Posted August 1, 2017 by & filed under Border Crossing, Driving to Mexico, Free Zone.

Mexico Hassle Free Zone sign

The Mexico Free or Border Zone was designated by the Mexican government to make it easier for travelers to enter Mexico and improve tourism along the U.S. border. Vehicles driving in these zones do not need a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TIP).

Additionally, goods—with the exclusion of alcohol, cigarettes, cigars and race horses—can be imported into Mexico duty-free, as long as within these boundaries. This way resources can be moved easily across the border for manufacturing and assembly plants. And, once produced, the items can be exported outside of Mexico duty-free, giving companies incentive to produce in Mexico, and in turn, creating more jobs for Mexicans living there.

The ‘Free zone’ designation is actually short for ‘Hassle-Free Zone,’ but the area has many other names including Border Zone, Perimeter Zone, Liberated Zone, the Free Trade Zone and ‘Zona Libre’ (in Spanish).

What are the free zone perimeters?

Sonora Free Border Zone MexicoThe Mexico Free zone encompasses areas along Mexico’s northern and southern borders. Yet, the entire Baja peninsula and a large portion of Sonora are included in the free zone. For all other Mexican border states, it is the area between 20 and 26 km (12 to 16 miles) from the border.

The Sonora designation is important, because it’s illegal to cross out of the Free Zone without a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit. The free zone in Sonora lies to the northwest of Mexico Federal Highway Number 2, starting at Agua Prieta. It extends through Cananea, to where it intersects with Mexican Federal Highway 15 in Imuris. From Imuris, all of the areas to the north and west of Mexico Federal Highway 15 are included. Kilometer 98, southeast of Empalme, is where the free zone ends.

Mexico makes it easier for those traveling outside the Free Zone in Sonora by offering the Sonora-only Temporary Importation Permit.

What are the benefits of traveling in the free zone?

The primary benefit is you do not need a TIP, which saves time and money. Quick and last-minute trips to Mexico are faster and easier, as a TIP requires time at the border or online to obtain the permit. You will need proof of citizenship, proof that you own the vehicle and a Mexican tourist card (Forma Migratoria Múltiple or FMM), a refundable deposit and a fee. All require some preplanning.

What if I accidentally travel outside the free zone without a TIP?

It is illegal to travel outside the Mexico free zone without a TIP. Your vehicle could be confiscated and you could be escorted back to the border or taken to jail.

Do I need Mexico Insurance if I travel in the Free Zone?

Absolutely. Liability insurance provided by a Mexican insurer is required to drive your vehicle in Mexico. Without liability insurance, you could be detained until you can prove the ability to pay damages in an at-fault accident. Mexico laws continue to get stricter, so be prepared with Mexico insurance.

Do I need a passport to travel to the Free Zone?

Yes, a passport or passport card is required to travel anywhere in Mexico. It is possible you will not be asked to present it, but it is the law.

If you’re on the fence about where to travel in Mexico, you may want to consider the free zone for the ease of access, quick border crossings and loads of fun!

87 Responses to “What is the Mexico Free/Border Zone?”

  1. Tom Coddington

    Can I drive all over Baja, anyplace I want with just a Passport Card?
    Or am I limited to the “border zone” with that card?
    Border Zone being approx. 16 miles below the Mexico/US border?
    Tnank you,

  2. Beverley Wood

    You’ve got about a 5 – hour drive in there, from Guaymas to Topolobambo, where you would be driving illegally if you don’t have a TIP. Your insurance won’t cover you and your car could be confiscated.

  3. Julius Emanuel

    I’m driving to La Paz. Could I use the ferry in Topolobampo that is outside of the Sonora free zone or drive from north Baja California to south Baja California Sur?

  4. Arturo Valdez Martinez

    Mi familia y yo vamos a cabo san lucas en carro esta area es sona libre verdad/ solo para estar seguro gracias, sera una semana completa de Sabado a sabado tiene que vrt el tiempo de estar en cabo 7 dias esta bien?gracias de nuevo.

    • Roxanna Brock McDade

      Baja California sur si es parte de la zona libre y aunque no requiere que lleve un permiso temporal para su auto, aun sigue teniendo otros requisitos como los son el seguro de auto, pasaporte y permiso de turista, etc.

