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Sticky - Tips for renting cars and driving in Mexico & questions about renting/driving

Karen G

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Please add any good information you may have to this thread. Thanks to easyrider to suggesting a thread on this topic.
 
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pammex

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Biggest tip for driving in Mexico...make sure you have sufficient insurance that covers you in Mexico..this is to include liability and legal/ bail bond.

The laws are different in Mexico and if blood is drawn in an accident, if you are well enough you are brought to jail to await pending adjuster agreements and settlement. Do not move your car if in an accident. Call insurance company immediately and wait for police and adjuster. Only move car if told by police after they mark the street with paint where your tires were. I suggest never driving unless you have a cell phone to call insurance company. Do not agree to or sign anything until adjuster arrives.

Wear your seat belt and do not drink and drive. Know the laws are different, you can turn right on red if so marked, a blinking yellow light means the light will turn green almost momentarily.....it does not mean proceed with caution, you should stop. Flashing green means light is going to turn red, quickly. Many times you need a green arrow to turn left. In many areas a left hand turn is prohibited, you need to go up and go into lateral to make a left. A left blinker by a driver can mean they are turning left or that it is safe for you to pass...never ever attempt to pass before checking behind you as driving in Mexico is aggressive and you may have a driver already passing you. Do not drive at night if possible....it is very dangerous, there are many loose animals, cars without lights, etc. etc. Never, ever tell a policeman, "but I can do this in states", they really hate that. If stopped be kind and courteous it could be the difference between a big fine or mordida ( bite) and a letting you go.

The person on the main road always has the right of way. Do not pull out in ongoing traffic to get out of a side street, obstructing the flow of traffic, wait until the opportunity to go is there and then go but never obstruct the flow.

The person in a glorieta, (where many streets come into a round area) has the right of way, you must wait for opportunity to enter either via light or free access without obstruction to flow of traffic.

On small side roads, at an intersection, the street with the green arrow, usually on a side wall of a house or such has the right of way...black means you are the secondary to pass.

Drivers in Mexico are very aggressive and drive quite fast and also take many risks, such as passing on hills etc...keep a decent distance between you and other cars if possible. Know that drivers in Mexico use their horns a lot. If many lanes on a road and you are in wrong lane, many times if you roll down window and put your arm out, down by side of car and look at other driver in lane they frequently will let you go or enter the lane, this applies when someone does it to you as well.

If a traffic jam is ahead, or an accident put on your blinkers....you willl see this done frequently so slow down, this is a good rule and prevents many accidents.

Be sure to have in your car when driving all your legal documentation, originals ie: passport, import paper for car if yours, insurance papers, tourist visa or other, drivers license current of course. ( do not leave all these important documents in car if you are leaving it).

Many states in Mexico have no talking on cell phone laws so be aware of each state's laws. Jalisco is one of these. You will be ticketed and stopped for talking on cell phone in these states.

Do not get out of car when stopped, stay in vehicle, remain calm, do not argue, show respect, goes a long way here.

Personally, I drive here, but I know the laws mostly, I can speak some spanish, and I frequent myself with any routes I am taking.....I live here 99% of time so I kind of have to drive. I must suggest unless you have to drive here, personally I would not, an accident in Mexico can be your worst nightmare, nothing like anything you have ever experienced.

If you are renting all the above apply. Before accepting the car, do a thorough check of any damage on car and have it written down, maybe even photograph it, so you are not responsible. Be sure the insurance provides the above items I mentioned.

There are many levels of police who can stop you and each has a set juristiction on what they can and cannot do or ask for, ( transito's -traffic police, city and state police, federales, etc. etc. ) but your are not in the position to argue and you will not win...so again stay calm and comply. If you feel you are being bullied or such, tell officer you are going to call your insurance company on your cell phone and do so.

Yellow markings on curbs mean no parking, do not park there, many states take your plates if you are illegally parked and you must go to registry to retrieve them and pay the fine. A big E with a slash thru it also means no parking. Do not park close to a corner you are onky asking for a ticket or damage to your car.

A sign with little hills on it, means topes ahead, a tope is a raised area of raod that forces people to go slow. These can range from little bumps to big bumps that can take out the bottom of your car if preceeding quickly. Many topes are not marked in advance, thus again, be alert and do not drive at night.

