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Driving in Mexico – What to know if driving by yourself

A road trip in Mexico, independently discovering new things, being completely flexible and follow your own pace. For many, the ultimate feeling of freedom. But is it really the easiest way to discover Mexico? In this article we present the typical pitfalls, give tips and some alternatives to driving in Mexico. We help to make your Mexico trip a success!

There are many ways to get around in Mexico, at least as long as you are close to major cities or tourist centers. On the countryside, the challenges are getting bigger and a rental car in Mexico can be very practical.

This article is about:

  • Is it safe to drive in Mexico?
  • Rent a car in Mexico – where to book
  • Gasoline prices and refueling
  • Driving license
  • Toll roads versus free roads
  • Police
  • Topes
  • Parking
  • Knowledge of Spanish
  • Accommodations

Is it save to drive in Mexico?

Driving in Mexico: Is it save

Driving in Mexico: Is it save?

It depends on when and where you want to drive. There are areas where driving at night should be avoided at least.

There are also very remote areas, for example in Chiapas, where it is common to “ask” for a toll. Basically, our advice is: Do not drive at night and also not in completely remote areas.

Make sure that your rental car in Mexico is in a perfect condition! This may save you a lot of trouble. You should also always have enough petrol in your tank.

Many accommodations offer secure parking. Even if it is only available for an extra fee, it often makes sense. Avoid parking your rental car on the street. If a parked vehicle is hit in Mexico, the responible person will most likely disappear as fast as possible.

The mobile phone should always be charged. However, in remote areas it is quite possible that there is no network. Only in the larger cities will be sufficient coverage again.

You don’t want to drive in Mexico yourself? We would be happy to do it for you. Please check our offers for Riviera Maya private excursions or Yucatan tours.

Do not drive in Mexico at night or in very remote areas

Rental car in Mexico – Where to book

For driving in Mexico you need a rental car. There are various providers of rental cars with clear differences in the quality of vehicles and services included. Keep your eyes open for extremely cheap offers. Technical defects and a lack of insurance protection are very likely here.

Very important: The rental car insurance included in credit cards is not valid in Mexico. Good insurance is therefore crucial for your car reservation. The best protection is fully comprehensive insurance without a deductibles.

Web pages offer good comparisons for prices and services. RentalsCars is one of these portals. The web site compares prices and services of individual providers and has an excellent overview. It is usually cheaper to book the rental car from home.

Driving in Mexico is relatively easy. Right-hand traffic is the same as in the US. Outside the cities, streets are pretty empty and you can comfortably drive along the well-developed country roads.

Pay attention to the right rental car insurance!


If you are not travelling in peak season, it should be easy to find a place to stay. Portals such as Agoda or have a good network of accommodation providers and you can often get a room at very short notice.

Gasoline and petrol stations

Fahren in Mexiko: Tankstellen

Driving in Mexico: Petrol stations

A liter of petrol costs around 20 pesos (around 1 dollar). There is a well-developed network of petrol stations. Mexico has a petrol monopoly, so almost all petrol stations belong to the state-owned Pemex (Petrol Mexico). This also means that there are enough petrol stations, but not too many, and sometimes it can get very crowded at peak times.

However, there are few petrol stations in rural areas. There, on the countryside, you should always travel with a full tank. Even though gasoline may sometimes be more expensive there, an empty tank is not advisable in the remote areas.

You are usually served at petrol stations. There are two types of petrol, the green Magna and the more expensive red Premium. The payment goes directly to the gas station attendant. Since these jobs are not well paid, you may consider leaving a tip. 10 pesos is acceptable. If other work has been done, such as checking the air pressure, it may be a little more.

Always travel with enough petrol in rural areas!

Driving license

An international driver’s license is not absolutely necessary to collect the rental car. If you have only little knowledge of Spanish, you are on the safe side with an international driver’s license if the police stops you or an in case of an accident.


Driving in Mexico: Police

Driving in Mexico: Police

One issue that must be considered when driving in Mexico is the police. Unfortunately, police officers in Mexico are poorly paid. Therefore, some improve their salaries by strictly punishing minor traffic offenses. Cash is collected on site – at least the travelers are told that there is no other way to pay the penalty.

In the event of offenses such as incorrect parking, the license plate is unscrewed and retained. It can be picked up the next day at the police station, if you pay the penalty. These administrative procedures are time-consuming and an unnecessary delay of the trip.

If you are stopped by the police in Mexico, first let them show you the exact evidence, they have against you. If you beieve there is no criminal offense, you can calmly explain to the police officer that you have acted in accordance with the regulations. Do not get involved in inaccurate discussions (for example, you drove between 30 and 60 km / h). Sometimes the cops let you go when they realize they have no evidence. However, if you have actually driven too fast, you will probably pay the local police officer, the penalty should not exceed 500 pesos (approx. 25 dollars).

If the police stops you: Remain calm!


Driving in Mexico: Parking

Driving in Mexico: Parking

Estacionamiento means parking lot in Mexico. A capital E in a circle tells you that parking is allowed. A crossed out E means parking prohibited. There are free and paid parking spaces. The paid parking spaces are usually guarded. Especially those who are traveling with luggage should opt for the paid parking spaces. They are not particularly expensive.

Toll roads

In Mexico there are toll roads (quota) and free roads (libre). They are precisely marked on the traffic signs, so that you cannot accidentally drive to the quota. Payment is made in small houses for each section of the route. Depending on the tour you have planned for a day, you can also avoid the toll roads. Free country roads are called “libre” (free).


Topes are used throughout Mexico to calm traffic. These are bumps to make you brake hard. In addition to the topes, there is usually a sign on the side of the road. If you are not used to topes, you might not spend attentions to the signs and bump into some. This is not only dangerous, the resulting damage to the vehicle can be immense. You should drive careful and slowly, to avoid this happening.

The rules for topes outside the cities are: All towns you pass use topes to calm traffic,especially in front of schools or kindergardens. Therefore, in the villages you may drive at a greatly reduced speed.

Topes are used in Mexico to reduce speed.

Knowledge of Spanish

In the larger cities and tourist centers, many Mexicans speak English. If you travel by yourself outside the cities, it is advisable that you speak some Spanish. Especially those who want to have a chat with locals, Spanish skills can help a lot. If you do not speak any Spanish, our private tour guides are a good alternative for you (contact us). They provide you with the necessary security and are happy to translate if you do not understand.


  • Do not drive in Mexico at night or in very remote areas
  • Keep calm during police checks
  • Road bumps (topes) can cause serious damage to the vehicle
  • A crossed out E means: Do not park
  • There are toll roads (Quota) and free roads (Libre)
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Hello, my name is Birgit and I write about interesting topics around vacations in Mexico and traveling on the Yucatan peninsula. I would love to hear from you and I am always happy to receive ideas and recommendations for new articles. Enjoy reading!!!

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