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Wondering whether renting a car in Tulum is worth it? You’ve come to the right place!
Tulum is a beach town and one of the most popular destinations in Mexico’s Rivera Maya. Famous for its incredible white-sand beaches with turquoise waters, ancient Mayan ruins, and Tulum cenotes, this pueblo Magico attracts visitors from all over the world.
✅ Looking for hotels? Check my complete guide to where to stay in Tulum for all budgets and tastes.
I rented a car in Tulum several times and decided to write this guide to help you have an adventure of a lifetime. Renting a car in Mexico requires some knowledge, so you can avoid mistakes, save money and stay safe on the road. This guide covers all of it.
Renting a car in Tulum – a brief overview
Given the fact that there are plenty of things to do in Tulum to keep you busy, you might question whether it’s worth renting a car in Tulum. The answer is yes! Renting a car is worth every penny. When you have your own vehicle, you don’t have to rely on taxis and public transportation to visit Mayan ruins, cenotes, and other natural landmarks like Laguna Ka’an Luum.
You can plan your day however you like, and visit places at your convenience without having to take Tulum guided tours 🎒
Where to rent a car in Tulum?
You can rent a car in downtown Tulum, but with the new airport in Tulum that’s set to open, there most likely will be other options.
But instead of spending your time going around and trying to find the right car rental, you can go to DiscoverCars, one of the most popular platforms for renting cars online, where you can find dozens of vehicles at competitive rates.
All you need to do is type in your travel dates, specify the type of vehicle that you are looking for, and the platform will do all the work for you showing you all the available options.
Renting a car in Tulum from local companies
Another option is to rent a car from a local company called City Car Rentals. It’s a Mexican car rental company that might offer different options and prices, and if you are looking for different options, it’s a good idea to check it out.
I’ve rented a car with them once and had a very good experience, as their rates were lower than with other companies 👍
✅ Learn about the best private tours from Tulum if you don’t feel like renting a car
How much does it cost to rent a car in Tulum?
It will cost you anywhere between $30-50 USD per day to rent a car in Tulum and covers a daily fee and mandatory car insurance.
Keep in mind that your daily rate also includes local taxes, state taxes, and any fees that go into your rate. If something looks unclear, be sure to ask about these extra fees before signing the paperwork.
PRO TIP: Watch out for companies advertising super low car rental fees like $10-15 USD per day. Typically, this rate is a catch designed “to get you” that hides exorbitant fees and high insurance costs.
➡️ Read my complete guide to renting a car in Mexico
Why you should book your car rental ahead of time
The price of a car rental also depends on the time of the year when you are renting a car. For example, when I rented a car in Tulum in January one time, I paid $90 per day – nearly double the normal rate. The price was also much higher because I rented it on the spot.
This shouldn’t be the case when you rent a car ahead of time, and you can do it with DiscoverCars.
What do I need to rent a car in Tulum?
Renting a car in Mexico is a straightforward process, and it’s no different in Tulum. You will need to provide a standard set of documents and also fill out some paperwork when you arrive at the office.
Here’s what you will need:
A car rental company will ask you for your passport and they will also take copies of your documents for their record.
A driver’s license
You will also need to provide a valid driver’s license that should be in the Roman alphabet. If you are traveling to Mexico from countries that don’t use that alphabet, you will need an international driver’s license.
Can you drive in Tulum with a US license?
A valid U.S. driver’s license allows you to drive in Mexico, including Tulum and the rest of the Yucatan Peninsula. Make sure that your driver’s license is valid for the next six months, so you don’t have any issues when renting a car in Tulum 🚘
Credit or debit card
You will need a credit or debit card to pay for a car rental. Cash is also accepted but it’s not the most common form of payment. A car rental company will charge you for a car rental plus put a hold which normally ranges between a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars. When you return your car rental with no damages, the hold on your credit card will be removed.
Mexico car insurance
Car rental insurance is mandatory in Mexico, and you will be asked to choose from basic, medium, and full coverage when filling out your paperwork 📄
📍I suggest full coverage, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience driving in Mexico, which requires some adjustment. Full insurance covers you in the event of accidents, and total car loss. It also provides roadside assistance and covers any damages to a car that could happen while you are on the road.
You don’t have to buy insurance from your car rental company.
Although car insurance is mandatory in Mexico, you don’t have to buy it from your car rental company. The only mandatory car insurance in Mexico is a liability (or basic insurance). Many car rental companies in Mexico have liability already included in the daily rate❗️All other types of car insurance aside from the liability are optional.
👉 Do not ever let anybody tell you otherwise or press you into buying additional car insurance. While full coverage is always a good idea, you need to get the type of insurance that works best for YOU.
