Mexico, Travellers information - Entry details

Mexico Vehicle Permit (Temporary Import Permit)

Vehicle Permit Requirements for Different Parts of Mexico

Baja Border Zone:

(within 25 kilometers across the border): No Vehicle Permit required.

Baja Peninsula:

No Vehicle Permit required (must obtain a Tourist Card for yourself if you travel south of the Border Zone or stay longer than 72 hours).

Sonora Only:

The state of Sonora operates a program known as "Sonora Only" for visitors who stay only in the state of Sonora. The "Sonora Only" permit requires less documentation than the standard 'Mainland Mexico Vehicle Permit', and the 'Sonora Only' permit is free. (The need for a credit card is also waived).

In addition to normal proof of citizenship documents (needed by all visitors to Mexico's interior) "Sonora Only" visitors need only present a valid drivers license and proof of vehicle ownership or legal possession by the driver. Legal possession can be proven with one or more of the following documents:

  • Vehicle registration ( in the name of the driver ) or original title Lease contract (for leased vehicles)

  • Company owned Vehicles must provide some proof of the labor relationship between the Driver and the Company who owns the vehicle.

  • Leased or Financed Vehicles must provide a 'Letter of Authorization' from the bank or leasing company (if the vehicle is leased or financed). Make sure to contact your bank or leasing company to get your 'Letter of Authorization' a few days before your trip. They will require a copy of your 'Full Coverage' Mexican auto insurance policy before issuing the 'Letter of Authorization'. Companies that handle Mexican Insurance make it easy to send your proof of Mexican auto insurance because your policy is created as a PDF file which can be e-mailed directly to your bank/lease company as an e-mail attachment.

Sonora Only Permits are valid for 180 days and may be obtained at the check point at Kilometer 21, south of Nogales on Highway 15. If you are entering from another border crossing, please call 1-800-4-SONORA. Permits must be returned to this check point within the allotted six-month period.

Mainland Mexico:

If you plan to drive your vehicle south of the 'Border Zone' in mainland Mexico (or outside of Sonora), you are required to obtain a temporary vehicle importation permit. You can obtain this permit at the border. Vehicle Permits can be valid for a maximum of six months, and the vehicle must be 'checked out' (by Mexican authorities) of the country prior to the permit expiration date. Failure to so could result in having the vehicle confiscated. (Even if you never plan to bring the vehicle back into Mexico, you must always 'check out' your vehicle at the Customs Office at the border immediately before exiting the country).

Make sure to have the following ORIGINAL (or notarized copy) documents with you: (You will save yourself some time if you also make 2 photo copies of each document prior to crossing the border!)

1: Valid proof of citizenship (passport or birth certificate).
2: Your Tourist Card or Tourist Visa.
3: The valid vehicle registration certificate, or original title that certifies the legal ownership of the vehicle. The person whose name is listed on the registration must be present. (If the registered owner is not going to be present, you must contact the Mexican Consulate in advance for details on how to obtain the permit).
4: If the vehicle is financed, you should contact your finance company to receive a 'Letter of Authorization' allowing you to drive your vehicle into Mexico.
5: If the vehicle is leased or rented, you must provide the lease or rental contract with the driver's name on the contract.
6: A valid Driver's License (a Non-Mexican driver's license).
7: An international credit card, (American Express, Diner's Club, Mastercard or Visa), in the name of the driver of the vehicle . (If you do not have a credit card, you can also make a cash deposit).

Jump to top

Some tips from Gerardo Ibarra:

We suggest crossing the border through toll bridges whenever possible, toll free crossings are usually extremely busy and it may take you a while to get through. Also suggest you go across very early in the morning and try to avoid peak traffic hours. No matter where you cross into Mexico, you will be required to stop at the Customs Office and obtain a temporary import permit for your bike. Customs offices are either located right after the point of entree, or a few Km. down the road.

To Obtain a Car / Motorcycle Permit :

STEP 1. Make sure your DNI Tourist Entry card has been stamped by Mexican immigration officials.

STEP 2. Present a valid proof of citizenship.

STEP 3. Present ownership documentation of the vehicle, such as a valid vehicle registration certificate or the original vehicle title.

STEP 4. Fill out the car permit form as instructed. The form essentially says you promise to cross back into the U.S. with the vehicle, as well as other legalities.

