Tips for a Safe & Enjoyable Time while Driving in Mexico
Tip #1: Always purchase Mexican Auto Insurance prior to entering Mexico. US and Canadian insurance is not recognized by Mexican authorities, and the consequences for driving uninsured can be severe. If you are in an accident or other vehicle-related problem while driving without Mexican insurance, it is highly likely that your vehicle could be permanently confiscated and you could be detained by the police.
Even if you are not concerned about protecting your own vehicle with Full Coverage Insurance, you should at a minimum always purchase Mexican Liability Auto Insurance to cover any damages you may cause to third parties. All of Adventure Mexican Insurance Services' Mexican auto insurance includes a minimum of $50,000 US dollars (limits can be increased) of combined single limit liability coverage, and the rates are extremely reasonable. Legal Service is also an important aspect of Mexican auto insurance that you should not go without. All of our Mexican insurance also includes Legal Service at no extra charge. This Legal Service covers attorney fees, and bail bond costs which may be incurred due to a vehicle related accident. (Refer to your Mexican auto insurance Terms & Conditions for full details).
Tip #2: Driving conditions in Mexico are often very different from the US or Canada. For your safety, you must drive slowly and cautiously in Mexico.
Tip #3: Do not drive at night! Never! Most cases of highway crime occur at night, if at all.
Loose livestock often wanders onto roads at night and are difficult to see.
Many vehicles in Mexico do not have functioning headlights and brake lights, creating dangerous situations.
Always keep an eye out for loose Livestock. Horses, cows, pigs, and dogs are often found wandering loose in the road.
Construction sites are often unmarked and equipment can be left on the road
Tip #4: Prevent your vehicle from being stolen. Park in secure, paid (inexpensive), public/private parking, especially at night. Vehicle theft can be a problem in anywhere. Employ at least one type of anti-theft device: Steering wheel locks, kill switches, and other anti-theft devices are highly recommended.
Always park in a parking area that is clearly visible and contains other vehicles. When parking in a crowded urban area, a protector may request $10 pesos, US$1.00, to watch your car. Gladly pay him. If he offers to wash the car, say yes. The protectors will love your vehicle and watch it like a parent.
Never leave your vehicle parked on the side of the road or highway.
For overnight parking, always park in area that is gated or employs a security guard.
Tip #5: Rainy and Wet Conditions: The dirt and oil on the road mixes with rain to cause extremely slippery conditions. When it begins to rain, slow down to a crawl.
RVs / Motor homes and vehicles with trailers should avoid driving in the rain as much as possible.
Tip #6: Learn Local Driving Signals:
Flashing headlights from an oncoming vehicle is often a warning signal that you are both approaching a narrow place in the road that will not fit 2 vehicles. Left turn blinkers on the auto or truck in front of you, mean either of two things: #1, the vehicle in front is about to swerve left to pass; #2, the vehicle in front is signaling you that it’s safe to pass.
Be safe and never pass going up a hill, across a bridge, or anywhere dangerous. Always let the other vehicle pass the narrow section first, and then proceed once the area is clear.
Tip #7: Beware of Topes: Topes are giant speed bumps located throughout Mexican roadways, but not on Quotas or Toll Roads. Topes are Mexican speed bumps that are 2-3 times larger than the usual speed bumps most folks are used to gliding over in the US or Canada. If you do not slow down to a snail's pace before hitting a tope, you can expect to launch your vehicle into flight, potentially damage your suspension, front end, or your tongue. In many areas in Mexico topes will be located at the beginning and ending of most towns along the major highways. They are not always clearly marked, so always keep an eye out for them. If you see any signs of civilization emerging in the distance on down the road, prepare to slow down!
Tip #8: In case of an accident or loss, you must report the claim in Mexico, prior to entering the US in order for your Mexican Insurance to cover the claim.
Tip #9: Research your route for safety using current maps. Guia Roji is highly recommended.
Tip #10: Join Yahoo Groups about Mexico and become familiar with every day situations.
Tip #11: Have your car serviced prior to leaving on your trip. Tell them you are going on a road trip to Mexico and please change the gas filter and check everything.
Tip #12: Never operate your vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
Tip #13: Military Checkpoints are common when driving in Mexico, especially travelinng North. Perhaps one of the most intimidating experiences for the first time road traveler to Mexico are the encounters with military checkpoints along the Mexican highways. In an effort to control drug trafficking and other illegal activities, US of A has forced the Mexican government has installed a number of military checkpoints along many of the major highways throughout Mexico. I have only noticed them driving north, towards the US of A.