✅ Read: How to rent a scooter in Tulum
Can I use my car insurance when renting a car in Mexico?
No, you can’t use a car insurance from another country when renting a car in Mexico. You need to get Mexico car insurance. Some U.S. credit cards offer car insurance, but it’s not the best option given the fact that if anything were to happen, you would still need to pay money out of pocket before getting a reimbursement. You also need to check with your credit car company if their insurance works in Mexico, which adds more hassle.
The easiest way is to get car insurance from your car rental company. It will save you a lot of time and money, and you will be able to ask any questions about how it works while you are at a car rental agency.
Does Mexican car insurance cover me in the event of an accident?
Mexican car insurance covers a vehicle, but it’s not going to cover your hospital bills if you get injured in a car accident. World Nomads is a popular travel insurance that will cover your hospital bills if anything were to happen on the road while you are traveling in Mexico. 🚗
Racking up thousands of dollars in hospital bills is the last you want to happen when going on a road trip, and this insurance will protect you from any unforeseen expenses.
✅ Click here to check World Nomads’ insurance rates
How old do I need to be to rent a car in Tulum?
The minimum age for renting a car in Mexico is 21. If you’re under 25, you could still have some age-related restrictions.
Many car rental companies charge a daily fee and only rent certain types of vehicles to younger drivers. The fees and other restrictions depending on the company, which is why it’s a good idea to take a close look at their policy before signing paperwork.
What’s the best car rental company in Tulum?
There’s no official best car rental company in Tulum. While the town has several major car rental companies like Enterprise, Avis and Economy, there’s no “best” company as of right now.
To find the best deals on car rentals, use DiscoverCars, where you can browse through dozens of available vehicles and read reviews from fellow travelers.
Places to visit near Tulum
After you rented your car, it’s time to get on the road! Here’s a quick list of the best places to visit near Tulum.
One of the most popular days trips from Tulum, Coba ruins is an archaeological area about 40 minutes from Tulum.
Located near the namesake town, Coba is famous for the largest network of sac-be’s ( white road in the Mayan language). Archaeologists have found about 50 roads in the area, but only 16 of them are open to the public. They connect various areas of Coba to the main Pyramid Nohoch Mul as well as the nearby lake.
After exploring the Mayan ruins, head to Coba cenotes where you can take a refreshing swim in the crystal waters. You can pay 300 pesos and visit all three Coba cenotes or just 100 Pesos for each. All payments have to be made in cash at the entrance.
All Coba cenotes are open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.
2. Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza is one of the most popular places to visit in Yucatan thanks to its status as one of the Wonders of the World and a UNESCO Heritage Site.
Chichen Itza is a perfect getaway from Tulum, but unless you arrive early, be prepared for this place with thousands of other tourists. Arrive in the area the day before, spend the night in one of the hotels in the area, and be the first tourist to enter the site early morning to enjoy this archaeological area before the crowds arrive.
Valladolid is a wonderful colonial town that’s often visited on the same trip as Chichen Itza. While many tourists come here with guided tours, you can take as long as you want and explore wonderful cenotes in the area, visit less explored Mayan ruins like Ek Balam and check out small pueblos like Uayma that’s known for its beautiful colonial church.
One of my favorite places in Mexico, Bacalar is a small town along the lagoon of seven colors (laguna de siege colores in Spanish).
Visiting Bacalar from Tulum is a must in my opinion, and while you can catch a bus, renting a car gives you a lot more freedom, as you can also visit Mayan ruins in the area like Chacchoben and also take a day trip to Calakmul, and swim in Los Rapidos.
If you like diving, Mahahual is a must. This small town sits at the doorstep of the Great Mayan Reef, the second-largest reef in the world, and offers amazing conditions for diving. You can combine a trip to Mahahual with a trip to Bacalar, as they are about one hour apart.
If you are up for a grand adventure and want to take a road trip around the Yucatan Peninsula, don’t forget to visit Campeche (or San Francisco de Campeche), the capital of the Campeche state located along the Gulf of Mexico.
Campeche is a hidden gem that’s just starting to gain some tourism, and if you want to see a place that’s still off the beaten track, make sure to check it out.
Did you know that Campeche also boasts many cool beaches where you don’t have any crowds? Check my complete guide to the best beaches in Campeche.
How to save money on car rentals in Mexico
I put together some tips that will help you save money no matter when you visit this popular destination.
📍Book your car rental in Tulum ahead of time – Booking your car early is a must when traveling during the high season, but in general, you can save a lot of money when booking your car ahead of time. This way, you will avoid overpaying when booking your car last minute.
