I have driven tens-of-thousands of miles in Mexico and the worse thing I can remember happening was having a mango jump off the flatbed of an oncoming produce truck near Mazatlán, smashing out the left headlight in my old VW van and spraying mango pieces and juice from head to huarache, where I sat in the driver’s seat. I thought I’d been shot by a deranged sniper until I figured it all out. And another time I blew an engine (another VW van, naturally) in the Sonoran desert on my return trip on a 100 degree summer day when few cars were on the road (this was years ago, before toll roads), only to be rescued by a pickup truck full of missionaries who rope-towed me to the Arizona border, almost making a believer of me.
But that’s about it for the mishaps. Driving in Mexico is a great way to really see the country and to meet the people who live in the small towns along the way. This is where the character and soul of the country resides, and should not be missed. The one caveat that has always held true is to avoid night-driving. Not because you’re going to get held up by bandits, but because animals often find their way onto the roads and there are still trucks and cars that drive without taillights…and headlights. Daylight is just a safer way to travel, and you see more. Mexico has built many thousands of miles of four-lane toll-roads over the past thirty years, making it much easier to get around (although they aren’t cheap), but the old roads still exist. Whereas the toll roads avoid having to drive directly through many towns and are much faster, you miss a lot by taking them. However, when you drive the old roads, you really need to pay attention. Crater-like potholes, narrow un-banked roads, erratic drivers, wandering livestock, slow moving trucks, and plastic-Jesus grasping bus drivers require that you keep your mind uncluttered and concentrate on your surroundings. But still, I highly recommend that you do it.
If you are flying into Mexico and plan to rent a car to give you more flexibility, make the arrangements before you travel. You will find the best deals by calling, or going to the web site, of the various rental companies and see who has the best deal for you. The rates can vary widely, so it is worth the effort. I can usually find a small car for about $120 – 160 per week, or $25.00 per day. Try to get unlimited miles and insurance included in the price. The independence of having your own wheels will make for a more interesting and complete trip. Just avoid the VSM’s (van-seeking mangos).
Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Contributor for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own. Mexico Today is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination.