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20 Things to KNOW Before Renting a Car in Playa del Carmen

20 Things to KNOW Before Renting a Car in Playa del Carmen

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Playa del Carmen is one of our favorite parts of Mexico, and it seems that many people think the same, as this fun, coastal town is one of the most-visited spots on the Yucatan Peninsula. It boasts white sand beaches, a fun party atmosphere, and some really hip bars and restaurants, so it’s very easy to see why Playa del Carmen is so popular!

And when you add to the above the fact that some of the best Mayan Ruins, the most beautiful cenotesand Chichen Itza (a Wonder of the World) are within easy driving distance of Playa del Carmen – renting a car for your time in the Riviera Maya is an obvious choice. 

But we know that many tourists are wary of renting a car in Mexico. When we explained to friends and family members that we were planning to rent a car in Playa del Carmen, we were met with concerned looks and words of warning. But that’s why we’ve written this blog post to set the record straight – as renting a car in Playa del Carmen really added to our vacation and allowed us to go off the beaten path and see a more authentic side of the region, which we love to do! 

Plus, because we’ve rented a car numerous times from Playa del Carmen, we are well-versed to tell you all the ins and outs of renting a car here. We’ll also make sure you know what side of the road they drive on in Mexico, what type of car insurance you should get, and what the road conditions are like in Playa del Carmen. All super-important information that you must know before getting behind the wheel!

So, let’s dive in and get you educated on everything there is to know about renting a car in Playa del Carmen

Don’t have time to read the full article? Playa del Carmen is a stunning place and even houses Chichen Itza which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. If you’re looking to beat the crowds and want to travel at your own pace, we highly recommend renting a car through Discover Cars for their excellent customer service, amazing insurance coverage, and general peace of mind.

Table Of Contents
  1. 1. Why rent a car in Playa del Carmen?
  2. 2. Requirements to rent a car in Playa del Carmen
  3. 3. Playa del Carmen car rental insurance breakdown
  4. 4. Is it safe to drive in Playa del Carmen?
  5. 5. How much does renting a car in Playa del Carmen cost?
  6. 6. What is the best company to rent a car from in Playa del Carmen?
  7. 7. Can I use my credit card insurance when renting a car in Playa del Carmen?
  8. 8. Where to go in your rental car from Playa del Carmen
  9. 9. What side of the road do you drive on in Mexico?
  10. 10. Tips to save money on a rental car in Playa del Carmen
  11. 11. Driving tips for renting a car in Playa del Carmen (and hazards you need to watch out for)'
  12. 12. Can you trust online car rental websites when booking?
  13. 13. What extras are available when renting a car in Playa del Carmen?
  14. 14. What are the road conditions like in Playa del Carmen?
  15. 15. Tips to follow when renting a car in Playa del Carmen
  16. 16. Can you leave Mexico with your rental car?
  17. 17. What should you do if you get in an accident in Playa del Carmen?
  18. 18. Should you leave baggage and valuables in your car?
  19. 19. Is it easy to fill your car with gas in Playa del Carmen?
  20. 20. Is renting a car in Playa del Carmen worth it?
  21. Activities to do While You’re in Playa del Carmen
  22. Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen
  23. Thanks for reading!
  24. Don't get Caught without Travel Insurance!

1. Why rent a car in Playa del Carmen?

Photo out the windscreen in Mexico while diving a rental car
It’s the best way to explore the area!

Sure, spending your whole vacation in Playa del Carmen will still make for a memorable getaway, but if you want to see a more authentic side to the Riviera Maya (the region Playa del Carmen is a part of) and explore hidden gems that are off the main tourist trail – then we urge you to rent a car in Playa del Carmen!

Hiring a rental car will also come in handy for getting you from Cancun Airport to your hotel in Playa del Carmen and will likely work out much cheaper than getting a cab or private transfer. 

Similarly, if you’re planning to go on day trips from Playa del Carmen to popular tourist attractions like Chichen Itza or Tulumthen you’ll save money by being able to drive there yourself instead of having to pay for all of your party to go on a tour from Playa del Carmen. And by driving yourself, you’ll be able to stop along the way where you please and leave Playa del Carmen at what time you want – freedom is the key positive of having a rental car in Playa del Carmen

And as we said above, having a rental car for your time in Playa del Carmen will also give you the freedom to explore the hidden gem Riviera Maya spots we love, like Cenote Kantun Chi and Puerto Morelos, and wander the streets of lesser-known cities like Valladolid

Provided you rent from a reputable company (we LOVE and always use Discover Cars), drive carefully and responsibly, and research the roads you’ll be driving on, renting a car in Playa del Carmen is a great way to explore the area at your own pace!

