Driving around San Luis Potosí, and throughout Mexico, can be challenging if you are used to obeying traffic signals, stop signs, and speed limits. Getting used to the mentality of the way people drive around here requires patience and understanding of the culture. You will find the saying “when in Rome” is appropriate when in Mexico, but we recommend not doing everything people do when driving as it creates more problems.
You may think that people here have a lack of respect of others when driving, but I would say that people here just don’t always look out for others when driving. There appears to be a very selfish mentality, but it is just a culture thing. There are the occasional drivers who are polite to others, but for the most part people here are not used looking out for others and obeying traffic laws. The police here seem to have other issues to worry about.
On some streets you will find people creating three lanes when there are only supposed to be two. Stopping at stop signs is optional… although not stopping is illegal. Most of the time I stop at stop signs and sometimes people who are behind me will blow their horns at me. Better to be cautious, in my opinion. You will also see people running red lights often, but don’t worry about this too much. The people around here also look out for this behavior.
Oftentimes, there are cars without brakes lights. It is illegal to have your brake lights out, but because the police don’t really focus on traffic violations very much, you will see this so pay attention.
If you are in a car accident, you are not supposed to move your car even if it is minor. Instead of calling the police, you are supposed to call your car insurance company and they come out to inspect the damage and violation. I have experience with this as my wife was hit by another driver. Both drivers are supposed to call their insurance and they will come out and determine the cause and damage value. The police are only called if their is a major issues like intoxication or injuries. In our case, the other driver was driving a company vehicle that the company did not have insurance for. From what I understand, this is very common. So only our insurance company came out. The owner of the vehicle showed up, but the driver already admitted to hitting my wife’s car and the insurance company did the assessment and the owner of the other vehicle had to pay onsite for the damage with his credit card. This is why I drive with a dash cam in my car, because I want the evidence!
Take a taxi or Uber? I have had mixed experiences with taxi drivers. I’ve been in taxis where it has been fine, but also with taxis where there was no seat belt in the back, cracked windshields, and other issues. In some cases, they will charge you a little more if you are a foreigner because they think they can. I have also seen the taxis around here get upgraded since Uber came in. Taxi drivers HATE Uber here. But I mostly take Uber because I can point in the app where my destination is and it is often cheaper than a taxi. Because there has been violence towards Uber drivers from taxi drivers, I usually sit in the front with the Uber driver. If the driver drops me off where there are taxis around, I’ll say, “Hasta luego primo.” 😀
Here are a couple of points of etiquette to keep in mind while you are driving outside the city.
- When driving outside the city and on two lane roads, if you are a normal driver that doesn’t drive very fast, you will see many drivers wanting to pass you. People who want to pass you will put their turn signal on. This also means “get over” in places where there is a shoulder on the road. This allows the person to pass you with a little extra room. I actually like this concept and you will see many drivers driving half on the shoulder and half on the lane so you can pass them. In some cases, the slow driver will put their turn signal on to let you know it is OK to pass them, but you still have to use caution. Keep your turn signal on the entire time you are passing a car. You will even see oncoming cars move towards the shoulder to give you room… most of the time.
- In my experience, people go way beyond the speed limit on the highways. This is because it is rare to see a police car trying to catch speeders. But every now and then it happens so you must keep your eyes open. If someone is coming up on you fast and you can give them some extra room to pass you, do it.