Mexico Driving Guide 2021
Driving in Mexico gives you an unlimited way of enjoying this beautiful country. An international driving license is an addition to this. Experience your best travels through this guide.
¡Bienvenido a México! Are you looking for a budget-friendly journey around Mexico? Read through this guide and learn how now.
Mexico is on the list of 10 top countries most visited by tourists across the world. And this country has numerous reasons for it. The third-largest country in Latin America, after Brazil and Argentina, Mexico is a tourism powerhouse that also serves as a gateway to other countries, including the United States, for tourists looking to do some country-hopping.
Visiting beaches in Mexico with a margarita in hand is likely one of the reasons you're visiting the country. Chilling in a beach chair with a drink, while the sun sets in Mexico is just breathtaking and amazing. You can also go trekking in Mexico's mountain ranges, visit astounding churches, have a taste of their famous dishes, explore 35 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and learn about their 30 centuries of rich history at museums and other historical monuments.
How Can This Guide Help You?
Driving in Mexico can be an adventure of a lifetime since you get to decide to visit remote areas, which might be difficult to reach using public transportation. Having your own car in the country also allows you to travel to such areas at your preferred pace while being comfortable. If you're on a business trip, driving a rental car in Mexico will make your trip easier.
Your questions about the International Driver’s License, Mexico’s beaches, and other tourism-related details will be found here. If you're ready to learn more driving tips to Mexico, and if you’re asking, “Do I need an International Driver’s Permit in Mexico?”, read further to find out why the country is called the Land of Enchantment!
The world's 13-largest country by area, Mexico is officially called the Estados Unidos Mexicanos, or the United Mexican States. It's capital, Mexico City, is the country's most populous city in the country with a population of several times that of Ecatepec de Morelos, the next largest city in the country.
Mexico is located in Central America and shares its northern borders with the United States while being enclaved by the extensive Pacific Ocean at its southern and western borders. The Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea swaddle the eastern edges of the country, while Guatemala and Belize share borders with Mexico to the southeast.
Islands and archipelagos, like the Tres Marías in the Pacific, also form part of the country. Including these isolated regions, Mexico covers nearly 2,000 square kilometers. Being the United Mexican States, the country is made up of 31 states and Mexico City.
Mexico is a diverse country as it is composed of different ethnic groups. As one of the most traveled to countries, here are the top three popular languages and their estimated numbers which you should know about.
- Spanish (Around 110 million throughout Mexico)
- Nahuatl (Around 2 million mostly Central Mexico)
- English (Around 2 million people throughout Mexico)
So, if your first language is English or Spanish, you don’t need to worry about asking directions and understanding the traffic signs.
Mexico amasses an area of 1.973 million square kilometers, including the 6,000 sq. km. in the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of California, Caribbean Sea, and the Pacific Ocean. To its North, the country also has a share of 5,000 km border with the United States.
Officially, Mexico is named as the United Mexican States. The country is located in one of Earth’s active tectonic plates and is frequented by seismic activity, due to it being part of the Circum- “Pacific Ring of Fire.”
Mexico is a country with a rich yet complex history, that’s why the country’s culture is a blend of native and Hispanic ethnicity. It’s first known settlers were the Olmecs. Mexico is known for the Mayans with their exceptional and mysterious architecture with urban stories behind it.
Like other countries such as the Philippines, Mexico was also under Spanish rule. It was a parish priest with the name Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla of the town Dolores, who initiated a call to rebel against their colonizers, and rebel leader Vincent Guerrero and Augustin de Iturbide, a defected royalist general that successfully claimed Mexico independence.
The United Mexican States is a federal republic, comprising 31 states and Mexico City, where the Federal District is located. Like most democracies in the world, Mexico's administrative powers are divided constitutionally between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The country's president is elected by the majority of its registered voters. When elected, the president is bestowed with the titles of head of state, head of government, and military commander in chief.
Since the late 1930s, most of Mexico's presidents served for a term of six years, called the “sexenio.” After his or her term, the president can never be elected. There's also no vice-president position in Mexico.
If the president resigns or passes away during the first 2 years of his or her term, the congress or the legislative branch nominates the interim president, who will call for a special presidential election for the remaining years. If the leadership vacuum happens during the last 4 years of the term, congress nominates a provisional president for the rest of the term.
You can never go wrong with tourism in Mexico. It’s a country dubbed as the 6th most visited country that most tourists love. From its beaches, parties, authentic Mexican food, and more—Mexico is simply the country globally picked by foreigners for having it all.
Around 49.6 million tourists have already visited the country since 2018. A majority of the numbers that make up for it are the U.S. citizens due to proximity and ease of traveling.
International Driving Permit FAQs
Roads in Mexico may be filled with traffic congestion at most, but you can manage and maneuver through that easily. This driving guide can help you drive through the Mexican roads as smoothly as possible. The following are commonly asked questions in relation to using an International Driver’s Permit.
Who Can Apply For an International Driver's Permit?
Those with valid driver's licenses can apply for this permit. Always remember that an international license is only an interpretation of your original license. It verifies that you're physically and mentally equipped to drive a vehicle. Before getting an IDP, you need first a driver's license from your nation of origin. Remember that a temporary or short-term driver's permit from your country isn't efficient in applying for an IDP.
