If you are wondering whether renting a car in Tulum is convenient and safe or not, this is the right place to find out.
Hi! This is Isabella. I have been living in Mexico since 2010 in love with this country even before I was born. I used to live in Cancun for 7 years and Tulum was quite often my weekend getaway.
For the first couple of years, I didn’t have my own car so I use car rentals a lot because I loved to explore and get around at my own pace without having to rely on buses or, let alone taxis.
In this guide I will tell you everything you need to know about renting a car in Tulum, why it’s convenient and when you shouldn’t rent instead, what are the best car rentals and, most of all, not to get scammed.
But first of all, let me give you a brief introduction to Tulum.
This quaint little big town, declared Pueblo Magico, has become one of the most visited upscale beach destinations in Mexico.
What makes Tulum special, are in fact the incredible natural wonders and historical landmarks, from the ancient Tulum ruins, towering over the blue Caribbean sea to the refreshing cenotes tucked away in the lush tropical forest, natural reserves, and other hidden treasures.
If you are interested to know more about that, at the end of this article you will find all you need to know about Tulum in my detailed Tulum Travel Blogs.
There is a lot to see in Tulum and its surroundings and that is why I would say, yes you will definitely be better off with a car. And in this post, I will tell you all about it.
RENTING A CAR IN TULUM
Renting a car in Tulum: the most important questions
Road trips are the best way to see Mexico, but not all parts are easy and safe to drive around. Luckily for you, Tulum, the Riviera Maya, and the entire Yucatan Peninsula are some of the safest areas to drive on your own.
So let me answer the most common questions.
Do I need a car in Tulum?
In my opinion, you do, if you love moving around fast and safely without having to call a taxi every time.
Besides, taxis in Tulum are getting over their heads, charging outrageous rates. You will definitely be better off with your own car.
Renting a car in Tulum is in fact the most cost-effective and convenient way to set your schedule and travel whenever and wherever you want.
Tulum does have public transportation to the main nearby locations, Valladolid, Coba, Merida, Cancun, Bacalar and Playa del Carmen.
However, if you need to move around town public transportation is completely unreliable and will make your vacation a real hassle.
Also to move around if you want to go visit cenotes, the beautiful beaches of the Riviera Maya and all the attractions outside Tulum, you would need to rely either on taxis or organized tours.
I don’t mean to say that those are not good ways to explore, just different.
It really depends on how you love to travel. Organized tours are a good option too, but it’s not something we want to discuss here.
Is it safe to rent a car in Tulum?
I understand the general concern about renting a car in a foreign country and that is why I decide to write this post so that you can be prepared of what to expect.
I believe there is always a risk associated with renting a car anywhere, even in your own country.
But it is generally safe to rent a car in Tulum, especially if you follow the advice described in this article, including purchasing additional insurance for your peace of mind.
And although I cannot promise that nothing bad will happen to you, I wish I had that power, I am sure that following these tips, it will reduce the chance of getting scammed or doing something silly.
RENTING A CAR IN TULUM
The best rental car companies in Tulum
There is no absolute best car rental company, because it depends on the time of the year, their availability, and many other variables.
I always recommend using Discover Cars website which is a quick and easy way to compare prices and choose the car rental that offers the best prices.
They also offer full rental car insurance directly with Discover Cars (not with the car rental) but keep in mind that this insurance doesn’t pay for damages upfront. You need to pay anything yourself and get a refund after.
You could also pick up your car from Cancun Airport so that you will save the transfer costs as well and you will be completely independent from the start.
There are rental places just outside the airport and the car rental company representative would wait for you at the airport to take you to pick up your car.
Among the car rentals suggested American car rental and MEX cars are the most common with a decent rental price but remember to look for the hidden costs, always. I will talk about it later on in this post.
↳You can read my Discover Cars Rental reviews for further clarity.
Browse through international and local car rentals and find the best deal.
RENTING A CAR IN TULUM
How much does renting a car in Tulum cost?
Tulum car rental prices vary depending on the low and high season and the vehicle you rent.
Prices can range from 10 USD to 70 USD but that’s where the first piece of advice goes.
When you see prices as low as 10 USD there is a catch, ALWAYS.
Usually, the rental price that companies advertise refers to the cheapest car and there are extra costs attached.
For example it may not include ex taxes and additional insurance.
So every time you see such a low rate, click on the links and look for more information. If there is no info I would pass.
On DiscoverCars Rental website for example you can see what’s included in the available options so that you can choose which one is the best for you.