In short, having the freedom to create our own itinerary and schedule is what we think is one of the best things about hiring a rental car in Playa del Carmen! 

Related Read: Need a ride to Playa del Carmen? These are your best options to get from Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen!

2. Requirements to rent a car in Playa del Carmen

Driving in Tulum, Mexico
On a self-drive day trip to Tulum!

Be over 18 but ideally 25

Legally, you can rent a car in Mexico if you’re between 18 and 24 years, but most rental companies here will only rent to individuals over 25. There are a small number of companies in Playa del Carmen who will rent to under 25s, but they will likely charge you a “young drivers fee” – which can work out pretty pricey if you’re planning to rent a car for a week or more! On average, expect to pay an extra $10-$20 USD daily if you’re under 25!

Valid driver’s license

Of course, you’ll need a valid driver’s license to rent a car in Playa del Carmen. Your driver’s license must be up-to-date (i.e. not expired), contain a photo of you, and have a license number.

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

Passport

You’ll also need a valid passport to rent a car in Play del Carmen. You will need to show it to the car rental company so that they can see you’re legally in the country. 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!

Credit or debit card in the driver’s name

You will also need a credit or debit card in the driver’s name to rent a car in Playa del Carmen. This is to pay for the deposit, which varies by company but typically costs between $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 the car.

If you have one, use a credit card to pay for the deposit, as the amount is just kept on hold. While if you use a debit card, the company will need to take the money from your account and refund it back to you when you return the rental vehicle.

To summarize, we think it’s smart to use a credit card when you travel because you get better payment protection.

Insurance

It’s mandatory to have car insurance when you rent a car in Playa del Carmen, and keep in mind this isn’t usually included in the price you’re initially quoted. The good news is rental insurance in Mexico isn’t too expensive, and there are several different types to choose from. To help you decide if you need additional insurance (like full coverage insurance or collision insurance), we’ve included a detailed summary of rental car insurance in Mexico below!

3. Playa del Carmen car rental insurance breakdown

Discover Cars full coverage inclusions
Discover Cars full coverage inclusions

As we said, you can’t rent a car in Playa del Carmen without car insurance – so this is arguably one of the most important topics to know about beforehand. There are a few different types of rental insurance, and below, we’ve explained each one so that you can decide which one will work best for you!

Local third-party liability insurance

Local third-party liability insurance is the minimum requirement for renting a car in Playa del Carmen. It covers you for damages to third-party property but not for any damage to your rental car. If another driver crashes into you, you must take down their details so that their third-party coverage can pay for the damage to your rental car.

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 per day, and it’s mandatory, 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 and theft. Many credit card companies offer this kind of insurance, but remember that this might not be valid in Playa del Carmen, so make sure and read through all 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 detailed above.

Other insurance

For major peace of mind, it’s best to add full coverage insurance to your rental car booking. This costs between $7-$10 USD extra per day. It is extra to the compulsory third-party insurance described above, and often there are no deductibles. 

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

4. Is it safe to drive in Playa del Carmen?

Cute colonial street in Mexico with a parked rental car
It’s safe to drive!

Yes, for the most part driving in Playa del Carmen is safe. We’ve rented cars many times here, and we’ve never had any problems, but then we both consider ourselves to be careful drivers and always abide by the speed limits and other road rules.

Playa del Carmen is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico, and because many tourists rent a car for their time here and the drivers and the roads here are pretty safe, it’s regarded as one of the safest places to rent a car in the country!

But that’s not to say that bad things don’t ever happen here because they do, although rarely. Opportunistic crimes, like robbery, are sadly very common in Mexico, and Playa del Carmen is no different – so please take all important items out of your vehicle if you’re going to leave it unattended for any period of time.

You will find, though, that the roads here are a lot different from those in the US, Canada, and Europe. Firstly, they’re narrower, and secondly, they can be filled with potholes or the dreaded topes (which we’ll explain later). As for the other drivers in Playa del Carmen, luckily, they are known to be some of the calmest in Mexico.

And, although driving in Playa del Carmen is no more dangerous than in your home country, you must remember that you’re driving in a foreign country where road conditions and driving habits will be different from what you’re used to.

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

5. How much does renting a car in Playa del Carmen cost?

Bailey takes a photo of Daniel while he sits in our Mexico Rental car
Visiting cenotes!

Expect to pay between $40 and $70 USD daily to rent a car with full coverage insurance in Playa del Carmen. If that sounds pricier than you thought, it’s because rental prices have risen massively here in recent years! As they have in the rest of the world!

