Is it Safe to Road Trip in Mexico? Driving Guide and Routes
Road trips are always a good idea, and driving around Mexico is no exception.
Getting away with your family, partner, or friends and visiting magical destinations make your life much more exciting.
I’m a big fan of road trips. Watching through the window the beautiful landscapes while listening to your favorite playlist is a unique feeling.
Besides, you can make several stops in places on the way to your final destination, making your trip much more fun and interesting.
Driving in Mexico allows you to improvise. So you will have the freedom to change your route as often as you want or stay in a place you have fallen in love with for longer than planned.
However, traveling by road has its disadvantages, as some people can get dizzy or if it is a journey of several hours, your ride can become very tiring.
But don’t worry. In this article, I will provide tips to make your road trip in Mexico a fantastic experience.
Is it safe to travel by road in Mexico?
Giving a definitive answer to whether it is safe to travel by road in Mexico would be like saying that our country, in general, is safe or unsafe.
It will depend a lot on the situation, the route, the precautions taken, and the destination that does not put you in the wrong place at the wrong time.
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I’ve personally driven most of the Mexican territory. Never had any problems. I guess because I’m not looking for them.
Can I drive in Mexico with a U.S. license?
Yes, you can. U.S. and Canadian driver’s licenses are recognized in Mexico.
However, your foreign insurance policy won’t work in Mexico.
You may want to read: How to Rent a Car in Mexico in 2023 (and Driving Etiquette!)
You will need to get a Mexican one when you are here.
What do I need to know about driving in Mexico?
Everything is laughter and excitement when planning a trip, but have you ever wondered what you need to travel to Mexico?
In Mexico, it is important that whenever you travel by road, you always carry the following mandatory documents in your car:
- Vehicle registration card
- Pollutant emission sticker
- Current liability insurance policy
Important tips when driving in Mexico
- If you don’t have a license plate, you must carry a provisional permit to drive without it and the registration card.
- If you are stopped by traffic officers and don’t carry these documents, or if they are not valid, you may be subject to penalties.
- If you are behind the wheel, avoid distractions, and don’t use mobile devices while driving. All vehicle occupants must wear seat belts.
- Respect the signs and the maximum recommended speed, especially in adverse weather conditions.
- Do not drive under the influence of alcohol or hallucinogens.
- Talk to your family and let them know what your travel plans are, as well as the route you plan to take.
This way, in case of an emergency, they will know where to find you or who to contact.
It is essential that when traveling, you are in the best conditions, especially if you are going to drive.
This way, you will avoid accidents and enjoy the trip in the best way.
If you are very sensitive and get dizzy quickly when traveling on the road, I recommend taking a pill for motion sickness half an hour before starting your road trip.
This way, you will avoid getting dizzy on the road and enjoy the trip better.
If you forget to take your motion sickness pill (which you can get at any drugstore), carry lemon in the car or wherever you travel.
And when you get dizzy, take some lemon juice, which will relieve you.
Avoid lonely places when driving in Mexico
For safety reasons, it is important not to stop in places that look lonely, or you do not know.
Especially if there is a history of being unsafe or if you have heard the news of crime in the area.
If you must stop, look for gas stations or auto parks to be safe.
Check your vehicle before going out on the road
Before leaving, check the fluid levels of your engine, tire pressure, and lights, among others.
It is also advisable to go to a service station and check more specific things, such as oil, antifreeze, and brake fluid.
Carry a first aid kit
It is always essential to have a first aid kit on hand when traveling.
You never know what might happen, so carry pain pills, some medicine for stomach ailments, disinfectants, bandages, and gauze.
6 best places to go on a road trip in Mexico
1. Mining roads from Durango to Zacatecas
This tour combines the history of mining and colonial wealth.
It includes many temples with beautiful architecture, former haciendas, rocky landscapes, Mexican and American movie sets, sites with legends, and several museums.
Admire the “Western” towns near Durango, in addition to the Historic Center.
Visit the Devil’s Bridge in Navacoyán and Hacienda de San Diego.
Stroll the streets of the Magical Town of Nombre de Dios. With colonial buildings and visit the springs of La Constancia and Los Salones.
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Enter the baroque chapel of the former Hacienda de Juana Guerra; admire the stone forms of the Sierra de Órganos; walk through the streets, portals, temples, and mansions.
Enter the tourist mines of Fresnillo and Zacatecas; observe the ruins of Vetagrande; ride the cable car, and admire the largest number of colonial buildings in the country.
Five days will barely be enough for this trip.
The distance between Durango and Zacatecas is approximately 350 km.
Durango: Hotel Gobernador
Zacatecas: Hotel Baruk Teleferico y Mina
2. Driving in Mexico: Morelia and Guanajuato
The trip between Morelia and Guanajuato will allow you to admire the colonial art and mining history.
You’ll also observe the volcanic landscapes and huge lagoons, with the unique gastronomy of fish and strawberries.
Near Cuitzeo, Michoacan, don’t overlook the Tres Cerritos archaeological zone and enjoy dishes with fresh fish from the lake.
In Yuriria Guanajuato, don’t forget to visit all the colonial corners and admire the lake.
Regarding craters, visit those that form the Valley of the Seven Luminaries of Santiago.
In Salamanca, stop to visit its convent complexes. If you go to Irapuato in May, you will find the Strawberry Fair.
Of course, Guanajuato city is a must. Enter its tourist mines or visit the mummy museum to learn about the wealth that gave rise to this colonial wonder.
