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 GPS Units in Mexico

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cheenagringo
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Join date : 2011-02-21
Location : Albuquerque, New Mexico
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PostSubject: GPS Units in Mexico   Thu 14 Jul 2011, 15:55

I wrote this report back a couple of years ago but because of an earlier discussion on this forum, I thought it mike make some good reading for those who may be considering a GPS system.

GPS Experience in Mexico

We recently returned from a 3600-mile trip through Mexico and used the GARMIN 785T (https://buy.garmin.com/...ID=134&pID=14923). with the City Navigator Mexico NT card (https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?pID=11427). This unit was a warranty replacement for a Nuvi 760 that I had received as a present. At the time of purchase, the 760 had been rated as a “Best Buy” by CONSUMER REPORTS but GARMIN has since discontinued the model. Since I had received the replacement shortly before our trip, I had familiarized my self with most of the new features but was somewhat short on time to completely understand everything. When in the NM area, I contract as a courier and use the unit virtually every day and am quite familiar with its performance in the U.S. Prior to the trip, I did program a “custom route” based upon our plans.

My observations and comments follow:
1) Entry of addresses: NOB, the complete address will pull up but when entering the actual numerical address in MX, you will experience a problem. In most cases, the numerical part of the address will not come up but rather you will receive simply a choice of the street name and what “colonia” it is located in. In other words, you are able to get close but not necessarily being directed to the exact address. It is somewhat better in the larger cities but you cannot count on it. I should also mention that on much of our trip, we were traveling in areas we were familiar with from prior trips.
2) The entry of street names was often a challenge due to abbreviations used either by the unit or when one looks up addresses on the net for example.
3) Having read the specs from GARMIN, I expected the unit would have shortcomings finding streets in small towns but that was not the case. I was really amazed by the detail of streets in small towns of less than 1000 population that we ventured through.
4) I found that the estimated travel time between towns/cities was extremely conservative. For example, when leaving Zacatecas on our way to Chihuahua – it gave me an estimated travel time of 10 hours and 2 minutes from hotel to hotel (a distance of 523 miles). Note: In their vernacular – travel time is your moving time as it separates out any stops when the vehicle is not moving. Our actual travel/moving time was 7 hours 32 minutes. We had an average moving time for the drive of 67.7 mph with a high speed of exactly 100 mph for the day. A good portion of the day was spent on cuotas in very good condition and quite light traffic.
5) MSN DIRECT, an option on the 785T did not function in MX but then again, I had no idea that it would.
6) Fuel Consumption calculations tended to be way off. You can program in your estimated mileage for both city and highway into this unit along with the price of the grade of gas you use. In the U.S., the city streets and highways are apparently coded differently and it will calculate based upon the type of road. From my experience, all MX calculations are based upon city streets and thus a lower mpg.
7) This unit has the large screen and I would hate to use anything with one of the smaller screens. When in strange (to us) new towns or cities, I used the zoom-in feature a good deal.
Cool Turn-by-Turn Vocal Directions – tended to be somewhat confusing in MX! As most experienced travelers in MX would know, street names often change in midstream. The GPS tends to treat this as a turn when one is continuing on the same diagonal or highway. The box is constantly squawking and would become quite irritating. The American voice option totally slaughters the street names while “Javier”; one of the Americas Spanish options does a great job! Now there is a real surprise! Note: I finally quit using the turn-by-turn voice and drove from the display.
9) One-Way Streets are another problem for the unit as it was constantly trying to direct you the wrong way on a one-way. We ran into a situation in San Miguel de Allende where we had the address for our hotel but kept going in circles until we finally arrived. As it turned out, the hotel address was on a street that was two blocks long and you really had to “sneak” up on it and the one-way streets made that difficult.
10) Speed Limits – are not programmed into the unit for MX. Not really a problem as most ignore them anyway!
11) Cuotas vs. Libres – I had the unit set for fastest route and it was somewhat hard to tell if it was actually directing me to cuotas. Having driven most of the cuotas, I tended to ignore the box and use my own personal knowledge to get on the cuotas. We did run into one cuota heading north out of Moreila towards Salamanca where the highway was not even on the GPS map. The cuota crosses a lake and it showed us driving in the water.
12) With two satellite reliant gadgets (GPS and Sirius Radio) – I did notice problems with both especially in Michoacan. Whether it was a combination of the mountains and trees, I am not sure but our signals would often scramble. Heavy trees seemed to have the greatest effect. One can forget knowing where they are when driving through the tunnels under the city of Guanajuato!
13) As with most GPS units, the GARMIN has points of interest guides with hotels, restaurants, gas stations, etc., etc. While I only tried this feature on occasion, it appears that this option isn’t great for MX. Some of the really large cities have a certain but limited amount of info. The few times that I tried this option, I often pulled up info from cities hundreds of miles away.
14) One of the screen options is that you can set the altimeter to display on the lower portion of the map. We found this to be quite interesting when traveling some of the higher areas in Michoacan and parts of Guanajuato.
Conclusions/Recommendations:
Overall, I was quite happy with the unit! That said, I would still always travel with a GUIA-ROJI map book. Unlike traveling NOB with a GPS – travel in MX using a GPS still requires a decent sense of direction and past experience is also quite helpful. Streets in Mexico tend not to be laid out in a normal grid pattern and depending on town, ones sense of direction can be confused. Mountain towns/cities such as Patzcuaro, Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende can be a real challenge since it is often difficult to spot a visible landmark!
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Peter
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PostSubject: Re: GPS Units in Mexico   Thu 14 Jul 2011, 16:40

Altimeter would be interesting. I'm sure I've done a lot of driving here at altitudes way above those I would typically fly in California.

Never tried GPS driving, let alone in Mexico. I tell people not to even trust their maps here especially inside the cities. The streets come together like a jig-saw puzzle but not nearly as well fitting. It really takes months of not years to master getting around like a local in Morelia. There are different sets of directions I give people guessing how well I think they know the neighborhoods. Only seasoned Mexican drivers can be given certain routes. I usually give people the directions that are least likely to get them lost.

That Salamanca cuota was entirely built during the time I've been here. I don't get out that way often but was surprised when it first appeared, then took a year or two for different entrances and exits to take form. It was confusing when it was the libre I was looking for whereas before the cuota didn't even exist, then later I recall difficulty trying to avoid it. It goes right around some places of interest like Pueblo Magico of Cuitzeo and the garment producing/shopping towns of Moroleon and Uriangato.

Guanajuato has to be an experience by GPS. I remember my first trip there taking a taxi to the Centro. The driver stopped by a stairway in a tunnel and announced we had arrived. Looked weird to me but at the top of the stairs sure enough I emerged in middle of a very active Centro.

For more reasons than ever these days it is difficult to tell someone about Mexico and expect them to believe you. It must be experienced first-hand.

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cheenagringo
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PostSubject: Re: GPS Units in Mexico   Thu 14 Jul 2011, 17:30

Many months after we completed the trip and I wrote the report, I discovered that the internal memory of my Garmin unit had a file of every route I had ever driven with the unit on. With some playing around, I discovered that I could download these files to Google Earth and track our journeys. Because it was an older file, it had been compacted and I couldn't get daily detail. This trip, I am going to download each day to Google Earth and then it will stitch the entire trip together with more detail. If I really want to go crazy, I can even attach daily photos to their locations on the map.

These toys amaze the heck out of me!
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