This Can Get You Out of a Traffic Ticket When Visiting Cancun or the Riviera Maya

It can be a little scary to be cruising around Mexico in a rent-a-car and see the red and blue flashing lights of a police vehicle behind you.

But wait, don’t panic yet. The police in Mexico often leave their emergency lights on when their on routine patrol, that alone doesn’t mean they want you to pull over.

That’s when you hear a single blast of the siren followed by a muffled voice in Spanish saying something indiscernible over the loudspeaker. Although you don’t speak Spanish, you’re fairly certain that the officer would like to speak to you about something and you can feel your heart rate accelerate as you pull onto the shoulder of the road.

The officer approaches your window and in broken English he asks for your driver’s license. When you hand it to him, he says that he is going to give you a ticket for speeding and that he will be keeping your license until you pay it.

Fortunately for you, you’re an avid reader of this blog and you present the officer with a copy of a regulation for the State of Quintana Roo that mandates that tourists be given warnings the first two times they’re stopped, unless the violation is serious (e.g. hit-and-run).

Just in case you didn’t already know this, Cancun and the Riviera Maya are in Quintana Roo, as well as other popular tourist destinations like Cozumel, Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Now back to our story…

The officer reads the legal mandate with a puzzled look on his face because he had never heard of this rule before, but there it is in black and white. After a moment to reflect on it (and perhaps a call to a supervisor to ask for advice), the officer returns your license and releases you from the scene.

This may seem too good to be true, but it’s not. We know a few people who have presented a copy of the regulation when they were stopped and they were subsequently released without a ticket.

The Regulation

Here is the applicable section of the regulation in its entirety:

REGLAMENTO DE TRÁNSITO DEL ESTADO DE QUINTANA ROO, ARTICULO 241: Se establece en el Estado; la Boleta de Infracción de Cortesía que la Dirección de Tránsito, en su jurisdicción respectiva aplicará exclusivamente a los Turistas que infrinjan el Reglamento de Tránsito. La Boleta de Infracción de Cortesía no implica costo alguno al que se impone, siendo su objetivo señalar la violación cometida y exhortar a conducir cumpliendo con las reglas de Tránsito. La Sanción de Cortesía es aplicada hasta en dos ocasiones al mismo vehículo y/o conductor y no procede en los casos de actos y omisiones graves contrarios a lo que dispone el presente Reglamento.

English: TRAFFIC REGULATIONS OF THE STATE OF QUINTANA ROO, ARTICLE 241: It is established in the state; the Courtesy Traffic Ticket that the Dirección de Tránsito, in its respective jurisdiction will apply exclusively to tourists that violate the Traffic Regulations. The courtesy traffic ticket will not cost the person anything because the objective is to point out the violation committed and encourage the person to obey the traffic rules. This courtesy will be applied on two occasions to the same vehicle and/or driver and will not be appropriate for cases involving serious acts or omissions contrary to that which is stipulated in the current regulations.

Carry It With You

It’s always a good idea to carry a printed copy of the regulation in you car that you can present to the officer, if needed.

The following is a PDF that contains the applicable section of the regulation in its entirety and also explains that you are a tourist in Quintana Roo.

ARTICULO 241 PDF

Let’s Wrap This Up

It’s important to note that this regulation does not apply to federal police officers and there are quite a few of them working in Quintana Roo. You’ll be able to pick them out because their vehicles and uniforms say Policía Federal.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years and retired at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He moved to Mexico with his wife six days later to enjoy a laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle on a tight budget. In 2016, Paul started a blog to share information with other people who may be thinking of making the move to Mexico. The blog, Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us), has been viewed over a million times.

70 Comments on "This Can Get You Out of a Traffic Ticket When Visiting Cancun or the Riviera Maya"

  1. It would be helpful for you to let us know via this blog what to do when/if stopped by Federal Police. Hope it never happens but just in case! Thanks.

    • I plan on doing some other posts about what to do when stopped by the police, what to expect, search/seizure authority of the police and what to do if asked for a bribe.