Be aware in rainy season, torrential rains occur and flash flooding can be very quick in many areas. Also be aware there are many areas where cross winds can make driving very dangerous.

Once again, if you must drive here, use extreme caution, be alert and assertive, stay within the limits of speed no matter what other drivers are doing, but do not go too slow either as you can get ticketed for that as well. Know you are taking one of the bigger risks in Mexico in driving here ahead of time. Never drive at night once again, it is dark and dangerous.

I know sounds negative but driving in mexico is not like in the states, and if you are not fluent in spanish , do not know your rights etc. you are a target. Think long and hard before deciding to drive in Mexico. Should you decide to do so, well I wish you only the best of luck.
 

hvacrsteve

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ditto above plus

Drive the speed limit!
Drive the speed limit!
Learn a little spanish and know the road signs!
They are much harder to read than in the US!
Try not to drive after dark in remote areas!
Don't be a strangler on the road, stay with other cars
to make yourself less of a target.
don't rent a car with a sticker of the rental company on the back bumper!
Buy the insurance!
You are not covered like you think you are!
Have fun!
Have more fun!
Study where you are going!
Again, stay close with other vehicles, if you are by yourself on the road, you will be an easy mark!

Enjoy Mexico and yes the police are crooked from top to bottom!
Including Mayors, judges etc.
Know before you go!
 

easyrider

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If your a bad driver at home you wont be any better in Mexico. The only wrecks we have seen in Mexico are Taxi cabs.

There are some differences in the way people drive in Mexico. Some times when on a main road you will have to turn onto a right road that parrelells the main road a block or two befor you need to turn left. Some times you would just turn left in a left turn lane when two major roads intersect. You will get the hang of this after driving around. To learn the roads, get out early in the morning when there is little traffic and drive around to learn the roads. Should you see vechiles driving with the emergency flashers on that means there is an obstruction ahead, such as a cow.

Driving in some areas of Mexico may be a bit tougher than others. We drive all over the Baja Peninsula from Cabo to La Paz and its not too different from driving any where eles. There are a few places that require attention such as turning left off a major road and the giagantic speed bumps. There is a parking garage about a block away from the Cabo Wabo. Driving at night is easy once you know where your going.

Driving around Puerto Vallarta is pretty easy as well. This is a medium sized city so you need to get up early to learn the roads. The one area of PV that is tricky is the turn around at the north end of town. Should you miss the frontage road when turning left by the airport while heading north to Nuevo Vallarta, to go back to Purto Vallarta you need to be in the left lane to do a return that is kind of like a u turn. This is just past the Home Depot. In old PV look for arrows painted on buildings or how cars are parked to detemine one way streets. There is a public parking garage on the south end of the Malacon. Avoid driving south of PV durring rush hour as the roads are small and congested.

The police like to leave the strob lights on their vechicles flashing, so dont pull over unless they hit the siren.

Avis includes the mandatory liability insurance for the rental car. Many credit cards have protection covering the car with American Express having the best. The Amex plan does cost a little and can be found on their website. The Avis website also has info on the coverages available. Always take pictures of the car before you leave and have the condition report show damage to all areas of the car that have anything at all wrong with it. Tip the shuttle driver for help and posibly an upgrade.

Not speaking spanish hasnt been a problem for us. Many people in the tourist areas speak a little english. Pay for gas with pesos. Go see some new places.
Learn a few spanish pharses such as donde esta el banjo and yo quero uno Corona portfavor. Im no expert in spanish but these phases seem to work for me.

Adios
Bill
 

pammex

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Drive the speed limit.....and be careful they can change from 40k to 80 in a flash and from 100 to 40 in a flash as well. so watch those signs...LOL. Kilometers of course.

easy rider: "Learn a few spanish pharses such as donde esta el banjo and yo quero uno Corona portfavor. Im no expert in spanish but these phases seem to work for me." You are doing good....here a little more help...

?Donde esta el bano? ( where is the bathroom?)
? Yo quiero una Corona por favor? I want a Corona please? o ( or)
? yo quiero cerveza por favor? ( I want a beer please) pero no cervezas cuando manejando ( but no beers when driving)

Gracias? ( thank you)

Ayudame por favor ( help me please)

Puerto Vallarta has now become quite congested so driving is a bit more of a challenge...but it is pretty much an easy place to drive in....but much traffic...

