Driving to Mexico

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Driving to Mexico in 2023 - Everything you need to know

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Planning to Drive to Mexico from the US or Canada?

This is the only one resource you need for crossing the Mexican border with your vehicle. As an experienced traveler who visits Mexico four times a year, I hope this guide will provide you with everything you need to know about navigating all of Mexico’s driving regulations and requirements.  

Driving to mexico

Do I need Mexican Car Insurance?

Are you planning a trip to the U.S.-Mexico border? If yes, then you must be wondering if Mexican car insurance is required for your journey — and we can confidently tell you that it is! Baja Bound should be your go-to source for this as they offer affordable policies with excellent customer service that are available online instantly. Of course, there’s more than just insurance – several documents will also need preparation before hitting the road so make sure to look into those too! 


🇲🇽 Mexico Travel Resources We Use:



Mexico Border Crossing Requirements

Apart from the necessity of car insurance to drive to Mexico, you may be asking yourself: “What documents are needed for me to take a journey across the United States-Mexico border?”

valid Passport

If you’re planning to drive your car in Mexico, here are the necessary documents and permits required:

  1. Valid U.S. Passport (or U.S. Green Card)
  2. An up-to-date Mexican auto insurance policy
  3. Your valid driver’s license from the United States or an International Driving Permit
  4. Vehicle registration documents for your vehicle that is registered within the USA
  5. A Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TVIP) and Forma Migratoria Múltiple – also known as FMM, or Mexico Tourist Card!

Before we explore what each document entails in more detail, bear in mind that this list is subject to change. To guarantee you are up-to-date with the most recent changes concerning travel documents, it would be wise to visit the U.S. State Department website right here regularly!

Note: Driving to Mexico from Canada

As an American, I can only speak about driving from the U.S. to Mexico with confidence. If you are Canadian, your best bet for details on this journey is consulting information available from the Canadian government – go here for more info!

1. Valid U.S. Passport or Green Card

Are you wondering if a passport is required when driving to Mexico? The answer is yes, and it must be valid for six months past your arrival date. For example, if you cross the border on January 1st, your U.S. Passport needs to be valid until July 1st in order for you to obtain an FMM tourist visa which generally grants 180-days of stay (or 6 months). Therefore, make sure that both your passport or green card are up-to-date before taking the journey

2. Mexico Driving Insurance

Are you wondering if your U.S. or Canadian auto insurance will be valid in Mexico? The answer is  no! To drive across the border from the United States to Mexico, you must purchase an exclusive Mexican automobile liability policy. Baja Bound Insurance has been providing trusted and highly-rated car insurance policies for years, so why not get yours online now with them? Get peace of mind by purchasing your necessary coverage to explore beautiful Mexico without worry.

 Can I buy Mexican Insurance at the border?

Absolutely not – You cannot purchase insurance at the U.S.-Mexico border. If you don’t have your policy documents on hand, then entry to Mexico is strictly prohibited for you. This serves as an important reminder that it is imperative to secure all coverage before crossing into Mexican territory.

3. Valid U.S. Driver’s License

With a valid driver’s license from any U.S. state, you are legally allowed to drive across the border into Mexico! To guarantee your safe passage, ensure that your passport and driver’s license have at least 6 months of validity remaining prior to crossing the Mexican border by car.

Tulum Mexico
Tulum Mexico

4. Vehicle Registration Document

The agents at the U.S.-Mexico border require that you present your valid car registration documents, otherwise, they won’t permit you to continue past their checkpoint. Make sure that all paperwork is current and up-to-date, or else it could mean being turned away from crossing into Mexico!

5. Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit

If you are planning to drive your vehicle in Mexico, it is highly recommended that you obtain a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit Card or TVIP car permit before crossing the border. This will help save valuable time at customs and avoid any lengthy wait times. Some Mexican embassies and consulates offer these services, so make sure to reach out to your local office for more information about their availability. You can apply for this permit up to 60 days prior to your trip but must do so at least seven days beforehand!

6. Mexico Tourist Card (FMM Tourist Visa)

The Forma Migratoria Múltiple, or FMM, is your official Mexico travel visa. It’s a critical document that proves you are in the country legally and must be carried at all times during your stay. Any police officer or Immigration agent may stop you to inspect it, so make sure it is available for their review upon request.

Obtaining an FMM prior to your journey is possible in certain circumstances, or can be obtained quickly at the border for a minimal fee of $30 USD (equivalent to 595 MXN pesos). This process takes only minutes, which makes it much simpler than acquiring a TVIP Mexico car permit.

