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Tips to Drive in Mexico Safely During the Holidays

Sat, 13 Nov 2021 08:56:51 -0800

Mexico is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Americas, and it isn’t hard to see why. Between pristine beaches, incredible native history, and delicious food, the country has a lot to offer travelers. However, Mexico is an enormous, sprawling country, and many of the sights are spread out. You can get by using buses and planes, but they’re often expensive, slow, and uncomfortable. One of the best ways to see Mexico is to drive. It’s easy to be intimidated by the idea. Horror stories about drug cartels and the stresses of following foreign traffic laws might be enough to curb the idea or wonder “is it safe to drive in Mexico?” But driving in Mexico isn’t as complicated, dangerous, or difficult as it may seem. If you just follow a few tips, driving can be safe, affordable, and fun.
  • Understand your surroundings – No matter what country you’re from, you’re used to obeying your own traffic rules and reading familiar road signs. Learn some basic Spanish words and phrases that you expect to see, or at least download the language on your preferred translation app. If you’re from the US or Canada, be familiar with how to convert miles per hour to kilometers per hour. Luckily, most of the road signs in Mexico use symbols that are easy to interpret.
  • Drive during the daytime - No matter where in the world you are, it’s safer to drive during daylight hours. Visibility is better and drivers are more aware. The Mexican Department of State even recommends it. Don’t panic if you find yourself forced to drive at night, but if you can arrange your trip to be in your final destination by sundown, you’ll be happier and safer. Not to mention, you’ll see more of the beautiful scenery.
  • Keep to major roads – Mexico is much safer than some might believe, but criminals do exist. Keeping to main roads helps prevent any from catching you alone. The main roads are more likely to be well maintained too, preventing potential damage to your car. You’re also more likely to find gas stations or auto repair shops when you need them. When possible, drive on toll roads. The fees are small, and the roads are of a higher quality, both in condition and safety.
  • Call ‘060’ in an emergency – The Mexican government maintains a fleet of English-speaking crews that drive around looking for tourists in need of assistance. Often called the Los Angeles Verdes, or Green Angels, these crews carry spare parts and repair tools with an intent to help any in need. The service is completely free, but if you tip the driver, they won’t mind.
  • Be aware that bribery exists – Unfortunately, corruption exists among Mexican law enforcement. If you’re pulled over, you might be faced with an “instant fine,” which is a fancy term for a bribe. If you find yourself with what you believe to be an unfair fine and wish to dispute it, you can ask to see the chief. This will likely either make the officer back off or force them to give you a real ticket, which you can pay or dispute later when you get home.
  • Know how lights are commonly used – Mexican drivers don’t use blinkers the same way drivers in other countries do. Oftentimes, they aren’t used at all for turning, so be extra aware in busy areas. On a busy highway, a left turn signal from a driver in front of you sometimes means they are allowing you to pass them. Drivers also sometimes flash their lights when coming toward you. This usually means that there is some kind of trouble ahead to be aware of, such as a wreck, narrow road, or bridge.
  • Don’t drink and drive – Yeah, we know, this one seems obvious, but drunk driving is illegal in Mexico. Trust us, Mexican jail is not where you want to spend your holiday. Drunk driving also could void your Mexico Auto Insurance, causing even more problems. Wait until you reach your final destination of the day to order those margaritas.
  • Know about getting through customs – If you’re flying into Mexico, you’ll go through customs at the airport, but many drivers enter through the southern U.S. border in their cars. If you are driving to Mexico, you can ease the process by knowing what you’ll need. Bring your passport, obviously, but you’ll also need to fill out an Official Entry Immigration Form, or FMM form, prior to being admitted. You can make things easier by filling it out online before you leave home. Drivers also need to purchase a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit, which you can buy at the border or online less than 60 days before your trip. Bring your proof of American registration, proof of car ownership, a valid American driver’s license, and an affidavit from any lien holders if applicable.
  • Know how to rent a car – If you’re renting a car instead of driving your own in, you’ll also need a few documents. Bring a valid driver’s license from your country, proof of insurance, and a credit card. Debit cards are not accepted. You must be at least twenty-five years old and you must have been licensed for at least two years.
  • Make sure you have adequate insurance – This may seem obvious to people flying in to rent a car, but if you drive to Mexico, be aware that most US insurance policies end the minute you cross the border into Mexico. Trust us, you don’t want to end up in Mexican jail just because you don’t have proper Mexico Auto Insurance. Amigo Mex Insurance provides a wide variety of options for US and Canadian residents that drive into Mexico for business or pleasure, including short-term daily policies and annual policies as well. Don’t let bad luck or poor planning ruin your vacation. Talk or chat to one of our agents today.