people walking through a plaza in the centre of Guanajuato

Ultimate Mexico Road Trip for 2024: City to the Sea

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If you are looking for the ultimate Mexico road trip to discover some of the famous Pueblos Magicos (or Magic Towns), drive the Wine and Cheese Route, plus the Tequila Trail, and still have some beach time, this is the trip for you.

This 3-week itinerary combines parts of two of our Mexico road trips to create an adventure that gives you the chance to experience local culture, food, history, and natural beauty beyond your expectations.

If you are concerned is it safe to drive in Mexico we have you covered with our in-depth guide based on our experiences over recent road trips.

You can follow this itinerary as detailed below or modify it to suit your needs. Either way, your road trip will be packed with wonderful experiences and memories that will last forever.

Mexico Road Trip Itinerary Overview: 3 Weeks

This Mexico road trip can be broken down into shorter sections if you have limited time but if you have 3 weeks or longer you will be able to fully appreciate slowing down and soaking up everything on offer.

Any extra time could be spent exploring Mexico City, extending in one or more of the fabulous stops along the way, or more time at the end to recharge at a resort on the coast.

Day 1: Visit Amealco de Bonfil, home of the classic Maria Doll.

Day 2: See the Pueblos Magicos of San Juan del Rio and Tequisquiapan.

Day 3: Wander the main square of Tequisquiapan or visit a hot spring.

Day 4: Get lost in the beauty of Bernal, a Pueblo Magico.

Day 5: Explore the area outside Bernal.

Day 6: Hike the famous Pena de Bernal.

Day 7: Drive to historic Queretaro.

Day 8: Discover the history surrounding Queretaro.

Day 9: Explore the parks and centre of Queretaro.

Day 10: Drive to beautiful San Miguel de Allende.

Day 11: Enjoy a day in San Miguel de Allende.

Day 12: Experience authentic Mexico in Guanajuato.

Day 13: Take in the views, food and traditions of Guanajuato.

Day 14: Drive to the quaint town of Tlaquepaque.

Day 15: Have a day in historic Guadalajara.

Day 16: A full day of food and shopping in Tlaquepaque.

Day 17: Stay in the heart of the action at Tequila.

Day 18: Head to the coast at Puerto Vallarta.

Day 19: Chill on the beach in the fun town of Sayulita.

Day 20: Enjoy your last day in Puerto Vallarta.

Day 21: All good things must end!

Road Trip Day 1: Mexico City to Amealco de Bonfil

  • Driving Distance – approximately 180km / 115 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 2 hours and 40 minutes

A great way to start this Mexico road trip is with a night in one of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos, the home of the famous Maria Doll, Amealco de Bonfil.

Have some time in the afternoon to wander around the Zocalo (town square) before and check out the nearby local markets. If you are looking for a great souvenir then be sure to buy a Maria Doll.

A mural in Amealco Mexico depicting the famous Maria dolls of the region

There are plenty of restaurants to be found, or you could grab some succulent roast chicken and ribs from ROSTICERIA LA ESTRELLA across from the markets, and find a bench in the Zocalo to enjoy dinner.

Where to Stay in Atlixco

Soleil Inn Atlixco is a great option for anyone wanting comfort and location at a budget-friendly price. This hotel has onsite parking and is an easy walk to the town centre.

For a unique experience, Alqueria de Carrion Hotel Boutique is a beautifully modernised hotel built in a 17th century building. Perfectly located in the centre of town.

Road Trip Day 2: Amealco to Tequisquiapan

  • Driving Distance – approximately 65km / 40 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 1 hour and 10 minutes

A short driving day today where you will be travelling through another small “Magic Town”. San Juan del Rio is a historic town about halfway to today’s destination.

To be honest, there is very little to do there and it will probably be a short stop, but it’s still worth a quick look to learn about how it earned a Pueblo Magico listing.

A vendor selling colourful balloons in the Zocalo of Tequisquiapan Mexico

But the star of today is definitely Tequisquiapan, or just Tequis to the locals. Another Magic Town but this time blessed with a lively and beautiful town square which comes alive of an evening.

Choose to grab some street food from one of the vendors around the square or eat in one of the wonderful restaurants nearby. There are also some nice bars for anyone looking to keep the good times going into the late evening.

Where to Stay in Tequisquiapan

Hotel La Plaza de Tequisquiapan is a great option for anyone wanting comfort and location at a budget-friendly price. This quaint hotel is just a couple of blocks from the Zocalo.

For a top-class spa experience, La Casona Tequisquiapan Hotel & Spa is the ideal choice. We stayed here and even though it is not really walkable to town, everything else is exceptional.

Road Trip Day 3: Explore Tequisquiapan

Tequis is a lovely town to relax and stroll through the streets, many of them covered with colourful streamers. One of the most photogenic places is a street just off the square that is covered with vibrant umbrellas.

a street in Tequisquiapan Mexico covered with colourful umbrellas

Tequisquiapan is perhaps best known for its spas and hot springs, so why not pamper yourself for an hour or two? Spa prices are considerably cheaper than you would expect to pay back home.

Something different as an option for dinner tonight, actually a choice of two options, both located a few minutes’ drive from town. Choose from a great barbecue place or an awesome food truck park. Or maybe try both!

The seating area of an outdoor food caourt in Tequisquiapan Mexico

Smoke & Grill BBQ El Patrón is by far the best barbecue we have had in Mexico and rates up with much of what we have eaten in the USA, while La Bartolina Food Park, just down the road, has about half a dozen food trucks all with delicious offerings.

Road Trip Day 4: Tequisquiapan to Bernal

  • Driving Distance – approximately 40km / 25 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 40 minutes

A short driving day today which means you could either hang around a bit longer and maybe sneak in another spa visit, or head out early to make the most of your time in one of our favourite towns in Mexico, Bernal.

Bernal is best known as the home of one of the 3 largest monoliths in the world, the imposing Peña de Bernal. This massive rock towers over the town and is a stunning backdrop to the quaint town square.

Bernal is very popular as a day trip from Mexico City or Queretaro, which means the tourist numbers swell during the middle of the day. But once they leave you start to appreciate how special this town is.

The main street of Bernal centro looking towards the famous Pena

If you were asked to picture the quintessential small Mexican town I would bet that Bernal is about as close to your idea as you will find. It’s like a movie set or a place from an animated Disney story.

How about some traditional local food for dinner? There are plenty of places to find delicious and cheap food in the centre of town. The restaurants may not look very fancy but the food is wonderful.

Where to Stay in Bernal

Casa Celia Hotel Restaurante is a great option for anyone looking for an amazing location at a budget-friendly price. This hotel is ideally located between the Pena and the town centre.

For a unique luxury experience, Zidada Hotel and Chalets is the ideal choice. This beautiful property offers free onsite parking and is within easy walking distance of restaurants and cafes.

Road Trip Day 5: Day Trip to Cadereyta & Wineries

  • Driving Distance – approximately 80km / 50 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 2 hours

Cadereyta is a small country town not far from Bernal, it is also another of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos. Some of you may prefer to bypass this day trip and opt for another day in Bernal.

The two main reasons to visit Cadereyta would be to add to your tally of Magic Towns you visit, or to experience one of the best botanic gardens in this part of Mexico.

The gardens are tucked in behind a large water feature and house thousands of plant species from a number of climates. It was closed on the day we tried to visit but reviews are generally very positive.

the town square of Cadereyta de Montes

Once you have seen enough of Cadereyta it’s time for a leisurely drive through the countryside on a winery hop. In the area around Bernal you will find at least six vineyards, which should make for a pleasant afternoon.

Queretaro state is one of Mexico’s top-rated wine regions so it would be a shame not to form your own opinion on whether the product is as good as they say.

When you return to Bernal you may wish to visit one of the classier restaurants around the town square and, while they are obviously more expensive, they won’t break the bank.

A few of these have great rooftop areas that are perfect locations for sipping a cocktail while watching the sun as it sets behind the Peña.

