Driving in Mexico

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Driving in Mexico in 2023 - Complete Guide

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If you’re considering a Mexican getaway then renting a car and exploring the country’s abundance of natural parks, historical sites, and cultural towns might be the ideal choice for your journey. But if you have apprehensions about driving abroad or lack experience doing so – fear not! This article covers all the most important aspects to consider when it comes to renting a vehicle in Mexico, and will help you to make an informed decision that suits your individual needs. 

Driving in Mexico

We will provide you with a comprehensive guide to driving in Mexico. We will answers your most pressing questions related to safety and the necessary documents, insurance company requirements, and more. Additionally, we will give you an inside look at what it’s like navigating around different regions of the country. So get ready for some insight-filled information about traveling by car in Mexico!


🇲🇽 Mexico Travel Resources We Use:



Driving in Mexico – Complete Guide

Rent a car vs join a tour vs travel by bus

Undoubtedly, buying a tour that includes transportation may seem the simpler option.

You’re likely to enjoy an organized tour if you’re looking for a hands-off experience; all that is required of you is following the instructions given by your guide.But if being told where to go is not appealing to you, I’d suggest avoiding tours altogether.

And if you are not the type of person that wants to spend all their days at the beach and are looking to explore and be immersed in the local culture then its time to rent a car.

Renting a car, obtaining either a map or GPS to explore the area, and meeting locals (they won’t bite!) is essentially all you need to do is an ideal way to get around. If you can drive in your hometown, then driving abroad isn’t that much difficult or dangerous. However, it’s essential to comprehend some unwritten rules – that’s what this article will help with!

Car Rental Mexico

Traveling by bus in Mexico

Mexico boasts a world-class public transportation system, allowing travelers to conveniently navigate the country’s main cities and towns with relative ease. Personally, I prefer reaching my destination by bus or plane before renting a car to explore the surrounding areas. While driving all over Mexico is theoretically possible, it is not always safe due to certain hazardous regions; in these cases, I often opt for busses or flying as an alternate means of transport.

Which side of the road do cars drive in Mexico?

If you are from the US, then driving in Mexico will be a breeze for you since motorists there drive on the right side of the road – just like back home! However, if you come to Mexico from the UK, it may take some adjustment as your experience navigating streets relies on being mindful of vehicles traveling along different sides.

What documents are needed to drive to Mexico?

If you’re driving in Mexico, your valid driver’s license must be written in Latin characters to be accepted. If not, an international driving permit is required. Ensure that your passport or a photocopy of it with the entry stamp is kept accessible at all times; this includes any special visas and permits, if applicable.

Police may conduct checks, so having these documents on hand can greatly benefit you! In order to drive your own car into Mexico, outside of the mexican border area or free zone, you will need a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit and proof of car insurance. This permit can be obtained on arrival at the border or purchased online 7 to 60 days prior to your trip.

Do I need to buy Mexican car insurance?

If you plan on driving in Mexico, it’s essential to get Mexican car insurance. Most rental companies in Mexico are actually obligated to provide basic coverage, including CDW and theft protection. However, these policies do not offer full coverage – as such, if there is a car accident or any other issue arises while you’re behind the wheel of your rental car, you will have to pay the deductible out-of-pocket.

I always suggest paying a bit more to purchase full-inclusive insurance that secures you against everything (except the driver’s negligence) for your own comfort. When looking into renting a car in Mexico, Discover Cars is an outstanding option. You can quickly check prices and determine the best deals through their website; they also provide full coverage at an affordable price.

IDP (International Drivers Permit)

Do I need an international driving permit?

Unless your valid driving license is in a language that utilizes an alphabet other than Latin, you then will not need an international driving permit.

Do I have to buy Mexican car insurance if I am getting in Mexico with my own vehicle?

If you are planning to drive your US-registered vehicle in Mexico, it is imperative that you obtain Mexican driving insurance – as American insurance and other car insurance (like European and Canadian insurance) does not apply. To make the process easier, visit one of the specialized agencies and purchase a suitable Mexican insurance policy for yourself.

Playa Paraiso Tulum
Playa Paraiso Tulum. Best way to explore Tulum and Riviera Maya is with a car rental. Car rentals can be found in all major cities and towns.

Is driving in Mexico safe?

 My trips around the Yucatan peninsula, Baja California, and Jalisco coast were incredibly safe experiences. Exploring Queretaro, the Sierra Gorda, San Miguel de Allende, and their splendid pueblos Magicos, as well as Oaxaca’s stunning coastlines, should be a priority for any traveler. However, it is important to follow particular safety protocols while on the road in order to guarantee an enjoyable experience. Therefore, it is more than possible for others to enjoy their stay in this remarkable nation while on the open road too! 

