DRIVING IN BAJA
Driving in Baja is usually a great experience, especially if you are aware of these basic driving tips. Millions of visitors drive in Mexico each year, some by driving across the border and others by flying down and then renting a car. Although taxis are a very common way to travel short distances while in Mexico, there is nothing like the freedom of having a car and a full tank of gas to explore the warmth of Mexico!
Many people driving in Mexico try Baja as primary destination. It's close to the U.S. border and offers plenty of diversity. Those heading further into Baja than the tourist areas just south of the border would do well to pick up a Baja map from the Auto Club. This is probably the best map out there for Baja and they make a good lap cover when you are eating tacos in the car!
Speed limits in Mexico are posted in kilometers per hour. An easy formula is to take the kilometers per hour posted, multiply by 6 and then drop the last digit. 100 kilometers per hour equals approximately 60 miles per hour.
If you are ticketed for a driving violation in Mexico you have the right to ask for and be issued a traffic ticket which can be paid at the police station or my mail. Police officers are not legally allowed to receive payment for violations (or bribes), but the age old ritual of 'mordida' still prevails in many parts of Mexico.
These driving tips will go alone way towards making your driving experience a much safe one. Take a hint from Carlos Fiesta who has driven tens of thousands of miles in Mexico...safety is no accident.
For extensive information on driving an RV into Mexico visit the web site of ON THE ROAD IN MEXICO.
Unlike the United States, if you are in an automobile accident in Mexico you are considered guilty until proven innocent. Having current liability insurance is relatively inexpensive, and will buy you plenty of peace of mind (and keep you out of jail) in case things go sideways. Even though your U.S. insurance policy states that you are covered when driving out of the U.S., Mexican authorities will not accept the liability coverage of an insurance company unless they are underwritten by a Mexican carrier.
Collision insurance is a different story and many U.S. carriers will cover damage to the vehicle if an accident happens close to the border in a tourist area. When driving to Mexico it's always a good idea to check with your current insurance carrier to see what is covered and what is not.
Aside from some of the four lane roads near Mexico's larger cities most of the roads in Mexico are narrow two lane and somewhat narrow. The width often runs from 12 to 14 feet on each side, which does not allow a heck of a lot of room for error. Throw in a few moderately-sized pot holes, somebody riding a bike on the road and a few feisty cows and the road can become a bit intimidating. Driving at high speeds is definitely risky business. Keep an eye on the road shoulders as they sometimes get very steep or disappear all together.
Most of Mexico's toll roads are in good condition and usually worth the price of admission. They often lack the charm of the normal Mexican roads that wind through the town but if you want to cover a lot of ground quickly they are very efficient. Toll both operators will usually accept U.S. dollars or Mexican pesos, but not a combination of both.
WATCH FOR LIVESTOCK
You name it...cows, burros, goats, dogs...they are all out there on the highway waiting to play a little game of 'fender-tag' with your car. Keeping a sharp eye ahead of you can save you lots of aggravation. Once ol' Bessy's big brown eyes are looking at you from the hood of your car it's too late.
Avoiding a one-on-one with livestock is pretty easy if you are going slow. But high-speed drivers often find it difficult to slow down in time after coming around a curve with a herd of cattle standing still mid-highway. Not only will you damage your car but there is a good chance you will injure the animal. Hot tip? Drive slow!
Expect them and appreciate the reasons for them, you are not in Kansas anymore. Mexico is trying to show good faith in the drug transportation war, and the inconvenience of these infrequent drug inspection stations is a small price to pay for a big problem. It's best to leave your political opinions on this issue at home and just go with the flow. These kids are just doing their job and the more you cooperate the faster they will pass you through the system.
You are usually delayed no more than a few minutes. They may or may not search your car. Southbound vehicles are not always checked but northbound vehicles almost always are. Assuming you have no drugs, guns, or ammo, you'll be on your way in a jiffy. Giving these young uniformed kids a cold soda or candy is always appreciated.
The only thing less safe than driving Mexico roads too fast is driving too fast at night. Because of the limited visibility, reaction time to stuff on a dark road (debris, livestock, parked cars, etc.) the likelihood of getting in trouble on the road increases significantly after dark.
A conservative view is not to drive at night in Mexico. A more realistic view is not to drive faster than you can see ahead, be aware of your surroundings and don't drive when tired or drunk.
SPECIAL DRIVING TIPS
An understanding of a couple of driving tips will help your Mexico drive more enjoyable and safe!
(1) When driving on Mexico's main roads, if you are stuck behind a slow local vehicle, most Mexican drivers will try to help with the process of having you pass them. When the coast is clear for passing, the driver of the slower vehicle will often turn on his left turn signal, to inform you that it is okay to pass. It is important to note two issues with regards to this Mexico courtesy. First, remember that you (the driver of the vehicle that wishes to pass) are ultimately responsible for whatever may happen during this passing process (such as an unseen oncoming vehicle!). It is also important to be sure that the driver you are trying to pass is not preparing to turn left! On the open highway, this is not likely, but always a possibility.
