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21 Things to KNOW Before Renting a Car in Cancun

21 Things to KNOW Before Renting a Car in Cancun

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Cancun is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico and for good reason! We mean, not only is it home to some of the best beaches on the Yucatan Peninsula, excellent hotels, and restaurants, but it’s also one of the best party spots in the world! And when you consider that memorable Mayan Ruins like Chichen Itza and breathtakingly beautiful cenotes are within easy driving reach of Cancun – renting a car here is a no-brainer!

In fact, we always rent a car when we’re visiting Cancun because of the convenience and freedom it offers us. And we’re also the type of travelers who love to explore hidden gems, and having a rental car allows us to do that. 

In this blog post, we’ll set the record straight on the dos and don’ts for renting a car in Cancun and walk you through the rental process so that the task of renting a car in this popular resort city will be a breeze. Who says renting a car abroad has to be stressful?!

In this detailed guide to car rental in Cancun, you’ll learn that car insurance is compulsory for all car rentals in Cancun, what side of the road they drive on in Mexico as well as all the hazards you need to watch out for when driving in Cancun!

And you’ll also find out how much a car rental in this coastal city will set you back and all the best places you can drive to easily in your rental car – think big-hitter Mexican vacation spots like Playa del CarmenTulum, and Merida

So, consider this the only guide you need to read before renting a car in Cancun. We’ve done the research so that you can get behind the wheel with confidence once you arrive at this epic place!

Don’t have time to read the full article? Whether you’re in Cancun for their epic nightlife, or want to try every kind of taco in town, you can’t go wrong renting a car through Discover Cars to take you everywhere from the most popular restaurants to the most remote cenotes.

Table Of Contents
  1. 1. Why rent a car in Cancun?
  2. 2. Requirements to rent a car in Cancun
  3. 3. Is it safe to drive in Cancun?
  4. 4. Cancun car rental insurance breakdown
  5. 5. What is the best company to rent a car from in Cancun?
  6. 6. How much does renting a car in Cancun cost?
  7. 7. Can I use my credit card insurance when renting a car in Cancun?
  8. 8. Where to go in your rental car from Cancun
  9. 9. What side of the road do you drive on in Mexico?
  10. 10. Tips to save money on a rental car in Mexico
  11. 11. Driving tips for renting a car in Cancun
  12. 12. Can you trust online car rental websites when booking?
  13. 13. What extras are available when renting a car in Cancun?
  14. 14. Tips to follow when renting a car in Cancun
  15. 15. What are the road conditions like in Cancun?
  16. 16. Can you leave Mexico with your rental car?
  17. 17. What should you do if you get in an accident in Cancun?
  18. 18. Should you leave baggage and valuables in your car?
  19. 19. Is it easy to fill your car with gas in Cancun?
  20. 20. What are the major hazards on the roads in Cancun?
  21. 21. Is renting a car in Cancun worth it?
  22. Other Activities to do While You’re in Cancun
  23. Where to Stay in Cancun
  24. Thanks for reading!

1. Why rent a car in Cancun?

Mexico rental car parked on the street
We always opt for a small car too!
Daniel pays for parking in our rental car in Mexico at Akumal Beach
Having a car makes visiting attractions easy!

If you want to experience a different side of Cancun, you should consider renting a car. Whether you’re just going from the Cancun Airport to the Hotel Zone or planning day trips from Cancun to awesome nearby attractions like Chichen Itza and the Tulum Ruins, by driving there yourself, you’ll save money by not having to join a tour from Cancun. You’ll also save time because the tourist buses take notoriously longer than driving there yourself. 

Having a rental car for your time in Cancun will also give you the freedom to explore the hidden gem Yucatan spots we love, like Puerto Morelos and Bacalar, and explore off-the-beaten-path cenotes and Mayan ruins like the Xel-Ha Ruins

As we mentioned, renting a car can be much cheaper than using taxis or taking tours, making it a winning choice in our view. And it will also enable you to experience a more authentic side to the Yucatan Peninsula instead of just staying in the Cancun Hotel Zone. When you have a rental car you can leave whenever you want and stop wherever you want along the way! Creating our own itinerary and schedule is what we love so much about having a rental car when we travel. 

Provided you rent from a reputable company (we highly highly recommend Discover Cars), understand what you need to rent a car here (e.g., driver’s license, credit card, etc.), and research the roads you’ll be driving on, renting a car in Cancun is a great way to explore the area at your own speed!

Related Read: If you need a ride when your flight lands and don’t want to rent a car right away, make sure to check out our guide on the Cancun airport shuttles. You’ll want to avoid the taxis at the airport that will rip you off!

2. Requirements to rent a car in Cancun

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie driving in their rental car in Mexico
Driving around Mexico!

Valid driver’s license

You must have a valid driver’s license to rent a car in Cancun – ensure it’s up-to-date, has a license number, and has a photo of you. 

The good news is that it’s unlikely you’ll need to have an International Driving Permit for driving in Cancun. If your license is written in the Roman Alphabet (the one we use in English, Spanish, French, etc.), then it will be enough to rent a car here. But, if your license displays a character alphabet as they use in Japan, China, or Korea, then you will need to organize an International Driving Permit. 

Related Read: You don’t need a license for an ATV tour in Cancun, although being a good driver helps!

Be over 18 but ideally 25

Strictly speaking, you can rent a car in Mexico if you’re between 18 and 24 years, but most rental companies will only rent to individuals over 25. There are a few companies in Cancun who will rent to under 25s, but it’s going to cost you more! On average, expect to pay an extra $10-20 USD per day if you’re under 25!

