Tips for tourists who drive in the Yucatan
The Yucatan is one of the easiest places in Mexico to drive, with wide, well-paved roads that are well maintained. Drivers here are polite, making driving in this locality a pleasant experience.
The number of tourists coming to Mexico increased 9% in 2016, making it one of the best years for tourism ever. Many of these tourists come here from the United States by car, or fly in and rent a car to drive while they are here. You may notice that the driving etiquette in Mexico may not be understood by those who come from the United States or elsewhere.
Local Driving Customs
In Mexico, we tend to drive fairly slowly compared to drivers in other countries, particularly those who come from big cities. These drivers may go very fast and can get frustrated when drivers ahead of them are traveling slowly.
Foreign drivers may not understand the Mexican custom of pulling over to let a faster driver overtake you. In particular, the custom of using your directional signal to indicate to the other driver that they should pass you is not widely used elsewhere in the world. If you are signaling for a driver to pass and they don’t, it may be because they’re unfamiliar with our custom.
Dangerous Night Driving
Driving at night is something that every motorist needs to be wary of, whether a local or a tourist to Yucatan. Many of the ‘libre’ roads have pedestrian traffic at night that is not easy to spot, due to poor lighting. Even in urban areas where the street lighting is much improved, it is important to be vigilant as there are frequent cases of drunk driving in the evenings.
Here in the Yucatan, we tend to use our horns a lot when we’re driving. We use them to get someone’s attention or warn of impending danger, or sometimes just as a greeting. This is also a fairly uncommon occurrence in other places in the world.
In most countries, the horn is used as a warning or to encourage someone to speed up or go. In other countries, beeping your horn at someone may be considered somewhat aggressive, so if you give a friendly beep and the driver you beeped at seems upset by it, they may be a tourist.
This is particularly true of drivers from the United States. In New York City, honking your horn for the purpose of moving traffic along (even if there was nowhere for it to go) became so commonplace and so annoying that it was outlawed.
Drivers from other countries may have less experience avoiding the potholes that we take for granted in some areas. They may also have difficulty driving in heavy rain since the rain we get here is unusual in many other places, particularly the southwestern United States which is very dry. A driver from Arizona may be quite surprised at the challenges of driving during a Yucatan rainstorm!
Understanding what makes driving in the Yucatan unique will help you to sympathize with tourists who may be unfamiliar with our driving customs.
By Jenny Holt for The Yucatan Times