Tips for Driving to and in Mexico
Mexico is a laid-back place to vacation, but when driving there are a few things that could cause your trip to be stressful, delayed, or even not fun. And though the general population is welcoming and generous, interactions with Mexican government officials and law enforcement may be more challenging. They are generally not as lenient as one might expect.
It's important to keep in mind that despite its close proximity, Mexico is a different country, with different laws and requirements than the U.S. or Canada. When driving in Mexico use these tips to make sure you enjoy the wonderful people and experience of Mexico, rather than having to fly through legal hoops in order to get on with your trip.
Before You Drive to Mexico
Before you begin driving to Mexico, you want to be sure you know the following important information that you must prepare for ahead of your trip to Mexico.
- A passport or passport card are required to enter Mexico (and exit into the United States) by car. There may be times you are not asked for these, but that does not change the legalities.
- The driver of a vehicle in Mexico must have a valid driver's license (U.S. & Canadian driver's licenses are accepted in Mexico.)
- You must have a current vehicle registration. It's best if it is in the name of the driver.
- You should have ownership documents for all vehicles, whether driven or towed.
- Mexico auto liability auto insurance is required on all Mexican highways. Buy Mexico vehicle insurance from Mexpro now in 2-minutes or less.
- If you're traveling beyond the Mexico free zone you must have a temporary vehicle import permit (TIP), which is available at the border or online.
- Know your border crossing.
- Make sure you DO NOT have guns, knives, or any ammunition in your vehicle. Mexico has strict laws regarding these items.
Things to Know When Driving in Mexico
Once you get in Mexico, you need to know these things to keep you off the police radar.
Know What the Road Signs Mean
Below is a table of simple road signs you will need to know when you drive to Mexico.
Watch Your Speed
Speed limit signs in Mexico are white with a red circle. And the speed limit is indicated in black, inside the circle. The speed limit is in km/h, even if the "km/h" is missing from underneath the number. You can halve the number shown on the speed limit sign in km/h and be close to how fast you should be going in mph (1 km/h = 0.6 mph). For example, 50 km/h = 31 mph. Some vehicle speedometers also display km/h.
Passing vehicles can be a little hair raising in Mexico, as there is seldom much of a shoulder, roads are narrow, cars drive fast, and turn signals are used to assist faster vehicles in passing. For instance, a slower driver may pull into the right-hand shoulder with their left turn signal on. This means they are allowing the faster vehicles behind them to pass. Sometimes, in the event of a small or non-existent shoulder, they will just turn on the left turn signal. But be careful, because sometimes they are actually turning left.
You might also see a driver turn on their right turn signal as they are pulling onto the right-hand shoulder of the road. This would normally mean they are making a right turn. However, in Mexico, it is not uncommon for drivers to pull onto the shoulder, wait for an opening in traffic, and then make a sweeping left hand turn across all of the lanes. Even though you will likely be able to tell when one of these scenarios is happening, it's best to proceed with extra caution whenever passing any vehicles in Mexico.
Avoid driving under the influence
Besides putting yourself, your passengers, and others in danger, driving under the influence will void a Mexican insurance policy. And in Mexico a BAC of 0.04 is considered legally drunk (0.08 in the U.S.).
Returning Home to the U.S.
- To cross the border into the U.S. from Mexico you will need to have a passport for each person in your vehicle.
- If you made a lot of purchases in Mexico, you may need receipts to get through customs.
- Cancel your TIP if you purchased one (unless you plan to use it again before it expires).
- If you refilled or purchased prescription medicines, be sure to have the prescription and original bottles.
- Make sure you are not carrying any of the following across the border into the U.S.: wildlife, plants, fruit, coral, tortoise products, or fireworks. If found, they will be confiscated, and you could be fined.
Mexico is an incredible country with friendly people, gorgeous countrysides, beaches, and loads of activities. Don't spoil a good vacation by forgetting these valuable tips. And have a wonderful time in Mexico!
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