Road Trip Day 6: Explore Bernal

Put on your hiking shoes today and head out to explore some of the trails on the outskirts of Bernal. For some spectacular views and for a great story to tell the folks back home, why not climb the Peña de Bernal?

the city letters with the famous pena de Bernal in the background

The Peña is not far from the centre of town and can be reached on foot, however, it may be a better idea to use a mototaxi to get to the base and save your energy for the climb.

There are a few places during the climb that have amazing views of the town and the surrounding area, and the first few levels are within an easy to moderate walk. The higher levels may be too much for some people so only go as high as you feel comfortable doing.

For those of you who do not have the urge to hike up mountains we still highly recommend that you still grab a ride to the base and do the easy walk to the first level.

a mototaxi in front of the pena de bernal

Not only will you still get some lovely views but there are a few souvenir shops and stalls selling refreshments, and plenty of seating to relax and take it all in.

Road Trip Day 7: Bernal to Queretaro

  • Driving Distance – approximately 60km / 40 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 1 hour

Once again you have a choice today due to the small distance to your destination. If you are enjoying the small-town vibe of Bernal feel free to hang out a little longer and leave in the afternoon.

el arcos. the aqueduct running through the centre of queretaro

But if you are ready to move on and can’t wait to see what the next chapter of this Mexico road trip has on offer, then let’s visit Queretaro.

Santiago de Queretaro is very safe, and filled with historical significance, beautiful churches, tree-lined plazas, and something you probably never expected to see in Mexico, a huge roman-style aqueduct!

queretaro san miguelito food and margs

When dinner time arrives it makes sense to stay around the historic centre. There are plenty of very nice restaurants to choose from, but we recommend San Miguelito on Calle 5 de Mayo. Great food and 30 different frozen Margarita flavours!

Where to Stay in Queretaro

Hotel Damiana Boutique offers comfort and location at a great price. This boutique hotel is perfectly located right in the centre of the action.

For a special experience, Hotel Boutique Casa Altamira is an amazing place. This tastefully remodelled colonial building offers free parking and easy access to all of the highlights of Queretaro.

Road Trip Day 8: Uncover the history of Queretaro

Queretaro has a long and storied history but many of the highlights happened during Mexico’s fight for independence. And much of that history is proudly remembered and on show around the city.

We found the best way to get an overview of the most historically significant locations in Queretaro was by taking a tour on one of the quaint Model T Fords that operate from Las Diligencias, one of the plazas in Centro.

the cutest tour vehicle we have ever been on

Our driver spoke fluent English and was a wealth of knowledge and a lot of fun. You will visit places like Cerro de las Campanas and the old mansions, and learn why they are so important to Queretaro, and Mexico.

Use the tour to visit the locations furthest from the main plaza and, once you are finished, you will find more historical buildings and locations in easy walking distance.

Road Trip Day 9: Explore Queretaro

One of the highlights of a visit to Queretaro is taking the time to chill in some of the many parks and plazas to be found throughout the city. They each have plenty of seating, shaded by perfectly manicured trees.

It’s nice to sit with a coffee or some tacos and just watch the world happen around you.

a view of one of the many parks in santiago de queretaro

But there is plenty more to see around the Centro area, from outdoor art installations to magnificent churches, from streets lined with colourful buildings to places with outstanding views.

And arguably the best view is from the Mirador de los Arcos, where you can admire the impressive aqueduct that stretches across the city. This is a great spot to be just as the sun is setting as you get to see the aqueduct in natural light and then lit up at night.

The Mirador is located just behind the magnificent Templo de la Santa Cruz, which has a plaza that comes alive in the evening. Food carts and vendors selling novelties for children make this a great place for dinner.

Road Trip Day 10: Queretaro to San Miguel de Allende

  • Driving Distance – approximately 70km / 45 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 1 hour and 15 minutes

It’s time to move on and today you will arrive in what is widely agreed to be the most beautiful town in Mexico, San Miguel de Allende. And it shouldn’t take you long to see why they have this opinion.

