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Traveling From USA and Canada to Mexico With Your Car: Things to know

What’s more fun than a road trip?! The whole process of getting in the car with your friends and family and letting the adventure take the wheel is so great. It’s an amazing feeling of freedom, not having to depend on the plane company or the bus to tell you when you want to take a break or when you want to stop and get a cup of coffee.

If you are looking to get on the road and start making new memories, visiting Mexico is a great place to start. However, there are a lot of things people tend to forget and realize they need them or didn’t know them when they are far on the road.

To help you have the time of your life without worrying about the little things and to be able to get there safely, we made this guide on the things you should know when traveling from the US or Canada to Mexico with your car.

Proper Identification

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If you are the US or Canadian citizen, you cannot just drive into Mexico with your driver’s license.

Canadian citizens that enter Mexico must present a valid passport. To avoid any misunderstandings or delays, the Government of Canada recommends having a passport valid for six more months after your arrival date.

Canadians also need their passport to travel in the United States. There are other options like an Enhanced Identification Card or a NEXUS card for traveling in the States, but you’d still need a passport for the US-Mexico border.

US residents need to present a passport or a passport card when entering Mexico and they will need the same documents to re-enter the United States. You should also be aware that the passport card cannot be used for air travel.

To apply for a passport, you need to submit an original copy of a state-issued birth certificate. If the certificate was issued by the hospital the Department of State will not accept it. To avoid any confusion, order the official birth certificate directly from the state where you were born.

The application process may take a week or 10 days to complete, so keep this in mind before your trip. If you need the passport on short notice, you can expedite the process by paying extra money.

In addition to these documents, you’d need a WHTI-compliant document to enter and exit Mexico.

Vehicle Permit

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If you want to travel outside the free or border zone, you need to get a temporary vehicle importation permit. If you don’t have this permit you will risk expensive fines or your vehicle may even be confiscated by Mexican customs officials.

The only exceptions to this requirement are traveling in Baja Peninsula and most of the state of Sonora.

The fee for vehicle importation is about $45 plus taxes that can vary based on the peso exchange rate. You will also need to pay a deposit to ensure that the vehicle is returned to the States. This deposit will be refunded when you cancel the permit at Banjercito offices. The deposit you will need to pay is between $200 and $400, depending on the age of the vehicle.


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You need insurance for various reasons. The first and foremost is that if anything bad happens, you won’t need to pay an obscene amount of money for health care or anything similar. If you travel to any country and don’t have insurance, you may end up spending too much money just to stay safe.

If you don’t have insurance, you will not be able to get into Mexico.

Depending on the length of the stay and the things you want your insurance to cover, the price can vary. However, it’s less expensive to give money, you won’t use than to travel without a safety net.

Insurance for your Vehicle

The US automobile liability insurance coverage is not valid in Mexico. You should also know that most collision and comprehensive insurance is not valid there.

The State Department strongly recommends you purchase a full coverage insurance policy. This will cover the cost of the bail, in the event of an at-fault vehicle accident in this country. suggests you use only A-rated Mexico insurers. Even though there might be some really cheap options available, it is best to use a trustworthy insurance provider you can count on. You’d need them to take care of your vehicle and occupants in case you need to file a claim.

Mexico Visa Card

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If you want to stay in Mexico for longer than 72 hours or if you want to travel outside the free border zone, you will need a Mexico Tourist card or FMT.

Unlike the TN visa for entering the USA which can be issued to people around the world, according to, this card is only available to holders of US and Canadian passports, in place of a visa. You can get this card at tourism offices, border crossings and at Mexican consulates. This is a government form stating the intent of your visit is tourism.

A tourist visa is required if you want to stay more than 180 days in Mexico.

Driver’s License

If you want to drive in Mexico you will always need a valid driver’s license. US licenses are recognized in Mexico, so you don’t need any extra permits to be able to freely drive.

You should also be aware that your insurance policy will not be valid if you don’t have a valid non-Mexican driver’s license.

Write all of these things down and make a checklist. These documents are more important than anything else you think you’d need for the road.

Without the proper documentation, insurance, and licenses you will not able to get into Mexico and if somehow you make it in, you definitely won’t be able to come back.

To save yourself the trouble, get the proper documentation at least a month before leaving so in case something happens or if you need to get something extra, you won’t have to rush everything.

Stay safe and have fun!

About Stefania Trtica