Overland Mexico Travel
Pan American Highway > Mexico
Currency to display:
- 1 Visiting Mexico
- 2 Entering Mexico with a Car or Motorbike
- 3 Driving in Mexico
- 4 Gas and Diesel price in Mexico
- 5 Safety and Security Considerations
- 6 Camping in Mexico
- 7 Navigation
- 8 Special Overland Travel interests
- 9 Vehicle Maintenance
- 10 Buy or sell a car or motorbike in Mexico
- 11 References
- 12 Helpful External links
Give a brief overview of what it's like to visit. How easy is the border, how safe is the country, are there great things to see and do, etc.
Entering Mexico with a Car or Motorbike
Correct as of: December 2014
(To check if you need a travel Visa for Mexico, application instructions and fees see: Mexico Visa online application at VisaHQ.com)
The border with the United States of America and Mexico has a zone where you can drive your car without doing any of the paperwork listed below. This zone usually extends about 20km South, and includes all of Baja California. If you plan to go further into Mexico, you will have to complete the paperwork listed here.
- Passport of registered owner (original and 1 copy).
- Vehicle registration (original and 1 copy).
- Drivers license of registered owner (original and 1 copy).
- Mexico Tourist Card you received when you crossed the border, or crossed outside the special zone mentioned above (original and 1 copy)
Process at border
- The owner of the vehicle gains entry at immigration (migración), including a stamp in their Passport and a Mexico Tourist Card (depending on which border you cross at, you may get this at the actual border, then proceed further until you are required to complete paperwork for the vehcile).
- The owner must show the new passport stamp and tourist card, drivers license and the original vehicle registration to customs (aduana).
- The owner is required to obtain a temporary import permit.
Temporary Import Permits
Permits can be purchased at Banjercito offices or online. You will need the following:
- Your Vehicle registration – The Vehicle registration must be in the driver’s name
- A lease contract if the vehicle is leased or a rental contract if it is rented
- A Mexican tourist card or visa for travel in Mexico
This is the location of the Banjercito in Otay near the airport (The office has been moved from Tijuana in the last year) GPS 32.545750, -116.940556
online (the permit is sent by post and may take up to 7 business days).
- You may request your permit 7 to 60 days prior to entering Mexico by vehicle.
- Once the payment has been accepted, they will send the permit to your address within 7 business days.
- Once you have received your permit, you must send a copy of the documents you provided during the application process in one of the following ways:
- Sending the scanned documents by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Through courier service to the following address: Av. Industria Militar 1055, Col. Lomas de Sotelo, Del. Miguel Hidalgo, México, D.F., CP. 11200.
- Delivering them in person to any Banjercito office.
- You may ONLY request a permit for a vehicle that is registered to your name or that of your spouse, your children, or your parents.
- You may NOT request a permit for a vehicle weighing more than 3.5 metric tons (7,716 lbs).
- You cannot change the dates on a permit requested online. Once purchased the only possibility is to cancel it at the border and get a purchase a new one.
Cost of Permits: The permit costs $59.04 USD (December 2014). You will also have to provide the refundable deposit detailed below. You can pay by credit card or cash.
|Vehicle Year||Deposit Amount Required|
|2007 & Later||$400.00 USD|
|2001 – 2006||$300.00 USD|
|2000 & Earlier||$200.00 USD|
Important: Only the registered owner of the vehicle or spouse are allowed to drive the vehicle. If somebody else gets caught driving the vehicle, consider it donated to customs.
NOTE: You may encounter locals offering to help you with paperwork to get across the border. See Border Crossing Helpers for advice.
- If Entering from the North*
The rules differ depending on where you plan to drive in Mexico; some zones (1&2) no permit while travelling to Senora or mainland Mexico. Outside of zones 1&2 will require a temporary import permit.
- Border Zone – within 25KM of the border (No Permit Required)
- The whole of Baja or Puerto Penasco (No Permit Required)
- Sonora – (Sonora only Permit Required)
- Mainland Mexico outside the above (Temporary import Permit Required)
- If Entering from the South*
- Chiapas border - we were told multiple times that there was no free-zone on the Chiapas border but when entering from Guatemala all the Banjercito officials there said yes, there is a free zone. We entered without getting a temporary permit. There is even a fixed checkpoint on highway 200 north-east of Tapachula where the free-zone ends.
