Renting a Car in Cancun: Everything You Need to Know (2023)

Jeep rental car in Mexico

With its spectacular white sand beaches and sparkling turquoise waters, it’s no surprise Cancun is one of Mexico’s most popular places to visit. While this world-renowned tourist destination is famous for its seaside resorts and vibrant nightlife, there’s so much more to see. Renting a car in Cancun is the best way to explore beyond the beaches and get off the beaten path!

Driving a rental car gives you the freedom and flexibility to visit the Yucatan Peninsula’s top destinations and hidden gems. Places like Chichen Itza, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Merida, and more are all a relatively short drive away from Cancun.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor to Mexico, there are a few things you need to know before getting a rental car in Cancun to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. We’ve rented cars multiple times in the Yucatan, including in Cancun and we’re going to share our best advice to help your car rental process go smoothly.

In this article, we’re covering everything you need to know to rent a car in Cancun, including the best place to rent a car, rental requirements, mandatory Mexican insurance, nearby destinations to visit, and our top tips for driving in Cancun.

We link to products and services we think are useful for our readers. We may earn a commission for purchases made through some of these links. There’s no extra cost for you and it helps support our work. We really appreciate your support!

Best Car Rental in Cancun: Discover Cars

For the best Mexico car rental rates, book online with Discover Cars. Discover Cars compares rental deals from international and local companies to help you find the best deal on your rental car.

Should I Rent a Car in Cancun?

Booking a car in Cancun is an awesome way to explore the Yucatan Peninsula. In fact, renting a car in Cancun to drive to Tulum is a common method for visitors to get to the popular seaside town from the international airport.

Whether you plan on taking a few day trips or going on an epic road trip, a rental car is a fantastic option for getting away from the city and immersing yourself in the local culture. 

Cancun and the surrounding area are known as some of the easiest places to drive in Mexico. Flying in and renting a car at the Cancun Airport lets you wander around the stunning Yucatan Peninsula at your own pace.

With a car, you can take the time to stop for a swim at freshwater cenotes and shop for local handicrafts in the villages along the way. Most importantly, you can escape the crowds and head to the region’s hidden gems and less-visited ruins. 

There are so many incredible places to visit by car in Cancun and the Yucatan. Stroll through the yellow town of Izamal, climb the pyramid at the Uxmal ruins, or snorkel in Cenote Dos Ojos

Cancun Car Rental Alternatives

If you’re not planning on doing much exploring or would rather not drive, it’s best to get a private Cancun airport transfer to your hotel and book some fun Cancun day trip tours through a reputable online tour company like Viator.

To get around without a rental car, you need to use local taxis, public transportation, or first-class ADO buses. ADO buses are a comfortable, cheap, and safe way to get around central and southern Mexico without renting a car. Bookaway is our favorite site for buying bus tickets and booking ferries to the islands near Cancun like Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, and Holbox.

Unfortunately for Uber fans, rideshare services are not a popular option in Cancun and most resorts will not allow them on the property. There is no Lyft in Mexico and Uber was prohibited in Cancun for several years.

While renting a car for your stay in Cancun isn’t absolutely necessary, it’s definitely worthwhile!

Is it Safe to Rent a Car in Cancun?

Yes, it is widely considered safe to rent a car in Cancun. We have rented cars multiple times in the area and would do it again in a heartbeat!

Cancun is located in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatan Peninsula. This region is a world-renowned vacation destination with countless tourist attractions along the Riviera Maya and inland, including Chichen Itza (one of the New 7 Wonders of the World), and popular cities like Cancun, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Merida, Valladolid, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, and Holbox.

Cancun Road Conditions

The Yucatan Peninsula is home to very few hills and zero mountains and the roads are generally well-maintained. The peninsula’s flat and easy-to-drive roads make for a relaxing and enjoyable cruise. Although it’s a touristy area with a lower crime rate than many other states in Mexico, travelers should still remain aware of their surroundings and avoid engaging in illegal activities. 