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 Playa del Carmen for just $35 USD per day, including full coverage insurance.

6. What is the best company to rent a car from in Playa del Carmen?

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

This is an easy question for us – we always use Discover Cars when renting a car abroad, and Playa del Carmen is no different. Their customer service is top-notch, their website is very easy-to-use, and they offer the best deals. 

On the Discover Cars website, it’s easy to filter your options – so, say, you want an automatic vehicle, you can tick that option, and only automatic vehicles will show up. 

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. Using them means you’ll save heaps of time as you won’t have to scroll through the website of every car rental company in Playa del Carmen (they’ll all be there on Discover Cars, well, most of them anyway!).

Plus, they offer full coverage insurance for a competitive price, so you can be sure that you’ll be covered for pretty much any incident – whether that’s a minor collision or even losing your car keys!

Warning against Mex Rent A Car

We booked a rental car through Mex Rent A Car 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 with them directly, 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 of Mex Rent a Car, we recommend choosing large suppliers such as Thrifty, Hertz, and Budget Car Rentals. Remember, you’ll still get a cheaper deal booking with Discover Cars.

7. Can I use my credit card insurance when renting a car in Playa del Carmen?

Rental car inclusions
You can see the inclusions here and this one includes CDW and TPL which is fantastic!

You CAN use your credit card’s insurance or Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) when renting a car in Playa del Carmen. However, you’re still legally required to purchase third-party liability insurance too. Some car rental places may allow you to rent a car with just your credit card insurance (CDW), but this is illegal, so please avoid these companies.

But 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 Playa del Carmen

Cancun

Bailey looks out the window of the Cancun Scenic Tower in Cancun, Mexico
Scenic tower Cancun!
Bailey walks through the La Isla Shopping Mall in Cancun, Mexico
La Isla Shopping Mall in Cancun, Mexico

Cancun is an obvious choice when thinking about where to go on a day trip from Playa del Carmen. We mean, it’s only an hour’s drive (68 km/42 miles) and is home to stunning beaches and epic nightlife. Plus, there’s so much to do in Cancun, from beach-hopping to visiting a Mayan ruin right in the middle of the Cancun Hotel Zone, that you’ll want to allow at least one full day here. 

Speaking of the beaches here, Playa Delfines is one of our favorites, and its name translates to “dolphin beach,” and it’s aptly named as you are highly likely to see dolphins frolicking in the water here! So cool! 

After some beach time, check out the Cancun Underwater Museum. Widely regarded as one of the best tours in Cancun, this unique museum boasts over 500 different sculptures submerged underwater. You’ll also get to see dolphins, tropical fish, and seals up close here! Or, if you have more time and are looking for a truly bucket-list-worthy activity, why not book a whale shark tour from Cancun?

Related Read: Of course, before hitting the clubs here, you’ll need to get some delicious food first. So, check out our list of the best restaurants in Cancun!

Cenote Kantun Chi

Just a 30-minute drive from Playa del Carmen will get you to Cenote Kantun Chi, one of the most stunning cenotes in the region.

Here, you’ll find not one but five cenotes, so it’s the perfect spot to see the different sizes and shapes of cenotes in one place. You can book various tours of this cenote, from snorkeling to an underground river experience. Or if you want to leave the driving to someone else for the day, this private Kantun Chi tour gets you time in the stunning cenotes, time to relax on a quiet beach, and lunch. At $154 USD, it’s a pretty good deal when you book online here

Tulum

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

Less than an hour’s drive from Playa del Carmen, you’ll find the boho, laid-back town of Tulum! Which is famous for its hippy style, cenotes, and great restaurants

Tulum isn’t built along a beach like its busier neighbors, but one of my favorite beaches on the Yucatan Peninsula is just a short drive from town. At Paradise Beach, you’ll find white sand, warm waters (perfect for a swim), and many amazing restaurants lining the beach! It’s the perfect place to come and relax for a few hours. 

Afterward, why not head to one of the best cenotes in Tulum? We love Dos Ojos, Cenote Zacil-Ha and, Cenote Calavera. In fact, Dos Ojos is one of the most famous cenotes in Mexico thanks to its bright blue water and the fact that it looks like two different cenotes from the land. Its name translates to “two eyes” because, from the land, it looks like two bright blue eyes!  

