Do NOT trust auto insurance coverage offered by your credit card unless you have it verified in writing that you are covered driving in Mexico.
When purchasing insurance your coverage SHOULD INCLUDE claims adjusters that will come to the scene of an accident, and an attorney. You are not allowed to move your vehicle and the police may detain you in the event that anyone is hurt until fault can be established.
If a traffic accident does occur, the police may impound your vehicle, especially if there is no one there to help you defend your rights such as an insurance adjuster and/or an attorney.
In the event that someone is injured and you are found responsible, you might not only be held liable for that person’s medical expenses but also for financially supporting them and their dependents until they recover. Save yourself the aggravation and buy the insurance.
You can rent a car almost anywhere in the Yucatan. The easiest and cheapest place to rent a vehicle is Playa del Carmen.
It has been our experience that every resort will have at least one car rental agency in the lobby. You will find quite often the person speaks Spanish only. Also they are not always at their post and can sometimes be hard to find. Some agencies have booths but have no personnel. The resort agencies usually do not have any maps and if they do it is usually the Maya Riviera hotel guide, which has an okay map in it.
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If you are staying in Cancun you will find it cheaper to rent a car at the airport or take a taxi to the shopping zone where you will find a number of rental agencies. You will find the cost of renting a car here considerably less than your resort agency.
If you are staying on the Maya Riviera take a Mexican bus or taxi to Playa del Carmen and rent your car there. It will be considerably less; almost everybody at every agency speaks English. The agencies have good maps as well.
For people staying in Merida you will find many agencies based downtown or out of the airport so if you are flying in it is wise to simply book your car at the airport when you arrive. They will deliver the car to you at your hotel on the day you want it or you may be able to drive away if the car you want is there.
If you stay at the Reef Club or anywhere near Progreso rent your car at the airport and save yourself the aggravation of doing everything over the phone. They will have personnel who can speak English at the airport. Do NOT rely on a representative being at the Reef Club.
NOTE: Get your map at the airport. The map you will find at the airport is in a newsprint travel guide called “Yucatan Today”. The tour rep at Reef Club has an okay map as well.
Some hotels have old maps that are good.
Outside of Chetumal there is no place to rent a car so you either rent one at Cancun airport and drive to Chetumal or you fly into Chetamal and rent a car at Chetumal airport or Chetumal city. Finding a map here could be tricky and it is recommended that you find one before you go.
Finding a car rental agency in Campeche is not easy. The only car rental agency we could find was located in the lobby of Hotel Baluartes [on Ruiz Cortines]. The reservation clerk was not at his post the first day we looked and there was no phone number to call. The second day he was there.
Do not rely on your map for accurately detailing gas stations. Also sometimes the gas station will not have any gas. The rule of thumb is keeping the tank full at all times just in case you get lost. Every time you pass a gas station fill up. There are also private Mexican gas stations in most small villages. These gas stations can sell you a container of gas. Look for signs or stop and ask the locals, “who sells gas?”
In Mexico they have a saying, “there is one road to everywhere.” If there is only one road then it is designated as a federal road and thus maintained by the federal government. These roads and highways are kept in excellent condition. If the government decides to build a new road paralleling an existing one then the old highway becomes the responsibility of the local landowners. These roads generally fall into complete disarray and destroy vehicles. The road along the coast at Majahaul is a perfect example.
It is comforting to drive on such nice highways because any highway/road other than highway 307 will have totally confusing signs. Almost every sign you will come across is in Spanish only. Also the numbering system is confusing. There appears to be old signs mixed with new signs. The numbers do not correspond with highway numbers on existing maps. Sometimes you can have a situation where there are two different number signs and the map has an even different number leaving you to wonder where you are going. On maps quite often the village named is not the right name of the village or the village calls itself something different than the official name. Many villages are not on the maps.
All in all however it is recommended to use map(s).
If you rent a car and decide to simply drive throughout the jungle getting from one ruin site to another then you will get lost. You will probably get lost a number of times. This can be a fun experience however when it happens at night and you run out of gas it can be a different kind of experience. Follow these tips and you should not have any problems:
Always carry a compass. Make sure it works.
Have a map.
Be prepared to talk to the locals. Learn a few phrases in Spanish to help you communicate.
Make sure you have water.
Purchase a phone card in case you have to make an emergency call from somewhere that only uses calling cards.
When lost try to drive in the direction you want to go.
Fill up at every gas station.
REMEMBER: Mexico is generally safe place. If you get lost or run out of gas remain calm. Ask a local for help and you will be surprised by the generosity and caring of even the poorest farmer. By and large when you are traveling around the countryside you are among hard working honest people.