      • Paul, just out of curiosity, how does the officer know whether or not you have already used up your TWO courtesy warnings?

  2. Related….
    There’s also laws that make a MORDIDA illegal. Should the gringo especially one who decides to drive around lunch time also carry a copy of the MORDIDA laws along with the courtesy traffic ticket regulation??

    • The officers are well aware of the law related to that because they face sanctions including dismissal and/or arrest for doing it.

      The bribe “request” usually comes in the form of offering a way to handle the matter without seizing the license. Once you and the cop know that isn’t even a possibility because of this regulation, it takes away their bargaining power. This has worked for a few people we know.

      This regulation isn’t new, some rental car companies even give a copy to their renters and tell them to present it to the police if stopped.

  3. Ilona Saunders | May 16, 2018 at 8:12 am | Reply

    Does this exist in Yucatan as well? Thanks.

    • I took a look at the traffic regulations for the state of Yucatan and I couldn’t find a similar regulation. Sorry 🙁

  4. In the event of suspected extortion (Mordida) by the Policia, an RV park owner in San Carlos gave me a copy of a form I keep in my car to hand to the Policia. It asks them to fill it out with their badge number, name and traffic violation. I hand that to them and ask them to take me to the Policia station. I’ve only had to use it once but it did work and they let me go.

  5. Would this apply when driving a golf cart?

    • If you’re being stopped for a traffic violation, yes. It is a way to promote tourism and stop police corruption.

  6. I was stopped twice at approximately the same time (early Sunday morning) leaving Tulum. The first time (March 2018) I was unaware of the routine and “negotiated” the asking price of $200 dollars down to $80 dollars so I could proceed with my license to catch my plane. In April I was stopped again only this time I stated adamantly that I was not speeding (I wasn’t) and asked for the ticket. He asked for my rental car papers threatening to keep them along with my license. Again, I stated I wasn’t speeding (even though he showed me a phony speed gun stating differently). I again said I was not speeding and asked for the ticket. He handed me my license and papers and walked away without apology or explanation. It definitely made me more aware of the speed limit, but I’ll keep a copy of this in my glovebox just in case. Thanks!!

    • Sorry to hear that you had so many bad experiences with the police down here. In the last three years, I have had about a dozen interactions with police (traffic stops and police filters) and I have only met one shady one.

      The second way that you handled it is the way to go 🙂

    • It is a good idea never to have too much money in your wallet or anywhere they can see it, otherwise, that will magically be the fine. I usually only keep 100-200 pesos in my wallet, and then the rest of my money in luggage or somewhere else that they are unlikely to search.

  7. Hello Paul, I just wanted to mention that due to the formatting of the blog, the ends of words disappear on the right hand side.
    Very interesting articles and I especially think this one is fascinating. Warning and no ticket is awesome!

  8. I read somewhere that you should carry a copy of your driver’s license and if asked for it when you are pulled over to give them that so they don’t keep your original (until you pay the ticket). Sounds like a good idea to me. Does this work or do they require you to have your original?

    • There is no guarantee that the officer will accept a photocopy of the license. The problem with a photocopy is that it doesn’t contain any of the security features that allow them to determine if it’s authentic and unaltered. If they don’t accept it, they could arrest you for driving without a license.

      Look at it this way, worst case scenario, you can always get a duplicate license when you fly home.

    • No, I have tried that, they tell me it is illegal and it would actually be grounds for a valid ticket if you don’t have your license.

  9. Tracy and Glenn McDougall | May 16, 2018 at 8:37 am | Reply

    Boy, sure wish we had known about this rule 12 years’ ago when we first started our annual trips to the Yucatan. We learned about it a couple of years later though. Thanks, Paul. Posted to my FB ~ it’s excellent info.

  10. Thank you for posting this!! Does this also apply to City cops? I got pulled over by a city cop in Felipe Carrillo Puerta a couple of years ago for failing to come to a complete stop when yielding to pedestrians on a tope and I’m still mad about it. 🙂

  11. Paul,

    I’m curious where / how you found this regulation? I did some Google searching and couldn’t find it (I hope I’m not asking for a trade secret for the blog!). What I did find were similar regulations for the cities of Playa del Carmen and Tulum, which essentially say exactly the same as the QRoo regulation. That does beg the question as to which would take precedence if there were a conflict?

