Vehicle permits are not required for Baja or
northern Sonora State.
to Immigration 2010
The New Immigration Laws - Friday, August 06,
by Lic. Jacques-Edouard Beaulne, LL.B.
Previously, anyone that wanted to enter Mexico,
either as a tourist or for any other reason, had
to fill out an FMT known as a tourist card. The
maximum time one could be legally in Mexico was
180 days, but this maximum period was at the
discretion of the immigration officer at point
of entry. This document is no longer available,
and the discriminatory factor has been removed
by the new law.
The new system provides established time periods
in Mexico of up to 180 days depending on the
activity an individual will be doing while in
Mexico. In the event that a person wishes to be
in Mexico for a period of 180 days or less, he
or she only has to acquire an FMM, fill it out
indicating the reason for entering the country
and present it to the immigration officer at the
point of entry of Mexico. If entering via land,
individuals can acquire this document at any
Mexican Embassy or Consulate. If coming via air
or sea, individuals can acquire the FMM from the
transporter. The cost of the FMM is included in
the ticket, otherwise payment is due at time of
issue at the bank. The new system permits
lucrative and non-lucrative activities anywhere
in Mexico without the need to have an FM-2 or
FM-3. This being said, individuals must still
remember that the law does not permit a
foreigner to displace a national in a working
place. In other words, a person can not come to
Mexico and do work when there is a Mexican who
can do the work. Also, for some permitted
activities under an FMM, the time allowed is
reduced, and at the end of the permitted time,
the person must exit the country. Finally, and
very importantly, the new system does not permit
a child of a person holding an FM-2 or FM-3 to
be able to stay in the country after the time
When an individual wants to enter Mexico to
establish a permanent or temporary residence, he
or she must first request a Visa at any Mexican
Embassy or Consulate; once holding the Visa they
must obtain an FMM from any travel agency, air
or sea transporter or at any point of entry in
Mexico. The FMM will be valid for 30 days in
which time, a request for either an FM-2 or an
FM-3 will need to be made. At the end of the 30
days, if the individual is still in Mexico
without having requested the change, he or she
will be considered illegal in the country and
sanctions will be applied. This being said, the
law also indicates that anyone who is considered
illegal could be legally admitted into Mexico
under certain considerations.
Individuals may apply for Mexican visas
directly, in person, or may hire a
representative to do the paperwork and
administration on their behalf. If coming to
work or run a business, additional files for
that business must be presented. The immigration
documents are good for five years and must be
renewed within 30 days from the expiry date. The
person must be present to sign, present
pictures, and provide fingerprints. In other
words, individuals must be in Mexico when
renewing, since the new form is an ID card.
Contrary to what you may have been told, FM-2s
can be acquired at the time of entering Mexico
for the first time if individuals can prove that
they are immigrating permanently.
With fewer requirements, the new system is more
liberal than the previous one, and it removes
some of the discretionary powers the immigration
officers once had. Hopefully, it will be more
efficient and save everyone time and money.
New rule re Dogs & Cats:
· As of February 11, 2011 you must present an original and a copy
of a Health Certificate issued and signed by a
licensed Veterinarian, from the country of
origin of the pet. Your vet should have a copy
of this form, but you can download it
here (US Citizens), or
here (Canadian). If not, the vet may use a sheet of paper on his letterhead, showing his license number, address and phone. It should state the animal has been examined and found to be in good health and all its shots are up to date
Warning:There have been very rare reports of the occasional customs agent only accepting the original International Health Certificate which includes a folio number.
· In 2011/2012 it stated that certificate must be dated
no more than 10 days prior to entry to
That requirement appears to be dropped in Fall
2012, but I would advise having it as recent as
Here are the rules
Taking your grandkids into Mexico?
New rules effective February 15, 2013 just made
it much more difficult. From the embassy:
IMPORTANT NOTE FOR TRAVEL OF MINORS
Based on the entry
into force of the Regulations of the new
Migration Law on November 9, 2012, Mexican or
foreign minors (under 18 years of age) traveling
alone or accompanied by a third party of legal
age (grandparent, aunt/uncle, other) must
present, in addition to a valid passport, a
document showing the consent of both parents or
those with parental authority or guardianship
over the minor.
If the document is issued in Canada it must be
notarized, legalized by the Mexican Consulate or
Embassy, and translated into Spanish. Here is the link:
Now the US is a signatory to this Hague
Convention mentioned in that link, so I believe
this new rule only applies to Canadians.