📍Rent an economy car with good mileage – If you want to save money, rent a small economy car that will not need a lot of gas. Most companies in Mexico have compact cars, and the best part is that they also cost less money than standard sedan vehicles.
📍Learn to drive a stick shift – Sometimes, when car rentals are in high demand, companies have fewer vehicles available. Some of the leftover cars often have a manual transmission, and since fewer people know how to drive them, you could save some money as they are cheaper.
📍Split cost with your friends and family – See if any of your friends and family want to join you on your adventure. This will help you save money and you will also have some company while visiting cool places near Tulum like cenotes and Mayan ruins
📍Rent at a small company – Bigger car rental companies like Budget, Hertz, and Avis charge higher prices. I rented a car with a small local car rental company in Tulum and had a better experience with them than with several bigger companies.
📍Take photos of your car – When you sign all the paperwork and go outside to pick up your car, take photos and videos of the interior and exterior. This is especially true if a car has scratches, dings, or any other visible damage, so you don’t get charged for them when you return the car.
📍Read your contract carefully to avoid scams – It’s not uncommon to come across car rental scams in Mexico, and Tulum is no exception. Carefully read your car rental contract before signing it to make sure everything makes sense. Look out for add-ons and extra charges that go on top of your regular rate.
Common car rental scams in Mexico
Mexico has some common car rental scams that you can come across when renting a car in many destinations including Tulum.
➡️ A full tank of gas
After you sign the paperwork, your car rental agent will walk with you toward the car where you will take a close look at the vehicle inside and outside. When you get inside the vehicle, check how much gas there’s in the tank.
Many car rental companies in Mexico will give you at least half a tank of gas, and you will need to return your vehicle with the same amount. Make sure you don’t get charged for gas before or after you return your car.
➡️ Add-ons like GPS, or any other accessories
Carefully read your contract to ensure that your car rental company isn’t charging you for things like GPS, or any other accessories that you don’t need. While it’s not common, it’s better to check for these things than not.
➡️ Any damages that already exist
Carefully check the inside and outside of your car and take photos of any visible damages like scratches and bumps. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for rental cars in Mexico to charge customers for damages that haven’t been done by them. To avoid this situation, take photos and videos of everything so you can show them to your agent before leaving.
➡️ Ask how much it would cost if you want to extend your car rental
Before you leave, ask how much extra you would have to pay per day, if you want to extend your car rental. I rented a car in Playa Del Carmen once, and when I called the company, they said that the price to extend would be the same as the original daily rate specified in my contract.
When I arrived to return the car, I was told that I need to pay more than just a daily rate. I couldn’t do much, simply because I couldn’t find any information in writing in my contract. Check with your car rental company, or better yet, ask them to put it in writing before leaving to avoid the same mistake.
Is it safe to rent a car in Tulum?
It’s safe to rent a car in Tulum, but you need to follow the rules and stay alert on the road, just like anywhere else in Mexico.
Where to rent your car in Tulum?
The best place to find car rentals is DiscoverCars, an online car rental platform where you can find dozens of vehicles at affordable rates. All you need to do is specify what type of vehicle you are looking for and begin your search.
Safety tips for renting a car in Mexico
After you rent a car, it’s time to get on the road. But before you do so, be sure to get familiar with some of the tips that will help you to stay safe on the road.
➡️ Don’t drink and drive
Tulum is home to some of the best parties in Mexico Caribbean with plenty of great bars and restaurants. If you plan on going out and having fun, leave your car at your hotel. Not only do you risk getting into an accident when you are impaired, but you could also get a ticket if the police stop you.
✅ Read my guide to tipping in Mexico so you can know how much to leave in gratuities when going out.
➡️ Watch out for speed bumps (topes in Spanish)
Speed bumps are common in many parts of Mexico. Some of them are very tall and can damage your vehicle if you hit them at full speed. There are typically road signs warning you about speed bumps ahead, but always make sure to slow down when you drive around cities and towns in Mexico.
➡️ Don’t pump your gas
Mexican gas stations have attendants who put gas in your car when you get to the pump. Make sure to specify the amount of gas that you need and clarify the price before they begin doing it. Many people who work at gas stations make only minimum wage, so it’s a good idea to leave a little tip before driving off.
PRO TIP: Pay close attention to how much money you are giving to a gas pump attendant. A gas pump scam is one of the most common petty scams in Mexico, and if you are not paying attention, you could easily get ripped off.
➡️ Be prepared to stop at checkpoints
Checkpoints are not uncommon in Mexico, even around the country’s tourist corridors. Be prepared to stop and open your vehicle for inspection, if you are asked to do so. As a tourist, you will most likely be asked a few simple questions, unless you manage to draw some suspicion.
