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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Top Driving Tips For Tourists


Mexico Rental Car GuideMexico Rental Car Guide
Mexico Driving Guide

Renting a car in Mexico and driving around the country yourself is a wonderful way to experience the Land of the Maya. Here’s some advice about the best way to do it.

I love Mexico. I’ve both lived & vacationed there for many years, with most of my time spent in the country’s Yucatan Peninsula area. Mexico is a very big country with a lot to offer!

Whenever I visit, I ALWAYS rent a car to explore on my own. It’s much more fun!

Renting a car in Mexico and driving yourself can have its quirks and challenges, but they are minimal and shouldn’t deter you.

I love the freedom of road trips and planning my own travel itineraries. Mexico is such a diverse country that it makes sense to rent a car so you can stop anywhere to discover small villages, ancient Mayan ruins like Chichen Itza, and hidden beaches or secret cenotes at your own pace.

Not on some strict (less than ideal) schedule with a tour company.

Here are some important tips we learned from our many experiences renting a car in Mexico, to help you save money and stay safe while driving around the country!

Matthew KarstenMatthew Karsten

Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten

I’ve been traveling the world for 10+ years as a professional photographer & writer. I hope you enjoy my Mexico driving tips! If you find them useful, using my affiliate links will give me a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

How To Rent A Car In Mexico

1. Should You Self-Drive In Mexico?

Driving through MexicoDriving through Mexico
Driving in Mexico for Tourists

Hey, if you love those big group bus tours, by all means, go book one. It’s a decent way to see Mexico if you don’t have a lot of time.

No planning, no driving, just sit back and let someone else do all the work!

But if you’re like me, you prefer the adventure of independent travel.

No set schedule or timetable — driving around Mexico with the freedom to stop anyplace cool you find along the way.

If that’s the kind of traveler you are, renting a car in Mexico is the way to go!

Just keep in mind that some roads in Mexico can be confusing, and some drivers are aggressive too. But with some practice, you’ll gain confidence driving there!

Another nice thing we enjoyed about having a car was the ability to store things in the trunk, stopping off in small Mexican villages with travel backpacks rather than hauling luggage everywhere.

2. Where To Rent Your Car In Mexico

Mexican Road SignsMexican Road Signs
Picking Up Your Car

Some common car rental companies in Mexico include Enterprise, Sixt, Hertz, a local one called Fox Rentals, and many more.

But the best site to book your car is Discover Cars. They search both local and international car rental companies to help you find the best possible price. This is the easiest way to rent a car in Mexico.

We often rent our cars in Cancun or Playa del Carmen. From there it’s very easy to drive down the coast exploring the famous Mexican Riviera Maya.

Cancun Airport: Plan to pick up your car about 60 minutes after your flight arrives. When departing, try to be at the airport at least 2.5 hours before your flight leaves. Because returning your rental car and catching a shuttle back to the airport can take up to 30 minutes.

Playa Del Carmen: There are many Mexican car rental companies based in downtown Playa del Carmen. You may decide to pick up your car in Playa del Carmen after you get dropped off at your hotel from the Cancun Airport Shuttle. Rentals based in Playa are often a bit cheaper than Cancun.

Rental CarsRental Cars

Rent A Car In Mexico

Search both local and international car rental companies to help you find a good deal.

3. Car Rental Insurance In Mexico

Some of the rumors about driving in Mexico are true, and the roads aren’t always maintained well, and drivers can be somewhat aggressive. Don’t worry, I’ll share some tips for dealing with them below.

This is why I highly recommend getting full insurance coverage.

Many travelers book rental cars using a travel friendly credit card that includes car rental insurance hoping that will save them some money, but in Mexico they won’t accept your credit card’s insurance, and will insist you buy additional Personal Liability insurance that costs $10-20 USD a day.

Some Mexican car rental companies will let you decline the insurance if you pay a large refundable deposit on your credit card (usually around $2500 USD). But if something happens that costs much more than that deposit, you’re paying out of pocket beyond that.

If it’s your first time driving in Mexico, I’d recommend getting the insurance just to be safe.

4. How Much Does It Cost To Rent A Car In Mexico?

Renting A Car In MexicoRenting A Car In Mexico
Driving by Mexico’s Pink Lakes

Renting a car in Mexico is going to cost you around $20-$50 USD a day, depending on the type of car you get. Our 4 door sedan was about $30 per day.

I recommend renting a car with an actual trunk (no hatchbacks) to hide your luggage from prying eyes. It helps to prevent break-ins if thieves can’t see your stuff.

Gas Prices

Gas (petrol) prices in Mexico might seem cheap to Americans, but remember that the rest of the world quotes gas in Liters, not Gallons (1 Gallon = 3.78 Liters). Currently, gas costs about $5.14 per gallon ($1.39 per liter) in Mexico. Diesel cars will often save you some money on gas.

