Let's dive right into it, intrepid explorers! Today, We are bringing you a list of tips for your thrilling road trip in Mexico. After venturing into cenotes, swimming with bull sharks in Cozumel, and uncovering the treasures of this beautiful country, I'm excited to share our experience and some valuable advice to make your journey unforgettable in case you decide to do road trip with a rental car.
Car Rental: In Playa del Carmen, October is the low season, which means you'll find fabulous deals on car rentals. No need to book online but can help to be sure to book online to secure your vehicle. We got a car for around $200 for twelve days. But here's a tip: avoid online insurance, as it can get complicated, and you might end up with double coverage. We opted for full coverage directly with the rental company, which cost us around $300. Why? First and foremost, not all roads are paved, and you might encounter a stray pebble, accidentally hit an animal, or experience any mishap. It's not exactly a well-known fact that Mexicans have a reputation for expert driving skills, and if you hear how they obtain their driver's licenses, you'll understand why. Moreover, you might park under a tree, and a fruit – a coconut, perhaps – decides to take a leap onto your car, or an inebriated reveler leans on your side mirror. To top it off, there's the risk of someone attempting to steal your car. To put your mind at ease, we strongly recommend having insurance that covers all these scenarios. Our policy only didn't cover if the car's antenna was stolen, so we removed it, problem solved.
Fuel: Don't skimp on gasoline. Some routes are long and remote, so leave home with a full tank. Also, the Chiapas region is more budget-friendly compared to the Caribbean, where prices soar thanks to tourist dollars.
Offline Maps: Download Google Maps offline maps before you hit the road. In most of the journey, Internet signal is scarce.
Daytime Travel: Driving during the day is safer. Some roads are in subpar conditions, with deep potholes and lack of lighting. You'll avoid running over animals and reduce the risks of encountering human problems like theft.
Money: Avoid carrying large sums of money in your wallet. Some police checkpoints may request "contributions" from tourists. Carry only what's necessary and keep your money away from your identification. To be honest, most of the police checkpoints we encountered, upon realizing we were tourists, allowed us to pass without any issue. There was, however, one checkpoint where an officer did ask us directly for some money. It's true that if you have nothing to hide, it's difficult for them to extort you, but they might still request a little "donation." A police officer's salary in Mexico hovers around $300, and the reality is that some of them work under the scorching sun in the middle of nowhere. They might even ask for something as small as a Coke. In any case, it's not advisable to carry your money in the same wallet as your driver's license because, if asked for identification, they might see you have a considerable sum and try to extract as much as they can. As a rule of thumb, they often settle for a modest amount like 50 or a maximum of 100 pesos, which is roughly $2 to $5 in today's currency.
Mealtime Magic: When it's time to refuel, Google Maps is your best friend in locating places known as "Cocinita Economica." These are local joints where they typically whip up homemade dishes and let me tell you, they're easy on the wallet. Depending on the geographical area, you're looking at prices ranging from 70 to 90 Mexican pesos for a meal, including a drink. And even if you raise an eyebrow when you mention you want something vegetarian, fear not, as they always have an array of fresh veggies to satisfy your taste buds.
Route Check: Ask if the roads are open before you set out. Some routes can be dangerous due to political issues and the presence of drug cartels. We had an interesting twist in our journey when traveling from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas. Just as we were getting close, we encountered a roadblock and it was an adventure to arrive to our destination.
Later, we discovered that this road is quite infamous for political unrest and the presence of drug cartels that can pose certain risks. In our case, to reach San Cristobal, we faced a choice: either backtrack the four hours we had driven or take an additional two and a half hours on less traveled routes through local communities where Spanish wasn't commonly spoken. We opted for the latter, and honestly, we felt fortunate that our car held up because, truth be told, it was a bit touch-and-go.
Water: Always have water in the car. While you can buy water in many places, and accommodations provide it, the distances can be long. A large bottle in the car is a great help. And remember your reusable water bottle
Hygiene: Wash your hands frequently. The main cause of stomach problems isn't the food but the lack of hygiene. Make sure to keep your hands clean before eating. It's common in Mexico to contract stomach parasites, and you might find yourself needing to visit a pharmacy to purchase an antiparasitic treatment.
Mosquito Repellent: Don't forget mosquito repellent. At this time of year, the risk of diseases like Dengue is real. Moreover, many ruins and cenotes are surrounded by insects.
In summary, Mexico is a safe destination for an exciting road trip. People are friendly and helpful, and the police generally show consideration for tourists. Always stay vigilant on the road, but most of the roads are of good quality. This is a wonderful place to explore, and the only regret we've had is not bringing more friends to reduce costs! So, what are you waiting for? Come and experience the beauty and adventure that Mexico has to offer! Happy travels, fellow explorers!