➡️ Learn some Spanish
Knowing basic Spanish is one of my top Mexico travel tips
It will help you communicate at gas stations, restaurants, and everywhere else. The further away you go from a tourist zone, the fewer people will speak English, so some Spanish skills could be a huge help.
➡️ Always carry cash
From tipping gas station attendants to giving a few coins to people who might come up to wash windows while you are sitting in traffic, carrying cash is a good idea while you are driving around Mexico. Also, the street vendors who sell drinks and snacks on the side of the road accept only cash.
➡️ Mexico uses kilometers not miles
In case you are traveling to Mexico from the US, be aware that Mexico uses kilometers, not miles. One mile equals about 1.6 kilometers, but when it comes to driving, your best bet is to just follow the posted speed limit to avoid trouble.
➡️ Use toll roads
Toll roads might be not the cheapest option (you will need to have cash in your car to pay for them), but they are the best option if you are traveling between major cities and want to get around quickly. They are also considered safer for traveling than smaller secondary roads and better, as they have fewer potholes.
➡️ Follow the rules
Your best bet to avoid trouble is to follow the rules. Wear a seat belt, respect the signs and put down your phone. This will help to avoid any unwanted attention and not get pulled over by police in the first place.
➡️ Drive on the right side of the road
When driving in Mexico, always stay on the right side of the road.
➡️ Follow a posted speed limit
The best way to avoid a fine while driving in Mexico is to follow a posted speed limit. Always check what road signs say and do your best not to speed.
➡️ Drive during the day
Depending on what region of Mexico you plan to visit, you might want to limit your driving to the daytime. Some parts of Mexico are considered less safe than others, and you should check the most up-to-date information before planning your trip.
If you are traveling to Mexico from the United States, check the information on the U.S. State Department ahead of your visit.
Other popular places for renting a car in Mexico
Yucatan Peninsula is one of the best for renting a car. It’s safe and offers plenty of cultural landmarks and some of the most beautiful beaches in Mexico. Aside from Tulum, Mexico has other popular destinations where renting a car is safe and is the best way to explore the region.
Renting a car in Tulum: FAQs:
Do I need a car in Tulum?
Although Tulum is a well-connected destination with daily buses to Cancun, Bacalar, Merida, and Valladolid, renting a car is a great option, if you want to enjoy the ultimate freedom and visit the hidden corners that most tourists don’t get to see. When you have a rental car, you can plan your trip however you like, stop in small towns along the way, and visit Mayan ruins off the beaten track.
Is it worth renting a car in Tulum?
Yes, renting a car in Tulum is worth it. You will be able to visit some of the best Mayan ruins, cenotes, and wonderful natural landmarks without having to buy guided tours or take public transportation.
Does Tulum have Uber?
Tulum doesn’t have Uber, but it has many taxis that you can catch in different parts of town. If you need to get around Tulum quickly, taking taxis can add up, so you might be better off getting a car rental or renting a bicycle or scooter to save money.
Is driving in Tulum safe?
Yes, Tulum is perfectly safe for driving. The biggest issues with driving in Tulum are traffic (especially during the high season), and parking. Always park in the right place and pay the parking fee to avoid your car getting towed.
What if I get stopped by police while driving in Tulum?
If you get stopped by police while driving in Tulum stay calm, answer questions and be ready to show your documents. Unless you have drugs or any illegal items in your car, you have nothing to worry about. You could also be asked to open your vehicle for an inspection, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are in trouble. If you didn’t break any rules and have nothing to hide, you should be fine.
What if I get a fine while driving in Tulum?
If you get a fine while driving in Tulum, the safest bet is just to pay it. However, be aware that police do take bribes in Mexico, and Tulum is no exception. Depending on who stops you, you could be asked if you want to pay a bribe to get out of the situation. Listen to your gut and carefully assess the situation before making any decisions. If you don’t feel comfortable, you could just decline the offer, and pay the fine.
How to find the best car rentals
Check DiscoverCars, an online platform where you can browse through hundreds of car rentals. DiscoverCars allows you to find the right cars at affordable prices and avoid overpaying money when you don’t have to.
Tulum is one of the best places to rent a car in the Yucatan Peninsula. It sits within driving distance of some of the most beautiful cenotes in the region like Gran Cenote, Cenote Calavera, and Cenote Escondido. It’s also near many cool Mayan ruins like Muyil, Coba, and Chichen Itza – which makes for a perfect day trip from Tulum if you have a car rental.
When you rent a car you can also visit many hidden gems in the area and plan your trip however you like, instead of paying hundreds of Pesos for taxis or worrying about catching a bus. I did my best to cover all questions, but if you have any questions, please let me know.