If you are planning on renting a car during your next trip you must read these tips for driving in Cancun!
It will help ensure that you have a great experience renting a car and enjoying Cancun.
Many people wonder if they need to rent a car in Cancun. The answer is no. You can use public transportation, private shuttles, and taxis to get around.
However, renting a car gives you the freedom to explore areas that are off the beaten path on your own schedule! If you are thinking about renting a car, keep reading for tips for driving in Cancun.
15 Tips for Driving in Cancun
Nothing can take the fun out of a trip faster than troubles while driving. Renting a car and exploring a new area should be fun. Here are a few tips to follow to help you have a great time while driving around Cancun:
1. Drive defensively
Defensive driving is when you anticipate dangerous situations or mistakes other drivers around you can make.
This means that you are constantly scanning the road and really paying attention to other drivers.
While most drivers in Cancun follow traffic rules and drive responsibly, it is a good idea to keep an eye out for drivers who cut you off, are speeding, or doing anything else that could cause an accident.
2. Avoid driving at night
This is not just a tip for visitors. You will find that Mexicans avoid traveling on highways at night.
They worry about it being unsafe (even in areas that are very safe during the day), poorly marked roads, and lack of proper lighting. Plan your driving during the day.
3. Beware of topes
Topes are speed bumps, and you will find them all over Mexico. There is usually a traffic sign warning you when you approach them, and they should be painted yellow.
Still, to avoid hitting one at full speed and doing damage to your rental car, make sure you are always paying attention.
Tip: They are common when you are driving on two-lane highways and approaching a small pueblo.
4. Observe traffic lights and road signs
This might seem obvious, but many visitors get themselves into trouble by failing to pay attention to the traffic lights and road signs.
Many traffic lights in Mexico go from green to flashing green, to yellow, to red.
Do not try to accelerate when you see a yellow light to make it through the intersection. Be calm and take your time while driving.
Tip: Estacionar means to park in Spanish. When looking for a parking spot if you see signs with an E and a red line through it, it means no parking.
Usually, curbs are also painted to tell you where you can park. You can park on white curbs, do not park if the curb is painted yellow or red.
5. Treat the police with respect but don’t offer bribes
If you are pulled over by the police or need to interact with them, remember to treat them with respect, and never offer them bribes.
If you are pulled over, ask the police officer to write you an actual ticket, do not offer to “pay it on the spot.”
6. Follow Mexican driving laws
Be familiar with and follow Mexican driving laws.
In Mexico, it is illegal to be using your phone while driving. If you need to send messages, make calls, or use your phone to navigate, make sure the person in the passenger seat is the one using the phone.
Not surprisingly, drunk driving is also illegal in Mexico.
Unfortunately, all too often tourists have too many drinks and drive. This is illegal, and dangerous to them and all the people around them.
Also, make sure to follow Mexican road safety and wear your seatbelt. It is common to see people driving around without buckling their seat belts- but do not give a police officer a reason to pull you over and ticket you!
7. Observe the speed limit
The speed limit is posted in kilometers per hour. While it might seem that people drive whatever speed they please- sometimes way faster than the posted speed, make sure to follow the speed limit.
8. Slow down on military checkpoints
If you are driving on the highway or crossing state lines, it is common to see military checkpoints on the road. Make sure you slow down while passing these.
Sometimes you will be asked to roll down your window and a military member may ask you a few questions. This is completely normal and nothing to worry about!
9. Fill up your tank and avoid scams at gas stations
Gas stations in Mexico are notorious for scamming people. You cannot pump your own gas in Mexico, but make sure you pay attention to the attendant.
Attendants will ask you if you want normal, often referred to as ‘verde’ or premium gas.
Check that the screen is reading 0 before the attendant starts to pump gas. Many people think that their credit cards have been scammed at gas stations, so when possible, pay cash.
Just make sure that you pay attention to what denomination bills you pay with and get proper change if needed.
10. Park your car securely
Do not tempt thieves to break into your car. Never leave valuables in the car, the windows open, or the doors unlocked, and whenever possible park your car in a secure parking lot.
Many hotels offer secure parking, otherwise, you can find a paid parking lot and spend a few dollars to park your car overnight.
