Are you thinking about renting a car in Merida?
This essential guide contains everything you need to know about car rental in Merida, including where and how to rent a car, Mexico driving tips and ideas for places to visit.
We recently rented a car during our trip to Merida, and we are so glad we did! The Yucatan is a fabulous region and has so many incredible sights to visit and hidden gems to explore. Renting a car allowed us to enjoy an activity-packed trip, and we don’t think we would have enjoyed our vacation half as much – or seen as much – if we had taken tours or used public transport.
We found driving in Merida easy and enjoyable, and we loved the freedom to explore that our rental car provided us with.
🚗 Find the cheapest deal on renting a car in Merida and book your vehicle safely with no hidden cost & generous cancellation policy through ➡️ Discover Cars.
However, renting a car in Merida requires thought and pre-planning – and that is where this comprehensive guide can help you plan your perfect Merida trip.
Should I rent a car in Merida?
If you are eligible and confident enough to rent a car in Merida, we think car hire in Merida is the way to travel around this region. It is the easiest and most flexible method of transport for exploring this fascinating and diverse part of Mexico.
Renting a car in Merida is ideal for anyone who does not want to stay in their hotel or resort for their entire trip. A car allows you to go where you want when you want to go. This convenience is invaluable on precious vacation days.
Plus, you can pick and choose the best weather days for your sightseeing, arrive as early as you like at attractions to avoid the crowds or leave as late as you like. A car enables you to take day trips according to your mood or energy level; you do not have this flexibility if you have to pre-book tours.
A car can carry your luggage or groceries and, if you are travelling with kids, all your kid’s stuff too. It will also allow you to get off the beaten track and visit lesser-visited destinations or dine at out-of-the-way restaurants.
If you are travelling with friends or family, hiring a car can be cost-effective when compared to buying a tour or multiple tickets on public transport.
For all these reasons, it is easy to see why we recommend hiring a car in Merida!
Book your rental car in Merida at the best rate here:
Renting A Car In Merida: Safety
It is important to know that using a rental car in Merida – or anywhere in the world – is not without risk. It is essential to make sure you rent a roadworthy car from a reliable company, plan your route in advance, drive within your capabilities and adhere to local rules and regulations.
Who is car rental not recommended for?
Using a rental car in Merida is not suitable for everyone. If you are a newly qualified driver or a nervous driver, we do not recommend a Merida car rental.
If you are not a confident, experienced driver, taking a tour will be much less stressful for you than self-driving on unfamiliar roads in an unfamiliar car. Tours may also be a better option if you only plan on doing one or two short-day trips or you don’t like the idea of having to plan everything yourself on your vacation.
A Merida Mexico car rental may also not be suitable for solo travellers. Once you add up the cost of car rental, petrol and insurance, it may be cheaper for you to join an organised group tour. Plus, the challenge of navigating and driving new roads all on your own should not be underestimated.
Finally, if you are under 21, you will have to pay a premium to hire a car in Merida, so you may want to compare car hire costs against tour costs to work out which option is best for you.
Is it safe to rent a car in Mexico and drive around?
If you are wondering if it is safe to rent a car in Mexico, the answer is generally yes.
However, it is essential to take the usual personal and road safety precautions that you follow at home, such as don’t drink alcohol and driving, locking your doors when driving and parking in a well-lit, busy area. Wearing a seat belt is mandatory in Mexico.
Plus, if you are thinking of driving a rental car in Mexico, you should check recent travel advisories from your home government. These advisories contain up-to-date, accurate and reliable information about which areas in Mexico to avoid travelling through – and there are some areas you really want to avoid driving through as a tourist.
Renting a car in Merida is generally considered safe, especially if you keep to the main tourist routes between Merida and Cancun, Valladolid and Tulum.
The main roads around Merida are in good condition with clear signage. However, it is worth researching Mexican road signs and traffic signals before your trip. Make sure you find out the rules of the road, such as speed limits and overtaking procedures, before you need them.
Avoid driving in inner cities if you can, and we absolutely recommend avoiding nighttime driving. Protect yourself by pacing yourself, staying hydrated when out and about and planning your sightseeing day and driving route before you set off on your road trip.
If you are unfamiliar with driving on the right-hand side of the road, a good tip we use is to stick a ‘reminder’ post-it note on your steering wheel. We have used this tip in multiple countries!
Renting A Car In Merida Mexico: Logistics
If you have decided a car rental Merida is for you, the following logistical questions will help you to source and book the right car for you.
How Do I Book Merida Rental Car?
You can rent a car in Merida by spending hours trawling the internet and car rental companies, or you can use the excellent comparison site Discover Cars.
We trust and use Discover Cars wherever we go and have found them to be reliable and cost-effective. We used them for our recent road trip around Merida.
The site is quick and easy to use and allows free cancellation if your travel plans change. We advise booking in advance (at least one month before your trip) to secure the car you want at the best price. This is especially important if you are travelling in peak season or want to hire an automatic car.
Book your rental car in Merida at the best rate here:
How much does renting a car in Merida cost?
Any Mexico trip planning should include finding out how much it cost to rent a car in Mexico so you can budget your trip accordingly. You will quickly find that the cost of car rental in Mexico varies considerably according to where you are travelling to and what time of year you are visiting.
Finding the best cheap car rentals Merida has to offer comes down to planning. The cost of renting a car in Merida is affected by the type of car you hire, when you hire it and how long you keep it for, plus the route you intend to take.
Car hire prices are usually cheaper the further ahead you book as limited supply nearer the time pushes the prices up. That’s why we always recommend booking with Discover Cars, whose free cancellation policy allows you flexibility should your travel plans change unexpectedly.
You can expect to pay higher prices for all cars during the peak tourist season or during domestic holiday periods such as Christmas or Easter.
Plus, if you visit during the school holidays or during Spring Break, you will pay a premium for larger people carrier cars or SUVs. If you want to find the best cheap rental cars Merida has to offer, rent a small car in the low season.
You will also pay a higher price if you are under 21 and, sometimes, under 25.
To give you a general idea of costs, a U.S. licensed driver over the age of 21 wanting to rent a compact five-seater car in the off-season should expect to pay from $195 / £152 for a one-week rental.
Hiring the same car for one week in peak season will cost around $307 / £239.
Extra charges to be aware of
With any Merida car hire, there are extra charges to be aware of – though one of them is avoidable with forward planning.
If you plan to drop off your car at a different location from where you picked it up (a one-way drop-off), you will pay more than if you returned it to where you picked it up. The cheapest rental car prices are for a round-trip drop-off.
Plus, if you arrive at your drop-off location with an empty tank – or with less petrol in the tank than what you started with – you will be charged a penalty fee in addition to the cost of refilling the tank. This is the easiest charge to avoid, so make sure you fill up on the way to drop off the car. We speak from experience when we say that this can be an unwelcome additional cost on your vacation!
You will also be charged an extra fee for additional drivers. However, with any road trip, it is always beneficial to add an extra driver if you can.
What kind of Merida rental car shall I choose?
Which type of rental car in Merida you choose should hinge on what type of car you feel comfortable driving.
The general rule is not to hire anything larger than the vehicle you drive at home. You will not be used to handling a larger car or trying to park it. Also, don’t hire an automatic car (or a manual drive) if you have never driven one before.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should opt for the cheapest small car you can find. Overloading a small car with passengers or multiple heavy bags can be dangerous. Be sure to choose a car with adequate space and enough seat belts and storage for your travelling party.
We recommend a car rental Merida Mexico, that has air conditioning; take it from us. It will make your day trips so much more pleasurable, particularly in peak season.
Also, if you are travelling with kids, spend some time researching whether your car seats can be used with the seat belts that are in the rental car or if the rental company supplies seats and what type of seats they are. If in doubt, ask the rental car company before booking.
If you are only road driving, you will not need a 4×4, and we would really only recommend going off-road with a 4×4 in Merida if you are experienced in off-road driving.
What’s the best car rental Merida company?
There is a wide choice of rental car companies in Merida, and most of the well-known chains have rental depots in the city centre. If you are arriving in Merida by plane, there are also Merida car rental airport depots.
However, to save time, stress and money, we recommend using Discover Cars to help you find the best car for you at the best price.
Discover Cars use an algorithm that prioritises car rental companies with the best, most recent reviews so you know you will be hiring from a reputable, trustworthy company.
You can price compare quickly and easily, and we find the detailed car specifications on Discover Cars helpful (we have also found them to be accurate). Plus, there are no hidden booking fees, and, as previously mentioned, Discover Cars also allows free cancellation if you change your mind for any reason.
For these reasons, we think that Discover Cars is the best car rental Merida has to offer.
Rent A Car In Merida: Requirements
Can I drive in Mexico with a US license?
Yes, you can rent a car and drive in Mexico with a US license, but if you can get one, we also recommend travelling with an International Driver’s Permit to avoid any confusion.
An IDP is easy to get and is accepted in many more countries than a home country driver’s license.
What do I need to rent a car in Merida?