At present all gas stations throughout Mexico are called Pemmex....and yes pay in pesos, also be sure to check that the meter has been put back to zero before attendent starts pumping.....there are no self serve gas stations at present in Mexico. There are usually bathrooms at all pemmex's although some are quite the fright. It is a good idea to travel via car in Mexico with a roll of toilet paper in car, many times bathrooms may not have paper....hand sanitizer is good too, as is a gallon of water for the engine just in case......
 

T_R_Oglodyte

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AE covers you for rental loss and damage when you use the card for your car rental.
as does VISA. And outside your home country VISA coverage is primary.

Note, though, that neither the AE nor the VISA coverage is the mandatory third party liability.
 

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The other reason to have that toilet paper is in case you get 'trapped' by a washed-out road. Happened to us, and of course, I had to go! Felt a little guilty for leaving the tp on the side of the road, but we didn't have any bags. When we have the dog, I always have baggies, and it never occurred to me that I might have to bag my own tp. We do always have hand sanitizer. Still, I didn't want to touch anything until I could wash my hands properly. We were stuck for several hours and had to do the highly Unrecommended driving at night. It was fine.

Avis at the San Jose airport was excellent to work with.

Drinking and driving is a very major offense there: DON'T DO IT!

Just seemed like we needed to be slightly more aggressive driving there vs in the states.
 

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How much should I expect to spend for the mandatory insurance on a rental car at SJD? Is there someplace on the internet that I can purchase insurance in advance that would save some money? Thanks!
 

pammex

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How much should I expect to spend for the mandatory insurance on a rental car at SJD? Is there someplace on the internet that I can purchase insurance in advance that would save some money? Thanks!
Sorry wish I could help but I have permanent cars here, one US plated and one Mexican. I can tell you that short term insurance is fairly expensive usually.

I am pretty sure you can purchase insurance in advance online...try googling...Mexican auto insurance or such...I know many people drive across border and they insure online previously as well as many here use online insurance. How reliable it is in Mexico I really have no clue.

Hopefully another poster will post something more useful to you.
 

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I believe it depends on the car you're renting (based on a conversation we had with another couple that paid more for a bigger/nicer car).

I think we paid $20 or so Per Day in insurance alone, could go up to $35 (I think). They did talk us into doing a TS pres at Pueblo Bonito worth $400 so a one-week rental on the cheapest automatic came out to be under $200. It was worth it for us to do the presentation and get that credit.
 

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I have been advised that your US car insurance (none of it) is not valid in Mexico. You must have Mexican 3rd party liability insurance or you will be escorted to a very undesirable location and possibly held until the liability issue is fully resolved. Some credit cards cover physical damage to the rental car but none cover your 3rd party liability, towing, medical, legal, etc.

I drive down 2 or 3 times a year and get a policy covering damage to my car, medical, towing, legal, 3rd party liability, etc. You can buy these from places such as AAA, and locations just before you cross the border (usually several) or on line which I do. I use a company in California (Farmers Insurance) and have an AIG policy called Mexipass all done over the internet. I am sure there are many more agencies you can get a policy for you trip duration on line as well. But do consider all the coverages mentioned above to avoid serious legal problems. If you want to contact the insurance company I use this is the email staff.emoreno@farmersagency.com

I almost always drive at night which is contrary to the opinions of most and have been drivng from Laredo to Mazatlan or Celaya for over 10 years. However, I am usually on the toll roads which are much less prone to have cows, etc on the road at night since they are fenced liked our interstate highways. In Indiana we have more deer accidents than Mexico has with cows-those deer are fast and come out of nowhere and really mess up your vehicle.

If you are stopped for speeding, etc you can often ask to pay the fine on the spot to avoid having to go to court. You can ask how much and sometimes bargain a little/lot since this is still quite common in some areas.

Someone mentioned topes-these can be anything from small ones that are like going over a bump to ones which will certainly damage you care if you go over them faster that 3-4 mph. The warnings never say big or little but I have learned to watch for those signs and assume they will be the bad ones since you don't want to be disabled and stuck for days waiting on parts.
 

pammex

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I have been advised that your US car insurance (none of it) is not valid in Mexico. You must have Mexican 3rd party liability insurance or you will be escorted to a very undesirable location and possibly held until the liability issue is fully resolved. Some credit cards cover physical damage to the rental car but none cover your 3rd party liability, towing, medical, legal, etc.