The cities of Morelia and Guanajuato are 180 kilometers apart by highways and roads.
Morelia, Michoacan: Boutique Hotel Casa Madero
Irapuato, Guanajuato: Hotel Galeria Plaza
Guanajuato City: Hotel Quinta Las Acacias
3. A road trip in Mexico through the “Sierra Norte” of Puebla
This route will allow you to contemplate enormous volcanoes.
Such as Malintzi, with its snow and wooded mountains with rocks to climb.
Also the temples, former colonial convents, hot springs, and waterfalls in deep ravines.
Especially those dedicated to San Francisco in Apizaco (Tlaxcala) and Zacatlán (Puebla).
Also, the temples of Santiago in Chignahuapan and San Pedro in Zacatlán are both baroque.
Walk through the charming streets of Apizaco and Tlaxco and admire the wood-carved furniture.
If you go in August, you will experience the Apple Fair in Zacatlan and taste its fruit wines and ciders.
Near Zacatlan, get to know the Valley of the Enchanted Stones, with its extraordinary shapes and positions.
The distance between Puebla City and Zacatlán is 124 km.
Zacatlan, Puebla: Casa San Miguel Hotel Boutique & SPA
4. Driving from Guadalajara to Nuevo Vallarta – Mexico
This is one of my favorite journeys through the states of Jalisco and Nayarit.
It is ideal for sightseeing, admiring colonial works, and gastronomic and handicraft traditions.
You’ll be amazed by the mountains full of nature which merge with the golden sandy beaches of the Pacific.
While in Guadalajara, visit the plazas, cathedrals, and colonial palaces, while listening to mariachi music.
When you drive by the Magical Town of Tequila, visit its temples, museums, and tequila factories, especially the Quinta Sauza and Mundo Cuervo.
In Magdalena, Jalisco: visit the artisan workshops of opal, obsidian, and turquoise.
In Ixtlán del Río: the archaeological zone of Los Toriles; further on, walk through the streets of the Magical Town of Jala.
Get to know the colonial town of Compostela, Nayarit, with a beautiful lake and the nearby tropical beaches of Rincón de Guayabitos.
Near the end of this road trip, stop by the paradisiacal beaches of Punta Mita and the surfing village of Sayulita until eventually reaching Nuevo Vallarta.
There is 325 km between Guadalajara and Nuevo Vallarta.
Guadalajara: Fiesta Americana Minerva
Tequila, Jalisco: Hotel Solar de Las Animas
Rincón de Guayabitos: Costa Alegre Hotel & Suites
Nuevo Vallarta: Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit
5. Mexican Gulf & Pacific road trip
This route is full of aquatic wonders. There are rivers, tropical beaches, swimming holes, and large dams for fishing and sailing.
By land, there are mountainous landscapes, historical and religious towns with festivals, cities with magnificent examples of colonial and pre-Hispanic architecture, and lots of handicrafts.
The Fort of San Juan de Ulua, the boardwalk, Boca del Rio, and the portals is a must-visit in Veracruz.
Admire the fishing boats in the Alvarado Veracruz lagoon and the mouth of the Papaloapan River.
Walk the streets of the picturesque town of Tlacotalpan, especially during the Candelaria Festival in February.
Near Tuxtepec, navigate the Cerro de Oro and Thousand Islands dams.
Swim in the pools near Valle Nacional, admire the Temple of Ixtlán, touch the great trunk of the legendary Tule tree (a huge 2000-year-old tree), and be amazed by the colonial art of the former convents of Oaxaca City.
Climb to the archaeological site of Monte Alban. And in Huatulco, explore its 9 bays with beautiful beaches.
The total drive from Veracruz to Oaxaca City and Huatulco is 635 kilometers.
Veracruz City: Grand Fiesta Americana Veracruz
Tlacotalpan, Veracruz: Hotel Casa del Rio
Oaxaca City: Quinta Real Oaxaca
Huatulco: Quinta Real Huatulco
6. Campeche to Ría Lagartos
The road trip through the states of Campeche and Yucatan includes several attractions.
From the pre-Hispanic Mayan Puuc region and other styles to the Franciscan convent establishments, among the aquatic wonders of the cenotes and lagoons.
In archaeological zones, visit those of the Puuc style, whose pyramids have Chaac masks and mosaics, such as Kabah, Sayil, Xlapac, and Labná.
Be surprised beforehand with the important sites of Edzná, Uxmal, and above all, Chichén Itzá, with its Kukulcán Pyramid.
You may want to read: What is The Mayan Route? A Road Trip Adventure You Cannot Miss
Regarding colonial works, in the city of Campeche, you will enjoy the walls, forts, and bastions overlooking the beautiful beaches of the Gulf and the mansions in its streets.
Several towns have temples and monastic complexes to admire, such as Hopelchén, Oxkutzab, Maní, Teabo, Sotuta, Yaxcabá, Valladolid and Tizimín.
As for natural wonders, there are the cenotes of Ik-Kil and Dzitnup.
The caves of Loltún and Balamkanché are sacred to the Maya.
Finally, in Ría Lagartos, contemplate the pink color of its flamingos in a jungle and mangrove lagoon.
The distance between Campeche and Ría Lagartos is 550 kilometers.
Campeche: Hotel Mision Campeche America Centro Historico
Valladolid, Yucatan: Hotel Mesón del Marqués