Whether you’re coming from Toronto, Canada or Phoenix, Arizona, both Canadians and Americans enjoy vacations in beautiful Mexico. Although many fly, more and more travelers are interested in driving across the border. After all, nothing beats a road trip.
This leaves many travelers wondering, what is the protocol when crossing the Mexico-United States border? This mini guide should help answer all your questions about driving to Mexico.
Can You Drive a Car in Mexico?
Yes! As a Canadian or U.S. citizen, you can drive your Canadian or American licensed vehicle in Mexico, as long as you have a valid driver’s license from your country of origin. As the driver, you should carry your identification at all times.
If you plan to travel more than 300 miles into Mexico, you may also wish to acquire an International Driving Permit (IDP). This permit provides an official translation of your driver’s license.
The number of American and Canadian citizens traveling to Mexico has risen over the past decade. In 2013, approximately 20.55 million United States citizens traveled to Mexico, in comparison to 35.05 million in 2017. Of these, many choose to drive.
If you have not yet driven to Mexico, you need to understand various Mexican laws — especially in relation to insurance (which luckily, is easy to acquire). And, be mindful that traffic signs will be in Spanish. It is recommended that you brush up on some of the more common traffic terms, including:
- “Alto” — STOP
- “Curva Peligrosa” — DANGEROUS CURVE
- “Deca El Paso” — YIELD
Please note that you can often access two types of routes, which include the “libre” or free road and the “quota” or toll (paid) road. Although quota roads are better maintained and often a more direct route, the libre roads provide a local and cultural experience (i.e. passing through small towns with shops, restaurants, etc.).
How old do you have to be to drive a car in Mexico?
The legal driving age in Mexico is 18.
Do You Need a Passport to Drive to Mexico by Car?
If you’re a Canadian or U.S. citizen, you cannot simply drive into Mexico with your driver’s license. U.S. residents are required to either present a passport or passport card, which are also required to re-enter the United States.
Canadians entering Mexico must present a valid passport. There is not a Canadian equivalent to the passport card. To avoid any delays or misunderstandings, the Government of Canada recommends your passport be valid for six months after your arrival date.
Canadians also require their passport to travel to the United States. Although there are other options for U.S. travel, such as a NEXUS card or an Enhanced Identification Card, a passport is needed for the Mexico-United States border.
Is U.S. Car Insurance Valid in Mexico?
This is the most critical step in terms of a hassle-free vacation. Please note that your U.S. or Canadian auto insurance does NOT cover you while driving in Mexico. Although your insurance company may offer limited coverage in Mexico, liability insurance from a Mexican insurer is all that is accepted by Mexican authorities.
If you are involved in an accident and do not have Mexican insurance, you could face hefty delays and fines.
Road trips offer travelers an adventurous opportunity with exciting discoveries around every turn. So, why not pack the car and head to Mexico? As long as you practice due diligence, you and your family can have an exciting, memorable vacation. Vamanos!!