If you don’t have experience driving in Mexico, you should learn about local traffic laws and driving customs before getting behind the wheel of your rental car. Check out the Cancun driving tips at the bottom of this article for advice based on our first-hand experience with driving rental cars around Cancun. 

Rental Car Insurance

Of course, you don’t want to think about everything that can go wrong, but accidents and flat tires do happen. While Mexico requires liability insurance at a minimum (more on that below), it’s best to be prepared for the unexpected by getting full coverage auto insurance for your rental car.

For medical coverage, consider getting travel and health insurance for your trip. World Nomads Travel Insurance offers simple and flexible travel insurance coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation, and more. You can buy it while at home or if you’re already traveling and claim online from anywhere in the world.

How to Rent a Car in Cancun: A Step-By-Step Guide

Navigating the car rental process in a foreign country like Mexico can be difficult, but it’s easy once you get familiar with how it works. Overall, it’s a fairly simple procedure, and similar to renting a car in the US, except that you need a valid passport and Mexican liability insurance.

Below is a step-by-step guide to renting a car in Cancun online with Discover Cars. We’ll walk you through each step, from how to find the best deals to our tried-and-true method for ensuring a smooth car rental return. 

1. Go to the Cancun Car Rental Website: Discover Cars

Go to the Discover Cars website to enter your pick-up location and pick-up and drop-off dates. Check the country of residence and age at the bottom of the form are correct to get the most accurate search results.

Discover Cars searches the best car rental companies in Cancun, like Hertz and Enterprise, to find you the best deals online. They have a variety of rental car options for a range of budgets from both local and international car rental companies. 

When you reserve a car through Discover Cars, you get no hidden fees, 24/7 customer support, and free cancellations. They also have a price guarantee and they offer full coverage protection (including coverage for windows, mirrors, and tires) for less than 8 USD a day on average.

Plus, Discover Cars’ upfront pricing makes it easy to avoid hidden fees and the dreaded “Mexico car rental scam”. You can check out their 90,000+ customer reviews on Trustpilot.

2. Enter the Pick-up and Drop-off Location

Most international visitors to Cancun and the surrounding area fly into the Cancun International Airport (CUN). Renting a car in the Cancun Airport is easy and simple. The free shuttles to the Cancun Airport car rental agencies make it a convenient option for many visitors.

Cancun, Mexico is a large tourist destination with dozens of car rental locations. You’ll also see pick-up options for Cancun Downtown, Cancun Hotel Zone, and more places around the city. If you’re only renting a vehicle for a day or two mid-way through your vacation, it’s better to choose a pick-up close to your Cancun hotel, so you don’t have to take an unnecessary taxi to and from the airport.

When choosing the pick-up and drop-off locations, keep in mind that (depending on the car rental company) you can sometimes pick up the car in one location and return it in another. For example, you can pick up the vehicle in Cancun, go on an epic Southern Mexico road trip, and return the car in Oaxaca City. Uncheck the “Return car in same location” option to enter a different drop-off location.

3. Choose the Best Car Rental Deal in Cancun

Once you get to the rental car search results page, compare the car rental deals to select the best vehicle for your needs. Using the filters and sorting by price and rating makes it much easier and quicker to find a rental vehicle. 

Narrow down the search results by selecting the car size and the number of seats. Sure, you can sit four people in a cheap economy car, but you also need to make sure all of their bags fit in the tiny trunk!

Select the car specifications and extras you need to continue weeding out the cars that won’t work for you. Don’t forget to check off the box for air conditioning if you want to stay cool in the Cancun heat and humidity. Be sure to select automatic transmissions if you don’t know how to drive a stick. Go through and check off any other requirements like child seats, additional drivers, free shuttle service, etc.

You’ll see plenty of tempting cheap car rentals in Cancun, but you should also consider the rental companies’ ratings when selecting a vehicle. Use the supplier rating filter to only view rental agencies with very good (7+) to excellent (8+) ratings. Look for Discover Cars’ “Excellent Car Rental Service” badge which is given to companies with consistently high customer ratings.

