Many dental patients who choose to travel to one of Mexico's border towns find driving to their appointment to be a safe, affordable and easy option.
Driving in Mexico is not only convenient; it can also give you the freedom to go anywhere at any time – and thus get to see a bit more of the country than just the inside of your dentist’s office...
If you know what you’re doing, where you’re going, are prepared to learn the driving etiquette rules of another country and, above all, take some common-sense with you, driving in Mexico can be a rewarding and safe experience.
Whether driving just over the border in a car or making more of a road-trip in an RV, here are some basic tips to make sure you stay safe.
While this may not necessarily be a comforting statistic – it does put into perspective that engaging in a mundane everyday activity like driving is more hazardous to your safety than the thing many visitors are apprehensive about.
Learning the rules of the road of another country and interpreting the seemingly bizarre and strange customs of other road users will go some way to keeping you safe.
- Signals – In Mexico a driver signaling left isn’t necessarily an indication of the driver’s intention to turn left. It could be a signal for you to pass, especially if you don’t see a left turn up ahead, or the driver doesn’t slow down. Likewise, if you see a driver behind you signaling left it could be that they intend to pass you.
- Roads with a shoulder – If, while driving on a road with a shoulder, there is a vehicle traveling toward you in your lane you are expected to move to the shoulder to let them pass.
- Mountain Roads – On steep, narrow roads downhill traffic has the right of way over uphill traffic. Pull in and allow them as much room as possible to pass. You may also see signs or arrows painted on the road pointing to the opposite lane. This means you should move to that lane (even if it’s the left) – the consequences being potentially disastrous if you don’t.
MEXICAN CAR INSURANCE:
Most US car insurance is not valid in Mexico and you will have to take out Mexican Car Insurance, or risk running into trouble with the police, especially if you have an accident.
You can purchase online before you travel, which is a better option than buying it at one of the offices near the border. Having some time to compare policies will ensure you get the best deals and the best cover.
For instance, it might be advisable to make sure your insurance company will fix your car in the US as well as in Mexico. You should also make sure that your insurance includes an attorney and claims adjusters who will come to the scene of an accident, as you may not be allowed to move your vehicle or you may be detained by the police.
In Mexico, the law works on the basis that you are guilty until proven innocent, and the police will have no hesitation in deciding your guilt if you cannot produce valid motor insurance or a claims adjuster.
The Mexican Federal Police patrol the roads.
Speeding is a particular traffic violation where only going a few miles over the limit could land you in trouble. In Mexico, it is best to err on the side of caution and stick to around 5 or 10km/h below the speed limit. If you are stopped by the police you will be issued with a fine payable at a local police station.
However, you may be left off with a warning in exchange for mordida (bribe). This may seem like the easiest option, allowing you to get on your way without the need to traipse to a police station. However, it is illegal, and the police are well aware of this and rarely ask you directly. Moreover, if you do offer a bribe, you may be arrested if the officer takes offense.
DRIVING AFTER DARK:
It is not recommended to drive after dark unless you have prior experience of Mexican roads.
At night you are likely to encounter drunk drivers, vehicles without lights, animals, pedestrian traffic and countless other road hazards. The cuotas are safer, but still unlit and you may still encounter the same hazards as you would on the libre roads, albeit not as many.
The Bottom Line
Traveling in Mexico, including driving, shouldn’t prove to be any more inherently dangerous than driving at home.
With a decent map, a Spanish phrasebook and knowing the rules of the road, there’s no reason why planning a trip beyond your dentist’s office shouldn’t be a safe and happy one.
If you have any questions about traveling in Mexico, feel free to reach out to our Customer Care Team any time of day or night.
The lawless roads. The Economist. http://www.economist.com/node/21531484
Powers of the Mexican Federal Police with Foreign Country Comparisons. Library of Congress. https://www.loc.gov/law/help/federal-police/mexico-comparisons.php
Driving in Mexico: A short practical guide. Mex Connect. http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/216-driving-in-mexico-a-short-practical-guide
Country Information. Travel.State.Gov. http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country.html
Da Silva, Chantal. Thousands Of Americans Are Crossing The Border Into Mexico Every Year To Get Affordable Medical Treatment. News Week. 18 May 2019. https://www.newsweek.com/thousands-americans-cross-border-mexico-affordable-medical-treatment-each-1426943