Car Rental in Yucatan

May 5th, 2010, 08:02 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 10
Car Rental in Yucatan

I will be on the Yucatan Peninsula from July 2 - 6, staying at a resort in Tulum the entire trip.

First, in order of interest, my wife and I want to visit Chichen Itza, Coba and maybe Pac Chen, Tulum, Aktun-Chen (in Akumal), Xel-Ha and Sian Ka'an. Is this reasonable within five full days, or is it too much?

Second, do you recommend renting a car instead of hiring taxis and private tours to all of these? Convenience and flexibility seem to favor a car rental, but so does cost: I believe a car rental for all five days costs less than a round-trip airport transfer from Cancun to Tulum alone -- let alone the other day trips.

Do you agree? Is it safe to drive a rental car on the Peninsula?

Many thanks.
Nahenahe is offline  
May 5th, 2010, 08:12 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 209
Renting a car will be more convenient and probably cheaper. Getting around seemed to be pretty easy to us, and there are only a few roads in the area.

Avoid using Budget Car Rental, we used them and they were totally ripping people off in a variety of ways. They tell you you must purchase their insurance and it's not optional and no other coverage would be accepted should something happen. Then oops they don't have any more copies of the insurance forms written in English, only the Spanish versions. I saw them upsell the customer before us telling them they didn't have the midsize car they requested only a full size, yet there were a few in the lot. The next group wasn't able to get the van they reserved, and ultimately went back to the airport to catch shuttle transportation instead. They also aren't at the airport, you have to take a shuttle to another place off-site.

Hopefully you'll find some other trustworthy companies to rent from.
koala is offline  
May 5th, 2010, 09:06 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 3,064
We used Cancun Rent A Car, and had no problems at all. The roads and drivers were better than ours in general, but we're in the Detroit area (most of the roads and drivers are awful here). Tom did say that he wouldn't want to drive from Chichen Itza to Tulum at night, but more because you're in the middle of nowhere most of the time (meaning if the car breaks down, you're going to have to wait).

You do have to buy secondary insurance- for once, they mean it, your AmEx policy will not cover your rental in Mexico. Cancun/Caribbean rental had a zero deductible and English-speaking lawyer included in the price.

You are cramming a lot into five days though. Chichen Itza is at least a three hour drive from Tulum. It might be worth it to do a bus tour there, just you're not spending six hours on the road in one day. If you do both Chichen Itza and Coba, make sure you do Coba first. It's a complete letdown after the completely restored and huge CI. We hit Coba on a Wednesday, and there were 15 full size tour buses on the lot when we got there around 11. I overheard one of the guides say it was the busiest day of the week, but they might tell tourists that every day.

