Traveling by car
Tourists traveling to Mexico by car must have a valid driver’s license and a certificate of title or vehicle registration. In the case of a rented vehicle, it is necessary to show a rental agreement in the name of the person driving the vehicle. In the case of a company car, a notarized document proving that the vehicle was assigned to the driver and a proof of employment.
Current government regulations also require you to fill a Temporary Import Permit, a Vehicle Return Promise and to post a vehicle bond to ensure that the vehicle is returned to its country of origin. There are three options for posting a vehicle bond: a credit card, a vehicle value bond, or a cash deposit. All these procedures must be fulfilled at the border before entering the country. When you leave the country you must return the documents that were issued when entering. Sanctions will be imposed to persons who fail to do so.
Requirements for the entry of vehicles into Mexico: On April 1, 1992, the Government of Mexico revised its requirements for the temporary entry (less than six months) of personal vehicles into Mexico. The purpose of these measures is to ensure that illegally imported vehicles do not remain in Mexico. These regulations pertain only to those vehicles which will be driven beyond the approximate 20 kilometer “free zone” south of the U.S. – Mexican border. The Government of Mexico’s Ministry of Finance has indicated that these regulations do not affect vehicles which will remain within the “free zone” (note: all of Baja California is considered a “free zone”).
Owners of personal vehicles traveling beyond the “free zone” must present the importer’s immigration document (tourist card or visa), original and a copy of the importer’s driver’s license and vehicle title in the name of the importer. If the operator of the vehicle is other than the importer, the operator must have the same immigration status as the importer and the importer of the vehicle must be present at all times it is being operated in Mexico. If the above documents are in order, the temporary importer of the vehicle has two options for bringing the vehicle into Mexico:
- Post a bond based on the value of the vehicle as determined by local customs officials. However, there is no need to pay a bond on the total value of the vehicle. Instead, licensed Mexican bonding agencies on both sides of the U.S. – Mexican border provide this service for a fee of up to 1 or 2 percent of the value of the vehicle.
- Make a sworn statement at the Mexican Army and Air Force Bank (Banco Nacional del Ejercito Fuerza Aerea y Armada S.N.C.). A fee of $10 is required and can only be paid with a credit card (Visa and Mastercard) issued by a bank in the importer’s country of foreign residence (e.g., the United States for U.S. citizens). American Express and Diners Club cards are not considered to be bank issues cards and therefore cannot be used to pay the fee (payment may not be made in cash). Offices of the Banco Nacional del Ejercito are located in all customs offices at ports of entry and their hours are reportedly the same as those of the customs offices. The bank will provide the appropriate forms for this service. All vehicle importation documents should be in the vehicle when it is operated. When leaving Mexico, these documents should be returned to the Mexican customs office at the border.
When vehicle importation documentation is lost or stolen, replacement documents can be issued by regional Mexican customs offices to the importer after (s)he obtains a certified document from the U.S. Embassy or one of its consulates attesting to the loss.
In the “free zone”, foreign vehicles can only be operated by the owner or (if the owner is present but not driving the vehicle) by a citizen or permanent legal resident (LPR) of the vehicle’s place of registration.
For additional information, individuals traveling to Mexico by personal vehicle should (prior to their travel) contact the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC, or the Mexican Consulate nearest their residence.
Thousands of U.S. citizens travel throughout Mexico each year using both privately owned and rental vehicles. U.S. citizens planning to drive in Mexico may do so on a current U.S. driver’s license but should confirm that their current U.S. insurance will cover driving in Mexico or purchase additional insurance to cover the period of their travel in Mexico. While Mexico has an extensive primary and secondary road system, driving conditions are crowded and often hazardous to the uninitiated driver. Drivers in Mexico should exercise particular care and should not drive after nightfall outside urban areas. Nighttime driving can be particularly hazardous because of slow moving unlighted vehicles even on primary roads. In addition, some Mexican roads, particularly in isolated regions, have at times been targets for robbery by bandits who operate primarily after dark.
Driving restrictions in Mexico City: In an effort to reduce air pollution in Mexico City, Mexican authorities restrict all vehicular traffic including vehicles of tourists in Mexico City. For vehicles of non-Mexican registration, the restriction is based on the last digit of the license plates. The schedule is as follows:
- Monday – no driving of vehicles with license plates with final digit of 5 or 6.
- Tuesday – no driving of vehicles with license plates with final digit of 7 or 8.
- Wednesday – no driving of vehicles with license plates with final digit of 3 or 4.
- Thursday – no driving of vehicles with license plates with final digit of 1 or 2.
- Friday – no driving of vehicles with license plated with final digit of 9 or 0.
Also, no driving of vehicles with temporary license plates or any other plate that does not conform with the above.
- Saturday and Sunday – all vehicles may be driven.
Failure to comply with Mexican laws governing temporarily imported vehicles can result in vehicle confiscation and/or fines.