    Thanks as always for this rich resource!

    • The local municipalities mirror the regulation because it comes from the state and that is what takes precedence. The easiest thing to do is to just carry the copy of the state mandate.

      There is no secret involved. I have 25 years of experience conducting legal research and I can speak Spanish fluently.

      If you’re looking for laws, regulations, legislation etc for the state and local levels, this is a useful site to start from: http://www.ordenjuridico.gob.mx/

      At the bottom, you’ll see links for the states.

      One piece of advice when researching laws in Mexico, there are often two components: 1) the law, and 2) the regulations. You should ALWAYS review both.

  12. Does this only apply to rental cars? My friends plan to drive down later this year.

  13. Ingrid Royle | May 16, 2018 at 8:58 am | Reply

    Once again , very helpful information. Thank you very much.

  14. Charles Wilson | May 16, 2018 at 9:00 am | Reply

    Wow very interesting ! Don’t need to pay the usual $200. Peso to cop.
    Thanks

    Charles Wilson

  15. Lyne Poulin | May 16, 2018 at 9:04 am | Reply

    Thank you for this! I always go into a small panic when I see those lights behind me. I now know to listen for the siren before I panic and will always carry this state mandate.

  16. Thanks Paul – did you research any other states for a similar “out”?

  17. Jerry Beard | May 16, 2018 at 9:31 am | Reply

    Having lived in Mexico for 7 months now (Lake Chapala area) I remember being amazed at how many times you see police and ambulances driving around with their red and blue lights flashing. You do figure it out in a short time and become mostly just amused by the act. Fortunately I haven’t heard the siren behind me yet!

  18. Great stuff Paul – thanks for sharing!

  19. Hannah Neufeld | May 16, 2018 at 9:52 am | Reply

    Thanks Paul! This is great information and I am making copies available to my guests. So appreciate the work you do.

  20. Thanks Paul – I have been driving in Mexico for many years, and have been stopped probably 40-50 times. It aggravates me that rental car companies continue to basically put a “stop the gringo” sign on back of the cars with their advertising and license plate racks (although rental cars are also identifiable by the number that the tag starts with, but not as easily). I have never heard of this law, and in fact have gotten some local Mexicans in the tourist industry to appeal to the governors and law enforcement over the many stops and no one has ever mentioned that law. I will for sure keep a copy of it.

    Just to add to your description, for what happens when you are pulled over, the first step is that they ask you your plans, where you are staying, etc, mainly to find when you are leaving. Then, magically, they have to keep your license until after your departure date when the court will hear your case. Three ways to handle this. 1) Tell them fine and be prepared to lose your license, but then you are driving around without a license 2) Prior to traveling to Mexico, go to the DMV, say you lost your license and get a replacement, just so that you always have a spare. 3) start the negotiations. Be prepared on this – never drive around with a wallet full of money, because that will magically become the amount of the fine. Always just carry a few smaller bills and tell them you have no more, you were going to go to the ATM when you get to your destination. I have only twice had them search anything more than my wallet, my pockets or the glovebox, so stashing your money somewhere else should keep it from becoming part of the fine.

    For the record, I have never had a cop actually write a ticket or even have an actual, official ticket pad with them, nor have they ever “called it in” to see if I had been stopped before. Most of the time, I have been able to argue with them until they get tired of the game, or, when I am in a hurry, I reach a quick settlement of 100-200 pesos. Most of these guys are fairly illiterate and very low paid (my dealings are usually on the 307 type highways or small towns), so on the one hand, I don’t mind giving them a small tip, except it encourages them to keep wasting peoples time.

    Hopefully with a copy of this law, it will make it faster to come to a conclusion.

  21. Thank you Paul! I have gotten pulled over several times in the Yucatan – once I paid the “fine” and the other I was “cut a break”… I will print this for our trip in June. We will be in Akumal – maybe we will see you around!!

