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Cabo Car Rental- Expense really worth it?

heathpack

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In know the Cabo experts here recommend a car rental, but we are wondering if it is worth it. We will be in Cabo 2 weeks in April, the first week at the Grand Mayan in San Jose and the second at Welk Sirena del Mar on the corridor about 10-15 min outside San Lucas. An economy car rental through Dollar will cost us around $440 including insurance.

We will probably spend 50% of our time at the resorts. We'd like to go out to Cabo Pulmo (but doubtful we would realistically be able to get there in an economy rental car, as the road is unpaved as I understand it, so whether we rent a car or not, we'll probably book a tour), to Todos Santos, to the grocery store and into each town to explore/dine. I believe at the Grand Mayan, a cab to the Mega or in to town would cost us $5 (although both distances are walkable), at the Welk, $15. The Grand Mayan will pick us up at the airport, a cab between the resorts and back to the airport would be about $50 each. We are not big eaters, if we head into town for the day and eat lunch out, we probably won't eat dinner or will just eat something light in the condo.

So adding up costs with a rental car:
Car rental $440
Gas maybe $60
Other undisclosed rental car charges that will inevitably be "necessary":$100
TOTAL $600

Costs without a rental car:
Tour to Todos Santos: $360 for 2
Trip to Mega and 4 trips into town (Grand Mayan): $50 cab fare
Trip to Costco and 4 trips into town (Welk): $150 cab fare
Trip between resorts and back to airport: $100 cab fare
TOTAL: $650

It does not seem like $50 savings is really worth it to rent a car. We've never been to Cabo, so we don't know the lay of the land, $50 does not seem like very much to be driven around for 2 weeks vs drive ourselves, find parking, etc. Am I failing to account for some other benefit of a car rental? Are cabs hard to get at night after dinner?

Thanks,
H
 
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california-bighorn

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Agree Wouldn't Rent

I pretty much agree with your reasoning. Additionally, think of the problems you could experience finding parking. However, last November we did drive a compact car to Cabo Pulmo (from the airport) for our 3 day stay without problem. Just drive slow and carefully ( like you have any other option!!!) The only time we rent a car in the Cabo San Lucas / Cabo San Jose area is when we travel to Cabo Pulmo. You would have to consider the costs of and convenience of going on a tour to Cabo Pulmo. BTW, would you be going to CP to dive or snorkel? If so, I could provide you with additional info since we have been going there for the past 5 or 6 years.
 

heathpack

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BTW, would you be going to CP to dive or snorkel? If so, I could provide you with additional info since we have been going there for the past 5 or 6 years.

We would be going to snorkel. The tour that we are looking at is through this company: http://bajaoutback.com/?lang=en&page=adventures

It would include kayaks, snorkel gear, transportation, bilingual guide and lunch for $180 each.

I am not sure how much we would be able to influence what happens on a tour, but we'd still love to hear any advice you can offer. If we took the rental car to Cabo Pulmo, it would tip the expense scale to the side of the rental. But we might be happier going in a Hummer on the tour vs. driving ourselves in a rattletrap ecomony car.

H
 

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You might consider using an American Express card to rent the car. If you add (for no cost) American Express' Premium Rental Car Insurance, the vehicle will be fully covered for up to a 42 day rental--and the total cost through American Express is $25.00 for the entire rental period. The Am. Ex. insurance also covers medical for the car's occupants, belongings, any loss the car rental company would have from the vehicle being out of service, and--for me, the best part--it's primary insurance; your insurance company at home won't be involved.

That would leave you only the Mexican 3rd party liability insurance to get. Avis (and I think National) include the basic 3rd party liability insurance (which is required by Mexican law) in the rate they quote you in the first place, so your only additional cost would be the $25.00 for the American Express insurance. (At Avis--and probably National, though I don't know--you can purchase ADDITIONAL 3rd party liability if you want, but the basic coverage is already included.)

You can cancel the American Express insurance at any time, so it isn't a life-time commitment. Or you can leave it on. It is only "triggered" when you use the American Express card to rent a car. Otherwise, it costs you nothing. YOU MUST DECLINE THE RENTAL CAR COMPANY'S INSURANCE (except for purchasing 3rd party liability if you do that) AND USE THE AMERICAN EXPRESS CARD FOR ALL ASPECTS OF PAYING FOR THE RENTAL CAR.

