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Tips for Expats Driving in Cancun

Driving in a new country can be daunting. These tips offer insight into what to expect when driving in Cancun.
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1. Understanding the Driving Culture

Driving in Cancun can be a bit chaotic compared to what you might be used to. Traffic rules are not always strictly adhered to, and drivers can be aggressive. It’s important to stay alert and be prepared for unexpected maneuvers from other drivers. Also, be aware that the right of way is often given to the vehicle coming from the right.

2. Choosing the Right Car

Most expats recommend a compact or mid-size car for driving in Cancun. These cars are easier to maneuver in heavy traffic and small streets. Also, they are more fuel-efficient which can save you money considering the high cost of gas in Mexico.

3. Parking in Cancun

Finding parking in Cancun can be challenging, especially in the downtown area and near the beaches. Most hotels and resorts offer parking, but it can be expensive. There are also public parking lots and street parking available, but these can fill up quickly. It’s recommended to arrive early if you want to secure a spot.

4. Driving with an International License

Foreigners can drive in Mexico with an international driver’s license for up to 180 days. After that, you will need to obtain a Mexican driver’s license. It’s also important to note that you must have valid car insurance that covers you in Mexico.

5. Obtaining a Mexican Driver’s License

To get a Mexican driver’s license, you will need to go to the local Department of Motor Vehicles (Secretaría de Transporte y Vialidad). You will need to bring your passport, visa, proof of residence, and a medical certificate. You will also need to pass a written test and a driving test. The process can be time-consuming, so it’s recommended to start early.

6. Be Aware of Speed Bumps

Speed bumps, known as “topes”, are common in Cancun and can be quite large. They are not always clearly marked, so keep an eye out for them to avoid damaging your car.

7. Watch Out for Pedestrians and Cyclists

Pedestrians and cyclists are common in Cancun, and they often share the road with cars. Be extra cautious when driving near them, especially in crowded areas.

8. Be Prepared for Police Checkpoints

Police checkpoints are common in Cancun, especially at night. Always carry your driver’s license, car registration, and insurance documents with you. Be polite and cooperative if you are stopped.

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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