If you are planning on renting a car in Merida, you must show an original, valid U.S. driver’s licence (a photographed copy will not be accepted). You can also use an International Driver’s Permit if you have one.
You also need to show your passport as proof of age and pay with a valid credit card.
We do not advise payment with a debit card as the rental company takes a ‘blocking deposit’ from non-credit card users against theft or damage to the car. This blocking deposit is taken in cash from your account and will be returned to you after you return the car in good condition.
However, if you have a monthly spending limit on your debit card, the blocking deposit will count towards it so that you could be left with low funds for the duration of your trip.
Do I need insurance?
Under Mexican law, anyone renting a car must take out Public Liability Insurance (PLI) and Third Party Liability (TPL) as minimum insurance.
However, to avoid potentially costly legal and damage fees, we always recommend taking out a comprehensive full insurance policy like the one offered by Discover Cars. Their excellent policy includes both PLI and TPL, which means we can enjoy our road trip knowing we are fully covered for every eventuality.
If you plan on using rental insurance covered by your credit card, we strongly advise checking the small print of your policy so you know exactly what you and the car are covered for – and what you are not covered for.
Very few credit card company insurance policies are as comprehensive as Discover Cars’ full insurance policy.
Book your rental car in Merida at the best rate here:
Best Places To Visit Around Merida With A Car
Using a car rental in Merida allows you to visit some of the region’s top tourist destinations – as well as some lesser-known locations.
These are our top recommendations for places we visited in Merida on our road trip.
Chichén Itzá is one of the best-known – and most popular – sites in Mexico. The UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the Yucatan’s unmissable attractions and was voted one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World in 2007.
Chichen Itza is believed to have been established in the 400s AD. It became a vast Mayan city, and at its peak in the 900s AD, the city is thought to have been home to over 50,000 people and the most diverse population in the Mayan world. The city declined in the 1200s and was eventually abandoned by its inhabitants.
You will need at least 2 – 3 hours to explore the 10 square kilometre site. To fully appreciate what you are seeing – and its cultural and historical significance – we strongly recommend hiring a tour guide inside the entrance gate.
Highlights include the instantly recognisable El Castillo, a 30-metre-high pyramid also known as Kukulcan. Unfortunately, visitors are no longer permitted to climb the imposing and impossibly steep Kukulcan Pyramid.
Other must-sees include the Great Ballcourt, the Temple of the Bearded Man, the eerie Skull Platform and the Temple of the Warriors.
Chichen Itza is a popular tourist attraction all year round, so one advantage of using a Merida rental car is that you can visit early before the tour buses arrive or late in the day after the tour buses depart.
Drive time from Merida – 2 hours
Distance – 132 kilometres
Izamal is best known for its 16th-century colonial-style buildings, which are painted a vivid bright yellow. These buildings helped Izamal earn its nickname of ‘Ciudad Amarilla’ or Yellow City.
The city was once one of the largest Mayan sites in Mexico, with six pyramids at its centre. It was gradually dismantled by the Spanish colonists who built many of the buildings in Izamal today using stones from the original pyramids. However, some pyramid ruins remain, which hint at what the city would have looked like in the past.
Unmissable highlights included the Convent of St Anthony of Padua, archaeological sites such as the Kinich Kakmó Pyramid (which you can climb) and the enormous Itzamatul Pyramid.
Izamal can be combined with a trip to Chichen Itza (one hour away by car) or to a neighbouring cenote such as Cenote Ik Kil.
Drive time from Merida – 55 minutes
Distance – 71 kilometres
Many people visit Valladolid as part of a quick stop off on route from Chichen Itza, 45 minutes away by road. However, we loved this fascinating and charming city and recommend devoting at least one day to exploring it.
Valladolid is a picture-perfect city of attractive squares, pastel-coloured buildings and ornate colonial architecture. You can spend hours wandering the city or visiting the iconic Church of Saint Servatius and the historic Convento de San Bernardino de Siena.
Shop for souvenirs on the Road Of The Friars or watch the world go by in the Parque Principal. Don’t leave the city before trying marquesitas (our personal favourites) and tasty churros.
Drive time from Merida – 2 hours
Distance – 162 kilometres
The UNESCO World Heritage Uxmal is an easy half-day trip from Merida. The Mayan site was founded in the 700s AD and, at its peak, was home to over 25,000 people. The design and layout of its structures show that the ancient Mayan had astronomical knowledge.
Highlights of the site include the impressive Pyramid Of The Magician and the richly carved Governors Palace.
Uxmal is as impressive as Chichen Itza, but it attracts fewer crowds. If you want to visit a Mayan site in relative peace and quiet, this is the place to come.
