23 Oct Driving in Mexico: our advice
We are the Doyle-Désy, a family who decided to leave everything to live on the road. Since June 2016, we have been living and discovering the world aboard our house on wheels.
Driving in Mexico is not as complicated as it may seem. What it does require, however, is that you be quite adaptable. What means a dashed white line on the right edge of the road? Does the left turn signal mean that the vehicle will actually go in that direction?
Our first impression on arrival was that Mexicans have an official driving code and another one which is more improvised! We did finally understand after a few weeks of travelling on Mexican roads. But let’s start with some general tips.
Do not drive at night
The advice we hear most often about driving in Mexico: do not drive in the dark.
We scrupulously respected this piece of advice and never ventured on the roads after dark. We, therefore, cannot tell you about this experience but here are three good reasons not to try it:
- It is not uncommon, even on a road in good condition, to suddenly find oneself in front of a big hole. Worse than those seen in Montreal.
- The roads rarely have a proper shoulder; are quite winding and poorly lit.
- Entering a village or a campsite after dark is basically looking for trouble. Narrow streets, low slung electric wires, difficult accesses…
Allow more time
Do not assume that you will drive at the same speed as in Canada or the United States. We learned to add 50% of the anticipated time to our itinerary. Stops are common for tolls and military checkpoints even if, most of the time, we pass without inspection.
It is easy to drive on toll highways unless, like everywhere, they are under construction. For example, we thought we would ride pleasantly on Highway 15D, which has double lane in both directions. Unfortunately it was under repair over many kilometers, involving lane closures and reducing our speed to around 50 km/h.
Secondary roads are narrow and busy. Buses and trucks of all kinds leave little chance for a safe overtaking but Mexicans who know their roads very well have no qualms with overtaking a motorhome.
To give you an example, although a mere 90 kilometers separate the village of Chacala and the city of Puerto Vallarta, going from one to the other requires an average of two hours.
Do not rely on your credit card to pay for gas. Have enough cash. Often, the card payment system is faulty, or the card does not work or the phone line is bad. Add to this the need to pay toll fees, it adds up quickly. Always have a good quantity of pesos.
Now, some particularities, the Mexican way
Expect everything even while staying on toll highways that are known to be in good condition. Mexico is crossed by two magnificent mountain ranges which allow to enjoy grandiose views but, with these views, comes signs like these.
Then, when leaving the highway, expect any combination of the following:
- A secondary road often in good condition
- A secondary road in poor condition
- Streets paved with a mixture of stones and earth or cement
- Sand roads in good condition, with washboard tracks or flooded
Without trying to go to remote areas, we drove under several conditions. Nothing was ever impossible, but it did prove to be at times quite intense. Our routine before taking to the road always started with securing cabinets, especially the ones containing pots and pans.
The straight broken line
This one took some getting used to. What does a broken line to the right of the road mean? Simply that, when it is present (and sometimes not) and that you are followed by a faster vehicle, you have to move to the right and ride partly on the shoulder. This allows the vehicle behind to overtake you.
So a two lane highway has an unofficial third lane. These dotted lines can be found on the highway, but also on the secondary roads. Crossing two vehicles in such a formation can be quite stressful. Sometimes, the line is not broken but the same principle applies. This custom also exists in other areas of the world, such as Greece.
Left turn signal
Yes, using the left turn signal means a turn in that direction. Unless you are following a slow vehicle and there is no road to turn left, this one nicely means that it is safe to overtake. We have rarely used it to overtake, but often signaled to the vehicles behind that they could do it.
Those speed bumps
Look at these pictures. If you see them on the road, slow down!
Present at almost every entry and exit of a village, these speed bumps are also found in construction zones and sporadically in other places for no apparent reason. They are not always indicated, but the effect is always the same : bang!
That’s why it is strongly recommended to have your motorhome go through a thorough mechanical check-up before leaving.
Driving in Mexico certainly requires a higher level of attention as well as a period of adaptation. The roads can be difficult and conditions variable but this is part of the particularities of visiting another country. All we have to do is to reduce our expectations and to plan our itineraries accordingly.
Then, when you’re you are about to lose all patience, think of all the little cantinas to be found on the side of the roads. All offering delicious tacos or tamales for just a few dollars. Stop and taste them. You will be quickly reconciled with the roads of Mexico.
So when are you leaving?
The Doyle-Désy, nomadic ambassadors for Leclerc
Source: Blog roulersavie.com