Credit or debit card in the driver’s name

To rent a car in Cancun, you’ll need a credit card or a debit card in the driver’s name to pay for the deposit. The deposit amount varies from company to company, but it’s usually around $1,000 – $1,500 USD. The car rental company will keep your card number on file and charge the deposit amount to it if you damage your rental car.

If possible, use a credit card instead of a debit card for this. As with a credit card, the amount is just kept on hold, whereas, with a debit card, they must take the money from your account and refund it back to you once you return the car.

Another option is to pay for the car rental with a debit card and just use your credit card for the deposit, but in general; we think it’s smart to use a credit card when you travel because you get better payment protection.

Passport

You’ll also need a valid passport to rent a car in Cancun. The car rental company will need to see it to ensure you’re in the country legally. They also may need to see your FMM card, which is the tearaway part of your immigration form which you filled in when you landed in Mexico, so please don’t lose it!

Insurance

You’ll need car insurance to rent a car in Cancun, and this isn’t usually included in the price you’re initially quoted, so keep that in mind. The good news is it’s quite cheap, and there are several different types of insurance to choose from. To help you decide if you need additional insurance (like collision insurance or full coverage insurance), we’ve included a detailed section on rental car insurance below!

3. Is it safe to drive in Cancun?

A photo out the windscreen while driving a rental car in Mexico
Most of the roads are well maintained!

As a general rule of thumb, driving in Cancun is safe. In fact, because it’s such a major tourist destination, it’s considered one of the safest places in Mexico to rent a car, but that’s not to say that bad things don’t happen to drivers here because they do! These “bad things” are mostly petty crimes, i.e., theft of items left in your vehicle or minor collisions. So, please don’t let that statement scare you off!

The roads and drivers are different from those in the US or Canada, and you’ll need to pay extra attention here, as driving in Cancun is a little chaotic and unorderly, to put it in simple terms. The potholes here are a nightmare, so you need to keep an eye out for those so as not to damage your rental car. However, the good news is that compared to most other parts of the country, the drivers in the Yucatan Peninsula tend to be quite calm and law-abiding.

In short, although driving here is no more dangerous than in your home country, you’ll need to remember that you’re driving in a foreign country where road conditions and driving habits will differ from what you’re used to.

Related Read: Be sure to check out our other safety tips on traveling to Mexico!

4. Cancun car rental insurance breakdown

Discover Cars full coverage inclusions
Discover Cars full coverage inclusions

We know that car insurance is a boring topic, but it’s an essential one because you can’t rent a car in Cancun without it. Therefore, it’s important to understand the different types of insurance available so that you can decide which one will work best for your vacation!

Local third-party liability insurance

Local third-party liability Insurance is the minimum requirement for renting a car in Cancun. It covers you for damages to third-party property but not for any damage to your rental car. If another driver crashes into you, ensure you take down their details so that their third-party coverage will pay for the damage to your vehicle.

There’s usually a $2,000 USD deductible if you only get third-party insurance. So if you cause $3,000 USD worth of damage to another vehicle, then you’ll have to pay $2,000 USD yourself, and then the extra $1,000 USD will be covered by your insurance policy.

This basic coverage costs between $10-$12 USD daily, and it’s compulsory, even if you have Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance through your credit card company.

Collision Insurance (CDW/LDW)

Collision Damage Waiver covers damage to your rental car, as well as theft. As we mentioned above, plenty of credit card companies offer this kind of insurance but bear in mind that this might not be valid in Cancun, so ensure you read through the fine print.

Even if it is valid, you can’t rent a car with only CDW coverage – you’ll still need to take out the personal liability insurance described above.

Other insurance

If you want to ensure that you’re covered for pretty much everything, it’s best to pay for full coverage insurance, as it will give you peace of mind throughout your vacation in Cancun. This costs between $7-10 USD extra per day and is additional to the mandatory third-party insurance, and often there are no deductibles. 

When you book through Discover Cars, you will be covered for up to $3,200 USD worth of damage if you opt for full coverage insurance. This means that if you damage your rental car, the insurance company will likely hold onto your deposit, but Discover Cars will refund it to you.

5. What is the best company to rent a car from in Cancun?

Rental car inclusions
Look for all these inclusions in the red box. These mean your Discover Cars full coverage will work.

This is an easy one – Discover Cars is our top choice for renting a car in Cancun. We’ve rented cars from them in all corners of the globe and every time we’ve been impressed by their easy-to-use website and excellent customer service.

We have a full review on why Discover Cars is legit and our experience with them if you want more info.

On Discover Cars, you can easily compare prices and reviews and even narrow down if you want a manual or automatic vehicle or a 4WD. Thus saving you heaps of time – because it means you don’t have to scroll through each individual Cancun car rental company’s website. 

Discover Cars compares local and international rental agencies by price and user rating, so you can get the cheapest rate while feeling confident that you’re renting from a reputable company. Plus, they offer full coverage insurance for a competitive price, so you can be sure that you’ll be covered for any accident, vehicle damage, and even if you lose your keys!

Warning against Mex Rent A Car

This is a warning against booking with Mex Rent A Car. We booked a rental car through them in the past, and it was a horrible experience. Despite booking through Discover Cars like we always do, they tried to scam us by making us pay for their insurance – which cost a whopping 5,000 MXN (about $300 USD), by the way! When we declined, they said our cards would not work.