Drive time from Merida – 1 hour 20 minutes
Distance – 83 kilometres
We think that Campeche is an underrated destination in the Yucatan, but thankfully, this also means fewer tourists.
The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its stunning 17th-century colonial buildings and gorgeous plazas.
We recommend visiting the Plaza Principal, the San Miguel Fort, the Fort of San Jose el Alto and the El Palacio Museum. A perfect end to the day is a sunset stroll along Campeche Malecon, an attractive beachfront boulevard.
You can visit Campeche for a day, but to fully immerse yourself in this charming city, we would recommend staying for a couple of days at least.
Drive time from Merida – 2 hours 20 minutes
Distance – 175 kilometres
Book your rental car in Merida at the best rate here:
Tips For Driving A Rental Car In Merida
✔️Opt for full insurance cover
We believe that full insurance coverage is worth every penny for the peace of mind it brings, and for the full protection it provides. In terms of the overall trip budget, full insurance coverage is not a huge expense, and it could avoid potentially life-changing ramifications should a serious incident occur during your road trip.
Premium, deluxe or extended coverage are different terms for full insurance. A full insurance policy will cover injuries to yourself and your passengers and damage to your rental car. It will also insure you against injuries to the driver and passengers of the other car and any third-party car or property.
Whichever full insurance policy you buy, make sure you read the small print. Some insurance policies have strict rules, such as where you can and can’t park at night, what sort of roads you can drive on and what you can put in the trunk.
If there is anything you are unsure about, ask before you leave the rental company depot.
✔️Record the condition of the car
When you rent a car in Merida, it is essential to check the condition of the car before you set off on your road trip.
Start by checking the current state of the car as detailed in the official paperwork you are given. If the company has detailed damage, such as dents or windscreen cracks, check these first. If you do not think that the rental car company has accurately recorded the level of damage, ask an employee to assess the damage and change the paperwork.
You should then record the condition of the car yourself. We recommend taking photos or videos of both the outside and inside of the car, paying particular attention to vulnerable areas such as the fenders, windscreen or lights.
If you see any damage not noted on the paperwork, make sure an employee of the rental car company changes (and signs) the paperwork.
If at all possible, make a copy of the photos in case you lose or damage your phone or camera.
✔️Familiarise yourself with your rental car before you leave the depot
Get to know your rental car before leaving the rental depot.
We can’t tell you how many times we have had to search for the windscreen wipers when it has started raining!
As a minimum, make sure you can see your mirrors properly and know where your headlights, horn, indicators and hazard lights are.
✔️Mind the speed bumps
There are speed bumps everywhere in Mexico, and lots of them! For example, the non-toll road from Merida to Cancun has over 80-speed bumps on it, which averages one speed bump every four kilometres!
Mexican speed bumps must not be taken at speed as they are 2 to 3 times higher than speed bumps in the U.S. Based on our experience on driving in Merida, you will want to slow down going over a speed bump, or you could damage the suspension on your car.
Some Mexican speed bumps are painted black and yellow, so are easy to spot when driving. However, other bone-shaking bumps are simply grey concrete or metal, making them much harder to spot on the road ahead.
There may be some warning signs showing two pictorial humps and marked ‘topes’ or ‘reductor de velocidad’ before a speed bump. However, in our experience, not every speed bump was preceded by a warning sign.
✔️Learn Mexican traffic signals
Mexican traffic signals are different to traffic signals in the U.S. or Europe.
They feature an extra step, so will show green, amber, then flashing amber and finally red.
✔️Keep your documents on you
If you are renting a car in Merida, it is important to carry some essential documents with you at all times in the car.
These documents include your driver’s license or your International driver’s Licence, the car rental contract, your passports, your tourist card (FMM), plus your insurance documents. Keep the documents all together in an easily accessible place.
We also recommend creating a list of emergency numbers, including a nominated contact back home, the number of the rental car company and your insurance company.
It is also a good idea to travel with the contact details for the Green Angels (Angeles Verde), which is the roadside breakdown assistance provided for tourists in Mexico.
✔️Download offline maps
Prepare for the very real possibility of no WiFi signal by downloading offline maps, driving directions and map apps (such as Maps.Me).
✔️Get a local SIM
Buy a local sim for your phone. Although U.S. and European sims may work in Mexico, a low-cost Mexican sim is more reliable and will have better signal coverage.
✔️Pay cash at the petrol stations
Mexican petrol stations are renowned for scams. There are a few things you can do to avoid the most common scams.
Due to the lack of self-service pumps, station employees pump your gas for you and take payment, either by cash or by credit card.
