Driving in Mexico City

Laughlin and I were very excited to visit Mexico City but we were nervous about getting there. We knew traffic would be terrible. It was. We knew navigating would be challenging. It was. We knew we would be stressed to the max. We were. That said, in hindsight, it wasn’t as terrible as we thought it would be. Here is our guide to driving in Mexico City.

As mentioned in our last post, Mexico City has driving restrictions (called Hoy No Circula) to help reduce traffic and pollution. Those restrictions are somewhat difficult to understand and we don’t completely understand them ourselves but this is how they applied to us. Based on the age of your vehicle, you may or may not be subject to restriction. If your vehicle is more than 9 years old,  you are subject to restricted driving. Since our truck is a 1994, we were subject to the restriction. The restriction precludes you from driving one day out of the week (M-F) and also Saturday between the hours of 7am and 10pm, so, essentially, the entire day. Additionally, since we are not a locally licensed vehicle, we cannot drive in the city between 7am and 11am M-F. The last digit of your license plate determines which day of the week you cannot drive in the city which meant that we could not drive on Wednesdays. So, as we were planning our visit, we determined that we could not drive any day of the week between 7am and 11am, and pretty much the entire day on Wednesdays and Saturdays. You can elect to have your vehicle emissions tested to avoid the restrictions, but we decided to comply with the restrictions as it wasn’t a problem for us to comply with the restrictions and it’s highly unlikely we would pass the emissions testing anyhow. Wikipedia has some additional information about the driving restrictions.

Parking was another huge obstacle for us to overcome. We knew that finding a place large enough to park our truck near the city center would be tough. Fortunately, we did a bit of research and found Hotel Costazul on iOverlander that someone said had parking for high clearance vehicles. The hotel has one parking garage on the main floor that we just barely squeezed into but were asked to move to their second lot one building away. This was a squeeze to get into horizontally, but there was plenty of vertical space. The parking lot is private and locked which is great for security but not overly convenient. Around the hotel are many areas of public parking that could allow for a pretty sizable rig and someone may actually be able to camp in one of those lots but we did not ask if that is possible or what the rate would be.

The final issue that we dealt with was traffic. As mentioned above, we were not allowed to enter the city before 11 am. For reasons not mentioned here, we left our camp site early before heading to Mexico City and one thing led to another and, before we knew it, we were driving in the city a little after 10am. Traffic was very heavy. We hit one of our side mirrors on a pole due to the narrow roads and had to tip our side mirrors in which made it difficult to see behind us. At one point we were entering a road after exiting a different road and a car came cutting through traffic essentially the wrong way to make his exit. Along the whole route were traffic police directing traffic and we did get whistled at while driving, probably because we were early, but we maneuvered into the open lane and kept on driving like nothing happened! In hindsight, although stressful, the drive to our hotel wasn’t too bad.

If you are driving through the area and are hesitant to visit Mexico City, don’t count it out as it’s a great place to visit and driving isn’t too bad.

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