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US Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Publication 10571
August 1998

Travel to the border areas in northern Mexico in and around Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros is very dangerous at this time.  We suggest extreme caution before venturing south and to visit this website, https://mx.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/security-and-travel-information/ For the latest travel advisories and security warnings before making your decision.

Travel by Car

People are often surprised when inconveniences occur because they were unaware of the laws regarding crossing the border. The government of Mexico strictly regulates the entry of vehicles into Mexico.

It is important for visitors to remember the following steps when crossing the border between the United States and Mexico by automobile. There are no procedures to comply with if you are traveling within the Border Zone or Free Trade Zone (including the Baja California Peninsula and the Sonora Free Trade Zone). If you wish to travel past these zones, you will need to adhere to certain procedures.

The first step to take is to obtain the original and photocopies of the appropriate immigration form, the vehicle state registration certificate or document certifying legal ownership, and leasing contract. If the vehicle is leased or rented then it must be in the name of the person who is driving the car. If the vehicle belongs to a company, proper documentation is necessary to show you work for the company. A valid drivers license and an international credit card (American Express, Diner s Club, Mastercard or Visa) are needed in the name of the owner of the vehicle. If you do not possess an international credit card, you will be asked to post a bond, payable to the Federal Treasury, issued by an authorized bonding company in Mexico. An alternative is to make a cash deposit at Banco del Ejercito in an amount equal to the value of the vehicle according to the tables of vehicle values for bonding companies. This is often a substantial percentage of the vehicle s value.

The second step is to present the documents you have received to the Vehicular Control Module located in Mexican Customs to process the importation permit. Carry this document with you at all times! The permit is valid for periods up to six months. The vehicle may be driven across the border multiple times during the authorized period of the permit. Other persons may drive the car as long as the owner is in the vehicle. Other foreigners with the same "tourist" status as the vehicle owner may drive the vehicle without the owner present in the car. If you wish to authorize another person to drive your car, record the authorization with Mexican officials when you enter Mexico - even if you expect to be a passenger when the other person drives.

Do not, under any circumstances, allow an unauthorized person to drive the vehicle when the owner is not in it. Such a person would have to pay a fine amounting to a substantial percentage of the vehicle s value, and your vehicle would be confiscated. All documents and the credit card must be in the name of the owner, who must be present upon crossing the border. We caution American citizens not to loan their vehicles to Mexican citizens resident in Mexico as those vehicles are subject to seizure by Mexican authorities. If confiscated, they are not returned.

In the third step, your credit card will be charged an amount in national currency equivalent to U.S. $10 at the Banco del Ejercito. If you do not have a credit card, the bank will accept cash in an amount equal to the value of your vehicle shown in the table of vehicle values for bonding companies. Your deposit plus any interest it may earn will be returned upon departure from Mexico. You may also, instead, obtain a bond through an authorized Mexican bonding company located at all border crossings. The bonding companies require a refundable deposit equal to a substantial percentage of the vehicle s value. The bonding company will also assess taxes and processing costs for this service.

Finally, upon your departure from Mexico, and if the vehicle will not be driven back into Mexico, the permit for temporary importation must be canceled at Customs. If these steps are carefully followed, there should be no problem taking your car to Mexico. Remember, if your car is found in Mexico beyond the authorized time or without the proper documents, it will be immediately confiscated. Also, the sale, abandonment, or use of the vehicle for financial gain will result in its confiscation. Travelers are advised to consult with the nearest Mexican Consulate in the U.S. for additional detailed information prior to departing the US.

If you bring spare auto parts to Mexico, declare them when you enter the country. When you leave, be prepared to show that you are taking the unused parts with you or that you have had them installed in Mexico. Save your repair receipts for this purpose.

All vehicular traffic is restricted in the capital city of Mexico City in order to reduce air pollution. The restriction is based on the last digit of the vehicle license plate. (This applies equally to permanent and temporary plates. There is no specific provision regarding plates with letters only.)

