Si-Mexico Travel Tips






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Know Before You Go
   As you travel, keep abreast of local news coverage. If you plan a stay in one place for longer than a few weeks, or, if you are in an area where communications are poor, experiencing civil unrest or some natural disaster, you are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Registration takes only a few moments, and it may be invaluable in case of an emergency.

Other useful precautions are:

  • Leave a detailed itinerary and the numbers of your passport or other citizenship documents with a friend or relative in the United States.

  • Bring either a U.S. passport or a certified copy of a birth certificate and photo identification.

  • Carry your photo identification and the name of a person to contact with you in the event of serious illness or other emergency.

  • Keep photocopies of your airline or other tickets and your list of travelers checks with you in a separate location from the originals and leave copies with someone at home.

  • Leave things like unnecessary credit cards and expensive jewelry at home.

  • Bring travelers checks or a credit card, not cash.

  • Use a money belt or concealed pouch for passport, cash and other valuables.

  • Do not bring firearms or ammunition into Mexico without written permission from the Mexican government.

MEXICO VISITOR FEE UPDATE: A Visitor Fee of 150 pesos per person went into effect on July 1, 1999 for all persons traveling to Mexico as tourists, on business or traveling through Mexico to the US and Central America with certain exceptions. Current exchange rates peg this fee around $15 US dollars and $20 Canadian dollars.

FEES ELIMINATED FOR SHORT VISITS: The 22-dollar entrance fees have been waived for tourists driving across the border who intend to spend less than a week in Mexico. Previously, tourists traveling south of the border area were required to obtain tourist cards and pay 22 dollars, technically not for the card but for entering Mexico (the United States charges Mexicans 45 dollars merely to apply for a visa; that fee is non-refundable even if the visa is denied). The fee waiver does not apply to tourists arriving by air. Funds raised by this fee are shared by the immigration office - paying for more inspectors and improved facilities - and by the Mexico Tourism Board.

The exceptions include (No payment required): 

  1. Mexican citizens living abroad.

  2. Those arriving by land or sea but staying less than 72 hours.

  3. Those crossing Mexico's northern and southern borders by land, and staying more than 72 hours, but not proceeding beyond the country's existing interior checkpoints located between 26 and 30 kilometers (16+miles) from the border.

  4. Those crossing Mexico's borders by land, proceeding beyond the interior checkpoints, and staying longer than 72 hours, but limiting their visits to the following tourist routes: - Tijuana/Ensenada (Baja California) - San Felipe Tourism Development Zone (Baja California) - Sonoita-Puerto Penasco (Sonora) - Ciudad Juarez-Paquime (Chihuahua) - Piedras Negras-Santa Rosa (Coahuila) - Reynosa-China-Presa Cuchillo (Tamaulipas & Nuevo Leon).

  5. Those visiting Mexico as students, "Distinguished Visitors" as defined by Mexico's immigration laws, or those seeking political asylum. 

    The fee will be collected by the following mechanisms:
    Air - by airlines, included in the purchase price of tickets, as is customarily done in other countries. 
    Sea - by inclusion in the cruise package, or by the National Immigration Institute upon disembarking, but only if stay is longer than 72 hours, maximum one Fee per cruise. 
    Land - at branches of any bank operating in Mexico. Visitors will be required to produce verification of payment of the Fee. 

    For additional information contact your nearest Mexican Government Tourism Offices. See list in General Information section.

A passport or other WHTI-compliant travel document is necessary for U.S. and Canadian citizens traveling to Mexico. You may not be asked to present your passport if entering Mexico by land, but you will surely need to present one upon your return to the United States.

  • Travel by air: In January 2007 the US Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) required all travelers entering or re-entering the United States by air to present a passport.

  • Travel by land or sea: As of June 2009, US citizens entering the United States by land or sea are required to present a passport or other WHTI compliant travel document such as a passport card. See exception for children.

Exceptions and Special Cases

  • Entry for Children: Beginning June 1, 2009, U.S. and Canadian citizen children under age 15 arriving by land or sea from contiguous territory may also present an original or copy of his or her birth certificate, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Canadian Citizenship Card.

  • Entry for Children-Air Travel: All US and Canadian citizens, regardless of age, traveling by air to Mexico are required to present a passport.

  • Permanent Residents of the US: Document requirements for lawful permanent residents of the United States did not change under the WHTI. Permanent residents must present their I-551 Permanent Resident Card when entering the United States. A passport is not required to enter the US, but you may need one to enter Mexico, depending on your nationality.

