Most visitors who travel to Mexico's Mayan Riviera fly into Cancun and then rent a car to head south down Highway 307. It surprises many travelers that this highway is at least a mile from the sea, because the coastal area is full of mangrove swamps.
You may be tired after your flight. For the drive south from Cancun, take along plenty of car games and activities to amuse the kids, and drink plenty of coffee to stay alert.
Otherwise, driving in Mexico is nowhere near as dangerous you might have heard. Just take it slow and familiarize yourself with common Mexican driving tips before you head off.
Renting a Car in Mexico
The process of renting a car in Mexico is pretty much the same as renting in the United States. You'll find most of the major U.S. brands—Hertz, Avis, Alamo, Budget, Thrifty, and so on—as well as local Mexican rental car companies. To rent a car, you'll need a major credit card, driver's license, and passport. Be aware that by law you can not waive the mandatory insurance in Mexico.
For cheaper rates, book at least a week in advance online. You'll pay a surcharge of roughly 10 percent for the airport pickup and drop-off.
Be aware that rates do not include Mexico's mandatory insurance, which can double or triple the cost. Be sure to look over the vehicle with the agent and make note of every scratch before you drive away. Also check to make sure the headlights and windshield wipers work.
My Car Rental Experience on the Riviera Maya
When we rented our car at the Cancun airport, I had the impression that my gold credit card would provide the Collision Damage Waiver part of the rental–as is common in the U.S. and Canada–and so I declined to purchase this coverage. (Collision Damage Waiver eliminates the driver's responsibility for damage to a rental vehicle.) This was a huge mistake. We later learned that during three weeks of driving we had not had this protection at all.
Visitors are well-advised to over-insure rather than risk any possibility of under-insurance. Accidents are frequent in this area, and even in the case of a minor fender-bender your hassles can mount alarmingly without insurance coverage by a Mexican company. You may even be required to pay damages on the spot.
So be sure to opt for the insurance and heed the road signs on the monotonous highway, such as “Cuide su Vida: no se distraiga” (Take care for your life, don't get distracted).
Driving cautions on Highway 307
- Avoid driving this road in heavy rain
- Avoid driving after dark
- At some major intersections, you can mistakenly be diverted onto a parallel side road which can be hazardous after dark. Watch out for people on bikes, or people walking with farm animals.
- Make sure that your rental car has good windshield wipers
- Make sure your rental car is properly insured
- If you book online, print out the confirmation and show it when you pick up your car to be sure they don't charge you a higher rate
- The rental agency will provide a 24-hour, toll-free help line. Since U.S. cell phones often can't dial Mexican toll-free numbers,be sure you have a local number as well.
- Watch out for the topes (sharp speed bumps on town roads)
Planning a Trip to the Riviera Maya
Find flights to Cancun
Explore hotel options on the Mayan Riviera
I highly recommend Autoslash.com for car rentals. Not only will this site quote you a very good rate, but it will track the price over time up until you pick up the car. If the rate goes down, it will send you an alert and you can rebook at the lower rate with no hassle whatsoever.
– Edited by Suzanne Rowan Kelleher