As always when driving in a foreign country there are going to be different laws and road ethics that govern the actions of drivers on the road. The Riviera Maya is an easy and safe place to navigate by car, but the above rule still applies. Below we have noted the differences and driving habits unique to Mexico; these will help you and give you an excellent basis for you driving knowledge but, as always when driving in a foreign country, learn what to do and what not to do through observation.
Liability Insurance is required by law in Mexico and you shouldn’t enter the country without it. Hire cars will usually come with this as part of the price; but do check just in case. It is also Mexican Liability Insurance that is required by law and your home country insurance may not qualify. Check with your insurance provider before you travel.
There are regular checkpoints in Mexico, always staffed by armed personal. There are three military checkpoints on the Riviera Maya: one south of Cozumel, one south of Playa Del Carmen and one north of Tulum. If stopped don’t be worried it’s a random and routine check. You must carry a form of ID with you at all times in Mexico (mainly to avoid complication), they will ask you for it, they will also ask where you’re coming from and where you’re going. They will also check your car for drugs and weapons, but you shouldn’t be carrying any of these anyway.
Hazard lights in Mexico do not necessarily mean that the vehicle is broken down. Colectivos will use them when their going to stop, as will vehicles such as tour buses when they are pulling over or turning. They are also used to warn drivers behind you of upcoming hazards or slow traffic; for example when approaching and slowing down for a police checkpoint.
Don’t be surprised to find people lining the side of the highway in Mexico. This is where they wait for the colectivos or any other transport that they may be taking. They will also be periodically crossing the highway. Of course they don’t run out in front of cars and they do wait off the road so it’s not a hazard as such, just be careful at night as they can appear out of the dark quite quickly. Also don’t stop for anyone.
Green Angels (Angeles Verdes)
Named so because of their green trucks and their saving grace of appearing exactly when you need them, the Angeles Verdes are government paid mechanics who patrol the highway saving anyone that may have broken down. If you do breakdown put you car bonnet up and one will shortly appear on the horizon. They don’t charge for the service but they will charge you for any parts they may have to change. As everyone does, they always appreciate a small tip.
Passing on the right / Undertaking
Undertaking is common practice in Mexico. If someone is going to take a U-turn or is just driving to slowly in the fast lane they will probably be undertaken; and given a small beep of the horn just to let them know. So when changing into the slow lane make sure to check your mirror and your blind spot.
In Mexico, if you are wary of driving in a foreign country, we would advise that you try to avoid driving at night. It is not too different to driving during the day but at night the jungle creature do emerge, so you many see a coati or two occupying the highway, and people on the side of the road are obviously harder to spot. But please don’t be deterred from driving in Mexico, it is a very simple and logical road system, plus having a car gives you the greatest freedom whilst you’re travelling.