Driving Tips, Rules & Regulations in Mexico

If you’re looking to explore Mexico, then doing so by car can be a convenient choice. If you happen to be an American, you can easily cross borders into the country with your car. This assumes, of course, that you’ll be able to get used to the different driving rules and cultures.

Once you get past the 30 km free trade zone, you’ll need to get yourself an import permit, which will require your driver’s license, vehicle registration, IDs, major credit card under your name, and a tourist card (formally known as immigration forms). If you rented your car, you need a lease contract as well. The trick about driving in Mexico is looking at how the locals do it. Check out how the vehicles around you move and you’ll get a feel of how things are run on Mexican roads. Of course, you should still follow road signs and traffic lights – don’t just follow another vehicle’s lead even when you know they’re violating traffic regulations.

Always drive within the speed limit, which is indicated all over the highways. Unlike in the US where pushing the limit is the thing, in Mexico you hold back a bit. So even if you see a speed sign stating 100 km/h or 60 mph, try keeping within 90 km/h or 55 mph. In smaller towns, try to drive at 25 km/h or 25 mph. Your first stop in Mexico should be getting a map, since getting from point A to point B isn’t always a matter of straight driving. If you’re still not able to go around the 240 routes in Mexico without getting completely lost, it’s best to stick to the toll roads.

In fact, the “couta” or toll roads, which are usually privately owned roads, provide more convenient and faster road access, compared to the usually congested free or “libre” roads that still have to go through towns. Just bring some cash with you, since these toll roads charge around 25 to 150 Mexican pesos, which varies depending on the kind of vehicle being charged. Make sure you bring Mexican currency, since credit cards and other currencies won’t be accepted in most areas, save some common tourist spots.

Here are some common practices of courtesy when driving in Mexico:

  • When a car in front of you isn’t slowing down but signals a left turn, it means they’re allowing you to pass. Cars behind you with the same signal also means they want to pass;
  • Encountering a car that flashes its lights at you means there are hazards ahead;
  • When a car in front lights up its hazards, you should slow down and keep some distance – it means there’s danger ahead. If you’re in the lead, do the same to warn others behind you.

As a precaution, do most of your driving during the day. Driving at night means you’ll be encountering a lot of pedestrians and other things on the streets. Also, don’t stop for vehicles that look like they need help, don’t stop – this could be a trap set by car thieves, which is a very common occurrence on the Mexican highway.

Lastly, after all that’s been said above, don’t go driving in Mexico without insurance. It’s something you can easily purchase online, at a rate of $10 a day. It’s will save you from a lot of trouble while you’re driving in the country.

Summary

Always drive within the speed limit.
Getting from point A to point B isn't always straight forward - A map of GPS is recommended.
The "couta" or toll roads or provide more convenient and faster road access, compared to the free or "libre" roads.
Don't stop for vehicles that look like they need help - this could be a trap set by car thieves which is a very common.
Don't drive in Mexico without insurance.

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