Ultimately, they made us cancel our booking with Discover Cars and book directly through them, and then miraculously; our cards began working again! It’s a scam they use to get a direct booking. I will say this is a rare occurrence, and luckily, Discover Cars was really understanding and gave us a full refund. 

Instead, it’s best to go with large suppliers such as Thrifty, Hertz, and Budget Car Rentals. Remember, you’ll still get a cheaper deal booking with Discover Cars.

6. How much does renting a car in Cancun cost?

Bailey takes a photo of Daniel while he sits in our Mexico Rental car
Lets go!

Expect to pay between $40 and $60 USD per day to rent a car with full coverage insurance in Cancun. If that sounds more expensive than you were expecting, it’s because prices have risen significantly in recent years!

We recommend shopping around on Discover Cars, as you’ll often find a great deal when you do. Recently, we found a small car from a reputable car rental company in Cancun for $35 USD per day, including full insurance.

7. Can I use my credit card insurance when renting a car in Cancun?

Paying a toll booth in our rental car in Mexico
Paying a toll booth in our rental car in Mexico

Yes, you can use your credit card’s insurance, also known as Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), when renting a car in Cancun, but you’re still legally required to buy third-party liability insurance. Some car rental places may allow you to rent a car with just your credit card insurance (CDW), but this is illegal, so please be wary of such companies.

You can also purchase third-party liability insurance and then have your credit card insurance on top of that. But if we’re honest, we recommend purchasing the full coverage option through Discover Cars. As this covers you for everything – it costs just $5 to $10 USD daily. And the great thing is there are no deductibles.

8. Where to go in your rental car from Cancun

Puerto Morelos

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie in Puerto Morelos, Mexico
We love Puerto Morelos!
Bailey on the pier in Puerto Morelos, Mexico
Isn’t it beautiful here?

Just under a 40-minute drive (38 km/24 miles) is the small fishing village of Puerto Morelos. This less-visited spot is a bit of a hidden gem and is home to pristine beaches and an authentic Mexican vibe! 

If you’re looking for some water-based fun, this is the perfect place for you, as Puerto Morelos is home to a world-class barrier reef, which is located just 400 meters (1,300 feet) from shore. So, as you can guess, the best things to do in Puerto Morelos include this famed barrier reef – whether it be a snorkeling trip to check out the abundant marine life like eels, large fish, and colorful coral or a catamaran tour over it, it’s certain to be a bucket-list-worthy experience. We also recommend scuba diving in Puerto Morelos as the visibility here is excellent!

If you want to spend a relaxing few hours here, look no further than Playa Publica or the “public beach of Puerto Morelos.” It’s one of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico, and it’s usually crowd-free, and the water is calm – ideal for swimming! In fact, close to the shore, you will find seagrass beds where you can see green sea turtles and several species of rays up close!

Related Read: If you’d prefer a ride to Puerto Morelos first, check out our guide on how to get from Cancun Airport to Puerto Morelos!

Playa del Carmen

bailey on the beach in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
The beaches in Playa!
Bailey poses for a photo on 5th avenue in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
5th Avenue is the famous walking street!

Playa del Carmen is under an hour’s drive (68 km/42 mi) from Cancun. In fact, it’s very similar to Cancun -with lots of hotels, bars, restaurants, and plenty of fun activities, but it has more of a relaxed vibe, and its downtown area runs alongside a white sand beach, so it has the slight edge in the “prettiness” factor! 

One of our favorite things to do in Playa del Carmen is to shop til we drop. If you’re after some quirky souvenirs, the best place to hit up is the Playa del Carmen Flea Market – which sells everything from vintage clothes to handcrafted jewelry. While if you’re after beautiful clothing, head to Fifth Avenue, which is lined with some incredible designer stores. 

Another awesome thing to do here is explore the amazing underground cave system at Cenote Chaak Tun, a short distance from downtown. But you can only visit this cenote on a guided tour. We like this tour to Chaak Tun because you’ll have a guide to show you around this mysterious place. There are caves, rivers, and fossils that date back thousands of years. You can book a spot on the tour online!

And, of course, I can’t include Playa del Carmen on this list and not mention its renowned stunning beaches. Some of our favorites include Parque Fundadores downtown and Mamitas Beach, also located in the heart of Playa del Carmen – it can get very busy, so get here early to nab a spot on the white sand. 

Related Read: If you have longer in Playa del Carmen, you may want to check out our guide to the best day trips from Playa del Carmen!

Tulum

Tulum Ruins, Mexico
Tulum Ruins, Mexico
A huge turtle swims through the waters of Akumal Beach in Mexico
Snorkeling is a popular activity on tours to Tulum!

Tulum is a small, chilled-out, bohemian town 131 km (81 miles) from Cancun. And because everything is so spread out here, having a rental car will come in handy because then you can visit the stunning cenotes nearby like the popular Xel-Ha aquatic park, and some of the nearby ancient Mayan sites like taking this tour to the Coba Ruins

Tulum is famous for its cenotes (a beautiful natural pit filled with groundwater), and some of the best cenotes in Tulum include Cenote Calavera, Dos Ojos, and Cenote Zacil-Ha. 

There’s no beach in downtown Tulum (unlike Playa del Carmen), and you’ll need to drive to get to one. Our favorite is Paradise Beach which is about a 10-minute drive from downtown. You can rent a sunlounger here for the day or eat at some awesome restaurants that line the beach. Playa Ruinas, just below the famed Tulum Ruins, is another one of our favorites. 