IMPORTANT: When you’re crossing the Mexico-U.S. border, it is essential to have your FMM (also known as FMT) form with you at all times; otherwise, there may be a hefty fine of $600 MXN pesos ($30 USD) that needs to be paid and paperwork filled out for a new one before being able to depart from Mexico. Good news though! In recent years, this has been replaced by passport stamps instead – making it much simpler not to lose track of them in the first place!

Driving Across the Mexican Border
Driving Across the Mexican Border

Driving Across the Mexico Border

Now that you’ve finalized your paperwork and procured Mexico car insurance from Baja Bound, let’s hit the road! It’s important to remember that auto insurance cannot be acquired at the Mexican border, so arrive with documentation of your policy in hand. As per data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, 2020 saw around 70 million personal vehicles cross into Mexico; weekends are often accompanied by long wait times too. Keeping a cool head is key here – it’s best not to lose one’s temper on this journey!

From Texas to Mexico

When you’re journeying to Mexico from Texas, take a look at this list of U.S.-Mexico border crossings — there are more than 20 options available when you drive! The popular El Paso Crossing is one such route; it’s an effortless way to get from El Paso, Texas all the way to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.


🇲🇽 Mexico Travel Resources We Use:



From California to Mexico

If you plan to explore Mexico and are a resident of the Golden State, your journey is made simple with Baja California Peninsula. From San Ysidro Crossing (El Chaparral) or Otay Mesa Crossings, traversing between these two countries has never been easier! So let’s get out there and start exploring what each country has to offer!

Many travelers journeying from Los Angeles and San Diego to Mexico often use the San Ysidro Crossing, which links Tijuana with these two cities. This route is so popular that it continues to see an increasing number of visitors every year!

Cancun Mexico
Cancun Mexico

Puerto Penasco Mexico

The famous Sonoran Sun Resort in Puerto Penasco Mexico, AKA Rocky Point or Arizona’s Beach.

Puerto Peñasco (Rocky Point) is a Mexico resort city and fishing town on the Gulf of California in Sonora state. This is the closest beach to Arizona, and sometimes even called Arizona’s Beach.

If you’re only visiting Sonora Mexico, opt for the Sonora Only Program (also called the Only Sonora Program). This is a Mexico vehicle permit program for Sonora travel, which does include Rocky Point.

Which Lane to Use When Driving to Mexico

As you’re approaching the Mexico border crossing, you may get a bit confused because some crossings have so numerous lanes to choose from.

It can feel hectic with signs and cars all over the place, so take a moment to learn about the different lanes at the US-Mexico border.

Random Searches: Red Light, Green Light

Even if you have nothing to declare when passing through the Nothing to Declare Lane, there’s still a chance that you may be subject to further inspection. As you approach the border crossing point, take special notice of the stoplight, which will give each vehicle either a green or red light.

If you’re greeted with a red light, that means you’ve been randomly chosen for extra inspection. Fortunately, if the light turns green then your journey can proceed without further interruption.

Still, Customs officers have full authority to request an additional check on any car they choose – even if the original signal was green.

Secondary Inspection for Random Searches

Don’t be alarmed if you’re randomly chosen for inspection. Customs officers will quickly review your vehicle and its cargo to ensure that all items have been correctly declared – should everything check out, you’ll be on your way to Mexico in no time!

Nothing to Declare Lanes vs Declaration Lanes

While planning an excursion to Mexico, it is essential to choose between the Nothing To Declare Lane (Nada que Declarar) or Declaration Lane (Carril de Declaración), depending on what you have in your vehicle. For sightseeing tourists who are simply hitting the roads of Mexico for a road trip, then more often than not they will use the ‘Nothing To Declare’ lane.

Renting a Car Mexico

Renting a Car and Driving to Mexico

Are you considering traveling beyond the border by car, but would rather not use your own? The answer is yes; however, it’s a complex process with lots of restrictions. In fact, getting access to a rental car for the purpose of heading into Mexico can be near-impossible, and after reading this article, you may decide against driving there altogether.

Driving from the United States to Mexico can be easily done with a rental car, and most major American companies such as Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Fox Rent a Car, Hertz , National and Thrifty will permit it. Though bear in mind that not all of their locations are equipped for this purpose.

Renting a Car in Mexico: All You Need to Know

To begin the hunt for a car rental that allows you to cross borders, call each of the rental companies’ locations and ask about their policies. It’s essential to get an idea of all the restrictions they impose on customers who plan on driving in Mexico. Surprisingly enough, no two firms seem to have similar regulations when it comes to this type of journey!