By the time you factor in the shuttle ride to the resort and the taxi back to the airport plus a few taxi rides here and there, you've gone a long way toward paying for the car--and you have the convenience of going when you want to go and returning when you want to return.

Just a thought.
 
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california-bighorn

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We would be going to snorkel. The tour that we are looking at is through this company: http://bajaoutback.com/?lang=en&page=adventures

It would include kayaks, snorkel gear, transportation, bilingual guide and lunch for $180 each.

I am not sure how much we would be able to influence what happens on a tour, but we'd still love to hear any advice you can offer. If we took the rental car to Cabo Pulmo, it would tip the expense scale to the side of the rental. But we might be happier going in a Hummer on the tour vs. driving ourselves in a rattletrap ecomony car.

H
Although it has never made sense for us to rent a car for the entire week to 2 weeks we stay in Cabo, even if it were just two of you, a car rental for a day to Cabo Pulmo would be most cost effective and have some other advantages. The more in your group the more cost effective the car rental would be. It was no problem driving to CP. About half the trip is on the main 2 lane highway, then you turn (well marked to CP) onto another road that is paved until about the last 6 to 8 miles where it turns into a dirt road that is well maintained, but dusty. Plenty of room to move over for infrequent oncoming traffic. If you left early from San Jose Del Cabo you would have the entire day to pick what you wanted to do and for how long. It is a safe trip driving up there. Just drive kinda slow, watch for cattle and mules (donkeys?) on the highway and you'll be fine. I think there are 4 companies in town that provide snorkeling and a couple for kayaking. We have always used Cabo Pulmo dive shop that is the 2 story blue building you see when you 1st come into town. They are excellent for snorkeling, don't know about kayaks, but you could check their website. There are some great inexpensive beach side restaurants that make you feel you are in one of those TV commercials.
 
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heathpack

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You might consider using an American Express card to rent the car. If you add (for no cost) American Express' Premium Rental Car Insurance, the vehicle will be fully covered for up to a 42 day rental--and the total cost through American Express is $25.00 for the entire rental period. The Am. Ex. insurance also covers medical for the car's occupants, belongings, any loss the car rental company would have from the vehicle being out of service, and--for me, the best part--it's primary insurance; your insurance company at home won't be involved.

That would leave you only the Mexican 3rd party liability insurance to get. Avis (and I think National) include the basic 3rd party liability insurance (which is required by Mexican law) in the rate they quote you in the first place, so your only additional cost would be the $25.00 for the American Express insurance. (At Avis--and probably National, though I don't know--you can purchase ADDITIONAL 3rd party liability if you want, but the basic coverage is already included.)

You can cancel the American Express insurance at any time, so it isn't a life-time commitment. Or you can leave it on. It is only "triggered" when you use the American Express card to rent a car. Otherwise, it costs you nothing. YOU MUST DECLINE THE RENTAL CAR COMPANY'S INSURANCE (except for purchasing 3rd party liability if you do that) AND USE THE AMERICAN EXPRESS CARD FOR ALL ASPECTS OF PAYING FOR THE RENTAL CAR.

By the time you factor in the shuttle ride to the resort and the taxi back to the airport plus a few taxi rides here and there, you've gone a long way toward paying for the car--and you have the convenience of going when you want to go and returning when you want to return.

Just a thought.

It looks like if we followed your advice, we would save about $140, bringing the costs of the rental car to $450. If we can save $200 and have a little more freedom/flexibility, we might go with the rental after all. I am going to look into this.


H
 

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Confident Driver

One other suggestion is that you be a very confident and safe driver. I have never seen so much disregard for the rules of the road, and lack of road signs as I have in Cabo. Our first day down we saw 3 major wrecks driving to/from Cabo San Lucas from San Jose del Cabo. Stop signs are only a suggestion, roundabouts/traffic circles are for the brave. I don't really mind, but you MUST be on your game 100%; DW wouldn't drive even though we put her on the contract.

I did almost rear end a big SUV who stopped suddenly in front of me in Cabo San, but that was our closest call. Not so lucky the guy from TX who totalled the whole front of his Escalade a block up from the Grand Mayan. Make sure you have full insurance.

I only say this because we did walk into town more than planned because it just seemed SAFER than driving. We paid $270 for a compact "all in" for the week.

One more thought - hwy 19 to Todos Santos is under major construction (4 laneing) for MILES heading out of Cabo San right now. There are no real detours, you just drive through the construction - pandemonium. There is a ton of road construction in advance of the G20 this summer.
 