If you're ready for an international driving license for Mexico, tarry no longer! Visit the International Drivers Association’s application page and select an IDP package. Here are the important questions that are commonly asked by tourist drivers regarding the IDP.
Here are the requirements for your application:
- Valid Government Issued Driver’s License
- Passport-Sized Image
- Passport Copy (if needed)
When Should I Apply For An International Driver's Permit?
You can apply anytime for IDP since there's no span of time when applications are accepted. Tourists and other travelers apply for an IDP usually months before their trip abroad, so they don't need to rush. An IDP is useful even for short-term travel.
You can apply for an IDP even if you're not traveling. Applying for an IDP is fast, especially at the International Drivers’ Association, compared to before when getting one really takes time.
Once you're ready to have an IDP, you can download and print it in just two hours!
Does Mexico Require an International Driving Permit?
If your original driver's license is not in Spanish or English, which are the languages used in Mexico, getting an IDP is necessary. This goes for driver's licenses from countries like Japan, Saudi Arabia, Russia and other countries that are in their native language. An international permit will serve as a translation for your native license, which you primarily need to drive in Mexico. An IDP will be convenient for you, particularly when you cross to other Latin American countries.
When it comes to International Driver’s License, Mexico is not that strict as long as your license is in Spanish or English. It’s preferable however to carry one while driving in the country to coordinate easier with authorities. So if you're a U.S. citizen with a driving license, you're allowed to drive in Mexico with your driver's license.
Who Needs An International Driver's Permit in Mexico?
Those who travel frequently should always bring an IDP with them. Using an IDP is practical, especially when crossing borders while driving. When it comes to foreigners driving in Mexico, US license is the most presented driving permit.
Whether you're on a business trip, a corporate convention or another professional excursion, your IDP will be your best friend if you decide that driving is better than riding public transport, and suited to you financially and mentally.
If you choose to stay in a foreign country longer than usual, an IDP can be a short-term driving permit while your new license is being processed. An international permit can also serve you for identification purposes. This goes even for people driving in Mexico with US licenses.
When Will I Use An International Driver's Permit in Mexico?
Regardless of reasons for doing so, an IDP can only be used when traveling abroad. You can't use your international permit as a replacement or stand-in driving permit in your country. Wherever you're from, it's a must to always have your original driving license with you to drive in other countries.
If you decide to experience driving in Mexico, you'll likely rent a car from rental companies. Leasing one will require you to present your official driver's license, along with your IDP for additional identification purposes, depending on the car rental agency.
As for your International Driver's Permit's validity, this will depend on your application, particularly your reason for getting one. If you plan to go abroad, say at least 3 times for the next three years, a three-year IDP package will work best for you. A one-year IDP is more practical if you don't have plans to travel much more in the future. But if you often go on business trips or workshops, it's advisable that you get a three-year international permit.
Renting A Car in Mexico
A travel myth says that if you want a cheaper travel experience, using public transport is the key. But the truth is, If you want a budget-friendly trip with no time to waste, driving through the country is highly recommended. Although you can’t personally drive your car in the country, renting a car through car rental companies will make that possible.
Car Rental Companies
Figure out first where to rent a car that will fit your budget and choice of vehicle. If you just show up in person at the car rental agency counter without a reservation as you will find that is the most expensive way to rent a car in Mexico. It's best to search and pre-book online to save you time and enable you to pick the best from rental companies' offers that can save money in your pocket.
Online booking allows you to compare rates of car rental companies in your preferred pick-up location. Just make sure everything is included in the price so won't have a heart attack when you walk to the counter to pick up your car. Tourists are charged additional costs of compulsory insurance for driving in Mexico, service fees, and other things due to initially undisclosed fees.
If you live in the West and have driven rental cars before, you'll find familiar agencies in Mexico like Enterprise, Europcar, Budget, Avis, Hertz, Alamo, Thrifty and Sixt. You can also try Sunny Cars, where all fees including insurance policies, full coverage and taxes are included in the price.
You should carry important and appropriate documents with you when renting a car. Check first with the rental agency's website before booking. If you’re an American driving in Mexico, US license is required to drive a rental vehicle.
Here are some standard requirements to rent a car:
- Valid driver’s license
- International Driver's Permit
- Credit Card (e.g., Visa, Master, Amex)
You might need to prepare images of your driver’s license, IDP, and your passport’s ID page for online bookings. A credit card is needed to make a security deposit on the vehicle, but it's also possible to pay cash. Inquire about it to decide on the mode of payment.
Mexican car rental agencies have different kinds of vehicles to suit each person's needs or type. They offer various car specifications, like seating capacity and vehicle size. Rental cars in Mexico offer every type, from cars, vans, and all-terrain vehicles. They've got over 30 vehicle classes for you to choose from.
If you're on a budget and have little to no luggage, you can rent:
- Mini car
- Economy car
- Standard car
These cars will suit you if you have one up to four companions. They save on fuel and are superb for short trips inside a city and traveling to other cities nearby.
If you have more than 4 companions, you can rent:
- Full-size SUVs
- Full-size vans
They’re ideal for long-distance travel and exploring Mexico’s scenery and attractions.
There are also luxury car rental agencies that offer glamorous models, like the Jaguar F Type, Ford Mustang, and Mercedes-Benz G-Class, if you're on a business trip to Mexico and looking to drive in style.
