Driving in the Riviera Maya: FAQ’s

You have planned everything and are feeling more and more ready for your trip to the wonderful Riviera Maya. If you are planning a discovery trip you have booking your flight and hotel and you start to wonder what about transportation?  Should I take a taxis or bus or should I rent a car? Maybe you are planning to move into your beautiful, new real estate property and you have packed everything up and you find yourself wondering how will I get around? Should I use public transportation or should I bring my car with me or should I invest in one when I get there.

The answer to those questions are always going to be different, depending on the objective of your trip, the places you are planning to visit and the length of your stay. In a previous article I talked about how to get around using a taxi or public transportation. Let’s discuss owning or rent a car and driving in the Riviera Maya.

Here are some of the frequently asked questions we have received from our clients planning a trip to the Mayan Riviera.

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1.  How safe is it to drive in the Riviera Maya?

In general, the Riviera Maya and the Yucatan Peninsula are very safe, the roads are in good condition and there are clearly marked road signs along the way. There are a few check-points in the outskirts of Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum, mainly the police are trying to deter people from smuggling drugs or other forbidden articles; they might ask for your documents, they may ask to check your trunk and then send you on your way.

2.   Do I need to get a special driver’s license?

No, if you are a tourist just make sure your driver’s license from your home country is valid. If you want to be extra-cautious you can get an International Driver’s Permit, but it is not required.

3.   What do I do if I get stopped by the police?

Above all, keep calm; have your documents ready such as your driver’s license, ID, Tarjeta de Circulación* and proof of insurance (*circulation permit for the car, if your car is rented this documents should be in the glove compartment).

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4.   Is it safe to get my car into Mexico?

That depends, many people have done it and had no trouble at all and some have shared horror stories. There is some crime on the northern border of Mexico, if you are coming from the U.S. or Canada, it might be safer to ship your car and less of a hassle then driving your car across a foreign country.

My friend recently drove a newer car with American plates from the U.S. all the way to Riviera Maya without any problems. They said that they always felt safe and never saw any signs of violence or danger during their drive.

If you are considering bringing your car, you need to consider the following:

  • If I get stopped by the police do I know my rights? Do I speak enough Spanish to understand and be understood by the police?
  • Am I planning to drive all the way back to my home country?
  • A foreign car cannot be sold to a Mexican citizen, if you are planning to sell it and fly back home you might have to leave your car, unless you find another foreigner willing to buy it from you.
  • Is this car a popular brand or style in Mexico? Can I find a garage, parts or services for it?
  • Am I planning to stay for longer than six months? Am I going to drive to the border to renew the 6 month permit for my car?

5.   What do I have to keep in mind while driving in the Riviera Maya?

Driving tests in Mexico are not as strict as in other countries. I got my Playa del Carmen driver’s license by taking a 3 hour theory class, passing a theory test and a driving test that was basically driving around the block once.

Once in the Riviera Maya you need to keep the following in mind:

  • There are a lot of people that ignores the most basic driving laws, be extra cautious when driving in cities like Cancun and Playa del Carmen. There will be people trying to overtake you on the left lane, people trying to make a right or left turn from the center lane, people ignoring your indicators when you want to park, etc.
  • The Mayan Riviera gets millions of visitors every year, and they are unfamiliar with the roads. As a rule of thumb, if you see a car with red digits you’ll know it’s a rental, give that person extra space to maneuver and figure out where they want to go.
  • Cancun and Playa have lots of one way roads, keep your eyes open for signs or incoming traffic. Do not trust your GPS, sometimes it will try to send you on a one way street!
  • Taxi drivers are the worst, they drive like maniacs, stay away from them!
  • There are a lot of people traveling on bikes, mopeds and motorcycles: keep your eyes open as they ignore all the rules: they might try to overtake you from your left, move forward when the traffic is stationary going in between the cars and so many other maneuvers. Be careful!
  • Keep your eyes open for TOPES (speed bumps), they lurk everywhere and can damage your car. Sometimes they are unmarked and can seem to come out of nowhere. You can find them in the cities, in the little towns and even on the main road that connects Cancun and Tulum (Highway 307).

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Here at Top Mexico Real Estate we aim to provide you with the best information about living in Mexico.  If you are considering buying a property, we have the perfect home in paradise waiting for you!

We are a local American-Owned company, and we have helped thousands of foreigners become homeowners in Mexico. If you would like to make your dream of having a home in Mexico a realty, please contact us!

And remember, here at Top Mexico Real Estate…

We make it happen!