It’s one thing to fly to Mexico, but driving across US/Mexican borders is by far a different story. When flying, you need to make sure you have a valid passport that is still valid at the time of your return to the United States. When traveling by car, the list is a little longer and it pays to be prepared!
Yes, you still need a valid passport to enter Mexico via car. They may or may not ask for it, but in the event they do, you’ll be glad you have it. You are more apt to need it on your return into the United States.
Mexican Vehicle Insurance
Your US car insurance will not do you any good in Mexico. You need to purchase Mexican Insurance for the # of days you plan to drive across the border. And if you are towing a camper, be sure to insure that as well. We used BajaBound for ours and it is based on the value of your vehicle(s). For example, our 2007 Nissan Frontier and 1998 pop up cost us $13/day, a small price to pay if you experience any unexpected “troubles.” And you can purchase this online so if you extend your stay in Mexico, it’s easy to add the additional days.
Documents for your Pets
Yep! Your furry friends needs their paperwork too! Most veterinarians know exactly what you need if you tell them where you are going but you can check out the requirements at BajaBound under the “Driving to Mexico With Pets” page. The vet visit cost us $180 US and no one ever asked for it! BUT…we have heard stories from others to the contrary so it is best to be prepared.
Vehicle Registrations and Titles
Border patrol wants to know you are not bringing a stolen vehicle across the border so they will most likely ask you for the titles and vehicle registrations for your car and any campers in tow. Be sure to have both originals (and copies to provide) should they ask for them. Our experience was pretty non-eventful. They asked for the pop up camper registration, which we provided. Upon searching for the vin on the camper, they (nor we) could find it and they waved us on.
Where it is not mandatory to carry pesos with you in Mexico, it can come in handy at times. We took USD across the border, expecting to pay in USD and be given pesos as change. We spoke to many Baja travelers who told us that having a little bit of back-up pesos is sometimes helpful in “unforeseen circumstances.” The benefit of carrying pesos is you can pay for things in pesos and be given change in pesos and the math is much more simple than figuring out the exchange from USD to pesos for every transaction.
Travel Credit Cards
Depending on where you are traveling in Mexico, you may or may not be able to use a credit card. But if you can, you want it to be a Travel card that does not charge foreign transaction fees. We carry the Bank of America Travel Card and have been very happy with our experience.
Update: September 2019: We just added another travel card from Capital One that gives us miles. We are headed out of the country for a year and if one card were to get compromised, it’s best to have a back-up while you’re waiting for a card to be re-issued and mailed to you out-of-country. BEWARE of where you are using your card! We have had our card compromised a few different times when using it at restaurants so we tend to use cash for these transactions if possible. If you must use a card, follow your card and be present during the payment process! Once, when departing Mexico, our card declined when we were trying to pay for our luggage at the airport. When I called the credit card company, they informed me a card was created and swiped for a transaction in Las Angeles. It took them just hours to create a card with my number and sell it to someone in the United States. Unbelievable!
As with any travel outside the United States, you want to be as prepared as possible. The above is what we prepared for our trip. To be completely honest, the only thing anyone looked at was our pop up camper registration on our way into Mexico and our passports on the way out. But we were happy to have everything with us, just in case.