Saturday night at the main zócalo in Veracruz
We departed on runway 35 and tower kept us northbound until we cleared arriving traffic then we proceeded to Matamoros. Matamoros is only 10 nautical miles from Brownsville. We flew at 9000', the minimum IFR altitude for the route. After Matamoros we fly south along the coast to Tampico then turn to 150° and continue to Veracruz.
Prohibited Area: If flying VFR, note that there is a prohibited area, a nuclear power plant on the coast 37nm NNW of Veracruz. Aircraft below 5000' altitude must remain 5NM away. If you are flying that low avoiding the restricted area is complicated by mountains approaching that altitude to the west and open water to the east.
I flight planned for a 3 hour 35 minute flight but north winds reduced the enroute time to 3 hours 21 minutes. Due to mountaineous terrain near Veracruz, I was kept at 9000' until nearing the airport. The airport was under an overcast with about 1000' ceiling so I was vectored to the VOR DME 18 approach. This takes you out over the gulf and back to the airport on a 189° heading. The VOR is located on the airport so the DME gives you distance to the airport. Most airports in Mexico have this kind of approach procedure.
Airport of Entry: Since Veracruz was our first stop in Mexico it was the airport of entry and is where we obtained our visas and received our permit to fly in Mexico. So this is where we present our passports, pilot's license, pilot's medical certificate, proof of Mexican flying insurance, airplane registration, and airworthiness certificate. We had to bring our baggage into the airport, which doesn't usually happen, and have them searched. We got our visas and airplane permit and then filled the tanks on the airplane for the next flight. We had pesos with us and paid all the fees in cash. We repacked the airplane except for our overnight bags and they called us a taxi.
Overnight in Veracruz: We are staying overnight in Veracruz because the flight to Huatulco will cross mountains and that is better done in the morning before winds and clouds develop. I researched hotels on the internet and my plan was to stay at the Hotel Imperial on the main Zócalo in downtown Veracruz. The hotel is located on a pedestrian-only street along with two other hotels--in case there is no vacancy--and there are other hotels and restaurants nearby. The web site even allowed me to make a reservation only that didn't seem to complete for some reason. The airport taxi took us there at very reasonable cost which is often not the case for airport taxis. We found the hotel closed for renovations but it looks like it will be nice when its done. We moved on to the nearby Hotel Colonial which was not as nice but very reasonable at about US$20 and had Wi-Fi in the lobby. We had supper at one of the sidewalk cafes on the zócalo. The hotel had air-conditioning that came on in the evening and went off in the morning. For breakfast we walked down to the end of the block and ate at the swanky Hotel Veracruz.
Impessions: Our impression of Veracruz is that it is an economical place for an overnight, has a nice old-style Mexican zócalo close to the waterfront. The airport offices are all located in one building, some English is spoken, but the personnel are fussy about searching baggage and security checks every time we go out to the plane which slows things down. As a comparison, at Tampico little English is spoken at the airport, offices are also located together, not much checking of baggage or security checks for general aviation, but we have not found a city center with multiple hotels and multiple Mexican restaurants that would let us start our vacation at this first overnight stop. Puebla, on the other hand, seems to almost have it all, only lacking English-speaking personnel at the airport. One other consideration is that Veracruz and Puebla are deep into Mexico, having a definite Mexican feel and making the remaining flight a short one, whereas Tampico is not very far into Mexico and seems rather American with all the familiar fast food chains and big box stores. After spending a few hundred dollars to make it this far, Tampico feels more like you have crossed the railroad tracks than the border.
To get to Veracruz just follow the coastline and stop at the first city after crossing some mountains. 12:57 pm.
North of La Pesca. 12:57 pm
Laguna Nacha in background. 12:58 pm
Still well north of Tampico. 12:59 pm
Next leg is Veracruz to Huatulco