Mexico Guide – Travel & Leisure


Who needs a Mexican driving licence?

It is possible for foreigners to drive in Mexico provided they have a valid driving licence from their home country. Alternatively, you can also acquire a Mexican drivers license.

If you wish to acquire a Mexican driving licence you will need to provide 3 copies (one of which should be the original) of the following documents to the Secretaria de Transportes y Vialidad:

  • Valid passport
  • FM-2 or FM-3
  • Proof of address (this could be a telephone bill, for example)
  • Health declaration
  • Valid foreign driving licence

It is likely that you will have to take a written examination before you qualify for your Mexican driving licence. If you think your Spanish is not good enough to take the exam, make this clear in advance because in some cases there is a special service offered to English-speaking residents. Alternatively it is worth finding out whether you are able to take a translator with you into the exam. In any case, do not make it harder for yourself by being unprepared. Aside from the written exam, you may also be required to state your blood type in order to apply for a Mexican driving license.

Driving in Mexico

Car insurance, petrol stations and safety tips

Unfortunately the Mexican authorities do not recognise overseas insurance policies as valid when driving in Mexico, so you will need to take out a Mexican car insurance policy.

Shop around for the best deal. You might find it a good idea to get a recommendation from a friend or chose larger, more reputable companies if you are getting full cover. Driving without insurance is extremely risky and you are likely to be heavily penalised if caught.

Documents and Mexican police

When driving in Mexico always make sure that you have your licence, passport or other proof of identification, proof of insurance and vehicle registration with you at all times. The Mexican government are severely clamping down on Mexican police officers taking bribes from drivers who have been pulled over for one reason or another. While some police officers in Mexico may be looking to extract a bribe from you, it is advisable to be polite, stay calm and present the documents they are asking for.

Petrol stations in Mexico

Petrol stations in Mexico are clearly recognisable by their green and white PEMEX signs. The price of petrol is roughly the same throughout the whole of Mexico, with slight variations nearer to the borders. Credit cards are rarely accepted at Mexican petrol stations, so carry some cash with you.

Safety tips for drivers

Some people in Mexico drive carelessly, don’t always use indicators and may change direction or speed without warning. Do not put yourself at risk by relying on the skills of other motorists. Be vigilant, get in the correct lane as early as possible and try to stay composed. Restrict to driving in daylight hours if possible. Drink driving is unfortunately relatively common, so this does make the night more hazardous.

Safety is the most important part of driving a car anywhere in the world. In Mexico there are a few steps you should take to keep safe when driving in Mexico. The first thing you should do when you get into your car is to lock the door from the inside. Do not stop for large objects or rocks placed in the middle of the road. Quite often they are deliberately put there in order to make cars stop, so slowly drive around them if it is safe to do so. It is also advisable to keep your windows up where possible during your journey and don’t leave possessions in a car in view. Carjacking does happen, so be aware of your surroundings and ready to react if possible.

Road accidents

In the event of an accident Mexican police will often hold both parties until responsibility has been established. This has the unfortunate side-effect that many people involved in accidents just drive away immediately (causes can include having no insurance, not wanting to tangle with the Police or being intoxicated). It is worth asking your Mexican car insurance or car rental company about their breakdown coverage, which usually provides a decent and prompt service. Alternatively there are ‘Green Angels’ patrolling most of the major parts of Mexico who are on hand to respond to road accidents.

When it comes to more serious road accidents where somebody is injured or even killed, Mexican law states that those involved in the accident are guilty until proven innocent. This does mean you can be taken to prison. All of this means that you should consider driving more carefully than usual, take great care and adopt defensive driving techniques.

Your car

Importing or buying a car in Mexico

Renting a car is not a very economical long-term option for driving in Mexico. If you stay for a while you will probably either want to import a car to Mexico from abroad or buy a car in Mexico. Consider the pros and cons of these options before making a decision.

In order to import a vehicle into Mexico you will need to obtain a temporary import permit from the Mexican government. Importing a car into Mexico is allowed provided you have the following: Mexican car insurance, a valid FMT, FM-2 or FM-3 visa, vehicle registration in your name and a credit card or cash to pay a small fee (according to the type and value of the car: either a one-off payment or a percentage of the value of the car).

The import permit is supplied as a sticker which must be displayed on your windscreen. This sticker should be handed in to customs on leaving Mexico with your vehicle.

Licence plates in Mexico

An individual is only permitted to have one foreign-registered car in Mexico. Obtaining a Mexican licence plate for a foreign vehicle is possible. This process can be complicated and expensive, so many people decide that it is simply not worth it.

Buying a car in Mexico

In most cases, buying a car in Mexico is an easier way to get access to a vehicle, especially when taking into account the administrative requirements and costs involved with the importation process. You can find ads for used cars in local newspapers and websites. Visiting car dealerships is a quick way to get an idea of what’s on offer and the prices being asked, although – like anywhere – this will be more expensive than buying privately.

Before buying a car in Mexico, it is advisable to find a good mechanic to check the car over and ensure that it is in good condition. Accident history in Mexico does not exist so a mechanic will be able to check for signs of serious damage and advise you on whether the car is safe to drive.

When choosing a car in Mexico, take the size of some Mexican roads into consideration. Streets in some areas are small and narrow, so get familiar with your local area if you can before deciding on a car. Roads are also not always in great condition, so a 4X4 or jeep with high road clearance might be a good idea depending on where you expect to drive. Petrol in Mexico is expensive, so more efficient cars will help your bank balance. In cities parking can be a challenge so a smaller car may well make life easier. Car taxes (tenencia) in Mexico are very high for newer cars, so an older vehicle will save you money.

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