Information You Should Know Before Going To Mexico

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.

What should you know before driving to Mexico?


Min Prudent Mexico Liability Limits Increased to $300,000

Change in Mexican Law increases 3rd party liability for accident deaths benefits - Effective Beginning 2013.

Article 502 of the Federal Labor Act amendments to increase the amount payable in the event of being found liable for the death of a third party in Mexico. Based on the current minimum wage, the compensatory amounts for liability arising deaths has been increased to 3.7 million pesos, a little less than USD $300,000.

This change in Mexican law applies to all accidental deaths, so it applies to Mexican Auto Insurance, Mexican Watercraft Insurance and Mexican Homeowners Insurance.

For the time being, we will continue to sell lower limits but due to these changes, we strongly advise against buying liability limit on any Mexican Insurance policy of less than $300,000 and due to the potential that more than 1 more person is killed in in an accident, we strongly suggest considering buying $500,000 limits and we will be working with our insurance company partners to try to develop higher limits.


Mexico Visa or Tourist Permit

A Mexico Visitor’s Permit, called an FM-T, is needed if you plan to visit Mexico for longer than 72 hours or visit outside the “free zone” (defined as the an area between 20 and 30 kilometers from the border with the US). The FM-T is only available to holders of US and Canadian passports, in place of a visa. It is available at Mexican consulates, Mexican border crossing points, and Mexican tourism offices.

You will need a Passport or Passport ID card for each individual traveling into the interior of Mexico in order to obtain an FM-T. There is a fee associated with obtaining the FM-T.


Mexico Correct Identification

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 or a US citizenship document 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.

Beginning on June 1, 2009 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. Click here to obtain a US Passport card now (NOTE: Only valid for land/sea travel).

Beginning on March 1, 2010 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. Click here to see where to get a health certificate.


Mexican Auto Legal Issues of importance

  • Mexican law only recognizes auto insurance purchased from companies licensed (located) in Mexico, as a result your U.S. or Canadian Auto Insurance is not recognized as valid insurance in Mexico.
  • Mexican law requires that vehicles must be insured to be driven on public Mexican roads and Highways.
  • 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.
  • Mexican law requires that vehicles be driven only by a person with a valid driver's license. As a result make sure you carry a valid driver’s license at all times.
  • 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.
  • U.S and Canadian auto insurance polices exclude Mexican third party liability claims.
  • Most U.S and Canadian auto insurance polices exclude physical damage (collision, theft and vandalism) claims in Mexico.  In case you have the impression your auto insurance covers physical damage losses in Mexico check your U.S. policy before you buy your Mexican auto insurance and drive into Mexico.
  • Bringing Child Under 18 To Mexico

    Mexican law requires any non-Mexican citizen under the age of 18 to carry notarized written permission from a parent or guardian not traveling with the child to or from Mexico. This includes children traveling with only one parent. This permission must include the name of the parent, the name of the child, the name of anyone traveling with the child, and the notarized signature(s) of the absent parent(s). The US State Department recommends the permission include travel dates, destinations and a brief summary of the circumstances surrounding the travel. The child must be carrying the original letter – not a facsimile or scanned copy – as well as proof of the parent/child relationship (usually a birth certificate or court document) – and an original custody decree, if applicable. Travelers should contact the Mexican Embassy or closest Mexican Consulate for current information.

    A similar letter allowing the person bringing the child into Mexico to make medical decisions for the child in the event of a medical emergency is also a good idea.

Crossing the border to Mexico

Getting across the border into or out of Mexico can take between 30 minutes and several hours.

It is best to travel across the border on a weekday or early in the morning.

Weekends and holidays are the worst times to cross the border.

At this point we have not found any websites showing crossing times from the US to Mexico.

Before going to Mexico make sure you have the appropriate import permits, insurance and identification.

There are more resources to find out about traffic levels when returning to the USA from Mexico. Click this link to get border crossing wait times and information on when borders are open, etc.

Also if you cross the border from Mexico to the USA frequently its is worth considering the SENTRI PASS to save time on your return home.


Mexico Vehicle Importation Permit

You must obtain a temporary vehicle import permit if traveling outside the Border Zone (between 20 and 30 kilometers from the US border) with you vehicle or risk having it confiscated by Mexican customs officials.

At present, the only exceptions to the requirement are travel in:

  • The Baja Peninsula, and
  • The state of Sonora:
    • Only if entering through the Nogales a/o
    • If not driving further than 98 kilometer along Mexican Highway 15.

You can obtain a "sonora only" vehicle import permit if you only plan to drive your RV in the Mexican state of Sonora.