Driving in mexico is safe
Driving in mexico is generally safe. Whether you drive a car rental or your own car, you will need temporary Mexico Car Insurance to drive legally in Mexico.

Although Mexico is a vast country, I have traveled its many roads with confidence and without risk due to following several preventative measures (read my tips at the end of this article). Be sure not to drive at night time and obey all driving regulations like wearing seatbelts and refraining from using your phone while driving. By following these simple rules, you will make certain that you have an unforgettable journey!


🇲🇽 Mexico Travel Resources We Use:



How do Mexicans drive?

Depending on your whereabouts, experiences may vary. Mexico City can be quite chaotic; thus I would suggest not renting a car in Mexico City itself. On the other hand, you’ll have no issues driving around Yucatan Peninsula for as long as you are mindful of one small detail: mexican drivers there rarely signal before turning or doing anything else – so keep that in mind!

Whenever you are on the road in Cancun, it is essential to be extra cautious – always use your rear-view mirror and keep a close eye on both sides of the street. Furthermore, don’t feel pressured by drivers who may honk when the light turns green; it’s better to take your time and make sure that you remain safe than risk a car accident due to hastiness.

Military checkpoints

While traveling in Mexico, you may come across a number of military checkpoints. Don’t fret – simply slow down and obey any signal from the officers to either keep going or stop. 

It’s a personal decision, but you are ever stopped by the police and caught doing something illegal, like not wearing a seatbelt or using your phone while driving, sometimes they may offer an opportunity to pay a bribe.= I always choose to just simply pay any fine incurred within its specified timeframe (typically 3-5 days) which will usually result in some kind of discount. Be sure you read all fine print before paying!

Renting a Car Mexico

Renting a car in Mexico

Renting a car in Mexico can be tricky because of the hidden fees that are seemingly scams but actually aren’t. For car rentals, all you need to do is make sure your car rental company is reliable and purchase full Mexican car insurance – don’t forget to read the contract’s fine print! That way, if any issues arise during or after your trip such as an accident, you know exactly what kind of coverage you have.

Ensure that you inquire about the deductible when asking for full coverage. It is not unusual for companies to claim “fully insured” yet actually mean just a policy with a deductible, which is nowhere near fully secure.

Best car rental companies in Mexico?

Whenever I fly to Mexico, I use Discover Cars rental and I highly recommend them for anyone seeking a dependable car service. With them, you get the best possible deal as you can compare prices, different car rentals and companies in one convenient platform. Additionally, their full coverage insurance comes at an affordable rate that beats competitors’ prices hands-down!

What should you do in case your car breaks down in Mexico?

When journeying on the main roads of Mexico, you are in luck – just contact the Angels Verdes (Green Angels) via toll-free number 078 for a complimentary rescue service. Knowing the local language always helps. Some Spanish comes in handy as Green Angels generally don’t communicate in English. All fees associated with gas or tolls must be paid by yourself!

As such, I highly recommend purchasing a local SIM card for your safety when visiting Mexico.

Driving In Mexico
To be able to drive in Mexico, you need to have at least civil liability insurance. This type of insurance provides coverage in case you accidentally cause harm or damage to another driver or their vehicle.

Expert Tips and Practical information on driving in Mexico

When you are behind the wheel in Mexico, especially in Yucatan Peninsula, it’s imperative that you pay attention to these factors.

Wear the seat belt

That’s another motivation for the police to pull you over; be sure to buckle up! 

Watch out for topes

As you drive around, be aware of frequent speed bumps — or topes. While some are indicated with signage, many times they’re not. These topes can be sizeable and hazardous for your rental car if you hit them too harshly—especially near villages and other residential areas. Be on guard to protect yourself from damage!

Observe the speed limits

Many people mistakenly believe Mexican roads are rife with reckless driving and disregard for the speed limit – but in reality, it’s likely to get you pulled over! To avoid unnecessary attention from the police (and potentially hefty fines!), be sure to keep an eye on posted speed limits while traversing cities or countryside alike.

Numerous law enforcement checkpoints are located along the Federal Highway that connects Cancun with Tulum and Bacalar to enforce speed limit. As you approach them, simply slow down; at times they may request to inspect your papers – it’s as simple as that!


It’s a regrettably common occurrence: the local police have been known to pull people over and make up reasons for doing so, in order to extort bribes from them. I am not an advocate of such unscrupulous behavior—every time I’ve been stopped (granted, always with valid cause), I never paid any bribe or only my ticket fee at most.

Toll roads vs regular roads

If you’re looking for speed and efficiency, look no further than the two main highways in Yucatan – Cancun to Merida and from Merida to Campeche. But if you have some time on your hands, consider taking the toll-free roads instead of these highways. It’s a great way to get up close with this stunning area while passing through quaint villages along the way!