Gone are the brightly coloured houses you found lining the streets of the previous towns on this road trip in Mexico, now replaced by a range of earthy tones that create a more serene atmosphere.

the view of the Parroquia of San Miguel de Allende with the Zocalo trees in the foreground

Head into the Zocalo (main plaza) which is one of the prettiest in Mexico. Pristinely maintained trees provide shade while you enjoy an ice-cream and watch people buzzing around the streets that line the park.

There is plenty to see and do within just a few blocks of the Zocalo that you will easily fill the rest of the day without having to do much walking. San Miguel de Allende will make you feel at home immediately.

Molten cheese served in a lava rock bowl with your selection of meat, cheese, and vegetables. Not to be missed.

Our dinner recommendation is a long-established restaurant just a block or two from the centre called Los Milagros. This is the place to try the sizzling delight known as a Molcajete.

Insider Top Tip – A Molcajete is a large meal that can easily feed 2 or 3 people. The menu does not mention this so don’t make the mistake of ordering one per person.

Where to Stay in San Miguel de Allende

Suites Santo Domingo is one of the best budget-friendly options in San Miguel de Allende. Located on the hill overlooking Centro and a steep but short walk into town.

For a taste of affordable luxury, Concepción Hotel Boutique – Adults Only is the place to be. This magnificent Hotel is located right in the centre of town and features amazing outdoor facilities.

Road Trip Day 11: Explore San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende is one of the largest expat hubs in Mexico for people from the USA and Canada, which not only means English is widely spoken but also the coffee and brunch culture has been influenced.

Insider Top Tip – Start your day at one the many exceptional cafes that are dotted around every part of the city. We particularly loved the Lavanda Cafe for its unique and delicious offerings.

Be sure to have your phone or your camera charged and ready to go today. There are so many Instagram-worthy places here that it would be a shame not to get some great shots to make your friends jealous.

the view of San Miguel de Allende from La Miradora

While you have plenty of energy take a walk up to the best viewpoint in San Miguel, El Mirador, where you can capture your version of the iconic cityscape. The roads are steep and buses or Uber are also available.

Back in town you can then spend hours admiring the beautiful streets, magnificent churches, and many plazas that all add to the charm. For a special treat head to Chocolates y Churros San Agustín for some of the best churros you will ever eat.

An hour or so before sunset head to Calle Aldama to capture some pics of the second most iconic view in San Miguel de Allende, the street view towards the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel. It’s a beautiful sight.

the night view along Calle Aldama towards the Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende

Road Trip Day 12: San Miguel de Allende to Guanajuato

  • Driving Distance – approximately 80km / 50 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 1 hour and 40 minutes

As much as San Miguel has been influenced by expats, Guanajuato has to be about as “Mexicany” as you can get. And once again the understated palette has been replaced with an explosion of colour.

And against that vibrant backdrop is a population that is equally alive and living life like every day is a fiesta. Guanajuata makes you feel alive, and it’s a place that keeps you wanting to see more.

As you drive into Guanajuato you will probably be wondering what I am talking about. It looks like any other modern industrial city… until you drive through one of the tunnels under the mountains.

a bird's eye view of the centre of Guanajuato

Once you come out the other side you are in the old town, and you will then understand exactly why we love this town. The streets are narrow and can be difficult to navigate so it may not be ideal to stay in the centre on a road trip.

Staying in the new town or even on the inner ring road, La Panoramica, may be a better option if you have a large vehicle or are not confident driving in tight spaces.

Take the afternoon to take in the atmosphere and sites around Centro before sitting down to a nice meal at one of the many restaurants that pack the streets.

Guanajuato is a University town which always means lots of great food options at extremely cheap prices.

Where to Stay in Guanajuato

Hotel Balcón del Cielo is not only very easy on your pocket but has some of the best views in Guanajuato. The hotel also includes unlimited access to the funicular during your stay.

If you would like a bit more space, Terra Vista is the right place. Located on the hill overlooking the town, this aparthotel is beautifully appointed and has free parking on site.

