Crossing The Border Into Mexico

Crossing the border into Mexico

Required Documents

Passport – Must be valid for at least six months longer than the last date of your intended stay in Mexico.

Drivers License – From you state/province/country or an international drivers license. AAA now offers an Inter-American drivers license.

Ownership (Title or Registration) – The name must match your passport and drivers license. Bring originals or REALLY good copies. Make sure the VIN number matches the bike!

Visa – Travelers with passports from the USA, Canada, Australia, and the European Union do not need a visa. Others should consult with their embassy prior to entering Mexico.

Letter of Authorization – If your bike is leased, financed or rented you must provide a letter of authorization from the bank or leasing company. The bank or leasing company usually requires a copy of your full coverage Mexican vehicle insurance policy before they issue the letter of authorization. Bring a copy of your contract too for good measure.

Photocopies – Before leaving home make a few photocopies of each document. Copies will be required at the border and this will save you the hassle of finding the local copy shop. Also, place all of your documents into a binder/folder/envelope. Make things easy on yourself and have all of your documents on hand when requested.

Entering Mexico

In most crossings, there is no “check out of the USA” station.

The entry process is simple. Assuming you have no contraband, enter the lane titled Nada a Declarar (Nothing to Declare). Depending on the border, the officer will either wave you through or request that you press a button. The button will trigger a green or red light randomly. Green means continue. Red means you may be searched.

The Mexican border crossing process is a simple two step process. However, each border crossing has it’s own format. As you cross into Mexico, you’ll first need to go the migracion (immigration) office and then to the aduana (customs) office. While some border crossings have clearly labeled buildings, others can be less than obvious. When in doubt, ask. The border agents and military personnel can guide you.

Step 1) Check yourself into Mexico
Location: Migracion office (This will be at the border or a few blocks away in the town). Ask.

You need to acquire a Tourist Card here and get your passport stamped. The border agent will ask you how long you plan to stay in Mexico. It’s always best to say “6 months” which is the maximum time allowed. Bikes can breakdown and plans can change, no need to worry over your exit date. The fee for the Tourist Card is about USD$20. You can pay with Mexican Pesos or US Dollars. The Tourist Card is a small piece of paper that you’ll keep in your passport (keep this, you’ll need to surrender it when exiting the country). Before leaving the migracion office, be sure to get your passport stamped.

Step 2) Check your motorcycle into Mexico
Location: Aduana office

You need to acquire a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TVIP) for your motorcycle. Again, tell the officer you plan to stay for 6 months. The TVIP will cost around USD$40. You will also be required to put down a bond. Newer vehicles will pay $400. Older vehicles can expect to pay between $200 and $300. This is to discourage you from selling the bike illegally while in Mexico. The process is honest and you will get the money returned promptly when you exit the country and cancel your permit. You can pay this bond with cash or credit (However, some of the smaller crossings may require cash – US Dollars work well). If you forget to cancel your TVIP when leaving Mexico, you will forfeit the $200-$400 (so be sure to cancel your TVIP when leaving Mexico).

Although not required, you can arrange your TVIP online before crossing the border. Click here to arrange your TVIP.

You’ll receive a holographic sticker to apply on the inside of your windshield. This sticker may be checked at military checkpoints and police stops. Many riders choose to keep this sticker in a safe place rather than on the bike’s windshield.
Overwhelmed with paperwork? Remember to keep every piece of paper they give you in a safe location. You might need it at military checkpoints or when leaving Mexico.

Leaving Mexico

Exiting Mexico is just as simple. Head for the border and look for signs indicating Migracion, Aduana, or Vehicle Permits. The offices may be directly at the border or a few blocks away in the town. It’s a similar three step process.

Step 1) Check yourself out of Mexico
Location: Migracion office

Hand in your Tourist Card and get an exit stamp in your passport.

Step 2) Check your motorcycle out of Mexico
Location: Aduana office

Hand in your Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TVIP) paperwork. They may ask for your original receipts (you kept all your paperwork, right?). The border agent will ask you to remove the holographic sticker from your windshield. They will also check the bike’s VIN number and may take a picture of it. When you entered Mexico, you paid a bond on your vehicle – Now, you will be refunded in cash (if you paid cash) or via your credit card.

It’s your responsibility to cancel your TVIP. Should you forget to cancel it your credit card may be charged and you could have problems re-entering Mexico on future trips.

Step 3) Check yourself into the USA

After a wonderful ride in Mexico you’ll be jolted back to reality by a US border guard who has no sense of humor. You’ll be interrogated – Where are you coming from? How long were you there? Why did you go? Where are you going now? Perhaps a search of the panniers will be in order. There can be a long line to enter the USA. Remember, you’re not in yet, so it’s OK to cut to the front of the line with your motorcycle!

Additional Information

You make payments to the Banjercito (the bank of Mexico). Depending on the border, this may be in the same building as the Migracion and Aduana offices or it may be a few blocks away in town.

A TVIP is not required in the Baja peninsula. Though you can still get the TVIP in Tijuana or Mexicali. It is not possible to get a TVIP in small crossings, like Tecate. If you plan to ride only in Baja, you won’t need a TVIP. If you plan to take a ferry to the mainland, be sure to get your TVIP before boarding the ferry. This is simple to do in La Paz. The Aduana office is located near the ferry terminal.

Likewise, a TVIP is not required for the state of Sonora.

TVIP Not Required In Baja or Sonora

It’s recommended that you cross the Mexican border early in the morning. Often times the border crossing will take only a few minutes. Other times it can take several hours. Leave yourself enough time to get through so that you’re not caught riding at night. Avoid lunch time as well.

Many of the officials speak a little english but it’s not uncommon to encounter officials who speak no english. If you don’t speak Spanish, fear not, there’s always someone around who knows a little english. You’ll get by, it’s all part of the adventure!

Border Zone (within ~25 kilometers across the border): No TVIP is required. If you plan to stay less than 72 hours you won’t need a Tourist Card.

Get specific border crossing information at with detailed reviews of crossings from your fellow travelers.

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Click here to learn about importing two vehicles under one passport.

Motorcycle Mexico provides this general information but assumes no liability for any reliance on the information provided. Government regulations are constantly evolving. The information below is not the law. Contact your consulate for the most current and accurate information.

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