4. Review the Rental Conditions and Details

The rental conditions and other details vary by car rental company. Click on “Rental Conditions” to see the company’s driver age requirements, business hours, deposit amount, payment methods, and included insurance. 

You want to make sure you meet the minimum and maximum age requirements. It’s also important to check the refundable deposit amount isn’t too high and which payment methods they accept. Some companies won’t accept debit cards.

The great thing about renting a car in Mexico with Discover Cars is that they make it easy to check if Mexican liability insurance is included in the cost of the rental car. Just click on the “Rental Conditions” link and look for Third Party Liability insurance under “Protection”. If it’s not, you need to add an estimated 15 USD per day to the daily cost because Third Party Liability insurance is mandatory in Mexico.

5. Get Full Coverage

For peace of mind and added protection, over 85% of customers choose Discover Cars’ Full Coverage insurance. Full Coverage is a cheap solution (on average about 8 dollars per day) to cover your deductible/excess charge for damage or theft, towing and taxi expenses, repair costs (including mirrors, windows, and tires), and lost keys.

While the mandatory Mexican insurance (Third Party Liability) provides coverage for damage to others, it doesn’t help if you accidentally ding your rental car door or get a cracked windshield while driving. The Discover Cars Full Coverage option does.

If you decline the car rental company’s incidental insurance, they will block a security deposit on your card to cover these types of damages and emergencies. With Full Coverage, Discover Cars will refund you up to 3,300 USD (about 60,000 pesos). That goes a long way for car repairs and towing costs in Mexico!

If you prefer to get a full coverage policy through the rental car company, you can still rent with Discover Cars to take advantage of their cheap rates and free 48-hour cancellations. You’ll just pay the insurance fees at the counter when you pick up the vehicle like you normally would. 

6. Reserve Your Cancun Car Rental

After selecting your vehicle and reviewing the reservation details, you’re finally ready to reserve your Cancun car rental!

Confirm the total cost, enter the driver details and flight number, and click the “Book Now” button to reserve.

Make sure to print out the Discover Cars rental voucher to use as the reservation confirmation at the car rental agency.

7. Pick Up the Rental Car in Cancun

After arriving in Cancun, head to the pick-up location for your car. If you’re at the Cancun Airport, your car rental agency may have a pick-up counter inside the airport building or you may have to take a shuttle to the car lot. 

The following documents are required to pick up your rental car: 

  • Passport
  • Driver’s license
  • Credit card (under the driver’s name)
  • Car rental voucher

Present your voucher and pay any remaining balance and insurance fees at the car rental company.

If you don’t speak much Spanish, download a translation app, like Google Translate, to help you communicate and get through the legal lingo.

When you receive the vehicle, be sure you know how to turn off the car alarm, turn on the lights, open the hood, etc. before leaving. If not, don’t be embarrassed to ask the agent for help.

8. Drop Off the Car

Leave plenty of time for this step if you’re catching a flight immediately after your rental car drop-off, especially around holidays and weekends. Car rental locations in popular destinations like Cancun can have long wait lines.

When handing over the keys, inspect the car along with the car rental agent. Be sure to follow our method for avoiding return fees to steer clear of any surprise charges.

Disclaimer: We’ve done our best to provide helpful information based on our car rental experience in Cancun and other destinations in Mexico, but every car rental agency has different regulations and policies. Be sure to review your rental conditions when reserving online and read your rental car agreement thoroughly. If you have any questions, contact Discover Cars for more information.

fountain in Valladolid's main square
The main plaza in the town of Valladolid. One of the many beautiful places you can visit with a rental car in Cancun.

Top Tips for Renting a Car in Cancun, Mexico

Now that you know how to rent a car in Cancun, here are a few tips and tricks to ensure a smooth rental process and an enjoyable driving experience.

Cancun Car Rental Requirements

So what do you need to rent a car in Cancun? Most tourists can get a Cancun car rental if they have the following documents and meet the age requirements:

  • Minimum age
  • Passport
  • Driver’s license
  • Credit card
  • Mexican insurance

Minimum Age

The minimum age required to rent a car in Mexico varies by company, but it’s usually 25-26 years old. Some rental companies do allow 18 to 25-year-old renters, but there is usually an extra fee for younger drivers. 

