Mexico Driving Advice and Car Hire Info

Driving In Mexico

Before planning your trip you should check out the country advice on your Governments website. This will usually be specific to different regions of Mexico which can have wildy varying conditions and levels of threat. The UK Government currently (Dec 2011) advise against all but essential travel to Ciudad Juarez, where there is a high level of drug-related violence and criminal activity. They also advise travellers to exercise caution in the northern states of Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, including in and around Monterrey and the border areas of Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and in Tampico where there have been an increase in violent incidents.

European ,US and Canadian Photo Is and IDPs are valid in Mexico. Most main roads are in fairly good condition but minor roads will have plenty of pot holes and bumps.(also speed bumps which may not be clearly marked) Driving style is very different to that in Europe or USA. Be prepared for vehicles to stop unexpectedly, and beware of potholes, slow moving vehicles, vehicles changing lane without indicating and going through red lights. When driving after dark you may come across poorly lit or unlit vehicles. Many local drivers do not have any form of car insurance.

Violent incidents happen frequently in some areas on both modern toll (“cuotas”) highways and on secondary roads. They occur most frequently at night and on isolated roads. To reduce risk, you are strongly urged to travel only during daylight hours throughout Mexico, to avoid isolated roads, and to use toll roads whenever possible. Due to instances of violent car-jackings and robberies along the Pacific Highway, you should travel in convoy where possible. You should also be aware that motorists in Mexico travelling in large camper vans or sports utility vehicles have been targeted by organised crime groups. Due to local land disputes, you may also encounter unofficial roadblocks, including on main roads, manned by local groups, who are generally seeking money for an unofficial local toll. As mentioned above, in an effort to reduce pollution there are restrictions on vehicles entering Mexico City. You should check with your rental company whether this will affect you.As with all Cities, Mexico City is confusing to drive in and you are highly likely to get lost. See if you can get the rental company to meet you at/ take you to the outskirts rather than negotiate the City yourself.

The Baja peninsula is a popular vacation spot which attracts numerous drivers from the US. For a detailed account of driving the whole peninsula, check out this website-

The site has some other detailed driving routes and other useful advice on driving in Mexico-

This site is a good source of driving info and road maps-

Mexico Car Rental –
Sixt, Hertz, Europcar,  Alamo , National, Avis, Budget,  Thrifty, Dollar, have outlets here. Also usually features on Car rental broker sites such as Argus Car Hire and Web discount sites such as or Expedia. There are also hundreds of local companies renting in locations all over Mexico, a selection of which are shown below-

This company specialises in rentals between California and Mexico and vice versa

This company rents cars in Mexico City

This company rents in Acapulco

This company rents in Playa del Carmen

This one in Cancun..

This company rents cars from Los Cabos in the Baja California Peninsula-

This company operates in Nayarit and covers Bucerias, Nuevo Vallarta, La Cruz, Punta Mita, Punta Burro, Sayulita and San Pancho areas.

This website lists a number of companies renting vehicles on Cozumel, many of which can be booked online-

These companies offer advice on self drive itineraries –

Mexico Self Drive and Foreign Vehicle Entry Rules-
Rules are complex and depend on the rental company, where you rent the car and where you intend to take it! For instance, there are restrictions on taking cars to Mexico City from certain states. It may not be allowed at all, or you may only be able to enter the city for a limited time. Vehicles rented in Acapulco, Ixtapa, Oaxaca, and Mexico City generally have special license plates that eliminate this restriction. From certain locations you may be able to take the car into the U.S at specific border crossings and if you inform the rental company first (see the company above who specialise in cross border rentals). It should be possible to take cars to Cozumel but you will probably have to pay extra insurance to take the car on a ferry. There may be restrictions on the type of vehicle you can drive to Baja California Peninsula. These rules seem to vary by company. I would suggest telling the rental company where you intend to go and ask them if thats possible. If they say no, try another company!

There are also a whole host of rules for US and Canadian visitors wanting to drive their own vehicles into Mexico. Mexico operates a “border zone” which is generally defined as an area within 20 to 30 kilometers of the border with the U.S., depending on the location. Tourists wishing to travel beyond the border zone with their vehicle must obtain a temporary import permit or risk having their vehicle confiscated by Mexican customs officials. At present the only exceptions to the requirement are for vehicles travelling in the Baja Peninsula and those vehicles covered by the “Only Sonora” program in Western Sonora. This program generally covers the area west of Mexican Federal Highway 15 between the Arizona border and the Gulf of California, ending in Empalme. Foreign vehicles entering Mexico through land border crossings in Sonora do not need temporary import permits if they remain within the zone established by the program. All foreign tourists, however, must have their valid immigration documents them at all times while travelling through Mexico regardless of whether or not they must register their vehicles. The US State department has a lot more info on the rules and regulations around taking your own vehicle into Mexico on its Mexico page –


  1. Eliane

    very good article, thank you for sharing. your sharing information is very useful for me, thank you!

  2. Annalena

    When renting a vehicle, ensure that advertisements or labels for the rental agency are not prominently displayed on the veilche. Avoid leaving valuables such as identification, passport and irreplaceable property in rental veilches, even when locked.

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