The unwritten rules for driving in Mexico

Sarcasm may appear

If you’re considering a roadtrip in Mexico, there’s a few basic, very simple rules you should know about.

The roads

Locals working on the roads after rain floods demanding tips is not a rare thing. It seems to us, that they don’t work as much as they demand tips. Even if you don’t want to tip them, their machetes make them seem quite convincing.

Some times you’ll turn a corner and  see kids holding up ropes, trying to stop you. If you stop they will start crawling on your car like zombies until you buy their damn bananas. The trick is to hit the rope as hard as possible. The kids are professionally trained to let go (we haven’t killed any… Yet). Below is a video of us doing what we call the “hit-the-rope-hard” trick. Watch and learn.

Topes my @#$.

Topes – what is it? Topes is the Mexican way of saying: “f#$& you” to everyone on the road. It is roadbumps that sometimes are square, mostly unsigned and not painted. They spawn everywhere. Small country roads as well as highways. They pop up like mushrooms. They feed on the souls of cars, and they will kill every little mechanism in your car, as thoroughly as a grizzly bear with a jar of honey.

The horn. The goddamn horn.

There’s a few situations where you’d use the horn here in Mexico. Some of them could be if you’re changing lanes, coming around a corner, if someone’s bothering you, if you’re in a long lane and you’re frustrated that it’s not moving, if you don’t really have time to stop for a red light and want to drive through or if you’re coming around a corner and you’re not planning on slowing down.

A quick honk excempts you from stopping at a red light. At the red light you simply drive into the four-way crossing, honk, and keep on going.

A quick honk combined with waving also means “hi” or “thanks”.


The colectivos

Colectivos or big taxis down here have suffered from not getting any attention the past years. Simple fix: mount police sirenes in the taxi, and everybody around will stop and look as if they were a deer caught in the headlights. This is how they look. Don’t turn your head or get a stroke if you hear a police sirene, because it’s for sure one of these devilish things that made the noise.


The police

If a policecar pulls up behind you during daytime with lights on – sorry mate, but you’re in trouble. Or by that I mean sometimes at least… Every second time he does it, he means to pull you over 30 % of the time. So it’s very important that you act accordingly! If  a police car, after dark, pulls up behind you with the lights on – don’t sweat it. Do like Taylor when she drops cereal between the drivers seats. Stay calm, keep driving and pretend like nothing happened. But if a policecar pulls up behind you after dark with lights AND horn on, you’re in trouble.

If a policeman on a scooter pulls up next to you and points to the side of the road, you pull over. When he tells you that you were speeding even though you were going 30mph, you make use of your grandiose Spanish vocabulary and say: “no”. When he asks if you’re sure you say: “no”. When he says “ok, hraf nice day”, you roll up your window and drive away (this happened to us in LA Paz).


Busses? Spent money on a bus ticket? haha, what a waste, no necessito! (The picture below is far from the worst we’ve seen)

Use of lights

In Mexico there’s a certain phenomenon called ‘the overtaking Christmas tree’. They’re mostly seen on the highways at night and are proudly decorated as if there’s no limit to what’s legal.

They have a special power of turning a one-lane road into a two-lane road. That is if they drive in the lanes of the oncoming cars, the oncoming car is forced to go into the emergency lane (unless it wants to collide with 10 tons of speeding steel and lights). Thereby ‘the overtaking Christmas tree’ is forcing the oncoming car out there. Now if the oncoming car is overtaking at the same time – two lanes suddenly turns into four in the blink of an eye. Magic. At its purest form.

High beams

High beams, what are they and when do you use them? High beams are installed in cars so they can signal whomever that they’re a f@#&ing idiot, allthough the horn is much better for that, but less discrete. They also find use to light up the road.

In a situation where there on a one lane road, is an icecream truck on the right side of the road and a dog on the other; he who uses high beams first has the right to go (credits to Wayne for this glorified visualisation)


Shortcuts to Hell

There’s plenty of them. You just have to look for them. For example on steep hillsides after big rain falls. Also on the roads in general in the form of sinkholes.

One thing is for sure. You’re never bored while on the road in Mexico. The first couple of days are defining; either you give up or you blend in.
Follow these rules and you’re golden! Safe travels!


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