The text of this
document must contain the parents’ express
authorization for the minor to travel alone or,
if applicable, information on the adult who is
authorized to be responsible for the minor
during the trip. The document must state the
purpose and length of the trip, and specify the
dates of entry and departure, as this will be a
requirement for allowing the minor to leave
Minors traveling with
at least one of their parents do not require any
Permits can now be obtained on line. See
Before you do this, I suggest reading my page at
canceling a permit first. It can be a hassle
so getting a permit on line is not a good
idea unless you are sure you will not cancel
(My experience with on line permits
OK, I did mine for the 2013 season. I have a
truck camper which is a grey area. Do you
consider it cargo & register the truck, or do
you consider it as a combo RV unit? In previous
years I have treated it as the former. This time
when I did it on line I decided to try &
register the entire unit as a RV. Ok there was a
drop down for Truck camper. I entered the Truck
VIN & Make and received a RV TIP in the mail. I
only received a 180 day one because I have an
ATV added to it, which is a motorized vehicle.
So did I do it the correct way or is my former
method correct? Who knows. I think there may be
an issue if I am stopped with the camper removed
from the truck, but otherwise it will probably
As far as the actual procedure is concerned, it
went smooth. I scanned & emailed my registration
documents to them along with my passport front
page and I received the TIP by courier 2 days
later. After receiving it I had to sign, scan &
send 2 pieces of paper they sent along with it.)
On helping others to do it, I have noticed a few
other quirks. In the car registration procedure,
you are asked for birthplace info. You cannot
fill this in for some reason, nevertheless
ignoring it worked OK. There are also sometime
problems at the end with printing out the
information, so write down the reference numbers
they give you first, or you will be unable to
access them after. They will also try to sell
you vehicle insurance. At first glance it
appears to be compulsory, but it is not.
Click to Download Fuel price Convertor
(MS Excel format)
You require a passport, a credit card,
drivers license & all your vehicle registration.
If the vehicle is leased, you require the lease
agreement plus a legally notarized permission
to take the vehicle into Mexico, even if you own
the company. It is best to have this in Spanish.
Make 2 copies of everything before leaving home,
it will speed things up. There is usually a copy
machine at the border. You will need copies of
your tourist card, but it will speed things up
if that is all you need. At the border you will
have to purchase tourist cards & a vehicle
permit. Allow about $100 for everything, other
than your vehicle deposit which I describe later
on. Try to have $100 US worth of Mexican Peso's,
for incidentals, until you can find an ATM.
Under new rules as of Spring 2011, you will have
to pay a deposit of $200-$400 depending on
vehicle year (<2000 $200, 2001-2006 $300,
2007 & newer $400). This is to
ensure the vehicle is returned to the US. The
money will be returned or credited back to your
credit card when you leave the country.
You have to use either Visa, MC or US Cash. I
have seen reports of problems getting the credit
card credited on exit, I recommend using cash.
You will be refunded cash on the spot upon exit.
The rates & years for vehicles were valid as of
January 2012. I presume the years will advance
by one in each following year, so that a 2007
vehicle who pays $400 this year, will pay $300
take up to 4 hours to clear the border, but an
hour is more usual. Please note that at some
crossings you have to do all this, maybe 20 km
south of the border, rather than at the border
itself. Vehicle permits are not required for
Baja or for the northern part of Sonora State.
You still need a tourist card. Even so, make
sure you have all the legal documents for your
Yet another twist: I observed an incident
in Jan 2012 while crossing at Lukeville. A
couple ahead of me had a truck & Camper towing a
small trailer with an ATV. The ATV was only in
the wife's name while the truck was in both.
They refused to issue a permit unless they
produced their original marriage certificate. So
based on this my advice is, make sure all
vehicles are in both names. However, this could
cause an issue if you cross without your spouse.
That eventuality should be able to be handled
with a notarized letter providing permission for
one party to take the vehicles into Mexico. It
should show the VIN numbers, plus models & years
Vehicle permits are good for 6
months, although you will get a 10 year one for
some RV's (Class A's & C's & some Class B's, plus
5th Wheels & Trailers (but not the tow vehicle).
