I’ve been to Mexico a few times now and absolutely plan to keep going back again and again! I’ve only just scratched the surface of this massive country, visiting Cancun, Tulum and Cozumel, and have done something different each trip- from lodging, to itinerary and even transportation. For example, on my most recent visit to Tulum, I rented a car to make the trek vs taking a shuttle or taxi. In this post HERE, I recapped my October 2020 trip and the various transportation options to get from Cancun to Tulum. Of the options, renting a car was my favorite for the ease and flexibility! Below are 6 tips for renting a car in Mexico to bring ease and flexibility to your own trip:
- While you do need a driver’s license to drive while in Mexico, you don’t have to apply to any special license outside of your valid U.S. or Canadian license. Be sure that your license is not expired and is in English. For those who are not U.S. or Canadian citizens, or if you’re license is not in English, you can still drive in Mexico, you will just need to get an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). Check HERE for more information on what an IDP is and how to obtain one, if needed. Again, licenses issued in English are recognized by Mexican law as valid to use to drive- but always double check with your rental agency when confirming your reservation or google ahead of your visit.
Note: You will also need to show your passport when picking up your car from the rental agency.
- Be prepared to pay for renter’s insurance or have a significant hold on your card! I have the Chase Sapphire Reserved credit card, which comes with built-in renter’s insurance, which covers up to $75,000 USD in damages, at no additional charge. But, I quickly found that Mexican rental companies don’t recognize out of country coverage, not without a huge fee at least. I rented with Economy and in order for them to recognize my coverage, they would have had to place a $15K USD hold on my credit card, basically a deposit equal the size of the cost of the car, in the event of any lost, theft or damages. Insane, I know. The alternative, was to get the insurance the rental company offered, for an additional $150 USD, which is the option I ended up going with. The original total for my rental car was $150 USD but after including the additional insurance fees, our new total was $300 USD.
- Budget additional time to receive your rental. While the Cancun International Airport (CUN) is fairly small, you will have to budget time to find your rental company desk and then time to get to the shuttle to actually grab your rental. We rented with Economy, which doesn’t have a desk inside of the airport, instead we found the representative for the company outside of the airport. The representative confirmed our reservation and directed us to the shuttle to Economy’s rental office, approximately a 10 -15 minute ride. Once there, i took us roughly 1 hour to fill out all of the paperwork, confirm our reservation and receive our car. The total ordeal took almost 2 hours, though we didn’t budget this into our itinerary, we left our first day extremely flexible to accomodate any travel snafus. Our friends, who arrived a few hours behind us, waited almost 3 hours to get their rental car, so while that was extreme, it’s important to be flexible on your travel days. Returning the rental car was a breeze, we filled the gas tank to the same level we received it, checked for any damages/marks and were then escorted back to the airport via the shuttle, all within 20-30 minutes.
- When at the gas station you will pay in pesos! I did not have cash on me when we went to fill up the gas tank, so while I was able to use my credit card (Chase Sapphire Reserved), I had to figure out how much I wanted in U.S. dollars and then convert this number to pesos to tell the gas attendant. Similar to New Jersey (for my USA folks), you do not pump your own gas in Mexico, an attendant will do so for you. I used the Global Convert app to help me with the conversion!
- Book ahead where and when possible. There are some things I wait to reserve when I am at my destination and other things I like to lock down in advance, my rental car being one of those “book ahead” things. With the current rise in travel, rental cars are not only a bit hard to come by, but they’re also expensive-especially when trying to book last minute. Additionally, the type of vehicle that you need may not be available, say a larger car when travelling with a big group! Book on sites like expedia.com or directly with a rental car company (on their website), to secure your rental.
- Have your own GPS system as most of the rental vehicles are older models, so many will not have GPS or other more advanced systems. One of my travel mates has a travel plan with AT&T which extended her service to Mexico for free, so we were able to access Google Maps on her phone for directions. If you are heading to Tulum for Cancun, it is literally a straight shot on highway 307!
*Other notes: In Mexico, they drive on the same side of the road as the U.S.- on the right side of the road. Also, we didn’t have to mention that we wanted an automatic car (this seemed pretty standard), but be sure to take note of this if you’re not familiar with driving a stick shift/automatic car.
And be sure to check HERE for my post on general tips on renting a car in another country!