- Quintana Roo - the state of Quintana Roo on the border with Belize is also a free zone. Foreign plated vehicles may circulate in the state without an import permit, as long as the registration is current in the home country. The exception to this is federal land, in particular the Cancun airport. If continuing further inland, the permit should be obtained at the new border crossing in Subteniente López, but it is not required until reaching the checkpoints when entering Yucatan or Campeche states.
Cost of entry
- $295.00 MXN per person for the tourist card. Maximum duration 180 Days
- $59.04 USD for the vehicle permit, maximum duration 180 days (often matched with tourist card). PLUS you must leave a deposit between $200.00 USD - $600.00 USD depending on age of vehicle. Better to pay in USD, but you can use your VISA card to pay and and leave the deposit.
- If your vehicle is an RV, there is no deposit required for the permit. The permit in this case is good for 10 years.
Permitted length of stay
The Temporary Import Permit is for a maximum of 180 days. Consider importing your vehicle as an RV, we were told that it can easily extend your vehicle import to a 10 year term, whereas your visa is the only limitation on your stay.
Extension of stay
The Temp import permit can not be extended, you must take the vehicle out of the country and back in.
Storing a vehicle and temporarily leaving the country
Be aware that the Temporary Import Permit is for a maximum of 180 days, and is tied to your current immigration status. In the past people have been able to get away with storing their vehicle as tourists and leaving the country, but as electronic records become more prevalent in Mexico, this is not without risk. The safest way to store the vehicle in Mexico is to first cancel the temporary import permit at the border, and store the vehicle within one of the free border zones, where the Temporary Import Permit is not required.
If leaving via plane but you entered the country by land, you will need to get your tourist visa stamped at the airport migracion office. They might ask you to pay the visa fee, but as long as you have your initial receipt you will not have to pay. We had to get our visa stamped before the airline would give us our boarding passes.
A couple of storage options recommeneded by Overlanders:
- San Miguel Campground During our stay there are several trucks stored
- Camping San Juan Teotihuacan N 19.68330 W 98.87057, during our stay there are several trucks stored.
- Mexico DF: We are storing in 2014 at Pepe's RV park, Tepotzotlan. $915.00 MXN per month under cover, cheaper outside, lots of trucks were stored, it is a huge area. Email Benjamin for further info/quote: email@example.com
- Cancun Storage - Specifically for travelers.
Exiting with a vehicle
- The registered owner presents the temporary import paper to customs.
- The registered owner is stamped out of Mexico at immigration.
NOTE: When leaving the country, you may be asked by immigration to show proof that the fee for your FMM has been paid. This will generally be paid to Banjercito along with the car permit fee when first entering the country, or by the airline if arriving by air. A common scam however, particularly at the Belize border, is to request payment when the fee has already been paid, but proof of payment can not be provided. If you have not yet paid for the FMM, such as if you entered from Belize into the free zone without stopping for a car permit, then you may legitimately be required to pay the fee at the Banjercito office. If the immigration officer requests payment directly to himself or another immigration officer - this is bribery and you should not pay anything without getting an official receipt.
Driving in Mexico
Recommended books for Overlanding in Mexico
Travel insurance for Mexico
Vehicle insurance requirements
Insurance is mandatory in Mexico, and you will have problems with the Police if you don't purchase it. You can buy it at the border, or many companies exist online that piggy-back on your insurance from the United States of America
Cost of insurance
$96.00 USD for six months for a 1987 4Runner from Sansborns Mexico Insurance including $14.00 USD "Legal Aid" upgrade.
$135.00 USD for six months for a 4x4 from Mexico Auto Insurance.
$169.00 USD for six months for a 1998 Toyota Land Cruiser (UK) from Bajabound including - Medical Payments: $10,000/$50,000, Third Party Liability: $300,000, Platinum Endorsement: INCLUDED (legal, medical and roadside assistance service.
$700.00 USD for six months for a van conversion valued at $40,000.00 USD including sufficient liability coverage for all of Mexico and comprehensive + collision. Note that you must maintain your home country comprehensive/collision insurance. Purchased from Discover Baja Travel Club in San Diego.
- note the law changed in Mexico last year the current recommended third party liability is $300,000, (optional).
Where to purchase insurance
At the border or online
- One option to buy online ICI: http://www.mxici.com/CSAVI/Default.aspx
- Bajabound Cheaper to call than online
A license from anywhere in the world appears to be enough.
