If you've never driven on the island, hold onto your hat...
There's some things you should probably be aware of before you jump behind the wheel.
Hitting the Streets
"Calles" (pron: Kigh-yays) run east to west. "Av. Lic. Benito Juárez" is one of the main roads and it is the road that extends across the width of the island (it's called "Transversal" once you leave the city), dividing it almost in half. The calles north of Benito Juarez are referred to with a name or number and followed by "nte" - meaning north. The calles south of Benito Juarez are also referred to with a name or number and followed by "sur" - meaning south.
"Avenidas" run north to south and may be called by names or numbers, or in some cases be referred to with both. For example, one particular thoroughfare is generally referred to as "Av 30" - but it's named "Av. Lic. Pedro Joaquin Coldwell" and another busy street is "Av 65" - which is also named "Av. 8 de Octubre" - but it's only a named street from Av. Lic. Benito Juarez, north to Airport Road. Confused yet?
- Avenidas usually have the right of way - but this is not a hard rule! There are some calles that have the right of way - always watch for stop signs or lights as they are the "rule".
- The general rule for the direction of the one-ways, is that they alternate directions - meaning if the traffic on the calle you are approaching is moving east to west, the next calle will likely be going west to east. Again, this isn't always the case. Sometimes there are back to back streets going the same direction, or they may be a 2-way. If you are unfamiliar with driving here, don't get tricked into assuming. It's much safer to look BOTH ways before moving forward from a stop sign or turning down a street and always proceed with caution.
Be aware that many of the neighborhoods and back streets away from the downtown area take these "general rules" and jumble them all up! This can make it difficult to get around and to know which way to be watching for cross traffic. There are also some smaller streets tucked in between the rest called "bis," so watch for those street signs to find your way.
Please respect the speed limits - usually just 30 or 40kmph for most areas within the city and it increases at different points along Transversal and other roads, particularly as you head to the east side. There are schools and residences along the way and the speed limit reflects this.
On the corner building of many streets, you'll find the street signs. Blue and white oval plaques with the street name, colonia (in small print below) and a black arrow indicating traffic direction.
Scooters, as in motos. There's no "Driver's Ed" on the island and the riders of these nimble machines can be a menace to anyone with driver training, experience and expectations of road-rules. Don't expect them to follow any rules and it's wise to expect them where they shouldn't be.
Topes. (pron: toe-pays) There are two kinds of topes - and both can get you into big trouble! The first is the kind that people walk across, a raised walkway in effect. This is one place pedestrians 100% have the right of way - if you do not stop and yield to pedestrians walking here, you risk large fines by police if caught. Driving across a walkway tope while pedestrians are crossing is a big no-no.
Speed topes. Have you ever seen a scooter hit a road tope and launch the riders? Me either - but I've heard about it happening! These cement beasts will also do a number on the bottom of your car if you take them too fast or your car is weighted down with passengers. You'll even see some that have been scraped level on top, so take it easy going over them.
Coloured Curbside Parking
Not just for decoration, the painted colours actually indicate parking and if you're planning on renting a scooter or vehicle, you best understand the parking rules. Rather than hand out a parking ticket, Cozumel Police step up the game a notch and will take the license plate off the vehicle. Not only will you be responsible for the fine, you may be charged a fee from the rental agency as they will be required to go to the station in person and pay the fine to retrieve the plate.
If you see the curbside is painted red, even if it seems old and faded - avoid it. You may see locals testing their luck by parking there illegally or even by parking up on the sidewalk but this doesn't mean they get away with it - and you might arrive back in time to see your rental vehicle leaving on a flatbed truck.
If the curbside is painted yellow, that means it's parking for business in that area. This parking is intended for their customers and is paid for by the business, so if you are parking there but not going to the business in question, you may run into issues.
If the curbside is painted white, the space is for transportation vehicles and again, should be avoided.
Basically, you're safest parking where there's no coloured curb or in a parking lot. Parking lot locations are listed under the "Getting Around" section in the main navegation bar, or by clicking here. The malecon, Rafael E. Melgar is unpainted in many areas, however parking/stopping there is only allowed after 6pm.