What to expect: When approaching a military checkpoint, you will see a handful of young men (often under the age of 20) dressed in green military uniforms and armed with automatic rifles. There will usually be some sort of building structure, but the military folks will usually be standing on both sides of the road waiting for you. Although fifty percent of the time, you will be waved through. As you approach the solder with a stop flag, always come to a complete stop. And, stop before the flag. Expect to pull over and follow instructions, if you understand them. Get out of your vehicle in order to have the interior of your vehicle inspected. Do not panic. The soldiers are instructed to be courteous to tourists, and they almost always are. Do not expect the soldiers to speak any English. These are solders, usually without a high school education, from small villages, with strong dialects when they speak Spanish. Speak Spanish, if you can, but, if you do not, most of the communication will be through hand gestures. They may ask you “Adonde va?” (Where you are going?”) and “De donde viene?” (Where you are coming from?), be prepared to at least say the name of town you are heading to and coming from. If they do request to inspect your vehicle, just politely step out of your vehicle and let them do their job. A typical inspection usually involves opening the glove compartment, checking under the seats, popping the trunk, and perhaps inspecting the contents of one or two of your travel bags. My mini-van is usually searched, which takes about 2 minutes.
Tip #14: The possession of any type of firearm in Mexico is illegal. US and Canadian citizens have been thrown in jail for possession of just one single bullet. If you own any firearms, you should check your vehicle prior to entering Mexico to make sure your vehicle is completely free of any materials associated with firearms.
Tip #15: Vehicle Permit: If you plan to drive your vehicle south of the 'Border Zone' in mainland Mexico (or outside of Sonora), you are required to obtain a temporary vehicle importation permit. You can obtain this permit at the border. Vehicle Permits can be valid for a maximum of six months, and the vehicle must be 'checked out' (by Mexican authorities) of the country prior to the permit expiration date. Failure to so could result in having the vehicle confiscated. (Even if you never plan to bring the vehicle back into Mexico, you must always 'check out' your vehicle at the same Customs Office the Vehicle Permit was issued at immediately before exiting the country).
Make sure to have the following ORIGINAL (or notarized copy) documents with you: (You will save yourself some time if you also make 2 photo copies of each document prior to crossing the border!)
1: Valid proof of citizenship (passport or birth certificate).
2: Your Tourist Card or Tourist Visa.
3: The valid vehicle registration certificate, or original title that certifies the legal ownership of the vehicle. The person whose name is listed on the registration must be present. (If the registered owner is not going to be present, you must contact the Mexican Consulate in advance for details on how to obtain the permit).
4: If the vehicle is financed, you should contact your finance company to receive a 'Letter of Authorization' allowing you to drive your vehicle into Mexico.
5: If the vehicle is leased or rented, you must provide the lease or rental contract with the driver's name on the contract.
6: A valid Driver's License (a Non-Mexican driver's license).
7: An international credit card, (American Express, Diner's Club, MasterCard or Visa), in the name of the driver of the vehicle. (If you do not have a credit card, you can also make a cash deposit).
Tip #16: Using Telephones and Cell Phones in Mexico
TelMex payphones are everywhere in Mexico and are great for all phoning. TelMex cards can be purchased at any newsstand or store. Calling cards purchased in USA are great in Mexico. Costco, provide a long list of access numbers in foreign countries. I used a label maker to put Mexico access number on my card. When using the pre-paid card, there is a lot of dialing, but the price-per-minute are the cheapest around.
Tip #17: Keep you left, front, pocket with 1 peso coins, about US$0.08. When a beggar asks for money, I reach into my left pocket for a peso and gladly offer it as a gift. The beggars are grateful. In Mexico, it's not the amount that counts, but the fact that you care enough to the poor to help.
Tip #18: For emergency purposes, bring a cell phone or satellite phone with you for your Mexican road trip. A mobile phone could save you a lot of time and stress if you are not near a land phone and you need to call for assistance. However, if you do not know how to use your cell phone in Mexico, or if you do not have any service in Mexico, you are guaranteed to have a confusing and frustrating experience. Follow these steps in order to be prepared to use your cell phone in Mexico.
Contact your US cellular phone service, and ask them what types of Mexico service are available. Most of the cell phone companies offer some type of Mexico service.
Ask for the specific dialing instructions for making calls with your cell phone while in Mexico. Specifically ask how to dial Mexican toll free 800 numbers - because the insurance claims phone number is a Mexican toll free number!
Tip #19: Once you enter Mexico, we highly recommend that you test the insurance claims phone number to make sure you understand how to dial the number properly with your cell phone. You can just say, 'Hi, I am testing to make sure this phone number works'. - Now you know for sure that you can reach the claims and assistance hotline if you require help.
Make sure you dial 01-800 when you are dialing the Mexican toll free insurance claims phone number. Mexican dialing is different form the US, so make certain to dial the 01-800 at the beginning. If you do not put the 01 at the beginning, the number will not work!