We just embarked on a 24 day trip around the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Unspoiled beaches with lapping turquoise and emerald green waters paired with ancient Mayan ruins and of course delicious food allowed us to really enjoy our beach excursion to the Caribbean (while temperatures plummeted to the teens in our hometown of Asheville, NC).
While we consider ourselves “backpackers”, since we are pretty frugal about every aspect of our trip (cheap accommodations, cheap food, cheapest everything) we did decide to rent a car for this trip since we had big plans to fit into less than a month of travel. Renting the car followed by our plane tickets were our top two biggest expenses.
Here are a few tips regarding renting a car in Mexico…
- Be smart!! As any fellow seasoned traveler knows, foreign countries see tourism as their opportunity to make money- however possible. Scams, markups, and tourist vs local prices are real, so be aware.
- We made a reservation for a car with a third party site online, it made us feel more prepared for our arrival. This was a mistake! (We did this in Costa Rica too, also a mistake, so now we’ve learned our lesson.) After these experiences, in our opinion, it is best to arrive at the airport and haggle with some of the car rental places. Yes, you will more than likely be required to get insurance on the rental car (varies country to country), but the price you pay for it is negotiable. When we arrived at the airport we were shuttled to the company office of the rental company we had booked online. When we arrived, they informed us it would be an additional $1500 USD than the price we reserved online due to needing insurance. We went back and forth for a bit before deciding to cancel the reservation. We hopped on the shuttle back to the airport. The taxi driver recognized us, we told him we needed a different rental company. He made a few calls (surely he would get a cut if he brought a customer to his friends company), and dropped us off. A young man in a rental car company uniform met us on the corner, we explained to him our budget, length of stay, insurance needs, and desired vehicle. He wrote us a receipt for exactly what we wanted and for the price we were willing to pay, all we had to do was leave him a “deposit” of $50 USD cash for helping us out. This is likely to work in any foreign country you visit, as long as you are able to haggle well.
- This goes along with #1, but be aware of scams at gas stations. This only happened to us once, but Ricky caught it and was able to stop it. Firstly, know how many liters of gas it takes to fill up your car. This is very important so you can have a pretty good estimate of how much it will cost to fill up. The scam is that when the attendant is filling up your vehicle, at the end when you are not paying attention, he adjusts the price on the screen to charge you way over the actual amount. We were in Bacalar when they tried this scam, but I’m sure it can happen anywhere. Our car took approximately 30L of gas, and at the end the attendant was asking us to pay for 50L worth of gas. Ricky immediately knew it was wrong and called the attendant out on it, who was flustered, but didn’t argue because he knew he was caught. They went inside and Ricky paid the correct amount. Gas station attendants will also wash your windows, fill up your tires, etc. This is all free and part of their job, of course it’s nice to tip them for these services, but don’t let them charge you an actual fee for it.
- I feel the need to mention this piece of advice since so many people warned us about it, although we never experienced anything of this sorts. Do not leave anything valuable in your vehicle. All rental cars are noticeable, and you can be targeted for theft because your car sticks out as a rental.
Those were the only “problems” we experienced with our car rental process in Mexico, again, just be smart and aware so you can handle any minor inconvenience or issue that may arise.
The Loop Route
Our stops were:
- Cancun (2 nights)
- Playa Del Carmen (1 night)
- Cozumel (4 nights)
- Tulum (4 nights)
- Bacalar (2 nights)
- Calakmal (1 day)
- Campeche (1 night)
- Valladolid (1 night)
- Isla Mujeres (7 nights)
All places are unique and offer different experiences, stay tuned for more posts going into further detail about the specifics each destination have to offer! Much love, Nikki & Ricky.