Tips for Driving in Mexico and Not Crashing (VIDEO)

This video is the first of several that I have planned about driving in Mexico. I hope you enjoy it!

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About the Author

Qroo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

31 Comments on "Tips for Driving in Mexico and Not Crashing (VIDEO)"

  1. Excellent video & tips. Thanks, Paul.

  2. One of the things my wife does, she’s a native, when a lane is crowded and she wants in, she sticks her arm out the window and waves at the closest car to allow her in the lane and they usually back down enough to allow it.

  3. Excellent overview.

  4. Excellent video, Paul. Learning to drive here in Mexico requires a “when in Rome…” attitude! Every time I get in my car, I remind myself that I am a guest in this country even though I’m a permanent resident. It takes time to unlearn and relearn, and at times it’s not easy. The traffic circles are still a challenge!

    P.S. you are correct: not all “topes” are painted or have a side warning an upcoming tope.

  5. I love it! All that you said about driving is true. I live in San Felipe, Baja California on the east coast and yesterday there were 2 different cars that honked their horns. They were from the USA and it freaked me out to hear a horn. My mom was in town one time and I said “Stop” she said “Why?” I said “Because there used to be a stop sign here. It was knocked down.” LOL!!!

  6. Heh Paul, i live in Todos Santos and one of the things locals do is make u-turns in the middle of an intersection. Add that to your driving in Mexico lesson!

  7. Great tips! I have driven lots in Mexico and every point you made is a valid one! With regard to topes, in my opinion the most insidious ones are the ones that are only painted…in other words, there’s no ‘bump’ just paint. I swear they do it just to have a good laugh at the gringos!
    The other thing we discovered was the use of the left turn signal, it doesn’t necessarily mean the driver ahead of you is turning left! On two lane roads particularly those with iffy sight lines, it’s an indication that it’s safe to pass. This was very prevalent on the Baja so not sure about it’s use on your side of the country!

  8. Helpful video, thanx. I am getting used to the “third lane” and I’m using the shoulder a lot more now, as necessary. Good to know the culture of fast lane vs slower traffic. Now I get it. Look out for the motos!

  9. Thought I might add one item.If you run a red or try to beat a yellow light, you’ll be very surprised to see how many photos and fines you have when you go to re-register your license etc. Guadalajara is loaded with cameras.

  10. Very helpful video, Paul, more of that is good.
    You are doing a great service for all north American people visiting Mexico.
    Robert

  11. This was very helpful. One thing that we found confusing when we first moved here is the glorietas and who has the right-of-way. Also, with most green lights you have the right-of-way and can turn left. What about a right turn on red after stopping. Is that legal? Thanks for all your great information. Just filed my FBAR!

    • A lot of left turns require a green arrow, don’t turn even if clear. A free right is okay as long as you stopped first.

  12. Terrific info! I might add to watch out for motor scooters and motorcycles who come up upon you so fast you can’t see straight. We live in Puerto Vallarta and it doesn’t matter whether you were in town or out of town watch out! Many thanks!

  13. Hi there. Good and very useful video, especially for unfamiliar tourists. One point you might want to add is directional signaling. Mexicans frequently , for example, signal right to let you know that you can pass, instead of indicating that they are going to turn right… etc. etc. Regards- Frank

  14. Garrett Klassen | August 15, 2021 at 3:39 pm | Reply

    Greater, entertaining report Paul. And so true. In Chapala, where we live, we call that imaginary third center lane the “suicide lane.” I’ve faced oncoming vehicles using that lane on blind curves on an incline. I always drive on the shoulder on those roads. My rule for driving here is, I know that guy is going to turn left in front of me, and he knows that I know he is going to turn left, so he turns left and I just let him. No horns, no problem, no harm, no foul. In a future video, I’m sure you will cover the “Left Hand Turn Signal” scenario. It has five different meanings as best I can tell. 1) The driver is actually going to turn left. 2) The driver is going to pull over to the right in order to turn left. (You get that one.) 3) The driver forgot the left turn signal is on. 4) The truck in front of you is signalling that it is safe to pass. And 5) Motorcycles: They often drive with their left turn signals always on just to improve visibility. Just a few of the reasons why I love Mexico!

  15. Good one, Paul! I’ve noticed that when the car in front has their left directional blinking, this can mean either of two things: a signal to pass on the left or a signal for a left turn. One needs to develop interpretive skills. FYI: I hope this doesn’t anger you, but in our area, the topes are called “dead policmen.”

  16. We have been coming to Cozumel for about 20 years now. Two things I have observed are that (downtown) the stop signs seem to be advisory and I have never seen a taxi pulled over for speeding! 🙂

  17. Thank yo for a great video. I am curious about your drive down the Baja, will you post a video about that? Thank you for all your great information!

  18. Samantha Martel | August 15, 2021 at 8:14 pm | Reply

    Bravo Paul, great insight/ info. I have been driving here for 30 years as a tourist and now Residente Permanente.
    You got it so right and it was helpful!

  19. As always, great info shared. We’re moving to Puerto Vallarta in January 2022 so absorbing every bit of information I can. Excited about this new chapter in our lives!

  20. Edward Figlewicz | August 16, 2021 at 9:29 am | Reply

    another great info video. thks

  21. Charles L. Twist Jr. | August 17, 2021 at 10:32 am | Reply

    Great video. I actually love driving in Mexico. The only problems I have is when I’m lost or don’t know where the retorno is and they flash their lights behind me. I don’t get out of their way because I’m looking for the retorno and the traffic is moving at lightning speed all around me leaving me giving me no room or time to react, without possibly missing the retorno.. Thanks again!

  22. And, at least on Cozumel, if you are driving a car or truck, when at a stop sign or stoplight, be prepared for scooters and motorcycles come up from behind you on both the left and right sides of your vehicle. Well, actually, that will happen when you are in motion, too.

  23. Best video yet! Made me smile over and over- every point made was true!well done!

  24. Jennifer Millican | August 23, 2021 at 2:11 pm | Reply

    I had to drive A LOT the last time I was there. Also following a realtor that might not have been the best driver in either country.
    I was shocked at how chill I was. In the U.S. drivers make me crazy. In the crazy driving in Mexico I just went with the flow and knew I’d get there when I got there. The only difference was me. It definitely made me wonder. This video was perfect. I still think there is some kind of Mexican road mojo that we need in the states

  25. Very true, very true..
    I didn’t have the benefit of watching this video on how driving works in Mexico. I had to learn by watching what other drivers do, especially using the “shoulder” as a driving lane, I kind of figured it can be used somehow because the line is broken but once I saw other drivers using it, I found it useful to let others pass me and to try to pass others. But I think you should warn your viewers of the following…
    1.) The lanes aren’t always marked or they are faded or almost non-existent. So basically you’re guessing where your car should be if you’re going straight on a multi-lane road in the same direction.
    2. Glorietas. The ones with traffic signals flashing a red/turned off or Stop signs are free-for-all frenzy’s. I used to hate these glorietas due to their chaotic nature, but I got used them and found them better than the ones controlled by traffic signals, as traffic tends to flow better. Just watch for cars crossing your path!!

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