wikiHow to Drive in Mexico Without Getting Into Trouble

Drivers in Latin America are renowned for their European motoring style, and different driving culture. This wikiHow gives some tips on dealing with this.


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    If you have an accident without insurance and it is your fault, and there were personal injuries or damage to the roadways, you will go to jail. To avoid delays and legal trouble, you can purchase a day or two of car insurance for less than $20 and let the insurance personnel take care of everything. Just be sure that you understand your coverage when you buy it. If you plan on driving at all in any Latin American country, get insurance in that country first.
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    Mexican drivers (especially in large cities) are more aggressive than the average American driver, and are more active in their habits. Be alert and watch for signs that a driver is trying to change lanes or get around you. Turn signals are rarely used, so be on the lookout.
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    Pedestrian and bike traffic is common throughout Latin America, and though most people are better at crossing the street than in the United States, hitting a person or a cyclist is still a huge problem.
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    Avoid driving on the highway at night if you have problems on American highways, or on highways in general. There is much commercial traffic along Mexican highways at night, so beware of large trucks as well.
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    Be very careful passing and changing lanes. Be deliberate in what you do, but do not pretend that your turn signal will have any effect on other drivers. Be extra careful when you want to turn left and make sure nobody tries to pass you. If you need to cross the highway and there's traffic, pull over to the right until it's safe to cross.
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    Two lane highways with shoulders are used as four lane highways. Oncoming vehicles will pass and expect you to move onto the shoulder. Vehicles will also pass on the shoulder. It is a matter of expedience, do not drive if you are easily offend.
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    Drive at the speed of traffic, and be prepared to drive faster.
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    Do not turn left onto a street in the middle of a block; the only way out of a parking lot in such a place is to turn right and go around the block.


  • Most truckers on Mexican highways are very courteous when driving. The same is not true of non-truck drivers, especially during school vacations when the highways are chock-full of city dwellers who aren't used to driving on the highways.
  • It is common in Mexico for the police to remove license plates from vehicles to force the offender to show up to take care of the fine. This usually has the effect of getting motorists to cough up a few pesos, and then the plate is returned. If you are driving your own vehicle in Mexico, you might be tempted to use carriage bolts to attach your plate so you have nothing to worry about, but that is against the law, and it invites being towed and impounded.
  • Be very careful when dealing with the Federales (Mexican Federal Police, similar to the State Patrol in the U.S., but with federal jurisdiction, which includes most highways). NEVER attempt to bribe a Federale, save that for the local police if you choose to do it.
  • If you do get pulled over, be polite and calm. Under no circumstances try to speak Spanish with the police. With good manners and an apologetic looking face you might get out of the ticket, but if you don't, they are usually fairly cheap.
  • You might be tempted to offer a bribe when stopped by the police: don't do it. Only those who really know the nuances and customs of the particular part of the country might get away with it. If, on the other hand, you are unequivocally and explicitly asked for a bribe, it's your call if you give it or want to go through the hassle of going to the police station or having to go recover your license plates by paying a fine.
  • All gas stations in Mexico are government controlled and called Pemex (Petroleos Mexicanos - Mexican Petroleum). The further south you get, the scarcer they get. Avoid morning fill-ups, get your gas last thing at night. They quite often line up, which is a bummer when you want to get going. When driving on highways in the least populous parts of the country, be on the lookout for signs warning of the distance to the next gas station, which might be more than a hundred kilometers (about 60 miles).
  • Roads in Mexico are sometimes badly planned and sometimes in horrible shape. Look for skid marks on the pavement as a clue to a dangerous road.
  • On two-lane highways, you might see the slow truck ahead of you turn on his left turn signal. That is your cue to overtake it: the trucker is telling you that there is no oncoming traffic and that it is safe for you to pass.


  • Do check that the gas pump is back to zero before the attendant starts pumping gas in your car. A rental car full of foreigners is an easy prey and the gas pump trick is a common little scam.
  • Just as in America, this article doesn't mean all Latin American drivers are aggressive. Most have been known to be significantly courteous.

Things You'll Need

  • A special Mexican auto insurance policy is needed in Mexico because Mexico practices Napoleonic law and U.S. and Canadian car insurance policies are not valid. Any car accident in Mexico requires immediate compensation to the injured party or the authorities are required to detain the at-fault driver until payment is made. The law is complicated, but generally states that any driver in Mexico must take "financial responsibility" for any damages they may cause to others.
  • Banjercito (Military Bank) issues a temporary importation sticker for your windshield, $35 or so. It is suspected that this hologram sticker on the windshield commands great respect from lesser authorities. This is not required if you are just within 50 kilometers (30 miles) of border areas. U.S. and Canadian citizens do not require tourist card if the visit is 72 hours or less and the visit is within the limits of a "border zone" or tourist corridor established by the Mexican government.

Article Info

Categories: Travel Safety & Security