Driving side of road
Right hand drive vehicles are permitted without problem.
Mandatory items in vehicle
General Road quality
Roads in Mexico vary greatly from very good toll roads, to horrendous gravel roads.
Road signs are common enough, and are generally good enough to rely on.
Mexico has an ever-increasing network of very good quality toll roads, mostly in the North, and near major population centers. They are very expensive. Expect to pay around $10.00 USD every 50km.
Vehicle Ferry between Baja and Mainland
There are five ferry services that go from Baja to the Mexican mainland, two of which are operated by Baja Ferries, two by TMC and the other is the Santa Rosalia Ferry. The Baja Ferry services both depart from La Paz, with one going to Mazatlan (16-18 Hours) and the other to Topolobampo (6-7 Hours) which is roughly 430km further north.
The cost of both services from La Paz are comparable when you take into consideration the additional driving time and fuel required to drive south from Topolobampo to Mazatlan.
*Note to take your vehicle to the mainland, you will require a temporary vehicle import permit which can be obtained near the border or in La Paz. More information can be found here.
- La Paz – Mazatlan 16 – 18 Hours
- La Paz – Topolobampo 6- 7 Hours
- Santa Rosalía – Guaymas 9.5 - 10Hours
A detailed post about the ferry services, with costs and time tables can be found here: Baja Ferries between La Paz Mazatlan & Topolobampo | My Overland Adventure
Meals are provided on board which do not include drinks and differ ferry to ferry. A mid-size SUV with driver cost and 1 passenger $2,900.00 MXN to $3,500.00 MXN. Cabins ($787.00 MXN) and/or other passengers ($897.00 MXN) to ($1,102.00 MXN) cost extra. Fees are from July 2014.
Bribery in Mexico
Police bribery is very common in Mexico, and you will probably encounter it at some point. See the bribery tips page for advice.
Police checkpoints are very common in Mexico, especially in the North near the United States of America. There are two kinds:
- Military checkpoints: Where they are primarily concerned with the transport of illegal items. They may ask to see your Passport, and may perform and inspection of your vehicle.
- Police checkpoints: Here you will be asked to show your Passport, Vehicle registration, drivers license, the temporary import permit you were issued at the border and maybe your insurance. Depending on the circumstances, you may encounter bribery at these stops.
Traveling with pets
- A Health Certificate for the animal in Spanish (updated at least every four months)
- A vaccination record (the European Pet Passport works well)
You might not be asked for either one, but you should have them ready.
Gas and Diesel price in Mexico
Last updated: March 2016
Currency and unit to display:
|Regular||$13.16 MXN per Liter|
|Super (90)||$13.97 MXN per Liter|
|Normal Diesel||$13.77 MXN per Liter|
|Diesel (low sulfur)||??|
Gas prices are in whole Mexico the same and sold by Pemex gas stations. Except in Yucatan where you will find a little bit cheaper gas due to lower taxes.
- International Gas / Petrol / Diesel prices - Mexico
- Gasoline & Diesel Prices in Mexico & Baja
- Gas Prices in Mexico
Gas and Diesel Availability / Frequency
Gasoline is common, typically not more than around 200km from station to station.
Gas and Diesel Quality
Accepted to be generally good quality. Sulfur content of diesel is low.
Safety and Security Considerations
Driving at night
Driving at night is not recommended.
- Homemade speed bumps (called topes) are extremely hard to see, very common, and almost always very severe. Hitting one in the dark at 80km/h is likely.
- Poor road quality means potholes, washouts and other hazards are common.
- Dangerous driving such as tailgating, overtaking around blind corners and excessive speeding are common.
- There can be many objects on and around the road that are nearly impossible to see at night, such as livestock, people, slow moving carts, cars with no lights, etc.
Parking on the street during the day is usually OK. Find a secure parking lot overnight and in big cities. Price unknown.
Special driving considerations
For people driving South through the Americas, Mexico is their first introduction to driving and road conditions in Latin America. See Pan American Highway Driving Considerations for general advice.
Security advisories and information
- Country Specific Information - U.S. Department of State
- Travel Reports and Warnings - Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
- Travel advice by country - Foreign and Commonwealth office (U.K.)
- Travel Advice for Mexico - Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Camping in Mexico
Camping is popular in Mexico, with both locals and foreigners driving South from United States of America. Roadside camping is difficult due to the high population density, abundant roadside fences and security considerations.