Are there one-way car rentals for Mexico?

If you’re looking for a one-way car rental from the U.S. to Mexico, calling individual offices is usually futile. But luckily, there’s an ace up your sleeve! You can try exploiting this loophole if a particular car rental company operates in Tijuana Airport– it might be just what you need!

In Tijuana International Airpor tif your company permits it, you can leave your rental car at one of their locations in Mexico and then take a stroll over the bridge into San Diego. With this convenient connection, there’s no need to drive or wait around for long lines – just a pleasant journey between two countries!

10 Useful Tips for Driving in Mexico

Driving in Mexico is not that much different from driving in the U.S. Following tips should help you stay safe and have a pleasant driving experience when visiting Mexico:

  1. Avoid driving at night in Mexico
  2. Always use cuota roads (=Toll roads in Mexico)
  3. Beware of topes (Speed bumps)
  4. Download an offline map on your phone for driving in Mexico (Google Maps or Apple Maps)
  5. Mexico speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour. When you’re behind the wheel in Mexico, it’s essential to be aware of its unique speed limit signs. Instead of miles per hour (mph), Mexico follows kilometers per hour (kmph). To make sure you don’t accidentally break the law, ensure that your car’s speedometer matches the number on any signposts you come across! Additionally, since all street and highway signage is written in Spanish – a few key words to remember are: ‘velocidad maxima’ for maximum velocity; ‘detenerse aqui’ for stop here.’ By familiarizing yourself with common driving phrases ahead of time, navigating around Mexico becomes much less intimidating. After all – 1 mile equals 1.6 kilometers – so no math required while cruising around this beautiful country!
      1. Alto: means “stop”
      2. Retorono: means “U-turn is allowed”
      3. Entrada: means “entrance”
      4. Salida: means “exit”
      5. Restringido: means “restricted area”
      6. Prohibido: means “entry prohibited”
  6. Don’t use your cell phone while driving in Mexico
  7. Mexico gas stations are not self-serve. After you pull into the gas station, an attendant will happily fill your tank and collect payment. Most of these attendants don’t work directly for the service station – they make money through tips. As a polite gesture, it’s customary to tip them between 10-20 Mexican pesos ($0.50-$1 USD) after their services are complete; if additional tasks such as checking tires were requested then feel free to increase the gratuity!
  8. Window cleaners may approach you at stop lights. When you drive in Mexico, be ready to meet folks offering to clean your car’s windshield at stop lights. There’s no specific fee for this service but it would be fair and reasonable if you give $10-20 pesos ($0.50-1 USD). It is an inexpensive yet effective way of keeping your vision clear while driving!
  9. Mexico traffic lights have an extra step. Mexican stop lights follow the same pattern as in the United States, starting with green and then cycling to yellow before flashing yellow for a few seconds. This doesn’t entitle drivers to speed through yellow lights; it’s just as important to adhere by this rule here than it is stateside.
  10. Yes, Mexico cops do take bribes. To avoid the possibility of being asked for an unethical “payment” by police officers, it is essential to drive responsibly and obey all traffic laws in Mexico. This means never speeding, using your phone while driving, or disobeying other Mexican regulations on the roads.


Do I need to have insurance to drive to Mexico?

An unequivocal yes – Mexican law does not allow foreign insurance policies to be valid in Mexico. Therefore, Personal Liability Insurance (PLI or TPL) is mandatory for travelers in order to satisfy any legal and financial obligations that may arise from an accident during your visit.

What if my credit card has insurance?

Even if you think your U.S. credit card might provide Collision Damage Waiver (CDW insurance) for its holders, it doesn’t include what is legally required – Personal Liability Insurance protection against liability to others.

Will my health insurance cover me in Mexico?

Although you should reach out to your insurance provider prior to traveling, it’s likely that a separate Mexican insurance policy is necessary for any journey.

Driving in Mexico

Is it safe to drive in Mexico?

Every year, countless Americans embark on an exciting journey to Mexico. Fortunately, driving in this foreign country is safe for the majority of travelers; however, before you set off on your adventure it’s essential that you are familiar with Mexican driving laws – they may differ from what we practice at home! 

While planning your travels to Mexico, make sure that you are aware of the driving laws and abide by them. Additionally, pay attention to the speed limit signs as they display kilometers per hour instead of miles per hour; be certain that your speedometer reflects what is indicated on the posted signs. Furthermore, all street and highway signs are in Spanish – so brush up on those language skills!

