We always recommend renting a car while visiting the Riviera Maya. There are many little roads to travel and places to explore, most of which is best done with a rental car and comfortable shoes. Car rentals can be easily completed online at any of several websites and are often very affordable.
There are rental car agencies in Akumal such as Akumal Guide. The rates are usually higher (around $70 US per day for a Nissan Subcompact) when you rent locally, but if you only need a car for one or two days this is a great option also the service is excellent.
We have found the best rates by reserving cars online, prior to arrival. During low season (August, September and October) you can sometimes find a good deal by negotiating directly with the agent at the desk, we always recommending shopping around before you go and having a good idea of what you can expect to pay before you go.
If you have a baby or young child, you should either bring your own car seat or booster seat with you, or make sure that the rental company has one that they can rent to you. Here in mexico it is not a legal requirement for children and babies to travel in car seats and you may find that the rental companies just don't offer them.
When shopping for car rentals the following information on insurance may help. Insurance is broken down into different categories. The required insurance is the "Additional Liability Insurance" also known as the ALI. We recommend the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Protection (TP) also. It is preferable that you purchase these through the rental company, they are however often available through major credit cards. Please check with your credit card company for availability and details. The trick to renting a car in Mexico is understanding the need for liability insurance. While often listed as "optional" liability insurance is a must have when driving in Mexico. Additionally many car rental companies will place a large "hold" on your credit card should you choose not to purchase their insurance. (Often in the neighborhood of $2000 US). The cost of liability insurance is seldom included in the daily or weekly rental rate quoted online and is generally only disclosed in very fine print. It is important to have proof of insurance on hand in case of an accident or dispute. This will save you both and time and money.
TRAVEL TIPS FOR DRIVING IN MEXICO
Driving around the Riviera Maya is generally very easy. The main access route is the 2 lane Highway 307 which runs north to south parallel to the Caribbean Coast from Cancun all the way down to the Belize border. Almost all of the towns in the Riviera Maya are located directly off this highway so it is really easy to find everything.
As you would do in your own country, please observe the traffic laws in Mexico. Drinking and driving is illegal, as is speeding and driving without a seatbelt.
Along the way you may see military or police check points (there is one just south of Cancun, and another just south of Playa del Carmen, and in Tulum, and at busy times of year the military set up random vehicle check points along the roads). These guys do a fantastic job of keeping the Riviera Maya safe by deterring bad guys, and they are generally polite and courteous. If you are asked to stop, don’t worry. If they ask you any questions at all, usually it’s just where you are going, and where you have come from. Normally they just want to take a quick look inside the vehicle and make sure that all is well. It takes no more than a couple of minutes and then they will thank you and wave you on your way.
What to do if you have been stopped by a federal or municipal police officer? If you have broken the law, then the chances are that they will write you a ticket which you will have to go to the police station and pay, just like in your own country. You can plead with the officer and promise that it will not happen again, and sometimes they let you off with a warning depending in the offence.
If you believe that you have not broken the law, then suggest that you both go to the police station and contest the charge. Realistically the hassle involved in fining tourists makes it unattractive for the officer to take you to the station so they will normally let you off with a warning.
Now, while the vast majority of cops in Mexico are helpful, polite and honest (and you should always approach them as such), there are always a few exceptions that request/accept bribes. Please know that this is illegal in Mexico. If a cop asks you for money, tell him in a polite and calm way that it is illegal to do that in your country and that you have been told that it is the same in Mexico. If he persists, write down his name "nombre" and badge number "numero", and ask that he write you a written ticket "multa escrito" . The tickets are usually way less than a bribe would be anyway so it’s worth your while just taking the ticket if you have broken the law. If he has asked you for a bribe, then he is unlikely to want to give you his name, badge number or a ticket so you will normally find that he will give up and let you go on your way. Please do report him though. The hotline number to report bad cops in Mexico is toll free 91-800-00148 or in Mexico City 604-1240. The Mexican Government is cracking down really hard on this kind of thing.
Keep photo copies of your IDs in the vehicle and hand them over as proof of identification. If they ask for the originals then tell them that you have left them in the hotel safe. You can always "find" them again if need be. I have been told by cops that a photocopy of your ID is acceptable, but you always need to have some sort of ID with you.
Don’t get yourself angry and worked up, as generally the police are just doing their job. Nobody is there to do you any harm, in the absolute worst case scenario a bad cop is just looking for some extra pocket money, and once he sees that you know your rights he will probably give up. If you do not speak Spanish then speak to them clearly in English. Most cops have a little understanding of English, and if you throw a couple of the Spanish words mentioned above into the mix you will certainly get your point across.
Don’t bribe cops as, other than it being illegal in Mexico to bribe a police officer, it just encourages this sort of behavior.
Obey the law and observe the constantly changing speed limits along the highway, especially when heading to the airport to catch your departing flight.
Don't park next to a sidewalk that is painted yellow as this is a no parking zone (it is usually, but not always, accompanied by a sign). They will either tow your car or they will take your license plates to the police station and you will have to pay the parking fine to get them back.
Keep an eye out of speed bumps "topes" as they are numeros in this region and often not very well marked, giving you a lift off experience that only a "Dukes of Hazzard" style horn blast would complete.
Be a courteous road user just as you would anywhere else and you will have a safe and happy motoring experience in Mexico.