If you’re looking forward to driving on rough roads to reach remote tourist destinations and attractions, you can get yourself an all-terrain vehicle like the Jeep Wrangler, which is commonly used by rough-riding explorers in Mexico.
When choosing a vehicle, pick one that you think will be most helpful during your journey.
Car Rental Costs
Nowadays, a car rental is a cheaper and smarter option than public transport. For the average car rental cost for a day in Mexico is fairly cheaper than its nearby neighboring country like the U.S. At $5-$11/day to $74 a week, you can drive through Mexico with your rental car.
The driving age in Mexico is at least 15 years old. Drivers at that age need parental supervision. Young drivers at the age of 16 meanwhile need parental agreement to drive alone. They can get a driving permit that's valid from one month up to a year. Drivers that are 18 years old can drive without both supervision and agreement.
But the minimum age to rent a car in Mexico is at least 21 years old, depending on the rental agency and vehicle type. If you're 21-25, you'll have to pay a young driver fee. That goes also if you're 65 years or older, you have to pay a senior driver fee. To rent a car, you also need to have held your original driver's license for at least 2 years.
If you are under the minimum age limit, you can't drive in Mexico, even if you're allowed to at home.
Car Insurance Cost
Even if you have a car insurance provider back home doesn’t assure that you'll be covered in Mexico in case of an accident or other unexpected incidents. You'll likely pay for the country's mandatory liability insurance, or the Mexican Liability Insurance, which is at least $20 per day. The temporary Mexico car insurance covers the damage you may cause to other drivers or pedestrians, buildings, or their vehicle.
Car Insurance Policy
The policies of car insurance for driving in Mexico is different from other countries. You have to check thoroughly for online booking sites that include the price of the mandatory liability insurance. Some booking sites' insurance coverage works in other countries, but not in Mexico. You can avail from Mexican travel insurance companies if you want to make sure you're covered. Be sure you’re covered properly. When you’re driving in Mexico, insurance is important as air.
What's Covered Under The Mandatory Liability Insurance?
The mandatory liability insurance, also known as third-party liability insurance, covers claims of injury or damage to another driver, car, or other property damaged in an accident. It does not cover you if you get injured or your rental car gets damaged
There's additional coverage, like the Supplemental Liability Insurance (SAI), which covers around $3,800 worth of damage, like a fender-bender. It costs at least $13 per day. There's also the loss damage waiver. It's more of an agreement with the rental agency than an insurance coverage. They agree to waive some costs of theft or damage the rental vehicle might be subjected to.
There's additional coverage, like the Supplemental Liability Insurance (SAI), which covers around $3,800 worth of damage, like a fender-bender. It costs at least $13 per day. There's also the loss damage waiver. It's more of an agreement with the rental agency than an insurance coverage. They agree to waive some costs of theft or damage the rental vehicle might be subjected to.
What Are The Desirable Pick-Up Points For a Mexico Car Rental?
After you arrive in Mexico, you can pick up your rental car right away at the airport. Most airports in the country also serve as pick-up and drop-off locations for rental cars.
- Acapulco Airport
- Benito Juarez Airport
- Cancun Airport
- Guadalajara Airport
- Ixtapa Airport
- Mazatlan Airport
- Merida Airport
- Monterrey Airport
- Morelia Airport
- Queretaro Airport
- Puerto Vallarta Airport
- San Jose del Cabo Airport
- Tijuana Airport
- Toluca Airport
- Tuxtla Gutierrez Airport
Almost every major town and cities also have pick-up locations for your rental car.
Road Rules in Mexico
Travelers like you need to know always what the laws are, whichever country you're going to. This requirement applies to traffic rules and regulations, especially when you're driving. What’s more, it helps you to have a wonderful experience, and at the same time, avoid fines and penalties that could've been avoided if you just followed the law.
Driving in Mexico is a convenient way to explore the country, as it saves you more time and money than in public transport, like buses and taxi cabs. As mentioned, it also gives you the opportunity to tour places to your satisfaction. But you may ask, is it safe to drive in Mexico?
Before you hit the gas, you have to bear in mind that driving on Mexico's roads and highways can be much different from driving back home, especially if you're from the US or Europe. It's important to prepare, so you can stay safe, avoid accidents and unnecessary incidents, and most of all, enjoy your vacation or business trip. For foreigners driving in Mexico, requirements are needed to be observed.
If you’re driving in Mexico as a tourist, it is important that you follow the rules to avoid cutting your trip short and getting into a traffic accident. Law officers and locals are often curious about why tourists are driving within their country. That’s why you need to fully understand the following regulations and implement them.
Slow down in remote areas
It is common knowledge for most Mexican drivers to slow down in remote areas. Many of their civilians are walking the highways. Although generally what they are doing doesn’t follow the road etiquette, you still need to watch out for these civilians to avoid accidents. Follow this rule when driving in Mexico's scenic countryside.
Driving while distracted is strictly prohibited
With many civilians crossing highways, motorbikes suddenly appearing on roads, driving while distracted is a bad practice. This practice could lead to serious irreparable issues. Moreover, if you’re texting or calling somebody while in traffic, you might not notice the traffic sign. Being distracted will create delays and problems regarding the traffic.
Always bring the essential driving documents for tourists
Many people, especially law officials, often look out for tourists that are driving within their country. That’s why it is common for foreigners that are driving in a country with a rented car to be stopped and checked for driving documents. So, always bring your driver’s license, valid passport, and especially your International Driver’s Permit.
