Speed bumps are a cruel reality for anyone on a Mexican road trip. Here are a few we’ve known and loathed in Mexico and beyond.

A variety of speed bump signs.

Mexican speed bump primer

Upon crossing the border into Mexico you will encounter a tope (pronounced toe-pay). This is the Spanish word for bump and it’s used for speed bumps as well. These concrete and rock humps in the road vary in steepness, width, and severity but they’re all hellish. We drove over thousands of them.

Topes are efficient and brutal–especially the ones that are unsigned and sneak up on you before you can slow down. There’s a reason there’s almost always a tire repair shack at or near a tope. They’re also dreadful for your fuel economy and your shocks–which is part of the reason we upgraded to Bilstein shocks.

By the time we left Mexico we’d come up with a few new terms relating to topes (no, they’re not swear words):

  •  nope (pronounced no-pay): this is what you find when you slow down and reach what you thought was a tope only to discover that it’s not.
  •  rope (pronounced row-pay): this is a tope made by laying a massive rope across the road. These can be even more brutal than the stone and concrete varieties.
  •  slope (pronounced slow-pay): this is a tope made with gentle angles and slopes so that it can be glided over at a higher speed.
  • gatope (pronounced ga-toe-pay): this is a tope of any sort with a cat (gato) sitting next to it.

International speed bump primer

A speed bump sign in Belize where they’re called sleeping policemen.

Speed bumps exist throughout Latin America. In Belize, they’re called sleeping policemen. In Brazil they’re called lamadas. In Argentina they’re sometimes called lomo de burro. In Peru they’re called gibas. Our favorite term may be rompe muele, which roughly translates to broken suspension. Nice.

Whatever you call them, they’re a pain in the neck.


Here’s more about travel in Mexico


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