Road Trip Day 13: Explore Guanajuato

A great way to spend the morning is to take the funicular up to the Mirador on La Panoramica for a spectacular view of the city, surrounded by mountains. Maybe grab a coffee and take it all in for a while.

There is plenty to keep you interested simply by roaming the streets and discovering little shops and hidden gems along the way. And when you feel lunchtime calling we know just the place to go.

The view of Guanajuato from the Mirador on La Panoramica

Mercado De Gavira not only the local fresh food market but also home to dozens of family-run eateries that offer just about any Mexican dish you could possibly want.

There is no reason to stick to a single stall here, create your own street food tour without having to leave the building. Here you will eat well and you will eat cheaply.

Once you are ready to burn off some of those calories head into the building right next door, the Mercado Hidalgo. This multi-level market has all of the souvenirs and clothing you could possibly want.

Insider Top Tip – Finish your trip with some street food in Unión Garden, find a seat, listen to local musicians, watch street performers, and simply enjoy being in this special place.

Road Trip Day 14: Guanajuato to Tlaquepaque

  • Driving Distance – approximately 290km / 180 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 3 hours and 30 minutes

Today you will head towards another of Mexico’s largest cities, Guadalajara. For those of you who prefer the vibe of a big city you may decide to base yourself in the city and have a day trip to Tlaquepaque.

But if, like us, you prefer somewhere a little slower-paced and easy going, then Tlaquepaque is the place to be based, and it’s a Pueblo Magico. Guadalajara then becomes a great day trip destination.

Plaza de Artisanas in Tlaquepaque

Take it easy this afternoon with an easy walk to get a feel for your new surroundings. In Tlaquepaque make your way to Calle Independencia and find a nice cafe or bar, and just enjoy the atmosphere.

Insider Top Tip – Many of the bars offer a “happy hour” which is often longer than 60 minutes long. 2 for 1 cocktails are great value.

Calle Independencia is also packed with great restaurants, so choose one that appeals, have a nice dinner, and then head back to your hotel to get some rest before what will be a big day tomorrow.

Where to Stay in Tlaquepaque or Guadalajara

Hospedaje Tlaquepaque is an apartment option just a few blocks from Centro. They offer free onsite parking and the building has a security guard for additional peace of mind.

The first hotel we ever gave a 10 rating, La Villa del Ensueno Boutique Hotel is an absolute gem. A convenient location in Tlaquepaque and amazing staff and facilities, set in a colourful and beautiful building.

Hotel Dali Plaza Ejecutivo is a great value option for anyone who prefers to stay in Guadalajara. It is ideally located a few minutes walk from the Cathedral and main shopping area.

Road Trip Day 15: Have a day in Guadalajara

  • Driving Distance – approximately 30km / 20 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 50 minutes

With Tlaquepaque and Guadalajara being located next to each other it makes for an ideal day trip, and you can choose to make the short drive yourself or simply catch one of the local buses that makes a direct connection.

Begin your day out exploring the sights of Guadalajara’s historic centre like Guadalajara Cathedral and explore the nearby Plaza de Armas and Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres.

the main plaza of Guadalajara

Grab some lunch at Mercado San Juan de Dios where you will find plenty of great street food options and also be able to do some souvenir shopping.

Later in the day make your way down to UNESCO-listed Hospicio Cabañas where you can admire the stunning murals by José Clemente Orozco.

Maybe try some Tequila tasting or do a bit of shopping. If you are still in town in the early evening make sure to check out Chapultepec Avenue, a lively street filled with cafes, bars, and restaurants.

Road Trip Day 16: Explore Tlaquepaque

A full day to relax and recharge in Tlaquepaque today. Nothing to do but admire some art, eat, drink, and enjoy your surroundings.

The main focus of Tlaquepaque is Calle Independencia, a picturesque pedestrian street lined with galleries, boutiques, and cafes. The galleries in particular are quite entertaining showcasing some of the most unique and fun artistic creations we have ever seen.