  22. Debra Harper | May 16, 2018 at 10:09 am | Reply

    Can you tell us what happens if you get pulled over by Federal Police? Thank you!

  23. This form has been used by many over the years and it would not have any effect in some situations. It would apply if you were indeed speeding slightly or not wearing a seatbelt, and you were stopped by an honest officer. But if you are accused of not complying with the law and did nothing wrong this form will not help you because the officer is obviously corrupt. Or you were unsafe in your infraction in the officer’s opinion. And of course the term “serious acts or omissions”is subjective. And I don’t know if the first warnings are actually in their system so the officer stopping you knows if you have been warned previously?

    Regarding the comment about requesting the officer to accompany you to the station, that is really not practical as they will not leave their post, or drive directly there with you if they are patrolling. And a copy of your license is not an option.

    I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop in Playa because I was buckling my seatbelt while I was pulling out of a parking garage. He just happened to be right there as I was securing the belt, and from his viewpoint I was only doing it because I saw him. I always buckle up when getting in the vehicle, but here I was talking to friends in the back and I was definitely guilty. The officer was extremely polite and patient with my lack of Spanish, and showed me where to pay th fine. He took my license and told me he would drop it at the courthouse within 2 hours. The gal at the courthouse was also very nice, but the officer who is in charge of returning your plate or license made us wait 45 minutes for no reason, it seemed. All part of being guilty, I guess!

    Moral of the story, obey ALL regulations and do not pay the officer stopping you. That can be a problem for someone on their way to catch a flight, of course.

  24. Karen Bickford | May 16, 2018 at 10:31 am | Reply

    Great tip!

  25. Well, I’ve lived here full time for 18 years and never heard this rule before…live and learn.

  26. Great Info, copied and saved it just in case,
    Thank you

  27. Roberta Strand | May 16, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Reply

    Do you know where I would go to find one for Jalisco?

  28. Roberta Strand | May 16, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Reply

    I’ve gotten this song and dance so many times from the policia. A $200 peso payoff isn’t enough to get your license back now….it is $500 pesos. Inflation and all you know

  29. I am just curious if any of you law enforcement types (if you disclosed) have experienced any blue line professional courtesy while in the Yucatan.
    Or if any military folks (if you disclosed) have gotten a courtesy break.
    I find that if I dress like a slob while driving, show no visible signs of wealth, have very few pesos in my pockets/wallet (money bet for the rest ) and use one of a few terms such as I’m just a poor student or artist or I’m here on ministry usually they cut me free pretty quickly

    • I’ve been traveling to Cozumel since the early 90’s and ( KNOCK ON WOOD ) haven’t been pulled over ….yet ? I am an officer, and once went to the police station with another officer who really wanted to meet others, and we were treated like visiting dignitaries. We had brought patches & cards to share but they didn’t have any to exchange. So one actually gave me his cap badge ! I do intend to print out this regulation Paul shared as my (now) husband wont drive. The traffic scares him to death so he always makes me drive.

      • I have had similar experiences with the police here. I even carry some patches in my glove box and I even gave one to an officer who stopped me once. He seemed to forget all about the traffic violation and after chatting a bit, he let me go. 🙂

  30. Javier Macías | May 16, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Reply

    Had no idea! But also very importantly, (I´m not an expert on the subject, it´d be great if you make as usual a great research on this, but have read it on a newspaper) especially at night and especially if driving alone.-
    .
    You can´t be forced to get down from your vehicle except if your fault is serious (of course this can be subjective) as the car is an extension of your property and you cannot get out of your property without a judge order.
    .
    You can´t be forced to open your trunk (they might want you to do so to get you down the car).
    .
    Once I was stopped in the State of Mexico next to Mexico City about 9 years ago at 01 a.m. and on a lonely driveway, (I was coming back from a funeral, my neighbour´s dad had died that afternoon) the police asked me to get down, took my license and asked me to get on the patrol unless I´d give them a mordida (back then there was not as much info in the social media as now and I was younger and maybe dumber my friends would say); it was not the fact I felt in danger but the fact I had to be 06:30 a.m in the hospital in a very strict intensive therapy rotation that convinced me pay the mordida. The policemen followed me in their vehicle to the next ATM so that I´d get the money. They took the money and left. Eventually found out my county was leading the number of cases of people dissapearing by policemen and pseudopolicemen. I´m pretty sure at some point on the way to the police office they´d have someone beat me or have me killed.

