Driving in Mexico? Beware of the Mexican Tope (Giant Speed Bump)!
I have been visiting Mexico since the 1980's, when my dad would take me on summer vacations to Rocky Point and Kino Bay. Obviously, I do not remember much about driving in Mexico back then, but I have observed many differences from the U.S. in recent times.
In the last 10 years, the driving I have done in Mexico has mostly been along the border in Rocky Point, Tijuana, Rosarito, and Ensenada. However, a few weeks ago, I went on a bucket list trip down the Baja Peninsula and found the roads to be a little different from what I have experienced in the north. For one, the topes are bigger, more frequent, not well marked.
What is a Tope?
Tope (pronounced toe - pay) is the word for speed bump in Mexico, though Google will not translate it that way. Speed bumps are the easiest, least expensive way to slow traffic in Mexico and their speed bumps make the ones here in the U.S. look like newborns. They are double or triple the size, and there can be two or three right next to each other. They can be made of asphalt, concrete, and even metal in some cases. Topes can be tall and narrow — the ones to watch out for — or short and round, making them easier to roll over. They always feel a lot worse and are much harder to see than those in the U.S. Thus, they have the potential to rough up your vehicle pretty good.
Tope Along the Baja
In Baja, the Mexican tope could be found EVERYWHERE! On highways and littering every section of every street in the cities and towns. Topes were rarely well marked. If there was a sign, it was right on top of the tope. They were often painted yellow, but in many cases, the paint had worn off, making them even harder to see.
How do you Navigate the Topes When Driving in Mexico?
I may not be the best person to ask. After one afternoon of driving down the Baja, my friend stopped allowing me to drive her truck. I was okay with that since I was having such a hard time seeing them, and the stop signs.
My best suggestions:
- Drive slowly through towns and cities, because you will experience them much more than you expect.
- When driving on highways, expect them anytime you see buildings on the sides of the road, whether they are gas stations, a small town, or a city.
- Expect them at all intersections.
If you slow down and know where to expect them, you just might save your back and vehicle suspension.
There is always at least one challenge when visiting a foreign country and Mexico's biggest is the infamous tope. Watch out!