      • Mike G

        Hola voy a salir de tijuana hacia la bufadora en Baja California ocupó sacar permiso temporal para mi carro o estoy todavía en la free zone ? Muchas gracias

        • Mario escobedo

          Hi two years ago I went to los mochis with a valid TIP I had a lancha on top of my car when I ame back I left it behind now I need it to cancel my permit and get a new one can I get a permit to go to MOCHIS from GUAYMAS ? Can somebody help me with this problem? Thank you. I’m desperate
          Sincerely Mario Escobedo

  5. Mel

    Hi I am s Mexican permanent resident can I drive my USA plated car in Ensenada in Baja California if it is a free zone ?

    • Marivel

      Yes im droving to laredo dnt have a passport and going as far as to Monterrey will a toueist card be enough

      • Santiago Guerrero

        Hi Marivel , podrias compartir como te fue en tu viaje ?? yo tengo el mismo problema que tu
        No tengo pasaporte solo mi Sentri Card y mi Licencia

    • Kelley

      What does it mean It is possible you will not be asked to present passport? but it is the law. Meaning I could maybe cross without passport on foot? What about re enter to the US I only have ID am I stuck in Mexico ?

  6. Martha Sanchez

    My husband and some friends want to go to Sonora Mex. It is free zone by car, it is 72 hours to be in Sonora, without any problem of visa or car permit without having insurance of Mex ..?

  7. Marvin Coronado

    My car is under the name of my dad, I’m going to cuidad Juarez, chihuahua, do I need the tittle under my name or something else to don’t have any problem crossing to the free zone with my car?

    • Roxanna Brock McDade

      The title must be in the name of the person who is applying for the permit and that person must be present in the vehicle when it is driven. The only exception is for the spouse, child or parent of the person who’s name is on the title, and in that case a birth certificate or marriage license must be presented.

      If you wish to contact Banjercito they can be reached here: Phone: 555-328-2354, Email:, Website:

  8. Enrique


    I’m ya citizen but my wife is Mexican can she drive our US car in the free zone? Or only I can?

    • Enrique

      Is there any place I can download the official rules or law for the free zone?
      It would be nice to have them with me in case I get stopped I can have the law with me.

      • Cynthia

        Hi my friend is us citizen and shes driving a leased car which registration and title is under her husband’s name but she has a notarized letter sighned by her husband to drive the vehicle. Yet she got denied her permit. She also bought a mexican insurance for 2 weeks. What does she need to get her permit.

    • AdamT253

      I will be traveling to Baja California to the Rosarito Ensenada area. I need info about driving my car into Mexico. According to this article I won’t need a TIP when on the Baja Peninsula. So I will be ok on that but I have a question about insurance.

      It says here from this article,

      (Do I need Mexico Insurance if I travel in the Free Zone?

      Absolutely. Liability insurance provided by a Mexican insurer is required to drive your vehicle in Mexico.)

      So does that mean the company has to be a Mexican insurance company? Because I see on AAA they offer Mexican insurance for when you travel in a vehicle to Mexico. Will this suffice? Link below.

      Last time I went to Cabo San Lucas I was pretty angry with Expedia and Enterprise from whom I rented my car through. I purchased insurance from them or one of their third-party affiliates, only to find out when I arrived in Mexico I had to purchase Mexican Auto Insurance. So I wasted money on buying insurance through Expedia/Enterprise. Thank you in advance for any information.

      Salud, Cheers!

  9. Rocsi juarez

    What type of permet do I need if I’m taking a Mexican car lover to the us

  10. Eva

    I want to go to gto Mexico but this will be the first time in a vehicle bit I don’t know what to do I know I need to purchase a permit for my vehicle but not Shure we’re or how to do this ..

  11. Merril Campbell

    We are thinking of riding motorcycles down to Santa Rosalio and taking the ferry to Guaymas then riding north to Nogales and wondering if we need TIPs and Tourist Visas to do that. Any advice is appreciated

  12. Rene

    Is there an official website from the Mexican Government on where to check the “Mexico Free Zone”?

  13. Stuart

    I want to leave usa via mexico to fly home to uk as my visa expired,does mexico care my usa visa has expired? I will be in mexico less than 72 hrs,do i need a fmm and is the airport in the freezone?

    • Roxanna Brock McDade

      I usually fill out an FMM on the plane before you arrive in the country. Do you remember filling that out? Or did you fly into the U.S.? If you were in the free zone visiting you should be good.