For additional Information: Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) compliant documents

Vehicle Permits: Tourists wishing to travel beyond the border zone with their vehicle must obtain a temporary import permit or risk having their vehicle confiscated by Mexican customs officials. At present the only exceptions to the requirement are for vehicles traveling in the Baja Peninsula and those vehicles covered by the "Only Sonora" program in Western Sonora. This program generally covers the area west of Mexican Federal Highway 15 between the Arizona border and the Gulf of California, ending in Impalme.
   To acquire a permit, one must submit evidence of citizenship, title for the vehicle, a vehicle registration certificate, a driver's license, and a processing fee to either a Banjercito (Mexican Army Bank) branch located at a Mexican Customs (Aduana) office at the port of entry, or at one of the Mexican consulates located in the United States. Mexican law also requires the posting of a bond at a Banjercito office to guarantee the export of the car from Mexico within a time period determined at the time of the application. For this purpose, American Express, Visa or MasterCard credit card holders will be asked to provide credit card information; others will need to make a cash deposit of between $200 and $400, depending on the make/model/year of the vehicle. In order to recover this bond or avoid credit card charges, travelers must go to any Mexican Customs office immediately prior to departing Mexico. Regardless of any official or unofficial advice to the contrary, vehicle permits cannot be obtained at checkpoints in the interior of Mexico. If the proper permit is not obtained before entering Mexico and cannot be obtained at the Banjercito branch at the port of entry, do not proceed to the interior. Travelers without the proper permit may be incarcerated, fined and/or have their vehicle seized at immigration/customs checkpoints. For further information, contact Mexican Customs.
   Travelers should avoid individuals who wait outside vehicle permit offices and offer to obtain the permits without waiting in line, even if they appear to be government officials. There have been reports of fraudulent or counterfeit permits being issued adjacent to the vehicle import permit office in Nuevo Laredo, Ciudad Juarez and other border areas.

Dual Nationality: Mexican law recognizes dual nationality for Mexicans by birth, meaning those born in Mexico or born abroad to Mexican parents. U.S. citizens who are also Mexican nationals are considered by local authorities to be Mexican. Dual nationality status could result in the delay of notification of arrests and other emergencies or hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide consular services. Dual nationals are subject to compulsory military service in Mexico; in addition, dual national males must register for the U.S. Selective Service upon turning 18. For more information, visit the U.S. Selective Service website.  Travelers possessing both U.S. and Mexican nationalities must carry with them proof of citizenship of both countries. Under Mexican law, dual nationals entering or departing Mexico must identify themselves as Mexican. Under U.S. law, dual nationals entering the United States must identify themselves as U.S. citizens.

TAXICAB CRIME: Robbery assaults on passengers in taxis are frequent and violent, with passengers subjected to beating, shootings and sexual assault. U.S. citizens visiting Mexico City should absolutely avoid taking any taxi not summoned by telephone or contacted in advance at the airport. When in need of a taxi, telephone a radio taxi or "sitio" (pronounced "C-T-O"). Ask the dispatcher for the driver's name and the cab's license plate number. If you walk to a "sitio" taxi stand, use only a driver known to you. Ask the hotel concierge or other responsible individual calling on your behalf to write down the license plate number of the cab that you entered. Passengers arriving at Mexico City's Benito Juarez International Airport should take only airport taxis (yellow, with an airport symbol on the door) after pre-paying the fare at one of the special booths inside the airport. Radio taxis may be called at tel. 5-271-9146, 5-271-9058, and 5-272-6125 (within Mexico). U.S. citizens should avoid taking taxis parked outside the Bellas Artes Theater, in front of nightclubs, restaurants or cruising throughout the city.

CRIME INFORMATION: Crime in Mexico continues at high levels, especially in Mexico City. Low apprehension and conviction rates of criminals contribute to the high crime rate. Metropolitan areas other than the capital have lower but still serious levels of crime. Travelers should leave valuables and irreplaceable items in a safe place. All visitors are encouraged to make use of hotel safes when available, avoid wearing obviously expensive jewelry or designer clothing, and carry only the cash or credit cards that will be needed on each outing. Travelers are discouraged from bringing very large amounts of cash into Mexico, as officials may suspect money laundering or other criminal activity. The most frequently reported crimes involve taxi robberies, armed robbery, pick-pocketing and purse snatching. Any U.S. citizen victims of crime in Mexico are encouraged to report the incident to the nearest police headquarters and to the nearest U.S. consular office.
   U.S. citizens should be very cautious in using ATM cards and machines in Mexico. If an ATM machine must be used, it should be only during the business day at large protected facilities (preferably inside commercial establishments, rather than at a glass-enclosed, highly visible ATM machine on streets where criminals can observe financial transactions.)
   U.S. citizens should not hitchhike, accept rides from, or offer rides to strangers anywhere in Mexico.
   Travelers should exercise caution when traveling on all highways in Mexico and use toll ("cuota") roads whenever possible. The U.S. Embassy advises its personnel to exercise extreme caution when traveling on any Mexican highways and not to travel on highways after dark for safety reasons. U.S. citizens planning to travel on any Mexican highways should follow this advice:

  • All bus travel should be during daylight and on first-class conveyances.

