Rental

Cars can be rented in most of Baja's cities and resorts and at airports.

Renters must have a valid driver's license (US and Canadian licenses are accepted; everyone else should bring an International Driving Permit as well as their national license), passport and major credit card. The minimum age requirement is usually 25.

Always ask exactly what the seguro (insurance) covers - sometimes it covers only minimal liability insurance of, say, US$200, which would put you in big trouble in the case of an accident. Most agencies offer a choice between a per-kilometer deal or kilometraje libre (unlimited kilometers). The latter is usually preferable if you intend to do some hard driving.

Auto rental in Mexico is expensive by US or European standards, but worthwhile if you want to visit several places in a short time. The matchbox-size Chevy Pop has replaced the VW Beetle as the cheapest car and will set you back about US$50 per day in places like Los Cabos. Elsewhere, bank on paying around US$60 to US$70 per day, all included.

Sometimes, booking a car from home (especially when buying your plane tickets) will get you a better deal. Following are the major firms operating in Mexico with their Mexico toll-free telephone numbers (when they exist):

Alamo (% 800-849-8001; www.alamo.com) Avis (% 800-288-8888; www.avis.com) Budget (% 800-700-1700; www.budgetbaja.com, www.drivebudget.com) Dollar (www.dollar.com)

Europcar (% 800-201-2084; www.europcar.com) Hertz (% 800-654-3030; www.hertz.com) Thrifty (% 800-021-2277; www.thrifty.com)

© Lonely Planet Publications lonelyplanet.com

LA MORDIDA

Officially no policeman is authorized to accept money, and all traffic fines should be paid at the police station or by mail. Historically, however, Mexico has been notorious for la mordida (literally 'the bite,' or bribe). The most frequent opportunity for la mordida is a traffic violation, such as speeding or running a stop sign. Realists do not expect la mordida to disappear from Mexican life any time soon - especially when cops are paid so little - but petty harassment of tourists for minor matters has greatly declined.

If you get pulled over, generally you're expected to pay up on the spot. You can either pay the bribe and get on with your day (undoubtedly the easiest and cheapest option), or you can argue the validity of the citation. Some people simply pretend not to understand, let alone speak, any Spanish in the hopes that the officers become exasperated enough to just let them go. Insisting on going to the police station to pay the fine can also be a deterrent, especially if you've been pulled over for no good reason.

If you are willing to pay the bribe, remember that it is illegal, and the situation should be approached with the utmost tact. One strategy is to tell officers that, if they forgive you, you will be extremely grateful ('Si me perdona, se lo podría agradecer'). Perhaps the best approach is to simply ask if it's possible to pay the fine on the spot (¿Sería posible pagar la multa ahora?).

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