Driving the Sac-be: Tips for driving in the Yucatan

(December 2011)

The Yucatán has great roads. Most are free; a few are toll roads. The main road from Cancún to Tulúm is a wonderful highway now with fly-overs to help you avoid the major traffic. That said, we still want to remind you of a few facts and tips for driving in this area.

Major intersections
In this area, each direction has its turn with the green light. Southbound traffic goes and it can go straight or turn right or left. The next to get its turn is the eastbound traffic, followed by the northbound and finally the westbound. Each direction gets its turn, unlike most places where north and south go at the same time as do east and west. In many ways this make it easier, especially when turning.

Once you get off the major highway the rules change slightly. Many of us who have traveled over the years know the rules but since the growth we have not had to use them quite as much, so here is a refresher:

  1. Be aware of traffic in front of and behind you. If you see a vehicle approaching you from behind and you have a clear road ahead, you should move over to the right as far as you can, giving the faster vehicle plenty of room to pass (drop a wheel).
  2. Remember on these roads the left turn signal may not mean the other driver is planning to turn left. Instead, the vehicle in front of you may be telling you it is safe to pass.
  3. On these smaller roads it is the practice, when making a left-hand turn, to get as far over to the right as possible and cross the road only when it is safe to do so.
  4. Topes (speed bumps) are a way to slow down traffic, and will usually be found at the beginning and end of a town, but several may be throughout the town. They are usually well marked.
  5. When traveling in rural areas, please be aware of livestock and wildlife. Proceed with caution especially at night and early morning.
  6. Be equally aware of people walking and riding bikes along the narrow roads; they rarely use reflective clothing or lights.

In addition to these simple tips we would like to remind you that if you have car trouble, simply pull over as far as you can and wait for one of the Green Angels to come and assist you. In addition, there will be various check points. Be polite; they are only doing their job and are not there to scare you.

No driving tips would be complete without a warning that when you stop for gas, make sure that the pump is zeroed out, that you have made it clear how much you want, and that you are in agreement of what you are paying with. There are many stories about people giving attendants a 200 peso note and their palming it and showing you a 20 peso. When getting gas always get out of the car and stand to watch the pump; we have heard that they can bump up the numbers. Also, don't let them distract you by asking you to look at tires or something in the engine.

When away from major roads, it is suggested that you not drive at night any more than needed. It is difficult to see the topes, potholes and people walking.

Contrary to popular belief, it is illegal to drive while drinking. The passenger may drink but the driver may not. And don't drive while under the influence—especially on these narrow roads where anything can wander into the street.

If you are confused by some of the signs you see while driving in Mexico here is an article that will help you understand them better.  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/03/23/mexico_mix_road_signs.DTL

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