Visiting Mexico as a US Citizen? Things You Should Know

I’m so stoked for you to visit Mexico! Mexico is pretty rad – at least after you cross the border and get through the border town! If you’re visiting Mexico as a US citizen, there are some things you should know about crossing the border, documentation you need, and general travel advice. Read on to learn more! Also, connect with me if you have any questions about my experience with traveling to Mexico by car.

What do I need to cross the border?

Photo by Samet Kasik on

If you’re driving then…

We drove. Lots of driving from Ohio (26 hours), but we prefer to drive anyhow. We passed through Laredo, Texas. The border town, Nuevo Laredo, in Mexico is not very safe. So make sure you preview the route your GPS is taking you on to make sure you to avoid the city as much as you can. Our destination after crossing to get the tourist pass and our vehicle registered was called: CIITEV. There are some blue signs you’ll see to help you navigate.

Photo by Gabriel Hohol on

Here are some documents you’ll need to make the process of getting your tourist pass and vehicle registered run as smoothly as possible after crossing Mexico’s border:

  1. U.S. Passport
  2. Vehicle Registration
  3. Driver’s License
  4. Valid credit card (you can only pay for your vehicle registration with your credit card)
  5. Copies of your ID, Vehicle Registration, and U.S. Passport (not necessary, but they charged us $2 to make copies. Save some money and make your own copies prior to visiting)
  6. Brush up on your Spanish speaking skills.

Here’s what you’ll do if you cross from Laredo, TX like we did:

  1. Follow the signs for Mexico vehicle inspection. They may or may not search your vehicle. It’s a pretty chill process overall.
  2. Follow blue signs for CIITEV building. This is where you apply for your tourist pass AND register your vehicle. The CIITEV building looks like a huge warehouse.
  3. Go inside the middle door to get your tourist pass and vehicle registered. One of the first things you’ll do is to fill out a mandatory Entry Immigration Form.
  4. Keep all the paperwork they give to you. Technically, you need to be carrying the tourist pass on your person at all times. But, we were never asked to show authorities such things.
  5. When you return to the US, they will give you your deposit back, so don’t lose anything! You’ll just drive through the drive-thru booth at CIITEV. OR you could also do it at the border crossing. Either way works fine. But we did it at CIITEV so that we could also get our pesos exchanged for USD.

If you’re flying then…

Photo by Pixabay on

You’ll need pretty much the same essentials as you would if you were driving. Here’s a list to help you prepare what you’ll need as you cross:

  1. U.S. Passport
  2. Driver’s License
  3. Renting a car:
    1. Prepare to purchase Mexican insurance on the vehicle (minimum is civil liability insurance)
    2. Valid US Driver’s license
    3. You must be at least 21 years old and have held your Driver’s license for at least 2 years
    4. Valid credit card
  4. Copies of your ID, Vehicle Registration, and U.S. Passport (not necessary, but they charged us $2 to make copies. Save some money and make your own copies prior to visiting)
  5. Arrival flight information
  6. Full name of address and hotel you’re staying at in Mexico

How do I know if I need a tourist pass?


Your visit to Mexico is for the purpose of: recreation, pleasure, or vacation

If you’re planning on traveling to Mexico in less than 30 days and will stay no longer than 180 days, you qualify for a tourist pass.

It’s pretty much making sure you can get back to the US without any extra and unnecessary hassle. The tourist pass is good for 180 days. They’ll ask you at CIITEV how long you plan on visiting. Regardless of if you say 2 weeks or 2 days, your tourist pass will still be good for 180 days.

Also, without a tourist pass, you’re technically an illegal immigrant. And no one wants that, right?

When can I cross the border?

Well, technically you can cross at any point in time. But I strongly advise you to cross during the day if you can. It’s safer and easier to navigate if you have some daylight on your side.

I travelled to Potrero Chico, Mexico which is near Hidalgo, Mexico. If you can, drive straight through to your destination without stopping to avoid any potential for car hijacking or unfriendly encounters. Our 4Runner made it from Laredo, Texas to Potrero Chico without needing to fill up for gas.

Also, make sure your GPS is taking you on the best route. Avoid going through small towns/cities along the way. The more you can stay on the major interstates, the better off you are. I made the mistake of forgetting to turn off the ‘no tolls’ setting on my GPS, and it took us right through an awful part of Nuevo Laredo. Needless to say, it was super sketch and we would like to never do that again. Someone tried to wave us to the side of the street in an unmarked car… No bueno.

But, all in all, it is relatively safe as long as you: travel during the day and avoid unnecessary stopping.

Getting back home and crossing the US border

This took us FOREVER. Traffic was awful on that Friday we were trying to get back… tons of cars and some locals were literally haggling you while sitting in traffic on a hot day to buy whatever product they were trying to sell: trinkets, jewelry, popcorn, dried shrimp, etc. Just annoying, really.

But, make sure you take into consideration the fact that the traffic might be

It’s definitely not as laid back as it will be when you enter Mexico. US Customs has a plethora of rules and regulations you need to follow and abide by:

Pulled from

I’d still plan on traveling during the day, just to make sure you’re extra safe and have daylight to see where to go and what’s going on around you.

Enjoy your upcoming trip to Mexico! Connect with me to ask any questions you might have, especially if you’re planning a trip to Potrero Chico, Mexico for some world-class limestone multi-pitch sport climbing! Cheers!

#teachonclimbon #teachertaylortravels

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