  • Tourists should not hike alone in backcountry areas or walk alone on lightly frequented beaches, ruins or trails.

  • The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Adequate medical care can be found in all major cities. Health facilities in Mexico City are excellent. Care in more remote areas is limited. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can be very costly. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services, and U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties. Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via their Internet site at
   Air pollution in Mexico City and Guadalajara is severe, especially from December to May.
   Drink only bottled water or water that has been boiled for 20 minutes. Beware of ice cubes that may not have been made with purified water. Vegetables and fruits should be peeled or washed in a purifying solution. A good rule to follow is if you can't peel it or cook it, do not eat it. Diarrhea may benefit from anti-microbial treatment which may be prescribed or purchased over the counter. Travelers should consult a physician, rather than attempt self-medication, if the diarrhea is severe or persists several days.

DRUG PENALTIES: Penalties for drug offenses are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences up to 25 years and fines. As in the U.S., purchase of controlled medication requires a doctor's prescription. The Mexican list of controlled medication differs from the U.S., and Mexican public health laws concerning controlled medication are unclear and often enforced selectively. The U.S. Embassy recommends against U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico for the sole purpose of buying prescription drugs. U.S. citizens have been arrested and their medicine confiscated by Mexican authorities, even though a physician provides a prescription and a licensed Mexican pharmacist fills it. Possession of any amounts of prescription medicine (especially psychotropic drugs such as Valium) brought from the U.S. can result in arrest if Mexican authorities suspect abuse or if the quantity of the prescription medicine exceeds the amount required for several days' use. Travelers should check with the nearest Mexican consulate before traveling to Mexico to purchase medication or with medication prescribed in the U.S.

FIREARMS PENALTIES: The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against taking any type of firearm or ammunition into Mexico without prior written authorization from the Mexican authorities. Entering Mexico with a firearm or a single round of ammunition carries a penalty of up to five years in jail, even if the firearm or ammunition is taken into Mexico unintentionally. The Mexican government strictly enforces its laws restricting the entry of firearms and ammunition along all land borders and at air and seaports. This has resulted in arrests, convictions, and long prison sentences for U.S. citizens, even those who unintentionally crossed the border with firearms or ammunition in their possession. U.S. citizens approaching Mexico along the land border who realize they are in possession of unauthorized firearms or ammunition should not seek to enter Mexico. The only way to legally import firearms and/or ammunition into Mexico is to secure a permit in advance from the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C. or from a Mexican Consulate, regardless of whether the firearm is legally registered in the U.S.
   Vessels entering Mexican waters with firearms or ammunition on board must have a permit previously issued by the Mexican Embassy or a Mexican Consulate. Mariners do not avoid prosecution for arms smuggling by declaring their weapons at the port of entry. Mariners who have obtained a Mexican firearms permit should contact port officials before traveling to receive guidance on the specific procedures used to report and secure weapons and ammunition.

ALIEN SMUGGLING: Anyone arrested for transporting aliens out of Mexico may be prosecuted by Mexican authorities for alien smuggling. Alien smuggling and harboring aliens is a serious felony offense in Mexico.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Mexico is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Good
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair


Primera Plus Bus Services
- DESTINATIONS: Mexico City Airport, Mexico City (Norte), Aguascalientes, Celaya, Colima, Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Irapuato, Leon, Morelia, Puerto Vallarta, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, San Miguel de Allende.  COMMENTS: Great site, with timetables, prices, distances and online reservations available. In English and Spanish. 

ETN Bus Line - DESTINATIONS: Mexico City (Norte), Mexico City (Observatorio), Aguascalientes, Celaya, Colima, Guanajuato, Guadalajara, Irapuato, Leon, Manzanillo, Morelia, Puerto Vallarta, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, San Miguel de Allende, Uruapan, Zamora.  COMMENTS: New site is still under construction, with some schedules not yet available. In Spanish only, but the timetables section is easy to follow. Luxury service, with only 24 seats per bus. 

ADO Bus Line - DESTINATIONS: Mexico City (TAPO), Cancun, Chetumal, Merida, Playa del Carmen, Oaxaca, Puebla, Jalapa, Veracruz, Villahermosa, Tampico, Poza Rica.  COMMENTS: Timetables, prices and journey times available in English and Spanish. Some maintenance underway at the moment. Excellent and regular service from Cancun to Merida.

