One hears horror story after story about driving in Mexico, and it’s wise to adhere caution to remote mountain roads with switchbacks and potential of cattle and other hazards. But the majority of highways are safe, modern, and with a little research on customs, (such as left turn procedures,) driving in the rural areas is no different than in other countries. Driving in the cities is a different story, In Merida we parked the car and didn’t even consider using it til we left the city. As I did be sure to purchase the Mexican insurance from your car rental company.
I found the Yucatan Peninsula highways to be modern, well maintained, and overall in better condition than some highways I’ve drove back in Michigan, (my home state). Tourism dollars well at work. The only difference was the lack of wide shoulders our interstates have.
Highway 307 runs north and south along the coast, and connects Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. Traffic is quite heavy on this highway with tourists and busses. It’s a divided highway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, with frequent lanes for U turns marked “RETORNO”
To get to Merida (on the western side of the Yucatan), we drove Autopista 180, the toll road. The road is well smooth and void of heavy traffic, most likely due to the steep toll, (about $20 USD for the entire length). This is quite cost prohibitive to most residents, who mostly use the old highway a few km south. Driving the old road definitely takes longer, but allows you to experience the small towns along the way.
Autopista 180 is VERY limited access. The only exit points are about midpoint near the city of Valladolid, and 20 km further west at Chichen Itza. There’s a nice full service plaza in the center of the highway near the Chichen Izta exit with a Pemex station and some food stands.
The drive is a bit boring through the jungle, but near Merida it filters out into various roads in the east suburbs. Since we didn’t go to Cancun we used the two lane spur that connects the Cancun airport to 180, about 10km south of the city, (180 continues northeast directly into Cancun).
Highway 307 between Cancun and Tulum
Toll Plaza near Valladolid, midway between Merida and Cancun
Leaving Merida, eastbound.