When it’s time for lunch search for Casa Luna. This historic restaurant is known for its amazing Mexican food and special Margaritas, but even more for the incredible decor that will surely impress.

After lunch find a bench and chill for a while in El Parián, a lovely plaza that often features traditional mariachi performances. Or continue to explore the streets around the centre.

There are plenty of places to grab a cerveza or cocktail later in the afternoon with “happy hour” offerings at many restaurants. But when it comes time to settle down for some dinner you need to go to El Parián de Tlaquepaque.

Not only is the setting something special at this place but you are almost certainly going to find yourself serenaded by Mariachi bands. The food is quite good but the star of the show is a traditional beverage.

La cazuela voladora, or the Flying Clay Pot is a tequila and citrus concoction that is served in a large clay pot rather than a mug. It is very potent and meant to be shared, but it doesn’t have to be!

Road Trip Day 17: Tlaquepaque to Tequila

  • Driving Distance – approximately 70km / 45 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 1 hour and 15 minutes

More than just a place to stop to break up the next leg of this road trip through Mexico, Tequila is an iconic location that has to be included in this itinerary.

Once you arrive in this quaint town take a couple of hours to explore the town centre, relax in the Jardín de Tequila, explore the National Tequila Museum, and maybe grab some lunch at the popular La Antigua Casona.

After you eat it’s time for the party to start! You are in the only region in the world officially allowed to produce tequila, so you have to visit a distillery or two while you are in town.

It’s probably going to be a big afternoon so maybe leave the car behind at your accommodation.

Where to Stay in Tequila

Hotel La Rienda Mision Tequillan is perfect for anyone looking for a central location at a very friendly price. They also offer free parking.

One of the world’s truly unique experiences. Matices Hotel de Barricas is not cheap, but when will you ever get the chance to stay in a 5-star Tequila Barrel again?

Matices Hotel de Barricas in Tequila Mexico

Road Trip Day 18: Tequila to Puerto Vallarta

  • Driving Distance – approximately 250km / 155 miles
  • Expected Driving Time – 3 hours and 30 minutes

Today is the longest driving day of the trip, and possibly the final driving day depending on your plans in Puerto Vallarta.

When all is said and done, PV is a resort town. And while some of you may wish to take advantage of the facilities at an All-Inclusive Resort, it’s definitely not the only option around town.

looking along the beach at Puerto Vallarta

Once you arrive you may decide just to flop and drop at your accommodation, or you may prefer to head into the pretty town on the bay and wander the Malecon or cobblestone streets.

Or maybe you prefer to dip your toes in the water at the beach and spend a few hours relaxing in the sun, or getting into some other water-sports activities.

Insider Top Tip – Should you go All-Inclusive or not?
We have done both and the decision comes down to whether it represents good value to you. If you plan on having a few days of eating very well, drinking more than you probably should, or just don’t plan on going much beyond the swimming pool and beach, then AI might be the option for you.

Where to Stay in Puerto Vallarta

Olas Altas Suites Departamentos is excellent value for money in a resort town. Located just 100 metres from the beach on the outskirts of the Romantic Zone, this place is a bargain.

If you prefer something a little more upmarket with great views across Banderas Bay Vallarta Shores Beach Hotel is the ideal choice. Located right on the popular Los Muertos Beach.

Buenaventura Grand Hotel & Great Moments – All Inclusive is well worth considering if you decide AI is the best option. Everything is here including multiple pools, jacuzzis, restaurants and right on the beach.

Road Trip Day 19: Day trip to Sayulita

Sayulita is a cool little surf town about 40km / 25 miles from Puerto Vallarta, and a great place to enjoy the coast with smaller crowds. You can drive to Sayulita but we found the bus to be cheap, convenient, and a better option.

Once you arrive you can explore the whole town in less than an hour, but today isn’t about seeing and doing as much as possible. In fact it should be quite the opposite.

one of the quaint unpaved roads heading towards the beach in Sayulita Mexico

By all means check out the funky boutiques, casual cafes, and the interesting unpaved roads in town, but eventually make your way to the beach for some R&R. You’ve earned it.

