Whether driving your own car or rental, there are pointers to be shared about the joys and hazards of getting around.
Drive Defensively: We highly recommend you be a defensive driver in Puerto Vallarta and make use of the mirrors in your vehicle. It’s good to know what’s behind you. Being polite is not always the best advice, which you soon discover when relying on turn indicators and speedy traffic lights. If you are making an attempt to change lanes or merge, it never hurts to make eye contact.
Buying Gas: You’ll soon grow familiar with the ubiquitous PEMEX stations, which are plentiful and convenient, even in remote areas. We do not, however, recommend setting out on a long trip without filling up first. Many PEMEX stations are closed, under construction or haven’t opened yet. PEMEX (Petroleos Mexicanos) stations are the color of the Mexican flag, predominately green and use a red eagle as a logo. The price of fuel is the same at every station so don’t drive around looking for a better price as you might in the Northern regions. Fuel costs in 2015 will be in flux, depending on what goes in the international market. Gas can be found cheaper in Border States but will be the same in Puerto Vallarta as most places in Mexico. We always tip the gas station attendants, several of whom are female now, a rare sight until just a handful of years ago.
Topes: Defensive driving also applies to Mexican speed bumps. They are not always well marked and have potential of major harm if you hit them at any velocity. You will encounter either a series or perhaps one large tope and they are truly meant to slow you down, not kidding. If you are driving a rental automobile keep within speed limits because, upon your return, they will inspect the underside with a mirror. In rural areas, you will also encounter vados, which are the opposite of topes, dips in the road, which usually indicate some sort of water crossing. Trolls live there.
Animals: Yesterday we watched an exceptionally intelligent dog cross a very busy intersection. While we cringed and prayed for her safe passage, we were quite aware that she is the exception to the rule. Be extremely cautious of animals in all sizes and species (chickens, dogs and cats; cows and burros). This is the main rationale for not driving at night; they are a lot harder to see in the dark.
Police: If you are pulled over in Puerto Vallarta, make sure you have all documents (registration, driver’s license and insurance) at hand. Be polite, apologetic and SMILE. Do NOT offer a bribe. The mordida, as it is known, once the easiest way to avoid a ticket, could be the surest introduction to a Mexican jail. And don’t drink and drive. Checkpoints are often set up to nab offenders and you’ll be arrested if you can’t pass the test.
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