Speaking of the Tulum Ruins it’s one of the most important archaeological sites in the region. Because of its spectacular location – on a cliff overlooking the bright blue Caribbean Sea, it remains one of the top things to do in Tulum. 

Related Read: Check out our guide to the best restaurants in Tulum!

Mérida

Plaza Grande in Merida, Mexico on a beautiful day
Plaza Grande is a beautiful place to people watch!

Merida is less touristy than Cancun, and that’s what we love about it! The “white city” as it’s also called, is a great place to get a dose of authentic Mexican culture, and because it’s inland, the closest beach is a 45-minute drive away. But that’s okay because there are plenty of fun things to do in Mérida that don’t involve the beach!

First off, the shopping here is great, and we particularly love the local markets here, such as Bazar Garcia Rejon, which has been around since 1862 and sells clothing, ceramic items, and unique souvenirs! 

The Méridan food is also famous, and did you know that this city is the home of Cochinita Pibil, a Mayan slow-roasted pork dish that’s one of our favorite Mexican meals? So be sure to try this awesome dish on your visit from Cancun. 

And we just have to mention the free walking tour, which is run by a local guide and takes you to the city’s top sights, such as the Great Museum of the Mayan World, a huge museum that shows the history and art of the Mayan culture and Paseo de Montejo, a famous avenue in Mérida with many shops and restaurants.

If you have time, you could also visit Uxmal from Mérida, which is an ancient archaeological area around 163 km (100 miles) from the CBD. It’s also just an hour to the Celestun Biosphere Reserve, a natural wetland in the area filled with mangroves, dunes, and low rainforests. 

Bacalar

Bailey poses for a photo on a Bacalar Boat Tour in Bacalar, Mexico
Living my best life!
Daniel on the front of the boat soaking up the sun on a bot tour in Bacalar, Mexico
Oh and Dan too!

If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Cancun, look no further than Bacalar – a hidden gem of a town that’s nestled on the banks of the dazzling La Laguna de Los Siete Colores, or The Lagoon of 7 Colors named so because of its various shades of blue. 

It’s quite a long distance from Cancun to Bacalar (it’s 423 km/263 miles), and it will take you over 5.5 hours without stops, which is why we recommend spending a few nights here!

Although this is a laid-back destination, there’s still loads to do in Bacalar, from kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding on the famous lake to seeing some very unusual organisms at Cenote Cocalitos. 

Without a doubt, seeing the incredible turquoise lagoon on a Bacalar boat tour is worth the trip alone. We had a blast swimming in the beautiful water, checking out cenotes, and enjoying fresh fruit and an open bar!

And as we mentioned, kayaking or SUPing on the lake is another memorable Bacalar activity – the sparkling crystal clear water is so inviting, and from your kayak or SUP, you can jump in and swim as you please or stay dry and admire the gorgeous scenery. The price for a full-day kayak rental costs just $22 USD, and you should book it in advance to secure your rental

Chichen Itza

Bailey with the El Castillo Pyramid at Chichen Itza
Bailey with the El Castillo Pyramid at Chichen Itza

You can’t come to Cancun and not visit the world-famous Chichen Itza – one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This ancient Mayan city is a 2.5-hour drive (193 km/120 mi) each way from Cancun, so be prepared for a long day of driving!

It’s the most famous Mayan ruin in Mexico, and its history is fascinating. It was built more than 1,500 years ago and was one of the most important cities of the Mayan era. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, as we said above, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, so as you can guess, it’s one of the most popular things to do in all of Mexico

The area here is massive, so you’ll need to allow at least a few hours here. Yep, Chichen Itza takes up a whopping 3.2 square kilometers (2 square miles) of space and is home to temples, including the towering El Castillo, a sacred cenote, and even a huge Mayan ball court!  

Valladolid

Bailey in front of the main cathedral in Valladolid, Mexico
Valladolid, Mexico!
Bailey poses for a photo with the Valladolid sign in Valladolid, Mexico
The Valladolid sign!

Valladolid, is a charming colonial city with a neverending list of things to do and see, from exploring ancient Mayan ruins to taking a dip in a stunning cenote. The city itself is one of our favorite places in Mexico and is filled with colorful buildings, historical colonial churches, and exquisite surrounding nature. This city gives you a feel of authentic Mexican life.  

Valladolid is only 2 hours and 15 minutes (159 km/99 miles) from Cancun, but it feels a world away!

What’s great, too, is that it is rated as one of Mexico’s safest and most affordable destinations. So, spend the first few hours here wandering the colorful streets, stopping into a museum every so often, and of course stopping to try some delicious food (the restaurants in Valladolid are some of the best in the state!).

In the afternoon, be sure to head over to Cenote Ik Kil before returning to Cancun. This gorgeous open-air cenote is sacred to the Maya people, and what makes it different from other cenotes in the area is that it is completely open to the sky. And from the opening, vines and tree roots cascade into the water creating an otherworldly atmosphere. And you can dive into the cool water from one of several diving platforms. But be warned, it’s a 25-meter (80-foot) climb down to the water, so you’ll need to be careful! 

9. What side of the road do you drive on in Mexico?

Driving out of Cancun Airport towards the hotel zone in Cancun, Mexico
Drive on the right!

They drive on the right side of the road in Cancun, Mexico – which will be helpful for you if you’re coming from countries like the USA, Canada, Spain, France, etc., where they also drive on the right.