The Island Bicycle Path
With the popular GFNY race being held here and an island full of bicycle fans, visiting bike enthusiasts will be happy to learn there is a designated bicycle path in some areas. Starting at Puerta Maya, in the south end of San Miguel, there is a smooth ashphalt path for bicycles. This cycle path runs along the main road (Quintana Roo C-1) for a bit and then moves off the main road, merging for a short distance with the Carretera Costera Sur, which runs along the west coastline (many locals refer to it as the "old road.") This roadway must be shared with other vehicles briefly, however after the Money Bar and the Landmark Resort, the "on-coming" left lane becomes a dedicated bicycle path. Scooters and cars are forbidden on this side of the road as it continues south and to Rastas Bar/Restaurant on the east side, where the road becomes and bike-dedicated path. As always, bicyclists should excercise caution on this pathway. Although it is marked as being for bicycles only, it is common to see scooters going the wrong way on the old road, or to see scooters or jeeps driving down the bicycle-dedicated path as it runs along the sea on the east side. Be aware the police will fine you, if you are caught driving a motor vehicle on the bicycle path. Ride safe!
Shared Portion of the coastal road
Where the Coastal road becomes One-Way
East Side - BICYCLES ONLY Path
If you find you're enjoying the view, riding your rental scooter right along-side the beautiful, turquoise blue Caribbean sea.... YOU'RE ON THE BIKE PATH!
- Be cautious when turning onto a street if you're unsure the direction. Look for clues with how vehicles are parked (facing you or going the same way as you?) or the street sign on a corner building.
- Look both ways and watch for scooters everywhere, even squeezing in between your vehicle and the curb.
- Always stop for raised walkway topes with pedestrians crossing.
- Keep your eyes open for roadway topes and go slow over them.
- Mind the speed limits - some people seem surprised when they get ticketed for speeding.
- Don't drink and drive. It is a legal offense and there have been devastating accidents here.
- Careful where you park, police will remove your vehicle plates if you park illegally.
San Miguel is a small city and many residents own scooters, some own cars and some, own neither. Walking and bicycling can get most people where they need to go. So what about if you're running late or don't want to get sweaty on a bike, or walking in the hot sun? For a relativley convenient and economic solution, there's the Colectivo.
Colectivos are large, shared-passenger vans operated by the taxi syndicate and they cost less than 10 pesos a trip. This is a good deal, when the cheapest taxi fare on the island will run you just under $30 pesos - and it may even be for a shorter distance!
There are several colectivo routes currently operating. Each colectivo has one stopping point in common, so it's easy to cover a good deal of the city by switching from one route ("Ruta") to another at this common point.
During their designated "loop", they all stop in front of the Chedraui Plaza on Xel-Ha (a block east of Av. Rafael E. Melgar), stopping near the covered parking garage for their passengers to get off, or on. A supervisor is usually situated by the stairs, calling out the route numbers as they arrive. You will need to have some idea what neighborhood you need or street, then ask him which colectivo to catch if you're uncertain. The good news is, as long as you're not in a rush, if you catch the wrong colectivo, you know for certain it will bring you back to Chedraui and you'll be able to catch the correct one there.
The fare is for the trip, not for mileage or time. You could do the entire route if you felt like it, for one fare. However, there is no way to "transfer" from one route to another, each separate colectivo trip would require payment.
One more option is the Uniper colectivo. Uniper is a private transportation company which provides tourist, personal and public transportation. Accurate and easy to use, the Uniper App shows you their routes and tracks their colectivos in real-time, so there's no guessing when to head to the stop to meet one. You can download the app with links form their page or here, below.
For the Android (from Google Play) Uniper App, click here
For the Apple Uniper App, click here
The sindicato de taxistas de Cozumel provide the island public taxi service. The city is divided into 9 zones and fare rates are based on movement from zone to zone. There are also the hotel zones and they are divided further into subzones, again, fares are based on movement from one zone to another.
Prices: Some people will tell you there are two price lists, one for locals and one for tourists - however, this isn't the case. Unfortunately, some taxi drivers will try to tell you this as well. It's important to have the rate sheets handy and know what the fare is before getting into a taxi. Always ask the driver the cost of the fare to your destination - before you get in. If the driver tries to say the rate sheet is for locals only, find another taxi. Most drivers are honest but unfortunately, like everywhere in the world, some people will try to take advantage of others.
There are a few instances when the prices are different. If there a more than 4 passengers, there is a higher fee. Using the messaging service or calling for a taxi also adds a small surcharge.
For travel between the island and Playa del Carmen, there are currently two ferry companies to choose from, Ultramar or WinJet.
For Ultramar information regarding route times and fares, click here
For WinJet information regarding route times and fares, click here
Ferry For Automobiles
Again, there are two companies to choose from, UltraMar & TransCaribe