Always check the rental conditions before booking if you’re under 26 to see if they’ll even let you rent the vehicle.


You need a valid passport to get a car rental in Mexico, along with an FMM Mexican tourist card or visa. The rental agency probably won’t ask for your tourist card, but proof of legal status in the country is needed in case of an accident and for insurance purposes.

Driver’s License

A valid driver’s license from your home country is required to drive a car in Mexico. You do not need a Mexican driver’s license to rent a car in Cancun. 

You can use your regular driver’s license from the US, Canada, or any other country that uses the Roman alphabet (Hint: It’s the one you’re currently reading in).

The only exception is drivers with licenses printed using a non-Roman alphabet like Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, and Cyrillic. Drivers from these countries with non-Roman alphabets need an International Driving Permit (an official translated version of the driver’s license) to drive in Mexico.

Credit Card

To rent a car in Mexico, you must use a credit card with the primary driver’s name. The card is used for the rental car security deposit, which can range from 0 to 3,000+ USD. If you use a credit card, the amount is blocked off and held until you return the car without damages. If you use a debit card, the money is actually withdrawn from your account and refunded within a few days after you return the vehicle.

If you have the option, it’s best to use credit cards over debit cards for the deposit to avoid having cash taken out during your vacation when you might need it. 

In the past, renting a car in Cancun without a credit card was impossible. Recently, some companies (like Avis, Dollar, and Hertz) now accept Mastercard or Visa debit cards too. Those renting a car in Cancun with a debit card should check the Payment Policy section of Discover Cars’ Rental Conditions before booking to see if the car rental agency accepts them.

Mexican Liability Insurance

Mexican liability insurance is mandatory and required by law. You will not be allowed to rent a car in Cancun without it. 

Some car rental companies don’t include this cost in their total, so be prepared to pay an additional fee per day for the minimum required insurance in Mexico.

Mexican Liability Insurance: How to Avoid the “Mexico Car Rental Scam” 

Even if you have coverage back home, you need additional Mexican auto insurance for Third Party Liability to rent a car in Mexico. There’s no way to avoid paying for Mexican car insurance when renting a car in Cancun without breaking the law.

Mandatory Mexican Third Party Liability insurance covers bodily injuries and property damages to others in case of an accident. Third Party Liability (TPL) is also called Renters Liability Protection (RLP) and Public Liability Insurance (PLI). It does not cover injuries to yourself or damage to your rental car. It is simply the bare minimum coverage required to drive in Mexico.

Unfortunately, many tourists fall victim to somewhat deceptive advertising and pricing when renting a car in Cancun (and other destinations around the world). Some people refer to this as a tourist scam. The Mexican car rental “scam” is not truly a scam, but more of a misleading pricing practice that some rental companies use.

Here’s how the misleading pricing AKA car rental scam works: 

  1. You reserve a Mexican rental car for an insanely cheap rate of $1 to 5 USD a day. 
  2. When you arrive at the agency country, you discover the daily rate does NOT include the cost of the required Mexican insurance.
  3. You end up paying an unexpected additional $10 to 20 USD per day for Third Party Liability coverage.

So how do you avoid the car rental “scam” in Cancun?

Be sure to read the fine print in the rental conditions when renting a car in Cancun with Discover Cars. Always check exactly what’s included in your price quote for the car rental in Cancun. If Mexican liability insurance (Third Party Liability) is not included in the total cost, calculate an extra $10-20 USD per day.

Mexican Car Insurance Options

There are several options when it comes to purchasing insurance for a Mexican car rental. 

The easiest and quickest method is usually to add on the auto insurance provided by the car rental company. However, these usually come at a premium cost starting at around 30 USD per day.

A cheaper option is to call your travel credit card and ask about any included credit card coverage for rental cars. Many travel credit cards, like Chase Sapphire and American Express, offer rental car insurance as part of your benefits and travel protections. Always confirm the car rental agency will accept your credit card coverage before choosing this option.

