Easy Drive, San Miguel de Allende to Oaxaca, Avoids Mexico City

blue vehicle parked near building at daytime

With the extension of the Arco Norte toll road beyond Querétaro, visitors to San Miguel de Allende can drive to Oaxaca in seven hours, avoiding Mexico City.

With the completion of the Arco Norte toll road from Puebla to Querétaro and beyond, residents of and vacationers to San Miguel de Allende can drive to Oaxaca in about seven hours. The entire route except for the first half hour or so as one departs San Miguel de Allende, is “autopista.”

The pluses of the new highway for those interested in leaving San Miguel de Allende for a visit to Oaxaca and its central valleys, include the following:

  • One avoids the Mexico City area entirely, and accordingly the highway log jams, getting lost, and concerns about daily restrictions on which vehicles can enter the city on what days of the week
  • Travel time is greatly reduced, enabling one to perhaps spend those “saved” hours visiting Puebla or Querétaro
  • Even within the context of a brief vacation to San Miguel de Allende, one can spend most of one’s time exploring the area around San Miguel de Allende including Guanajuato, and do the same regarding Oaxaca, walking around downtown for a day or two, and then leaving the city and trekking off for one or two days along Oaxaca’s traditional touring routes

Travel Time, Distance and Cost, Driving from Oaxaca to San Miguel de Allende

The drive from San Miguel de Allende to Oaxaca takes about seven hours, at a fair clip, assuming there is no undue road construction or weekday rush-hour traffic. If one has the luxury of driving down on a Sunday, and returning a Saturday or Sunday, it reduces the likelihood of delays. While work crews occasionally work Sundays, it’s usually a rest day; a Sunday-to-Sunday trip is the best case scenario.

The total distance traveled, one way, is about 700 kilometers, going through nine toll booths ranging in cost from 24 to 255 pesos (in 2010), totaling 609 pesos. The new Arco Norte toll road costs the 255 pesos. As is the case with some other extensive North American toll-ways, upon entering the Arco Norte one receives a card noting the entrance location, and returns it when leaving, paying for the distance traveled. Driving the one-way route in a four cylinder VW Jetta, using premium fuel, costs about 550 pesos.

While in the State of Oaxaca there is infrequent enforcement of speed limits, the same does not hold true for all states, so it’s best to not speed excessively. The noted trip taking seven hours to travel 700 kilometers suggests that one can, at least on a Sunday, really motor on (without being stopped for a radar infraction).

Details of The Drive from Oaxaca to San Miguel de Allende with Optional Stopovers

Depart Oaxaca (describing the reverse route) taking the northbound highway towards Mexico City and Etla. After about 15 minutes there are signs indicating the toll road to Mexico City to the left (Mexico Cuota), and to the right the “free” or “libre” highway. Keep to the left for the toll road.

An interesting sight a couple of hours into the ride, is the Museo del Agua, or water museum. One sees the large structures and name on the right, following which an exit leads to the facility. Museum personnel explain and promote conservation and ecology, and efforts to encourage local populations to return to the cultivation of amaranth, the high protein vegetable product which is capable of thriving in desolate climactic conditions.

Next, the first Tehuacan exit, highway 125, leads to the onyx and marble town of San Antonio Texcala. The exit goes to the right, but one must then make a U-Turn and head towards Huajuapan de Leon. About 10 kilometers after leaving the toll road, one finds the village, with several combined workshop/retail outlets. All manner of product is available at a fraction of the cost in Oaxaca, Puebla, or San Miguel de Allende: lamps, sinks, tequila sets, napkin holders, decorative products, trays and bowls, and innumerable other pieces.

Continue on the toll road, until the fork in the road indicating Córdoba and Orizaba to the right, and Puebla to the left. Veer left. Continue along the highway, beyond the Puebla exits, following the signs indicating “Mexico.” The first toll booth beyond Puebla is San Martín Texmelucan. Four kilometers beyond is the exit for Arco Norte and Queretaro. Take the exit. The highway number is 57D, but as one continues along the road other named highways are noted such as 45, M40D, etc. It’s all the same, as long as one continues towards Querétaro. There is an un-manned booth where one obtains a toll ticket from an automated machine.

Continue on the Arco Norte toll road until the Querétaro exit and the toll booth where one pays the 255 peso toll. About 44 kilometers after the toll booth there’s an exit for San Miguel de Allende and San Luis Potosí. That exit leads straight to San Miguel de Allende, although the final half hour is not toll road. The highway number changes from 57D to 57.

For an extremely interesting side trip, get off the toll road at San Juan del Rio, and visit one or more of Colón (woolen products), Ezekiel Montes (wineries), Bernal (quaint village with one of the largest monoliths in the world), and / or Tequisquiapan (tourism, featuring opal mine, crafts from the entire region, and more).

The exits to San Miguel de Allende are clearly marked, and one easily enters the centro histórico, if not by viewing the signage, then from seeing the city while descending the mountains. Consider a lunch or dinner at Olé Olé Restaurant .