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california-bighorn

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One other suggestion is that you be a very confident and safe driver. I have never seen so much disregard for the rules of the road, and lack of road signs as I have in Cabo. Our first day down we saw 3 major wrecks driving to/from Cabo San Lucas from San Jose del Cabo. Stop signs are only a suggestion, roundabouts/traffic circles are for the brave. I don't really mind, but you MUST be on your game 100%; DW wouldn't drive even though we put her on the contract.

I agree driving in and around CSL and SJD is an adventure. But, driving North from the airport to Cabo Pulmo is like driving on a country road in Northern California. Some sharp turns, a few speeders (just let them pass) and some livestock crossing the road at times, but it can be a nice leisurely drive.
 
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PStreet1

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You do have to be alert, but we don't find it difficult. However, there is a big problem with Americans not knowing that a left turn from a highway--even if there is an apparent crossover where cars are coming from the right of the highway and crossing over to go the other direction--is not only totally unexpected to the Mexican driver, it is also illegal. Consequently, there are a lot of accidents with Americans turning left.

To turn left, you are supposed to exit the highway before your turn and use the "feeder" which runs beside the highway. Then, at the turn, you will be, in essence, crossing the highway. Apparently, a left turn from the highway itself is just not something a Mexican driver checks for because it isn't supposed to happen.

To get to our home in Mexico, we are often obliged to make a left. We know how dangerous it is; it's dangerous with oncoming traffic, and it's very dangerous in terms of getting rammed from behind. If we can't get the cars in back of us to pass us before we have to execute the turn, we pass it and go to where we can get turned around and go back. (We, unfortunately, lack a feeder by our road, so left turns can, and do, occur--but they are very, very dangerous.)

When we rent a car in Mexico, we always go for something small--easier to park and easier on gas mileage.
 

mjm1

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Heathpack, I look forward to hearing about your experience, especially during your time at Sirena del Mar. We will be staying there in December, which will be our first stay in Cabo, and are trying to decide if we need/should get a rental car.

I understand the resort is beautiful. Have a great time.
 

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We were in Cabo for two weeks this last Feb and didn't see any problems driving in the area. The portion of Cabo that was hard to learn in the past was the area that leads up to the marina. 3-4 years back you had to turn onto a frontage road a block before you could turn left. They took the frontage roads out and installed left turn lanes and a road devider. You still need to take the frontage roads off the hwy to get to Costco or Wallmart. The road around Medano Beach is completely paved.

The road to Todos Santos was an easy drive with a few sections of the new freeway still being built.

The only round a bout that I remember in all of Cabo is the one heading to Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach. Its pretty tame and easy to go through.

For us we will always get a car. We want to do what we want to do when we want to do it. I don't trust the taxi's in Mexico in the evenings as these drivers have often asked if I wanted drugs or prostitutes. Most of the wrecks I have seen are taxi's.

We are very active and explore the areas we travel to. Its hard to explore on foot, imo. Driving should be considered an activity instead of an expense when your in Mexico.

We like Dominic but have rented from Avis, Alamo and All over Baja. Stay away from Jerry at All over Baja. His cars constantly break down and Jerry is a big liar head.

Bil
 

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If OP is staying at GM in SJC, they will have to pass through at least 2 roundabouts regardless of route taken to the resort. They are hard to avoid around SJC. The flower is probably the worst; some people yield ROW to the people already in the roundabout. Some people seem to think the traffic on Hwy #1 has the ROW. In Canada people in the roundabout have the ROW, but I have no idea now what is actually correct in SJC as I have watched the locals do it either way depending on their moods I guess.
 

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Pat,

Thanks so much for this tip. We currently have a reservation with Avis, 2 week auto transmission air conditioned compact car for $325. I figure even with BS charges, we should be able to rent this car for about $425, plus $18 for the AMEX coverage (for some reason it's $18 instead of $25 for California residents). So all in, factoring in BS charges and gas, I am thinking we should be able to do this rental for $550.