Considering travel insurance for your trip? Some travel insurance policies also cover car rentals. World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 adventure activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation, and more. Depending on your country of residence, their Explorer Plan may offer some protections for your car rental.

If you’re considering driving your own car instead of renting, Baja Bound offers Mexican car insurance for foreign-plated vehicles, including those from the US and Canada.

Best Places to Rent a Car in Cancun

Cancun is one of the top tourist destinations in Mexico. As such, it boasts plenty of car rental agencies around the city to choose from.

Most tourists fly into the international airport and book a rental car at the Cancun Airport. It’s the largest car rental center in Cancun and most car rental locations at the airport are open 24 hours a day. The Cancun International Airport is home to both worldwide and local rental companies with a huge selection of vehicles. 

When you rent a car from the Cancun Airport, it’s easy and convenient to take a free shuttle to the pick-up location within the airport complex. Depending on the company, they may also have a meet and greet option where they meet you in the arrivals area.

It’s hard to say which is the best car rental in Cancun Airport because it all depends on your needs and budget. While you can find many a cheap car rental in Cancun, the lowest-priced car is usually not the best deal.

International car rental companies like Hertz, Enterprise, and Avis all compete for the title of the best car rental company in Cancun. While these are well-known due to their worldwide availability, you should check recent reviews to see if the local franchise holds up to their reputation. 

There are also local Mexican car rental companies, like Mex Rent a Car, with very good value rentals.

Types of Cars Available for Rent

Since Cancun has such a large selection of vehicles for rent, there’s a range of cars fit for any budget or use. You’ll find everything from tiny two-door economy cars to giant 15-seat passenger vans for rent. 

If you’re looking for a luxury car rental in Cancun, there are options like the Tesla Model 3 and the BMW X4 SUV. More adventurous travelers renting a car in Cancun will probably prefer an open-top, all-terrain Jeep Wrangler or something similar. It’s perfect for exploring the dirt roads along the beaches south of Tulum!

There are a variety of car makes and models available for rent in Mexico including Nissan Versa, Volkswagen Jetta, Toyota Yaris, and Renault Stepway. Unlike other, less-developed areas in Mexico with rougher roads, you don’t really need a specific car model in Cancun. Any type of vehicle from economy to premium will do just fine to get around the Yucatan.

Depending on your needs you can rent a vehicle with manual or automatic transmission, with or without air conditioning, and two or four doors. All of these options are listed in the car rental offers available with Discover Cars.

How to Avoid Unexpected Rental Car Return Fees

Car rental companies around the world are notorious for charging unexpected fees both before and after the rental process. 

To help you escape the extra fees, we’re sharing our tried-and-true method for avoiding unexpected charges when you drop off your rental car. It’s a little more time-consuming than just grabbing the keys and driving off, but it’s worthwhile.

When picking up the car:

  • Inspect the vehicle closely along with the rental car agent
  • Tell the agent about any existing damage and be sure it’s noted on the rental agreement
  • Get photos of the car and close-ups of any scratches and dents
  • Write down the amount of fuel in the tank

When driving the car:

  • Prevent smashed windows and break-ins by not leaving any valuables inside the vehicle, including sunglasses and spare change.
  • Leave plenty of space between cars when parking to avoid the doors getting hit.
  • Drive carefully and watch out for topes (speed bumps)!

When returning the car:

  • Throw out trash, dust off sand, and leave the car reasonably clean to avoid a cleaning fee
  • Fill the gas tank with the same amount it had when you picked it up to avoid a fueling fee
  • Inspect the car along with the car rental agent and, if needed, be sure to show your photo proof to avoid charges for any pre-existing damage

Car Rental in Cancun FAQs

Below are the answers to some of the most common questions about renting a car in Cancun. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section at the bottom of this article.

How much is a rental car in Cancun, Mexico?

Cancun car rentals vary in cost depending on the season, availability, type of vehicle, car insurance options, and add-ons. On average, prices at the Cancun Airport start from around 30 to over 100 USD. The Cancun hotel zone has rental cars starting at around 54 USD per day. 

