Driving In Mexico: What To Know Before You Go
Driving in Mexico can be an adventure of a lifetime since you get to decide to visit remote areas, which might be difficult to reach using public transportation. Estimated Reading Time: 7 mins.
The International Driving Permit is a document issued by ANA Automóvil Club A. C. in Mexico according to the norms established in the World Convention on Road Traffic agreed in Geneva on SeptemDriving in Mexico can be a convenient way to see the country, and many visitors to Mexico cross the border in their own vehicles. But you will find the driving etiquette to be significantly different from that of "El Norte". It’s a good idea to watch the behavior of the vehicles around you carefully – follow their lead if it is safe to do so.
Driving in Mexico: all you need to know
However, the documents you’ll need to bring with you vary depending on whether you plan to drive your own vehicle or you want to rent one. Requirements also vary if you will be staying a short time in the border or "safe" zone. Prepare for your trip by reviewing the rules of the road, which include what you’ll need to know to cross the border into or from Mexico and how to drive safely in Mexico. Driving Requirements Whether you’re renting a car in Mexico or driving your own across the border, there are several documents that are needed to operate a motor vehicle in Mexico.
Checklist for Driving into Mexico Identification: American citizens driving a car into Mexico, will need identification such as a passport or passport card. You can save time by filling out the Immigration Form s online. All you need is your passport, address or name of the hotel where you are staying. Otherwise, you’ll have to fill it out at the border.
Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit: To drive your car into Mexico, outside the border area or free zone, you’ll need a permit which you can get on arrival at the border or purchase online 7 to 60 days prior to your trip. You will need several documents to acquire a Mexico vehicle permit including proof of car ownership, proof of American registration, an affidavit from any lien holders authorizing temporary importation, a valid American driver’s license, and proof of citizenship like a passport or passport card.
Renting a Car If you’re renting a car in Mexico, you will need to have a valid U. Debit cards are not accepted. In order to rent a car in Mexico, you must be at least 25 years old and have held your license for a minimum of two years, though some rental agreements require drivers to have held a license for a minimum of five years. When renting a car in Mexico, your credit card may provide insurance, but you should buy the Mexican car insurance anyway.
If you get in a car accident and don’t have Mexico car insurance, you might not be able to leave the country until the damage has been paid for. However, if your credit card provided insurance, the company should reimburse you when you get home regardless of whether you purchased additional insurance. Read your credit card’s coverage benefits and limitations before leaving home. When you rent a car in Mexico, look the car over before you sign the rental agreement, and have the agent write down every scratch or non-working part on the vehicle or you’ll have to pay for those scratches and parts when you return the car.
It’s worth taking photos of every single scratch on the car before you get in to use as proof in case the companies try to claim you caused the damage. Mexican Car Insurance The rumors about possibly going to jail if you have a car wreck in Mexico are true, but having Mexican insurance helps reduce that possibility. The minimum required insurance coverage to drive in Mexico is civil liability insurance, which covers you in case you cause injury or damage to another driver or vehicle.
Your American liability insurance is not valid in Mexico for bodily injury, but some American insurance policies will cover you for physical damage—check with your carrier to make sure. If you want some flexibility on the date you’ll take your car out of Mexico, consider a six-month policy.
Check with Mexinsure or Mexpro , which both allow travelers to purchase policies before leaving home. Alternatively, sites like RentalCars let you buy travel insurance from the major providers and compare prices so you can score the best deal. You can also buy Mexican car insurance in several American border towns—there will generally be several stores or just storefronts selling Mexican car insurance near the Mexican border except in Deming, New Mexico.
Tourist Cards and Vehicle Permits The two other primary documents all drivers will need in Mexico are a tourist card and a vehicle permit. Fill out a simple form at the border immigration office or online declaring information your purpose in Mexico, for instance , and then hang onto the card! It’s good for up to days, and you should carry it with you at all times while you’re in the country. Keep the permit on your windshield while you’re in Mexico. Crossing the Mexico Border From the U. At the border of the United States and Mexico, you’ll drive through one of several lanes, the number of which depends on how much traffic the border crossing handles.
