During the holiday season, many Americans go to Mexico on vacation or to visit family and friends. If you plan to drive this trip, you need to start planning now. Driving in Mexico requires a few extra steps and safety precautions. So, before you go, know how to get ready. What are some of the ways you can prepare for a safer, more secure trip this winter?
In most cases, driving in Mexico involves no more danger than driving on your local street. Yet, you will visit an unfamiliar place with driving customs that might not look familiar. Keep the following steps in mind before hitting the road.
Step One: Get Mexican Car Insurance
Most U.S. states have laws that require their registered drivers to carry auto insurance. Mexico is just the same. The law requires drivers to have coverage while driving on Federal highways and bridges, making it necessary before even entering the country, since all border crossings are considered federal grounds.
Here’s the catch, though. American car insurance is not valid in Mexico. That is because insurance laws differ between the two nations, and Mexico requires that insurance is issued by a Mexican Insurance company. You will need to get a Mexican auto insurance policy in order to comply with the law before you cross the border. We recommend that most drivers get covered well ahead of their trip.
When getting coverage, you’ll likely see a lot of familiar protection like:
- Liability insurance to cover the damage you might cause others in an at-fault accident.
- Physical damage coverage that will pay for damage to your own vehicle. Most policies cover wreck damage alongside damage for theft, fire and similar occurrences.
- Medical payments insurance to help cover your losses if you get hurt in a wreck.
You might also see a few unique elements of protection, such as:
- Legal assistance coverage that might help you get a lawyer or bond in case the police detain you. Arrest while determining fault sometimes happens in Mexico.
- Roadside and tourist assistance to help you obtain plane tickets or rental cars to return to the U.S.
- U.S. Repair coverage that allows you to have vehicle repairs made once you return to the states.
The good news is, you can buy your Mexico auto insurance policy only for the duration of your stay in Mexico. From one day to one year, offering special discounts on six month or annual policies, in case you plan to make many trips across the border.
Step Two: Get Appropriate Travel Documents
You don’t just need a passport to travel on a plane. You need one any time you cross into a foreign country. Make sure you have the following documentation with you when you arrive at the border.
- A valid passport. Current valid passport for the duration of your trip from your country of origin. The U.S. passport card is valid when crossing the border by land, however, you can also use the passport book.
- Your driver’s license. Check the expiration dates, and make sure you are covered for the duration of your trip. Mexico will recognize your documents as proof of your ability to drive. Remember, a passport alone is not a license.
- Proof of your Mexican auto insurance. Keep a copy of your policy with you at all times.
- A vehicle importation permit. If you plan to travel to the interior of Mexico, beyond KM 25 or out of the Sonora and Baja Free Zone, you must get a temporary importation permit for your vehicle. Some areas (often near the border) operate as free zones that do not require these permits.
- Vehicle Registration Documents - Have the current vehicle registration form with you, this will be proof of ownership of the vehicle. If the car is not in your name, have a notarized letter of permission from the legal owner, even if it is your spouse, parent or child.
If you simply plan to travel as a tourist, you do not need a Mexican visa. However, business people, those going to Mexico to study and other parties might need special permits. The duration of your stay might also require you to obtain a visa. Contact the U.S. State Department or the nearest Mexican consulate to determine your requirements.
Step Three: Get Your Vehicle Ready
Driving in Mexico means entering a potentially-unfamiliar area. You might encounter different driving customs, unfamiliar road rules and potential hazards. Ensure your car can weather all these new situations.
- Make sure the car receives a full check-up before your travels. Oil changes, tire rotations and engine flushes often cut the risks of problems during travel.
- Ensure the vehicle’s security system works. Do not leave valuables on full display when leaving the car unattended. Always lock your doors.
- Keep an emergency kit in the car. A jack, spare tire, flashlights and even a small supply of food might all help. Don’t forget to keep your cell phone charged and ready. Remember, you might need an international calling card to use your phone.
- As always, obey the rules of the road wherever you go. Give other drivers ample space and take your time. Keep in mind, you might need to observe extra caution in certain areas. You often should not drive at night, particularly in rural communities.
- Always keep an eye out for pedestrian traffic, and never stop on the side of the road for anyone.
With preparation, your trip to Mexico this winter can prove enjoyable and uneventful for all.
Also Read: Driving to Mexico for the Holidays