Unless you plan to leave the vehicle
in Mexico for a few years and not bring it back into
the US, you may want to cancel it on your way out. It can cause you a lot of grief if you write
the vehicle off or sell it sometime during those 10
years. However, it does allow you to leave the RV in
Mexico & fly home. (See section on returning
sticker further down this article) If you do write off a vehicle in Mexico, get
the hunk of windshield with the sticker attached ,
plus ensure the police & insurance reports show the
vehicle VIN number. Unless you turn these in at the
border, you will not be permitted to take another
vehicle into Mexico at a later date. If you do have
an accident, phone your insurance provider
immediately and do not admit blame. They will
provide a lawyer. You may or may not need a
separate permits for motorcycles & ATV's. It depends
on the engine size. If you have a scooter, the word
for that is "motoneta".
Up to 3 items can be added to a
vehicle permit, including trailers, scooters, ATV's
(Maybe a Truck Camper) but see the "Gray Area's"
You can have
only one 6 month permit & one 10 year RV permit in
your own name. Eg. A Motorhome towing a
Example 2: A PU truck with a Slide
in camper, towing a car will likely require 2 six
month permits and require 2 individuals. Like a
husband & wife.
I had a report of someone being
asked for proof of income. Only one. So if you have
a few pay stubs or a bank statement showing pension
income it would not hurt to have them with you.
So, photocopy the following
Note: Not all crossings have
a copy booth so make copies ahead of time.
1) Your passport front page
2) Any vehicle registrations
3) Your birth certificate
4) Photocopies of your drivers
license (or licenses if more than one vehicle) -
front & back
5) Photocopies of your credit card
6) Copies of notarized permission to
take any leased or company vehicle into Mexico. Also
if you are driving into Mexico alone with a vehicle
co-registered in another name, have a notarized
letter, preferably in Spanish, stating that the
other individual has given you permission to take
that vehicle into Mexico. If the vehicle is financed
and that is indicated on the registration, you need
a letter form the bank giving you permission to take
it into Mexico.
Note: If you scan & print,
ensure the printed images are the same size as the
originals. They can be sticky over that.
You may or may not need all of
those. You will have to get photocopies of your
Mexican visa at the border itself at some crossings.
At smaller crossings with no copy booth it won't be
required usually because in those cases the
Banercito booth and the visa booth are often
You will receive a sheet of paper
with your vehicle sticker, which you must affix to
the windshield. It looks like the first picture
below. You will also receive a receipt for your
vehicle deposit. It is important you keep both
these (the form less the sticker plus the receipt).
You will need both when you exit Mexico.
It is very important to get a
receipt for your vehicle permit when you cross back
into the US, (see 3rd picture below) no matter what crossing you use.
Failure to return the sticker will prevent you from
entering Mexico in future and even if you have
returned it, their record keeping system is far from
perfect, so you should retain a receipt. You cannot
return it at all border crossings. You can no longer
return at Tecate, for example.
Crossing back into the USA can be a
2 or 3 hour experience. You may not bring any Pork
or Chicken products across and some vegetables are not allowed,
specifically potatoes & avocado's. If your remove
the pit from the avocado's & cook the potatoes, they
are OK. Most fruits
Please note your vehicle may be
searched by US border control on the US side and
again by Mexican border patrol on the Mexican side.
They are looking for guns going south & drugs going
north. Both governments stepped this up in 2010.
some documentation examples (some areas painted out
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to
return this permit before you cross back. If you do
not, you will not only forfeit the $200-$400 bond
you placed on your credit card, you may also be
unable to ever bring another vehicle into Mexico
again. If you write off your vehicle in Mexico, or
have the windshield replaced, ensure you keep the
glass with the permit on it and have a police report
showing the VIN number of the vehicle. In the case
of a windshield, it is not so important since you
will have the original vehicle &, its VIN number
shows on the sticker. You need all of that sticker,
however, even if it is pieces. As a precaution I
always take a copy of the sticker before applying it
to the windshield on the way down. If the original
is unrecoverable, at least that may suffice. Maybe.
Unfortunately there are some gray
area with regards to vehicle permits. I have been
unable to get a straight answer from Banercito on
any of these issues, and believe me, I have tried.
Motorcycles & ATV's
Can you leave a vehicle in Mexico
while you fly home, for eg over Christmas?
Campers: These seem to fall between the
cracks when it comes to RV rules. You cannot seem to
get a 10 year RV permit for them. In some States &
Provinces they are not even registered, so
presenting paperwork would be a problem. I suspect a
10 year permit may be able to be obtained if the
Camper is registered. In my case I have never had a
permit or had it added to my truck permit. They
appear to consider it part of the truck. What
worries me is if I am in an accident or it is
stolen. I would try to obtain some sort of
documentation with its VIN number to prove
you own it. Insurance certificate and/or Bill of
Update: I managed to register
my camper & truck on line as a single RV unit using
the VIN & make of the truck. Whether this is really
OK or not I am not sure, but I got away with it.