But, if you’re visiting from a country that drives on the left (such as the UK, New Zealand, and Australia), driving in Cancun may take some getting used to as the steering wheel, and the stick shift if you’re driving a manual will be on the opposite side. Allow yourself a few days to adjust by taking shorter, easier journeys in the beginning.

10. Tips to save money on a rental car in Mexico

Entering a toll booth in our rental car in Mexico
Entering a toll booth in our rental car in Mexico

Avoid renting a 4WD

As you can guess, 4WDs are going to cost a lot more than a standard car. And unless you’re planning to truly go off-the-beaten-path, i.e., drive on dirt roads or go off-roading, renting a 4WD in Cancun is unnecessary.

Visit in the low season

Visiting Cancun in the off-season (aka low season) is not only going to save you money on accommodation and activity costs, but you’ll also save big on your car rental price!

The low season in Cancun runs from June to November, and the roads will also be quieter during these months, making for a more pleasant driving experience. But keep in mind that more rain falls during this time of year, with September and October being Cancun’s rainiest months, so you’ll need to be prepared for driving in wet weather!

Pick up and drop off in the same location

It will work out cheaper for you if you pick up and drop off your rental car at the same location. That’s because the car rental companies will need to return the car to its “home” (where you picked it up from), and this will cost them in gas and staff, so they will charge a relocation fee.

If you do opt for a one-way rental, keep in mind that the further away your drop-off location is from the pickup location, the more expensive the relocation fee will be.

11. Driving tips for renting a car in Cancun

Driving on a cute street in Mexico in a rental car
Drive with caution and you’ll be fine!

Speed limits are in kilometers not miles

When driving in Cancun, it’s important to remember that the speed signs here display kilometers, not miles per hour!

The speedometer in your rental car should also be in kilometers per hour to make it easier for you! So, when driving, ensure the two numbers match up, or drive slightly below the speed limit and never over it. We understand it’s easy to get confused as many drivers drive well over the speed limit here, but as long as you follow the rules, you should be a-okay!

Watch for wildlife

Another thing to remember when driving in the more remote/quieter parts of the Yucatan peninsula is that wildlife like stray dogs, deer, coatis, etc., may suddenly run out in front of your car!

You will often come across a road sign alerting you to the fact that wildlife is present in this area, so keep your eyes peeled for those and drive cautiously in such areas.

Drive slowly over speed bumps (topes)

To put it clearly, topes (or unpainted speed bumps) are the most frustrating thing about driving in Cancun and Mexico as a whole. Because they’re not painted, they’re hard to spot.

Topes are much more severe than regular speed bumps, as there are no rules about how big they should be. You’ll have to slow down significantly when approaching topes; otherwise, you could really damage your car.

Some roads have yellow signs to alert you when a tope is coming up, but this isn’t always the case. And, as we explained, they’re very hard to see, especially at dusk/night, so keep your eyes peeled and pay attention to what other drivers are doing. Locals tend to know which roads have topes, so if you see someone driving slowly with their hazard lights on, it’s a strong indicator that you’re approaching a tope!

Don’t drive at night

When driving in Cancun, it’s best NOT to drive at night. This is because assaults are more common at night but also because it’s much more difficult to spot potholes, wildlife, and topes in the dark. If you do need to drive in the dark during your time in Cancun, stick to main roads and toll roads because these tend to be well-lit and better maintained.

Buses have the right of way (even if they don’t)

In Cancun, buses always have the right of way, even if they don’t actually have the right of way. I know it doesn’t make sense, but buses here will not move out of your way and will often pull out in front of you even if you had the right of way!

So when driving here, be mindful of larger vehicles like buses and trucks, keep your distance, let go of all the road rules you’re used to at home, and just give way to them.

It’s better to use the Cuota Roads (toll roads)

Use toll roads (known here as Cuota roads) whenever possible in Cancun! Yes, you need to pay a toll fee – around $25-$150 MXN ($1.50-$9 USD), but these roads are much better maintained with fewer potholes, traffic, and, most importantly, no topes! You’ll need to have the exact money for the tolls here because they won’t give you change!

Always carry rental documents and registration in the vehicle

Make sure you have your driver’s license, car rental documents, third-party insurance policy, and registration with you when driving around Cancun. Unfortunately, police corruption is common in Cancun, and they’ll use any excuse to try and get bribes out of foreigners! It’s also useful to have all of the above documents on you in case of an accident so that you can prove that you’re legally on the road and able to get your insurance company to cover any damage as quickly as possible.

Police checks are frequent

Police pullovers are very common in Cancun. Police in Mexico will need some excuse to pull you over, so if you’re driving to the speed limit and following all the rules of the road, you should have no worries! And as we mentioned earlier, ensure that you have all of your documents on you.

If you do get pulled over for an indiscretion, the police will usually tell you that they’ll waive your ticket in exchange for a cash payment (aka a bribe) of around $100 USD. Bear in mind that if you pay the bribe, you’re just encouraging this behavior, so remember that you can just take the official fine instead.

Child seats are not required but should always be used

Child seats aren’t required by law in Mexico, but you should always use them just as you would back home. Most car rental companies will provide child seats for an additional fee, and it’s really not worth risking a child’s safety by not using one. The car seats in Mexico are the same ones that you’ll find in the USA, so they should be up to standard.