An International Driver’s Permit is essential in Mexico, especially if you cannot speak in Spanish. Commonly, law officials in remote areas may require you to have one, as they might not understand English or your native language. Tourists driving their own vehicles should bring their car registration documents to avoid getting fined.
You need to observe general driving standards to avoid accidents and unnecessary delays in your journey in Mexico. Brush up on the rules of the country’s roads, including unspoken but necessary driving customs. Here are some driving tips in Mexico:
- You should be well-rested and sober, especially if it's going to be a long drive. Wear your prescription glass if you have eye vision and issues. Always bring your valid driver's license, IDP, passport, visa, car registration papers and proof of car ownership, and auto insurance.
- If you're going to cross the Mexican border by your own car, you should have a temporary vehicle importation permit. If you're renting one, always bring your car rental papers with you. Don’t also forget that before driving in Mexico, insurance is necessary for worry-free travel.
- Check your oil level, tire pressure, coolant, and battery. Make sure you have a good spare tire. You won’t regret driving in Mexico safe and sound while having proper equipment and tools.
- As much as possible, always drive in daylight and avoid doing so at night. Driving at night in Mexico can be dangerous. For one, lights on most highways are non-existent. You won't be able to see livestock walking across the roads, especially those outside major cities, and it's difficult to see if there are speed bumps (topes in Mexican), potholes, or even carjackers.
- The presence of law enforcement is limited in some areas at night in Mexico, so don't go out alone if you have to drive and go somewhere.
- And of course, make sure you have more than enough fuel for your trip. Many local gas stations don't have gas, so fill up the tank at the first petrol station. Don't be certain there's gas to fill up on at the next station.
- Observe road signs to avoid missing a turn or a stop. Remember to wear your safety belts and remain under speed limits. Keep your car doors locked and windows up while driving in Mexico.
- Always concentrate on the roads. If you're from the US or Canada, you may be used to riding on a certain lane when driving. In Mexico, cars move out of order on the roads. If you're not aware, you may hit somebody or get slammed into. Intersections in the country also have no road signs, so look both ways before crossing them.
- Keep your music volume low, so you'll be able to hear clearly and avoid distractions, especially in Mexico where noise can be loud on the road. Don't entertain text messages or phone calls as it's illegal to use a mobile phone while driving.
- It's highly advisable to drive on toll roads, known as cuotas in Mexico, due to their increased safety and better conditions, especially outside of major cities where emergency and local law enforcement presence are limited.
- Be careful when choosing a place to park. Don't just leave your car in the street. The chance of theft is very high, so it's better to use covered parking lots and garages. Or you can leave your car near busy shopping centers, hotels, or other establishments.
- If you see a road sign with the crossed letter “E”, this means parking is not allowed in that area. Avoid parking on narrow streets. That also goes for isolated roads, if you're going to leave your car for more than a few hours.
Speed limits in Mexico vary, depending on the location. Residential areas implement a 10 kph speed limit, while drivers must not go above 70 kph on main roads. Towns and cities (vias locales) usually have 40 kph speed limits, while roads near school, hospital, and pedestrian zones enforce up to 20 kph or slower. Since there are more people and cars in these areas, avoid speeding up.
Major highways inside cities have 90-100 Kph speed limit, while major roads leaving or approaching towns or cities implement 100 Kph speed limits.
It's for your benefit to drive slowly as you're allowed to on all kinds of roads, since you'll be able to enjoy the country more. If you’re driving in Mexico, requirements are needed to be followed.
If you’re driving within the country, you need to follow all the rules that are set by their government regarding the road rules in the country. The following are the driving directions you need to note:
Overtaking must be done on the left
Every driver must drive on the right side. This is done to ensure order while driving on the streets of Mexico. Breaking this direction will result in a possibility of accidents. On two-lane roads, you must keep right before you take left turns to avoid car accidents.
Always look on both sides when merging in traffic
If you want to avoid any damage done to your rented vehicle, you need to be vigilant. Always look to your left and then right before you merge into traffic. Make sure no other car is about to go in the same direction as you will. Therefore, you must always look at both sides before merging into traffic.
Be wary of the many roundabouts
In Mexico, there are many roundabouts, especially in Cancun, Mexico. It is paired with normal lights and can be very confusing at times. You need to study both roundabouts and lights. If you can’t figure it out, ask a local anytime as they can also understand some English due to how a majority of Americans or US Citizens often visit the country.
Traffic Road Signs
There are traffic road signs to guide drivers, including first-timers, in Mexico. While most of them are similar to other countries, follow international standards, and are self-explanatory, you'll discover some Mexican road signs that are unfamiliar as they are unique to the country.
- Red or yellow warning signs often advise of potential danger on Mexican roads. Take note of any warning signs you see in the country to be alert of possible dangers ahead
- Most road signs in Mexico are information signs, which inform motorists about the road they're using and the road ahead
- Follow all mandatory road signs in Mexico. They're not advisory signs but must be observed. For example, a mandatory road sign will tell you to pass on the right of a road only
- Priority road signs in Mexico are designed to clarify who has priority or right of way at the road ahead
- Prohibitory signs are used on roads to restrict certain types of vehicles, like heavy cargo trucks, and certain maneuvers such as U-turns, or setting maximum speeds
Right of Way
There is no right of way in most parts of Mexico, so if you've got a mini car, and you're coming up on the right of a 10-wheeler truck, don't expect the truck driver to give way to you. Always yield to other drivers if there's no urgency needed to avoid any hassles.
