Driving is made easier when you take the time to become familiar with a few differences you'll encounter while in the Mexican Caribbean.
Diving is one of the most common ways to sightsee in the Mexican Caribbean, particularly around the Yucatan Peninsula. To plan a safe and fun road trip, you should be aware of Mexico's unique driving conditions, styles, and hazards.
Geographically, the flat land of the Yucatan Peninsula makes it incredibly safe to drive because roads are easier to maintain than mountain passes. However, be cautious of the following:
Watch out for thunderstorms. Make sure windshield wipers and headlights work well and that the windshield is clean before you depart to increase visibility during a storm and prevent accidents.
Tire safety is crucial, especially on hot days when steaming hot roads and high speeds can cause tire blowouts. Tire maintenance is as easy as purchasing an inexpensive tire gauge to check pressure and tread wear. If you are renting a car and notice its tires are in poor condition, ask for a different vehicle.
Expect inconsistent pedestrian traffic, particularly in poor, rural areas. Local villagers travel everywhere by foot, especially in the early morning and late evening hours, when darkness may impair visibility.
To rent any motor vehicle, you must provide a driver's license from your home country and a major (credit cards accepted vary by agency). You will be required to purchase Mexican car insurance, which can be a bit pricey. Click here to read more about car rentals in Cancun.
Gasoline is a nationalized industry in Mexico, and full-service PEMEX (or Petroleos Mexicanos) stations are widespread. However, make sure to fill up your tank and possibly bring a gas can with extra gas should you become stranded miles from the nearest station.
A great benefit to driving in the Yucatan is that there is no metered parking. However, you may find the Mexican system of parking a bit unorthodox especially if you are from a country where driving and parking laws are strictly enforced. Parking anywhere along a street side curb is acceptable, so long as traffic is not obstructed. Always lock your vehicle, and never leave any valuables in your car.
Some streets may have parking attendants who direct traffic, watch cars to prevent burglaries, and sometimes clean windshields. Similar attendants serve local businesses, such as banks and grocery stores, to provide help with parking, loading and unloading packages and groceries, and watching cars. It is advisable to tip parking attendants. Parking is also available in private lots, which cost between 2 to 6 pesos per hour and are marked by an estancionmiento sign.
Called the Green Angels ("Angeles Verde"), Mexican roadside service vehicles patrol major roads in large green trucks. They provide aid for common causes of breakdowns, including gas, oil, and tire repair. Green Angels charge only for the cost of the repair and do not charge labor. Driving in the Mexican Caribbean can be safe, fun and easy, provided you are aware of local customs.
While renting a vehicle is optimal when you want to travel long distances, it many not always be the best choice in other situations. Fortunately, you don't always have to drive yourself in order to get around. Getting around via the public bus system is popular, and private buses for longer trips such as traveling from the Hotel Zone of Cancun to some outlying Mayan ruins. You can also hire a taxi cab for shorter trips like from the airport to your hotel is a shuttle bus isn't provided. Another method of transportation that may visitors find to be fun is a ferry ride. The transfer between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen is the most popular use of in the area.
Keeping these tips in mind, you should have no trouble making your way through the Mexican Caribbean behind the wheel of a moving motor vehicle.
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