Monday: no driving if license plate ends with 5 or 6.

Tuesday: no driving if license plate ends with 7 or 8.

Wednesday: no driving if license plate ends with 3 or 4.

Thursday: no driving if license plate ends with 1 or 2.

Friday: no driving if license plate ends with 9 or 0.

Saturday and Sunday: all vehicles may be driven.

Avoid excessive speed and, if at all possible, do not drive at night. Loose livestock can appear at any time. Construction sites or stranded vehicles are often unmarked by flares or other warning signals. Sometimes cars have only one headlight. Many cars lack brake lights. Bicycles seldom have lights or reflectors. This makes for very dangerous driving conditions at night. Be prepared for a sudden stop at any time. Mexican driving conditions are such that, for your safety, you must drive more slowly than you do at home.

Learn local driving signals. In Mexico, a blinking left turn signal on the vehicle in front of you could mean that it is clear ahead and you may pass, or it could mean the driver is making a left turn. An outstretched left arm may mean an invitation for you to pass. When in doubt, do not pass.

An oncoming vehicle flashing its headlights is a warning for you to slow down or pull over because you are both approaching a narrow bridge or place in the road. The custom is that the first vehicle to flash has the right of way and the other must yield.

When it begins to rain, immediately slow to a crawl. Freshly wet roads are dangerous because oil and road dust mix with water and form a lubricant. Until this mixture washes away, driving is extremely hazardous. Beware of sudden rains. Stop, or go extremely slowly, until conditions improve.

To avoid highway crime, try not to drive at night and never drive alone during this time. Never sleep in vehicles along the road. Do not, under any circumstances, pick up hitchhikers who not only pose a threat to your physical safety, but also put you in danger of being arrested for unwittingly transporting narcotics or narcotics traffickers in your vehicle. Your vehicle can be confiscated if you are transporting marijuana or other narcotics. There are checkpoints and temporary roadblocks where vehicles are checked.

If you plan to drive, learn about your route from an auto club, guide book or a Mexican government tourist office. Some routes have heavy truck and bus traffic, others have poor or nonexistent shoulders and many have animals on the loose. Also, some of the newer roads have very few restaurants, motels, gas stations or auto repair shops. You may not be able to avoid all problems, but at least you will know what to expect if you have done some research. For your safety, have your vehicle serviced and in optimum condition before you leave for Mexico. It is wise to bring an extra fan belt, fuses and other spare parts. Pack a basic first-aid kit and carry an emergency water supply in your vehicle. Unleaded gasoline (magna sin) is generally available throughout Mexico. Bring a flexible funnel to fill your gas tank because some gas stations have nozzles too large to fit unleaded tanks.

If you have an emergency while driving, call the Ministry of Tourism s hotline or (91)(5) 250-8221/8555 ext. 130/297 to obtain help from the "Green Angels," a fleet of radio dispatched trucks with bilingual crews that operate daily. Services include protection, medical first aid, mechanical aid for your car, and basic supplies. You will not be charged for services, only for parts, gas, and oil. The Green Angels patrol daily, from dawn until sunset. If you are unable to call them, pull off the road and lift the hood of your car; chances are good they will find you.


Mexican auto insurance is sold in most cities and towns on both sides of the border. US automobile liability insurance is not valid in Mexico nor is most collision and comprehensive coverage issued by US companies. Therefore, when you cross the border, purchase auto insurance adequate for your needs in Mexico. A good rule of thumb is to buy coverage equivalent to that which you carry in the United States.

Motor vehicle insurance is invalid in Mexico if the driver is found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Regardless of whether you have insurance, if you are involved in an accident, you will be taken into police custody until it can be determined who is liable and whether you have the ability to pay any judgment. If you do not have Mexican liability insurance, you are almost certain to spend some time in jail until all parties are satisfied that responsibility has been assigned and adequate financial satisfaction received. There may also be criminal liability assigned if the injuries or damages are serious.