Driving to Mexico for the holidays can be a great or a bad experience depending on how prepared you are before you are on the road. Plan your road trip before leaving home, check your tires, wipers, fluids, and headlights at least two days before you plan to leave. Prepare your route, and find out more information about the city you will be crossing the border to Mexico. It is important that you understand and follow the Mexican laws to have a smooth trip.
Mexico's Federal government has a program to help travelers cross the border with ease, Programa Paisano. This program is designed to help con-nationals traveling to their home country, providing detailed information on their publication Guia Paisano, placing volunteers at the US-Mexican border, airports, and bus terminals. This program makes travel easier during the holidays.
What documents do I need with me when crossing the border to Mexico?
- Travel documents that prove your Mexican citizenship (passport, birth certificate, military ID, Matricula Consular, IFE Voting registration ID. If you are a US citizen, you need a valid US passport book or card. You can find more information on applying or renewing your US passport by visiting Travel.State.gov. All travelers in your vehicle need to prove their citizenship.
- Vehicle Importation Permit documents. If you are traveling beyond the 25 km, you will need a temporary vehicle importation permit. Keep the documents with you, they prove you are legally driving your vehicle in Mexico, if you are stopped by police they will ask you for this document.
- A valid US or Canadian Driver's license for you or other occupants that will be driving your vehicle.
- Sanborn's Mexico Map with your route marked.
Do I need a Mexican Visa?
If you are a foreign citizen ( US, Canadian citizens), you will need an FMT (Forma Migratoria Turista). You can obtain the form online, print it and take it with you, you will need to stop at the Immigration office (INM) at the border to get it stamped and pay tourist fee of $500 pesos if you are staying 7 days or more. If your stay is less than 7 days, you still need the form signed and sealed, but you will not need to pay the tourist fee. Keep this card in a safe place, this is your proof you entered Mexico legally. You will need to return it to the INM office at the border crossing before entering the US again. If you have Mexican citizenship you will not need the FMT.
What do I need for a Vehicle Importation Permit to drive my US registered vehicle?
If you plan to drive beyond the FREE Border Zone into Mexico, you will need a temporary Vehicle importation permit. Permits are issued for a maximum amount of 180 days. You need your current registration documents (original and two copies), if your vehicle is financed you might need a letter of permission from your lienholder. If you drive past the free zone without a permit, you take the risk of your vehicle being confiscated by police. Click here for more information on how to obtain the permit
Do I need to buy Mexican Auto Insurance?
Yes! Mexico Insurance is mandatory in all Federal highways and bridges in addition to state and city laws. Although not all the states in Mexico have adopted the law; for sure all the Mexican states along the US-Mexican border require that you carry third party liability policy. In addition, the risk of driving without insurance can be daunting, if you are involved in an accident where you are at fault, you could be facing fines for not carrying insurance, a death penalty for up to $300,000 dollars, physical damages and you could be detained until showing proof of financial responsibility. In Mexican Law, you are "guilty until proven innocent". Your US or Canadian auto insurance policies are not valid in Mexico, even if your insurance company has a Mexico endorsement. Our recommendation is to avoid fines, buy Mexican Insurance and protect your road trip, all of our policies include Legal Aid and bail bond to provide you the help needed in an accident. Not all Mexico Insurance policies are the same, it is important that your policy covers your needs, and that you buy it from an experienced agent. Get a Quote Now!
What precautions do I need to take to protect my family while driving in Mexico?
Precautions recommended are the same as when traveling to any place that you are not familiar with in any country. Get familiar with your route prior to leaving home. Travel only during the day, take the toll roads as much as possible, have enough cash to pay for the toll roads, you don't need large amounts of cash, don't flash expensive jewelry or clothing, and have an international cell phone plan.
Follow the law, use seatbelts, Bluetooth device for cell phone calls, don't text and drive, watch the speed limits (remember is kilometers not miles!), and only US driver's license drivers are allowed to drive your car. Mexican nationals are not allowed to drive foreign vehicles with a Mexican driver's license, failure to follow this law could result in the authorities seizing your vehicle without an option to getting it back.
You might find policy or military checkpoints on your road trip, slow down, they might ask a few questions, and ask to see your documents, that's all.
If you have any emergency during your trip, please call the single national emergency number, 911 Emergencias. it is a single, nationwide emergency number like in the US.
Warning: it's Illegal to Carry Firearms or Ammo into Mexico
What can I bring with me to Mexico?
When crossing the border by land during the holidays (Easter, Summer, Christmas- New Year) each person is allowed to take in merchandise in addition to their personal luggage for up to $500 dollars. Out of the periods mentioned above, is $300 dollars. Personal luggage is the reasonable amount of clothes, shoes, toiletries, electronics that one person can use during the trip. If you are taking gifts or merchandise for more than duty-free allowed amount, you must declare them at customs. Take your receipts if needed.
Every road trip is different and although we cannot foresee all the risks or the wonderful moments, we want you and your family to be protected while you are enjoying the Fiestas!! Happy Holidays!