In mountainous areas, though, uphill traffic has the right of way. If you're going downhill and see oncoming vehicles, pull over to the side of the road as far as you'll be out of the way. If you're the one climbing uphill however, don't be certain the other driver will give way.
Legal Driving Age
The driving age in Mexico is at least 15 years old, provided there is parental supervision. Meanwhile, 18-year-olds can already drive without guidance, provided they have a license and correct documents. But if you're renting a car, you should be at least 21 years old and have held your license for at least two years. Drivers under 25 years old may have to pay a young driver surcharge. The legal driving age in Mexico is quite different from other countries in terms of the policy.
Laws on Overtaking
Overtake on the left if you choose to, except on roads where signs indicate it's prohibited. Be careful when overtaking, as this is a major cause of accidents in Mexico, where many locals drive without insurance.
Also, watch out for drivers turning without indicating. It's a notorious Mexican trait, so be alert.
Motorists in the country drive on the right side of the road. If you live in the UK or other countries where road users drive on the left, always bear in mind to drive on the right-hand side in Mexico. As mentioned above, if you specifically commit this mistake, you might break a traffic rule, or get in trouble with other motorists.
Other Road Rules
What does a “Hassle-Free Zone” mean in Mexico?
The “Free Zone” in Mexico is an area 20-26 kilometers from the US-Mexico border. In this area, requirements are less strict or alleviated. It is a zone marked at the end of the Mexican Federal Highway Number 15. A temporary vehicle importation permit is not required within this area.
Can you drive a friend’s car to Mexico?
Driving a friend’s car in Mexico is possible. However, that doesn’t mean that you should be doing that. Regardless of whose vehicle you are driving or whether you are renting a car, you need to take responsibility for the consequences.
As for rented vehicles, there may be guidelines as set by the car rental company from whom you rented your vehicle from.
The Driving Etiquette in Mexico
Driving in Mexico is arguably one of the best convenient ways to explore the country, but you'll likely experience challenges and issues on occasion. Tourists, especially from the US and Europe, usually ask, ‘is it safe to drive in Mexico?’ In this guide, you’’ discover the driving etiquette in Mexico to be significantly different.
If you're going to be active on the roads in Mexico, be prepared for minor or even major incidents. There will be times also that you need to ask locals for directions. When you do, always be polite and well-mannered. You can speak to them in English, but they appreciate it more when you try communicating in Spanish. They will appreciate your efforts in speaking their local language.
There's always a chance that your car will break down in Mexico. It can be unsettling, especially when you're just starting your excursion in the country. Get hold of your wits and call for help. In case of such future incidents, here's something to follow:
1. Slow down and park at the side of the road.
When your car's showing signs of engine trouble, or your tires deflate, gradually slow down. Don't stop immediately, it may cause further damage to your car, or to the vehicle behind you if there's one. Put on your hazard lights and slowly pull to the side of the road, at the farthest side as much as possible. If you're on a major highway, try to move to the nearest emergency bay or the side with enough space to fit your car.
If you break down on the toll roads, Mexican patrols known as the Angeles Verdes (Green Angels) will offer to help you free of charge, especially in the daytime. But if your car dies in an isolated area, especially at night, you may have to call your rental car company or your auto insurer. Driving in Mexico safe and sound should be your priority if a case like a dead engine occurs.
2. Be mindful when going out of the car.
Look at the road first before going outside the car to check the issue. Make sure it's safe to go outside and there are no suspicious individuals. Remember to stay away from the road as much as possible when you check your car. If your car can still run at minimum capacity, drive towards a nearby town or a local establishment.
If your car breaks down at night on major highways or toll roads, the Green Angels will likely assist you. At night, there are fewer of them, but you can call their 24-hour hotline at 078, or in some states, 01-800-987-8224.
But if you're in a remote area, especially with no lights in the vicinity, you'll be likely stuck until morning. It's important that you don't panic. Wind up your windows, lock the doors and if help won't be coming from your rental company or insurer quickly, try to wait in the backseat. Don't leave the car to get into the back, just go between the front seats.
3. Bring out the hazard sign.
If you have a hazard sign or a red warning triangle with you, provided by the rental car company, place it behind your car near the road. Hazard signs are not required in Mexico, but they’ll help you. The sign tells motorists your car's in trouble, which will prompt them to slow down and assist you. If you call a mechanic or tow services, they'll be able to find you easily.
4. Turn car wheels away from the road.
Remember to keep your car wheels away from the road. If the hand brakes fail, the vehicle won't move towards the road. It might hit oncoming traffic if the car's brakes fail and move towards the road.
5. Don’t let the passengers go out.
Don't let your passengers leave the vehicle, especially at night. If someone needs to leave the vehicle to call for help, you or another adult will be enough. If you have minors or seniors with you, they should remain inside the car while waiting for assistance. Crack a window just enough to let the airflow inside, if the air conditioning's off, but always keep the doors locked, especially at night.
6. Contact your car rental provider.
If you're renting a car, call the rental company for help and wait for them to arrive. If they can't reach in time, and you need to move already, ask them to search and send help from car services near your area.