    • Thanks for sharing those tips and your personal story of dealing with some corrupt officers. That must have been a very scary experience.

  31. This only applies to tourists? So if one has a Mexican drivers license and is residente permanente, one is not protected by this regulation?

  32. Marc Feinstein | May 16, 2018 at 5:18 pm | Reply

    This is probably the real reason why when I was stopped in the Cancun Hotel Zone last August for allegedly making a U-turn where the policeman said it is not permitted, I got away without having to pay for a ticket or something else. I thought I was just lucky. What I said to the officer was:
    1-I have pictures of a taxi making a U-turn at the same spot right in front of you and you did not stop him. I’ll show you pictures I took of it (I really did see the taxi make the U-turn there and followed him but I did not actually have pictures)
    and
    2-Probably the clincher: “Let’s go talk to your supervisor about this”
    The policeman then said something like: Just so you know for next time there are certain places to make a U-turn. You go and have a nice day now, enjoy your vacation and please don’t do it again.

  33. Great advice. I’m sure they’re calibration is a bit sketchy. ..

  34. According to previous comments, it’s illegal to drive without a license. Yet, every golf cart company I’ve dealt with in Q. Roo has required I leave my drivers license when renting a cart. (Even with a credit card on file.)

    So, how would you suggest dealing with the lack-of-license issue if someone is pulled over for a traffic violation while driving a golf cart? Doesn’t this put tourists in a no-win situation?

    • In those cases, the local police are generally aware that is a requirement and it doesn’t become an issue if you’re on the cart. At least we have found that to be the case in Isla Mujeres where the practice is common.

  35. I have been reading about this regulation for a long time on forums such as TripAdvisor so really while while good to know, it’s nothing new. I I would be to know if anyone has actually presented . This to an officer and what was the outcome?
    Someone said, they can easily escalate this into a serious offense to get around the regulations, if they want.

  36. joan allison | May 16, 2018 at 9:12 pm | Reply

    What about the State of Nayarit?

  37. Do you know about Riviera Nayarit? If not, where do I find such info. Love your blog. So much good info.

  38. Anybody aware of any low profile car rental companies in Cancun… that is rental companies that provide vehicles that do not have prominent markings/signs/stickers on their cars which are a dead giveaway that it’s a gringo on vacation driving a rental…..

  39. Do we know if this rule applies in Baja Sur?

  40. I have read several reports on public forums of the form being presented and not applying per the officers, but we also don’t know if the actual situation and infraction was being honestly reported. But ignorance of the law is no excuse (eg: I watched someone else just do that!).
    We’ve recently been renting long-term (3-month rental last winter and a 6-week rental next week) while waiting for our backlogged permanent resident visa to be finally approved. Over the past several years we’ve been stopped at checkpoints for a seatbelt check (front and back) but have never been detained otherwise. But we look forward to registering a vehicle soon with no rental decal!

    • Well, the best you can do is present the law, whether or not they choose to follow is, it is another matter. Of course you would have the same recourse you would have anytime an officer doesn’t follow the law, and that is to report them to a supervisor.

      As I mentioned, we know a few people who showed a copy of this and the police returned their documents and let them go. In fact, we don’t personally know anyone who has tried it and it hasn’t worked.

      Of course once you have a registered vehicle here, it will be hard to say your a tourist, so you may get a ticket and your license temporarily seized anyway. 🙂

  41. Would this also be something I can use in Merida or do they not have the same Regulation since it is a different state?

    • This regulation only applies to the state of Quintana Roo. I checked the regulations for your state and I couldn’t find anything similar.

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