In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I wanted to go ahead and start my series of travel reviews for my recent trip to Mexico. Thus, to start my reflection on my time in Mexico, I felt it only fitting to start with what I would probably consider to be one of the smartest and one of the dumbest decisions we made all trip: renting a car.
Truth be told, when you start to factor in how much it would otherwise cost to get shuttles to two different locations, each upwards of an hour away from prior destination (CUN airport to Playa Del Carmen, Playa Del Carmen to Tulum, Tulum to CUN airport), it really did seem much more cost effective to rent a car. While cars “start” around $20 a day, you really are paying something closer to $60-70 if you, like me, need to drive an automatic, would like to carry additional liability insurance (with no deductible) in case of damage/accident, and also require a GPS because of fear for strength/availability of cell service. There are tons of providers, and I’m not sure any one in particular would be “better” than another. In the interest of disclosure, we went with Tulum Rentals, which is actually just a shell name/site that sits on America Rental Car backbone. The experience was pleasant, and only a minor hassle.
Here are some things I wish I knew ahead of time though:
- The GPS won’t be of too much use if you don’t know how addresses in foreign countries work and/or are going to locations that can’t be found in the GPS location inventory (this happened to be a bunch of our destinations)
- The Yucatan coast is actually fairly easily to navigate though, as 307 is a highway that runs all the way down the coast from Cancun to Tulum (and down into Belize actually) and has good signs marking where to turn for certain landmarks (e.g. Tulum Ruins, Cenotes, etc)
- Speed Limits vary often, sometimes dropping quickly from 100 kmph to 40 kmph ahead of police checkpoints (basically a police shack that doesn’t physically check every car, but usually has officers stationed at it to search any suspect traffic) – this is where I was happy to have looked ahead of time on TripAdvisor and saw a recommendation to have your passenger be the speed limit spy (and this worked very well)
- One-Way Roads are not marked as clearly as they are in the states, so BE CAREFUL (side note – I was actually pulled over by a motorcycle cop and had to actually talk my way out of a ticket – but that’s a story for another time and another place I think…)
- Parking can be somewhat stressful, but largely I believe that everyone has better things to do than go around ticketing/towing cars (this was the American side of me getting the better of my fear faculties I suppose); just steer clear of the obviously-marked no parking signs (a circle with a slash through the middle and the letter “E”)
- You don’t’ need a rear license plate in Mexico (who knew?), but make sure that your rental car company clearly indicates they are only giving you one (front) plate
All in all, I would probably rent a car again. I was extremely nervous ahead of time, horribly stressed during some of my longer trips, but largely got comfortable with it as time went on throughout the trip. For peace of mind, though, it’s probably not THAT much more expensive to just find a reliable shuttle service and leave the driving to the locals. Cabs once you’re in towns are fairly cheap, too, as long as you’re not too far off the beaten path.
More to come as I document more of our trip!
Til Next Time,