For much of the year you will have no problem finding yourself a large chunk of beach to spread out and do very little. But for those who like something a bit more “civilised” find a beach club or beachfront bar and chill there.

Road Trip Day 20: “You do you” in Puerto Vallarta

It’s your last full day of this ultimate Mexico road trip and there are plenty of ways you can choose to spend it.

  • if you chose the All-Inclusive resort option then a day eating, drinking and swimming might be the perfect way to recharge before you head home.
  • for those of you who chose a different accommodation style this could still be a day of sun and fun. There are plenty of great beach bars where you can get a similar result to the AI crowd.
  • Exploring the shops and restaurants in the Romantic Zone and Gringo Gully are a great way to kill a few hours.
  • And for those who still want to pack in as much Mexico as they can why not not find a day tour where you can find out more about the local area and stay a bit more active?

Road Trip Day 21: The end of the road

This is where your itinerary ends, but there is plenty more of Mexico to extend your trip if you have more time up your sleeve

If you did this trip in reverse or started the trip further south, as we did in our Magical Mexico Road trip itinerary, the possibilities are endless. Or head home with amazing memories and start planning your next Mexico road trip.


Renting A Car In Mexico

Renting a car for a road trip in Mexico is generally a straightforward and safe process. We highly recommend booking your car in advance through a reliable agency instead of trying to organize it upon your arrival.

Starting and ending your rental in Mexico is much more convenient than dealing with the complexities of crossing the USA border. Make sure you opt for comprehensive insurance coverage for your rental.

Gas stations in Mexico operate on a full-service basis, so you can stay in your car while an attendant assists you. It’s customary to tip the attendants for their service.

Be prepared to encounter toll roads on many long stretches during your journey. Although the tolls are inexpensive, ensure you have cash available, preferably in smaller denominations.

➡️ We recommend and use DiscoverCars when searching for the best rental car deals.

Mexico Road Trip Safety

Despite what is often reported by sensationalist media outlets, Mexico is a safe place for a road trip, as long as you avoid a few known hotspots. We always felt perfectly safe throughout our time in this region.

As for how safe it is to drive in Mexico, here are a few points to note:

  • Driving at night is best avoided if possible
  • Be very aware of speed limits at all times
  • Learn to say some useful terms in Spanish, like “fill the tank please” and “please put air in the tyres”
  • Mexico’s roads are generally good but there is a section of this road trip where it is among the worst we have ever driven. For this short section do not be in a hurry to get through it, drive slowly and safely.

Is it safe to drive around Mexico as a tourist?

It depends which part of the country… but yes, it is absolutely safe to drive in Mexico! Here are some more tips that should help you avoid any issues:

  • Find out if your Driver’s Licence is recognised in Mexico or if you will need to get an International Permit. The rule of thumb is if your licence is printed in English or Spanish you should be OK. Printed in any other language and you will need an International Permit.
  • There is a tiny chance that you will come across one of the corrupt cops Mexico is known for, but that is highly unlikely on this road trip route. If you are pulled over and they threaten to give you a ticket, just wait for the chance to be offered an “on-the-spot” fine (bribe).
    Make sure you have no more than a couple of hundred pesos in your wallet and if they ask for more, tell them that’s all of your cash. They’ll usually take whatever they can get and move on.
  • Check that your vehicle has comprehensive insurance coverage. If you are involved in an accident tourists are often judged as being at fault.
  • Finally, as with any other place in the world, common sense goes a long way. Don’t show any road rage, be a polite and courteous driver, and follow the road rules.

