Driving In Mexico
Most people who vacation to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico usually rely on the transportation services of their resort or tour company. During my fiancée and I’s trip last November we decided to brave the unknown and rent a car for the duration of our stay. Despite the horror stories of police checkpoints, bad drivers, and theft, we wanted to have the freedom to move around easily and explore many different areas during our week there. I wanted to share our story in hopes that it will help someone else before making the leap.
The first thing you will notice when searching for car rentals is how amazingly cheap they are. I am talking $3-$4 per day to rent a mid-size four door sedan. The thing is, the final amount will be way more than this… The reason for the increase in cost is because of the mandatory insurance you will have to have while driving in Mexico. We purchased all of the insurance we could get including total loss coverage and damage protection, which came in handy, more on that later. After arriving at the airport in Cancun we were shuttled offsite to the car rental office. We choose American Car Rental, even though the desk clerks could not speak very good english they were extremely friendly and helped to explain everything to us in detail. As usual, they did not have the car we picked out online, but offered us a free upgrade to a fancy little RENAULT DUSTER.
FYI: Make sure to mark every little ding and defect with the vehicle before leaving the lot, otherwise, they will give you a hard time when returning the vehicle. After all of the checks and paperwork we were off in our Duster. The roads are pretty straightforward along the coast there is just one main Highway, the 307. From here you can get from Cancun down to where we were staying in Tulum and everywhere in between. I would definitely recommend doing all of this in the daytime, as it was dark by the time we left the rental lot and that made it difficult to navigate for someone who did not know there way around.
SCAM ALERT: All of the gas stations are full service, so be prepared to know the exchange rates so you do not get ripped off. Also, like in Europe, they calculate by the liter, so be prepared to do the math. I paid too much at our first fill up and quickly learned that lesson. Also, make sure that the pump starts at zero, as there are reports of attendants not resetting the pumps and overcharging tourists.
You will encounter a few police checkpoints along the highway, but we never had to stop. It seems like they are only there to make sure that traffic is moving at a decent speed. The speed limit is enforced, so make sure to keep with the flow of traffic. Warning if you see this sign:
SLOW DOWN… These are warnings for the notorious topes. They will easily break an axle and leave you stranded at the side of the road. They are in the most random places as well so just beware.
Despite all of this, it was a blast having the freedom to move around. We were able to eat at some amazing restaurants that were off the beaten path, discovered hidden beaches, we drove through the jungle exploring ancient Mayan ruins and lost cenotès, and the most exciting, we explored a Mexican Wal-Mart. We watched as the crowded tourist buses herded foreigners from the resorts like cattle from one landmark to the other on their schedules, and we were content that we made the right decision. That is until I ran our little Duster into a palm tree.
Luckily, I was only going a few miles an hour while backing out of a parking spot near the beach, but it was enough to put a pretty gnarly dent in the rear of our Duster. Returning the car was kind of an ordeal, as I had to fill out the forms for the damages, good thing we got that extra insurance…
I would say that renting your own vehicle in Mexico is a wonderful idea. It allows you the freedom to come and go as you please and lets you see parts of Mexico that you would otherwise miss, like this Mexican prison: