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Driving And Car Rental In Mexico

If I have to summarize everything in just one sentence, it would be this:


You've probably read the same about driving in Mexico in every travel guide:

“They’re all crazy!”
“It’s dangerous!”
“Don’t drive at night!”
“Watch out for armed bandidos and highway robbers!”

I grew up driving in Russia, I drove in the world's largest megalopolises like Moscow, New York and L.A. Driving in Seattle ( one of America's most traffic congested cities ) is no piece of cake either. But I've never seen that many retards behind the wheel as I saw in Mexico !

At first look, it may appear that there are no traffic rules at all. As it turned out later, there are some traffic rules, but all of them are "flexible based on circumstances".

In Mexico, it’s always Make Your Own Lane Day! Your lane is wherever you can fit. The speed limits in Mexico are largely ignored, with people driving at only one of two speeds: eye-clawingly slow or terrifyingly fast, a choice seemingly independent of the number of people crammed into their car or truck.

Another unique difference in Mexico is the proliferation of speed bumps, or topes. These aren’t your average "American speed bumps". They are usually gigantic and made of steel discs, not gently sloping concrete. If you hit one unaware at a high speed, you will damage your car.

Before leaving for Mexico, I read somewhere : " Police corruption used to be a major problem in Mexico, and as a result the government has cracked down big time. They routinely test officers by having undercover agents offer them bribes. That means that you shouldn’t go around expecting to offer cops money to get out of trouble. "

I got pulled over twice in Zona Hotelera in Cancun ( where, apparently, special "Tourist Police" is suppose to take extra care of visitors ). First they take your driver license, then they start "extorting" money from you. First time I paid 500 pesos, and the next time I gave the officer my car rental papers and told him to call the office about the ticket he was about to give me. He let me go.

As for renting a car in Mexico, Id' suggest to book online...but even that won't guarantee you won't be ripped off.

I rented a car through kayak.com from American Car Rental, the name that ( at least for me ) basically screams "trust us". Not only did it turn out to be a Mexican company where nobody could speak decent English, they took "cash deposit" ( $1750 ) from my debit card ( unlike in America where they take a slip of your credit card, and usually charge just $200-250 ) leaving me with no money for the next two days.

Driving in Mexico is definitely not an experience that you will soon forget. I'm sure they have traffic laws. Whether or not they are enforced seems completely arbitrary, so drive at your own risk. But remember, the number one cause of death for American tourists is traffic-related fatalities.

Also keep in mind :

The Mexican judicial system operates under Napoleonic law: offenders are presumed guilty until proven innocent.

What does it have to do with driving in Mexico ?

Read " Why You Don't Want to Have an Accident When Driving a Rental Car in Mexico "

One thing I wish I had during my travel around the Yucatan Peninsula is a road map. In US you can buy a paper road map ( of the state you travel round ) at ( almost ) every gas station, but in Mexico I had a hard time finding one. So if you don't have a smart phone, tablet or GPS make sure you get one of these maps:

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