7. Ask for help from the locals.
If you're from a Spanish-speaking country, you'll have no problem asking locals driving directions in Mexico since it's spoken by the vast majority of the population. English is also used in Mexico as most public and private schools in the country offer instruction in English as a second language.
Don't let cartel movies about Mexico hinder you from asking for help from locals if needed. Most of them are nice and are willing to assist you by calling for help. But only do so in the daytime. Be aware of scammers or carjackers. If they invite you to an isolated or remote area to wait for help, kindly refuse their offer and wait for help. Be polite when speaking with them. Still, inform your car rental agency or auto insurer that you need assistance.
The worst part of any driving trip in any country is the fact that if you’re a tourist, you often get stopped by police. A reason for this is that they would like to check whether you are a legitimate driver within your country with enough experience. It is for them to ensure that you won’t cause future troubles within the country.
You could also be over speeding, which is why they will stop you. The following are the common requirements they will ask from you.
- Native driver’s license
- Proof of Insurance
- International Driver’s Permit
- Passport (if asked)
A reliable road map can help you get to your destination stress-free, but sometimes you need a local's help to get to your destination faster. During your journey, you'll likely ask locals driving directions in Mexico. While some of them speak English, it's best to practice basic Spanish to get the best responses from them when asking for help.
Here are some words or phrases to help you with:
- Disculpa (informal) - Excuse me
- Disculpe (formal) - Excuse me
- Señor - Sir
- Señora - Ma’am
- Señorita - Miss
- Joven - Young man
- Buenos días - Good morning
- Buenas tardes - Good afternoon
- Buenas noches - Good evening
- ¿Hablas inglés? - Do you speak English?
- no entiendo - I don’t understand
- ¿Puede ayudarme? - Can you help me? -
- ¿Donde está/están…? - Where is/are…?
- ¿A qué distancia? - How far?
- ¿Dónde hay una gasolinera? – Where is a gas station?
- ¿Dónde hay una farmacia? – Where is a drugstore?
- ¿Cómo llego a la plaza? – How do I get to the main square?
- ¿Qué tan lejos está el centro comercial? – How far is the shopping center?
- ¿Hay algún(a) [supermercado] cerca de aquí? – Is there any [supermarket] around here?
- Estoy perdido – I’m lost
- Busco la gasolinera más cercana – I’m looking for the closest gas station
- Estoy buscando un cajero automático - I’m looking for an ATM
- ¿Cómo llego al parque? - How do I get to the park?
- ¿Sabes si está por aquí el centro comercial? - Do you know if the mall is around here?
- ¿Hay un hospital cerca de aquí? - Is there a hospital around here?
- ¿Cuál es la mejor forma de ir a…? - What is the best way to go to…?
- ¿Qué tan lejos está el/la… del/de la…? - How far is the… from the…?
This may be one of the most intimidating experiences for first-time drivers in Mexico: military checkpoints. Military personnel in full-army fatigues with automatic rifles stand on both sides of major highways in Mexico, with a structure or a sand hut nearby.
They are there for good reason. The Mexican government installed a number of them to combat drug trafficking and other illegal activities. Military personnel always check for drugs and firearms. Bringing or possession of any firearm is illegal in Mexico. Unless you want to experience Mexican prison, make sure you don't have any of that contraband with you.
- When you approach a military checkpoint, young personnel (often below 20 years of age) either will let you pass through or flag you down. If they signal you to pull to the side of the road, be calm. Do so and wait for them to approach you.
- Most soldiers are courteous to tourists since they're instructed to do so. Don't expect them however to speak in English. If you know Spanish, good for you. If you don't but have a good Spanish phrasebook with you, that will help your communication with them. But if you don't have both, hand gestures will do the talking.
- If they say, “I?”, they're asking where you're going. When they say “De donde viene?”, they're asking you which town you came from. Be prepared to answer them, but don't be pressured.
- Military personnel will likely ask to inspect your car. Step out and let them check your vehicle. They usually inspect the glove compartment, the seats, the trunk, and even the contents of your travel bags. If they ask for documents like your passport, driver’s license, and Mexico car insurance, present them. After that, they will let you go.
- The best thing to do at military checkpoints is to smile at the soldiers. Having a friendly approach always coaxes out courteous interactions with military personnel.
Is it dangerous to drive through Mexico?
Driving through Mexico is safe during the day. However, like every other country, you need to avoid driving through the roads during the night. It is advised that you need to stop by somewhere if you are still a long way from your destination, especially before nightfall. Also, keep in mind that there are roads in Mexican in poor road conditions, so be cautious when driving at night.
Driving Conditions in Mexico
Driving in Mexico can be both fun and challenging. You can enjoy an extensive infrastructure of roads and expressways connecting major cities, and also see daily life in Mexico from the country's free (libre) roads. But most roadways are congested daily, especially in Mexico City where cars are crawling for hours just to cover short distances.
There were more than 50 million vehicles in circulation in Mexico in 2019, a significant increase of 26.6 percent compared to 2015.
Local drivers can also be lax when changing lanes, using turn signals and other traffic regulations. Foreign drivers used to driving on one lane should be aware of this in the country. When driving in Mexico, safety should be always kept in mind.
