Our car rental in Oaxaca was mostly awesome. It enabled these adventures: being the first ones to arrive for sunrise at Monte Alban, seeing two-day old puppies during a mountain pull-over, beach hopping from Puerto Angel to the nudist beach at Zipolite, and delicious roadside snacks of coconut and Mezcal. Check out some of our favorite things about Oaxaca here. We prefer being pedestrians in cities, but when you head out to the hills it lets you connect to regular people and fun experiences.
There are lots of wild-eyed rumors about driving in Mexico – and I am sure they are sometimes true – but we had zero difficulty in the areas we drove. Driving is inherently risky no matter where you are, but Mexico has nearly four times the rate of traffic related deaths than the United States per vehicle on the road. To stick with the fun and reduce your risk I highly recommend: keeping your driving experiences to the daytime, being very aware of other drivers, and passing very conservatively.
Car Rental in Oaxaca, the Summary:
Side of the Road: Right side
License: Home license is sufficient
Lesson Learned the Hard Way: Don’t rent from Europcar
- You can easily get off the beaten track and into more rural areas
- You can access GPS using data most of the time
- It is easy to drop into Mezcal tasting spots (drinks for passengers only, obviously)
- You are on your own schedule
- It’s always an adventure!
- Mixed road quality
- The curves 190 south of Mitla and 200 are not great for those who get carsick
- On the windy two-lane highways you can get stuck behind trucks for a long time
- you have to find good places to park
We made a mistake in renting from Europcar. I paid $339 online and waived insurance as was allowed on their site and our credit card said they covered us for car insurance only if we waived the insurance for the rental. We organized this all by phone ahead of time. Regardless of how you approach it, make sure that you are fully insured before you sign anything. It is required by law.
When we got to the rental window there was some confusion where the clerk referred us to the fine print on some intermediary website (not Europcar) that said we had to have insurance through the company. It was frustrating, confusing even with Jay’s good Spanish, and it ended up costing us an additional $254 for the insurance. I’d shop around a little more with Alamo, Budget or Thrifty before you go.
The car itself was simple but fine. It is a good practice to take pictures of every nick and scratch before you take the car.
Where did we drive
Oaxaca City ⇒ Monte Alban ⇒ 190 to Teotitlan del Valle ⇒ 190 to 185 to Juchitan ⇒ 185 to 200 to 175 to Puerto Angel ⇒ Huatulco
- All highways had “topes” or speed bumps in populated areas or as intersections were coming up. If you don’t slow down you’ll catch some air and challenge your suspension.
- 190 was pretty good quality with the occasional pothole.
- 200 and 175 along the coast were serpentine with lots of potholes.
Road and signage quality
Signage was pretty reasonable. I could usually tell where to go, but I used the maps on my iPhone using data. I had a road map and printed out a few maps before we left, but didn’t really need them because the online maps were better. There are a couple of toll roads going over to Hierves el Agua, but we didn’t run into any others.
The roads were generally okay as well. Some potholes made us slow down, but we should have been going slowly already because of all the curves. I don’t know if the earthquake has degraded road quality at all near the coast. That is a possibility. At least one highway bridge came down in the earthquake on September 7.
Gas was straightforward and easy to find. We used our credit card to pay.
Mexican police have a bit of a reputation. It may be deserved, maybe not. All I can say is that we had zero interactions with them during our time driving in Oaxaca. In my reading ahead of time some suggesting asking for a paper ticket.
Alan Starkman, who runs Casa Machaya, has a fairly in-depth article about police here. I’d suggest giving it a skim. I have a hard time embracing his approach, but it is worth reading to get a deeper understanding of the issues.
So, in summary, I will definitely get a car rental in Oaxaca again if I’m cruising around outside of the city. I will definitely try a new car rental company though. Happy trails!!