I drive down 2 or 3 times a year and get a policy covering damage to my car, medical, towing, legal, 3rd party liability, etc. You can buy these from places such as AAA, and locations just before you cross the border (usually several) or on line which I do. I use a company in California (Farmers Insurance) and have an AIG policy called Mexipass all done over the internet. I am sure there are many more agencies you can get a policy for you trip duration on line as well. But do consider all the coverages mentioned above to avoid serious legal problems. If you want to contact the insurance company I use this is the email staff.emoreno@farmersagency.com

I almost always drive at night which is contrary to the opinions of most and have been drivng from Laredo to Mazatlan or Celaya for over 10 years. However, I am usually on the toll roads which are much less prone to have cows, etc on the road at night since they are fenced liked our interstate highways. In Indiana we have more deer accidents than Mexico has with cows-those deer are fast and come out of nowhere and really mess up your vehicle.

If you are stopped for speeding, etc you can often ask to pay the fine on the spot to avoid having to go to court. You can ask how much and sometimes bargain a little/lot since this is still quite common in some areas.

Someone mentioned topes-these can be anything from small ones that are like going over a bump to ones which will certainly damage you care if you go over them faster that 3-4 mph. The warnings never say big or little but I have learned to watch for those signs and assume they will be the bad ones since you don't want to be disabled and stuck for days waiting on parts.
I must reiterate the above :

I have been advised that your US car insurance (none of it) is not valid in Mexico. You must have Mexican 3rd party liability insurance or you will be escorted to a very undesirable location and possibly held until the liability issue is fully resolved. Some credit cards cover physical damage to the rental car but none cover your 3rd party liability, towing, medical, legal, etc.

This of course, mostly applies if you are in an accident, but trust me, if you are in an accident without all of the above, and even with you will go to jail if any blood is drawn or if you are at fault and cannot pay on the spot. The legal aspect of the insurance, is just so they can get you out of jail, as quickly as possible until liability issue is resolved. Also keep in mind that this pertains to an accident with a car, person, horse, cow, donkey, and even maybe a chicken or rooster,dog, cat, wild horse, you could be liable...a chicken well pretty cheap but a rooster of course it will be a cock fighter, very valuable , a cow also very valuable possibly a means of survival for some. A father of a family, main bread winner, oh boy!!!

I too drive at night, but only when traveling then we drive like starting at 3am, only where we know or cuotas.......but it is unadvisable. Let alone animals there may be cars without lights, etc. it is definately dangerous but when you live somewhere at some point you do drive at night.....in my area I drive at night a lot, but it is still dangerous.

Yes, many times you can pay on the spot or bargain and such, it is considered a bribe on your end and mordida on the cops end, be careful as if you do this with a federale, it is illegal and they will arrest you for bribery!

Topes are not always marked.......and some are extremely high and dangerous at high speeds so again caution....

As you can see......it is quite complicated and frankly make sure you are prepared......I have had an accident in Mexico , one and only in ten years, was rear ended, have all required insurance went without a glitch. My dad had accident, fully insured, but was hit by a cop, not in cop car, and well got more complicated as his car was totalled, but without friends and a bilingual grandson he would have spent minimum of 15 hours in jail and if wanted to fight the whole issue a minimum of 15 days in jail......he served no jail time, nor was he hurt badly, but one month later we are still dealing with the astronomical paperwork and such. ( one and only accident in Mexico in 30 years, and only accident in 50 years of driving). Have friends who just recently also had accident and yes they had insurance and yes spent time in jail waiting for adjuster, so do not fool around with the insurance aspect of driving in Mexico.....it can be a terrible nightmare or maybe you will never ever experience it, but what if....
 

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Car rental companies, posted by carlrocky

carlrocky


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Good car rental companies
these two companies seem to make most people happy and have a good reputation for service and are competitively priced.
1. Dominic at www.dominicloscabos.com
2. Eduardo at www.turimazrentacar.com
you do not need to rent them at the airport and they make drop off easy.
A good site to see where everything is in relationship to Cabo is
www.wikimapia.org zoom this map in and all the Hotels and restaurants are listed and it even has a distance tool in the tool bar
 

Colorado Belle

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Thank you all for the wonderful help to driving in Mexico.