Minor traffic accidents are common in Mexico, and unless a serious one occurs, traffic authorities are not usually called. If you're involved in a minor accident, don't be surprised if the other driver just looks at you before driving away. Most locals don't have car insurance. There's also a chance that if you leave your car in a public parking space, you might find bumps and dents when you return. This is common, and most drivers in Mexico don't leave a note with their insurance details.
If you're renting a car, and it gets damaged by another vehicle, and the other driver speeds off, you will have to pay for the damage if you don't have full coverage. But if the other driver is responsible enough to talk things over, wait for an insurance assessor to settle the matter.
Should you get involved in a car accident, don't run away. A rental car or foreign vehicle can be easily traced by Mexican authorities, and you're going to face more problems when they find you. If you become a victim of a hit-and-run accident, report this to your insurance agency or a rental company.
Mexico may be considered as part of North America, but most cars used in Mexico are different from the ones being driven in Canada and in the United States.
Drivers in Mexico prefer small and affordable vehicles, and sometimes pick-up trucks. Most brands used in the country are Nissan, Chevrolet, Volkswagen, and Kia. Honda, Ford, Toyota, and Mazda vehicles are also patronized by locals.
Cars commonly used by locals, like the Nissan Versa and Chevrolet Aveo, belie the stereotype that all families in Mexico are large or extended.
Mexican toll roads are your best option for the safest way in arriving at your destination. They have an ensured traffic flow since they are maintained properly. But since these roads are maintained properly, it comes with a price.
The price for using these Mexican toll roads also comes at a price. They can range from around 2.50 USD to 15 USD for passenger cards. This price will depend on the section of the highway.
The country has invested heavily in road infrastructure, improving its major roads and expressways. Authorities in the country are firm on the idea that when it comes to driving in Mexico, safety should always come first.
As mentioned, there are toll roads that are well maintained, but are relatively expensive, even compared to those in the US. But they are a fast, safe and effective way to travel across Mexico.
You can also drive on Mexico’s libre (free) roads, but they will be crawling with traffic. Most of them only have two lanes. They are also less maintained than toll roads. Beware of potholes and gouges that could break an axle or flatten a tire.
During a heavy downpour, expect flooding on roads due to a lack of proper drainage. Dirt roads also turn into mud roads during rainstorms, which might get your vehicle stuck, unless it's a four-wheel-drive vehicle with high ground clearance.
So, what is driving like in Mexico? The driving culture in Mexico, that tourists who plan to drive in the country should know, varies across the country. Like every other country with a similar land area as Mexico, people in different areas have different cultures. As for Mexico City drivers, they don’t usually follow the rules and rarely use indicators. However, Mexico City Yucatán drivers are polite and always drive by the speed limit.
Things to Do in Mexico
Mexico is a diverse country with different cultures and many activities available for every tourist, and even their natives. However, if you intend to read more about what a tourist can do in this magnificent country, read on.
Drive As a Tourist
If you want to fully enjoy the money you spent on your trip, then drive through the country. By driving through the country, you have more control of your time and your itinerary while visiting the country. So, to drive in the country as a tourist, you need to prepare the following essential documents:
- Native driver’s license
- International Driving Permit
- Proof of rented vehicle
- Passport (if asked)
Work as a Travel Guide
Any foreigner with the intention of working in Mexico must obtain a work visa and residency visa. Like in most countries, entities within another country would rather have an employee, like a tourist guide, who is already familiar with the destinations in every country. The bottom line is, you can work as a foreigner, but never as a tourist.
Apply for Residency
If you want to stay in Mexico for good, here are the following requirements and sequence on how you can begin processing your Permanent Residence Visa.
- Set your appointment by contacting the Mexican Embassy.
- Fill out the Mexico Visa Application Form.
- Gather the required documents.
- Submit your application and pay the fee for the visa.
- Wait on the visa to be processed.
- Get your passport.
Other Things To Do
Mexico is a country with a lot of potential and things to do. So, if you want to fully enjoy everything that this nation has to offer, learn of the other things you can do to extend your stay in the country.
How do you get a Temporary Residency Visa in Mexico?
In case you want to stay in Mexico for more than 180 days, you have the option to get a temporary residency visa. This visa will be approved for one year and then can be renewed for up to three years. Upon reaching the four years maximum, that’s when you should be applying for a Permanent Residency Visa in Mexico.
How long does it take to get your Temporary Residency Visa in Mexico?
Upon approval, you can now get a Temporary Residency Visa in Mexico. Once you travel to Mexico, you need to apply for a Temporary Residency Permit within 30 days, at the National Migration Institute (INMI). This entire process can take 1-3 months.
How long can you stay in Mexico without a visa?
If you’re a US Citizen who’s traveling to Mexico, you will need your passport only to travel to Mexico. As for your length of stay in Mexico, you will be allowed 180 days only or six months. If you want to go beyond that, applying for a Temporary Residency Visa is highly recommended.
Top Destinations in Mexico
As previously mentioned, Mexico is one of the top destinations that most nationalities from all over the world come and visit. Continue reading to learn more about what truly makes it the reason why most foreigners would choose this country to visit. Look into Mexico’s top destinations and see what activities you can do there!
The "7"-shaped barrier island in South Eastern Mexico is a must for travelers in the country, especially those who are looking for beaches, golfing, and nightlife. Perceived as one of the best beaches in the world, its terrific sand beaches and entrancing sea offer extraordinary scenery, Mayan culture, and thrilling activities. Driving in Cancun, Mexico, adds to the thrill for tourists.
