Overland Mexico Travel

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Pan American Highway > Mexico Currency to display:

Visiting Mexico[edit]

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[edit]

Correct as of: July 2017

Required Paperwork[edit]

(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[edit]

  • 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[edit]

Permits can be purchased at Banjercito offices or online. You will need the following:

  • Passport
  • 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).

Banjercito Online Temporary import permit

  • 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 itvnet@banjercito.com.mx.
  • 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.

Border Zones[edit]

  • 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[edit]

  • $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[edit]

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[edit]

The Temp import permit can be extended but only at the borders of Tapachula (MEX/GUAT borders) or Chetumal (MEXC/BLZ). You do not need to drive your vehicle out of the country. You show up to the borders of MEX, you cancel the previous TIP and you issue the new TIP (you pay again the TIP fee of 60 USD but not the deposit). Before extending your TIP though, you have to prolong your visa which requires exit from the country (but not your vehicle). Remember that the first TIP MUST be valid. You get 180 days more.

Storing a vehicle and temporarily leaving the country[edit]

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: pepesrv@prodigy.net.mx
  • Cancun Storage - Specifically for travelers.

Exiting with a vehicle[edit]

  • 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.

Driving in Mexico[edit]

Recommended books for Overlanding in Mexico[edit]

Lonely Planet Mexico (travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Mexico (travel Guide)
by Lonely Planet, John Noble, Kate Armstrong, Stuart ...
From $16.07 on Amazon
Work Less To Live Your Dreams: A Practical Guide To Sa...
Work Less To Live Your Dreams: A Practical Guide To Sa...
by Dan Grec
From $click on Amazon
Don't Go There. It's Not Safe. You'll Die. And Other M...
Don't Go There. It's Not Safe. You'll Die. And Other M...
by LifeRemotely.com
From $click on Amazon
Americas Overland - The Driving Handbook
Americas Overland - The Driving Handbook
by Donald Greene
From $29.95 on Amazon
99 Days To Panama: An Exploration Of Central America B...
99 Days To Panama: An Exploration Of Central America B...
by John Halkyard, Harriet Halkyard
From $20.96 on Amazon
Overlanders' Handbook: Worldwide Route And Planning Gu...
Overlanders' Handbook: Worldwide Route And Planning Gu...
by Chris Scott
From $22.49 on Amazon
Adventure Motorcycling Handbook: A Route & Planning Gu...
Adventure Motorcycling Handbook: A Route & Planning Gu...
by Chris Scott
From $click on Amazon
Footprint Mexico Handbook, 2nd Edition
Footprint Mexico Handbook, 2nd Edition
by Richard Argihiris, Geoffrey Groesbeck, Anna Marie ...
From $22.36 on Amazon
TRAVELIVING - a romantic & practical guide

TRAVELIVING - a romantic & practical guide
by The Pin Project

at 10$ on thepinproject.eu

Travel insurance for Mexico[edit]

World Nomads offer the most flexible Travel Insurance at the best prices for multi-country / multi-year trips. You can buy, extend and claim online, even after you've left home.

Vehicle insurance requirements[edit]

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[edit]

$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[edit]

At the border or online

Driving license[edit]

A license from anywhere in the world appears to be enough.

Driving side of road[edit]

Right hand drive vehicles are permitted without problem.

Mandatory items in vehicle[edit]



General Road quality[edit]

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[edit]

Road signs are common enough, and are generally good enough to rely on.

Toll roads[edit]

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[edit]

There are five ferry services that go from Baja to the Mexican mainland, two of which are operated by Baja Ferries[1], 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.[2]

Bribery in Mexico[edit]

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[edit]

According to travelers in 2012, you need: [3]
Travelers in 2013 wrote this when traveling from USA to Mexico: [4]

  • 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[edit]

Last updated: Jan 2019

Currency and unit to display:

Gasoline Grade Price
Regular $19.00 MXN per Liter
Super (90) $20.20 MXN per Liter
Premium (95)  ??
Ultra (97)  ??
Normal Diesel $20.20 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.

Price Information:

Gas and Diesel Availability / Frequency[edit]

Gasoline is common, typically not more than around 200km from station to station.

Gas and Diesel Quality[edit]

Accepted to be generally good quality. Sulfur content of diesel is low.

Safety and Security Considerations[edit]

Driving at night[edit]

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.

Vehicle parking[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Camping in Mexico[edit]

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[edit]

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.

Drinking water[edit]

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[edit]

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.


Paper maps[edit]

Reise Know-How are amoung the best paper maps. Purchase paper maps before arriving in Mexico

by Reise Know-How Verlag
From $14.95 on Amazon
National Geographic Road Atlas - Adventure Edition
National Geographic Road Atlas - Adventure Edition
by National Geographic Maps
From $12.85 on Amazon
Fodor's Los Cabos: With Todos Santos, La Paz & Valle D...
Fodor's Los Cabos: With Todos Santos, La Paz & Valle D...
by Fodor's Travel Guides
From $5.10 on Amazon
Central & South America (lonely Planet Read This First)
Central & South America (lonely Planet Read This First)
by Conner Gorry
From $39.99 on Amazon
  • 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[edit]

  • Open Street Map: Appears to have good coverage.[5]
  • 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". [6]
  • 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[edit]

Special Overland Travel interests[edit]

List any special items / places that are popular with Overlanders

Vehicle Maintenance[edit]


4x4s / Trucks


Local Garages[edit]

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[edit]

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.


  1. Baja Ferries
  2. Baja Ferries between La Paz Mazatlan & Topolobampo | My Overland Adventure
  3. Central American Borders and dogs
  4. Traveling with dogs from Canada to Argentina. Experiences and Infos.
  5. OpenStreetMap Mexico
  6. TomTom Map availability

Helpful External links[edit]