Tulum will take an hour and a half, so you might as well visit since you're in the area, and it's so picturesque.
cocontom is offline  
May 6th, 2010, 04:52 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 1,055
Recently, I've read a few reports from people who have rented through and they've all been very positive. They use Hertz vehicles but are less expensive then renting through Hertz itself. I've rented through Budget, Hertz, Avis, Executive, Easyway and Happy. Executive was my best experience and Budget, Easyway and Happy not so much. I am going to try mexexperience this summer and see how it goes although I don't rent cars there as much as I used to. The roads are quite good up and down the highway between Cancun and Tulum although there is quite a bit of construction on the highway in Playa del Carmen as they are erecting 3 flyovers to ease traffic congestion. There has been quite a lot of information on the internet about driving/renting in Mexico including the question of extra insurance. I never took the extra insurance when I first started going to Playa about 9 years ago. Now, I don't leave without it. Also, when renting look at the car thoroughly including the tags for registration are current, the spare tire and jack is in place and not flat, and mark all dents or problems with the vehicle. Check the gas gauge as it is usually not filled and ask how it should read when you return, make sure they mark it on the rental agreement. Make sure the A/C works and you know how to adjust it.
A word about driving in Mexico - drive the speed limit even though those around you are not - your plate identifies you as a rental vehicle which is easy to spot by the police who may be looking to give tickets. Don't leave luggage or valuables in sight - do not leave luggage in the car overnight. The gas stations are government run Pemex stations and are not as plentiful there as they are in the U.S. so make sure you have enough gas to get where you are going. There is a service called the Green Angels who patrol the highway for people who have car trouble but I have not seen them on the other roads to Coba or Chichen Itza. At the Pemex station - do not pay until the gas has been pumped, do not pay in large bills, make sure the pump is zeroed out before the attendant begins to fill, do not ask to have your car filled up, ask for a specific amount such as 150 pesos and watch the pump (do not be distracted by window washers or polite conversation) and then count out the money verbally as you give it to the attendant.
Your schedule is packed tight. Chichen Itza will take a day and make sure you arrive when it opens to avoid the crowds that the buses bring in around 10. I always packed a lunch and left it in the car so that when we were done we could eat before driving back. There is only one bathroom at the site when you first arrive at the visitors center. There is a charge for parking.
Coba - you can still climb the pyramid at Coba which you cannot at Chichen Itza. The site is more jungular than CI and you can either walk it or take a bike/pedicab. There is a small charge for parking. Coba is closer to Tulum than CI but in July it is very hot and humid in the area so you will be tired after either Coba or CI. Take a lot of water!!
The Tulum site is quite small and will only take an hour or two. It is on the beach and very scenic but not that impressive as Coba or CI.
Xel Ha was not that impressive for me but I don't care for touristy kinds of places. I went once and never went back. Some people like that stuff though.
If you're looking to snorkel go to Akumal and snorkel off the beach at Lol Ha or at the lagoon (Yal Ku).
Transportation up and down the highway from Tulum to Cancun and everywhere in between is quite easy. If you don't have a car you can take a taxi from the beach to the town and then either take the ADO bus or a colectivo. The ADO will stop at Tulum archaeological site, Xcaret, and PDC. You can also take a bus from PDC to Cancun with a stop in Puerto Morelos. There is also a bus from Tulum to Coba. The bus service is quite good with a/c and movies.
The colectivos drive up and down the highway and are white vans. They can be found in Tulum on the main road and will stop along the highway to let people on and off whereever you tell the driver you want to be let out. The cost is very low and many locals use this for transport. I use it quite a bit to go from PDC to Tulum and the beach. It does not go down to the beach but will leave you off in town and then I catch a taxi to the beach.
If you decide to rent a car - watch out for the topes which may or may not be marked - they are bumps in the road to slow traffic down and if you hit one going at a high rate of speed you will damage the bottom of the car. They are both on the main highway and also the roads to Coba and Chichen Itza.
Just remember -
July is hot - drinks lots of water and go early to any outings. Tulum is a beautiful area where you could spend a whole lot of time just enjoying the amazing beaches and restaurants. The pace of life there is slow and there is a quietness that I just love. Whatever you don't get to do this trip you can always do next time : )
colokid is offline  
May 6th, 2010, 07:11 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,218
Wow - such helpful responses! colokid, I hope you copy and paste your response in a word document so you don't have to retype it every time someone asks about renting. Happy trails!
hopefulist is online now  
May 6th, 2010, 10:10 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 10
Helpful responses, indeed! Thank you so much, koala, cocontum and colokid. This is an excellent forum.
Nahenahe is offline  
May 7th, 2010, 08:24 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,484
Renting a car is the way to go. We have had good luck with some of the local rental companies which are considerably cheaper - Ace/Executive and America. True their cars aren't brand new, but they are fine, and they usually throw in all the necessary insurances. Yes, it's quite safe driving in the Yucatan.
Your itinerary is VERY ambitous. You will be spending much of your vacation time driving from site to site - you won't have any down time to just enjoy the beautiful beach. Chichen Itza is a very long haul from Tulum, visiting Coba and the ruins at Tulum might be enough ruins for that short a trip. I don't agree that Coba is a letdown after Chichen Itza. They are different experiences. We actually preferred the 'jungly' feel of Coba over the manicured (and hot) feel of Chichen Itza.
Visiting Sian Ka'an will take up most of a day, unless you just drive thru it and don't do a boat trip.
Do plan to spend an evening strolling Tulum pueblo, lots of fun, and some good places to eat.
Also realize it's going to be VERY hot so do the ruins early in the day!
zootsi is offline  
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