Motorcycles: From what I can determine
you can bring in a motorcycle under 150 cc (it may
actually be 250 cc, another thing I cannot get a
straight answer on) without a separate permit. They
have added my 50 cc scooter to my truck permit each
year. The rule actually states it should be
unlicensed, so my advice is remove the plate when
entering or leaving Mexico & put it back on when in
Mexico. Make sure you do show them the registration
when you enter, however.
They are considered a recreational add-on. It should be added to the main
permit. If unregistered you will need the sales
receipt. Theoretically you can ride them on the
streets in Mexico (if they have a plate). I see
un-plated ones down there all the time on the
street, but its best to get a plate if you can. As
with scooters, you can only get liability insurance
Trailers: These can be added to the
towing vehicle permit. You may have trouble if they
have no VIN number such as in the case of a homemade
trips home: From what I can tell (And I
have had contradictory info on this one as well),
you can definitely leave an RV with a 10 year permit
in Mexico & fly home, you cannot leave a vehicle
with a 180 day permit in Mexico & fly home. Lots of
people have done it, but now they are supposedly
tying Passport numbers to vehicle permits, you could
find yourself in trouble. In my case my wife does
fly home. I make sure the vehicle permit is in my
name, not hers.
In theory you cannot import a
vehicle (motor homes excluded) over 7716 Lbs or 3057
Kg. Now some 1 ton duallies can weigh more than
that, & could cause an issue. The key is the net
weight shown on your registration. Fortunately this
is often low. My truck for example weights over 3057
Kg, but its says 2930 on the registration. The
registration is what they will look at especially if
you get your permit on line. Where you are going to
have a big problem is if you use a Semi cab to tow a
a vehicle permit if you have an accident, the
vehicle gets stolen or you cancel a trip:
This can get a bit messy so I have a
separate page on it.
You need Mexican insurance.
Expect to pay about $100 US for each $10,000 of
value (RV & truck). This is for a 6 month policy,
the most economical. You can purchase insurance
Baja Bound, Sanborns,
Lewis & Lewis,
San Xavier are a few that are recommended. Shop around &
compare coverage & price, but it is best to use one
that others have recommended and you know are OK. Do
not underinsure yourself.
In many cases you can get a rebate from your insurer
for the time spent in Mexico. Ask them what proof
they require that your vehicle was below the border.
This will likely give you a couple of hundred back.
If not, consider cancelling your North American
insurance for the day after you cross & re-instating
the day before you return. (more info on this
below). Another trick to save money is to consider
placing storage insurance on any vehicles you leave
Ensure your insurance has a legal
rider on it to provide on on site agent in case of
You may buy insurance for various
periods from 1 day & up. At some point it becomes
more economical to buy a 6 month policy. In most
cases, one policy can cover your truck, RV and other
vehicles like scooters or ATV's & trailers.
You can often buy insurance where
you obtain your vehicle permit. Unfortunately this
is often 20 km into Mexico, and Murphy's law
increases your chance of having an accident in those
20 km. Remember an accident in Mexico is a felony,
not misdemeanor. Buy your insurance before
crossing the border.
If you have an accident, immediately
phone the number given to you by the insurance
provider. Do not admit blame, let them handle it.
This is a good reason to have a cell phone. Even if
its an American or Canadian cell phone & the call is
expensive. The police will very likely impound the
vehicle until things are settled. In Mexico you are
guilty till proven innocent. The insurance company
will take care of legal aspects & provide an
interpreter. It is not as bad as it sounds, your
Mexican insurance provider is used to being able to
deal with it.
Here is another
article on the subject by Jim Labelle.
your insurance company . You may be able
to get a rebate for your insurance for the period
you are in Mexico. For example, ICBC in British
Columbia does this. Check with them to see what
documentation & proof you will require for a rebate.
If you are down for 4 or more months, chances are it
will neutralize the cost of your Mexican insurance.
Make sure campground receipts show your plate number
& keep entry & exit receipts plus toll road
receipts. Some US insurance companies also provide
collision coverage in Mexico & you may only have to
buy liability coverage. If your RV is separate from
your vehicle, like a Truck camper or trailer, also
check with the company insuring that.
RV Parks or
There are a lot of RV parks in
Mexico, but many of these can be quite full during
the peak period of November through March,
especially on the West Coast, north of Manzanillo.
