Tips For Renting A Vehicle On Your Next Playa del Carmen Vacation
Without a doubt, renting a car in a foreign country can be tricky. After all, understanding insurance policies can be confusing even in your native language. But when it comes to negotiating contracts, language barriers can breed a sense of nervous trepidation. Not to mention, car rental agencies tend to have reputations that land on the shady end of the spectrum.
However, by knowing what to expect and making preparations before your trip, you can avoid stress and frustration when renting a car in Mexico. Here are some top tips for a smooth and successful car rental transaction.
Why Renting A Car Is The Way To Go
Unlike Tulum or Cancun, Playa del Carmen is a walkable city. Many of the beach town’s most notable attractions are within its downtown core. For this reason, you’ll find public beaches, dive shops, gyms, grocery stores, restaurants, beach clubs, and entertaining draws just a leisurely stroll away.
That being said, the region’s diverse topography beckons travelers to experience its extraordinary beauty. From its underground river and cave system, scenic cenotes, and emerald lagoons to its remarkable reefs and tropical jungle landscapes, there’s an endless list of sites to see. It’s important to note that driving throughout the Riviera Maya is not complicated. There are no massive cities to navigate, the main highways are well-maintained, and most attractions are clearly marked.
Having your own vehicle affords you the luxury of curating a schedule based on your personal preferences. No need to pay for overpriced group excursions and chase a departing tour bus all day long. Plus, there are many remote gems (Sian Ka’an Biosphere, Kaan Luum Lagoon, Muyil Ruins) not on an existing bus route. Having your own car gives you the ability to maximize the number of points of interest you’ll visit. For example, should a roadside market or charming village peak your curiosity, the flexibility for an extra pit stop can elevate your road trip experience from fun to phenomenal.
Should I Rent A Car At The Cancun Airport?
While it makes sense to plan as many details ahead of time as possible, it’s not necessary to rent directly at the airport. Unless you plan on using the car for more than a couple of day trips, you can save money by only renting for the days you plan to explore. Nonetheless, it is beneficial to book online, ahead of time, for the dates of your day trips.
You’ll find virtually every large rental car company in Playa including Budget, Hertz, and Enterprise. As well, there are a few local ones such as Easy Way and Isis that regularly receive good reviews. One website that offers hassle-free and all-inclusive rental reservations is Discover Cars. It searches a large rental company database for availability on your dates. The site is straightforward, allowing you to select the size of vehicle along with presenting the choice of (necessary) full-coverage insurance. With the cost of the rental plus insurance, a reasonable total cost per day is around $40-$55 USD depending on the vehicle model.
Insurance Ins and Outs
Using Your Own Insurance
Oftentimes, the standard insurance offered from your credit card does not provide the necessary coverage for an international rental, at least not in Mexico. Here, the law requires a basic, obligatory coverage, which is usually included in the rental cost. However, the basic package does not provide the insurance needed to complete the rental transaction. This is where some companies take advantage of unknowing consumers and overcharge. Hence, the reason an initial quote becomes quadrupled.
Technically, you can decline any extra coverage. First, speak to a customer representative at your credit card company beforehand, and confirm the fine print details (collision and theft coverage, for example.) Request a printable copy of your statement of coverage letter, translated into Spanish is even better.
Although you bring the letter as proof, some companies still may not accept this coverage.
If you choose to bypass the additional insurance option, it’s typical that a deposit from your credit card is required. This hold on your card can range from $2500 to $10000+, which sounds exorbitant, but is a regular policy in Mexico. It is removed when the vehicle is returned in the same condition.
Purchasing Full Coverage Insurance
Alternatively, a full coverage plan through the rental company can be as little as an extra $7 USD per day. The fee is a small price to pay for complete peace of mind. The additional insurance takes care of theft and collision, plus personal liability, personal injury, as well as administrative fees. It’s imperative that you bring with you a printed copy of the additional coverage you purchased online when you pick up the car.
As with most things, the more you buy, the cheaper the product becomes.The rental and insurance costs per day are less if you choose to rent for a full week or two. But when you factor in how often you’ll use it, renting by the day might be more economical.
No matter what country you are renting a car in, it’s important to take a video with the agent as you walk through to take note of the original condition of the car.
Rules Of The Road
Sure, it’s natural to relax and let yourself be swept away by vacation bliss. But just because you’ve arrived in paradise, driving laws still apply in Mexico.
- Don’t drink and drive – The national blood alcohol limit is .08 and breathalyzer checkpoints are more common than ever. Please drink responsibly. Better yet, avoid drinking altogether if you plan to drive.
- Cell phones – Not to be used while driving.
- Speed limits are posted in Kilometers – Despite frequently witnessing drivers with a need for speed, speeding tickets are a thing in Mexico.
- Seat Belts – Though you may see a half dozen passengers riding in the back of a pick up truck around town, seat belts are mandatory. If pulled over, make sure every passenger in the vehicle is wearing one or those who aren’t can be fined.
- Police Checkpoints – Routine police checkpoints throughout the Yucatan Peninsula are typical and are nothing to fear. Most often, officers are looking for proper insurance documents, impaired drivers, and seat belt infractions. Reduce your speed and if you get waved to the side of the road, remain calm and respectful. Usually, you are sent on your way again within a few minutes.
Awareness Sets You Up For Success
In general, many of the streets (calles) and avenues in Playa del Carmen are one way. Therefore, a quick review of a map online will give you a good understanding of how the city is laid out. Fortunately, it’s an ideal size, not too big, not too small and very easy to drive in.
Topes (speed bumps) are sometimes camouflaged and can be car wreckers. While there are ‘Tope’ signs preceding most bumps, some, such as the behemoth before the town of Tulum, sneak up on unsuspecting drivers. As a rule, slow down as you enter any town as these speed deterrents are as abundant as sombreros in a souvenir shop.
When reserving your accommodations, confirm with the property where you are staying that on-site parking is available. Otherwise, parking in the streets of Playa del Carmen can be a pain.
Be Cautious At The Gas Pumps
Ordinarily, gas stations are full service in Mexico. For your convenience, attendants are happy to wash the windshields, top of fluids, and check tire pressure if you wish. However, be wary of gas pump scams. Some common ones include short changing unassuming customers, adjusting final pump totals, or manipulating starting pump totals. It’s important to verify the pump amount begins at zeros. At the time of payment, spread the cash out in a fan when you hand your money to the attendant. In this way, everyone is aware of the amount that was paid. Furthermore, never let your credit card out of your sight. In any case, whether you are paying by credit at a gas station or a restaurant, always accompany the person handling your card to avoid fraud.
All in all, renting a car is the best way to see the incredible sites in the Riviera Maya. With these tips, we hope your car rental experience will be as easy breezy as a day at the beach. For more information and Riviera Maya travel tips, contact a Bric representative or visit our travel blog page.