Mexico City. This ranks, of course, as one of the great drives of the world. There are good stopping places along the way; the scenery is superb; and the road is perfection itself. The main drawback to this trip is that the drive across the United States to the border, either from the east or from the west coast, is deadly dull, and very, very long. In the valley of the Rio Grande there is a day's drive through a desert-like region, extending from San Antonio on the north to Monterrey on the south, where it is uncomfortably hot, and in the dry season extremely dusty.
There is so much to be said for both the rail and the automobile that the only way I can help you decide between the two is to sum up the individual advantages and disadvantages of each. The railroad offers you extreme comfort, speed, and freedom from responsibility. The automobile offers you another kind of comfort-freedom from schedule and fascinating glimpses of native life on the way. Once you have reached Mexico, if you enter by way of Laredo, you will find the automobile preferable, but against this you have to balance the long drive from most cities in the United States be fore you reach Mexico at all.If you are entering Mexico on the west, there is no choice at all. Not until the construction of some new highways has been completed can the automobile compete with the railroad as a means of getting into the country from the west. If you are entering via El Paso and Chihuahua, you will find the roads simply impossible, instead of just bad, as they are down the west coast.
All in all, if I lived east of the Rockies, and planned to drive into Mexico by way of the Pan-American Highway, I would go by automobile if the party were large and economy were a consideration. If the party consisted of less than three persons, rail would probably be about as cheap as automobile. Personally, if I had sufficient leisure, I would go by auto whether it was more economical or not. If I had only two or three weeks to devote to the trip, I would decidedly go by rail or air. If I wanted the ultimate in comfort, I would take a train that would carry me through the desert in an airconditioned car, to avoid the dust and heat.
In any event, you need not miss the scenery of the Pan-American Highway. In Mexico City you can either hire an automobile or join an organized excursion for the drive over the Pan-American Highway to Valles and back. This will not, by any means, give you a view of all the scenery, but it will, at least, enable you to see the best of it.
For the very economically minded, there are always the Greyhound busses, which operate as far as Monterrey. From Monterrey on, you will find that the busses are inferior to those in this country. They are usually smaller, and consequently not so comfortable, and they are generally crowded. But they will show you the scenery, and if you arrange your stopovers with proper care, you can travel from Laredo to Mexico City in about three days without undue fatigue on your part.
Arranging Your Trip
If your time is limited, which is unfortunately the case with most of us, I suggest that you consult a tourist agent for assistance in arranging your trip. The three largest agencies in America are the American Express Company, Thomas Cook & Son-Wagons Lits and Raymond-Whitcomb, Inc. Each of these companies maintains a chain of offices around America and elsewhere and act both as wholesalers and retailers.
Thomas Cook & Son-Wagons Lits has its own office in Mexico City at Avenida Madero 1. The American Express Company is represented there by the Wells Fargo Express Company (one of its subsidiaries), with offices at Avenida Madero 14. Raymond-Whitcomb, Inc. maintains no office in Mexico City but is represented by Aguirre's Guest Tours.
These companies, among others, run conducted tours from the States, which are excellent for the traveler who has very little time at his disposal and wishes to avoid the annoyance of planning a trip. They also operate sightseeing excursions in and around Mexico City and to various other points within the country.
Aguirre's Guest Tours, with its main office in Mexico City at Avenida Cinco de Mayo 20, and with branch offices at 542 Fifth Avenue, New York, and in several of the more important cities of Mexico, prides itself on being better equipped to arrange special trips in Mexico than any other agency. Certainly, its staff consists of many specialists in the field of Mexican travel, who have devised some rather unique arrangements to places off the beaten track.
In Chicago the R. J. Neidlinger Travel Service makes a feature of travel to Mexico, and in San Francisco and Los Angeles, the Peck-Judah organization fulfills the same function. There are others, of course, and your local travel agent is better able than anyone to put you in touch with the service best suited to your particular needs.
Even if you are traveling in your own automobile, I feel that, once you have reached Mexico City, you should give the organized tours serious consideration. Or, if you hate organized trips, and can afford not to take them, at least go to one of the agencies for advice and guide service. As I have said in another book, I believe in organized travel for the average tourist. It takes you to the places you want to go to with the minimum of effort on your part. If you try to find the sights "on your own," you will probably succeed, but you will certainly waste some of the time that should be devoted to sightseeing.