It’s always a good idea to take a screenshot of what’s shows as included, so that you can show it when you pick up the car in case they don’t respect the same conditions.
RENTING A CAR IN TULUM
What do I need to rent a car in Tulum, Mexico?
Here are the basic documents you need to rent a car in Tulum, Mexico, but everywhere in Mexico, really.
1. A Valid Driver’s License (or IDP)
Renting a car in Tulum does not require an international driving permit. You can use your own driving license without a problem from your home country.
You will need an international driver’s license only if the alphabet used in the official language of your home country is not Latin.
2. What’s the minimum age for renting a car in Mexico?
Theoretically, you need to be 21 to rent a car in Mexico. However, if you are younger than 25 you may have to pay a sort of “young driver surcharge” which varies for each car rental.
Also, some car rentals want to see at least a driving license with a 1 to 2 years validity.
2. A Valid Credit Card
You will need a credit card to rent a car in Tulum and all Mexico. That is because the car rental agency will need to hold on to an amount as a deposit for any damages or fines.
The higher your insurance coverage the lower the hold the Car rental company will do on your car rental.
That is why I always recommend getting full insurance with zero deductibles (deducible in Spanish) but we will talk about it in another section below.
Debit card bookings for rental cars are sometimes possible, but not every company accepts them.
In any case, it would not be a good move because they cannot hold the money on debit cards.
They can only make a full charge which would eventually be refunded in case all goes smoothly. However whatever the amount, it will take a while to appear in your account.
So if you want to rent a car in Tulum, make sure you get yourself a credit card before leaving your country.
3. Car Insurance is mandatory
Driving in Mexico requires insurance. You must have Mexican Personal Liability Insurance at a minimum.
Different companies charge different prices for insurance coverage. Personal Liability Insurance is the minimum required by law and costs around $7-10 USD daily.
But this should always be included in the basic rental fees. Sometimes also the CDW is included (collision damage waver).
However there is usually a deductible to pay.
That is why, I always suggest purchasing full insurance with zero deductible for your peace of mind. That’s what I do.
You should know though, that even in that case, any car rental makes its own price and insurance structure.
When I rented a car with American Car Rental, which was the cheapest one showing up on Discover cars, it was a headache because I thought I asked for the full insurance but they keep adding insurance costs for different things.
Tires, windows minor damages have all different insurance prices.
So you need to be very clear and ask for completely full insurance. And when they tell you a price, you must ask, “what is not included in the insurance?”
That’s the magic question! For example, you want the minor damages included because you never know what they can consider minor damages, right?
Mex Car Rental is another affordable local car rental company, they have higher rates compared to American Cars, but they have everything included in one go.
You don’t have to negotiate or ask a thousand questions. Though I would always do that, just in case!
All these car rental rates you will find in Discover Cars, a company I recommend and use for comparing prices and most of the time make the booking. They also offer full insurance, but I will talk about it later on.
Additionally, some car rental companies won’t let you use their vehicles unless you buy your insurance.
Browse through international and local car rentals and find the best deal.
What if I have my own insurance?
This is a good question. Many credit card companies in the United States offer car rental insurance.
Always check if it’s valid in Mexico before leaving your country. And some car rentals need proof of it.
Some Car rental would complain that this is not valid in Mexico because they want you to buy their full insurance.
However, the only mandatory insurance in Mexico is Liability, which is supposed to be included in the price.
Every other extra insurance is optional and therefore you are free to use the one you have with your credit card if they confirm it’s valid in Mexico.
Another thing you should know is that the credit card will not anticipate any costs of damages or accidents.
So whatever you are covered for, you will need to anticipate the money and be refunded when you get home, after you follow your insurance company’s procedure.
For this very same reason, I always prefer to buy the insurance with the car company directly. So I have less hassle.
RENTING A CAR IN TULUM
Renting a Car in Tulum: Common Scams (or perceived as scams)
1. Unanticipated Add-Ons
Watch out for features or insurance you might assume are included. A $5 daily surcharge may apply to satellite radio. A GPS navigator costs roughly $50 each week.
Also if you are traveling with other people and you want others to drive as well you need to purchase the additional driver tax.
If the driver is not in the document and something happens the insurance won’t cover the damages costs.
Theft protection insurance is also a good one to have, just in case.
Also if you are planning to drive across other countries, in this case Belize or Guatemala, you can do it but you need to let the company know and purchase a sort of permit (or tax).