Traffic lights hanging above the lanes will then direct traffic into the country or into the inspection area. If the light turns green when you’re under it, proceed directly into Mexico. Fortunately, as long as your papers, like your Mexico vehicle permit and tourist card, are in order, and you are carrying nothing illegal like switchblades or illicit drugs, you’ll be fine and allowed to proceed into Mexico.
Driving in Mexico The country’s laid-back attitude is evident in the citizens’ casual driving habits and logical driving patterns. While the way Mexican drivers operate on the roads may seem a bit extreme to U. Areas to avoid do exist, like the Toluca Highway—Carretera Nacional in Guerrero, locally called carretera de la muerte Highway of Death —which is known for random encounters with Bandidos bandits.
Rules of the Road If you’ve never driven in Mexico before, there are several rules of the road you need to be aware of to avoid accidents, emergencies, and getting stranded south of the border. While there are a number of rules that differ from driving laws in the United States, the top tips for safely driving in Mexico are: Avoid driving at night: Road fatalities are far higher at night in Mexico than by day, so avoid this if at all possible.
There are a lot of animals alive and dead , pedestrians, and plenty of vehicles without taillights on the road at night, which increases your risk of an accident. To survive the night, simply wind up your windows, lock your doors, and try to sleep in your backseat until dawn. Wait for the Green Angels if you break down in the daytime: Los Angeles Verdes The Green Angels will come to your aide in a short time if you break down on a roadway in Mexico in the daytime.
The Green Angels are a fleet of green trucks with government-paid bilingual crews cruising the roads every day carrying tools and spare parts, looking for motorists in trouble. They’ll even go to an auto supply store to buy a part for you if necessary. If you need them, call the hour toll-free number for the Green Angels at or, in some states, , or pull over to the side of the road and put your car’s hood up.
Angeles Verdes patrol Mexican roads. Stay on the main roads when driving alone: While Bandidos are few and far between, road conditions can be very iffy off the beaten track, so it’s best to avoid the backstreets if you’re alone and not a confident driver. Mexico also has a number of toll roads known as cuota roads that are kept in excellent condition but can be relatively expensive to use.
You’ll speed right along to your destination on these well-maintained highways, but you’ll miss the local cafes and the charm of the countryside if you stay exclusively on them. Turn signals mean "you can pass:" Unlike in the United States, where turn signals are used to indicate the intention to turn, in Mexico, they are used to indicate that the driver behind you is clear to pass.
However, they can also be used to indicate turns, so make sure you look out for intersections up ahead before deciding to take the invitation to pass when the driver in front of you turns on their signal. Drive on the shoulder to accommodate oncoming traffic: If you see an oncoming vehicle trying to pass another in your lane of the road, you’re expected to drive on the shoulder while they pass.
You can also pass cars on the right shoulder, but make sure to be quick about it as Mexican drivers use every inch of the road in order to keep traffic flowing. Don’t drive under the influence: Ever. You don’t want to make friends in a sweaty jail cell or accidentally kill someone or yourself, so driving while drunk or under the influence of any substance is simply not worth the risk.
If you’re intoxicated and need to get to a hotel, take a taxi and come back for your car the following day when you’ve sobered up. Do not try to bribe police officers: If you’re pulled over and think you’re being asked for a bribe, ask to be taken to the jefe chief —if the officer just wants money from you, he will probably back off at that request.
It’s also worth mentioning that you should never be the person who suggests paying a bribe, as this could land you in a lot of trouble. If you do try to bribe a cop, keep in mind that many Mexican policemen are honest, don’t take bribes, and you may get in hot water for doing something that is technically illegal in the country. In Case of Emergency: dial Yes, it’s the same as the U. Crossing the Border Into the U.
From Mexico At the Mexico-U. A customs official will probably be standing at the side of the road and will motion for you to stop; he’ll ask if you’ve anything to declare. It’s said that U. Stay calm, polite, and cooperative, and you’ll pass through with few problems. Sadly, if you’re Mexican, you can prepare for a greater interrogation at the border.
Customs Avoid any problems with U. Thanks for letting us know!