- Topes are speed
bumps located everywhere in Mexico. They are not always well marked.
Their purpose is to slow you down. They range from a rope laid across
the road to giant concrete bumps across the highway. If you do not
slow down to a snail's pace before hitting a tope, you can expect
to launch your vehicle into flight, potentially damage your suspension,
and possibly bite halfway through your tongue as you land.
- When approaching
a town, assume there are topes. There are most always topes at schools,
military installations and fire stations.
- A wide tope often
doubles as an elevated crosswalk. These are often marked as pedestrian
walkways and have yellow stripes. The pedestrian always has the right-away
on these types of topes and failing to stop is a ticketable offense.
- A tope that
is placed before an oncoming left turn indicates that you must yield
to the left turning traffic. The tope is replacing the function of
a left turn light for the oncoming traffic. You won't see too many
of these, but Chetumal has one in front of the Police station on Insurgentes,
so watch for this.
- Plan to drive
in the day.
- Loose livestock
can appear at any time. Construction sites or stranded vehicles are
often unmarked by flares or other warning signals.
- Shoulders are
often narrow or absent altogether, making it difficult to recover
if a wheel strays from the pavement momentarily. This is true of the
highway from Tulum to Cafetal junction.
- In many places
there are no reflective paint stripes along the side of the road so
that you cannot see exactly where the edge of the road is.
- Sometimes cars
have only one headlight or lack brake lights.
- Bicycles seldom
have lights or reflectors.
- Pedestrians (often
drunk) may walk along the road at night because of the lack of shoulders.
The lights of oncoming vehicles make it almost impossible to see the
- If you find yourself
having to drive at night, try not to pass for all of the above reasons.
- If you have to
drive at night, please slow down.
- If someone is
driving towards you with lights flashing, it usually means that there
is an obstruction on the road with some sort of lane narrowing. This
may be construction, a stalled vehicle, accident or merely a tree
that has fallen into one of the lanes. The custom is that the first
vehicle to flash has the right of way and the other must yield.
- Left turn signals
are used for more than turning left and have their own set of rules.
A blinking left turn signal on the vehicle in front of you could mean
that it is clear ahead and you may pass, or it could mean the driver
is making a left turn. An outstretched left arm may mean an invitation
for you to pass. When in doubt, do not pass.
- This sounds bizarre,
but if there is no left turn lane and there is a lot of oncoming traffic
it is your responsibility to pull over to the right side of the road
and wait for it to be clear before making a left turn. Honestly I've
never seen anyone do this and there really aren't a lot of shoulders
but do be careful.
- When making a
left turn, look BEHIND you as well as at oncoming traffic (for the
two reasons stated above).
- In Mexico, it
is illegal to make a right turn on a red light. However, taxis do
it all the time!
- Yellow traffic
lights are a signal to stop, not just to slow down. The traffic lights
will flash green before turning yellow.
Renting a Car
- Rental car agencies
are usually very good. If you break down they they usually will give
you a replacement car within 24 hours - even way out here on the Costa
Maya. We have seen cars delivered in the middle of the night here.
- Test to make
sure you have windshield wiper fluid in the vehicle and that the wipers
that your credit card will cover Collision Damage Waiver on a rental
car in Mexico. If it does, bring a copy of the damage waiver with
you. It will save you from having to contact your credit card company
and having them fax it to you in the event of an accident.
- The standard insurance
included with many car rental contracts in Mexico provides only nominal
liability coverage, often as little as the equivalent of $200. Because
Mexican law permits the jailing of drivers after an accident until
they have met their obligations to third parties and to the rental
company, renters should read their contracts carefully and purchase
additional liability and comprehensive insurance if necessary. NOTE:
as of 2008 - Jan. it is a requirement that all vehicles carry liability
insurance. Do not make the mistake of thinking that your insurance
will cover you without first checking. See the section below on Accidents.
- Most cars rented out of
Cancun are standard-shift subcompacts and jeeps; most have air-conditioning,
but cars with automatic transmissions should be reserved in advance
(though bear in mind that some smaller car-rental places have only
- If you have an
emergency while driving, call the Ministry of Tourism's hotline or
(55) 5250-8221, extension 130/297, to obtain help from the Green
Angels, a fleet of radio dispatched trucks with bilingual crews.
Services include protection, medical first aid, mechanical aid for
your car, and basic supplies. You will not be charged for services,
only for parts, gas, and oil. The Green Angels patrol daily, from
dawn until sunset. If you are unable to call them, pull off the road
and lift the hood of your car; chances are good they will find you.
- Avoid leaving
your car unattended -- it is a target for theft
- The state run
Pemex stations are the only gas stations in the Country.
- Gas stations
usually only take cash. Quintana Roo gas stations will accept US cash,
but usually give change in Pesos and give a lesser exchange rate then
you can get elsewhere. The gas station at the north end of Bacalar
will accept credit cards.
- There are plenty
of gas stations in and around Quintana Roo. The one in Mahahual has
been operational for over a year and a new one opened in Bacalar in
the summer of 2005
- While this is
not true of every gas station, when buying gas, assume you will be
cheated and then you will less likely to be taken advantage of. The
following are some tips to avoid getting ripped off. Take it as a
challenge and don't let them take advantage of you!
- Get out of
the car and stand next to the person filling the tank.
- If they try
and distract you with washing your windshield or filling your
tires with air, ignore them. You can deal with that later.
- Stay focused
on the pump and make sure it is cleared to $0.00 before they start.
- Do not fall
prey to the trick where the attendant says the pump on your side
is not working. If that is the case, drive around to the other
side or walk around to the other side.