For the rest of Mexico a temporary vehicle import permit can be obtained from Banjercito, the official Mexican issuing agency through their website, at the border or at a Mexican consulate in:

  • Albuquerque,
  • Austin,
  • Chicago,
  • Dallas,
  • Denver
  • Houston,
  • Los Angeles,
  • Phoenix,
  • Sacramento,
  • San Bernardino,

You can purchase the permit up to 60 days prior to travel into Mexico.You need the following to obtain a Vehicle Importation Permit and it is recommended that you carry three copies of each of these documents.

  1. Evidence of citizenship , i.e. A Government Issued Passport
  2. If you are not a Mexican citizen, a Mexican immigration permit-such as a tourist, business or immigrant permit.
  3. Certificate of canceled import permit for any prior temporary import permits.
  4. The Vehicle Title and registration certificate.
  5. A Valid Driver's License with photo.
  6. 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.
  7. An International Credit Card (American Express, MasterCard, Visa) in the name of the importer (driver).
  8. To pay a processing fee to either a Banjercito 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;
  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.

    2007 - Newer $400 USD,    2001 - 2006 $300 USD,   2000 - Older $200 USD
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 to cancel your permit at the border prior to returning to the US, to ensure that you receive your guarantee deposit back.

As long as you have enough time (minimum of 10 days), it is generally best to obtain your the temporary importation permit online. This will help you minimize your time to cross the border into Mexico.

Click here to apply for a Vehicle Importation Permit Online Now through the Banjercito website.

Be careful, avoid individuals outside vehicle permit offices offering permits without waiting in line, even if they appear to be government officials as they may be selling fraudulent or counterfeit permits.

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 as you may be put in jail, fined and/or have your vehicle seized at an immigration/customs checkpoints.

For further information, contact Mexican Customs about appropriate vehicle permits.


Save Your Time With SENTRI Pass

Drivers Can Save Hours Crossing the Border Back into the US

Reduce or avoid waiting in traffic to cross back into the US from Mexico by obtaining a SENTRI Pass. The SENTRI Pass can reduce what would have been a 2 hour wait to a 10 minute or less.

To learn about and obtain the SENTRI Pass go to:

Who is eligible for a SENTRI Pass?

Anyone can apply. There are no restrictions on how many times you cross the border.

However, the SENTRI Pass system is designed for 'low risk' people. People with any penalties, violations, convictions, or pending law enforcement investigations will not be considered for the SENTRI Pass program.

How does it work?

For just over $100 per year, a SENTRI Pass could be the best money you ever spent.

There are special SENTRI Pass only lanes at many of the busy border crossing points (see list below). It is similar to a carpool lane or FastTrack toll booth lane.

When you approach the border, you present your electronic SENTRI Pass card or have a transponder installed on your vehicle's windshield. This quick scanning system allows SENTRI Pass holders to pass through the border at a rate of about 10 seconds per vehicle.

How do you apply?

The easiest way to apply for the SENTRI Pass is through the internet.

You can also visit the SENTRI Pass Enrollment Centers in person or call them at the following locations:


San Ysidro
795 B East San Ysidro Blvd
San Ysidro, CA 92173
(619) 690-8841
Monday - Friday 8:00AM to 4:00PM

9 North Grand Avenue
Nogales, AZ 85621
(520) 375-5801
Hours - Monday - Friday 8:00AM to 4:00PM

El Paso
797 S. Zaragoza Road, Building A
El Paso, TX 79907
(915) 872-3472
Monday - Friday 8:00AM to 10:00PM

Otay Mesa
2500 Paseo Internacional
Otay Mesa, CA 92154
(619) 690-7600
Monday - Friday 8:00AM to 8:00PM

San Luis
Highway 95 and International Border
San Luis, AZ 85349
(928) 627-8854 ext 261
Monday - Friday 8:00AM to 4:00PM

3300 South Expressway 77/83
Brownsville, TX 78520
(956) 983-5668
Monday - Friday 8:00AM to 4:00PM

1699 East Carr Road
Calexico, CA 92231
(760) 768-2488
Monday - Friday 8:00AM to 4:00PM


6620 S. 33rd Street, Bldg J, Suite 20
McAllen, TX 78503
(956) 618-1680
Monday - Friday 8:00AM to 6:00PM


Lincoln/Juarez Bridge Adm Bldg 2
Laredo, TX 78040
(956) 523-7399
Monday - Friday 8:00AM to 4:00PM


What You Can Bring Into Mexico

Under the FM-T, Mexico Visitor’s Permit, each person traveling to Mexico by land can bring the following items into Mexico duty free:

  • Gifts or other various items with a value of up to $75.00 duty-free, except for alcohol and tobacco products. Click here for duty free requirements from the Mexico Customs website was
  • Click here to see what personal items are permitted into Mexico duty-free was

Mexico US Embassy - Consular Resources

Learn about your destination:

Research your destination and check the US Department of State’s Background Notes to learn more.

