The Angloinfo Blog Team shares their thoughts on driving in Mexico City and what to watch out for as a Mexico City driving novice.
Driving in Mexico City is certainly an experience. On appearance, although it may not seem as hectic as cities such as Rome or Mumbai, the city does have its quirks and the driving newbie may feel a little intimidated. What quirks are these…? 1. The number of cars on the streets is huge – around half of Mexico City’s population own a car and many commute to work daily, although plenty more make do with public transport. 2. There’s no driving test. 3. Congestion is the worst in the world, which an either be a saving grace for the newbie (ie. driving slowly, plenty of think time), but can mean that drivers are frustrated, in a rush and not so forgiving.
If you choose to take the plunge and invest in a car, we have some tips here (the word invest is used loosely, as the car is sure to suffer some scrapes and bumps).
1. Something you wouldn’t think of if you were not in a car – but never turn left across the Metrobus lane! It’s strictly forbidden and comes with a hefty fine.
2. Use Waze or Google Maps navigation to get around. If you’re not used to an extensive one-way system then it takes a while to realise you can’t turn down every street (although one day when it’s quiet and it suits you you may just do that on purpose). If you want to engage more with the city and it’s infrastructure, it’s vital to learn the ‘ejes’, which can get you to and from most places.
3. If you’re used to stopping at a red light, you may be surprised to see other drivers creeping forward to check if anything is coming and zooming off if the road is clear. This is allowed between 11pm – 5am so feel free to give it a go. We’d steer clear of this behavior in the day though (no pun intended).
4. Part of driving is letting people know what your next manouver is – in Mexico City, it’s a guessing game and you learn to read driving behaviors, as indicators are not always used. Indicators often may be signalling the opposite way to which a car is turning.
5. Carrying on the light theme, hazard lights seem to be used quite a lot here, usually to signify a very sudden stop, but also used randomly to signify other unknown manouvers.
6. The panic of not being in the right lane to turn left or right doesn’t really exist here. Bonus points if you get in the right lane in time but most drivers will take the turning they need to, regardless what lane they’re in and how much traffic they’re crossing.
7. Joining traffic on busy highways such as Viaducto or Periferico can be daunting. Where it appears there is no space to join, other drivers find a way to in the smallest of gaps. If you wait too long you´ll get beeped at incessantly. Safety always comes first but eventually you reach a point where you’re joining busy lanes at times you never normally would, and most drivers will accommodate you.
8. Stay out of the way of taxis and buses – they mean business.
9. You´ll find yourself concentrating on the actual road, looking out for speed bumps and potholes. Slow right down for speed bumps and avoid potholes where safe, without taking your eyes off the road ahead. Easy.
10. If you come back to your car and it’s gone, it’s either a. been towed or b. been stolen. Fingers crossed it’s been towed, in which case look around for anyone nearby and ask if they saw the ‘grua’ take a car. Confirm this by calling Locatel on (55) 5658 1111 and giving your number plate. They´ll let you know where your car has been taken, and you´ll need to turn up there with your driving license, ID (passport recommended), circulation card, the car’s factura (if the circulation card is not in your name), your insurance policy (which is now obligatory in Mexico City) and the fine. And of course a couple of photocopies of each.
For more information on driving in Mexico City, visit our Guide page.
Good luck! Let us know how you get on in our discussion forum!
All images are reproduced with permission.