If you’re making plans to run to the border, follow these tips from the travel experts at Metropolitan Shuttle and get ready to chow down on tacos under the Mexican sunset.
Get your permit
If you’re traveling beyond The Border Zone, also known as The Free Trade Zone, you’ll need a permit from a customs office. This area extends 20-30 kilometers south of the border, so make sure you check the map and plan your driving itinerary accordingly. When you get the permit, you’ll need to bring the following paperwork with you. Here is a complete list of necessary documents:
- Driver’s license
- Car registration
- Passport or birth certificate
- Major credit card in your name
- Leasing contract of your rental car (if renting a car)
- Immigration form (tourist card)
You’ll be required to post a bond in exchange for the permit, which can be paid for with a credit card. On your return trip, your permit will be canceled at the border and the money will be refunded.
Now that you have a permit, you’re ready to cross the border into Mexico. Here are some essential tips to keep you safe when road tripping in a foreign country:
Don’t rely solely on traffic signals
In Mexico, traffic regulations aren’t always enforced like they are in the U.S. so make sure to check the other drivers first before following a road signal; this way you can avoid any accidents by letting other drivers have the right of way, especially if they ignore traffic signs.
Drive on toll roads
Called cuotas in Spanish, toll roads are often safer and better maintained than free roads (libre). But don’t just take our word for it. The U.S. State Department recommends taking the toll roads for increased safety and better road conditions.
Look out for rough road conditions
While the toll roads are generally in good condition in many places, a left turn at Albuquerque could send you over some less-than-ideal roads. Here are some common things to watch for:
Topes: These small speed bumps can come out if nowhere so avoid a majorly bumpy ride by driving over them carefully and slowly. In many cases, these speed bumps aren’t marked with yellow paint and there are no warning signs, which makes them nearly invisible to the untrained eye.
Potholes: A scourge on roads from the United States to the border and all over the world, potholes are everywhere. In Mexico, the problem is muy complicado because many Mexican roads aren’t regulated by the government. This has resulted in abnormally large potholes that could seriously damage your vehicle. Our advice? Be cautiously optimistic and you should be ok.
Left-hand Exits: in Mexico, there are no exit ramps or overpasses to get to the other side of a freeway. In Mexico, they use the returno system, which has designated areas where you can safely make a U-turn just past your intended exit.
Watch out for bandits
You can get robbed or burglarized anywhere, so when road tripping in Mexico, use common sense tactics such as driving in a regular, non-flashy car to keep a low profile. Also, keep your doors locked and your luggage and valuables out of sight in the trunk. If the traffic is dense, keep a safe distance between vehicles to avoid any accidents.
Pass on the tequila
If you’re the designated driver, don’t drink and drive. In Mexico, authorities take driving under the influence very seriously. In fact, if you get caught driving while intoxicated, it nullifies your car insurance and could land you in jail for 20 hours. If you’re going to drink, keep the party grounded until someone in the group has sobered up or enlist someone to drive that isn’t drinking alcohol.
Drive during the day
Driving in Mexico at night can be dangerous, especially since you won’t be able to see the bandits or potholes coming. Also, thieves don’t typically strike during the day in many places, plus you’ll be able to better navigate the hairpin turns and narrow shoulders with lots of light.
Buying gas in Mexico
When you’re in Mexico, Pemex gas stations are the official outlets for buying fuel. Their unleaded gasoline is called ‘Magna Sin’ and has an octane rating of 90. Some locations offer ‘Magna Premium,’ which has an even higher octane level. Called ‘Diesel Sin,’ Diesel fuel is also available. After the attendant fills up the tank, be prepared to pay in cash with Mexican currency. It’s also customary to leave a tip, especially if they clean the windows or provide another service. Keep in mind that fuel in Mexico is measured in liters, so remember the conversion to gallons: 1 gallon = 3.785 liters. To avoid getting ripped off, make sure that the fuel pump is set at $0.00 before the fueling begins. For the latest gas prices, visit https://www.globalpetrolprices.com/Mexico/gasoline_prices/.
In case if an emergency
While we hope you won’t need to use it, the 911 emergency for Mexico is 066. If you’re on a toll road, you can also call the Green Angels for roadside assistance at 078.
If you’re renting a car
Many rental car companies in the U.S. don’t allow drivers to cross the border, so you’re better off renting a car once you’re in Mexico. You can choose from different insurance options that will give you the protection you need when driving in Mexico.
Stay tuned for more travel tips from Metropolitan Shuttle, the number one charter reservation company for safety, comfort, and affordability.