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Driving in Mexico

Renting A Car

It is easy to rent a car in Mexico. All the standard car rental companies are at the airport. It's definitely cheaper to line up a reservation from the States ahead of time. The rental companies have long hours, but make sure you ask what to do if your flight is particularly early or late. Also, some companies quote rates which include insurance and some don't, so be sure you know what's included.

When we rent a car in Mexico we recommend Avis at the Puerta Vallarta airport. They have been consistently nice, they have good cars, they let you leave your bags while you check in (for your return flight), they wait at night for your plane to land, and if you reserve online you can get some pretty good rates. To guarantee the best rates when you rent a car in Mexico, print and bring your quoted rate. Dollar and Budget are not recommended.

Gecko Rent-A-Car in Mexico in Bucerias (from San Pancho 01-329-298-0339) will also service San Pancho. They will meet you at the airport or come to San Pancho and pick you up and take you back to their office. The more notice they have, of course, the better. Their website is GeckoRentCar.com.

U.S. automobile liability insurance is not valid when you rent a car in Mexico nor is most collision and comprehensive coverage issued by U.S. companies. Therefore, purchase auto insurance adequate for your needs if you plan to rent a car in Mexico. A good rule of thumb is to buy coverage equivalent to that which you carry in the United States. WARNING: Motor vehicle insurance is invalid in Mexico if the driver is found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Rules of the Road

When driving in Mexico it is import to be aware of the road customs that are different than in the U.S. In the cities and towns, you MUST use parallel roads to make left turns. You pull off onto the parallel road on the right, go up to the next stop light, then cross the highway. It works very well once you get the hang of it.

Stop lights tend to be very long (to allow for all this crossing), and the "yellow" light, which isn't yellow but is a green light flashing to show it's about to turn red, is very short. Don't try to run it.

When driving in Mexico IN UNPOPULATED AREAS, to make a left turn, pull over to the right, wait for the traffic behind you to pass, check the oncoming traffic, then make your left turn. We have seen both right blinkers and left blinkers used to execute this move. So be very careful of slowing cars with any blinker on. A prime example is the turn off the highway into San Pancho.

When driving in Mexico, if a car (usually a truck) in front of you puts on his left turn signal, it means you can pass him. This is very helpful on windy roads where you can't see in front of the car ahead of you, but it can be lethally dangerous if you're the one making a left-hand turn.

An outstretched left arm may mean an invitation for you to pass. When in doubt, do not pass. When driving in Mexico an oncoming vehicle flashing its headlights is a warning for you to slow down or pull over because you are both approaching a narrow bridge or place in the road. The custom is that the first vehicle to flash has the right of way and the other must yieldOther than that, driving in Mexico is not difficult. There's a lot of passing on two-lane roads, and the trucks going over big hills can be very slow, but the roads are good and well marked.

Regardless of whether you have insurance, if you are involved in an accident while driving in Mexico, you will be taken into police custody until it can be determined who is liable and whether you have the ability to pay any judgment. If you do not have Mexican liability insurance, you are almost certain to spend some time in jail until all parties are satisfied that responsibility has been assigned and adequate financial satisfaction received. There may also be criminal liability assigned if the injuries or damages are serious.

If you have an emergency while driving in Mexico, call the Ministry of Tourism's hotline or (55) 5250-8221, extension 130/297, to obtain help from the "Green Angels," a fleet of radio dispatched trucks with bilingual crews. Services include protection, medical first aid, mechanical aid for your car, and basic supplies. You will not be charged for services, only for parts, gas, and oil. The Green Angels patrol daily, from dawn until sunset. If you are unable to call them, pull off the road and lift the hood of your car; chances are good they will find you.

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