Cancún is one of the most affordable vacations you can ever have in the West, especially if you book a cruise.
From Cancun International Airport
- Get on Carr. Cancún - Tulum/Chetumal-Cancun/México 307 from Carr. a Aeropuerto Cancún.
- Head northwest, then turn left.
- Turn left toward Carr. a Aeropuerto Cancún.
- Slight right onto Carr. a Aeropuerto Cancún.
- Continue onto Punta Nizuc - Cancún.
- Merge onto Carr. Cancún - Tulum/Chetumal-Cancun/México 307 via the ramp to Cancún.
Things to Do
1. Visit Cancun’s famous beaches
Experience a truly tropical retreat when you visit Cancun’s famous beaches. With its soft white sand and clear blue waters along with the cool breeze as it fans your face, it’s your haven away from home. Various activities such as water sports and nightclubs are lined up to make your trip worthwhile.
2. Ziplining in the jungle
Want to see the entire jungle in one go? Go zip lining in Cancun to have an entire view of the jungle. However, if you are afraid of heights or if you have heart issues or panic disorders, you may need to rethink this activity.
3. Explore the ancient Mayan city
Are you into discovering ancient histories and civilizations? Then the Mayan city is the perfect place to explore. If you feel like decrypting the Mayan symbols and discovering the world’s end, then this place is definitely for you to explore.
Cabo, San Lucas
The party central of the beautiful Baja Peninsula, Los Cabos is one of Mexico's top beach destinations besides Cancun. Consisting of a 30-kilometer stretch of enthralling beaches spanning from the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, it features some of the country's most luxurious hotels, resorts and golf courses.
Its clear waters offer visitors activities such as diving, snorkeling, and even fishing.
From Cabo, San Lucas International Airport
Av. Leona Vicario s/n, Mesa Colorada, 23460 Cabo, San Lucas, B.C.S., Mexico
- Head southwest toward Leona Vicario 2.
- Continue onto Leona Vicario 2.
- Turn right onto Álvaro Obregón.
- Make a right onto Calle Mariano Abasolo.
Things to Do
1. Go sunset cruising
The perfect activity for both couples and families. Sunset cruising gives you the picturesque view of the setting sun as you ride on a cruise with an open bar. If you’re traveling alone in Cabo, then you could make acquaintances with other people there.
2. Take out your rods and try your luck in fishing
Did you know that Cabo is actually a popular fishing destination? Many US Citizens often visit the area just to try their luck in fishing. Exotic fishes can be found here, and catching one of them would be an achievement.
3. Party by the beach
After an eventful day of touring around Cabo, partying would be a good activity for your finale. Dance the night away with strangers, sip a margarita by the bar, or just listen to the music. Experience complete relaxation when you go to Cabo San Lucas.
A city with a rich history, originating from the Aztecs to the Spanish conquest. Mexico City is the place to be. Experience driving in Mexico City and enjoying all the activities that’s being offered in this destination. Learn more about it now.
From Mexico City International Airport
Av. Capitán Carlos León S/N, Peñón de los Baños, Venustiano Carranza, 15620 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
- Head northeast on Calle Sonora/Av. Capitán Carlos León toward Terminal 2 / Viaducto / Zaragoza.
- Sharp left toward Calle Puerto México.
- Keep left to continue on Calle Puerto México.
- Calle Puerto México turns right and becomes Cto. Interior/Blvd. Puerto Aéreo.
- Take the Fray ST de Mier exit toward Centro Histórico/Galindo y Villa.
- Merge onto Blvd. Puerto Aéreo.
- Slight right onto Av. 8/Fray Servando Teresa de Mier/Eje 1 Sur.
- Continue to follow Fray Servando Teresa de Mier/Eje 1 Sur.
- Turn right onto Fray Servando Teresa de Mier.
- Keep right to stay on Fray Servando Teresa de Mier.
- Stay on your left to continue on Fray Servando Teresa de Mier/Eje 1 Sur.
- Keep left to stay on Fray Servando Teresa de Mier/Eje 1 Sur.
- Fray Servando Teresa de Mier/Eje 1 Sur turns right and becomes Calle Topacio.
- Turn left onto Plaza de San Pablo/Eje 1A Sur.
- Continue to follow Eje 1A Sur. And then go straight onto José María Izazaga/Eje 1A Sur.
- Turn right onto Isabel La Católica.
- Turn left onto República de Uruguay until you reach Mexico City.
Things to Do:
1. Explore the Teotihuacan or the City of the Gods
Discover the city of the Gods and explore ancient temples or buildings. These are buildings which tell of Mexico’s great history, that’s why if you want to reanimate how ancient civilizations used to live.
2. Learn more about Mexico’s history through its museums
There are many museums in Mexico City for you to visit. Museums through which help you learn more about how Mexico came to be. If you’re enthusiastic about knowing more about this country, then visiting the museums which Mexico City has to offer is a great go-to place.
3. Try the street foods within the city
Where else could you try authentic Mexican food than Mexico City itself? Experience a gastronomic adventure throughout the city when you try out their street foods. From Tacos, Tamales, Quesadillas, and more—it’s truly a mouthwatering experience.