As I mentioned before when a car company is promoting a rate, it is usually free of taxes. Make sure you keep it in mind.
And so are the different car parts with their own insurance, tires, windows, and minor damages, to name a few.
2. Hard Selling Insurance
As I mentioned, even though it seems like a huge amount of extra money on top of the car rental costs, it gives me peace of mind so they don’t even have to convince me to purchase the full insurance.
The only issue is making sure it’s really full, with zero deductible. Hence, the magic question, I mentioned earlier.
What is NOT included? and from the answer, you will know if it’s indeed full coverage.
3. Including gas
Well, in this case, the car rental company will fill out a form where they will mark what level of gas is in the car when you pick it up.
You need to make sure you will drop the car off with the same amount of gas, not a drop less.
If it’s more you don’t get a refund, if it’s less they overcharge you with a sort of fine.
So make sure you check whether there are gas stations nearby and wait until the last minute to fill up the gas tank at the due level, to avoid paying any extra charges.
4. Taxes, penalties, and more information that rental companies may not provide
The introductory rental rate may sound incredible, but you need the sales tax, local taxes, airport fees, and licensing costs to discover the REAL cost of that rental.
Before making your reservation, inquire about these. It should be your first question; otherwise, you can receive a nasty surprise.
5. Omission of information
When I rented my car with American Car rental, I found out that in order for my full insurance to be applicable I needed to report everything that happened immediately, before dropping off the car.
On the contrary, I wouldn’t be covered. So make sure you ask as much as you can and read the fine print if possible.
6. Other details
Some automobile rental agencies have varied charges depending on your rental duration, arrival time, etc. Your plans and your costs may change if your flight is canceled.
Some car rental companies have zero cancellation fees, others will detain a small percentage if you don’t show up. Others may refund your unused days in case you have a change of plans, others don’t
Usually, when you rent a car, the daily fare is considered 24hrs, so you need to drop it off at the same time you collected it. Some car rentals offer a 1 hour grace periods, others don’t.
Some car companies would charge you for an entire extra day if you are 1 hour late, some others have a rate per each extra hour.
These are questions you need to ask in case they don’t mention it during the delivery.
How to avoid Tulum car rental scams
So, after all, that has been said, how can you avoid potential scams when you rent a car in Tulum?
Here are some practical tips:
💰 Ask about all hidden costs when booking a reservation and at the collection counter in case of any omission.
In addition to accessories, this also refers to mileage restrictions, and roadside assistance, which used to be free but it’s actually covered if you purchased a certain type of insurance.
Also, ask for and late fines (which usually accrue 30 minutes after your vehicle is due back).
🤕 Before making a purchase, call your insurers and credit companies to see if they cover your car rental while in Mexico and what it’s covered.
This way, once you pick up your car, you are prepared about what kind of insurance you want and you can avoid any hassle.
Make sure you don’t forget to check the level of gas in the car when you pick it up and it’s marked correctly in the document they give you.
Remember to fill it up before finding the closest gas station to the rental company, and fuel the car on your way there.
💸 Check penalty costs
Before renting a car in Tulum, enquire with the car hire about any fees that may apply if your flight is canceled or if they can refund the money. Or in case you need to end your trip earlier and drop off the car earlier, ask if there is a refund.
✅ Check the car with the car rental agent
Before delivering the car the car rental agent will go through the car body and feature write on a form if there are any marks, if something is missing and the level of gas.
Make sure you check it with them and that what’s in the paper is correct before signing it.
Also do not lose this paper because they will need it once you drop off the car to check you out.
Also take a video and pictures of the car, where there are marks and bumps to prove that it wasn’t you who did it.
Do it even if you are supposed to have everything included in the insurance. You never know.
Driving in Tulum or Mexico in general – law and order!
▶ Road signs
Road signs are the same in Tulum, Playa del Carmen, or La Paz.
🛑 Alto means stop
⦿ In roundabouts, the car in the roundabout has priority.
➩ You can turn right most of the time even if the traffic light is red
▶ What to do if you get pulled over
Police officers could stop you for any reason, either because you committed an infraction or because they are doing random checks.
Just be calm, pull down the window and answer their questions. You are allowed to record them and say it, if you don’t feel comfortable.
They may ask your ID and Driving Licence but you have the right to show it to them without handing it over.
If you did something wrong accept the ticket and go without complaining, especially if you don’t speak Spanish well. I have been complaining to a police offer and it went well but it’s not something I would recommend.