I've rented cars there for about 20 years and only recently learned that my CC didn't cover that 3rd party liability.

Last year I hit a car that stopped for the topas in a resort area (hotelbeachroad Nuevo Vallarta) . I hit him at about 2 mph but his car was a mess and he claimed that there was damage. The only damage was to MY car and it was a teeny dent in the hood.

Luckily I had Avis that covers the 3rd party liability and after I realized that the kid was hoping I'd pay him, I said lets have the insurancee company handle it. So I called and they came jolly quick and took care of him and I paid about $100 for the dent to my car. Of course this makes Avis sound great BUT the next time I went to PV, I rented from Avis and they gave me a car without brakes. I didn't find out until I turned onto the Libriemento by pass...I couldn't find a turn off and so I took the hills down to the tunnel and then south by using my emergency brake and staying in 2nd gear (that God I had a stick shift!) Now THAT was an experience that I don't recommend!!!!

I have a great deal from Hertz this trip...$8.95 a day, tho with the 3rd party liability it might be a 'regular' rate when I'm done. I appreciate knowing about the $24.95 Am Ex insurance because at $9 (if the liability insurance isn't too bad) I might keep the car all month.

I don't have much if anything to add about driving...I drive well at home but I've gone through two red lights in PV because it takes me a day to transit to the location of the lights down there. What saved me is I'm obviously a gringo lady and people tend to be forgiving..I just smile and shrug my shoulders and keep a moving! Oh...another story...I was trying to figure out how to turn in Bucerias (I couldn't remember if it was a lateral or a left turn) and a policeman stopped traffic so I could make the turn! I love Mexico and the people tho I'd be scared to death to have an accident OR get stopped for a little mordida, especially at night. This trip I'm in Nuevo Vallarta so night trips to PV are a little more common. When I stay South I always just take the bus.
 

WeLv2Ski

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Lessons in Cancun

We were pulled over last week in Cancun City while driving back to the Royal Sands. It was 10:30pm and we had just exited the parking lot for Captain Hook's Dinner Cruise. We drove through a blinking GREEN light. With a full car, we all discussed the funny light. Things turned not so funny when we were pulled over. The Officer used his lights and followed us over the bridge into the Hotel District. We pulled over to the side of the road and the Officer used his speaker to tell us in Spanish that we were blocking traffic and needed to pull over to a different spot. The Officer came over to the car and spoke barely a word of English. I understand very little Spanish and my husband, even less. The Officer took my husbands license and then asked him for money to get it back. When he realized that we couldn't communicate with him, he radioed a buddy. The other Officer pulled up in his car and proceeded to write down $50.00 on a piece of paper to exchange for my husbands license back. Not knowing what to do, and having 3 children in the car, my husband finally said he only had $20.00 which they happily took and returned his license to us. We were so angry to say the least. With smoke coming out of our ears, we drove to the Tourist Police Station in the Hotel District to report what had happened.

Here is what we learned…as a tourist; you get a free ride-the first offense. You DO NOT HAVE TO and NEVER SHOULD hand over your license to the Police. You can tell any Officer that you will follow them to the nearest station, at which point we are told you are free to go. Do not open your window more than enough to speak and to hear. Do NOT get out of your car. NEVER give them your license. They look for tourist tags on the rent-a-car and hope to be able to extort money from you.

I have to say, the Police in the Hotel District handled this very well. (They even showed the appropriate amount of concern) They actually radioed over to their other Department in the Hotel District, and their Chief insisted that EVERY Officer get into the van and drive to the station where we were for a line up. Unfortunately, the Officers that did this were part of the Cancun City District.

Hmmmm…another lesson learned. It could have been much, much worse. Hope this helps someone!
 

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Did that presentation too but after getting burned the last one, I am DONE with presentations!
 

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Bumper stickers..or..license plates...??

Having been stopped a few times by the traffic "police"........ More tips...!!