DRIVING INFORMATION: U.S. driver's licenses are valid in Mexico. Mexican insurance is required for all vehicles, including rental vehicles in Mexico. Travelers should obtain full coverage insurance when renting vehicles in Mexico. Travelers arriving in their own vehicle can easily obtain Mexican insurance on the U.S. side of the land border and should do so. If a traveler is involved in a vehicle accident resulting in damages or injuries to another party, the driver can be arrested and detained by Mexican authorities until a settlement is arranged with the injured party and/or, depending upon the extent of damages or injuries to the other party, the traveler may face charges filed by the Mexican judicial authorities.
   For additional information concerning Mexico driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, mandatory insurance, etc. you can contact the Mexico Government Tourist Organization (MGTO) at 1-800-44-MEXICO (639426).

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Mexico customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Mexico of items such as antiquities, medications, medical equipment, business equipment, etc. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Mexico in Washington or one of the Mexican's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
RETURNING TO THE UNITED STATES: You must present the pink copy of your tourist card at your point of departure from Mexico. If you are returning by motor vehicle, you will need to show your vehicle import permit when you cross the border. At the time of publication, the airport departure tax is $10 or the equivalent in Mexican currency for those returning by commercial airline. 

The U.S. Customs Service currently permits U.S. citizens returning from international travel to bring back $400 worth of merchandise, including 1 liter of alcohol, duty free. The next $1,000 worth of items brought back is subject to a duty of 10%. 

In addition to U.S. Customs regulations, be aware that some U.S. border states (most notably, Texas) have imposed state restrictions on liquor, wine and beer imports from Mexico. If you are planning to bring back alcoholic beverages, inquire about these restrictions from the liquor control office of the state through which you plan to return. 

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Mexico's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Mexico's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit FAA Internet home page at The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the Pentagon at (703) 697-7288.

RED TAPE TRIMMED FOR PRIVATE PILOTS: The Tourism Ministry is spearheading a movement to encourage more private pilots to fly to Mexico. Regulations have been relaxed and paperwork all but eliminated. Temporary import permits, valid for one year, allow multiple re-entries and insurance policies issued at the home base of an aircraft now are valid in Mexico. A U.S. pilot's license now is valid for flying aircraft registered in Mexico.
   Mexico has long been a favorite destination for private pilots, but officials recognize that red tape is too bothersome for some to cope with. The Tourism Ministry now has published a manual outlining the new, simplified rules.

REGISTRATION: U.S. citizens are encouraged to register at the U.S. Embassy or a consulate and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Mexico.

EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS: The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-525-209-9100; within Mexico City: 5-209-9100; within Mexico 01-5-209-9100.

-There are also U.S. Consulates General in:

  • Ciudad Juarez at Avenida Lopez Mateos 924-N, telephone (52-16) 113000

  • Guadalajara at Progreso 175, telephone (52-38) 25-2998

  • Monterrey at Avenida Constitucion 411 Poniente 64000, telephone (52-83) 45-2120

  • Tijuana at Tapachula 96, telephone (52-66) 817400.

  • Hermosillo at Ave. Monterrey 141, telephone (52-62) 172375

  • Matamoros at Ave. Primera 2002, telephone (52-88) 124402

  • Merida at Paseo Montejo 453, telephone (52-99) 25-5011

  • Nogales at Calle San Jose, Nogales, Sonora, telephone (52-63) 134-820

  • Nuevo Laredo at Calle Allende 3330, Col. Jardin, telephone (52-871)4-0512.

There are Consular Agencies in:

  • Acapulco at Hotel Acapulco Continental, Costera M. Aleman 121-Local 14, telephone 52-74-840-300/52-74-690-556.

  • Cabo San Lucas at Blvd. Marina Y Perdregal #1, Local No. 3 Zona Centro, telephone (52-114) 3-35-66

  • Cancun at Plaza Caracol Two, third level, no. 320-323, Boulevard Kukulcan, km. 8.5, Zona Hotelera, telephone (52-98) 83-02-72

  • Cozumel at Avenida #35, Norte #650 Cozumel, telephone (52-987) 261-52

  • Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo at Local 9, Plaza Ambiente, telephone (52-755) 3-11-08.

  • Mazatlan at Hotel Playa Mazatlan, Rodolfo T. Loaiza #202, Zona Dorada, 82110, telephone (52-69) 134-444 ext. 285

  • Puerto Vallarta at Edif. Vallarta, Plaza Zaragoza 160-Piso 2 Int-18, telephone (52-322)2-0069

  • San Luis Potosi at Francisco de P. Mariel 103-10, telephone (52-481)2-1528

  • Oaxaca at Alcala 201, Deps. 206 telephone (52-951)4-3054;

  • San Miguel de Allende at Dr. Hernandez Macias #72, telephone (52-415)2-2357/2-0068;

Great Trips Start By Being Prepared!


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