driving around yucatan

Driving in Mexico: all you need to know

Isabella CAMPECHE, CANCUN, ITINERARIES, MEXICO, QUINTANA ROO, RIVIERA MAYA, TULUM, WHERE, YUCATAN 0 Comments

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DRIVING IN MEXICO – I felt the necessity to write an entire post about this topic in order to explode the myth of being such a dangerous thing to do.

As I was explaining in this other and more general post on practical information you need to know if you wish to travel to Mexico, the fact that Cancun and the Riviera Maya are such exploited touristic resorts has a huge impact on the way information is divulged and what the big players of Tourism want to communicate.

Driving

“Obviously” (only to them) it will be much safer to buy a full package, inclusive of transportation, already made tours and fake parks where  you would be looked after all the time like little kids and nobody can hurt you.

It’s ok to choose organized tours if this is what you prefer because you don’t have to think about anything else and you only need to follow the tour leader instruction. It makes sense. Driving on your own would definitely  require more attention and engagement.

But if you, like me, don’t like to be told where to go and how much time you can spend there, when you must eat, pee, look or listen, then you will have an issue with tours.

Therefore, what to do? Rent a car, a map ( or a GPS) and explore, mingle with locals (they don’t bite, I assure you) and get a local guide at the ruins. Driving is indeed easy, and not at all dangerous. If you can drive in your hometown, you can drive anywhere.

You just need to  understand some unwritten rules, and that is what this article is about, and you will be fine. 

Driving

Dzibanchen Archaeological site on the boarders between Yucatan and Campeche. An amazing deserted site, you will need a car to get there.

Well, if you are Brits you may need to adapt to drive on a different side of the road, but other than that, I don’t see any reason why you should deprive yourself of this freedom and comfort. To rent a car is really easy,  because there are so many options, therefore, lots of competition and lower prices. You can either book it in advance on line or chose what makes the best impression here.

TIP ON CAR RENTALS Just make sure to know exactly the breakdown of the price you are given and whether this includes insurance, and what kind, as it can increase abruptly the cost of the rental.  Make sure you ask how much is the deductible because sometimes they say “fully insured” and they mean with a deductible, which is NOT FULLY insured. You can also check with your credit card before leaving home, because some offer rental cars insurance coverage (US american express is one of those). That would be awesome for you.

I have found an amazing site where they compare prices of different car rentals so you can make your choice. Click here if you wish to check it out and have a quote.

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Me, a few pounds ago. Photo courtesy of Sandra Salvadó @  www.elcaminomascorto.es

While driving in Mexico you need to pay attention to basically three things:

  1. TOPES, speed bumps, which most of the times are indicated but many times they are not. So watch for that because they can be quite big and not good for your rental, especially in proximity of villages and inhabited areas in general.
  2. POLICE, yes indeed! Sad but true. It is known that they love to stop you and make something up so that you feel forced to offer them a bribe. And to my disappointment it is all truth. I personally don’t like to do that and all the time I was stopped for any reasons (good reasons I admit),  I managed not to pay anything or just pay my ticket. I don’t really like to encourage this bribing practice. However I have heard of stories where it was inevitable and I understand that sometimes we have to give up on our principles just for the sake of peace. This practice is mostly common in Cancun and along the Riviera Maya mainly, but if you wish to explore Yucatan and Campeche, there is another mindset over there and a very different attitude. 
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    Me during a trip on the road with a friend. Our home in the middle of the Jungle of Yucatan. Photo courtesy of Sandra Salvadó (the friend) @ www.elcaminomascorto.es

  3. SPEED LIMITS – It is a common thought that in Mexico we all drive like crazy and  speed limits aren’t really signalled, but this is not true. On the contrary it is a very good  reason  for the Police to stop you (see above #2) and they would be right to do it. So remember to watch the speed limit on the side of the roads,  in and out of towns.
  4. There are many police check  points especially along the “Caretera Federal, the federal road that connects Cancun with Tulum and Bacalar  and a few all over the country.  You will see them and just need to slow down. Sometimes they ask you to pull off and check your documents, that’s it.
  5. SEAT BELT– That’s another reason why the police would  stop you. Just remember to wear it. I remember once a Police lady would drive beside me and while driving would kindly remind me about my belt. That was nice and unexpected.
  6. ROADS –  There are 2 main highways, one that connects  Cancun to Merida and another from Merida to Campeche. Those have a cost and they are the fastest. However I always prefer to drive along the toll free roads that pass through little villages and let you see more about this beautiful country. You never know which hidden cenote is waiting to be discovered or what beautiful old church you can bump into. The roads are generally well maintained although in more remote areas you can find an excess of path-holes. And always remember the “TOPES” (speed bumps) which are one of the few certainties in Mexico, especially in proximity of villages. Just take it easy and enjoy the local life.
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    My cabaña in Candelaria – Campeche – amazing place on the River

  7. GASOLINE – You need to pay attention to a couple of things here. In general you will find enough gas stations along the way all around Yucatan and I would suggest you to always check your tank gauge and keep it topped up. However in case you forget, no worries because in the small towns you will always find some Grocery store who sells gas as well. Another important thing at the gas stations, always check the counter while they pour gasoline and make sure they give you the correct change. Also, sometimes they will tell you they cannot accept credit cards because the system is down. I am not sure whether it is true or not, but it is advisable to have some cash with you, always. When you stop for gas, always ask by quantity and not by amount of money, otherwise you will get less gas… Yes I know.. hard to believe…
  8. NIGHT- avoid driving in the night, always. You won’t see path-holes and it’s not safe in general. Keep it as a  day activity and you will be fine.
  9. BUTTERFLIES – YES indeed. In some time of the year, like spring, you will feel like a murder because of the thousands of beautiful butterflies dancing  in front of your car front screen and getting smashed. There is nothing you can do about it, it’s the course of nature. Just make sure you don’t get distracted and look at the road. 😉

I have found this amazing website where you have all the major car rentals in one page so that you can compare prices. Click here to have a look and ask for a quotation.

ENJOY THIS BEAUTIFUL LAND AND DRIVE SAFE, ALWAYS!!

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