Usually, Mexican police don’t speak English so if you are in difficulty ask them that you want to call a friend to help with the translation.
It will take the State Police five days to enter tickets into the system. After that time, you can make an online reservation. It only applies if the cops did not seize your plate number or driver’s license.
Go here to pay for your ticket online.
▶ What if they ask for a bribe
Police bribing is a fact in Mexico. It’s not only hearsay.
According to Mexican legislation, a law enforcement officer must NOT ask for or take money but it’s still happening, most of the time.
They don’t ask for a bribe in a straightforward way, but they may ask ” Como lo arreglamos? (How are we going to fix this?) or maybe they just make you wait for nothing until you say something.
This way you cannot report them because technically they didn’t ask for anything.
It happened to me many times and what I did was saying: “You are right. Please give me the ticket and I will pay it.”
Or I would say, either give me the ticket or let me go. Sometimes I got away with it and I was let go without any fine. And I absolutely never ever bribe!
They cannot ask you to pay the fine there. You need to go to an office. Actually, if you pay within the next 3 days you have a 30 to 50 % discount.
So please never support this kind of practice because otherwise, it will never end.
▶ Toll roads
There are only a few toll roads in the Yucatan Peninsula that connect Tulum Playa del Carmen and Cancun with Merida.
I prefer to take the normal roads because I love the idea to bump into an hidden cenote or a small village but if you are in a rush and want to get to your destination quicker you should use toll roads.
Just keep in mind that they only accept cash and in Mexican pesos only!
▶ Google Maps
Google Maps is what makes me feel safe when I drive because I know I won’t get lost. Well sometimes they mark silly itineraries but that’s ok.
You can also ask people if you know a bit of spanish, but for me Google Maps is a priority when I drive.
Make sure you download the offline map before driving because in some areas there is no phone reception.
What to do in case of emergency
Unexpected occurrences can happen to anyone at any time. If you get involved, whether it is an accident or you don’t feel well, or you don’t feel safe.
Here are some tips.
1. Have a local Simcard
I always recommend getting a Mexican sim card for many reasons and one of these is to be able to communicate in case of any emergency
2. Have a working cell phone
Make sure your cellphone is not locked and you can use it with a local sim card. If this is not possible, make sure your provider and phone plan include Mexico so that you can use the phone in case of emergency, even if the cost may be higher than using a local sim card.
3. Download the Google maps app and download an offline map
Google map is almost always effective to avoid getting lost. However, some areas don’t have coverage.
Therefore make sure you download the map of the area you are going to travel to so that you can use it even in case there is no coverage.
4. Call 911 in case of any emergency
911 in Mexico works for any emergency case. Tell your problem to the operator and they will direct you to the right department.
Renting a car in Tulum FAQ
How are the roads in Tulum, Mexico?
One of the busiest, multi-lane, and well-maintained highways connects Cancun with Tulum. Two-lane freeways also connect Tulum to Coba and then on to Chichen Itza.
Although there is no high risk of robbery, I do not recommend driving at night merely because there are many dangers on the road, including bicycles, animals, and humans.
Is there Uber in Tulum?
No, there is no Uber in Tulum and I would recommend avoiding Taxis, as they charge outrageous rates and that is why I recommend renting a car.
What’s the best place to rent a car in Tulum?
Discover Cars is the perfect place to book a car. They have the cheapest rates because they search all major car hire agencies and find the best price.
Once you book your car, they will tell you the location of the chosen car rental in Tulum.
Are rental cars in Cancun Mexico automatic or stick shift?
The majority of car hire agencies in Mexico are automatic. However, the stick shift is available in cheaper cars. You can request it if you want and that may reduce the price of your car rental.
What side of the road do you drive on in Mexico?
Driving in Mexico is on the road’s right side.
The easiest way to book a car rental in Tulum Mexico
Discover Cars is the best place to book a car. They have competitive rates because they search all major car hire agencies in Tulum and surrounding areas and find the best price.
Renting a Car in Tulum: Driving in Mexico
If you have concerns about driving in Mexico, I’ve got you covered. in the linked post I give you useful tips about driving in Mexico for a smooth and flawless experience. Here below I am sharing a brief summary.
10 Tulum Driving Tips
✔ Avoid driving at night in Mexico and wear a seat belt.
