Home Getting Here How To Drive to Mexico – Departure Checklist

How To Drive to Mexico – Departure Checklist

by Erin May

drive to mexicoBefore you embark on your drive to Mexico, take a look at our checklist and tips for a worry free road trip.

Mexican Vehicle Insurance – it is highly recommended to purchase your Mexican vehicle insurance online before your drive to Mexico as opposed to buying at the border.  This will save you both time and money.                     

Some insurance companies you can check out online include:




Financed Vehicles – Ensure you get written permission from your lien holder to drive to Mexico.

Vehicle Permits – As of 2015, you need a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TVIP) to drive anywhere in Mexico except Baja California, parts of Sonora, and within about 18 miles of the north border. Fees are $40 USD for a motorcycle, $50 for a car, and $60 for a motor home. If your vehicle is 2007 or later, you will also need to leave a $400 deposit, less for older vehicles; if you are even hours late on returning the TVIP, you will lose your deposit.

  • You need to obtain a vehicle import permit.  The Banjercito, the Mexican entity that processes the Mexican vehicle import permits, now allows you to process the vehicle permits online. Visit https://www.banjercito.com.mx/registroVehiculos/ to request your vehicle permit and pay the compulsory deposit. 
  • You may request your permit 7 to 60 days prior to entering Mexico by vehicle.
  • 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).
  • If you are a foreign citizen, before starting the vehicle permit application process, you must apply for an immigration preauthorization for your FMM, AKA tourist card. The cost for the tourist card is about $23USD. The vehicle permit will be issued for the same period as that stated on your immigration pre-authorization. 
    • Once the payment has been accepted, Banjercito will send the permit to your address within 7 business days.
    • After 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.

Once you have entered Mexico, you must go to the Immigration Office and exchange your pre-authorization form for the proper tourist visa. Some people find it easier to just get the TIVP at the Immigration Office, rather than online, since you have to go there for your final visa anyway.

Deposit amounts are as follows:

Vehicle Year Model

Deposit Required (USD)

2007 and newer models

400 USD

2001 to 2006 models

300 USD

2000 and earlier models

200 USD

Tip – please ensure you keep your tourist card in a safe place. Upon leaving the country you must surrender your tourist card to immigration officials. If you do not have your tourist card, or if your tourist card is expired, you may be fined.  If your tourist card is lost or stolen, you will need to pay a fee to get a replacement tourist card at an immigration office, or you may be fined when you’re leaving the country. 

Get a Good Map of Mexico – It is important to purchase a good Mexico roadmap with up to date information on roads and updated infrastructure.  We recommend the Guia Roji Map of Mexico as it is specific and provides details on every road in Mexico.  This map can be found at many stores including Staples, Indigo and Chapters bookstores and also can be purchased on Amazon.com.  Use this map to ensure you arrive to your destination safely and in time.

Passport – it is recommended to make a copy of your passport, leaving one at home in Canada and one with you during your travels.

Phrase book – If you don’t speak Spanish, bring a basic Spanish phrase book before your trip.  It will give you basics in case you run into vehicle trouble so you can tell someone you need a mechanic, help changing a tire or that you are lost.

Lonely Planet Site This website is the largest travel guide book assisting travelers with travel tips, accommodation information and information about countries all over the world.

GPS – this small piece of equipment can save you a lot of hassle and you will be thankful you have this small device. Not only it can show you the route and estimate your arrival time, it also can direct you to the nearest gas station, coffee shop, park or many other points of interest.

Staying Connected – If you plan on using your cell phone in Mexico, ensure you contact your carrier to make sure your cell phone will have service in Mexico.  Many cell phone companies require you to request Mexico service.  Your cell phone carrier can also give you dialing instructions for while you are in Mexico.  Mexico dialing is as follows:

  • Calling Mexico from Canada:  dial 011 + 52 + phone number
  • Calling Canada from Mexico:  dial 00 + 1 + phone number

It may be wise to buy a magic jack for your trip. It is a device you plug into the USB drive of your computer, plug a regular phone into the device and then you can make free calls to USA and Canada.  You can get one at Future Shop for about $30 (one time), $19/year and then $10/year for a Canadian number. Rates to Canada via Telmex are cheap, but this device works out to being paid off if I use it for 150 minutes a year. If someone calls you on the Magic Jack number and you are not home, they can leave a message and it will be sent to your email account in a wave file. Check out our ‘Staying Connected’ article for more information. 

Cash for Tolls – Once you arrive in Mexico it is important to obtain enough cash for the toll roads that you will be driving on.  Tolls that we drove through ranged from $51-$387 pesos and we paid a total amount of $831 pesos on our trip.

The Green Angels trucks can be found all over Mexico.

Green Angels – The Green Angels are government-operated trucks driven by mechanics who patrol the roads and provide service to vehicles. To date, Mexico is the only country with this service. Labour and towing are free, but to replace a part would be at the expense of the car owner. In addition, they are equipped to give tourist information as they are connected to government offices via a network. Although their services are free, tips are appreciated. 

