What you need to know before driving to Mexico
Last updated: September 2023
Whether you're considering driving to Mexico for fun or business, preparing for a drive across the border might entail a few more steps than you may expect. To help ensure you've covered all the bases, here are some tips to help you get ready to travel to Mexico by car:
What documents are required to drive to Mexico?
According to the Department of State, you'll need to obtain the following documents as you prepare for your drive to Mexico:
- A U.S. Passport (or Green Card)
- A U.S. Driver's License (or International Driving Permit)
- Proof of car registration
- A Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TVIP)
- A Mexico Tourist Card/Entry Permit (FMM)
- A Mexico tourist auto insurance policy
To help ensure you have all the documentation needed for your specific trip, you may want to contact the State Department to see if there are any additional items you'll need.
Preparing for your drive to Mexico
To help make sure your drive to Mexico is as efficient as possible, consider approaching your travel planning in steps. Getting ready for your trip may be more manageable if you follow these four steps:
Step 1: Begin gathering documentation and determine your driving route
Plan ahead for your trip by gathering existing documents that are necessary to cross the border — for example, many travelers likely already have a driver's license, passport and car registration. Then, consider your driving route and how long you intend to stay in Mexico. You should also determine how far into Mexico you intend to drive. This information is necessary to obtain your TVIP and FMM cards, according to the Department of State.
Step 2: Purchase Mexico tourist auto insurance
Whether you're driving your own vehicle or renting a car, you'll need to purchase a Mexico tourist auto insurance policy for your trip. If you plan on driving your own vehicle, contact your insurance provider about purchasing a Mexico tourist auto insurance policy. If you're renting a vehicle, the Department of State says you can purchase the insurance directly through most car rental agencies.
Step 3: Apply for TVIP or FMM cards
If you'll be traveling more than 12 miles into Mexico, you'll need to obtain TVIP and FMM cards, according to the Department of State. The application process to obtain these documents will likely require some of the documents you've already gathered, such as your driver's license or passport.
- TVIP cards: You can typically apply for a TVIP card online no earlier than 60 days but no less than seven days before your trip, according to ConsulMex. You may also be able to apply for a TVIP card up to six months in advance of your trip at certain Mexico Consulates in the United States. TVIP cards can also be obtained directly at the border crossing before entering Mexico, says the Department of State.
- FMM cards: You can usually obtain an FMM card online in advance of your trip. Otherwise, you can get one directly at the border crossing, says the Department of State — adding that travelers may be asked to present this card at road checkpoints while within Mexico.
While both cards can be obtained at the border crossing, it may be a good idea to apply for these cards before your trip. That way, you can ensure there won't be any issues with obtaining the cards after you've already hit the road.
Step 4: Prepare for your road trip
Before departing on your trip, it's a good idea to spend some time familiarizing yourself with driving laws in Mexico, road signage and any current travel advisories, says the Department of State. You should also keep some safety measures in mind as you prepare for your trip. Having an emergency car kit and a written list of emergency contacts on hand may be helpful if you get into a bind. If you're driving your own vehicle, complete a vehicle inspection and any needed routine maintenance to help ensure your car is road trip ready.
Any trip abroad is an opportunity for adventure and learning. By taking a little time to prepare for your drive to Mexico, you can help minimize potential stress during your visit and enjoy your trip.