For a more precise cost estimate for renting a car in Cancun, check Discover Cars for exact rates and availability for your trip dates.

Where can I find a cheap car rental in Cancun?

You can find incredibly cheap car rentals in Cancun all across the internet, but there’s a catch. Those 15 dollars per day rentals don’t include mandatory Mexican insurance or any other protections. Once you arrive at the counter, you’ll be forced to pay additional fees for the minimum insurance requirements, plus the cost of any other coverage you need.

Discover Cars consistently provides some of the lowest-priced car rentals available and they are clear about what insurance is or isn’t included.

Is it safe to drive in Cancun?

Yes, it’s very safe to drive in Cancun and the road conditions are pretty good. It’s widely considered one of the safest places to drive in all of Mexico. 

Cancun, Quintana Roo is a world-class tourist destination with easy-to-drive and well-maintained roads. It’s located on the Yucatan Peninsula, a large, flat region with only a handful of small hills and no treacherous mountains or cliffs to navigate.

Drivers around the areas outside the cities are generally respectful of other cars. Road-tripping through the Yucatan Peninsula is a fun, enjoyable adventure.

Can I drive in Cancun with a US license?

Yes, you can drive in Cancun with a US license and any other driver’s license that uses the Roman alphabet. Just make sure the license is valid. 

For car rentals, you also need to meet the minimum age requirements. Otherwise, you can’t rent a car in Cancun, even if you have a valid US license. 

Is there Uber in Cancun?

There is Uber in Cancun, but it’s not a popular option. In short, don’t depend on it. There may be none or only a handful available when you visit. 

Local taxi syndicates have been fighting for years to prohibit Ubers in the city. Ubers have just recently been allowed back after years of being outlawed. To get around without a rental car, most people hire private drivers or take taxis and public transport instead.

Best Places to Visit by Car in Cancun

There are so many incredible places to visit by car near Cancun that it’s difficult to choose where to go next! 

From vibrant Mayan villages to breathtaking white-sand beaches, here are some of our favorite spots to explore when renting a car in Cancun:


If you’re on the fence about renting a car, one visit to any of these natural sinkholes will change your mind. Having a rental car in Cancun gives you the ability and freedom to see as many stunning cenotes as your little heart desires. 

There are cenotes scattered throughout the Yucatan Peninsula’s porous limestone bedrock. Cenotes are areas where the limestone has collapsed to form a natural, freshwater pool that’s perfect for swimming.

We love driving around and hunting for new cenotes to explore. Some of our favorites are Dos Ojos, Car Wash, and Cuzama

Chichen Itza Ruins

One of the 7 New Wonders of the World, this iconic archeological site is a must-see when visiting Mexico. The famous Mayan ruins are a collection of temples, ancient roads, and sacred cenotes. Chichen Itza is located a little under 3 hours west of Cancun along the convenient Merida-Cancun toll road. Save time and avoid the long wait lines by getting a skip-the-line entrance ticket for Mexico’s most-visited archeological ruins.

For a less-visited Mayan ruin site with fewer crowds, check out the impressive Ek Balam ruins nearby. The best part about these ruins is that, unlike Chichen Itza, you can still climb to the top of the pyramid to take in the panoramic views of the Yucatan.

Tulum Beach

A bohemian beach town with stunning white-sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and beautiful boutique hotels. This laid-back, yet booming seaside destination has quickly become one of Mexico’s top places to visit. 

Architechturally-stunning hotels and trendy open-air restaurants line the town’s main tourist street about 2 hours south of Cancun. 

The nearby Tulum archeological zone is home to unique Mayan ruins overlooking a gorgeous beach. The perfect spot to cool off after exploring ancient temples!

Playa del Carmen and Cozumel

A vibrant coastal city with plenty of shops, restaurants, and beach clubs, Playa del Carmen is a fun place to take a day trip to. Make the short 1-hour drive south of Cancun to walk along the picturesque Quinta Avenida pedestrian street for shopping and dining. 