Before you head back to Playa del Carmen, be sure to make time for a visit to the Tulum Ruins, a breathtaking cliffside Mayan archaeological site that you probably recognize from your Instagram feed! You can book a guided tour of the Tulum Ruins that also includes a visit to Akumal Beach to swim with the turtles and a visit to a cenote. It’s a triple threat of a tour that gets you all the best of Tulum in a day for only $129 USD, so don’t hesitate to book it online!

Related Read: If you’re a water baby (like us), you’ll love scuba diving here. So, check out our guide to scuba diving in Tulum!

Playa Akumal

A turtle swims past snorkelers at Akumal Beach in Mexico
Snorkeling at Akumal is well worth it!

Akumal Beach, aka Playa Akumal, is one of the best places in the country to swim with sea turtles. And it’s one of the best snorkeling spots close to Playa del Carmen since it’s only 39 km (24 miles) away.

If you don’t fancy swimming with these lovely creatures, don’t worry; you’ll likely spot them swimming close to the shore. But if you’re keen to see turtles up close in the water, then it’s best to hire a guide who can take you swimming in the sectioned area (where most of the turtles are).

We chose this private tour because of its stellar reviews, and we’re SO happy we did. Not all tours of Akumal Beach are created equal that’s for sure, but this one was awesome. Our guide taught us loads about the area, the turtles found here, and local efforts to protect them. Plus, at $45 USD per person for a private tour, we thought it was really good value for money. You can book the exact same tour we did online here!

If you’re on a budget, you can swim and look for turtles without a guide, but you cannot swim in the sectioned-off area. Instead, you’ll need to swim to the east of this area to find them. 

Please note that it will cost you to park here for the day – either 20 MXN ($1 USD) per hour in the public parking lot or if that’s full, it’s about 100 MXN ($6 USD) to park in the private lots for the day. There’s also an entrance fee to the beach of 120 pesos which is equal to about $7 USD. However, if you book a tour like this one, the entrance fee is included!

Chichen Itza

Bailey poses for a photo in front of El Castillo Pyramid at Chichen Itza, Mexico
What a temple!
Bailey stands at the Group of the Thousand Columns which is part of the Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza
Bailey stands at the Group of the Thousand Columns which is part of the Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza

And lastly, Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is a must-visit if you have a rental car in Playa del Carmen, as you’ll save on having to book a pricey tour. Chichen Itza is 180 km/112 miles (a 2.5-hour drive) from Playa del Carmen, and to beat the crowds, we recommend getting here before 10 am! 

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 to truly appreciate its awesomeness. 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!  

Related Read: If you’d rather leave the car behind and book a guided tour of Chichen Itza, then check out our guide to the best tours of Chichen Itza from Playa del Carmen!

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

A photo out the windscreen while driving a rental car in Mexico
Drive on the right!

They drive on the right side of the road in Playa del Carmen, so you’ll feel right at home if you’re traveling from the USA, Canada, France, Spain, etc., where they also drive on the right side.

But, if you’re visiting from a country that drives on the left (such as the UK, Australia, and New Zealand), driving in Playa del Carmen will likely 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 to start with.

10. Tips to save money on a rental car in Playa del Carmen

Daniel drives through traffic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Mexico is best explored with a rental car!
Daniel poses for a photo with our rental car at a cenote in tulum, Mexico
It’s so easy to visit attractions with a rental car!

Visit in the low season

As with any vacation destination, visiting in the low season is sure to save you a ton of money! At this time of year, not only are hotel and activity rates a lot lower, but your car rental will highly likely work out a lot cheaper too!

Playa del Carmen’s low season runs from June to November, and the roads will also be quieter during these months, equalling a nicer driving experience. But keep in mind that low season can mean a higher chance of having to drive in bad weather conditions.

Avoid renting a 4WD

You’ll need a bigger budget to hire a 4WD in Playa del Carmen. They cost more to rent because they’re typically more expensive to buy, and repairs to them can be costly, too, so the car rental company will pass those costs onto the customer by charging a higher daily rate than a standard car.

And anyway, unless you’re planning to drive on dirt roads or go off-roading, renting a 4WD in Playa del Carmen is unnecessary.

Pick up and drop off in the same location

As you can probably guess, it’s going to be more budget-friendly if you pick up and drop off your rental car at the same location. It’s more expensive to pick up your rental car in Cancun and drop it off in Playa del Carmen, for example, because the car rental company will need to go and collect it from where you dropped it off, and so they will charge you a relocation fee- this varies by company.

Keep in mind that if you do choose a one-way rental, the further away your drop-off location is from your pickup location, the higher the relocation fee will be.

11. Driving tips for renting a car in Playa del Carmen (and hazards you need to watch out for)’

Photo on the highway out the front windscreen of a rental car in Mexico
Driving out of Playa del Carmen!

