Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - So whatís it like driving a car here you ask? The streets are narrow and cobblestones offer opportunities for some of the largest potholes in the world. Then there are those crazy "laterals" where you have to decide if you are turning left from the left lane or from the right lane of the lateral which means you have to know this before you get there!
And what about the buses and taxis who drive as if they own the road? And there is barely such a thing as a yellow light... green slides into red in seconds so you best stop on the green or find yourself facing oncoming cross traffic while still in the cross lane. The traffic cops love to catch those who do this... a ticket for sure!
And then there is the question of a mechanic. I bought a very old 1995 Geo Tracker with a good engine partly because it sits high enough to drive the streets of rushing water during the summer rains and the top comes off for breezy driving and better views... and to help dry out the inside from the summer leaks! I know itís time to do this when the grass starts growing on my floor mats! I can also carry stuff like beach chairs, umbrellas, coolers, groceries, and the occasional piece of furniture. Works for me.
So about the mechanic... I have tried many on the advice of both Mexican and American friends... results vary depending on what type of work you want done. For straightening my tail pipe that was loudly knocking against the frame, I used the guy across the street who stuck an iron rod into it and just bent it until it wasnít touching anymore! Cost... $50 pesos for his time.
On the other hand, for brakes I went to a brake specialist with good results. Tires? Many choices from average to expensive. You can get a deal at Costco if you have all four replaced at once, but I only needed two so again to the local tire man.
All these guys have become good contacts and are very friendly for the most part. Helps to speak some Spanish or take a friend with you. I like the fact that, being a woman who doesnít know too much about cars, I can still get it done and learn something while going through the experience. After all, itís part of the adventure of living here.
Buy a car here with Mexican plates or bring yours from home? Thatís a whole other discussion for another time as the opinions continue to vary. I decided to buy mine here, from a Mexican, with Mexican plates just to avoid the hassle. And I also waited three years before I did so, choosing to walk and take the buses until I knew my way around so well that driving and knowing the road signs was easy.
Thatís it for now. Send me your questions.
Sandra Cesca is the author of the book "Walking Puerto Vallarta and beyond" detailing her walking tours through her photography, and the owner of Learn Vallarta. To learn more about her work and experiences in Mexico, visit EscapeRouteVallarta.com, or send an email to sandra.learn.vallarta(at)gmail.com.
Click HERE to read Escape Route Vallarta articles by Sandra Cesca.