If you’d rather spend the day on the beach, head to one of the many beach clubs with bar and food service and comfy day beds right on the sand. Or take the ferry over to Cozumel Island for a day filled with excellent snorkeling along the gorgeous beaches.

Don’t miss a visit to Mexico’s most famous theme park: Xcaret Eco Park. It boasts more than 50 natural and cultural attractions, including swimming through an underground river, a coral reef aquarium you can snorkel in, and a spectacular live cultural show with traditional Mexican dances and music. 


A colonial town with colorful buildings and restaurants surrounding the plaza. There are lots of interesting things to do in Valladolid, but one of the best is simply taking a stroll around the town center for a glimpse at life in a typical Mexican town. 

Valladolid is a popular place to stop for lunch after visiting the Chichen Itza ruins. It’s located about a 2-hour drive from Cancun.

Driving a rental car in Mexico
Get familiar with the local traffic laws before renting a car in Mexico.

Top 11 Tips for Driving in Cancun

Cancun and the Yucatan Peninsula are some of the easiest places to drive in all of Mexico. If you’re hesitant about renting a car in Cancun because you’ve never driven in Mexico, don’t be! You’ll be fine as long as you now a few basic things. To help you out, we’re sharing our top tips for driving in Cancun below.

1. Avoid Driving at Night

There are several reasons why driving at night in Cancun and the surrounding area is not a good idea. 

There can be animals wandering on the roads, dangerous desviaciones (detours) due to construction, unexpected speed bumps and potholes, and unmarked curves.

2. Watch Out for Topes (Speed Bumps) 

There are many speed bumps in Mexico because they are used to reduce speeding, especially when entering towns. Mexican topes (speed bumps) and baches (potholes) are notorious for popping out of nowhere and causing serious damage to cars. 

Some speed bumps have road signs next to them, but many don’t. Keep an eye out for them and be ready to slow down at any point.

3. Take the Toll Roads

Save time and stay safe by using the carretera de cuota (toll highway) from Merida to Cancun. Tolls roads are well-maintained and have fewer stops than the libre (free) roads, allowing you to get to your destination quickly and smoothly. 

Most Mexican toll roads do not take cards or US dollars. Bring plenty of smaller bills and coins in Mexican pesos for the toll fees. The current cost for the entire Autopista Merida-Cancun route is 608 Mexican pesos per car.

The left lane on most highways in Mexico is a passing lane. Use it only when you need to pass a car and then return to the right lane.

4. Get Maps for Driving in Cancun

Download offline maps, like Google Maps or, before driving outside of the cities because cell service can be spotty to non-existent in some parts of the Yucatan.

We love our Nat Geo Mexico map and we take it on all our Mexico trips. Luckily, National Geographic also makes this Yucatan Peninsula road map. It’s waterproof and has hundreds of points of interest (including ruins and national parks), a detailed road network, and topographic features.

5. Be Aware of Military Checkpoints

Military checkpoints are common along the roads in many parts of Mexico. Although seeing armed soldiers might seem strange or scary if you’re not used to it, it’s perfectly normal here. They are there to ensure everyone’s safety and stop the transport of illegal drugs and weapons. 

When you reach a military checkpoint, slow down and wait for the soldier’s instructions. They might wave you through or they might ask you to stop and answer a few simple questions. As long as you are not carrying anything illegal, you’ll be back on the road in no time.

6. Pay Attention to KPH Speed Limits

Keep in mind that Mexico’s speed limits are in kilometers per hour (kph) not miles per hour (mph). The speed limits in Mexico are marked by a road sign with a large number circled in red that says maxima (maximum) underneath. 

If you’re used to miles per hour, there’s no need to do any conversions because the speedometer on your Mexican rental car will also be in kilometers per hour. In case you’re wondering, one kilometer per hour (kph) equals 0.621371192 miles per hour (mph).

7. Cancun Gas Stations are Full-Service

Unlike self-serve gas stations in the US, Mexican gas stations have attendants at the pump that will fill up the gas tank for you and take payments. Filling your own gas in Mexico is prohibited for safety reasons. 

