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Nearly 16 millions Americans visit Mexico every year and a large portion of them enter via the Mexico border by car, truck, RV and motorcycle.

US Customs and Border Protection offers a "Know Before you Go" brochure for US residents.

There are five important things you must do before you depart for Mexico...

  1. Get a passport

    Correct Identification/the Passport:

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

    Land travelers must have a valid US passport accompanied by acceptable photo identification, such as a state or military issued ID. A passport or passport card is the best method of providing this information.

    All US citizens are now required to present a passport book, passport card, or WHTI-compliant document when entering or re-entering the United States. Obtain a US Passport card now (NOTE: Only valid for land/sea travel).

    All US citizens are now required to present a valid US passport in order to enter Mexico. This does not apply to the Baja region of Mexico.

    Pets must have a health certificate to be able to pass into Mexico. Where to get a health certificate for a pet.

    You need your passport to be able to get back into the US after visiting to 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, so it is best to get started well in advance. 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

  2. Get a Vehicle Import Permit if you need one

    Those traveling outside the Free or border Zone (defined as the an area between 20 and 30 kilometers from the border with the US) with their vehicle 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.

    You need the following to obtain a Vehicle Importation Permit.

    • Evidence of citizenship

    • The Vehicle Title and registration certificate

    • A Valid Driver's License with photo

    • If the vehicle is financed, is a rental car, is leased, and/or a company car, a notarized letter of permission is required from the lien holder or lending institution.

    • To pay a processing fee to either a Banjercito (Mexican Army Bank) branch located at a Mexican Customs office at the port of entry, or at one of the Mexican Consulates located in the US.

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

      The Changes are as follows:

      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.

      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

      3. If the vehicle is not returned to the US prior to the expiration date on the permit, or the permit is not canceled upon exiting Mexico, the guarantee deposit will be forfeited.

      4. Before Banjercito issues a permit, they will verify the VIN # to make sure the vehicle does not have any restrictions to be driven in the US or Canada, in which case the permit will not be allowed.

        It is important that we remind our customers to cancel the permit at the border prior to returning to the US, to ensure that they receive their guarantee deposit back.

        Our recommendation, as long as the customers have enough time (between 7-10 days), is that they process the temporary importation permit online. This will improve their experience and avoid the time spent at the border crossing.

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

    Travelers should avoid individuals outside vehicle permit offices offering to obtain the permits without waiting in line, even if they appear to be government officials. There have been reports of fraudulent or counterfeit permits being issued adjacent to the vehicle import permit office in Nuevo Laredo and other border areas. If the proper permit is not obtained before entering Mexico and cannot be obtained at the Banjercito branch at the port of entry, do not proceed to the interior. Travelers without the proper permit may be incarcerated, fined and/or have their vehicle seized at immigration/customs checkpoints. For further information, contact Mexican Customs about appropriate vehicle permits.

    See Mexpro's pages on Vehicle Import Permits:

  3. Book a reservation for a place stay if you need one

    You can find reviews and see photos of the different units in hotels and condominiums for your stay in Mexic, and then pick the one you like best. Some places come with a fully stocked kitchen with dishes, utensils, pots, pans, toaster, coffee maker and even a blender. Accommodations are generally less expensive during the middle of the week, than during weekends or holidays, and you may find better deals if you are able to book during the off-times, or off-seasons.

  4. Purchase Mexico tourist auto/RV/Motorcycle insurance if you are driving

    Mexico liability insurance is most likely the second most important thing you will need for your trip. 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. 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.

    Purchase Mexico Insurance Now.

    As you get closer to the border, you will find lots of little offices along the way offering to provide Mexico insurance policies. 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. Most people would never trust a "B rated" insurance carrier to provide their coverage in the US or Canada, so why would it ever make sense to use a "B rated" or an "Unrated" insurer when you drive your vehicle into Mexico? In most cases you can purchase an insurance policy a matter of a few minutes with your US or Canadian policy information and driver's license on-hand. Mexpro suggests you use only reputable and reliable "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.

    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. Purchase International Health Insurance

    An international travel health insurance policy will cover you in the event of a mishap in Mexico. Mexpro offers policies for US and foreign nationals traveling abroad, as well as students, missionaries and others who travel for various reasons.

Other important items you may want to know about before heading to Mexico Include:

Written By , National Agency Producer (Bilingual)

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