Guide to Driving In Mexico - Drive Safe in Mexico

Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Mexico?

Driving is on the right with overtaking on the left. Driving defensively is key, not just because other drivers are often reckless but the state of roads is often poor.

Watch out for potholes and be careful if you are stuck behind slow moving vehicles. Although the temptation to overtake will be great, this is a major cause of accidents and many locals drive without insurance. You'll often find animals in the road - another reason to drive cautiously. Turning without indicating is a Mexican trait so watch out for it.

You'll often find roadblocks manned by police or soldiers. Be respectful and you'll have no problems.

Mexico Boarder Controls

Knowing some Spanish is very useful. Having a good map is also a must.

Driving Laws

Seat Belt Laws

The driver and all passengers must wear seatbelts when driving in Mexico - especially important as the accident and resulting death rate is so high.

Drinking and Driving

The blood alcohol limit is 80mg per 100ml of blood - the same as it is in the UK. If you already have a drink driving offence against your name from the previous ten years you will be refused entry to Mexico.

Must Have Documents

You'll need your licence, both parts, your vehicle registration document, proof of identity and proof of insurance. An international driving licence isn't compulsory but it's worth investing in

Speed Limits

The speed limit can vary between 30 and 70 km/h in urban areas
90 km/h outside of built up areas
100 to 120 km/h on highways

Speed limits may vary in local areas.

Minimum Driving Age

To drive in Mexico you should be a  minimum of 15 years old but in practice this will be 17 for UK drivers as they need to have a domestic licence. Most car hire companies require you to be over 23 years of age with a minimum of two years driving experience or you'll face an additional charge on the cost of your car hire.

Safety Camera Warning Devices

Radar detection equipment is not illegal in Mexico but you are advised to just stick to the speed limit instead of trying to avoid the speed trap.

On the Spot Fines

Mexican police are authorised to issue tickets to drivers who commit an offence. The ticket will explain where to pay the fine. You may find that in rural areas you'll be asked for cash by the police officer. Be very careful as this is illegal. However, Mexican police are renowned for over-reacting and anything more than a polite insistence on being given a written ticket can spell trouble.

Child Safety Rules

Child safety rules are not enshrined in law in Mexico and it will be up to you to ensure your children are safely secured in the vehicle. The best advice is to have children under three in rear facing seats on the front seat with the airbag deactivated. Older children should sit in the back with a booster seat and properly adjusted seat belts. If you are hiring a car, let us know in advance and we'll make sure your car has suitable equipment.

Insurance

A minimum of third party insurance is required in Mexico although many drivers are uninsured. Some third party cover doesn't meet Mexican regulations and so you should check before you travel. All our hire cars have comprehensive insurance which meets local requirements

Rules of the Road

There are some basic rules to follow when driving in Mexico

-    Avoid driving at night where posible
-    Do not stop to pick up hitchhikers
-    Do not stop for any obstacles, they may have been placed there to make you get out of the car
-    Keep your car locked and the windows rolled up at traffic lights
-    Let people know before leaving if you plan to take a long journey

Towing Regulations

There are no restrictions on towing in Mexico but, given the nature of the roads and the driver, you are advised to make sure the towing attachment is secure and that you have some way of indicating what you are doing. 

Speed Cameras

There are a number of fixed speed cameras around Mexico, more often in the suburbs of cities where urban roads meet arterial ones. Outside of towns and cities you are more likely to encounter mobile speed enforcement units who should give you a ticket on the spot.

Using Mobile Phones when driving

The use of mobile phones whilst driving in Mexico is illegal but the law is regularly flouted. 

Parking

Parking regulations
 
Parking in general outside of the main cities is unregulated and you can park where you want. Be careful though for car crime is prevalent so park where your car is easily seen and where you can access it quickly and safely.
 
Paid parking
 
Some Mexicans have set up parking on waste land , charging a few pesos for you to park there. This may sound tempting but it's also tempting to thieves. Stick to proper parking garages or on street parking. You'll find meters in the city as well as ticket machines and covered, attendant controlled parking garages. For personal and vehicle safety it's always worth paying that little bit extra for safer parking. 
 
Enforcement
 
Enforcement of parking is haphazard and only generally enforced when you are causing an obstruction. In that case, you'll find you car has been towed and you'll have to pay a release fee as well as a fine.
 
Disabled parking
 
Mexico has no concessions for disabled drivers and so most of the time you'll just have to take your chances. Explaining your predicament to a garage attendant often results in a more convenient space in exchange for a few pesos.

Motor Way Signs

Motorway signs in Mexico are similar to those found in Europe.

Mexico Motorway Signs

Phrases

  • Give way - Ceda el paso
  • Traffic lights - Semaforas
  • Right of way – Prioridad
  • Exit – Salida
  • Danger – Peligro
  • No parking - Prohibido aparcar
  • Slow – Despacio
  • Lane – Un carril
  • City centre – Centro ciudad
  • Carretera – Local Highway
  • Roadworks – Obras
  • Where is the nearest petrol station? – ¿Donde es la gasolinera la más cercana?
  • Excuse me, I’m lost – Por favor, estoy perdido…
  • Go straight on – ‘Siga todo recto’
  • Turn right – ‘Toma el giro a la derecha’
  • Turn left – ‘Toma el giro a la izquierda’
  • Detour - Desviacion
  • Toll Road – Carretera de Peaje
  • Road Closed – Cerrado.
  • Road Open – Abierto
  • Motorway – Una autopista
  • One way street – Direccíon unica
  • Dual Carriageway - Autovia

Traffic Lights

Mexican traffic lights are similar to those used in the US and Europe and follow the same signalling scheme. You are not allowed to turn left on a red signal unless an arrow indicates it.

Toll Roads

There are many toll roads in Mexico and, compared to Europe, they are quite expensive. Despite this, they are a popular way of travelling long distances given the poor quality of other roads. 

Mexico Toll Road

Mexico City has two electronic toll roads, one a bridge called the Viaducto Elevado Bicentenario and the other, the Segundo Piso of Periferico Norte.

Emergency

The emergency services number is 911 for all services but you can call 066 for police, 065 for ambulance or 068 for fire.

What to do in an emergency

If you're involved in an accident, you need to call the police and ambulance if necessary. Don't move the vehicles unless they are causing a danger to others. Photograph the scene if possible and collect witness details. There is the potential that as a foreign driver you may be considered liable, especially if your Spanish is insufficient to get you out of trouble. Be polite to the emergency services attending.

Fuel Costs

The price of 95 octane unleaded as at June 2014 is 54p a litre but prices change regularly. Make sure the gauge is set to zero before the attendant begins filling as this is often a ruse to get you to pay more. 
 

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Hiring a Car

With our Drive Smart guide you're fully prepared to hire a car in Mexico and stay safe on unfamiliar roads.