If anyone is interested, here is a helpful TripAdvisor link on the subject of Mexican car rental insurance:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopi...Cabo_San_Lucas_Los_Cabos_Baja_California.html

H
 

heathpack

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Although it has never made sense for us to rent a car for the entire week to 2 weeks we stay in Cabo, even if it were just two of you, a car rental for a day to Cabo Pulmo would be most cost effective and have some other advantages. The more in your group the more cost effective the car rental would be. It was no problem driving to CP. About half the trip is on the main 2 lane highway, then you turn (well marked to CP) onto another road that is paved until about the last 6 to 8 miles where it turns into a dirt road that is well maintained, but dusty. Plenty of room to move over for infrequent oncoming traffic. If you left early from San Jose Del Cabo you would have the entire day to pick what you wanted to do and for how long. It is a safe trip driving up there. Just drive kinda slow, watch for cattle and mules (donkeys?) on the highway and you'll be fine. I think there are 4 companies in town that provide snorkeling and a couple for kayaking. We have always used Cabo Pulmo dive shop that is the 2 story blue building you see when you 1st come into town. They are excellent for snorkeling, don't know about kayaks, but you could check their website. There are some great inexpensive beach side restaurants that make you feel you are in one of those TV commercials.

The tour operator got back to us and they are now only offering private tours for $450 for 2 people, I'm sure we can find something cheaper, but since we have the car, we are thinking we will drive out to Cabo Pulmo ourselves. So what do we do when we arrive in town? How do we figure out the best spots to snorkel once we get there? Where do we find prices on rentals so we can figure costs?

I will start searching the 'net for this info, but if you either have it or can point me in the right direction, I'd be appreciative.

H
 

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We go to Cabo several weeks every year. We used to always rent a car, but after awhile, we felt like we did all the sightseeing we wanted to do, and enjoyed just hanging out at our resort and in town. We stay on Solmar Beach, so it's an easy walk to everything in CSL.

This year, we decided to rent a car for a couple of days, and loved it. There is so much to do and see, and the area is always changing. We will rent again next year.

One warning: when you fill up your gas tank at Pemex, pay attention! There is a continual scam at many of the stations (particularly on the way back to the airport) to separate you from your money. Get out of the car, and make sure the pump is reset, and count your money out to the attendant when you pay the bill.
 

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I am there the first week of April at Grand Solmar and we plan to do a bunch of adventure tours too, I will check out the link you pointed to.

Maybe we can meet up for a tour or a dinner? :)
 

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Pat,

Thanks so much for this tip. We currently have a reservation with Avis, 2 week auto transmission air conditioned compact car for $325. I figure even with BS charges, we should be able to rent this car for about $425, plus $18 for the AMEX coverage (for some reason it's $18 instead of $25 for California residents). So all in, factoring in BS charges and gas, I am thinking we should be able to do this rental for $550.

If anyone is interested, here is a helpful TripAdvisor link on the subject of Mexican car rental insurance:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopi...Cabo_San_Lucas_Los_Cabos_Baja_California.html

H

De Nada. Remember that with Avis, the 3rd party liability is included in the cost, so your only extra is what you pay American Express. (We have two addresses, and they weren't sure whether the system would charge me in California or Arizona, so I don't know what my rate is yet.:) ). With Avis, there is a place to buy extra liability, but the counter people are not always forthcoming with the fact that the basic is already included.
 

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I am there the first week of April at Grand Solmar and we plan to do a bunch of adventure tours too, I will check out the link you pointed to.

Maybe we can meet up for a tour or a dinner? :)

Would love to except we are in Cabo that last 2 weeks of April!

H
 

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For some reason I thought you were there the first two weeks in April. My mistake, sorry. Next time :D

Would love to except we are in Cabo that last 2 weeks of April!

H
 

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I have hit CABO every January or February for last 6 years and always rent a car. I guess being from out west one just gets used to his horse or car. The only place I regularily visit and never rent a car is New Orleans. Inexpensive trolley at AVP front door and $70 a week parking equals $70 cab to and from air port!

Prior posts have pretty well covered water front, just a couple points.

No major US car insurance is accepted in Mexico such as State Farm or Allstate. Company must be licensed and registered there!

The AE insurance sounds great if one has a card. I guess the next time I get an offer of 40K free miles and no fee first year for getting an AE card I will consider.

Premium MC and VISA do provide non-liability coverage in Mexico. If you take" extra benefits" book to a copy shop and have them enlarge easy to read and great since are free. Of course, counter guy in Mexico will say they do not accept so you are on your own filing a claim.

Also, recommend stick with compact or intermediate car. Much easier to get around in and park. Also, if worst case and get in a wreck and have to pay for value of rental car before they will let you leave can put $7K-$8K on credit card and get home to fight out details.