Carry cash for road tolls

They only accept cash on the toll roads or Cuotas and you can only pay with local currency, not USD. You’ll also need to have the exact amount, as you won’t be getting any change!

Download maps offline

Cell reception can be spotty when driving in remote areas of the Yucatan. So, we strongly suggest you download maps for offline use before hitting the road, as this can save you from getting lost.

Don’t use your phone while driving

Obviously, this rule applies worldwide, but it’s especially important when driving in Mexico. You need to be super alert and always have your eyes on the road here. Looking away for just a few seconds could mean the difference between a smooth journey and an accident. Plus, if the police see you using your phone, they WILL pull you over, so don’t give them any excuse.

12. Can you trust online car rental websites when booking?

Yes, you absolutely can trust most online rental websites in Cancun. But, to avoid any issues and get the best possible price, we recommend using Discover Cars. I know we’ve mentioned them heaps in this blog post already, but honestly, they’re super to deal with, and their website is very easy to use! 

Just remember the initial price you see won’t include car insurance, so make sure to select an insurance option to get the actual price you will be paying. In saying that, Discover Cars offers the most competitive full coverage insurance rates in Mexico, so you’re sure to get a great deal by booking through them.

Discover Cars also shows supplier ratings out of 10, so look at a company’s rating before booking! 

13. What extras are available when renting a car in Cancun?

Bailey signs the final paperwork after dropping a rental car off in Mexico
Bailey signs the final paperwork for a rental car in Mexico
Bailey dropping our rental car off in Cancun airport

Additional Driver

There’s so much to see in Cancun that you’ll likely be doing a lot of driving in your rental car. So, you may want to consider adding an “additional driver” to your rental car booking to take the pressure off you and allow you to sit in the passenger seat for a while and take in the awesome scenery!

It also means that if you get tired, your additional driver can take over, which is the safest option, as it’s really not a good idea to drive while tired on Mexico’s roads. You need to be fully alert here!

The cost of adding an additional driver to your booking depends on the type of car that you’re renting and the rental agency you choose. But, it will typically set you back between $8 to $12 USD per day. It’s very easy to compare prices for this on Discover Cars. Note that if you want to add two additional drivers, you’ll need to double the price shown.

Full coverage

Full coverage insurance covers you for damage, loss, theft, and even scrapes and scratches. By opting for full coverage insurance, you can ensure that you won’t be liable for any of these expenses (you’re covered for up to $3,200 USD). We think an extra $7 USD per day is most definitely worth it – especially with all the potholes and topes on the roads surrounding Cancun!

Car seat

If you’re traveling with a child needing a car seat, you’ll definitely need to add one to your rental booking. We all know that traveling with one can be annoying (they’re very heavy!).

It costs around $12 USD per day to rent a car seat, and you can easily add it to your Discover Cars reservation. They offer baby seats for infants weighing up to 13 kilograms (28 lbs) and child seats for little ones weighing between 9 and 18 kilograms (20 – 40 lbs). And the cost is the same no matter what type of car seat you require. 

14. Tips to follow when renting a car in Cancun

Daniel driving a rental car in Canada
Off we go in our rental car!

Sort by supplier rating, not price, on Discover Cars

Of course, we all want to save money when traveling, but we must say that when renting a car, the cheapest option isn’t always the best. That’s why when booking your Cancun rental car on Discover Cars, your best bet is to choose a highly-rated company instead of a cheap one. That way, you know that the car will be well-maintained and reliable.  

You can choose to sort by rating, and we also always go to the sidebar menu and check the “Excellent 8+” box under the “supplier rating” heading so that only the top-rated companies appear.

Take your own photos when doing the inspection

It’s always best to take photos of the car from every angle while inspecting it. And it’s essential you do this in the company’s parking lot before driving away. If there are any bumps, scratches, dents, etc., email clear photos to the car rental company immediately. This way, you’re covered if the rental company tries to pull a fast one and claim that you caused the existing damage!

Get full coverage

Yep, we’ve said it lots already in this blog post, but we’ll tell you again – it’s a very good idea to have full coverage insurance when driving in Cancun. This covers you up to $3,200 USD if anything happens to the car, as long as you comply with the terms of your rental agreement. It only costs $7 USD per day on Discover Cars, and there are no deductibles.

It doesn’t cover third-party damage, but there is no need to panic because you’ll already be covered for that under the mandatory personal liability insurance, which is already included in your rental price on Discover Cars.

You can’t cross the border with your rental car

Remember this very important piece of advice – you CANNOT cross the border into the USA or any other bordering countries such as Guatemala or Belize in your rental car! It is strictly forbidden by the car rental company, and anyway, even if you try, you will be stopped at the border by border control!

Read the terms and conditions

Always read through all of the terms and conditions of your rental agreement. It’s important to understand what is and isn’t covered by insurance, what you’re responsible for, and any other relevant information. If you break the rules outlined in the rental agreement and damage the car, your insurance won’t cover it, so you must know what’s expected of you before driving in Cancun. You can check out Discover Cars’ terms and conditions here.

15. What are the road conditions like in Cancun?

Daniel poses for a photo with our rental car at the Tulum Ruins parking lot in Tulum, Mexico
If you do have valuables, make sure your parked in a secure parking lot!

Main roads and toll roads (cuotas) are, for the most part, well-maintained in Quintana Roo (the state that Cancun is in), but secondary roads can be bumpy and full of potholes. So, if you plan to drive off-the-beaten-path, you’ll likely come across uneven road surfaces and plenty of potholes – therefore, before driving on a road you’re unsure of really think about whether it’s worth the potential damage to your vehicle. If you do drive a “risky” road, drive slowly and carefully, and you should be fine!

