5 Things You Need Before You Drive to Mexico

Around 20 million Americans visit Mexico every year and a large portion of them enter via the Mexico border by car, truck, RV and motorcycle. In order to get through the border (each way) more easily Mexpro has provided the 5 most important things to know and have before you drive to Mexico.

1. Proper Identification (Passport)

For the latest Mexico entry requirements: Visit the Embassy of Mexico website or call the Embassy at (202) 736-1000 or any Mexican consulate in the US.

In order to enter Mexico, travelers must have a valid passport, passport card (cannot be used for air travel) or green card.

In addition, the same documents, or a WHTI-compliant document, is needed to enter or return to the United States from Mexico.

The passport application process requires that you submit an official passport photo. A good place to get one is at a local pharmacy. All passport applicants must also submit an original copy of a state issued birth certificate. Please note, if your birth certificate was issued by a hospital, the US Department of State will not accept it. In order to save yourself some frustration, we recommend you order a new official birth certificate directly from the state where you were born. The passport application process typically takes anywhere from a couple of weeks, up to a month or more. It is best to get started well in advance of your Mexico trip. If you are pinched for time or on short notice, you can elect to pay extra money to expedite the process. You can get more information about applying for and obtaining a passport by visiting www.travel.state.gov.

2. Vehicle Import Permit

Mexpro cannot provide Vehicle Import Permits. They are only available through the Mexico Federal agency, Banjercito.

Those traveling outside the Free or border Zone (defined as the an area between 20 and 30 kilometers from the border with the US), must obtain a temporary import permit or risk having their vehicle confiscated by Mexican customs officials. At present, the only exceptions to the requirement are travel in the Baja Peninsula, and in the state of Sonora, only for vehicles entering through the Nogales port of entry.

Effective June 11, 2011, Mexico has implemented a new policy for the issuance of temporary vehicle permits:

  1. The fee for importation of a vehicle is $44.00 USD plus IVA; this fee is the same whether the permit is obtained at the border, consulates or online. www.banjercito.com.mx

  2. A guarantee deposit for the return of the vehicle to the US, regardless of the form of payment, we be applied to all vehicles. The amount of the guarantee will be determined by the year of the vehicle. The guarantee will be refunded upon cancellation of the permit at Banjercito offices, as long as it is prior to the expiration date of the permit. The refund will be made in the same form as the deposit was made.

    • 2007 - Newer $400 USD

    • 2001 - 2006 $300 USD

    • 2000 - Older $200 USD

See our Vehicle Import Permit page for more detailed information

Apply for a Vehicle Importation Permit Online now through the Banjercito website.

3. Tourist Auto/RV/Motorcycle Insurance

US automobile liability, and most collision and comprehensive insurance coverage is not valid in Mexico. The US State Department strongly recommends you purchase a full coverage insurance policy that will cover the cost of bail, in the event of an at-fault vehicle accident in Mexico. Please be aware that if you are involved in an automobile accident, you will be taken into police custody until it is determined who is at fault and whether you have the ability to pay any penalty.

As you approach the border, you will see many small offices where you can purchase Mexico insurance. Be aware that not all Mexico insurance policies are alike, and just like in the US, you'll most likely have a much better experience if you choose to work with a Mexico carrier that is well established, reputable and reliable.

Mexpro suggests you use only "A rated" Mexico insurers. While there may be some cheaper options available out there, such as buying a minimal coverage policy along the border, it's best to use a trustworthy insurance provider you know will take care of your vehicle and occupants should you need to file a claim.

4. Driver's License

American citizens planning on driving to Mexico should carry a valid driver's license at all times. US driver's licenses are valid in Mexico. Mexican law requires that vehicles be driven only by their owners, or that the owner be inside the vehicle. If not, the car may be seized by Mexican customs and will not be returned under any circumstances.

5. Mexico Visa or Tourist Permit

A Mexico Visitor's Permit, called an FMT, is needed if you plan to visit Mexico for longer than 72 hours or visit outside the "free zone" (defined as the an area between 20 and 30 kilometers from the border with the US). The FMT is only available to holders of US and Canadian passports, in place of a visa. It is available at Mexican consulates, Mexican border crossing points, and Mexican tourism offices.

You will need a Passport or Passport ID card for each individual traveling into the interior of Mexico in order to obtain an FMT. There is a fee associated with obtaining the FMT.

US Customs and Border Protection also offers a "Know Before you Go" brochure for US residents that gives other helpful tips for traveling to Mexico.

Want more information? See our Mexico Travel Checklist.