Your trunk is packed with beach gear, your favorite playlist is spinning, and you’re ready for the ultimate road trip to Mexico. Or are you? Hitting the road and heading south of the border can be fun and exciting, but you’ll want to make sure you and your car reach your destination safely.
The U.S. Department of State recognizes that carjacking is a serious problem in the border region. “Criminals like to target newer and larger vehicles, especially dark-colored SUVs, but drivers of old sedans and buses coming from the U.S. have also been targeted.” Here are some helpful tips for staying safe when traveling through Mexico by car.
1. Drive during the daylight hours. Violence most frequently occurs at night on isolated roads. Travel between cities during daylight hours and try to avoid remote roads. When possible, use toll roads, or “cuotas,” as they’re called in Mexico.
2. Double check your speedometer. In Mexico, the speed limits are posted in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. 100 km/h is approximately equal to 60 mph, so if you see a posted speed limit of 100 km/h, it’s a good idea to drive around 55 mph, or 90 km/h. Though it could be tempting to speed, when you’re in another country it’s better to play it safe and drive at the speed limit or below.
3. Make sure you have the right insurance. Most folks don’t realize that the auto insurance policy that keeps them legal in the U.S. won’t cover them in Mexico. And, most U.S. insurers won’t cover a comprehensive or collision claim that happens in Mexico. Now, here’s the scary part. According to the U.S. State Department, “If you do not have Mexican liability insurance, you may be prevented from departing the country even if you require life-saving medical care, and you are almost certain to spend some time in jail.” Yikes!
4. Keep an eye out for pedestrians and cyclists. Pedestrian and bike traffic is common throughout Latin America, but pedestrian-friendly measures such as speed bumps, refuge islands, and raised crosswalks are not as common as they are in the United States.
5. Don’t forget your documentation! Did you remember your passport? You will not need your passport to cross the border into Mexico, but you’ll need it to return home. The Department of Homeland Security requires that all U.S. citizens, including children, present a passport or other approved travel document when entering the United States. For more details about who needs a passport and what qualifies as an approved travel document, visit the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
A road trip south of the border could end up being one of your greatest adventures. These tips will help you stay safe when driving through Mexico, but don’t discount your greatest asset—your intuition. If something doesn’t feel right or a situation makes you uncomfortable, you’re probably right. Don’t be afraid to listen to your gut!