I recommend taking out a trip
insurance policy with highly rated carrier. I have used both Travel Guard and RBC and each paid my cliam satisfactorily. (both were non-Mexico)! The big plus of this which costs aroun $200+ is the laundry list of benefits. Generally $25K for rental car, several hundred if delayed(think that big cloud that grounded all planes in Europe for several days), health insurance-Medicare is not valid there or on a cruise, Tri-Care is and one would have to read your policy, around $50K if killed by drug dealers or loose a limb, and the real goodie is around $25K to fly you back to USA if very ill.

If you do exchage will just cover say $199 RCI fee as one cannot produce a receipt, but if you rented covered.



As other posters have indicated driving in Mexico is an "experience" Unmarked speed bump will throw through windshield if no seat belt. ALTO means slow to about 15 MPH! Have driven to other towns and just be alert and yield to everyone like you would a cab or bus here!



When picking up car inspect very thoroughly and note anything and everything including spare tire. Pictures are a good idea. Car will probably have some dents or dings or glass chip and if not on check out sheet will become your problem. You will note anytime you valet park they give car a good once over. Also, top off gas tank. They will make issue if just touching full. If up to it generaly body snatcher lurking who will give you $300 in vouchers to pay for rental if so inclined. Looking at rates AVIS seems to have best as they do include basic liability. Most seem to charge around $12.99 a day extra!



The sticky above on renting, police and driving in Mexico is must reading. It was an eye opener for me.



If one adds up a couple trips to WalMart, trips to sunset cruises and whale watching, shopping expeditions, air port cabs and and an out of town trip plus convenience renting wins hands down. If resort offers "AI" and free air port trasnportation and shuttle probably no need to rent!



Paco
 

california-bighorn

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The tour operator got back to us and they are now only offering private tours for $450 for 2 people, I'm sure we can find something cheaper, but since we have the car, we are thinking we will drive out to Cabo Pulmo ourselves. So what do we do when we arrive in town? How do we figure out the best spots to snorkel once we get there? Where do we find prices on rentals so we can figure costs?

I will start searching the 'net for this info, but if you either have it or can point me in the right direction, I'd be appreciative.

H
The website for the dive / snorkel shop we have used in Cabo Pulmo is
www.cabopulmo.com they are a very professional operation. They will take you by boat to a couple of different sites. One of the sites often requested by snorkelers is at the Sea Lion Colony. They also have a restaurant on site that is pretty good, but, you may want to hang out at one of the beach bars right on the water. You can make reservations via the net or by phone. Or you can just drive up in the morning and check with the different little shops that provide snorkeling, but I would make a reservation. Don't know the cost for snorkeling, but we dive using their equipment for $75 each. Would guess snorkeling tour would be in the $40 range each. If I remember correctly, you will be in the Cabo area for 2 weeks. I was thinking you might want to spend a night in Cabo Pulmo. It would be a quite an experience staying in one of the bungalows for a night. Last November, my wife (spoiled and picky) finally agreed to spend a few nights in CP now she can't wait to go back. It is SO SO different from Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach where we usually stay. Let me know if I can provide any additional info..
 

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If OP is staying at GM in SJC, they will have to pass through at least 2 roundabouts regardless of route taken to the resort. They are hard to avoid around SJC. The flower is probably the worst; some people yield ROW to the people already in the roundabout. Some people seem to think the traffic on Hwy #1 has the ROW. In Canada people in the roundabout have the ROW, but I have no idea now what is actually correct in SJC as I have watched the locals do it either way depending on their moods I guess.

Yes, in San Jose there is at least one round a bout. The only one that I remember on the hwy is the one by Mega. I haven't had any problems with the one by mega but we didn't drive through here often. I did drive through this intersection at least 6 times, 7 if you count the right turn to Cabo from the airport.

In Cabo the only round a bout I remember is the one on the way to Sunset Beach. It was really tame.
 

heathpack

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The sticky above on renting, police and driving in Mexico is must reading.

Heathpack to self: "There's a sticky above on renting?!". Doh! Did not see that. I am a semi-moron, yes.

Ok, we are not going to rent the car for the following reasons:
1. We don't speak Spanish, 2. We don't drive aggressively, 3. We would be furious to be shaken down by the local policia, 4. We are unfamiliar with the lay of the land, 5. We will not have cell phones.

Back to the tour operators...

H
 

Karen G

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Ok, we are not going to rent the car
Since you'll be in Cabo for two weeks, any time during your stay you could rent a car for a day or two if you wanted one. You aren't locked into your decision and once you get down there you'll have a better idea of what it's like.
 
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