- Pay attention
to how much change you should receive in return when paying for
your fuel and EXACTLY the bills you give them. Gas station attendants
have been known to intentionally give tourists the incorrect amount
of change or tell you that you gave them a 20 instead of 200 pesos.
- If they start
and stop the meter write down the first amount. Don't trust their
addition or the fact that they may change the number on their
hand while you are distracted.
- Gasoline is sold
in liters (1 gallon = 3.79 liters)
In case of an Accident
- Most accidents
involving visitors to Mexico are a result of the visitor not expecting
or anticipating an unaccustomed, sudden change in traffic or road
- When a car accident
takes place, the driver at fault must pay damages before being released
driving into Mexico, the single biggest cause of motor vehicle accidents
on the highway is the narrow roadway with almost no shoulder. When
Driving In Mexico be aware of the drop-off from pavement to shoulder
it is usually several inches, so if a right side wheel drops off
the pavement, it will almost certainly result in an accident.
- When Driving
In Mexico this type of accident often results in the vehicle rolling
over with significant damage to the vehicle and injuries to its occupants.
Driver attention is enormously more important Driving In Mexico because
the roadways are much less forgiving than the wide, four lane highways
we are spoiled with in Canada and the U.S.
- MEXICAN AUTO
INSURANCE: Make sure you have Mexican liability insurance. All
of the major auto rental companies will require it but sometimes it
is included in the rate and some times they surprise you with it when
you come. If possible, check on this in advance. Also check to see
what your own credit card will cover. Many will cover collision but
not Mexican liability. Some will say that they cover the everything,
but in the case of an accident it is nice to have a Mexican insurance
company send a local adjuster in behalf of your interests. A foreign
insurance company may cover the costs, but you may find you are on
your own. The liability insurance will give you that piece of mind.
- If you are entering
Mexico using your own vehicle, pre-purchase insurance on-line. It
is much cheaper. Search for "Mexican auto insurance" in
Google and you will find many good companies. We have had good experience
with ING, but there are several very good ones.
- Military and
law enforcement checkpoints aimed at detecting narcotics and firearms
traffic are located at various places throughout Mexico. It is your
responsibility to stop until you are waved on. If you are not carrying
drugs or firearms you have nothing to worry about. Smile, grab your
purse or moneybelt and get out of the car when asked. If there are
no other cars waiting, have your picture taken with them.
- Do not pick up
hitchhikers who can put you in danger of being arrested for unwittingly
transporting narcotics or narcotics traffickers in your vehicle.
- Your vehicle
can be confiscated if you are transporting marijuana or other narcotics.
- The State of
Yucatan has agricultural inspection stations on its border to eradicate
swine fever and inspectors may confiscate pork products at these inspection
stations. Yucatan health inspectors may hold travelers for possible
arrest by Federal authorities if travelers appear in violation of
any Mexican laws, such as immigration, firearms, narcotics, etc.
- Police have been known
to pull over tourists in rental cars and try and extort money from
the driver. IT IS ILLEGAL TO PAY A POLICEMAN ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD.
- This is extortion and
policemen are working off your fears and the knowledge that vacationers
don't want to follow through paying a ticket.
- Policeman in trucks are
not highway policeman, they are "keepers of the peace."
- If a policeman or someone
posing as a policeman does pull you over, demand ID, take down his
license plate number, ask his name and write everything down. Demand
that they write you out a ticket and that you will pay it, but you
want proof that you were committing the offense. The US consulate
A written citation should be received
before the payment of any fine. No money should be paid directly
to a police officer. If you believe you are the victim of an extortion
attempt, you should make a note of the officer's name and badge
number, the time and location of the incident, and the number of
the patrol car if applicable, and immediately call the US Consular
Agency in Cancun or the US Consulate in Merida.
The US Consular Agency is located on the
second floor of Plaza Caracol, Boulevard Kukulcan, km. 8.5 Zona
Hotelera, Cancun, and can be reached by telephone at (52) (998)
883-0272. The US Consulate in Merida is located at Paseo Montejo
No. 453, Col. Centro, Merida, Yucatan. The US Consulate in Merida
can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone
at (52)(999) 925-5011 during working hours or (52)(999) 947-2285
after hours or on weekends.
- The possession
of an open alcohol container in public is illegal in Mexico
- Passengers can
drink alcohol however the driver of a vehicle is prohibited from drinking
alcohol while driving a vehicle on public roads.
- Drunk driving
is considered a major violation in Mexico. Designate a driver who
will not drink.
- It is valid to
use any driving license of any country, to drive in Mexico.
- The signs on
roads and cities follow the international standards.
- There are one
way streets which sense is indicated through the arrows in the corners;
when the arrows are green, these indicated that the traffic by that
street has preference, if they are red the cars should stop in the
- When Driving
Mexico speed limits are stated in kilometers (1 mile = 1.6 kilometers).
- If you are hit
from behind while Driving In Mexico, it is your fault.
- When driving
in Mexico the one-way signs are usually attached to buildings 10 feet
or so above ground level. The signs are only about five inches high
x 2 feet long and easy to miss
Streets going in the direction of the GREEN _ arrow have the right-of-way
Streets going in the direction of the RED _ arrow must yield the right-of-way
When in doubt, it's always safer (and smarter) to yield
- The US Consulate
warns US citizens not to loan their vehicles to Mexican citizens as
those vehicles are subject to seizure by Mexican authorities. If confiscated,
they are not returned.
- The driver of
a vehicle must wear a seat belt. Passengers are not required to.
- Speed limits
are posted in kilometers, not in miles per hour.