Click here to obtain the US Customs and Border Protection “Know Before you Go” brochure for US residents.

For Longer trips register with the US Embassy or Consulate:

Registration with the US Embassy or Consulate makes your presence and whereabouts known, in case it is necessary for a consular officer to contact you in an emergency or disaster. American consular officers can assist in evacuation, if it becomes necessary. Register with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website.

The US Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-52-55-5080-2000; telephone within Mexico City: 5080-2000; telephone long distance within Mexico 01-55-5080-2000. You may also contact the Embassy by e-mail at: The Embassy's Internet address is

Give your Passport ID Numbers and Itinerary to Someone at Home:

Leave your detailed itinerary and the id numbers on yours your family members’ passports with a friend or relative in the US in case of an emergency.

Obtain the Consular Information Sheet for Mexico:

Click here to access the Consular Information Sheet for Mexico.


Taking Pets to Mexico

Pets must have a health certificate to be able to pass into Mexico.

Click here to see where to get a health certificate.


Mexico - Firearms & Knives

  • It is best not to carry even a pocketknife into Mexico as this can result in a weapons charge if a knife is found on a traveler who is arrested for a separate offense.
  • Visitors driving across the border should ensure that their vehicles contain no firearms or ammunition.
  • Mexico imposes harsh penalties for bringing as little as one bullet across its borders, including imprisonment.

Mexican Drug Offense Penalties

  • The importation, purchase, possession or use of drugs can incur severe and strict penalties, including imprisonment without bail for up to a year before a case is tried.
  • Convicted offenders can expect large fines, as well as jail sentences up to 25 years.
  • Individuals 16 years of age or older are tried as adults.


Mexico Personal Safety Advise


Women traveling alone are especially vulnerable and should exercise caution, particularly at night. Victims, who are almost always unaccompanied, have been raped, robbed of personal property, or abducted and then held while their credit cards were used at various businesses and Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs).

using ATMs

US citizens should be very cautious in general when using ATMs in Mexico. If an ATM must be used, it should be accessed only during the business day at large protected facilities (preferably inside commercial establishments, rather than at glass-enclosed, highly visible ATMs on streets).

Beach Warnings:

Warning flags on beaches should be taken seriously. Black or red flags mean DO NOT enter the water. Strong undertow and rough surf are common along beaches throughout Mexico, especially on the Pacific coast, and drownings have occurred when swimmers have been overwhelmed by conditions.


Use only the licensed and regulated "sitio" (SEE-tee-oh) taxis. Some illegitimate taxi drivers are, in fact, criminals in search of victims; users of these taxis have been robbed, kidnapped, and/or raped. Hotels, clubs and restaurants will summon a sitio taxi upon request.


Mexico 911

In the event of an emergency, call the Mexican Ministry of Tourism 24-hour hotline at: [91] 5250-0123.

Toll free numbers:

  • In Mexico - [91] 800-90-392
  • In the US - 1- 800-903-9200.

Bringing Merchandise Back From Mexico

Mexico Regulations (remember these can change so click the link below for updates):

  • Upon leaving Mexico you must pay a 15% tax on items purchased in excess of $300 US. The purchased items can be combined among family members, including children/minors.
  • If the value of the goods purchased is greater than $1000 per family member, after subtracting the $300 US exemption, or if any of the goods is subject to non-tariff regulations or restrictions, you must hire the services of a customs broker.


US Regulations (remember these can change so click the link below for updates):

  • Every 30 days, US citizens who have been in Mexico for 48 hours or more are allowed to bring back $800 worth of duty-free merchandise. The purchased items can be combined among family members, including children/minors. (For example, a family of 3: two parents and one child can import up to $2,400 in duty free items.)
  • A flat rate duty must be paid on the next $1,000 worth of purchases
  • Any purchases above the flat rate duty amount must be paid at the duty rates for those items.
  • You are generally allowed to carry one liter of duty-free alcohol back into the United States for personal use.

Click here to learn more about US Customs requirements.

Avoid paying duty on foreign-made personal items by registering them with US Customs before you go to Mexico. Take the items to the nearest Customs office and obtain, at no cost, a Certificate of Registration, which allows duty-free entry for the life of the item.


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