And as we mentioned earlier, the dreaded topes are a common sight in the smaller towns on the Riviera Maya. They range in size, and they’re rarely painted, so you need to keep your eyes peeled for them. And often, there are no road signs to alert you of their presence, so drive with caution if you think there may be some up ahead. Locals will often flash their lights or put on their hazards if topes are up ahead.

16. Can you leave Mexico with your rental car?

No, you cannot leave Mexico in your Cancun rental car!

Crossing the border into neighboring countries like the USA, Belize, and Guatemala is illegal. Plus, the border agents at the border won’t let you through as they’ll see that you’re driving a rental car. And even if you managed to successfully pass through border control, you would be in violation of your rental agreement, so your insurance wouldn’t cover any damage, and you would have to pay for any damage out of your pocket!

17. What should you do if you get in an accident in Cancun?

Driving along a small street in Mexico in a rental car
No accidents yet for us!

If you get into an accident while driving in Cancun, it’s important not to panic. The first thing you need to do is call 911 and ask for an accident investigator (Perito) to be sent to the scene of the collision. They will investigate and put together an accident report, which you will need to file your insurance claim.

You should also call your insurance company and report the accident to them. Ensure you’ve got your rental and insurance policies and driver’s license on you, so you can prove that you’re covered and legally on the road.

If another driver is involved, swap contact details and insurance information, and write down their license plate. You should also take photos of the scene and any damage to your car so that you have visual proof. 

911 is also the number you need to call an ambulance, so if you’re injured, ensure you get the medical attention you need. Make sure you have travel insurance covering you for medical expenses abroad, and, if possible, contact the insurance company before receiving medical treatment. However, this requirement is often waived in case of an emergency. The best thing to do is read your policy thoroughly before visiting Cancun so that you know exactly what you’re covered for.

18. Should you leave baggage and valuables in your car?

Nope, it’s not a good idea to leave valuables or luggage in an unattended vehicle anywhere in the world, especially in Cancun, where car break-ins and auto theft are a real threat!

Always take your valuables with you, even if you’re only leaving the car for a short period of time. And hide your luggage in the trunk or under the seats if it will fit. If you’re leaving the vehicle for an extended period, i.e., a few hours or overnight, make sure to take your luggage with you too!

Remember that your car insurance doesn’t cover the cost of your possessions, so it’s worth taking out travel insurance for your time in Cancun just in case you are the victim of theft!

19. Is it easy to fill your car with gas in Cancun?

Fueling up our rental car in Mexico
Fueling up our rental car in Mexico
Gas pump in Mexico
Gas pump in Mexico

Yes, filling your rental car with gas in Cancun is super easy. As with any big city in Mexico, there are lots of gas stations, so it’s unlikely you’ll get stuck without a gas station nearby.

At most Cancun gas stations, you will see attendants who will fill your car up for you. Simply tell them how many liters you want, or if you want a full tank, say “llenado.” (Pronunciation tip: remember that two Ls in Spanish make a hard “Y” sound!).

If possible, pay with cash, as gas stations are common places for card skimming! This is when a device is added to the machine that copies your details for criminals to use.

If you need to pay with a card, use a credit card instead of a debit card because getting your money refunded from a credit card company is usually easier. And if you think that something dodgy has occurred, you can now freeze most credit and debit cards via your online banking app!

Also, don’t allow the petrol attendant to walk away with your card. Instead, ask them to bring the card machine to you or walk inside the store to pay!

You will be expected to tip the attendant around 10 – 20 pesos ($0.50 – $1 USD) in cash for filling your car. If you request extra services like cleaning your windshield, checking your tires, or changing the oil, you should add 20 – 60 pesos ($1 – $3.30 USD) to the tip.

20. What are the major hazards on the roads in Cancun?

Topes

As we said, topes are similar to speed bumps but worse. As they tend to be pretty big and because they’re hard to spot – many of them are unpainted you risk driving over them faster and damaging your car.

You’ll often find topes at the start and end of towns, so be careful when heading in and out of a residential area. Sometimes, a road sign will alert you to their presence, but not always. Keep your eyes peeled! Locals tend to know where the topes are located, so if you see a car in front of you slowing down or putting their hazards on, then there’s a good chance you’re approaching one of these road menaces!

Potholes

Some of the roads in and around Cancun can be dotted with potholes, which can be incredibly damaging to your car if you don’t drive carefully. Pay attention to the road ahead and slow down when necessary – there’s no point risking damage to your rental vehicle to save a few minutes!

Trucks and buses

Trucks and buses tend to drive aggressively in Cancun, with little to no regard for other road users. So, please be extra cautious when driving around them because they won’t give you a second thought, and they’ll charge ahead even if it’s your right of way.

They often don’t even signal before changing lanes or turning, so watch them carefully, keep your distance, and try to stay out of their way as much as you can.

Narrow lanes (compared to the USA/Canada)

If you’re used to driving the typically wide roads in North America, then be prepared for the narrower roads in Cancun. Keep in mind that you will have less room to maneuver, and you will need to be mindful of traffic coming in the opposite direction, especially larger vehicles like trucks and buses. As on especially narrow roads, you may need to pull over to allow them to pass.

