Driving in Mexico can be a challenge and something that takes time to get used to; it may seem there are no rules. Contrary to daily life in Mexico where everyone is so patient and calm, motorists are suddenly fast and furious once they get behind the wheel.
This is a beautiful country with many amazing towns, stunning beaches, and natural wonders to visit, enjoy the sights but drive defensively and make sure you are adequately insured.
18 tips for the road
- Although there is a new law in progress to give priority to pedestrians, people with disabilities, and cyclists, you must always take extra caution since unlike the rest of North America it seems vehicles have the right of way. Most drivers will not stop even at a crosswalk.
- You must hold a valid driver’s license from your home country or a Mexican driver’s license.
- Immigration checkpoints – carry your tourist visa, temporary or permanent resident card incase your immigration status is questioned.
- Vehicle insurance, including liability insurance, is mandatory in Mexico. Purchase insurance from a Mexican licensed insurance company that includes legal representation, a bail bond, and is available 24 hours a day.
- Discuss with your broker the exact steps to take in case of an accident. It is illegal to leave the scene of the accident, and you may need the police report to file a claim.
- When approaching checkpoints in Mexico, slow down and put your hazard lights on, if the police wave you over, be polite, and you shouldn’t have any issues. If they request a mordidita (bribe) do not pay; otherwise, you are contributing to corruption, which is illegal. Ask for the ticket and file your complaint at the Transit Office. Chances are they will let you off with a warning if there is no chance of collecting the bribe.
- If you park illegally, the police will take your license plate; you will need to go to the police station to pay your ticket and retrieve the plate.
- The driver and front-seat passengers must wear seatbelts; obviously, we recommend that everyone in the vehicle wear a seat belt. Unbelted passengers can potentially injure or kill other vehicle occupants on impact.
- As you travel, you may find two choices of highways cuota (toll roads) or libre (free) highway. The toll roads are newer highways and usually a quicker and safer route to travel. The toll booths accept cash only and in pesos.
- Filling up the tank, the stations are full service but pay attention to the attendant, watch to ensure the pump is at zero and confirm the amount you pay him as you hand it over to avoid him claiming you gave a different amount.
- Retorno – You are legally permitted to do a U-turn at designated spots along the highway.
- When you are out on the highway the vehicle in front of you may use their left turn signal to let you know it is safe to pass them, but take caution, make sure there is no oncoming traffic.
- Even in Mexico, drinking and driving or driving under the influence of narcotics is against the law and will result in a trip to jail, as well the insurance company will deny your claim if you are involved in an accident.
- The law prohibits the use of cell phones while driving. The distraction from cell phone use while driving significantly increases the chance of accidents.
- Topes (speed bumps) can be hard to see and pop up everywhere.
- Road maintenance does not seem to be a priority watch for potholes, flooding on some roads and fallen trees during the rainy season.
- Car troubles on the highway – call Green Angels by dialing 078 from your cell phone. Green Angels are trained mechanics who will assist you and get you back on the road. Although they do not charge for their service you will pay for parts and tipping is always appreciated.
- As deforestation continues to destroy the jungle, wildlife is being displaced at a rapid pace, please drive the speed limit and watch for wildlife crossing the highway. Animals of all sizes, including jaguars, are killed daily on Mexico’s roads.