This Mexican Border Crossing guide explains everything you need to know to cross the border into Mexico safely and quickly.
Common Border Crossing Points
There are over 50 border crossings between the US and Mexico. Some borders are tiny, receiving little to no traffic. Other entry points are massive through ways that deal with thousands of people every day.
We prefer large border crossings into Mexico as the process is more modern and efficient and has less potential to encounter corrupt border agents.
Top 5 Mexico Border Crossing Points of Entry
- San Ysidro, CA – Best for people wanting to drive down the main highway through the Baja California Peninsula
- Calexico, CA – A good option if you drive down the eastern side of Baja California. Less touristy and fantastic “off-the-grid” beaches.
- Nogales, AZ – Ideal for people wanting to drive down the western side of mainland Mexico. Good for Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan.
- El Paso, TX – Want to visit Copper Canyon and the Mexican heartland? This border crossing is for you!
- Laredo, TX – Good for those visiting the east side of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula.
Required Documentation for Mexico Border Crossing
Crossing the border into Mexico from the US can be hectic. Many things are going on and different documents are needed to get through. We boiled down all the paperwork you need the day you cross the border.
1. Immigration Entry Form (FMM)
FMM = Forma Migratoria Múltiple
“Wait, I need a visa to enter Mexico!?”
Sort of. It’s not officially a visa, but you must still acquire this immigration form upon entry into Mexico.
Mexico FMM Frequently Asked Questions
- What Documents Are Needed? – You will need a valid passport. If you are a US or Canadian citizen, you may also present a valid passport card.
- How Much Does It Cost? – As of January 2020, an FMM costs 575 pesos (~$30) and is valid for 180 days. If you plan to stay in Mexico for less than seven days, the FMM is free.
- Where Do I Get It? – If crossing the land border, you must stop at the INM office at the border to obtain your FMM. This is tricky because the INM office is often not evident from the roadside, and it is VERY easy to drive right through the border and end up in a large Mexican city with an FMM.
- Can I Apply For The FMM Online? – Yes, you can apply for the FMM online. We highly recommend applying online as this saves valuable time. However, it would help if you STILL stopped at the INM office at the border to stamp & validate your FMM.
- How Long Is It Valid? – A regular FMM is usually valid for 180 days. The free FMM is only valid for seven days.
- Any Other Information I Need? – Bring at least three black & white copies of your passport/passport card.
Save the Hassle: Complete Your Mexico FMM Online
Filling out and paying for your FMM online saves valuable time. But it would help if you still had your FMM form validated at the border. The FMM website can be viewed in Spanish, English, Japanese, Chinese, & Korean.
2. Vehicle Temporary Import Permit (TIP)
“My vehicle needs a visa too?”
Yes! Sort of…
This is essential to your border crossing journey, ensuring you drive your vehicle LEGALLY in Mexico.
Important Note: You DO NOT need a TIP if you are only planning to drive:
- Within the Baja Peninsula
- Within northwest Sonora state
- Inside Quintana Roo State
- Fewer than 20 miles away from the Mexico border
TIP Frequently Asked Questions
What Documents Are Needed?
- Valid Passport
- Valid FMM
- Original & valid Vehicle Registration
- Proof of Mexican Auto Insurance
- Vehicle title (but it’s iffy): Legally, you do not need to present your vehicle’s title to obtain a TIP. But we’ve been asked for it before and carry it with us, just in case.
What About Leased or Financed Cars?
- Leased Vehicle: Must provide lease contract AND notarized permission letter from the leasing company.
- Financed Vehicle: Must provide credit contract AND notarized permission letter from the leasing company.
How Much Does It Cost?
- If you drive a registered RV: ~$60
- If you drive a regular vehicle: ~$60 + refundable deposit
Refundable Deposit Info:
- $400: Year 2007 models or newer
- $300: Year 2001 to 2006 models
- $200: Year 2000 or older models
Payment is completed with US dollars or a non-Mexican credit card only. Mexican pesos are not accepted.
How Long Is the TIP Good For
- The TIP is good for ten years if you are driving a registered RV.
- If you are driving a regular vehicle, the TIP expires when your FMM expires (~6 months).
Where Do I Get My TIP?
This is tricky.
If crossing from the USA, you do NOT get your TIP at the border. There will be a Banjercito office roughly 20 miles south, out of town, where you can apply for your TIP.
The office building that issues these vehicle permits is not generally well-signed and can be easy to miss. We advise you to refer to the iOverlander App to determine these offices’ locations.
If you are crossing from Guatemala or Belize, you get your TIP at the border. Much easier.
Is There a Vehicle Weight Limit?
