If you choose to get off the beaten path somewhere between Mexico’s bustling Cancun and the Mayan ruins of Tulum, you will probably want to rent a car. Major car rental companies are well represented at the airport in Cancun and route 307, the road that runs the length of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, is newly paved and easy to navigate. Just imagine yourself atop Nohoc Mul, the second tallest Mayan pyramid in the Americas, with only howler monkeys and turquoise browned mot-mots for company. A rental car gives you the freedom to arrive hours before the tour buses and wander the ruins alone. The driving is easy, the roads are well marked, and the freedom is fabulous.
If you decide to navigate Mexico’s Riviera Maya from behind the wheel of a rental car, here are a few tips.
WATCH OUT FOR SPEED BUMPS
If you fly over the speed bumps or topes along route 307, you will destroy your tires and wreck havoc with the suspension your car. These are NOT American speed bumps. Even crawling over them is jarring. Drive slowly and treat them with respect.
Stay well within the speed limit, especially through Playa del Carmen. The policia are friendly and formal and will write you a ticket and you will be required to give them your driver’s license which will be returned to you when you appear at the police station in Cancun to pay your fine.
If you should happen to get stopped, it is acceptable to profusely apologize, saying that you did not understand the laws and then ask if you can pay the fine on the spot. Offer the officer $20 American. He probably will not take it at first, but if you are persistent, polite, and sincere, you may get out of a trip to the police station. Yes, the money will most likely go into his pocket, but the police in Quintanna Roo make very little money and your generous propina (tip) will help feed his family. Think of it as a donation to a good cause.
ASK FOR A SPECIFIC AMOUNT OF GAS
The gas stations along route 307 are all full serve and when you pull in, an attendant will promptly start filling your tank. Make sure to ask for a specific amount of gas. If you ask him to, “fill it up,” no doubt you will end up paying for a few extra gallons that never make it into your tank. Yes, you will encounter folks in Mexico working hard to separate you from your hard earned cash. But keep in mind, the average wage is about $5 a day.
DON’T FRET ABOUT FEDERALES CHECK POINTS
They’re not looking for you, unless of course you are smuggling drugs. Tourism is in the best interest of the people in Mexico and, thanks to threats of flu and border wars, numbers of tourists have been dropped significantly. The Federals can spot a tourist a mile away and they really are there to protect you.
BRING TOILET PAPER
Just trust me on this one.
The road is wide and straight and flat and leads to adventure. Driving in the Riviera Maya is easy. Relax, enjoy the scenery, and having fun discovering what’s around the next bend.