Contact your National Consular Agency & Register your Travel information – this can be done online at http://www.voyage.gc.ca/ 

Vehicle Check Up 

  • Check Your Fluids – Make sure washer fluid is topped up.  Change your oil regularly – about every 4,000 or 5,000 kilometers. Transmission and brake fluids should also be checked but usually don’t need to be changed as often.
  • Inspect Your Brakes – Some people are way harder on brakes than others, but the average lifespan for brakes is about 50,000 km.
  • OK The Tires – Check all the tires and make sure they’re at the right pressure. Also check for wear, if there’s uneven wear or wear on an inside or outside edge.  Also a good idea to change your winter tires to summer tires for better mileage.  Check your spare tire as well, to ensure it has enough air pressure. And make sure you have a lug wrench in your trunk and a jack so you can change the tire yourself if you need to.
  • Don’t Forget the Belts & Hoses – Check if belts are frayed or any hoses look like they’re about to burst. You can do that just by looking under the hood at the fan belt and radiator hoses.
  • Check your Lights – Make sure your brake lights, headlights, high-beams, signal lights and fog lights are all in working order. With any luck you won’t really need fog lights at all.
  • Only Wipe with Soft Blades – Your car’s wiper blades must be “supple,” not dry or cracking, or else they won’t do the job properly.
  • Test the Gauges – Test to make sure the temperature gauge doesn’t go all the way to the red – that is not a good sign.  Also, look for any flashing lights or icons that might indicate a problem. The battery should indicate about 14 or 15 volts. The car horn should be working too.
  • Use the Right Octane – Higher end cars and newer cars might need supreme gas, so be sure to use that. The 91-octane gas is important for newer engines that use more compression. If you use the cheaper [lower octane] gas, it’ll explode too early.  You’ll hear a knocking noise if you’re using the wrong octane, and that will damage the engine and cost you more money in the long run.
  • Get a Safety Kit – It’s a good idea to buy a kit for emergencies that includes a blanket, first aid supplies and a light. Bring an extra litre of oil and some extra gas if you have the proper container.
  • Bug Wash/Water Jug – Mexico does not sell washer fluid, so it may be wise to bring a jug with you.  It is also recommended to bring a jug of water in case your vehicle overheats on the highway.
  • Have your vehicle manual handy – have a look in your vehicle’s owner’s manual and don’t forget to keep it in your glove box on your trip. The owner’s manual contains a lot of useful information from how to tow a trailer to how to change the flat tire and where is the jack located. If you need to top up engine oil or other fluids during a trip, you can find the fluid capacity specifications as well as recommended fluid types in your owner’s manual. It also contains instructions how to jump-start a car if the battery dies, what to do if the engine overheats, how to change a headlight bulb and many others. If you don’t have an owner’s manual, many car manufacturers offer to download an electronic copy of the owner’s manual. You can order the printed version from your local dealer.

Check Up Before you Check Out – there are no required inoculations for travel to Mexico. Resort areas and popular ancient sites in Mexico are pretty low risk areas. It is wise to bring insect repellent (repellent with DEET works best) if you plan on visiting lagoons or swampy areas during your stay. If you are planning to visit the jungle areas in Mexico, consult with your physician about taking malaria tablets.  Preventive medical care in Mexico for senior travelers should include shots against Hepatitis A, which is common in Mexico, and typhoid.  Hepatitis A vaccine should be given within 4 weeks before departure and oral tablets against typhoid taken until completed.

Health Insurance – Check to see if your insurance carrier will pay for medical care in Mexico. Otherwise, you can purchase extended medical coverage. Short-term policies exist for trips between 4-14 days. Frequent travelers or longer-term visitors should consider policies for 1, 3 and 5 years.

Itemize Your Goods – When driving to Mexico it is recommended to have an inventory list of what you have brought into the country.  If asked by the border guards, having an itemized list of items will save you time when crossing the border into Mexico.  

Here’s the complete list of what anyone with either an FMT (tourist card valid up to 180 days) or FM3 (one year visa) is allowed to bring duty free into Mexico: 

  • Articles for your personal use, such as clothing, footwear, grooming and toiletry articles in reasonable amounts.
  • Photographic, movie or video camera including its power source, and 12 rolls of film.
  • Sports equipment for one person, provided it can be carried by one person.
  • Up to 20 books and/or magazines.
  • A laptop computer and accessories (per person)
  • Valises, suitcases etc. to carry the goods.
  • If of legal age, 20 packs of cigarettes, 20 cigars or 200 grams of tobacco, 3 liters of alcoholic beverage.
  • Various objects worth up to $300 USD.
  • One set of binoculars.
  • A T.V., screen size up to 12″
  • One portable radio apparatus for recording or playing, or both.
  • Up to 20 Laser disks, Compact disks or cassette tapes.
  • A typewriter or laptop/portable/notebook computer and power source.
  • A musical instrument that is easily portable.
  • One tent and camping equipment.
  • A maximum of 5 childrens’ toys.
  • One set of fishing tackle, one pair of skis, 2 tennis racquets.
  • A water glider, with or without sail.
  • A video recorder/playback machine.

To learn more about what you can and cannot bring into Mexico, check out this article:  http://www.aduanas.gob.mx/aduana_mexico/2008/pasajeros/139_10179.html

Once you’ve gone through the list then you can drive to Mexico worry free!

Stay tuned for our next article where we will provide you with information on crossing the border into the U.S. and Mexico as well as our travel log from our Canada to Mexico trip.  

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