Speed limits are in kilometers not miles

The speed signs in Mexico display kilometers per hour (not miles like in the USA and UK)! To make it easy for you, make sure the speedometer in your rental car is in kilometers per hour.

Drive slowly over speed bumps (topes)

We touched on it earlier, but to put it in plain words, topes (aka unpainted speed bumps) are the worst and one of the most dangerous things about driving in Mexico! That’s because they’re not painted, can be hard to see, and are more severe than your standard speed bump, meaning if you drive over them too fast, it could damage your rental car.

Some roads in Playa del Carmen display a yellow sign to alert you that you’re approaching a tope, but this isn’t always true. And, as we said, topes are difficult to see, especially at dusk/night when the light isn’t good, so be on alert and pay attention to what other drivers are doing. Locals will know which roads have topes, so if you see someone driving slowly with their hazard lights on, it’s a good indicator that you’re approaching a tope!

Be cautious of potholes

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

The lanes are much narrower 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 Playa del Carmen. Here, 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.

Don’t drive at night

Assaults and robberies are more common at night, so it’s best to avoid driving when it’s dark in Playa del Carmen.

It’s also harder to see wildlife, topes, and potholes in the dark. If you do need to drive at night in Playa del Carmen, stay on toll roads or main roads as these are better-maintained and well-lit.

Watch for wildlife

Although not so much of a problem in downtown Playa del Carmen, if you do plan to drive to more remote parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, you will need to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife that may suddenly appear on the road in front of you. It’s common to see deer, stray dogs, and coatis (a type of raccoon) on the roads in rural areas near Playa del Carmen.

You may see road signs alerting you to the fact that wildlife is present in this area, but this isn’t always the case, so it’s best to be prepared!

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

In Playa del Carmen, buses always have the right of way, even if they don’t! 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 careful of larger vehicles like trucks and buses, keep your distance from them, let go of all the road rules you’re used to in your home country, and just give way to them.

Paying a toll booth in our rental car in Mexico
Some tolls are expensive but the roads are much better!

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

It’s best to use toll roads (more commonly known here as Cuota roads) wherever possible in Playa del Carmen. These will set you back around $25-$150 MXN ($1.50-$9 USD) per use, but these roads are much better maintained with less traffic, potholes, and, most importantly, no topes!

You’ll need the exact money for the tolls here because they won’t give you change!

Always carry rental documents and registration in the vehicle

Ensure that your driver’s license, registration, third-party insurance policy, and car rental documents are always in the car with you. We find it best to keep them all in a folder in the glove compartment while driving and take them with us when we leave the car unattended in case of theft.

We should warn you that police corruption is common in Playa del Carmen (and Mexico as a whole), and they’ll use any excuse to try and get bribes out of tourists! So by having all the above documents on hand to show them immediately, you can prove that you have hired the car legally.

It’s also useful to have all of these items on you in case of a collision so that you can prove that you’re able to get your insurance company to cover any damage as quickly as possible.

Police checks are frequent

While we’re on the subject of police – police pullovers are very common in Playa del Carmen. But the police here will need an excuse to pull you over, so make sure you drive to the speed limit and follow all the other road rules (like not using your phone while driving), and you should be a-okay! And as we mentioned earlier, ensure that you have all of your documents on you.

If you do get pulled over for something, the police will usually tell you that they’ll waive your ticket in exchange for a cash payment (aka a bribe), which tends to be in the region of $100 USD. But, if you pay the bribe, you’re just encouraging this behavior, so we advise just accepting the official fine instead.

Don’t use your phone while driving

Obviously, this rule is the same across the world. but it’s especially important when driving in Mexico. You need to be super alert and always have your eyes on the road here. Plus, if the police see you using your phone, they WILL pull you over, so don’t give them an excuse to.

A dog crosses the road whil driving a rental car in Mexico
And watch for dogs!

Child seats are not required but should always be used

Child seats aren’t mandatory in Mexico, but you should always use them the same as you would back home. Most car rental companies will provide child seats for an additional fee, and it’s not worth risking a child’s safety by not using one. The car seats here are the same as those 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’t pay with USD only the 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 temperamental when driving in remote areas of the Yucatan Peninsula. So, we strongly suggest you download maps for offline use before hitting the road, as this can save you from getting lost.

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

A small rental car is parked on the side of the road in Mexico
Our car!

Yes, you can trust the majority of online rental car websites in Playa del Carmen. But to ensure you’re booking with a reputable company at the best price available, we advise using Discover Cars. If you’ve read any of our other travel blogs, you’ll know that we ALWAYS use Discover Cars when renting a car anywhere in the world!

