Driving through Mexico’s scenic countryside is a dream which thousands of American tourists partake in every year. Thanks to the government’s massive infrastructure expenditure, Mexican roads are now safer than they’ve ever been. American drivers need to keep a watch on differences in local driving habits and conditions to avoid making mistakes. Some key differences and similarities include:
Markings and Lighting
Road signs are present on most major roads in Mexico. However, driving at night or through provincial towns can be trickier since many of them aren’t lighted. Signs are only in Spanish and use the metric system, so you need to understand these.
While Mexico has an excellent highway system, the presence of cyclists and pedestrians on free roads makes these more dangerous to drive in. Most cyclists and pedestrians don’t wear any reflective clothing.
RV Driving in Mexico
Thanks to Mexico’s interstate toll road system, crossing the country in an RV isn’t that much different than in America — although it’s costlier. There are plenty of RV parks in Mexico’s Pacific Coast and some in the Gulf Coast, and Yucatan.
Driving in the City
New Yorkers might feel at ease in Mexico City‘s noisy streets but should still focus on some key differences. In Mexico, one-way street markings tend to be 10-feet high and are only about 5 inches tall. The right-of-way is signaled using a green arrow so streets going in the direction of the red arrow must yield. Intersections are tricky because, although left turns have 4-light traffic signals and left-turn lanes like in America, right turns on red are common even though they’re illegal.
The Difference in Highway Driving
The biggest cause of road accidents amongst American tourists is the narrow roadways that have almost no shoulder. Unlike American 4-lane roads with wide shoulders, in most Mexican roads (even toll roads) the pavement and the shoulder are separated by several inches, so if your right side wheels drop off the pavement, it will most likely send the vehicle rolling over.
Speed bumps are called topes in Mexico and they are huge and they are everywhere. You’ll often see yellow signs with two black bumps on them warning that a tope lies ahead. Although, in rural areas, some can be hand-written by the same residents of the area.
The Mexican military often sets checkpoints on major highways, outside major cities, and near the border. Some are static, although many are set randomly. They’re no more than a nuisance, but show how important it is that you carry your passport, visas, driving license, and proof of insurance with you at all times.
The difference in Rural Roads
Rural roads represent a unique experience to see the countryside, both in Mexico and the US. However, unlike in America, few roads running through Mexican ranchos have fences fitted on either side that would restrict the movement of cows, sheep, horses, and other animals, so keep in mind that you’re likely to have a close encounter with the four-legged type when driving through them.
Driving in Mexico can seem daunting at first, but soon after you cross the border you’ll realize that the similarities between both countries are more numerous than the differences. Nevertheless, understanding the local driving practices and conditions can save you a lot of trouble down the road and ensure you only take good memories from your trip.