Whether or not the rental car you are driving has either a window sticker or a bumper sticker...indicating that it is a RENTAL CAR...and therefore...considered....."fair game" for the traffic police...!!!! The license plates ARE DIFFERENT...from those of the locals... All locally owned vehicles have plates (front & rear) which read......"PRIVADO".....or ..PRIVATE...!!! All rental vehicles have..."TOURISTA" which translates in Spanish to "VICTIM"..!

Also.....don't you think that most Americans...do NOT look like a Mexican..???

Previous posters are correct in stating that you should NEVER surrender your driver's license to the traffic police.... Say in Spanish - "ESTA ES LA PROPIEDAD DE GOBIERNO.....!!!" = "THIS IS GOVERNMENT PROPERTY...!!" :whoopie: This will almost always work......!!!

Another "ploy" is to memorize this phrase - "NO HABLO ESPANOL -NADA..!"
= "I DON'T SPEAK SPANISH - NOTHING..!" Test his English SKILLS...!!!!!

Hahahahahahahahahaha....!!!! Worked 2X for me.....!! :cheer:
 

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Do not pay bribe money to officers

After entering link, click the bottom of this link about the Tourist Traffic Card info.
According to this info, you are allowed two moving violations free of charge. and if you are involved in a 3rd moving viloation, don't pay the officer. You pay the fine upon returning rental vehicle.

http://www.continental-rentacar.com/

Also, never give your driver's license to a Mexican officer. Give them a copy, otherwise you will have to pay to get the original back.
 

John Cummings

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I would follow PAMMEX's advice and not drive in Mexico unless absolutely necessary. My wife is Mexican, we lived in Mexico, I am fluent in Spanish, and worked in Mexico. We do not drive in Mexico period when vacationing there which we do quite frequently. It is not worth the potential problems which can be very serious. There are many types of cheap transportation in Mexico so it is not necessary to have your own car. Let somebody else drive and you can relax and not worry about it.

I have driven all over Mexico in the past but we would never consider it now.
 

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Insurance

I don't get it. Tourists must be insured to the hilt but the majority of the cars on the road or not insured in anyway. Why?
 

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We were in Playa del Carmen 3 weeks ago and got stopped by the policia 3X!I believe each time was a legitimate stop but we never paid a penny. The first time we were driving from PDC to Grand Mayan and my friend driviing sped up when he saw the light blinking green. I told him it was going to change to red quickly so he jammed on the brakes and came to a stop in the intersection just as a police car was entering the intersection. Needless to say, we were pulled over and he said he was going to take the driver's license and he could go to the police station tomorrow, pay the fine and get his license back. He calmly told him that he was not going to drive without a license and that we would follow him to the police station and pay the fine now. He then asked if we wanted to pay him now; we explained that we wouldn't pay him but would go to the police station and pay the fine. He then let us go.
The next evening we were making the same trip, going down the road and get pulled over. When we asked what we were doing wrong, he said we were going 90 in an 80KM zone. We were but everyone was going faster. I told my friend before that that it doesn't matter how fast everyone else is going, he needed to do the speed limit as we are the targets. We agian told the officer that we would follow him to the police station and pay the fine but he just wrote the driver's name and license number in a book and had him sign it because you could have one offense.
OK, now we're not speeding, not running lights, playing by the rules and the next two days we are not stopped. The next time we are going from Puerto Morelos back to the Grand Mayan, obeying the law, and are pulled over:shrug: . The officer says we have a tail light out. Driver gets out of the car to verify this. We say we will call the rental company immediately and have them come and fix it. Offficer hems and haws, keeps telling us about the fines, so we get our phone and start to call the rental co. He lets us go. We called the rental co immediately and they brought a different car to the resort for us.
Next trip to PDC will be at Royal Haciendas which is much closer to PDC and the resort offers several free shuttles throughout the day so we will not have the need to rent a car. If we decide to do a day trip, we'll rent one for that day only.
That being said, we have rented cars numerous times in Cabo and Puerto Vallarta, were never stopped before and will continue to rent cars at these locales. I've heard and read that the cops on the east coast of Mexico are much more aggressive and I now believe and agree with it. The advice I have read came in very handy - stay calm, never give up your license, agree to go to the police station immediately and pay any fine there not to the officer that stops you, and obey the laws!
 

John Cummings

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There are aggressive corrupt police throughout Mexico. In fact Cancun and the Riviera Maya is one of the best regions of Mexico with the least corruption.
 
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