The gas station attendants should show you the fuel pump meter is set to $0.00 when they begin fueling. They will also wash your windshield and check the fluid levels if needed. It is customary to tip the gas attendants about 10 pesos or more for their services.

Not all gas stations take cards, so make sure to carry enough Mexican pesos in cash or ask “Aceptan tarjeta?” (Do you accept cards?) before filling up. 

A common tourist scam in Cancun and the Riviera Maya is when gas attendants give back an incorrect amount of change or claim you paid with a smaller bill. To avoid this, make sure you count out large bills when handing them over and always check your change before leaving. 

8. Using Your Phone While Driving is Illegal 

Don’t text and drive! Using your phone while driving is illegal in most of Mexico and it’s unsafe.

If you need to look at your phone while driving to follow directions, pack a phone holder to mount on the rental car’s dash. 

9. Don’t Bribe Mexican Police

What should you do if you get pulled over by the police in Mexico? If you have done something illegal, follow them to the police station to pay the fine. Regular paper tickets are usually not given to foreigners since they might leave the country without paying the fine.

The sad reality is that most Mexican police are paid very little and some have been known to ask for a bribe to supplement their income. While bribing a police officer is illegal in Mexico, many people end up paying a few pesos to get out of this sketchy situation. But most Mexicans agree that this type of illegal behavior by police shouldn’t be reinforced and bribing should be avoided.

If you are 100% sure you have not done anything wrong, remain calm, and firmly refuse any “direct payment”. The police officer might tell you that you can either follow them to the station to pay a fine or just pay them directly for a lesser fee. Not paying a bribe is a matter of time and persistence. If you are respectful and confident that you have not broken any laws, they will eventually give up and let you go.

10. Stop at Yellow Lights and Alto Signs

A yellow traffic light in most parts of Mexico is a signal to slow down and stop. Unlike in the US, it doesn’t mean you can still go through the intersection. Many foreign tourists that are unaware of this difference end up getting pulled over by cops and fined. 

Alto means stop in Spanish. Although you’ll see plenty of red stop signs throughout Mexico, many drivers seem unaware of their existence. Mexicans typically cruise through stop signs slowly and rarely make a full stop. 

As a foreigner, it’s recommended that you abide by the local traffic laws instead of trying to imitate what the local drivers are doing. Following the local driving rules will help keep you off the cops’ radar and ensure a pleasant car rental experience.

11. Common Mexican Road Signs

Here’s a helpful list of some of the most common road signs in Mexico and their English translations:

  • alto – stop
  • cruce de peatones – pedestrian crossing
  • curva peligrosa – dangerous curve
  • desviación – detour
  • disminuya su velocidad – reduce speed
  • entrada – entrance
  • estacionamiento – parking
  • no rebase – no passing
  • puente – bridge
  • puesto de control militar – military checkpoint
  • salida – exit
  • retorno – u-turn
  • topes – speed bumps

Final Thoughts on Renting a Car in Cancun

Renting a rental car in Cancun, Mexico is the best way to explore the area. Whether you’re searching for hidden cenotes or visiting Mayan villages, a car rental lets you explore the Yucatan peninsula in a way most tourists don’t.

So what are you waiting for? Book a rental car in Cancun and get ready for an epic Mexican road trip you won’t soon forget!

2 thoughts on “Renting a Car in Cancun: Everything You Need to Know (2023)”

  1. Hey, your picture shows a 4×4, but the website youve linked doesnt have any 4×4 cars to rent. Where did youg et it from? Were looking for a 4×4

    1. Hi Michael. Discover Cars brings together most of the options from the top rental car agencies, but the available inventory is entirely dependent on the time you’re looking for and what those companies choose to offer. You can filter by SUV then look for the type you want. But even then, you’re much more likely to get an all-wheel drive because that’s generally what most modern vehicles offer now. True four-wheel drive vehicles can be quite challenging to find as rentals. If you book a premium SUV, such as a Suburban-level SUV, you might be able to call the rental agency to see if they have any in four-wheel drive or not. Hope you can find what you’re looking for!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.