Driving a vehicle in Mexico is different in many ways from driving one in the United States. However, it is easy to get a hang of and can be an extremely convenient way to see the country. Below are a few tips that will help you prepare for driving in Mexico on your next vacation.
Carry the Proper Documents
It is important to carry the proper documents no matter what country you’re driving in, but it is especially important when you are driving in Mexico. Having your driver’s license and passport close at hand is essential. You are also going to need proof of up-to-date Mexican auto insurance. If you don’t already have some, you will need to buy it for the length of your trip – your regular car insurance won’t work in Mexico.
Understand the Bite or Bribe
Also known locally as the Mordida, the bite or bribe is a tactic that can be used on corrupt police officers in Mexico. Basically, what happens is that when you are pulled over by the police, you can offer to pay an “instant fine.” This is also known as a bribe. By giving the police officer a little bit of money up front, you will ward off a hefty ticket later on. Though it is mostly thought of as an acceptable practice in Mexico, it does contribute to the corruption of the police force as a whole because individuals will then pull you over just to pocket the bribe. While it was once very popular among visiting drivers, far fewer are offering to pay instant fines these days.
Understand the Gas Stations
The gas stations in Mexico are different than those in the United States. For one thing, several long stretches of the road, especially in southern and interior Baja areas, have no gas stations at all. It is best to keep your vehicle full of gas (and maybe even keep a spare gas can), so that you don’t run out of it in the middle of the desert. It is also wise to note that very few gas stations stay open all night long – be sure to fuel up if you’ll be driving at night. Furthermore, they are full service (they pump your gas for you) and many of the ones in smaller towns don’t yet accept credit cards or foreign money, so keep a few extra pesos handy.
Understand Local Driving Habits and Laws
Mexico is one of those countries where driving defensively is a must. The locals tend to be a little bit wild behind the wheel. Couple this with the startling amount of traffic circles, the insane traffic in city areas, and the lackluster quality of some of the roads, and you’ll have one heck of an adventure even just driving around town! The traffic signs are also slightly different from those in the U.S. Read up on them before making your trip and you will be fine.
Don’t Drive at Night
Driving at night in Mexico is usually not a very good idea – but not for the reasons that you might think! Many visitors shy away from driving in Mexico at night because of recent worldwide coverage of their bandit problem. Simply put, there are bandits in the country, but the chance that you will encounter them, even at night, are slim to none. The real problem in driving at night in Mexico is in hitting large animals. In addition to hitting native animals like deer, many of the farm animals are free-range and are able to wander over roads at will. Another problem with driving at night is not being able to see the often gigantic pot holes and bumps in the roads.
Driving in Mexico really isn’t that different from driving in the United States or Canada. However, precaution should be taken to understand differences in local laws and driving habits. You should also understand the few dangers that exist and how to avoid them. If you do all of this, then you shouldn’t have any problems on the road and your Mexico driving vacation should be a hit!