Our first encounter with Mexican road etiquette took place on a busy street in Zona Romatica, Puerto Vallarta. Returning to our trusty auto, we confronted mechanical betrayal due to the human error of leaving on the headlights. After a somewhat healthy discourse on crucial safety factors while driving in daylight with headlights on, involving remembering to turn them off when exiting the vehicle, we took action. We unearthed jumper cables from the jumble of dog leashes, air pumps for ocean floats and miscellaneous car flotsam and jetsam in the boot, and determined to find a Good Samaritan. Much to our surprise, the first passing van all but slammed on their brakes, with ubiquitous dust trailing. A young man leapt out from the passenger side and without words, gestured for us to open the hood. We experienced people in Puerto Vallarta who simply like to help out strangers; a common occurrence in friendliness and general goodwill. Within moments, we were tootling down the road, having gone through an elaborate handshaking ritual, grins and many thank yous and por nadas.
Shortly after, we realized this type of courtesy and civility extends far beyond Puerto Vallarta. As a matter of fact, anywhere in Mexico, a car on the side of the road will not likely be stranded long. The Ángeles Verdes (Green Angels) are a government sponsored AAA, the guardians of road travelers, patrolling all federal and toll highways throughout the country. They are usually bi-lingual (though mechanical failures don’t regularly entail language barriers); will guide a voyager to their next destination; provide first aid if needed and gladly supply everything from cold water to promos for tourist attractions.
How do you find them? They will find you. If you’re experiencing problems, pull over and raise your hood. The Green Angels are often parked under overpasses, in the shade, along the toll roads. In a supportive system, other drivers (truckers, for example) will alert the Green Angels of your location. You can also dial 078 from any phone.
Sound wonderful? It gets better. It’s free. The Mexican Tourism Ministry offers this service to all motorists. They bring spare parts, a variety of tools and experienced friendly mechanics. If you need major parts, that’s your responsibility but they will tow you to the next available service station, free of charge, no matter how far. Tipping is appreciated and recommended, and the amount is up to you. We suggest generosity in the face of immense gratitude.
We always save our toll receipts, which often helps in planning future trips to access travels costs and… to our delight, we realized most of these little flimsy pieces of paper also include contact information for road assistance.
Driving throughout Mexico is easy. Don’t drive at night to avoid hitting a dreaded tope (speed bump) or animals, both domestic and wild. Day trip and enjoy a fabulous infrastructure that gets better on an annual basis.
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Thanks to our guest blogger Adam Garcia for this article!
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