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7 Things to Know Before Driving in Mexico

Published: January 2020

Planning on driving to Mexico? The following guidelines can help you plan for your drive in Mexico. Keep reading to learn about some laws and unspoken customs before your trip.

Mexican road sign posted along a highway.

Tips for Driving in Mexico

Here are seven tips to keep in mind for your drive:

1. Be completely aware of your surroundings

As a U.S. driver, you're likely accustomed to road signs, strict right-of-way laws and traffic signals. Make sure you know the speed limits and understand the rules of the road in Mexico before you travel.

2. Stick to the toll roads ("cuotas")

The Department of State advises driving on toll roads for increased safety and better road conditions. This is also recommended because outside of major cities in Mexico, emergency or police services may be limited.

3. Learn the different road elements

Here are some common road conditions to look out for, according to USA today:

  • Topes: Mexican speed bumps ("topes") are not always marked with yellow paint and there may not be warning signs.
  • Potholes: Many roads in Mexico aren't government regulated and may have large potholes.
  • Left-hand highway exits: Instead of using exit ramps and overpasses to get to the opposite side of the freeway, Mexico implemented a "returno system," says Trip Advisor. These are areas where you can pull over and pause to safely make a U-turn just past your intended exit.

4. Drive during daylight

Driving in the daylight may be easier and safer in Mexico, says the Department of State. Remember, police or emergency services may be limited in some areas of Mexico (especially at night). The Department of State also advises visitors to avoid driving alone, if possible.

5. Understand that turn signals may be used for different purposes

Turn signals in Mexico can be used to mean more than one thing, according to USA Today. For example, if you're on the highway and the driver in front of you uses his left turn signal, this could indicate that it's safe for you to pass him.

6. Know about driving on the shoulder

Oncoming drivers in Mexico will often enter your lane of the road to pass other vehicles, says Trip Savvy – and it's typically expected that other vehicles will move over to accommodate them. If a vehicle is approaching in your lane from the opposite direction, you should move over and drive on the shoulder to allow them to pass.

7. Expect to communicate with U.S. Customs

You will cross a customs checkpoint when re-entering the United States. You'll be asked to declare anything you purchase while in Mexico, says the Department of Homeland Security. You can find a complete list of items you can't carry across the border on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website here.

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Purchase a Mexico Tourist Auto Insurance Policy

Your U.S. auto insurance won't cover you after crossing the border of Mexico. You'll need a special Mexican auto insurance policy to legally drive in Mexico, which can be acquired through an insurance agent. If you're planning to drive a rental car in Mexico, you may be able to purchase the insurance coverage directly through the rental agency, according to the Department of State.

Preparing for your drive ahead of time can help ensure you have a thorough understanding of what to expect while driving in Mexico. An agent can also help you find long-term or short-term insurance coverage options that are a good fit for your trip and needs. Visit Allstate's Mexico tourist auto insurance page for more information.

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Our pages are filled with helpful tips and information about the topics that most of us face in our everyday lives. We focus on safety and maintenance issues with regard to your home, auto, apartment, motorcycle, boat, small business, finances and more. Please recognize that a particular tip may not be effective in every circumstance and that taking preventive measures cannot guarantee any outcome. We encourage you to use your own good judgment about what's appropriate for you and your property and always consider safety.
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