People

Although Cancun, for the most part, does have sidewalks, many of the roads in smaller towns and villages along the Yucatan Peninsula don’t, so you will need to be on alert for people walking along the sides (and sometimes in the middle) of the road!

Other drivers also present a risk because they may drive erratically. Although in Quintana Roo, drivers are known for being more laid-back and law-abiding than elsewhere in the country! In some parts of Mexico, turn signals are more of a suggestion than a standard practice, so take extra care when driving outside of Quintana Roo! But do remember that some drivers in Cancun may signal to the right but turn left or put their hazard lights on to indicate a turn instead.

If the driver ahead puts their hazard lights on, it can also mean they’re about to slow down because they’re approaching a police checkpoint or a tope. So, ensure you allow enough space between yourself and the next car to avoid a collision!

21. Is renting a car in Cancun worth it?

Photo out the windscreen in Mexico while diving a rental car
Yes!

YES! It’s 100% worth renting a car in Cancun as it gives you the freedom to explore the places you really want to see on your own schedule. And there are heaps of cool places along the Yucatan Peninsula (where Cancun is located) that are hard to reach by public transport, such as Bacalar and Puerto Morelos.

So, if you want to experience a more authentic side of Cancun and explore the hidden cenotes and remote beaches that we think are some of the best things about this region – renting a car in Cancun is a must!

We’ve rented cars lots of times in the past in Cancun, and always with Discover Cars – and even if it isn’t the cheapest transportation option, we never regretted it! And we know you won’t either!

Other Activities to do While You’re in Cancun

Bailey and Daniel look at a Sting Ray at the MUSA dive site in Cancun
A stingray at MUSA!
Bailey looks out the window of the Cancun Scenic Tower in Cancun, Mexico
The view is amazing!

With your rental car in Cancun, you’ll be all set to discover what makes this little piece of paradise so special. I’ve been coming to Cancun since I was a kid and I never get tired of visiting. There are so many fun things to do in Cancun, that will make for an amazing vacay. So if you’re looking for even more activities, check out some of my favorites below!

  • Cancun Scenic Tower – After you’ve explored the Caribbean waters by boat, you need to see it from an ariel view! The Cancun Scenic Tower gives you amazing views of the Caribbean and the sprawling Cancun area below! The entire viewing deck lifts up, so you won’t even need to climb any stairs to get this view.

Where to Stay in Cancun

the outdoor pools at the Grand Fiesta Americana in Puerto Vallarta
This adults-only resort is pure relaxation! Photo Credit: Grand Fiesta Americana

If you’re going to be taking a day trip to Isla Mujeres from Cancun, then you’ll need a place to stay! Below are some of the best hotels (for every budget) in the Cancun Hotel Zone.

For budget travelers, the Selina Cancun Laguna Hotel Zone is a great choice. It has the typical hostel vibes which includes the woes of a shared living space, but overall I really enjoyed my stay. For the price and fun atmosphere, you can’t go wrong! You can book this hostel on Hostelword or Booking.com.

If you prefer something a little nicer, I love the JW Marriott Cancun Resort. It’s not all-inclusive, which I enjoy because there are so many delicious restaurants in Cancun! The hotel is located right on the beach and has a huge pool. Rooms are typically $300-$500 USD depending on the time of year.

Of course, we all love a luxury all-inclusive stay and for that, I always book either the Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun or the Le Blanc Spa Resort Cancun Adults Only. Both are not cheap but are equally as luxurious with fantastic oceanfront locations, delicious food, quality alcohol, and more.

More of a luxury traveler? Learn about the absolute best resorts in Cancun!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie at the Tulum Ruins in Tulum, Mexico
Thanks for reading!

And we’ve come to the end of our detailed guide to renting a car in Cancun. We hope it has made the process of renting a car here seem a little less daunting! As we said, we love the freedom a rental car gives us, and we love exploring all the parts of Cancun that most tourists don’t get to see!

If you’re planning a trip here, make sure to check out our other blogs about Mexico. We have lots of tips and ideas to help you plan the best Mexican vacation!

15 BEST Beaches in Cancun, Mexico

8 BEST Mexican Restaurants in Cancun

12 BEST Places to go Scuba Diving in Mexico

15 Things to Know BEFORE Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cancun

Elena

Monday 10th of June 2024

Hello! Thank you so much for this detailed blog! I was wondering what the parking is like at some of the more popular destinations in the Cancun area and for the different beaches along the coast. Thanks!

Destinationless Travel

Tuesday 11th of June 2024

Hey Elena,

We never had issues with parking but always booked a hotel with parking. Most of the beaches have public parking and there is lots of public parking available. There is also lots of paid parking.

Thanks Daniel

Cheng

Friday 2nd of February 2024

Thanks a lot for the great tips! I will go there next week. First time visiting cancun and your blog convinced me to rent a car.

I have one question about use phone. If I use google map on my phone for navigation, is that considered using phone?

Destinationless Travel

Monday 5th of February 2024

Hey Cheng,

Most rental cars have a hands free so you can map without holding your phone.

Thanks Daniel

Phil

Sunday 31st of December 2023

What’s your advice on using a GPS?? Does it get good reception?? Thanks in advance.

Destinationless Travel

Tuesday 2nd of January 2024

Hey Phil,

Yes a GPS works great and you get doo reception. Using google Maps on your phone is even better (just buy a sim card at the airport for data.)

Thanks Daniel

Avi

Monday 18th of December 2023

Thanks for info . Like your details description . I found your link while searching Car rent option in Cancun .