Camping guide books
The [Traveler's Guide to Mexican Camping] is the definitive list of campsites in Mexico. Information includes detailled maps, GPS co-ordinates, and descriptions of campground facilities.
Tap water in Mexico is not safe to drink. Bottled water can be bought, and stores selling purified drinking water are common. A 20 liter container costs around $14.00 MXN to fill.
Reise Know-How are amoung the best paper maps. Purchase paper maps before arriving in Mexico
- The Mexico Road Atlas (aka the Guia Roji) is the road map to have for Mexico. It includes: toll booths and toll fees, places to stay and places to eat, gas stations, auto mechanics, medical services, rest areas, public telephones, border crossings and maps of Belize and Guatemala. It can be bought at gas stations within Mexico for around $20.00 USD. It is updated yearly, and is in Spanish.
- The Baja Almanac is very good for anyone spending extensive time in Baja California.
GPS Maps of Mexico
- Open Street Map: Appears to have good coverage.
- Garmin: Apparently no map of Mexico. (its included in the North America Map)
- TomTom: lists coverage as "street network, with detailed coverage of 70 cities". 
- http://www.gpstravelmaps.com/index.php has maps of Mexico and many more countries. Not complete coverage of all the roads for the maps of Belize and Guatemala I used 2010, but constantly updating.
GPS co-ordinates for camping, propane, gas, repairs, etc. in Mexico
- FreeCampsites.Net is a database of vehicle (motorcycle, rv, bicycle and/or 4x4) accessible campsites. Most are free, none are more than $12.00 USD. Lots of listings for Baja California Sur. Boondocking, campgrounds and wild camping.
- iOverlander is a website and iPhone application designed by Overlanders, for Overlanders. It contains GPS co-ordinates and reviews for camping, hotels, propane, water, mechanics, borders and much more.
- Mexico - Central and Yucatan - A trip through Mexico from Texas to Belize with gps locations and prices recorded.
- MEXICO - CHIAPAS TO THE WEST COAST - A trip through Mexico from Guatemala to California with gps locations and prices recorded.
- Places in Mexico - Camping Places & Sights in Mexico from Pawsontour
- Mexico Campgrounds and Hotels | Life Remotely - a very detailed list of campgrounds and hotels in Mexico, with GPS co-ords.
- Camping Sites: Mexico - Detailed list of campsites and propane filling with description, directions and GPS co-ordinates. Some at hotels (lists facilities and price), some roadside and free.
- Central America Camping Locations - List of campsites, with basic directions and GPS co-ordinates. Mostly free sites.
Special Overland Travel interests
4x4s / Trucks
- Toyota Global Dealer Locator
- Land Rover International Dealer Locator
- Mercedes Benz International (select country on bottom right)
- Jeep International site locator
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Antonio Macoteca Cel. 984 801 0645. For engines, transmissions and other mechanical stuff.
RIOS on Carr. Internacional 2207 (Hwy 190) in Oaxaca Tel 51 570 93 is a well equipped 4x4 parts and accessory shop, with excellent service and reasonable prices.
Buy or sell a car or motorbike in Mexico
No limitations, as long as you have a mailing address in Mexico for the registration of the vehicle.
- Not a problem, as long as you sell the vehicle to a foreigner. The seller has to go with the buyer to a customs office and take the vehicle out of his documents and the buyer has to import the vehicle with his documents.
- It's also possible to scrap the vehicle to cancel the temporary import so you can leave the country without it, you likely won't get any money for it (or very little), and it's fraud to do this on purpose.
- While it is technically possible to "naturalize" a vehicle to get Mexican plates on it, the process is extremely difficult, time consuming and expensive. The vehicle must meet all kinds of strict rules, and you can't do it once the vehicle is already inside Mexico with a temp import permit (i.e. you have to do it at the border when entering in the first place) More information is available at the following three sites:
- Baja Ferries
- Baja Ferries between La Paz Mazatlan & Topolobampo | My Overland Adventure
- Central American Borders and dogs
- Traveling with dogs from Canada to Argentina. Experiences and Infos.
- OpenStreetMap Mexico
- TomTom Map availability
- How-To-Guide for Motorcycling in Mexico - an excellent guide for everything you need to know about motorcycling in Mexico