Boondocking is possible, but
not advisable if alone. You may
overnight in many Pemex Stations. Campsites & RV
parks range from about $5 up to $30 US a night. The
most expensive ones I found were in San Carlos &
Sayulita, near Puerto Vallarta. $18- $20 US is more
the norm. For that, you usually get full hookup's.
From November through March, remain flexible, or
It's as safe as you make it. Most of
the problems are within 100 miles of the US border,
mainly in Tijuana and Cuidad Juarez. RV'ers who
follow a few rules are probably as safe from
violence as they are in the US, especially in a
group. Avoid traveling at night and never park
overnight on the side of the road. Avoid hanging out
in large crowds & in bars with Mexican nationals.
There is a case of a Canadian in jail down there. He
was arrested when he was drinking with drug dealers.
He had no idea that is what they were.
You may have heard of the RV'er
being shot in the leg in March 2010 in an RV Park in
Mazatlan. He was fending off a robbery attempt. This
is an extremely rare incident, in fact I have never
heard of another like it, where an RV'er was
following the basic rules of safety. Before you
panic & think you will be murdered, try looking up
similar incidents in Canada & the US. Possibly you
should be more scared of campgrounds in those 2
countries. I should mention that the Mexican
authorities in this case paid all the medical
expenses, flights home for the man & his wife, since
the man could not drive) and offered to pay a flight
down for someone to drive their RV back.
Let us put this into perspective by
comparing a couple of incidents in Canada & the US.
3 examples from July 2010.
1) A teenager was shot to death in
Surrey, BC. He made the mistake of vandalizing a
car, which just happened to be owned by a drug gang
2) An elderly couple in a Motorhome
disappeared on their way from Alberta to BC. Their
burned out Class A was found with the tow vehicle
missing. A week later the towed SUV was found in the
bush several hundred miles away. Their bodies have
not yet been found. This is in the area that 100's
of American RV'ers pass through each summer on their
way to Alaska. Are they going to be scared off. Not
3) A shootout in a Washington State
Park kills 2 & wounds 4 other.
Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest
city, has a lower murder rate than the top 80 listed
US city murder rates. It has 1/2 the rate of the top
Mexico City's murder rate is the
same as Los Angeles, there are 40 US cites that are
Cuidad Juarez on the other hand is
off the scale. Don't go there.
As far as I know, no RV'er has ever
been murdered in Mexico
If you do encounter trouble on the
road, you will find Mexicans far more inclined to
stop & offer assistance than is the case in either
the US or Canada.
I have produced this little
put safety into perspective
There are stats available for
Canadians killed in Mexico. For 2006-2010 it was 15
(murder & accidents). During that period there were
4.5 million Canadian visitors. If you do the math
and assume an average trip of 10 days, that is not
that much larger that the same stats for that number
of people, had they remained in Canada. I suspect if
you could find the stats for Canadian visitors to
the US (You cannot, I tried - if you Google it you
get articles about murders in Mexico, which proves
which country gets the negative media coverage), the
figure would prove to be higher.
hate or resent American's or Canadian's:
I have not experienced this. Most
Mexicans I have encountered are more friendly than
either Americans or Canadians & will go out of their
way to help visitors. Just remember it is their
country & they are proud of it. Americans may
possibly find a bit more hostility than Canadians,
due to the current border wall thing, etc. but none
have complained to me. I have found most Mexicans
treat people as individuals without preconceptions.
Avoid overt signs of wealth or superiority, and
avoid flying American or Canadian flags. If you
must, ensure a Mexican flag is displayed more
prominently. Displaying a Mexican flag is much
Many Mexicans speak at least some
English. Attempts at speaking Spanish are
Can I get
my truck fixed if it breaks down:
Most larger Mexican cities have
Ford, GM & Dodge dealers & service. Service tends to
be quite a bit cheaper than in the US, but here
could be a few days wait for some parts. E-Class
tires are hard to come by. Carry a good spare. If
you have room, an extra tire, off rim, is not a bad
idea. Carry coolant & oil. Green Angels which are
sort of like the AAA, cruise the highways helping
tourists in distress. They do not charge anything
except for parts, and most of them are legendary
mechanics. Most highways are however patrolled only
once in a 24 hour period, so timing is everything. I
have heard that on the Cuota's (Toll Highways)
towing is free. AAA is no good in Mexico, Sam's Club
does provide some service, so they are recommended.
