Before driving to Mexico, there are many things you must consider. Besides the basics of your stay—where, when, how long, etc.—you also need to know what you’ll need going in.
Depending on where you travel in Mexico, you may be able to use your driver’s license as your primary identification. While it’s recommended that you also carry a passport, it’s not always required if you’re driving into Mexico.
The main papers you need to travel into Mexico by car include:
- Valid driver’s license
- Proof of car insurance
- Vehicle registration or rental agreement
- Temporary Import Permit (TIP)
To make travel to Mexico easier, you can purchase an international driving permit translated into Spanish. If you decide to rent a vehicle in Mexico, your rental agreement will be in Spanish and must be carried with you while driving.
A Temporary Import Permit (TIP) is a document that allows you to bring your US vehicle into Mexico. You will need this if driving your personal vehicle across the border instead of renting one. The cost of a TIP varies depending on where you purchase it but is somewhere between $45 and $51. As with most items, it is generally cheaper to purchase a TIP online than at the border.
Is US Auto Insurance Valid in Mexico?
While a US driver’s license is valid in Mexico, your American auto insurance is not. Some American auto insurance policies come with additional Mexico auto coverage, but this coverage is far from comprehensive and may not be valid depending on where you travel in Mexico. If you do not have valid insurance, you could face heavy fines or even jail time.
Thankfully, you can purchase temporary Mexico auto insurance for relatively cheap. In Mexico, every driver must carry:
- 50,000 pesos in property damage liability
- 100,000 pesos in bodily injury liability
It’s also recommended (though not required) that you bring these with you into Mexico:
- International Driving Permit
- FMM Tourist Permit
In International Driving Permit, or IDP, allows you to drive in another country as long as you carry a valid driver’s license from your native country. An FMM is a permit specifically for Mexico, also known as Forma Migratoria Multiple. You may purchase this at the port of entry and return it when you leave. This permit is for those visiting Mexico for 180 or less and who carry a passport from another country that does not require a Mexico visa.
Is It Better to Drive or Fly into Mexico?
The modes you can take into Mexico each have their pros and cons. When driving, you will have to be constantly aware of Mexico traffic laws and risk damage to your personal vehicle due to other drivers, theft, vandalism and environmental damage. Driving also allows you more freedom, however, and prevents you having to pay for transportation any time you want to go somewhere. It’s important to consider your needs and how each form of transportation will either help or hurt the purpose of your trip.
If you want to travel far in Mexico, you’ll likely want to drive. You can always rent a vehicle at the Mexican border, but this will be an additional cost. The good news is that rental vehicles in Mexico often come with Mexico auto insurance. If you plan to rent a vehicle in Mexico, make sure to bring someone who is fluent in Spanish (if you are not fluent yourself) so that you can fully understand the limits of the rental and car insurance. Some Mexico rental companies will have limits on how far out of the free zone you can travel.