(2) Another hot tip when driving the Mexico's roads is road hazards. A person standing on the road lowering his hand towards the pavement repeatedly is trying to tell drivers to slow down for some particular road issue ahead. It could be a parked vehicle ahead or a road crew doing maintenance. Keep an eye.
(3) Pemex is the main gasoline company in Mexico. Pemex stations accept payment in Mexican pesos and U.S. dollars. Credit cards are usually not accepted at Pemex stations. If you want to break a (U.S.) 100 dollar bill this is the place to do it. The workers at these stations carry lots of cash!
Driving a car into Mexico can be a spectacular adventure! And being properly
insured can ease the stress of driving in a foreign land. The minimum required
liability insurance in Baja is not expensive, but adding full collision
coverage to the policy can increase the price considerably. There are several
drive-through insurance companies just north of the border at each of the
border crossings. Most of the different
companies at these offices offer similar rates. For a more aggressive rate,
and for annual policies, it might be worth the time to shop around and utilize
the services of the smaller insurance companies that don't have to support
the large overhead of the border offices.
For more valuable insurance information visit the INSURANCE section of Mexico Expo.
Telephone (619) 420-0086.
Fax (619) 420-0088.
Family owned since 1993 plus over 22 years experience in the international insurance business.
Affiliations with over 80 agents in Mexico.
Full Mexican insurance services.
APPLIED RISK INSURANCE SERVICES
Telephone (800) 262-1994 * (800) 654-7504.
Daily, monthly and annual premiums available.
Telephone (800) 909-4457.
Fax (800) 909-1007.
28636 Front Street, Suite 203, Temecula, California, 92590.
Mexican insurance the easy and inexpensive way . . . by phone!
Telephone (800) 680-2252.
Fax (619) 429-8805.
2222 Coronado Avenue, San Diego, California, 92154.
Instant insurance quotes via their web site, or purchase in person at the office, 3 miles north of the border.
DRIVE MEXICO INSURANCE
Telephone (800) 557-1977.
Fax (858) 759-8677.
Instant Mexico insurance via fax. Open 7 days a week.
Check web site for further information.
Telephone (800) 345-4701.
Fax (619) 690-6533.
233 Via San Ysidro, San Ysidro, California, 92173.
Right off of the Interstate 5 offramp at Via de San Ysidro.
Fully computerized policies, convenient border location. Open 25 hours a day!
MACAFEE & EDWARDS AVIATION INSURANCE
Telephone (800) 334-7950.
Immediate telephone quotes for your bird. Fax / mail policy the same day.
Visa and MasterCard accepted.
Telephone (866) 367-5053.
Fax (416) 363-7454.
133 Richmond Street West, Suite 600, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5H 2L3.
Auto, aircraft, boat, RV, travel and commercial insurance for Mexico.
Servicing Canadian and U.S. travelers.
More information available on their web site.
Telephone (800) 966-6830.
Fax (310) 652-5849.
8929 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 220, Beverly Hills, California, 90211.
Insurance for cars, motorhomes and boats headed for Baja.
99 Bonita Road, Chula Vista, California, 91910.
Located just west of the 5 Freeway at the Via de San Ysidro offramp.
Probably the easiest place to get last minute insurance before crossing the border.
They also have an attorney hot-line, but all you really need is liability insurance.
Underwritten by Seguros Tepeyac Insurance Company.
Carlos Fiesta found out the hard way that this is a good company when he totaled his 735 BMW on the Baja Highway just south of La Salina!
ROMERO'S MEXICO SERVICE
Telephone (949) 548-8931.
1600 West Coast Highway, Newport Beach, California, 92663.
Auto and boat insurance / fishing permits / tourist permits / hunting permits / yacht port entry documents.
Many years serving Baja travelers!
Telephone (800) 222-0158.
In the Mexico insurance business for over 55 years!
Underwritten by a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Electric.
Claims settled in the United States and paid in U.S. dollars.
Contact Floyd Woods for information!
SEGUROS LA TERRITORIAL INSURANCE
Telephone (800) 909-4457.
Fax (800) 909-1007.
2555 Yesteryear Lane, Fallbrook, California, 92028.
Baja insurance for autos, RVs and boats. Low rates, free quotes, since 1937.
Baja is one of the easiest parts of Mexico to figure out. This long and slender
peninsula is serviced by one major road, Mexico Highway One. You can get on
the highway at the U.S. / Mexico border at Tijuana and travel 1,062 miles south
where the road ends by the Cabo San Lucas Marina at Land's End.
There are a few other key roads such as Highway 5 from Mexicali to San Felipe,
and Highway 19 from La Paz to Cabo, but Baja doesn't get too much more
complicated than that. Unless you decide to head off of the blacktop. Then
you might want to grab the Baja Map from Auto Club!
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