GAS STATIONS, DRIVING CUSTOMS, and TRAFFIC LAWS
To find the locations of the gas stations on Cozumel, see the INTERACTIVE CITY MAP. They are shown in green.
Pemex is the only brand of gasoline sold in Mexico. The types of gas offered are Magna (green pump, unleaded, 87 octane), Premium (red pump, unleaded, 93 octane) and Diesel (black pump). There is no self-service and tipping is customary, but a couple of pesos will do. VISA and MasterCard are accepted. Be sure the pump is set on “0” before the attendant begins pumping gas into your car. Do not let someone distract your attention from the pump. The gas is measured in liters not gallons. The price is in pesos, not dollars.
Your automobile’s tire air pressure is expressed in kilopascals in Mexico. Multiply the pound force per square inch (psi) by 6.89 to get kilopascals (kPa)
24 psi = 165 kPa 30 psi = 207 kPa
26 psi = 179 kPa 32 psi = 221 kPa
28 psi = 193 kPa 34 psi = 235 kPa
The streets in Cozumel are shared by a sometimes-bewildering mix of cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, tricycles, horse-drawn buggies, and many, weird, home-made combinations of a couple of these conveyances. The secret is to drive carefully and slowly. Being passed on the right is not an unusual event, nor is finding the vehicle in front of you is going to stop a while in the middle of the street while the driver makes a quick run into a nearby store or office. Taxis have an agenda all their own; it is always a good policy to give them a wide berth. Patience is the secret.
Traffic signals in Cozumel also have their own idiosyncrasies. Unlike the US, where the sequence is green-yellow-red, here in Mexico the sequence is green-flashing green-yellow-red. Like many parts of the world, if the way is clear, a right turn is allowed here at a red light after a full stop. In most places in the world, the lights facing the south-bound traffic are synchronized to be the same color as that facing the north-bound traffic, unless there are secondary lights in place that regulate left turns. Here in Cozumel, the green light only appears on one side of the signal at a time, resulting in a situation where each lane at the intersection must wait for their own green light to continued straight or to turn left.
Things that slow traffic flow
Strategically placed speed bumps (topes) and raised pedestrian crossing platforms (plataformas) are used to slow down traffic. The bumps (some of which are quite abrupt, and can cause serious damage when taken at speed) are all marked with signs indicating their presence.
To drive a car in Mexico you must have a current, valid driver’s license, either from your home country, or a Mexican license.
Blood alcohol level
If you have an accident, ANY level of alcohol found in your blood will send you to jail and cancel your rental insurance.
Open container law
Having open containers of alcohol in a vehicle is illegal in Cozumel.
Everyone, regardless of age, is required to wear a helmet in Cozumel while driving or riding a motorized, two wheeled vehicle. No more than two people are allowed to ride on one motorcycle or moped at the same time.
Use of seat belts is mandatory in both front and back seats.
Calles and Avenidas
Avenidas (which usually go east-west) have right of way, Calles (which always go north-south) do not. The exceptions are the Avenidas Xelha, Andres Quintana Roo, and Antonio Gonzalez Fernandez, which all run east-west and still have the right-of-way. Calle Benito Juarez from Avenida Pedro Joaquín Coldwell eastward has no stop signs and has the right-of-way.
When arriving at a traffic circle, the vehicle already inside the circle has right-of-way.
Stops for traffic violations
If you are stopped for a moving violation, the police officer is not authorized to issue a ticket for traffic violations or settle the fine on the spot. He will take your license with him to the police station and request that you go to the station to resolve the infraction and retrieve your license. At the station, you can plead your case or pay the fine.
Parking is at a premium in downtown San Miguel, and street-side parking spots are not always easy to find deeper in town either. There are many privately operated parking lots that help make up for this lack of street-side parking. They are clearly marked with signs saying “Parking” or “Estacimiento.” If the sign also says “Solo Pensionados,” that means the lot is for monthly or yearly subscription only. If a lot says “Parking Privado,” that means it is a private lot, not for public hire. All lots that charge for parking have attendants who will show you where to park and accept your cash payment. Most close and chain the lot at 9 PM. Some of the larger businesses like Mega, Chedraui, Punta Langosta Mall, and others have free parking lots for their patrons.
Parking on Av. Rafael E. Melgar (the malecon) is the most tightly controlled. There is no parking at all on the malecon between 6am and 6pm, Monday through Saturday. Red curbs or signs with a “crossed-out E” delineate No Parking zones. Taxi Only parking spaces are the space between the signs with the word “TAXI PRINCIPIA” (meaning “starts here”) and the words “TAXI TERMINA” (meaning “ends here”). “Handicapped Only” parking areas also exist, with signs showing the international sign of a wheelchair. Horse drawn buggies have special parking areas on the malecon marked by signs with the image of horse-drawn buggy on them, indicating where the buggy parking starts and where it ends.
There is no parking at all on the malecon between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday through Saturday. Curbs painted yellow are for short term (less than ten minutes) parking. When the pavement has an “E” in a circle with a diagonal line through it, there is no parking on that part of the street. The bays let into the right hand sidewalks at intervals along the downtown calles between Av. 10 and the malecon are for short-term (less that 10 minutes) parking only. Curbs painted red are No Parking zones. A round sign with a diagonal line across a capital E means no parking. Round signs with the word Taxi and an arrow mean only taxi parking from this point to the next sign with the word Taxi on it. Bus stops are no parking areas and are signed with the word Autobus or Parada (bus stop). Many driveways are marked no parking, vado, or vado permanente, and blocking one of these will get you towed. The sign in front of schools that reads Momentaneo Maximo 10 minutos means stopping and waiting in your car is allowed for only ten minutes. Parking within a car length of an intersection is illegal, and will get you towed faster than anything else. If your vehicle is found illegally parked, it may be either towed to the police storage compound or the license plates may be removed by the patrolman. If your plates are removed, you need to go directly to the police station and pay the fine before they will be returned. If you are found driving without plates, you will be jailed.
Towed, Impounded vehicles
To retrieve a towed vehicle from police impound, you will need to bring proof of ownership (title), proof of insurance, your passport, driver’s license, visa, and Tarjeta de circulación if the car is registered in Mexico, with you when you go to pay the fine.
The police station in Cozumel is located next to the Palacio Municipal at Av. Xelha and Calle Gonzalo Guerrero. Phone (987) 872-0409