✔ Beware of topes (speed bumps)
✔ Mexico’s speed limits are in kilometers per hour
✔ Don’t use your cell phone while driving in Mexico
✔ Always wear the seat belt
✔ Cancun gas stations are not self-serve
✔ Always tip at gas stations
✔ Window cleaners may approach you at stop lights (and beggars)
✔ Some Spanish knowledge will help
Other Mexican destinations where renting a car is safe and recommended
The Yucatan peninsula is one of the safest places for renting a car and the easy way to reach archeological sites, cenotes, and all the natural wonders around.
Just keep in mind that for Holbox you can’t bring your car and in Isla Mujeres you could but you don’t need it.
However there are many other states in Mexico where driving around is the best option to enjoy the area. Those are:
✔ Baja California Sur
✔ Puerto Vallarta
✔ Huatulco and the Oaxaca Coast
Renting a car in Tulum: final thoughts
There are many places in Mexico where renting a car will make your trip more enjoyable and the Yucatan Peninsula is one of them.
In fact, from Tulum, you can reach the major attractions and if you have your own car you can get there at a time when it’s less busy and make the most out of your trip.
You can also reach hidden cenotes and places where local transportations won’t get and taxis would charge a fortune.
I hope this guide to renting a car in Tulum has helped you decide how to plan your vacation and gives you enough confidence to get your car and set off for a road trip of a lifetime.
✨ Mexico Travel Planning Guide ✨
👉 Do I Need Travel Insurance to Travel to Mexico?
I would do it if I were you. You never know what can happen and know that no matter what, you will be covered with any expenses will give you peace of mind, and make your travel worry-free. You can check out SafetyWing which I have used and find it affordable and comprehensive and also Travel Insurance Master which is great because you can insert all your information and what kind of insurance you need and their system will pull out the best insurance for your need.
🚰 Can I Drink Tap Water in Mexico?
No, you can’t! Maybe in some areas or in some homes where they have installed water filters but to be on the safe side, I would say, never drink tap water in Mexico. Carry a water bottle with you and fill it up where you find available potable water sources. Most of the hotels have those.
🚗 Is It Safe to Drive in Mexico?
The short answer is: depending on where you are. Although in general if you stick to the main roads and don’t drive at night you should probably be safe. In lesser tourist areas you should probably check the local news to stay up to date. Driving in the Yucatan Peninsula is easy everywhere, even at night, although I would still avoid it. I recommend Discover Cars because the site offers the option to compare prices among different car rentals and you can add their own full coverage.
Read more on my guide on Renting a car in Mexico.
📱 Will My Phone Work in Mexico?
It will probably work, especially if you have a European or US phone, but your roaming rates may be to the stars (check with your SIM provider). Even if have an affordable international rate, you will be much better off by buying a Mexican SIM Card. It’s cheap, easy to set up, and it will keep you connected with your friends, family, and, more important, google Maps so you will never get lost!
🤕 Is It Safe to Travel to Mexico Right Now?
The short answer is, yes it is. However, there are parts of Mexico that are indeed troubled and you should avoid for now, and others that are super safe and easy to travel around.
Regardless of where you are you should always use some common sense rules such as, never flaunting expensive clothing, accessories, electronics, or money and keeping a low profile.
Read more on my detailed guide on safety in Mexico. If you are traveling to a specific destination I have got you covered as well:
💉 Do I Need Any Vaccine to Travel to Mexico?
No, there is no vaccine requirement (of any kind) to travel to Mexico
🇲🇽 Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Mexico?
If you are coming from the US or Europe you don’t need a VISA to enter Mexico. Once you get in you need to fill out a form that you need to keep with you until you leave. If you don’t have it you will pay a fine.
Although the tourist visa for US and European travelers used to be 6 months long which you could easily renew by leaving the country for a couple of days and going back, nowadays they have been stricter. You may be asked how you would sustain your living and other similar questions. Sometimes they even ask you to show your credit cards.
It seems odd but they can do that. If you intend to stay longer than a usual couple of weeks’ vacation time, just be honest and explain your plans. If you are not from the US, check this site to see if you need a visa
💸 Where Do I Find the Best Travel Deals for Mexico? 💸
A trip to Mexico can be expensive if you love to travel with all the comforts (like I do). There are a few tricks that will help you find the best deals. Here are my tips:
👉 DON’T travel in the high season, which is Holy week, Christmas and winter in general, and August.
👉 Book months in advance to find early booking discounts
👉 Use aggregators such as Discover Cars to find price comparisons and VRBO for vacation rentals!
👉 Look for packages flights+hotels on Expedia.
👉 Check on Booking.com or Hotels.com for hotel deals