Mexico Driving Advice and Car Hire Info
Driving In Mexico
Before planning your trip you should check out the country advice on your government’s website. This will usually be specific to different regions of Mexico but can extend to virtually anywhere in the country as drug related gang violence increases.
Mexico drives on the right and you can use the photo licence of any country to drive here, providing it’s written in Roman alphabet. Drivers from other countries need their own licence plus an international driving permit. Speed limits range from 110kmh on motorways to 60/90kmh on other roads and 40kmh in urban areas, reducing to 10kmh in small streets.
Mexico has 370,000km of roads within the country’s borders, around a third of which are paved, with around 11,000km of multi-lane autopistas, which are mostly toll roads or autopistas de cuota. Main roads are prefixed with MX, followed by a number. Toll roads usually have a ‘D’ on the end. Eg, the non- motorway main road between Mexico City and Puebla is MX 150 , the multi-lane toll autopista is MX 150D. Tolls are quiet expensive at MXN $1–$2 per km and can be paid at toll booths on the road or via a prepaid Tag TeleVia card which can be purchased at Walmart stores in Mexico. There is also an automated vehicle IAVE Tag. More details can be found here but unfortunately the site is in Spanish only.
There are around 200 toll autopistas in the country, with most covering a distance of less than 100km and only the following roads exceeding a distance of 200km-
MX 15D – 240KM Mazatlán to Tepic
MX 37D – 220KM – Uruapan to Lázaro Cárdenas
MX 150D -400KM Mexico City-Puebla City- Córdoba- Veracruz City
MX40D – 225KM – Durango to Gómez Palacio
MX 180D – 250KM- Mérida/Kantunil to Cancun
MX 95D – 265KM – Cuernavaca to Acapulco
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 watch out for slow moving vehicles which may be badly lit in rural areas, vehicles changing lane without indicating and going through red lights. Many local drivers do not have any form of car insurance.
Mexico City operates a ‘Hoy No Circula’ (Don’t drive today) vehicle restriction programme to reduce pollution within its environs. This works via a hologram disc displayed in all vehicles which limits the days cars can drive into certain areas. Vehicles from US and Canada can gain exemption via a Pase Turístico which allows them to drive in the city at any time for up to 2 weeks. More details can be obtained here. Rental cars should have a hologram bearing the numbers 00 which means they can be driven at any time, though I have seen reports of cars being rented which were subject to restrictions so check this when taking the vehicle.
Violent incidents have occurred in some areas on both modern toll 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.Take care, and if possible travel with others if travelling on Federal Highway 200 /Carretera Federal 200/ also known as the Pacific Coast Highway/ Carretera Pacífico, which begins at Tepic in the North of Mexico and continues to Talismán at the Guatemala border. Vehicles have been targeted and robbed on this route, particularly high value SUV’s and campervans. Avoid travelling after dark and if you suspect you’re being followed, drive to the nearest town and try to find a police station or other official building to stop at.
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. You should check with your rental company whether this will affect you.As with all cities, Mexico City and other large urban areas can be confusing to drive in, even with a satnav, and you are highly likely to get lost. If concerned about this,ask the rental company to meet you at/ take you to the outskirts rather than negotiate the City yourself.
Taking a vehicle from USA/Canada into Mexico
A number of travellers from the USA and Canada take their own vehicles into Mexico.The process for doing this depends on where you intend to take the vehicle. For most of the country, a temporary import permit is required. However, this is not required if you will remain within the Mexico Free zone or Border Zone. This is an area of between 20-26km from the Mexico’s Northern and Southern borders, plus the entire Baja peninsula and a large area in the Sonora region . In Sonora, the zone begins northwest of Mexico Federal Highway Number 2, starting at Agua Prieta. It then extends through Cananea, to where it intersects with Mexican Federal Highway 15 in Imuris. From Imuris, all of the areas to the north and west of Mexico Federal Highway 15 are included. The zone ends ar Kilometer 98, southeast of Empalme.
If travelling beyond the Border zone, a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TIP) is required. This can be obtained at the border or online 7-60 days before travel from Banjercito, the official Mexican issuing agency. It is valid for any type of vehicle weighing less than three tons, for up to six months. The permit costs around $50USD plus a refundable deposit of between $200-$400USD. Documents required are – Passport, Driver’s License ,ownership documents or authority for a rental/lease vehicle to be exported, Proof of temporary Mexican car insurance.
Although I try and keep the information in the site updated as much as possible, in a rapidly moving world, situations can change daily. Therefore please use the site as an approximate guide, and in conjunction with other resources in order to form your view on driving conditions, roads, safety etc.
Mexico Car Rental –
Sixt, Hertz, Europcar, Alamo , National, Avis, Budget, Thrifty, Dollar, have outlets here. Also usually features on Car rental broker sitesand Web discount sites such as Expedia.
We currently have no local car rental partners in Mexico. If you are a local car rental company who would like to feature on DriverAbroad.com please check details on our Partnering page or contact us on ADriverAbroad@Outlook.com
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 . 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!