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
Where indicated, certain sections are correct as of: April 2023
(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)
- A COVID test is not required
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 (TIP)
(Updated April 2023)
Permits can be purchased at select Banjercito offices within the USA, Banjercito offices within Mexico at the border, or online. If the TIP is needed immediately, then obtaining the document at the Mexican border is best but it can take a few hours depending on the lines. If you are more than 10 days away from crossing the border, then obtaining the documents online will make for a faster and easier border crossing. 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. Or an Immigration Pre-Authorization if applying online.
- A credit card for payment and deposit is preferred because when exiting Mexico the deposit will automatically return to your card within a few days.
Major border crossings have Banjercito offices and can be readily found on Google Maps. 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
How to Obtain A Temporary Import Permit Online (the permit is emailed to you and may take up to 7 business days).
- The Mexican government websites sometimes do not work with certain browsers so if the sites are crashing, try switching between Chrome, Firefox, Explorer, etc.
- In order to receive a TIP online you must first obtain an Immigration Pre-Authorization through the following website:
- The vehicle permit will be issued for the same period as that stated on your Immigration Pre-Authorization. Furthermore, once you have entered Mexico You should approach an immigration officer in order to exchange your pre-authorization form for the proper immigration document. Choose 180 days for the maximum stay.
- Once you have obtained your Immigration Pre-Authorization, you will need that document number as part of the online application. Next go to the Banjercito website to begin a new application:
- You may request your permit 10 to 60 days prior to entering Mexico by vehicle.
- Once the payment has been accepted, they will email the permit within 7 business days (usually 1-3 business days).
- Once you have received your permit, sign it, and then you can cross the Mexican border on or after the entry date specified on the TIP. Its fine to enter Mexico after the TIP has started.
- Once you have driven across the border you will need to exchange your Immigration Pre-Authorization for the official immigration document called the FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple) and again ask for the full 180 days maximum stay to also be written on your FMM in order to match your TIP.
- If you obtained your TIP online, when entering Mexico you do not need to see anyone at the Banjercito office. During two separate entries I stopped by the Banjercito office and both times, once they saw my official online TIP printout, they said I was done and could pass into Mexico with my motorcycle. My motorcycle was never checked during entry but upon exiting Mexico the VIN was photographed and the TIP was cancelled at the Banjercito border office in order to receive my returned "bond" deposit.
- 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 $65.61 USD (September 2022). You will also have to provide the refundable deposit detailed below. You can pay by credit card or cash. Credit card is preferred so that the Banjercito can automatically send your deposit within a few business days.
|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.
(Updated April 2023)
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.
If Entering from the Baja Ferry
- The entire length of Baja is considered a free zone and there is a Banjercito office at the southern tip of the Baja peninsula at the Pichilinque Ferry Terminal (near La Paz).
- It is acceptable to drive the entire length of Baja without a Vehicle Import Permit and then make the Pichilinque Ferry Terminal your entry point into the rest of Mexico.
- At the Pichilinque Ferry Terminal you can obtain your Vehicle Import Permit immediately before crossing on the ferry to the rest of Mexico. Or you can obtain your Vehicle Import Permit online and show this at the ferry terminal as you buy your tickets and prepare to cross into the rest of Mexico.
Cost of entry
- $27.00 USD per person for the tourist card. Maximum duration 180 Days or
- $533.00 MXN per person for the tourist card. Maximum duration 180 Days
- $59.16 USD for the vehicle permit, maximum duration 180 days (often matched with tourist card). PLUS you must leave a deposit between $200.00 USD - $400.00 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. Vehicles registered as an RV receive a 10 year TIP with no deposit required, whereas your visa is the only limitation on your stay.
Re-Issuing a New Temporary Import Permit
(Updated April 2023)
The Temporary Import Permit cannot be extended, but can be cancelled at the border and then immediately re-instated for another 180 days. This must be done at the border Banjercito offices (or Pichilinque Ferry office) and cannot be done at Banjercito offices located within the interior of Mexico. You do not need to drive your vehicle out of the country. You show up to the borders, you cancel the previous TIP and receive your refund. Then go get a new 180 day migratory documents, which may require you to exit the country (not in all cases). The officials will then re-issue the new TIP (you pay again the TIP fee of approximately 60 USD and a new deposit).
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.
