Should you Drive in Mexico?
The answer is unequivocally yes! Just like you should definitely Rent a Car in Mexico, (see Part 1), you should absolutely explore Mexico outside of the tourist zones of Cancun and Playa del Carmen. You may have to take your nerves to the gym to pump some iron in advance, because driving in Mexico can be a bit like taking a wild ride. However, there are far more reasons to rent a car and drive in Mexico then reasons to be afraid of doing so.
► Ranking: #cleandiaper
Driving in Mexico
Cenotes and Ruins
Adventure Parks and Beaches
Why Experience Driving in Mexico?
Apart from monkey bridges, local wildlife, gum trees, exploding flora and fauna and quaint villages, you’ll experience the variety and richness of the Mexican countryside and culture.
When we came to the Riviera Maya the first time, we only spent one day driving from Cancun down to Tulum. It only took a few minutes to immediately decide that we had to come back. Que Jack’s crying scene from LOST. Eventually, we would love to take a long road trip through the entire country of Mexico. The views are unsurpassed with an abundance of vegetation and jungle spreading out in every direction. It is only through this lens that you can truly understand how so many vast civilizations were lost and hidden in such a short amount of time.
Where to Go Driving in Mexico?
The Mexican countryside is littered with ruins and cenotes! If you stay near the coast you can visit beach after beach. Take your pick from the incredible parks that take advantage of the culture, geography and wildlife. Swim with turtles or dolphins and go snorkeling! Head west from Tulum and you’ll uncover ancient civilizations!
There are over 7,000 available swimming caverns in this region, named cenotes, that are open to the public throughout Mexico in the Riviera Maya. Technically, a cenote is a sinkhole that has filled with fresh water. They are wondrous creations and each one offers something new to partake in. Some have only a small circular opening that require descending down a long staircase. Some have partially collapsed half open to the sunshine, and half covered by an outcropping. Many have platforms for daring adventurers to jump from! They are all unique and marvelous and can take up an entire day.
From Maroma Beach north of Playa del Carmen, to Akumal outside of Tulum where you can witness sea turtles, the beaches in Mexico are stunning. Vast stretches of soft white sand beaches and shallow turquoise water beackon even the most hesitant swimmer.
It is important to note that right now (August 2018) the beaches are covered in seaweed greatly hampering the ability to enjoy the beach. Check online before you go, or visit Isla Mujeres or Cozumel as an alternative.
West from Tulum you’ll find more ruins, such as those of Ek Balam, Chichen Itza, Coba and so many others too numerous to count. We highly recommend hiring a guide for at least one of your visits, but many more are exciting and wondrous to explore on your own. You’ll learn about the way of life, agriculture, customs, and more. Visiting the ancient ruins of a past civilization is a life changing experience.
Xcaret, Xel-Ha, and Xplor are just some of the nature parks you can idle away the day under the Mayan sun. Xcaret emphasizes wildlife, Xel-Ha emphasizes water, and Xplor emphasizes adventure. You can’t go wrong no matter which one you choose. Each park offers an all inclusive experience with admission including food, drinks, snorkeling gear, towels, lockers and everything you need to fill your day with fun. We opted for a day at Xel-Ha and loved every second.
What to Expect Driving in Mexico?
Forget about merging. It’s meaningless. It’s an eye for an eye when it comes to driving in Mexico, unless perhaps you get in front of an unknowing foreigner. You can easily find yourself pushed off the road into the shoulder or even a ditch. You have to be aggressive when it comes to driving in Mexico, and maybe even a little ruthless.
It’s important to note that when entering the highway, or freeway, you first stop at a normal stop sign before entering traffic. These signs aren’t always visible but it’s a rule of thumb to ensure that you can successfully get onto the road.
Pedestrians don’t stop for cars, and cars don’t stop for pedestrians. If you are in a local town, be extra careful regardless of which side of the vehicle you are on. Pedestrians won’t even look both ways before stepping off the sidewalk. It’s completely unnerving. Pedestrians will stop if they think they are going to get run over, but they’ll first assume you’ll stop when you see them. It’s a constant game of chicken.
When driving across a two lane road, it’s typical to wait for clearance from just one road. Then crossing the first lane and blocking all traffic while you wait to cross the second lane.
You don’t pump your own gas, and it’s common to get scammed out of money if you aren’t careful.
There are random stops with armed guards with giants guns, standing in the middle of the road. We have no idea what they are for. We were stopped once on our way to the airport. They peered into the car and shooed us on our way. Police cars drive everywhere with their lights flashing. No sirens, but the lights never turn off. You know you’re being pulled over when they pull out the megaphone.
Speed limits don’t seem to matter, and laws don’t seem to apply to children in car seats. We brought our five point harness for Eclair, but everywhere we went we saw small children climbing over the seats and peering through the back windows waving at us.
Is it any wonder the cars are dinged up? We never got in an accident, or saw an accident, nor did we get bumped, but it is no wonder that it happens so frequently that we couldn’t even note all the dents in our car when we picked it up from the rental company in Cancun.
► For Kids: Exploring Mexico is fun for all ages, but little swimmers will love the adventures that accompany driving in Mexico. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! will take on new meaning!
What fun stories do you have about driving in Mexico? Check out Part 1 Renting a Car in Mexico to learn what not to do!
► Nap-Time Version: What to expect driving in Mexico, where to go, and why you should experience this amazing country with kids is all covered right here!
Check out our fun day at Xel-Ha, our guided tour through one of the Seven Wonders of the World at Chichen Itza, and swimming at Cristalino! All coming soon!