America shares a significant border with Mexico. For residents of both countries, driving across the border is a frequent occurrence. It might seem like no big deal to drive your car into Mexico.
Often, Mexican driving is perfectly routine. Still, it’s anything but ordinary. When you drive into Mexico, you are entering a foreign country. That’s a jurisdiction outside of U.S. law. Even though it might look familiar, Mexican driving requires extra caution. You have a responsibility before and during travel to see to your own safety and the safety of your vehicle.
Before You Go to Mexico: Get Insurance
Mexican law does not recognize U.S. auto insurance policies. Your normal policy will usually be void for the duration of your time in Mexico.
Here’s the catch. Mexico requires all drivers to carry auto insurance, and this includes foreign drivers. So, if you’re an American driving your car into Mexico, you will likely need Mexican auto insurance.
Mexican auto insurance will include many features similar to your American policy. However, the coverage will adhere to Mexican insurance law and practices. The coverage can usually contain extra assistance specifically for foreigners who encounter problems. Never drive without Mexican insurance. Doing so might result in stiff penalties.
Many American insurance agencies work with Mexican insurers to issue their policies. Therefore, you can usually get coverage before you leave home. If you need to file a claim, you will work with the Mexican insurer. Most Mexican insurers are very responsive to claims. You can rest assured that you will receive help in case of accidents.
Remember, You’re a Foreigner
If you’re not a Mexican citizen, then you are a foreign national. However, you still have to follow Mexican law when you’re in the country. Therefore, before traveling into Mexico, you have to enter the country legally.
Mexico will recognize your U.S. driver’s license. However, you will likely need other documentation to legally drive. This might include:
- Import visas for your vehicle. Certain areas of Mexico classify as free zones. These zones are usually close to the U.S. border, and are thus areas where Americans are more likely to travel. Venturing to this area means you might not have to obtain import visas. However, travel beyond these zones will likely necessitate obtaining one.
- Your passport and any travel visas. You will always need your passport as a form of identification. However, often, you won’t have to obtain a tourist visa. Still, certain travel, such as to enroll as a student, will mandate that you apply for a visa. Contact the U.S. Department of State for more information.
Also, remember to keep proof of auto insurance with you at all times. You’ll need it handy in case of accidents.
Driver and Vehicle Safety Tips in Mexico
Simply obtaining legal permission to drive in Mexico doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. You’re still a driver that has responsibility for your safety and the safety of others.
You’ll usually encounter similar driving conditions as those in the U.S. However, that doesn’t mean that conditions are identical. You’re going to encounter non-familiar practices and situations when you drive. You need to know how to handle them when they occur.
- Throughout Mexico, police and military checkpoints exist along highways. These are mostly to keep interstate trafficking and violence under control. Don’t fear these checkpoints, but treat them with respect. Be prepared to show your ID, and consent to a search of your vehicle as necessary. It’s often a good idea to know a few words of Spanish as well. Usually, you will find the guards friendly and helpful, as long as you do the same.
- Highway crime, though not necessarily common, is a threat in Mexico. Use caution when stopping on the side of the road or driving in isolated areas. A common tactic of bandits is to trick drivers into pulling over under the guise of car trouble. Like in every public setting, keep your valuables hidden in your car so as not to attract thieves.
- Remember that Mexican driving instructions will be in Spanish. Americans should carry translation devices to help them decipher signs they don’t recognize.
- Certain roadway practices vary in Mexico. For example, Mexican drivers might use turn signals to tell other drivers they can pass them. Americans who aren’t familiar with them might make mistakes that lead to problems.
- Frequently, pedestrian traffic might congest roadways and sidewalks, making city driving hazardous. In some cases, sidewalks might not even exist. Street lighting, particularly in rural areas, may be poor or non-existent. Therefore, drivers should use particular care after dark or in poor visibility.
When driving in Mexico, you should always use caution just as you would when on American roads. However, common sense says you should use more caution because, in many ways, you’re the odd person out. When you need assistance, your Mexbound.com can help you. Consider them us an asset when you hit the road.