STEP 5. Pay for the car permit at the Banjercito. (This bank is usually located in the same building where you fill out the paperwork.) You must provide the car permit paperwork as well as copies of your documentation. The payment must be made with a U.S. credit card to avoid leaving a deposit, which can range from $50 to $600 depending on the year and make of the vehicle. All documentation and the credit card must be in the name of the vehicle owner, and the owner must be either a driver or passenger during the trip.

Important Things to Know

1. The temporary vehicle permit is valid for any type of vehicle weighing under three tons for periods up to six months (180 days).

2. The temporarily imported vehicle may be driven across the border multiple times during the authorized period.

3. Always carry the car permit when driving your car in Mexico. Do not leave this document in the vehicle; it is indispensable in the case of damage, theft, or accident.

4. The vehicle temporarily imported by the owner may be driven in Mexico by the spouse or adult children, as long as they have the same immigration status. Other persons may drive the vehicle as long as the owner is in the vehicle.

5. No Mexican driver's licence is needed to drive in Mexico, American driver's licence work just as well.

Vehicle and Travel insurance

Mexican vehicle insurance coverage is highly recommended for interior travel, since your US or Canada policy will not cover south of the US border incidents. It is available HERE. When arranging this insurance make sure about its provisions for roadside assistance and help phone numbers. Auto accidents are considered criminal by Mexican statute and may result with an impounded vehicle.
Additional travel, health and medical insurance is also recomended, the following is a good provider for this services: CLICK HERE.


1.- Obey the law. Don't carry any illegal drugs, weapons, or even undocumented prescription drugs.

2.- Be careful when looking at the police on the border (both American and Mexican). If you stare at them too long or try to avoid them, it will almost always make you a suspect. Believe it or not, the best strategy is just to walk around like you don't give a damn.

3.- Act like a stupid American tourist. This is one of the best times to act like a complete fool. Wear a big sombrero and a "USA" shirt. Act dumb and ask "Which way to America?" The Customs authorities will usually laugh at you and let you slide right on through.

4.- Dress nice, but not too nice. Having a reasonably clean-cut appearance will help. Wear a fresh shirt, shave and clean your helmet as well as you bike.

5.- When possible, travel in a group. Lone males are always singled out by American authorities as opposed to those traveling in a group. Sometimes there is nothing you can do. Just go with the flow and everything will be all right.

6.- Don't make any sudden moves. US Customs once went haywire when I reached into my ankle pouch to grab my passport. It is not exactly a tense environment, but let them know what you are doing if it is something that is going to grab their attention.

7.- Don't think that "they only ask Hispanics for identification". First of all, there are thousands more Hispanics crossing the border than Caucasians. Hispanics are the fastest-growing minority in the US, and just because they might not speak English does not mean they are not American citizens. Just because you have blond hair, blue eyes, and a New York accent doesn't mean that they won't check you also.

8.- If you are driving, thoroughly clean your car before you go. Mexican police can arrest you even for just having a bullet in your car. More than 130 American citizens were arrested last year for bringing weapons and ammo into Mexico. Strangely enough, Mexicans are allowed to bring up to 3 weapons and a thousand rounds of ammo into the US. And when coming back, American police may very well find a scrap of marijuana from that joint you tried 8 years ago.

9.- Don't lie when asked the questions "Where have you been in Mexico?" and "How long were you in Mexico?" There is no reason to lie, but if you stumble your words or contradict yourself, it will usually constitute cause for a search.

When crossing into Mexico, make sure to get the proper documentation from the police. If you are remaining in Mexico for less than 72 hours and stay within 20 kilometers of the border, you don't need a tourist card. Just walk in.

Thousands of Americans cross into Mexico each day, it's not a big deal. Simply follow this advice and use common sense.

Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Services and get your HU $15 discount!


Member login

Are you an Overland Adventure Traveller?

Does the smell of spices wafting through the air make you think of Zanzibar, a cacophony of honking horns is Cairo, or a swirl of brilliantly patterned clothing Guatemala? Then this is the site for you!
Hosted by Grant and Susan Johnson, RTW 1987-1998

NEW! HU 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar is now available! Get your copy now for some terrific travel inspiration!

HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!

Horizons Unlimited 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar.

"The calendar is magnificent!"

"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"

We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!

Next HU Eventscalendar

See all events

Latvia to Australia, an inspirational 5 month journey full of unexpected adventures!

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

Check out the previous contest winners!



All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.