The highways and roads of the Riviera Maya –as well as throughout the entire Yucatan Peninsula– are super safe for regular, everyday use. The Highway 307 – which runs down the coast all the way from Cancun to the border of Belize – is usually pretty good and is easy to cruise down.
As always when driving in a foreign country there are going to be different laws and road ethics that govern the actions of drivers on the road. The Riviera Maya is an easy and safe place to navigate by car, but the above rule still applies.
Driving here is just like in the US or Canada, however you need to be more aware, look around you often, use your mirrors more and drive defensively, don’t speed (speed signs on the highway change a lot), and of course don’t drink and drive.
Liability Insurance is required by law in Mexico. Hired cars will usually come with this as part of the price; but do check just in case. Your home country insurance may not qualify. Check with your insurance provider before you travel.
There are regular checkpoints in Mexico, always staffed by armed personal. If stopped don’t be worried it’s a random and routine check. You must carry a form of ID with you at all times in Mexico (mainly to avoid complication), they will ask you for it, they will also ask where you’re coming from and where you’re going. They will also check your car for drugs and weapons, but you shouldn’t be carrying any of these anyway.
Hazard lights in Mexico do not necessarily mean that the vehicle is broken down. Colectivos will use them when they are going to stop, as will vehicles such as tour buses when they are pulling over or turning. They are also used to warn drivers behind you of upcoming hazards or slow traffic; for example when approaching and slowing down for a police checkpoint.
The one difference in driving is what the left turn signal means:
Could be the car in front of you is signaling that he is about to pull out to pass.
Could be the car in front of you is signaling you that it is clear for you to pass them.
Could be the car in front of you is turning left.
So it’s best to check your mirrors when you see someone has a left turn signal and before you make a left turn yourself. Remember that when pulling in or out of a parking spot you do not have the right of way.
Passing on the right / Undertaking
Undertaking is common practice in Mexico. If someone is going to take a U-turn or is just driving to slowly in the fast lane they will probably be undertaken. So when changing into the slow lane make sure to check your mirror and your blind spot.
Don’t be surprised to find people lining the side of the highway in Mexico. This is where they wait for the colectivos or any other transport that they may be taking. They will also be periodically crossing the highway. Of course they do wait off the road so it’s not a hazard as such, just be careful at night as they can appear out of the dark quite quickly. Also don’t stop for anyone.
Green Angels (Angeles Verdes)
The Angeles Verdes are government paid mechanics who patrol the highway saving anyone that may have broken down. If you do breakdown put your car bonnet up and one will shortly appear on the horizon. They don’t charge for the service but they will charge you for any parts they may have to change. As everyone does, they always appreciate a small tip.
If you are wary of driving in a foreign country, we would advise that you try to avoid driving at night. It is not too different to driving during the day but at night the jungle creature do emerge, so you many see a coati or two occupying the highway, and people on the side of the road are obviously harder to spot. But please don’t be deterred from driving in Mexico, it is a very simple and logical road system, plus having a car gives you the greatest freedom whilst you’re traveling.