If you are driving a regular vehicle, the official weight limit is 3.5 tons (7,716lbs). (We’ve gotten our TIP with a heavier vehicle, but we did have to pay a bribe.)
If you are driving a registered RV, there is no weight limit.
Can I Get My TIP Online?
Yes. You can apply for the TIP application online. This saves you valuable time. But you must still pick up the official permit at a Banjercito office once you’re in Mexico.
Additional TIP Advice
- You Must Return Your TIP – Before you leave Mexico, you must return your TIP to a Banjercito Office. So make sure you save all your TIP paperwork and receipts. Failure to return your TIP will result in you forfeiting your deposit.
- Getting Your Deposit Back – If you paid for your TIP in US Dollars, you will be refunded in US Dollars. If you paid for your TIP with a credit card, you will be credited the amount you paid back to your account.
Important Note: If you paid your TIP deposit with your credit card, the amount you receive back will not be 100% the same. This is because while the Bajercito Office will deduct $60 from your account, they will only reimburse you the equal amount of Pesos back into your account. Depending on how the Dollar to Peso exchange rate moved during your stay in Mexico, your returned deposit may be slightly more OR less than your original $60.
Mexico Vehicle Insurance
“Is My US/Canadian Vehicle Insurance Enough In Mexico?”
No, under most circumstances, vehicle insurance from your home country will not accepted in Mexico. You MUST purchase Mexico-specific vehicle insurance.
Legally, you only need 3rd party liability insurance. But we recommend getting full insurance. It’s the smart choice.
We use Baja Bound to get our vehicle insurance.
- English-speaking representatives
- Professional service
- Fair rates
Additional Mexico Border Crossing Advice & Tips
FMM & TIP Additional Advice
FMM First, Then TIP
It would help if you got your FMM before you can get your TIP. A validated FMM will need to be presented to the TIP office.
Driving Baja First, Then Ferry Over to the Mainland?
- You still need to get your FMM at the border with the USA
- You must get your TIP in La Paz, where the ferry leaves for the Mexican Mainland.
- NONE of the immigration offices in La Paz issue FMMs. If you forgot to get your FMM at the USA/Mexican border, you must drive back to the border to get your FMM.
Don’t Cross the Mexican Border at Night
Mexico is a relatively safe country for tourists. However, the border areas in Mexico are notorious for targeting tourists on the road at night.
Keep your driving to daylight hours only, and you will be fine.
It’s Easy To Miss the INM Office for Your FMM
It is too easy to miss the INM office for your FMM and end up in a Mexican city without the proper immigration form. After checking out of the US and before entering Mexico, you need to keep your eyes open for the INM office.
If you don’t see it, park your vehicle and ask.
Border Area Corruption & Annoyances
- Bribes To Receive FMM – Though not the US/Mexican border, we have heard of Mexican officials refusing to issue FMMs along the Mexican/Guatemalan border unless they pay an additional amount on top of the 535 pesos FMM cost.
- Bribes To Receive TIP – Bribes to receive TIPs are more common than FMMs. Officials in the Bajercito Office may come up with any reason to deny your TIP request (which can, unsurprisingly, be solved with side money). This happened to us, but we could negotiate ours from $90 to $36. Applying for your TIP online can help reduce the chance of situations like this.
- Don’t Speed In Mexico – Be wary of your speed in the border areas in Mexico. Police sometimes pull over tourists for “speeding” in hopes of getting a bribe.
- Can I Bring My Pets Into Mexico? – Yes! The process is easy; no health documents are required to bring your pet into Mexico. But we suggest getting all health-related documents anyway since you will need them when returning to the USA.
- Is Mexico Safe To Drive? – Yes, we think it’s pretty safe! We’ve driven all over Mexico in our camper van and never experienced any issues. Check out our article Is Mexico Dangerous For Travel to learn more.
- Is Mexico Really That Corrupt? – We’d be lying to you if we said corruption is non-existent in Mexico. But it does happen.
- What Is There To See In Mexico? – Glad you asked! There is so much to see, do, and eat in Mexico. Check out our Mexico Travel Guide to learn more about this beautiful country.
Have a Smooth Mexico Border Crossing Experience!
We’re convinced that with the proper preparation and documentation, you will have a smooth and friendly border crossing experience in Mexico.
It’s important to understand that life, work style, and attitudes in Mexico may drastically differ from those in your home country. So, if a procedure is going slow or is confusing, don’t stress. Stress and anxiety make this process more arduous than it needs to be.
Take your time, and be methodical and patient. You’ll get through to the other side.
Enjoy your Mexico road trip!
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