NOTE: While the above advice is frequently repeated in online forums, my experience is that there is no problem storing a motorcycle in a Mexican storage unit and flying in and out of the country as long as the TIP is valid. I do not know if this is officially allowed or it's just a rule that is not enforced. Throughout 2022-2023 I stored my motorcycle in La Paz, Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, San Luis Potosi, and Cancun. During this period I flew in and out of the Mexico thirteen times. I also flew back into Mexico importing new motorcycle tires, motorcycle parts, etc and I frequently told the border officials that I was storing a motorcycle in Mexico. One time they even wanted to see my TIP paperwork and never once did the border official say this was a problem. During this time period I had three different TIPs and performed two border runs in order to re-instate another 180 day TIP. The TIP is a separate piece of paper and there is no indication in your passport stamp that you have a TIP.
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:
- Personal storage units, called "Mini Bodegas" in Mexico are common in major cities and can be readily rented by foreigners for storage of a motorcycle. Typically the managers will ask for copies of your passport, entry documents, vehicle import permit, title, registration, etc.
- 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 will 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 (not all airlines cover this fee though). Usually, the officer at the border of entry will staple the receipt/proof of payment to the FMM card (tourist visa). Have it always handy. If arriving by air an itemised receipt of ticket purchase should be sufficient to convince the official the fee has been indeed paid.
- 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.
- I had printed out a plane ticket receipt stating that I had paid the fees and taxes and the border official did not require me to pay any additional fees.
Driving in Mexico
Recommended books for Overlanding in Mexico
Travel Medical Insurance for Mexico
IMG Patriot Health Insuraunce is another good option
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. Tourist Roadside Assistance included with all policies.
€95.28 EUR for six months for a TOYOTA HIACE Campervan 2500cc 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.
$334.00 USD for a one-year comprehensive policy with Lewis & Lewis for a 2000 Toyota Land Cruiser (6 month is about $50 cheaper, liability only is about 60% of the comprehensive cost), for $500k liability coverage. October 2018.
- 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
- Mex-Insurance.com Cheaper than most but online and over phone only.
- 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.
- Topes (speed bumps) require constant vigilance country-wide. Expect them in towns, elsewhere not always logical, even on divided highway. Often have warning signs. Sometimes painted for visibility. Sometimes almost invisible, such as in deep shade alternating with bright sunlight. On a scale of Cat 1-5, Cat3 (common) will cause injury or car damage at highway speed; Cat5 you must come to a dead stop then inch over.
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. However, you always have the option to avoid them. In every entry/ exit you will come across the sign GUADALAJARA CUOTA/ GUADALAJARA LIBRE (Cuota for the toll road and Libre for the free secondary network which most mostly goes through smaller towns & villages but sometimes is the same with the Cuotas).
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 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.
You will encounter lots of jurisdictions. Federal police is the less corrupted, professional & straightforward. On the contrary, Municipal Police appears to be more greedy and has an inclination to bribery. In any case, NEVER bribe!
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.
2017 -- Traveling from USA to Mexico with three dogs. We were asked only for a proof of rabies certificate. A health certificate from a veterinarian, issued within the last 10 days, may be requested but never is. While on the road in Mexico for 6 months we were never asked for further proof of our dogs health. NOTE: Mexico acknowledges a rabies vaccination for only one year. AND in order for it to be considered effective it must be administered more than 30 days and less than 1 year from the time of border crossing. An excellent and current resource for pet information is Facebook page- Animal Travelers.
Gas and Diesel price in Mexico
Last updated: Jan 2019
Currency and unit to display:
|Regular||$24.00 MXN per Liter|
|Super (90)||$25.00 MXN per Liter|
|Premium (95)||$26.00 MXN per Liter|
|Normal Diesel||$25.00 MXN per Liter|
|Diesel (low sulfur)||??|
Gas prices used to be the same in a whole Mexicos.Now there are bunch of gas stations with different prices even on 2 same brand stations next to each other. Prices mentioned above are from Quintana Roo, I've see more expensive and cheaper prices around Mexico, but this should give you an idea.
- Official Mexican Authority that announces price changes every month
- 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. However, this resource is rather outdated. For most current reports on camping locations use the iOverlander app.
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.
Campgrounds near Oaxaca City
The old campground on Violettas in the city is now permanently closed. The new Oaxaca Campground at km 18 on the Pan American Highway is now open and can handle any size rig, had full hookups, new washrooms with hot showers and free wifi through the park. Pet friendly. http://www.oaxacacampground.com/ Consider also: http://www.overlanderoasis.com/. Calvin & Leanne from Canada take care of travellers the last few years in a very small but very convenient location 5 min from Oaxaca.
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
List any special items / places that are popular with Overlanders
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.
MORGA near Oaxaca- see listing in iOverlander for details
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