Driving on the Riviera Maya
Today we will analyze the convenience of going on excursions on your own by renting a car or van on the Riviera Maya. Whether to visit archeological sites, or scuba diving in the cenotes (warning: you need a license to scuba dive), or to scuba dive at any beach.
This is an option used by those who would rather not be tied to an itinerary or schedule. In this case, we recommend you closely examine the company renting the vehicle. First of all, make sure it is a reputable company, and it has the required insuranc. It is customary in Mexico for insurance to have a surcharge in case of an accident. This means you must pay part of the cost of the accident, as it’s not covered by insurance. This is usually 10% to 20%, thus a high amount of money. Another very important issue is the way we are planning to take. If you’re planning on going through the jungle, for example on the Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an, insurance will not cover any accidents occurring in that area, even if it’s on a Jeep or 4X4.
Driving on the Riviera Maya and the usual tourist routes does not impose any problems. The highways are wide and well paved. They are also well signaled and driving on them poses absolutely no risk, provided you follow all the usual driving regulations and precautions.
Most vehicles have automatic transmission and run on gasoline, which is much more affordable than in Spain. There are two types: Magna, distinctively green, and Premium, distinctively red. Price per liter for Magna, the most commonly used, is 0.70 Euros, approximately. But don’t neglect this issue, be attentive to make sure your tank isn’t empty. We could find ourselves in the middle of nowhere and out of gas. There are very few vehicles out at night, and the very few people who drive by ever stop to help. Some gas stations, especially those in rural areas, don’t take credit cards.
There is always staff at gas stations to fuel the tank. We recommend you state the amount in liters, in multiples of 20. This is to prevent getting less than you requested. Dispatchers will usually clean the windows, and will politely offer to check all levels while fueling the tank. It is customary to give them 5 to 10 pesos as gratuity.
Be aware of the time it takes to get there. Distances in Mexico are usually vast. For example, driving from the Riviera Maya to Chichen Itzá could take a 3-hour drive.
Overtaking is done differently than in Spain. In stretches of ample visibility, we’ll see the paint marks on the pavement to our right show the circulation limits on that side, these are dashed lines equal to those on the middle of the street. This means we may overtake those marks on the right. Thus, it is customary when being overtaken by another vehicle to move to the right of the street, going over those lines to provide more space for the other car that’s passing. Those driving towards us also move to their right. This is a customary practice on these roads.
Speed limits are clearly indicated on roads. The same as in Spain, we have 60, 70, 80 and 100 km/hr. speed limits. Speedometers show kilometers per hour on the outside, and miles per hour on the inside.
When driving through towns, we’ll find speed reducers in the shape of buoys or humps. It is a recommended precaution to drive slowly, as there are many children in these areas.
Mexico’s highways are well patrolled and supervised by the Federal Highway Police. Similar to the Civil Guard in Spain. Speeding is closely monitored. They don’t use the same devices as the Civil Guard in Spain, but they are efficient.
Be careful of drinking and driving. It’s is fiercely persecuted. If the police perceive alcohol in your breath, you can be detained and taken to a holding cell for blood tests. They don’t usually have breathalyzers. You could be kept in a holding cell for up to 72 hours.
There are white and green vehicles driving up and down highways, they are called Green Angels. Those patrol cars are there to help us with mechanical issues. This service is free of charge and its staff members are usually very kind. This service is provided by the Government.
No doubt, this option is for the adventurous. We must clearly know our destination and the site we wish to visit. But travel times are also very important. Don’t be overconfident, make sure you hold all the proper information.
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