Embark on a journey of discovery in Mexico and be prepared to find hidden cenotes, picturesque churches, and roads that may contain potholes – but don’t fret as you will always come across the “topes” (speed bumps) near villages. Slow down and take in the local charm — it is sure to make for an unforgettable stay! For example, I stayed at Candelaria’s Cabaña Campeche – what an amazing place located beside a river!

Gas station

When it comes to fueling your vehicle in Mexico, you need to keep a few key points in mind while looking for gas stations. On the Yucatan Peninsula, there are plenty of gas stations scattered along the way so make sure to pay attention and keep your tank full at all times. But if you ever find yourself running low on fuel and unable to locate gas stations nearby, never fear! Simply pop into any local grocery store – they will generally have gasoline available for sale.

When refilling your tank, always observe the counter to make sure you are charged correctly. Additionally, they may tell you that credit cards cannot be accepted as their system is down; although it’s hard to know if this is true or not, having some cash on hand (preferably Mexican pesos) could end up proving invaluable.

When visiting small villages in Mexico, it’s important to come prepared with enough cash because rarely do they accept credit cards. Additionally, be vigilant when paying by 500 MXN notes as you could easily become the target of a scam if you don’t pay attention; dishonest vendors may try to convince you that your payment was for 200MXN instead and withhold any change due. To stay safe during your travels, being aware and having Mexican pesos on hand is always advised!

Wyndham Alltra Cancun
Beautiful Cancun

Therefore, be sure to keep an eagle-eye on your finances so that you don’t get taken advantage of. When they realize that you won’t back down from defending yourself and your money, their persistence will likely dwindle away. It may sound unbelievable, but this is a strategy my friends have used in the past with success! From Tulum to Bacalar there’s only one gas station located in Felipe Carrillo Puerto; therefore, I recommend filling up your tank before leaving Tulum as it might come in handy later on during your trip!

One way roads

Whenever I’m driving on roads that appear to be one-way, but are unmarked, I always keep an eye out for other vehicles travelling in the same direction. That way, if it looks like the road is too narrow for two lanes of traffic, I can take extra caution.

Highways/ toll roads

Navigating through Mexican highways is a whole different experience – CUOTAS require payment in pesos and strictly forbid the use of USD or credit cards.

Driving at night in Mexico

Heed the warning: unless it is necessary, avoid driving during nighttime hours. The roads are often not illuminated, and there could be a number of surprises awaiting you, including pedestrians on the side of the road, potholes that were invisible in daylight, or even people with malicious intentions lurking around. To ensure your safety as well as protect yourself from any unnecessary risk; keep driving at night to a minimum – if possible, eliminate this activity altogether!

Beware of roundabouts and “retornos” in Mexico

When driving around roundabouts, the cars have precedence. If you mistakenly make a wrong turn and need to return to your original route, look for road signs that indicate “Retornos” – which allow motorists to stay on the left-hand side in order to go back. Additionally, be mindful of scooters carrying multiple passengers as well as bicyclists who may or may not follow traffic regulations.

Traveling to 🇲🇽 Mexico soon?

I recommend these travel resources for Mexico that I personally use:

🏨 Hotels: I have found that Expedia and Booking.com consistently have the best deals on hotels and resorts in Mexico. If you prefer to stay at a vacation rental, check VRBO that is usually cheaper than AirBnB’s added fees!

✈️ Flights: To find the best flight deals to Mexico, I always use Kayak. Remember to subscribe to their price alerts for the travel dates you want. Another great alternative for flight deals is Expedia.

🚗 Rental Cars: I always use and highly recommend Discover Cars because it allows me to compare several car rental companies and view ratings on various factors such as overall value, pick-up procedure, agent efficiency, car condition, and total time taken.

🚙 Cancun Airport Transportation: For the fastest and easiest way to travel, I suggest arranging a private transfer with Cancun Airport Transportation. Honestly, no better way to travel from the airport to your hotel or resort.

🤿 Tours & Activities: For tours and activities in Mexico, I highly recommend using either Viator or GetYourGuide. These websites offer a full refund if you cancel your booking 24 hours before the start of the tour, and they also provide excellent customer service in case of any issues.

🚨 Travel Insurance: I always suggest purchasing travel insurance as a precaution before traveling, especially after a recent accident in a taxi in Mexico. For short trips, I recommend Travel Insurance Master, whereas for digital nomads, Safety Wing is a better option.

📷 Best Camera for your trip: I always carry with me a GoPro, It’s light, compact, takes great video and pictures, and most importantly, it’s waterproof! You just can’t go wrong with one. If you are interested in higher quality video and photography, I always carry with me on my trips and highly recommend the Sony A7IV which I think is the best travel DSLR Camera out there.

☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Remember to include a good sunscreen to protect yourself from the summer sun. I always use and suggest Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is vegan, reef-friendly, and cruelty-free.