Automatic vs Manual

Automatic cars are more expensive to rent than manual cars and you must specify what type you want when booking. If you’ve never driven a manual car before, don’t start in Mexico! It’s safer to pre-book an automatic.

One-Way Rentals

There’s an additional fee for one-way car rentals in Mexico, which can vary by company. For example, if you want to drop off the car in a different city than where you started from.

5. Age Requirements For Renting A Car

The minimum age for driving in Mexico is 18 years old, however most car rental companies enforce their own age limit of 21 years old to rent a car. They also charge an additional fee if you’re under 24 years old.

6. Mexican Driving Laws Tourists Should Know

Traffic in Tulum MexicoTraffic in Tulum Mexico
Driving Through the Beach Town of Tulum

Be careful with parking tickets! If you park illegally in Mexico (like not paying for a metered parking spot), you’ll likely get a ticket along with the police removing your license plate or booting your car’s wheel until you’ve paid.

In many parts of Mexico you may come across occasional police road blocks. Often you just drive through them slowly unless an officer tells you to pull over. Don’t be scared or nervous, they are standard practice.

The speed limit on local roads is generally around 90 km/h while on national highways it’s up to 100 km/h.

Speeding Tickets In Mexico (Bribing The Police)

If you get pulled over for speeding while driving in Mexico, Mexican police officers will generally be looking for a bribe (aka “La Mordida”) from tourists. It’s just how things work. The amount is about $10 – $20 USD.

If you try and fight it, or ask for an official ticket instead, prepare to deal with a lot of hassle and paperwork that will certainly ruin the rest of your day.

7. International Driver’s License

No, you do not need an international driver’s license to drive in Mexico or rent a car there. Just bring your passport, credit card, and your driver’s license from your home country.

8. Helpful Tips For Driving In Mexico

Road traffic in MexicoRoad traffic in Mexico
Mexican Traffic Jam

You don’t have to stop for people! Pedestrians generally don’t have the right of way in Mexico, which means cars won’t stop for people walking across the street. This took some getting used to for me.

While you could be extra nice and stop for them anyway, you need to be careful because any local drivers behind you will NOT be expecting that, which can result in a bad accident. They hit you, you hit the people.

Merging onto a highway is very different than in the US. Often cars are stopped on the ramp waiting for an opening. And if you miss your opening (no matter how tight it may seem), you’ll certainly get honked at by those waiting behind you.

Beware of hidden speed bumps (called “Topes). While most of the time there will be a road sign announcing an upcoming speed bump, sometimes the signs are missing, and the speed bump paint has been worn off, and you’ll be rudely surprised by a very aggressive speed bump (that could wreck your suspension). You’ll generally find them as you enter and exit small towns.

Speeding drivers who are in a rush may tailgate you while flashing their lights. They just want you to pull over a bit so they can continue speeding past you. As long as it’s safe to do so, I would recommend doing it to avoid any road rage incidents.

9. Extra Advice For Renting A Car In Mexico

  • Gas Station Scams: In Mexico, gas station attendants fill your car for you. Some attendants will try and scam tourists if they think they can get away with it. Either by not resetting the pump (so it looks like you got more gas than you really did), or pretending you didn’t give them enough cash using slight of hand. Keep your eye on the attendant & the gas pump screen at all times
  • Don’t book a car without reading the company reviews. You’ll find plenty of bad reviews for every company (people love to complain online), but try to pick one with the LEAST bad reviews.
  • You may not always get the make/model/type of car you booked. If they give you a smaller car, or a manual when you asked for an automatic, be pushy and ask for an upgrade.
  • Inspect your car thoroughly and record video on your smartphone pointing out damage before you leave. This is a backup if they attempt to charge you for damage that was already there. This is a common car rental scam in Mexico….
  • Pay attention to if your Mexican rental car takes regular petrol or diesel fuel, so you fill up with the correct type at gas stations.
  • Use Google Maps on your smartphone for directions instead of renting a GPS device. Simply use your own hands-free car mount and a good international cell phone plan.

10. Accident & Breakdown Information

In a road emergency on a highway, you can dial the Green Angles (Ángeles Verdes) in Mexico by dialing 078. Alternatively, you can call: 250-82-21. They provide free travel information, mechanical assistance, and medical help for nationals and tourists.

If your car needs to be towed, or you need mechanical assistance, ran out of gas, or got in a wreck, you can call them for help.

Often the rental company’s own emergency roadside assistance number located on the rental agreement.

Enjoy Your Mexico Road Trip!

Exploring the small villages, hidden beaches, lush jungle, and coastal towns of Mexico in a rental car was definitely the right choice for us.

Self-drive road trips get off the beaten track to see things most people miss! ★

Rental CarsRental Cars

Rent A Car In Mexico

Search both local and international car rental companies to help you find a good deal.


READ MORE MEXICO TRAVEL TIPS

I hope you enjoyed my guide on renting cars & driving in Mexico! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:


Have any questions about driving in Mexico? What about other suggestions? Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to share!



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