Can I get
my RV fixed:
That one is tougher, RV parts are
tough to find. Bring an extra sewer hose and
any other specific fittings you think you could
conceivably need. Distilled water for your battery
is also not a bad idea. If you tow a trailer,
consider carrying an extra wheel bearing kit and
possibly spare U bolts if they are used on your
trailer. They can be difficult to obtain. I actually
also carry a spare RV water pump, I kept my old one
when I installed a constant flow one.
Can I drink
No, usually not. Bring a refillable
water container. (Maybe in your shower stall). These
can be filled at almost any town, or exchanged.
Maybe wait to get one in Mexico, they are available
in almost any store and look for one the screw top
types rather than the compression caps. These are
very easy to find in Mexico, and means you can
reseal it after each use, a good thing, especially
if you are carrying it in your shower. There are
different brands and you can only exchange like for
like, so be prepared to pour from one container to
another, so you can immediately return the empty.
Expect to pay about 15 Pesos ($1- $1.25) for a
large container fill. Use local water to fill your
holding tank & use one of those blue cylinder water
filters to ensure that sediment does not get in.
They can be obtained at Camping World in the US or
Canada Tire in Canada for about $20. They claim to
remove bacteria & guardia, but don't trust them for
drinking, but at least it is probably safe to use
the water from them for teeth brushing & washing
dishes. You can put a cap full of bleach in there &
use that water for showering & washing dishes. If
you get Montezuma's revenge, Cipro (Ciproflaxino
in Spanish) is available over the counter in
Mexico. Flush your tanks a couple of times with good
old USA water after you come back. Don't forget the
hot water tank.
Late info: Ciproflaxin is now
prescription. You may find drugstores in small towns
will sell it still.
RV parks usually have them, so do
bus stations in a pinch. I have never tried using
one, but I have heard some will let you pay to use
Power in Mexico can be very
inconsistent. Voltages can range for 80 to 150
volts. I advise everyone to purchase a power surge
protector. These are about $250 at Camping World for
the 30 amp model, add about $75 for the 50 amp
model. Otherwise you run the risk of blowing your
fridge circuit board for starters. Many RV parks
have only 15 amp service. It is actually not a bad
idea to keep your fridge on propane.
It can be trickier find propane, or
butane, as is often used instead. You cannot get it
at gas stations, you have to search for a central
outlet, usually located near larger towns. They will
be called things like Global Gas and you will see
the large white containers. Simply take your tank
over to one and ask to have it filled. Sometimes
refill trucks will come around RV parks. Please note
that Butane can freeze, so if you are returning to
colder climes, use it up first.
& prices & Pemex Stations:
All auto fuel in Mexico is sold
through Pemex. prices are usually around $2.75 a
gallon for diesel (2011) and it is widely
available. Sometimes you will find resellers using
barrels in real small towns. Use these only as a
last resort, and you won't likely find diesel, only
gas. Mexico subsidizes fuel prices when the world
price goes up. Diesel pumps are BLACK, not GREEN in
Mexico. Green pumps are gas. ULSD is not available,
so if you have a late model diesel, you may not want
to take it into Mexico. However, many do with no
apparent ill effects. see
this article. A locking gas cap is
advisable. This prevents attendants from starting to
pump without zeroing before you are out of the truck
or pumping the wrong fuel. In most cases you have to
pay cash, so make sure you always have 1000 peso's
in cash available. I always tip the attendant about
20 peso's . They really appreciate it, and it gives
us Gringo's a good name. If someone washes your
windows, give him 10 peso's, he may not actually
work for the station & relies on tips. I would carry
1500 Peso's as there are toll booths to contend with
as well. That brings up another point, a portable
air pump is useful, it is hard to find places that
can handle more than 60 PSI.
Most roads in Mexico have little or
no shoulders. This means extra caution while
driving, especially passing. There are several
freeways, but these are nearly always toll roads
(Cuota's) and are almost as good as a US Interstate.
They can get quite expensive, especially if you have
a dually and/or tow a trailer. However, I have heard
towing on them is free and I have also heard they
will pay the deductible if you have an accident on
them. I cannot confirm this, but save your receipts.
I have also heard, but not confirmed, that should
you get a broken windshield, for eg, you simply
drive to the next booth & they will bring in an
insurance adjuster and take care of it. You can
always take the free road (Libre's), but they are
often slow & do not bypass towns. Libre's also have
frequent Tope's (see description further on)
Road rules & hazards:
From what I can tell, it is illegal
to turn right on a red light. A very common practice
in Mexico is to activate your left hand turn signal
to indicate to the vehicle behind that it is OK to
pass. Many trucks do this. Obviously this can be
very dangerous. If you do indicate you are about to
turn left or move out to pass, ensure no one behind
you is taking that as a signal, they can pass you.