Is it safe to drive through Mexico?

If you’ve established that it’s secure to drive your vehicle across the Mexico border, then you may be asking yourself if it is safe to navigate through the country itself. Fortunately, for most drivers, driving throughout Mexico should generally be a risk-free experience.

Can you drive to Mexico?

Absolutely yes! If you have these six items listed here, it is completely legal for U.S. citizens and Green Card holders to travel by car or any other vehicle to Mexico. In particular states such as California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, driving around in the country of Mexico is quite ordinary.

Can I drive to Mexico with my dogs and cats?

Absolutely! It’s simple to bring your four-legged friends with you on a journey south of the border—as long as they are in good health. Gone are the days since 2019 when extensive paperwork was required; however, it can prove useful to keep vaccination records handy just in case. Please note that only cats and dogs qualify as pets under Mexican law; horses and other larger species must be registered as livestock instead.

Will my pets be able to cross the border?

If your pet is free of ticks or other ectoparasites, you need not worry about placing them in quarantine when traveling to Mexico by car.

What’s the driving age in Mexico?

Once an individual turns 18, they become eligible to obtain a full Mexico driver’s license. Yet if you are 15 or younger, you can still get a learner’s permit–but with parental supervision while on the road. And at 16 years old and above, parents can sign for their child’s provisional license.

What are the best U.S. Mexico Border Crossings to use?

When looking to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, you’re spoiled for choice with 48 options! The most active crossings are located at San Ysidro (San Diego-Tijuana) and El Paso in Texas – so depending on your starting point, these two could be a great option for you.

Is there a separate driving in Mexico license?

No need to acquire a new driver’s license in Mexico; your United States or Canadian license stands valid so long as it hasn’t expired. If you’re from another country that uses the Roman alphabet, then your current driver’s license is also accepted there.

IDP (International Drivers Permit)
IDP (International Drivers Permit)

What is an International Driving Permit? 

If you are a driver from countries with non-Roman alphabets, such as Japan, China, Russia, Thailand and Israel – you will need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) in order for your license to be translated into the Roman alphabet. With this IDO document in hand, you’ll never have any issues navigating foreign roads again.

Final Thoughts on Driving to Mexico

The United States and Mexico share an extensive 1,954-mile long land border from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. Boasting 25 entry points along its stretch, it is no surprise that this crossing has been deemed as one of the busiest in all of existence. According to a report by The U.S. Department Of Transportation, there were 73 million vehicles carrying 137 million people who crossed through here in 2019 alone!

Traveling to 🇲🇽 Mexico soon?

I recommend these travel resources for Mexico that I personally use:

🏨 Hotels: I have found that Expedia and Booking.com consistently have the best deals on hotels and resorts in Mexico. If you prefer to stay at a vacation rental, check VRBO that is usually cheaper than AirBnB’s added fees!

✈️ Flights: To find the best flight deals to Mexico, I always use Kayak. Remember to subscribe to their price alerts for the travel dates you want. Another great alternative for flight deals is Expedia.

🚗 Rental Cars: I always use and highly recommend Discover Cars because it allows me to compare several car rental companies and view ratings on various factors such as overall value, pick-up procedure, agent efficiency, car condition, and total time taken.

🚙 Cancun Airport Transportation: For the fastest and easiest way to travel, I suggest arranging a private transfer with Cancun Airport Transportation. Honestly, no better way to travel from the airport to your hotel or resort.

🤿 Tours & Activities: For tours and activities in Mexico, I highly recommend using either Viator or GetYourGuide. These websites offer a full refund if you cancel your booking 24 hours before the start of the tour, and they also provide excellent customer service in case of any issues.

🚨 Travel Insurance: I always suggest purchasing travel insurance as a precaution before traveling, especially after a recent accident in a taxi in Mexico. For short trips, I recommend Travel Insurance Master, whereas for digital nomads, Safety Wing is a better option.

📷 Best Camera for your trip: I always carry with me a GoPro, It’s light, compact, takes great video and pictures, and most importantly, it’s waterproof! You just can’t go wrong with one. If you are interested in higher quality video and photography, I always carry with me on my trips and highly recommend the Sony A7IV which I think is the best travel DSLR Camera out there.

☀️ Biodegradable Sunscreen: Remember to include a good sunscreen to protect yourself from the summer sun. I always use and suggest Sun Bum Sunscreen, which is vegan, reef-friendly, and cruelty-free.