Car Rental in Mexico and a few Driving Tips
Car rental in Mexico is an effective way to see remote areas of the country and avoid the hassles of public transport. Renting a car is usually easy and not too expensive, but be warned: driving in Mexico is not for the faint hearted. If you are a nervous driver stick to buses and air travel.
There are a number of car rental agencies to choose from in Mexico, most of which are based in major cities, airports and popular tourist destinations. It is advisable to stick to established international agencies such as Budget, Avis, Dollar and Hertz. Local agencies may offer cheaper rates, but they are also less reliable and in many cases tax and insurance are not included in quoted prices. Rates start at around $55 per day which includes unlimited mileage, tax and insurance. Compare rates carefully and consider daily, weekly and monthly rental options. Often agencies will offer a discount for weekly and monthly rentals. National in particular are known to offer bargain deals, as are Thrifty.
You will obviously have to pay for your own gasoline which is sold under the brand name Pemex and is quite expensive. Two types of fuel are available, Premio which is leaded and Magna Sin which is unleaded. Look out for gasolineras or gas stations which are indicated by white and green overhead signs.
If you know that you are going to be hiring a car, it is advisable to get an international driver's license before leaving your home country. While photocard licenses from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK are all valid in Mexico, officials will give you less trouble if you present them with an international driver's license. Having an international license also saves you the trouble of having to cart around additional documents that are required when you drive on a license from another country.
The legal driving age in Mexico may be 18, but to hire a car you need to be 25 or older. When you hire a car you will be required to sign two slips, one to cover the actual rental fee and one to cover any damages. It is advisable to be extremely careful when driving, as agencies will charge you ridiculous rates for even the smallest of dents and tiniest of scratches.
Mexican roads and traffic can be incredibly daunting. Mexicans drive on the right hand side of the road and speed limits are set at 40 km (25mph) in built up areas, 70km (43mph) in rural areas and 110km (68mph) on freeways. Mexican motorists drive far too fast, hog lanes and do not use the correct signals when turning or overtaking. Road surfaces in Mexico are rougher than roads in the US and other countries. It is worth paying the price to drive on decent roads and avoid the trucks and buses that clog up non-toll highways. Private and government toll gates or cuotas as they are called in Mexico are set up all over the country.
A couple of practical considerations to keep in mind when driving in Mexico : avoid driving at night if possible as 90% of road accidents in the country occur between midnight and dawn. Look out for successive speed bumps or topes which are located in most towns and cities and can do significant damage to your car if you fly over them at high speeds. Be careful when parking as parking spaces in public lots are usually very tight and parking in hotel parking areas and private lots can cost a small fortune. Finally, should you have a minor accident, it is best to try and come to an arrangement with the other driver concerned rather than involve the traffic police who are more of a hindrance than a help.