Their customer service is excellent, and their website is very user-friendly, plus they always have the cheapest deals. So, to us going with them is a no-brainer!  

Just remember the first price you see likely won’t include car insurance, so make sure to select an insurance option to see the total price you will be paying. Discover Cars also shows supplier ratings out of 10, so make sure to look at a company’s rating before booking! 

13. What extras are available when renting a car in Playa del Carmen?

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie while driving around Mexico
Heading to the beach!

Additional driver

Considering there are so many awesome places just a short drive from Playa del Carmen, it’s likely your rental car will be put to good use here! If you want to share the burden of driving, why not add an “additional driver” to your rental car booking? That way, you can sit back and relax in the passenger seat and admire the stunning scenery while your additional driver drives. 

It also means that if you get tired, your additional driver can take over, which is the safest option, as driving while tired on the roads in Playa del Carmen is not a good idea. 

The cost of adding an additional driver to your booking depends on the type of car that you’re renting and the company 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

Full coverage insurance

Full coverage insurance covers you for damage, theft, loss, and even scratches and scrapes. By adding on full coverage insurance, you can ensure that you won’t be caught out for any of the above expenses. FYI, you’re covered for up to $3,200 USD.

We reckon paying an additional $7 USD a day is most definitely worth the peace of mind – especially with all the topes and potholes on the roads close to Playa del Carmen!

Car seat

If you’re traveling with a child that requires a car seat, the easiest option is to add one to your car rental reservation. This way, you won’t need to bring one on your flight. And, if you’ve traveled with one in the past, you’ll know how heavy and awkward they are! 

Renting a car seat will set you back around $12 USD per day, which is a little pricey, so you’ll need to decide if the hassle of bringing your own is worth the savings. 

The good thing about Discover Cars is they offer baby seats for infants weighing up to 13 kilograms (28 lbs) and child seats for little ones weighing between 9-18 kilograms (20-40 lbs). And the price is the same no matter what type of car seat you need.  

14. What are the road conditions like in Playa del Carmen?

road between Cancun and Tulum
The highway is in great shape!

Playa del Carmen is one of the most populated and tourist-heavy resorts in the state of Quintana Roo, so of course, the roads here are going to be better maintained than in more rural areas. But, it also means that traffic here will be heavier than in other parts of the state.

Main roads and toll roads (cuotas) are, for the most part, well-maintained and free from topes here, but secondary roads can be narrow, bumpy, and full of potholes. As a matter of fact, all roads here are much narrower than the roads in the U.S. and Canada.

Be especially careful when driving 10th Avenue in downtown Playa del Carmen (it’s one of the main roads in town), and although it doesn’t have many topes, it’s in pretty poor condition, and the intersections along this road can be a little nerve-wracking too.

We know that topes seem to be the “hot topic” in this blog post, but you really need to watch out for them, as if you drive over one too fast, you can really damage your rental car. And because they’re unpainted, it’s super-easy to do so. 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 often flash their lights or put on their hazards if topes are ahead.

15. Tips to follow when renting a car in Playa del Carmen

Driving our Mexico rental car at sunset in Mexico
Driving our Mexico rental car at sunset in Mexico

Take your own photos when doing the inspection

One of our top tips is to take lots of photos of your rental car before driving it away from the rental company’s parking lot. If there are any dents, scratches, bumps, etc., make sure you take a clear photo of each and email it to the car rental company straight away. This is to cover yourself, in case the rental companies try to claim that you caused the damage when you return it!

Sort by supplier rating, not price, on Discover Cars

Everyone wants to get a good deal when on vacation, but we must say that when renting a car, the cheapest option isn’t always the best one. That’s why when booking your Playa del Carmen rental car on Discover Cars, it’s better to go with a highly-rated company instead of a cheap one. That way, you know that the car will be in great condition 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.

Get full coverage

We don’t want to bore you too much with all this insurance talk, but honestly, it’s so important to have full coverage insurance when driving in Playa del Carmen. As this insurance option covers you for up to $3,200 USD worth of damage to your car (provided you comply with the terms of your rental agreement.) It costs just $7 USD per day on Discover Cars, and there are no deductibles.

We should add that this doesn’t cover third-party damage, but no need to fret as you’ll already be covered for that under the mandatory personal liability insurance, which is already included in the rental price when you book with Discover Cars.