One way roads in towns are very common and sometimes
not very well marked. Another quirk are left hand
turns out of lanes to your right. These are
associated with left hand turn signals, but it is
very disconcerting to see cars turning left across
the front of you. Many larger towns have lateral
roads that parallel the main road. In some cities
you are required to use these if you have an RV.
Puerto Vallarta is one example. You will get
ticketed if you do not use them. If you see buses &
trucks using them instead of the main road, you can
bet that is the case.
Low hanging trees or trees close to
the edge of the road are a hazard especially to high
RV's with vinyl roofs. It is very easy to get
trapped in small towns on roads that have low trees,
so exercise caution & try to use roads you see
trucks or buses using. Low hanging power lines are
also a hazard. One trick I have done is to create a
guide using nylon tent poles. I cut them down so
that if I hold the bottom (or a tape mark near the
bottom) level with my eyes, the top measures my
clearance. I then walk under the debatable object
Some free roads have very little
shoulder and sometimes that shoulder is very steep,
so exercise caution.
Since driving in Mexico takes more
concentration, try to keep segments short, and be
aware of what is behind you. It is easy to forget to
check your mirrors when you are concentrating a lot
harder on driving. I find driving more than 200
miles a day is tough down there.
Vibradores, & Vado's:
These are speed bumps. Most are
marked, some are not, and they are common on main
highways (but not on toll roads). You do not want to
hit one of these at over 5 KPH. Keep watch on the
vehicle in front, to alert you to them or
approaching vehicles that may give away their
location. . I can guaranty you will hit at least
one, too fast. Vibradores are series of small speed
bumps, you can usually take at 30 KPH. A Vado is a
dip in the road designed to allow streams in flood
to pass over the road in rainy season. Some of them
can be quite deep & a hazard especially if towing a
trailer. Tope's are a favorite spot for vendors, who
can be a pain, but they are also frequently manned
by people collecting for charity, notably the Red
Cross. Keep some small change handy.
As of June 1st, 2009, you require a
passport to travel between Canada, the US & Mexico
by road. Make sure yours is good for at least 6
months & carry photocopies of the main page. It is
also a good idea to carry your birth certificate &
Can I bring
a Toad or ATV or motorcycle:
You must have one licensed driver (&
registrant for each motorized vehicle). If you have
a camper & 2 motorcycles & there are only 2 of you,
you may not be
allowed to bring one vehicle into Mexico, although
apparently this rule is being relaxed. A motorcycle
under 200 CC's does not count as a vehicle. . Ensure
that registrations for more than one vehicle are not
only in one name. If so transfer one to your wife.
You will need to leave a $300 deposit at the border
or a credit card imprint. Keep in mind that a towed
vehicle will increase your toll highways cost a fair
Can I bring
No, don't even think about it. Also
no ammo. You can carry a machete if it makes you
Checkpoints are common in Mexico.
Don't let the guy behind sandbags with the machine
gun scare you. They are looking for drug runners,
not overweight Truck Campers. They seldom stop RV's,
but they may. There are also agricultural
checkpoints at many State lines. They will
confiscate some fruit & vegetables.
What if a
cop pulls me over:
Some cops still take bribes, it is
known as mordida. Is it legal? No, in fact bribing
a police officer is a criminal offense. If you think
he is trying to shake you down, offer to follow him
to the police station to pay the fine right away,
the ticket may suddenly change to a warning. This
all assumes you can speak Spanish or the cop speaks
some English, of course. Sometimes the best tactic
is to pretend you do not speak a word of Spanish
other than beer, even if you do. If the officer
speaks no English, this may frustrate him enough to
let you off. Just keep smiling & playing the dumb
Gringo. It is very difficult to advise how to handle
each situation, you have to simply play it as it
comes. It may come down at some point to effectively
offering a bribe. For example if they want you to
take your RV to the station where it is impossible
to navigate it. I am not advising you to do it, but
you can try offering to pay the fine on the spot.
You won't get a receipt so you know the money is
going into the cops pocket, but at least you are
appearing to be above board. If you are driving down
here for over a month, chances are you will get
pulled over at some point, for some infraction, real
or imagined. Simply budget a couple hundred dollars
for it, and do not get upset about it. You will
seldom see the federal police trying to shake you
down, but it is still common with municipal or
Make sure their shots are up to date
and get them on a program to prevent heartworm.