Firstly, always get out of the car to watch your tank being filled. Make sure the pump being used has been reset and that the pump you have pulled up to is the pump that is being used.
We advise paying with cash, not a credit card, to avoid cloning or skimming. Pay attention when paying by cash, and don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Unfortunately, distraction is a common technique to covertly switch notes in order to fool you into thinking that you have handed over the wrong amount of cash.
✔️Mind the tolls
Mexico has a lot of toll roads (called cuota roads). These roads generally carry less traffic and are in better condition than non-toll roads (called libre roads).
If you choose to use a toll road, you will need to pay in Mexican pesos; credit cards and U.S. dollars are not accepted.
If you plan on driving the popular route from Merida to Cancun, you can take the Carretera Federal 180, which is a lovely road to drive.
Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive toll road in Mexico and currently costs $33 ($608MXP) for a 305-kilometre trip.
✔️Respect the speed limits
Speed limits in Mexico are usually 10 kph in residential areas, 20 kph near schools and hospitals and 40 kph in built-up areas. You can drive at 70 kph on major roads and at 90 -110 kph on Mexican highways.
Double-check the speed limits before setting off on your Merida road trip, and stick to them.
✔️Avoid nighttime driving
Driving new roads with unfamiliar rules and signs is challenging enough, but driving new roads at night adds an extra level of risk.
Plan your sightseeing day before you set off, know what time sunset is and try to avoid driving at night if you can.
✔️Exercise limited trust
Exercising limited trust means that you should not assume that other drivers are following the rules of the road as you are. Stay alert to other drivers who may be using their phones, speeding or driving under the influence of drink or drugs.
It is also worth knowing that if you are stopped by police, you should be told why you have been stopped. The police will then issue a ticket and ask you to surrender your license. You should then follow them to the nearest police station, where you can pay for your ticket and retrieve your license. (Tip – you will get 50% off your ticket if you pay within 48 hours).
However, if you are stopped by the police, issued a ticket, and then asked to pay on the spot in cash, this is a scam and is not the correct legal procedure. Accept the ticket but ask to pay by card.
✔️Keep your valuables out of sight
Never leave valuables in sight in your rental car in Merida.
Clear the dashboard, all the seats and the parcel shelf of all items and put them out of sight in the trunk. If staying overnight somewhere, remove all valuables from the car.
✔️Choose accommodation with parking
Finding accommodation with parking (and ideally allocated parking) is not always easy, but on-site parking is an important safety feature on any vacation.
It means you won’t have to drive around searching for a parking space when you are tired (or in the dark). It also avoids having to park and walk to your accommodation with all your luggage on display.
Book your rental car in Merida at the best rate here:
Renting A Car In Merida: FAQ
Is there Uber in Merida?
There is Uber available in Merida, but it is not permitted to operate at the airport. You cannot use Uber as an airport transfer.
Uber in Merida has a reputation as being unreliable, as drivers are often on multiple platforms. Other ride apps available in Merida include Cabify and Ryde and Go.
How to get around Merida without a car?
If you decide that renting a car in Merida is not for you, there are other options you can use.
Firstly, if mobility is not an issue, you can walk. Merida city centre is laid out on a grid system and is a very walkable city.
If you choose to take one of the many taxis in Merida, make sure you ride in a licensed taxi. There are few metered taxis, so you will need to agree to a price before you travel. Ask a local for a rough guide to prices before asking the taxi drivers, so you know what you should expect to pay.
Merida’s public buses are cheap and reliable. The extensive network covers Merida city and routes to surrounding tourist hotspots such as Cancun and Chichen Itza. First-class buses have air conditioning and toilets, so it is worth paying extra if you can.
You can also catch colectivos which are small minibuses.
Do you need a car in Merida Mexico?
Merida has good public transport, and there is a range of tours available, so technically, you don’t have to rent a car in Merida.
However, in our experience of travelling in Merida, having a car will enhance your trip. It will save you time and stress whilst providing valuable flexibility.
Renting A Car In Merida: Final Word
Renting a car in Merida requires a little planning and organising, but, using the helpful tips in this guide, it is an easy and straightforward process. We promise that all the organising and pre-planning will be worth it.
You will thank your car when you arrive at Chichen Itza before the tour buses roll up or when you stop at a family-owned off-the-beaten-track restaurant for an amazing meal.
You will appreciate your car when you can watch the sun go down on a deserted beach off local bus routes or fill up your car trunk with souvenir shopping from Valladolid.
Wherever you go and whatever you do, we know you will fall in love with Merida – just like we did.