Things to know about driving in Mexico

Overall, I found it quite easy to drive in Mexico, but you may need to consider a few things:

  • Mexicans drive on the right side of the road, which can take some time to get used to is, like us, you are used to driving on the left.
  • Mexicans have a few “unique” ways of doing some things. They like to use their blinkers/indicators and hazard lights to warn you they are slowing, that it is safe to overtake, or that they are parking (anywhere). What they rarely do is use them as turning signals. So be careful!
  • As I just said, Mexicans tend to park in some awkward places. Around town squares in particular you will often see them double-parked, even triple-parked. The rule seems to be that as long as their hazard lights are flashing, it’s OK to stop anywhere. But don’t test this method yourself!
  • Another road rule we had not previously experienced is the 2 lane / 3 lane variation on many of the major roads. These roads look like a normal 2 lane road with wide shoulder areas on either side, but be prepared to drive halfway on the shoulder and create a third lane in the centre which becomes a dual-direction overtaking lane.
  • We found the roads very good across Mexico. I had read a lot about poor road conditions and was prepared for a lot of potholes and disrepair. In reality they are at least as good as the roads back in Australia, and with more major upgrades underway.
  • Finally, there is one thing that will frustrate and any you whether you choose to use buses, private drivers, or self-drive, and that is the topes. These speed bumps are found on just about every road in Mexico. The size, shape and location are not strictly controlled and some can be really nasty if you hit them at speed. Be prepared and watch the road!


Insider Top Tip – Whenever I suggest visiting Mexico to people they almost always ask me if it’s safe. During our 6 trips, most of these with our young daughter, and we have never felt in danger.

And now that we have covered that let’s answer a few more of the questions you are probably thinking.

Is it a good idea to drive into Mexico?

While the bus system in Mexico is generally reliable, having a car can provide invaluable flexibility for visiting certain destinations. This is particularly true for the picturesque Pueblo Magicos nestled between well-known towns that may be missed by bus travellers.

With your own vehicle, you can venture beyond the towns at your leisure, exploring hidden gems like waterfalls, hiking trails, or ancient ruins. While arranging transportation to these sites is possible, returning on your own schedule may pose a challenge.

Is 2 weeks enough for Mexico?

Not really! But you can certainly pack plenty of food, culture, colour, and history into those 14 days. And you return home knowing that there is plenty more waiting for your next road trip in Mexico.

This is a country that offers so much variety that there is something for every traveller, no matter your budget or interests. It doesn’t matter if you have one week or one year, you will always find plenty to do, see, or eat!

A Mexico road trip is the only way to explore this incredible country at your own pace and discover what lies beyond the tourist spots.

When is the best time of year for this Mexico road trip?

The best time for this road trip is in the dry season, from November to April. During these months, you can expect pleasant weather with minimal rainfall, making for ideal driving conditions.

Do they speak English along this road trip route?

English may not be widely spoken in some of the smaller villages , but you will find that a combination of hand gestures, your attempted Spanish, their attempted English, and a lot of smiles will usually get the message across.

You will find English spoken in most larger towns, especially in shops and restaurants. But you should still try to learn at least enough Spanish to say a few polite things to show some respect to your hosts.

Mexico Road Trip Car Rental

We found that car rentals in Mexico are great value compared to what you would usually pay in the USA or Australia. A medium or large car works out at just over $40USD per day for this 3 week Mexico road trip.

The best option for collecting your car would be at one of the depots in the north of Mexico City so that avoid the stress of trying to navigate through the centre of one of the world’s biggest cities.

Another option is to get a bus to Queretaro and pick up a car there to start your awesome road trip. It is a much easier city to drive through than the capital.

We recommend booking your car through Discover Cars and use them to find regularly to find great deals all over the world. Let them search all of the major rental agencies to find you the best deal.

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Our Opinion

Our overall Mexico road trip spanned 100 days and covered over 5000km/3000 miles. We bounced over more than 2000 speed bumps, had a single run-in with a corrupt cop, and went to some of the most amazing places. And we would never have found some of them if not driving.

While there are at least a dozen or more great road trip itineraries to cover in Mexico, this route gave us almost everything that makes Mexico so amazing (except for ancient ruins).

You will visit Pueblos Magicos, witness diverse landscapes, eat some mouth-watering local delicacies, relax at the beach and meet some of the friendliest people you will find anywhere.

If you are looking for somewhere new for your next road trip, this Ultimate Mexico road trip will not let you down. We would love to do it again.

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