You can’t cross the border with your rental car

You CANNOT cross the border into the USA or any other bordering countries such as Guatemala or Belize in your rental car! The car rental company strictly forbids it, 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 Playa del Carmen. You can check out Discover Cars’ terms and conditions here.

16. Can you leave Mexico with your rental car?

No, you cannot leave Mexico in your rental car!

Crossing the border into neighboring countries like the USA, Guatemala, and Belize 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 pass through border control successfully, you would violate your rental agreement, so your insurance wouldn’t cover any damage, and you would have to pay for any damage out of your own pocket!

17. What should you do if you get in an accident in Playa del Carmen?

Daniel poses for a photo with our rental car at the Tulum Ruins parking lot in Tulum, Mexico
No accidents for us yet!

Accidents happen all the time, and you may get into one while driving in Playa del Carmen. The most important thing to remember if you do is don’t panic!

Your first step should be call to 911 and request an accident investigator (known here as a Perito) to be sent to the scene of the accident. They will investigate and put together an accident report, which will be needed for your insurance claim.

You should also call your insurance company and report the accident to them. As we said earlier, make sure you have your driver’s license and rental and insurance policies on you, so you can prove that you have car insurance!

If you collide with another vehicle, you must swap contact details and insurance information with them. Also, be sure to write down their license plate and take photos of the scene and any damage to your car so that you have visual proof.

If you or somebody else is injured, you must call 911 for an ambulance. 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 Playa del Carmen so that you know exactly what’s included.

Don’t get Caught without Travel Insurance!

We never travel without travel insurance! We’ve had a few instances during our travels when one of us has ended up in the hospital, and travel insurance has saved us thousands of dollars over the years!

SafetyWing is our go-to insurance, we both have policies with them whenever we travel.

They offer travel medical insurance that’s super affordable (only $45 USD per 4 weeks!)The only thing to note is that the insurance must be purchased once you’ve left your home country – we typically buy it as soon as we land at the airport.  

We’ve personally used SafetyWing for many different trips, and we’ve been reimbursed for countless expenses when we’ve fallen ill. SafetyWing even covered our flights back to Canada in full when the pandemic first happened (when last-minute flights before the borders closed were super expensive!) While most travel insurance companies left people stranded, SafetyWing fully reimbursed us for our last-minute, pricey flights!

Also, because it is so affordable, there really is no excuse not to take out a policy. Check prices and get a quote online here with SafetyWing (you can even take out a policy if you’re already traveling!)

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

Driving on a cute street in Mexico in a rental car
Never leave valuables in your car.

Definitely not! That’s the short answer! When vacationing in Playa del Carmen, it’s not a good idea to leave your luggage or any valuables unattended in your rental car, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Unfortunately, car break-ins and auto theft are common occurrences in this part of the world.

Of course, if you’re leaving your car for a short time (to pop into a shop or grab a bite to eat), it’s not feasible to take all your luggage with you – in that instance, you can hide them in the trunk or under the seats if they 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!

As for valuables, your safest option is to ALWAYS take them with you. I don’t know what I’d do if my most prized possessions were stolen! Remember, clothing and toiletries, etc., can easily be replaced in Playa del Carmen.

Our tip – your car insurance doesn’t cover the cost of your possessions, so it’s worth taking out travel insurance for your time in Playa del Carmen just in case you are the victim of theft!

19. Is it easy to fill your car with gas in Playa del Carmen?

Gas pump in Mexico
Gas pump in Mexico
Fueling up our rental car in Mexico
Someone will pump the gas for you!

Yes, filling your rental car with gas in Playa del Carmen is very easy. And there are many gas stations to choose from here.

At most Playa del Carmen gas stations, station attendants 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!).

It’s best to pay for your gas with cash, as, unfortunately, gas stations are notorious spots 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, not a debit card, as it’s much easier to claim your money back from a credit card company. Thanks to the new digital age, if you think your card has been scammed, you can freeze your credit (or debit) card through your online banking app!

Also, never 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 MXN ($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 MXN ($1-$3 USD) to the tip.

20. Is renting a car in Playa del Carmen worth it?

driving in Mexico
Yes!

Renting a car in Playa del Carmen is the perfect addition to your Mexican vacation, as doing so gives you the freedom to go off the main tourist track and see cool places. It also gives you more flexibility as you don’t have to rely on public transport, which isn’t the most reliable in Playa del Carmen.

So, in short, YES, it’s 1,000% worth renting a car in Playa del Carmen!

We’ve rented cars in Playa del Carmen numerous times and have always used Discover Cars. As you know, they are our absolute favorite car rental website. We know renting a car will take a big chunk out of your budget, but honestly, we’ve never regretted it as it enabled us to see secret beaches and hidden cenotes from Playa del Carmen, which we just wouldn’t have been able to do without a car!