Carry flea soap & spray, as fleas & ticks can be a
problem. Mexico does have good vets, finding one
who can speak English can be a problem. Be prepared
for a shock when you enter a vets office. They are
often markedly more primitive than those at home.
You cannot buy poop disposal bags in Mexico, take
enough with you.
Here is a link to the latest
requirements including the new certificate of health
exchange money before crossing:
You can, but ATM's are common in
Mexico. The Canadian Scotiabank, & Hong Kong based
HSBC, have tons of them. Scotiabank is associated
with BOA. Maybe start with 1500 pesos before you
cross. I have had one experience of a mistake with
an ATM in Mexico, so it is a good idea to keep track
of your account on line. Keep all ATM receipts just
Large supermarkets are common,
including Wal Marts. You can buy anything (except
decent whole grain bread, although I have found it
in some). Cheddar cheese is hard to find. The larger
grocery chains are Wal Mart, Mega, Gigante,
Sobriana's & Ley's. The larger ones accept credit
cards. if you are on a diet, the only diet soft
drink is Coke & Sprite, but try Clight, the mango
flavor tastes like real mango juice.
Mexico uses metric, you may want to
measure the height of your rig in metric. There are
radar traps, so get familiar with the speed
Very approx conversions are as
50 km = 30 miles
60 km = 40 miles
80 km = 50 miles
90 km = 55 miles
100 km = 60 miles
110 km = 70 miles
Will my GPS
Garmin now includes Mexico
with its North American Maps and they are superior
to BICI which is another alternative. I recently did
a side by side
comparison of the latest versions of both. BICI
also supports the Magellan. Also
MS Streets & trips have mexico maps. If you wish to
purchase a map book, look for Guia Roji
(http://www.guiaroji.com.mx ). This is about $20 and
covers all of Mexico, Guatemala & Belize.
Many RV parks now have wireless
access, in fact its more common than in the US. Many
have satellite, so uplink speeds are slow & Skype
may not work. You can purchase internet on a stick
that works over the Mexican cell phone network for
quite a reasonable cost. Telmex DSL connections are
the most common high speed connections in Mexico. It
is very good high speed & will support VOIP.
Radio & TV:
Both XM & Sirius work well in
Mexico. Sirius works better due to its higher
satellite orbits. I have been told that Direct TV
won't work south of Mazatlan, but Canadian based
Star Choice works well all over Mexico. Go figure.
There are no over the air English language TV
stations in Mexico. However, Mexican soap operas are
very entertaining even if you can't understand them.
Digital TV is not the norm yet in Mexico. Apart from
Mexico City, all TV stations are still analogue.
This can get expensive. I suggest
using Skype. If your cell is activated for Mexico,
use it only for emergencies. It will cost a fortune.
You can get relatively inexpensive pay & talk
Mexican cell phones. Caller ID works in Mexico, so
you can always let it ring then call back using a
VOIP services such as
Magic Jack or Vonnage Digital Phone will also
work in RV Parks that have broadband wireless.
Magic Jack plugs into a USB port and some
digital phone services like Vonnage
work if you plug the module into your Ethernet
port then create a software bridge to your wireless.
To do this the digital phone module has to be
stand-alone (as opposed to built into a cable modem)
with an Ethernet port & a phone port. Go into your
network connections on your laptop, hold down the
Control key, & click the Ethernet & the wireless
connection icons. Right click & select "bridge
connections" and you are done.
Many North American cell phones will
work in Mexico, but roaming charges can be high.
Calling number display will work in many areas, so
you can choose whether or not to answer. An
alternative is to purchase a Mexican cell phone.
There are "Pay & Talk" type cell phones available at
quite a reasonable rate. The emergency number for
Mexico, BTW is 088. I am not sure if this will work
on US & Canadian cell phones, roaming. AT&T Go
Phone, a US pay & talk phone, will work in Mexico
roaming on TelCels network. It is 25 cents a minute.
It also works in Canada. This is a good option as
people calling you can dial a US number.
Web Sites &
Terri Church's Books Mike & Terri Church
write the definitive guides on RV'ing in Mexico.
They also have a Truck Camper. The newest edition of
the guide is coming out Fall 2009. Don't go to
Mexico without a copy.
Dot & Bill's
Mexico Site This is one of the best, if not
the best, web site for Rv'ing in Mexico with Maps
containing clickable links to RV Parks. It is the
work of Dot & Bill Bell of North Vancouver, BC.
Mexican Road Signs:
Download a pdf of