11. Download an offline map for navigation
It is a good idea to download an offline map when driving around, especially when exploring small pueblos, far away cenotes, or traveling long stretches between towns.
Cell phone service can be spotty in these areas so it is a good idea to have a downloaded map.
12. You can use the toll roads or not
When you travel around Mexico you will find there are often two highways that lead in the same direction- one is a toll road and one is free.
In Spanish, you will see signs for the ‘quota’ which is the toll road, or ‘libre’ which is the free highway. You can choose either but be aware that toll roads are often faster and in much better shape than free roads.
13. Always carry some cash
So many of us are used to using our debit or credit cards for everything, but you will want to carry cash while exploring the area around Cancun.
Once you are out of cities many places including little shops, restaurants, and even gas stations may only accept cash. If you are travelling on toll roads you will also want to have cash for paying the fees.
14. Window cleaners may approach you at stoplights
When you are stopped at a traffic light, you may have people approach you to wash your windshield.
This is a common practice that people do to make a little money. Common practice is to tip them for their service, usually 10-20 pesos is enough, and enjoy a clean windshield.
If you do not have any cash or coins on you and really do not want your windshield washed you can always tell them no.
However, they will really appreciate it if you let them wash your window while you wait for the light to turn green.
Is it safe to drive in Cancun?
Yes, it is safe to drive in Cancun and the surrounding areas.
In general, the roads are in good shape and other drivers follow traffic laws.
As mentioned above, be sure to always pay attention and be aware of what the other drivers around you are doing.
It is never a good idea to drive on the highway at night in Mexico, so make sure you do any long-distance drives during daylight hours.
Where can I rent a car in Cancun?
There are plenty of options for renting a car in Cancun. I always recommend using Discover Cars because you can compare different car rental companies on one page and pick the one with the best rental conditions.
Discover Cars is a great Car rental search platform to compare different car rental companies and choose the one that fits your needs. With more than 70000 Reviews and an average of 4.5/5 Score, Discover Cars help you find the best Car Rental company in Cancun.
If you will rent a car for your entire vacation it is convenient to pick it up at the airport.
There are many rental companies located close to the airport terminals that have a shuttle that will pick you up and take you to the office to pick up your car.
You can save yourself the time and hassle of returning to the airport by choosing a rental company that offers in-town pickup.
The easy-to-use platform will show you the price and reviews of the rental company- letting you easily find the best car option for you!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is driving in Cancun easy?
In general, yes, driving in Cancun is easy.
The roads are in good condition and well-marked. Compared to other big cities in Mexico, and around the world, Cancun driving is fairly simple.
As always with a city, you need to pay attention to people who quickly change lanes, stop without warning, or generally drive aggressively.
That said, if you pay attention you should not have any problems.
Can foreigners drive in Cancun?
Yes, you just need a driver’s license that is in the Roman alphabet to be able to drive in Cancun.
If your driver’s license is in character you will need to get an international driver’s license in order to drive in Cancun.
Is it safe to drive in Cancun at night?
Yes and no. If you are driving back from a restaurant that you ate at, yes that is fine.
As always, if you plan to drink alcohol, it is better to take a taxi or bus and leave your rental car at your hotel.
It is not a good idea to drive on the highways or between towns at night.
What is the speed limit in Cancun?
The speed limit depends on what type of road you are on.
The speed limit is posted on signs and is in kilometers per hour.
In general, residential areas will have slower speed limits, around 30 miles per hour (50 kilometers per hour) or slower.
Roads that connect the hotel zone to the airport will have higher speed limits, around 40 miles per hour (70 kilometers per hour).
The highways that connect Cancun to other cities will have the fastest speed limits.
Always check for the posted speed limit and obey it (even if other cars around you are going way faster).
Final Thoughts: Tips for driving in Cancun
Renting a car and having the freedom to drive yourself around can be the highlight of any vacation.
Having a car allows you to explore areas off the beaten tourist path and gives you the freedom to move on your own schedule.
Following our advice and 15 tips for driving in Mexico will help keep the driving experience fun and safe.
Just remember to always pay attention to the road and traffic signs, and never do anything you wouldn’t do in your home country, such as drinking and driving or leaving valuables in an unlocked car!