  14. Rich

    My family and I will be driving from Phoenix to Puerto Penasco. What permits will I need? Can I drive a rental car and if so what info will we need? We will have Mexican insurance.

  15. Linda

    My bus from Phoenix did not stop for me to get my fmm on route to San Carlos. I am staying in the free zone and not travelling anywhere else. I will be here less than 180 days. Will I have issues??

  16. Estaben Calabacas

    Bad information regarding the FMM (“Tourist Visa”). You DO need an FMM as soon as you enter Mexico. FMM’s obtained from INM (Mexican Immigration) at the border. You will need your passport to get the FMM. There is no distance or time exemption. Without the FMM you are illegal in Mexico

  17. susana marin

    Es impossible hacer una cita por internet o telefono , nadie contesta en bingum lando, que hago???? Necesito viajar de Laredo a Monterrey como soco el permiso para mi carro

  18. Joy

    What do I do if I entered mexico and did not get a vehicle permit? Now I am going back across us border and don’t have one. What do I do?

  19. anonymous

    We work part time and rent a home in Texas. We want to spend the rest of our time in a rental home in a border town in Mexico doing volunteer work. That means we will be going back to USA every week or two. Are we required to have any permits to be in Mexico on the border for a week or 2?

    • Roxanna Brock McDade

      If you are staying in a place that is in the Free border zone you do not need to get a permit. If you are not, you need a permit. It lasts for 6 months, so you can go back and forth as much as you want. When it expires, you can get a new one. You will need to check with your landlord or with Banjercito (with your address) to see if you need one.

  20. Michelle Hunnewell

    Hello, I have been doing my research and think I am down to two questions. I plan to obtain my Mexican insurance about 2 weeks before I travel and my tourist visa upon crossing at San Ysidro. I see that I don’t need a TIP as I will only be traveling on the Baja Peninsula. My questions are:
    * Do I still need to bring my purchase contract for my car (it’s been five years…not sure I can find it, or I’ll get a copy) and also a letter from the Lienholder (Ford Credit) with permission to leave the US in the car? This is confusing becasue the Banjercito website says I will need the contract and the letter but the contract must be less that 3 months old. This maes no sense becsue Ford states that they will not issue a letter for 6 months or 1 year from purchase date. Also someone who just bought a car and mu ch less to lose by running off with a car than someone like me…who has been paying for 5 years, faithfully to the creditor. Please advise.

    * Since I will have a Global Entry and will be driving back and forth to California, does the clock start ticking again every time I leave and reenter?

    Thank you.

    M.H. in Sacramento, CA

  21. Melony Smith

    I want to check out Ajijic. If I drive, is there a bus or other transportation to get from Border to there without having to drive.

    • Anonymous

      Is the free zone of 20-25 km circling all around Mexico even along the coast (because after all that IS the border of Mexico)? The map in the article seems to indicate a thin green zone circling all around Mexico?

      • Roxanna Brock McDade

        I can see how it would be confusing. No the free zone in the green area (free zone) indicated in the map extends from the border all the way to the coast. This is for Baja and the indicated portion of Sonora only. Other coastlines, outside the 20-25km distance from the border, are not in the free zone. However, the 20-25 km free zone also applies to Mexico’s southern border.

      • Sherry

        Hi, we are 3 couples planning to drive our motor homes to San Felipe coming thru the MexiCali border. Will we be in the free zone? Do we need any permits?
        We will get the liability insurance before we cross. Thanks

    • Albert

      Quintana Roo is a free zone. I live there. I know.

      Quintana Roo – the state of Quintana Roo on the border with Belize is also a free zone. Foreign plated vehicles may circulate in the state without an import permit, as long as the registration is current in the home country. The exception to this is federal land, in particular the Cancun airport.
      Overland Mexico Travel – WikiOverland

    • Albert

      Yes Rick, it is a free zone. I live there. But the hard part is getting there without passing through other states that require it. BUT, once you are here, you can cancel your TIP and drive free in the state. I have 3 vehicles here from the US and understand the process.

  22. Veronica

    I am traveling from CD Juarez to Puerto Penasco. Do I still need to get a TIP?

    • Roxanna Brock McDade

      The free zone extends between 12 and 16 miles from the US border with Mexico. If you are driving through Mexico, then you will likely go outside the free zone, according to Google maps. You could ask Banjercito at the border to be sure.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.