sandy beach with word Mexico etched in middleAre you planning a summer vacation to Mexico? If so, you need to start planning sooner rather than later. There are a lot of things to consider with international travel besides just packing your suitcase. You'll need to get a few legal hurdles out of the way, and you'll need to pack with safety and comfort in mind. That's sometimes not as simple as it seems. Here's why.

Often, you'll need paperwork or travel materials in international destinations that you won't need in the United States. Don't put off accumulating these items before your trip. The closer you get to departure date, the harder it might be to get these materials.

1. Your Required Travel Documents

Americans traveling to Mexico must consent to processing by the American and Mexican customs officials. Illegal entry into either country will meet with consequences. Therefore, if you come to a border crossing, you must have your travel documents in order.
  • All international travelers must present a passport or similar proof of citizenship for their country of residence. U.S. citizens must present a valid, unexpired American passport. In some cases, the U.S. passport card will also suffice when crossing the border. However, the standard passport book is always the best choice.
  • In most cases, American citizens do not have to present tourist visas to enter Mexico. You only need a tourist visa if you plan to stay in Mexico longer than 180 days. However, if you plan to stay in Mexico to study, work or establish residency, you might need a visa regardless of the length of your stay.
  • If you are not an American citizen, but plan to enter Mexico from the U.S. border, you must present the passport (or similar document) from your own country. Keep in mind, because you are not a U.S. citizen, the visa requirements Mexico imposes on your own country will apply.
  • If you plan to drive into Mexico, you will face insurance and licensing requirements for your car.
  • If you plan to import goods or conduct business while in Mexico, you will likely have to declare the items you plan to import.

Mexican border crossings exist at multiple points along the nearly 2,000 mile-long border. They also exist in airports, seaports of entry and along the southern Mexican borders with Belize and Guatemala. Whether you plan to enter at any of these ports, you must do so legally.

2. Vehicle and Insurance Requirements

Flying or sailing to Mexico involve different entry requirements than crossing a land border. Likewise, if you plan to bring in a vehicle, you'll have to make arrangements to drive in the country. This will involve a couple of different steps.

  • You generally must obtain a vehicle import permit for the car itself. This is called a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TIP), and you can only get one by visiting the Mexican government's Banjercito agency. You can get the document online between 10 and 60 business days before you arrive at the border. You also can apply at the border. The TIP lasts for 180 days.
  • You might not have to provide a TIP if you only plan to drive within the Mexican free border zone. This is an area of territory near the U.S./Mexico border. A few of the international customs rules do not apply in this area, to help facilitate travel between the two countries.
  • All drivers must keep their American driver's license with them when driving. Mexico will recognize the license as qualifications to drive. However, your license is not an alternative to a passport.
  • All American drivers must carry Mexican car insurance on the vehicle for the duration of their travel in Mexico. This coverage is not the same as your American car insurance. Mexico will not recognize American car insurance policies because of differences in the two national insurance markets. Your policy will come backed by a reputable Mexican car insurer, and contain coverage like liability, physical damage and legal assistance coverage.
Sanborn's Insurance Agency is here to help American drivers obtain Mexican insurance for their travel obligations. We'll gladly help you learn more about the type and amount of car insurance you need for your trip.

Packing for Your Vacation

As you plan to travel, take a few arrangements for your own comfort during travel.
  • Keep all your required prescription medications in a safe place. Keep them in their appropriate containers and place them out of sight so that no potential thief feels tempted to steal them.
  • When packing money or jewelry, declare them, as required, at a customs check. However, do not advertise to anyone you don't know that you have these items in your possession. Store these items in a locked area in your vehicle or hotel room.
  • Carry all necessary travel documents, from IDs to insurance cards, in safe places. Keep them under lock and key, or on your person, at all times.
  • Do not consume raw tap water during your trip. Bottled water is safer and doesn't pose the risk of water-borne illness like tap water. It is safe to consume most food, though you should use discretion when consuming raw items or street food.

In the event of an emergency, don't hesitate to contact the emergency services, police or your hotel security. They can help you through the right process to protect yourself.

Also Read: Staying Safe When Traveling After Dark in Mexico

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