Driving Through Mexico: Safety Tips and Scenic Routes

driving in mexico road trips
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Driving Through Mexico: Safety Tips and Scenic 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.

You can taste different foods and even get to know different cultures.

Driving in Mexico allows you to improvise. So you will be free 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 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?

driving in mexico road trips
Source: chrupka / shutterstock.com

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.

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?

driving in mexico road trips
A Mexican gas station – Source: Guajillo studio / Shutterstock.com

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

  1. If you don’t have a license plate, you must carry a provisional permit to drive without it and a registration card.
  2. If traffic officers stop you and don’t carry these documents, or if they are not valid, you may be subject to penalties.
  3. If you are behind the wheel, avoid distractions, and don’t use mobile devices while driving. All vehicle occupants must wear seat belts.
  4. Respect the signs and the maximum recommended speed, especially in adverse weather conditions.
  5. Do not drive under the influence of alcohol or hallucinogens.
  6. Talk to your family and let them know what your travel plans are, as well as the route you plan to take.

This way, they will know where to find you or who to contact in an emergency.

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.

Prevent dizziness

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 to 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.

Going to a service station and checking more specific things, such as oil, antifreeze, and brake fluid, is also advisable.

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

driving in mexico road trips
The stunning Baluarte bridge in Durango – Source: PixelesAereos / shutterstock.com

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 and 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 country’s largest number of colonial buildings.

Five days will barely be enough for this trip.

The distance between Durango and Zacatecas is approximately 350 km.

Recommended hotels

Durango: Hotel Gobernador

Zacatecas: Hotel Baruk Teleferico y Mina

2. Driving in Mexico: Morelia and Guanajuato

vamonos to mexico
Source: eskystudio / Shutterstock.com

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.

Visiting the plazas of Morelia is very pleasant.

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. Going 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.

Recommended hotels

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

driving in mexico road trips
Church and snow-covered volcano in Puebla – Source: Cristobal Garciaferro / shutterstock.com

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.

Visiting the colonial convent complexes with all their art is a great attraction.

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.

Recommended hotel

Zacatlan, Puebla: Casa San Miguel Hotel Boutique & SPA

4. Driving from Guadalajara to Nuevo Vallarta – Mexico

driving in mexico road trips
The beautiful town of Tequila, Jalisco – Source: zstock / shutterstock.com

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.

Recommended hotels

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

vamonos to mexico
The lighthouse in Veracruz – Source: David Arciga / shutterstock.com

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.

Recommended hotels

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

driving in mexico road trips
The famous Pink Lagoon in Ria Lagartos – Source: stacyarturogi / shutterstock.com

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 by 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.

Recommended hotels

Campeche: Hotel Mision Campeche America Centro Historico

Valladolid, Yucatan: Hotel Mesón del Marqués

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