Activities to do While You’re in Playa del Carmen

Scuba diving here is unreal!
bailey on the beach in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
The beaches in Playa are where you’ll find me!

While we gave you a few ideas for where to go in your rental car from Playa del Carmen, that’s just the tip of the iceberg! There’s so much to do in Playa del Carmen that you could easily spend your entire vacation here. Here are a few more of my favorite activities which I think you’ll love:

  • Go shopping – Fifth Avenue is a super popular pedestrian street full of shops, boutiques, and markets. If you’re looking for souvenirs or fancy treating yourself to a new holiday get-up, this is the place to be. The Playa del Carmen Flea Market is my top pick for budget gifts and handicrafts, and Quinta Alegría Shopping Mall is your one-stop-shop for international brands.
  • Go on a food tour – If you’re a foodie at heart, this walking street food tour is a must! It’s a great way to learn about different Mexican cuisines, from tacos and tamales to elote. Plus, I love that it visits more the locals’ favorite eateries rather than the touristy spots – you really get a window into the culture!

Where to Stay in Playa del Carmen

Bailey relaxes at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico near Playa del Carmen
Me relaxing at just one of the resorts I have stayed in Playa del Carmen!

There are a TON of great places to stay in Playa del Carmen, so it can be a bit difficult knowing where to even begin! The hotels here cater to all kinds of budgets, age-ranges, and more, so to help give you a good overview, I’ve included some of my favorites below:

Che Playa Hostel and Bar – $

Visiting Playa del Carmen doesn’t have to be super expensive! In fact, for those traveling on a budget, I’d highly recommend Che Playa Hostel and Bar, which is an adult-only hostel and one of the best in town!

It’s really well-located right in the heart of Playa del Carmen and even has its own rooftop pool and bar. While it’s nothing crazy, this gives it a really chilled-out social atmosphere, and the clean facilities and helpful staff make the whole stay a blast.

Rates here are some of the best you’ll find in town, with a bed in a dorm starting from as low as $37 USD per night. You can check out the rates for yourself over on Hostelworld or Booking.com.

Soho Playa Hotel – $$

Whenever I’m visiting on a moderate budget and don’t fancy staying in a resort, my personal pick is the Soho Playa Hotel, which I’ve visited a couple of times now and is a real gem! It’s just a stone’s throw away from the beach, has its own pool, and all rates include free breakfast. Perfect for filling up before a day out scuba diving.

The rooms here are also super modern and are really clean – a one-night stay here starts at $94 USD per night and can be booked online here.

The Palm at Playa – $$

The Palm at Playa is a lot like the Soho Playa Hotel – it’s in a similar price range, but I’d say it’s a little bit more on the luxury end. It’s also located right near the beach and has its own on-site restaurant, which blends local flavors with a European twist – I really recommend the amazing fish tacos!

The rooftop palm garden is the perfect retreat when it’s super hot out, take it from me that this feels like a luxury hotel without the price tag. Rooms here start at $116 USD per night and for the best price, it’s best to book online in advance.

El Taj Oceanfront and Beachside Condo Hotel – $$$

If budget isn’t an issue for you, then the luxury world of hotels at Playa del Carmen is at your fingertips! When it comes to enjoying out-of-this-world hospitality and comfort, El Taj Oceanfront and Beachside Condo Hotel really can’t be topped. With its very own infinity pool and elegant suites, every corner of this hotel is Instagram-worthy!

El Taj’s ASI restaurant serves delicious gourmet food that dazzles the taste buds, and if you’re feeling ultra-relaxed in your room, you can request the chef to come to your suite and prepare your meals there! While I haven’t personally been here, you can bet that this is on my bucket list.

A one night’s stay at El Taj starts at $185 USD, which I think is actually pretty good value considering all the luxuries that come with it! To snag the best rooms, I’d suggest checking your dates and booking your stay online here.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey take a selfie driving in their rental car in Mexico
Thanks for reading!

We know that many people are intimidated by the idea of renting a car in Playa del Carmen – but hopefully, after reading all of our tips and advice, you won’t be afraid to go for it! We promise if you do rent a car in Playa del Carmen, it will be a memorable experience!

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 Things to KNOW Before Swimming with Whale Sharks in Playa del Carmen

11 BEST Cancun Resorts (An Unbiased Guide from Cheap to Luxury!)

10 BEST Tours in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

9 Things You NEED To Know about the Cancun Airport Shuttles