• Apr

    How to Drive Safely In Mexico


    This is one of the most important topics that comes up, because the Mexican system is quite different from that in the US or Canada. Brushing up on the rules before you travel could save you much heartache later.

    In the report driving in mexico: 7 golden guidelines, this insurance company talks about what you need to know. Having read the article, much of it is good advice, though there are sections that I disagree with.

    1. Get your permit. This refers to driving beyond the border zone. When you enter Mexico there’s an area known as the Border Zone or Free Trade Zone. This extends 20–30 kilometers south of the border. If you travel beyond that you’ll need a temporary importation permit (details are on the site above). I would also recommend Mexican driving insurance. Having said that, the rules are different on the Baja. You don’t need the importation permit there.

    2. Assume nothing. Agreed. It’s wise to keep your wits about you in Mexico and be cautious. I’ve found that to be good advice.

    3. Stick to the toll roads. Ummm, sorry, but I disagree. What about the Baja, where I lived? There are no toll roads at all and in other parts of Mexico where highways exist, toll roads aren’t always in evidence. An example is the highway between Tulum and Puerto Morelos. That isn’t a toll highway and yet it’s a main route.

    4. Beware of different road conditions. In this section the report discusses “topes.” These are speed bumps and they can sneak up on you, especially if the road isn’t well-marked. In my experience this is true. I hit two of them on a temporary road and the first one launched my car into the air. I managed to stop just as I hit the second one. I didn’t know the topes were there because they weren’t marked.

    Potholes are another issue and this might well be true, but I’ve never had that experience. Having said that, I’ve driven on some pretty rough roads and with a car like mine (a 1989 Nissan Sentra), it could be a real challenge. There were a couple of road which I had to abandon or they could have damaged my car.

    Left hand highway exits. Those exist, but the way the author describes them isn’t quite accurate and there are three ways of turning left, depending on where you are. These are:

    • If you’re on a two lane highway and you want to turn left (and there’s traffic behind you), turn on your hazard lights, then begin slowing down. When you get to turning speed, turn off the hazard lights, turn on your left signal, then turn left.

    • Another option on some highways (like the one in Quinatana Roo), is a side exit that you take and wait for the highway traffic to die down. Once it does, you can turn left.

    • Then there are the laterals. In another article I wrote about the Cabo San Lucas Costco Miss-Adventure. Here, you need to know where you want to go and plan accordingly. When you want to turn left you’ll have to get onto the lateral road that runs right beside the main road. This will take you to a traffic light. When the light turns green you turn left, cross all the lanes of traffic and turn left again on the lateral road on the opposite side and take that to your destination. It might sound complicated, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be fine.

    5. Avoid drinking and driving. I couldn’t agree more.

    6. Stay alert for thieves. Agreed. Anti-theft devices such as a steering wheel lock or gas cap lock are a good idea.

    7. Drive during daylight. Agreed but only to a point. While many travel advisories claim you should never drive at night (especially on the highways), many motorists do. The issue of driving at night has to do with road hazards as well as cattle being let out, but when you get to know an area well, you can drive at night and still be safe. The key is to be alert and not take unnecessary risks, such as driving down an unfamiliar road at night.

    The article finishes up with some tips for what to do if you get into trouble. Note that I recommend you have a Mexican cell phone for those emergencies. As mentioned earlier, here’s the entire article. It’s worth reading.

    Stay safe.

    © Nathan Segal

    1 Comment

1 responses to “How to Drive Safely In Mexico” RSS icon

  • Sound advice! I agree re: toll roads and driving at night…A lot of libres are in good shape, and they are always more interesting…

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