Crossing the Mexico border in an RV can seem intimidating at first if you’ve never done it before. But with the help of this guide, you’ll quickly see the process is much easier than you may think.
After RVing Mexico for over 15 months on three separate trips, we’ve had our fair share of border crossings. This blog will share what the process is like. While also explaining what is needed, and answering some common questions about crossing the Mexico border in an RV.
If you’re looking for more information beyond the border crossing process, including how to prepare your RV, get clean water for drinking, stay connected with wifi and internet, and countless other important tips for RV life in Mexico, purchase our FULL 70-page guide to RVing Mexico. We also have over 50+ videos of our time RVing Mexico, which can help you see firsthand what RVing Mexico is like.
Preparing to cross the Mexican border
When you cross the border into Mexico you are traveling internationally. Meaning you will need a valid passport book or passport card in addition to a valid driver’s license to cross. You should also have your vehicle’s registration on hand with several copies of these documents for safekeeping.
In addition to these items, you will also need your vehicle’s title. Or an authorized letter from the financing entity for the vehicle if you do not have a free and clear title. We personally have never been asked to show these documents. But technically they say this is required.
Mexico liability insurance
If you are driving an RV, fifth wheel, or van you will need to purchase special Mexican Liability Insurance prior to crossing. This insurance is in addition to your general collision and liability coverage provided by your insurance company at home. Mexico requires at least $300,000 in liability insurance although you can purchase more if desired.
There are a number of insurance providers that offer full liability and collision coverage or basic liability coverage for one or more vehicles for a period of 6 months or 12 months at a time. We used Mexpro and paid around $300 for our RV and scooter and added a “Mexico rider” from our normal provider which covered us for collision and basic liability south of the border.
Your passport, vehicle registration, license, and liability insurance are the only items that are required of you before your cross. The rest will happen once you get to the border crossing station or just after crossing.
Can you bring pets into Mexico?
Pets are welcome in Mexico without additional paperwork other than up-to-date vaccination records. A health certificate for any pets is no longer required as of December 16, 2019. The border agent may request the pets be removed from the vehicle. So have access to a carrier or leash.
The Mexico border crossing process
Every border crossing operates a bit differently. It’s a good idea to research the particular border crossing beforehand in a Facebook Group like RVing Mexico to make sure you understand the process for your exact location.
Some border crossings, like Colombia Bridge in Laredo, Texas, will have important services together at the border crossing location. Making the process much easier. Most other border crossings will require you to drive to separate locations to complete this process.
Before crossing, check the opening and closing times. We suggest arriving right at the opening to ensure you have ample drive time to your destination It can take 1 – 3 hours to cross and complete paperwork.
Mexico border crossing station
Since every border works a bit differently the process can look different depending on where you cross. Most have several lanes for entry with an electronic sign that will flash either a red or green light. If the light shows red and the alarm goes off, it means proceeding to have the vehicle inspected. If it flashes green, it means you are able to cross without further inspection.
The Colombia Bridge crossing at Laredo has the inspection point and offices on-site in one location. This makes it much easier but be prepared for a more rigorous crossing process including driving your RV through an X-ray machine. Ysidro border crossing in Tijuana also has an X-ray machine. Although it’s not always operating.
Some crossings will allow you to drive through the border without needing to stop or talk to an agent until you reach an inspection area which can be several minutes up the road. If that’s the case make sure you follow signs for auto, RV, or bus, not NOT a trailer or camion through the border crossing station, and then stop at Banjercito or Aduana down the road to complete the necessary paperwork.
A small toll payment will be required before crossing in or out of Mexico. Have pesos on hand before crossing. Toll roads in Mexico, which will be the road you drive on after crossing accept cash (effectivo) only. There are ATMs you can visit to withdraw cash from once in Mexico, but it’s suggested to have at least $5,000 pesos on you when you cross.
Tourist visa Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM)
All visitors regardless of where you are traveling to in Mexico will need to get an FMM, which is your tourist visa. You can complete the FMM application at the Mexican Immigration Office (IMF) office after crossing the border or you can complete and pay for the form online prior to arrival (no more than 30 days before crossing).
The tourist visa is only as good as the number of days you specify on the visa. Which at maximum, is 180 days. The IMF office has the right to grant you fewer days if desired. So while you can request 180 days know that you could be awarded less.
No matter when or how you fill out the form you will need to stop at the IMF office after crossing the border to get the visa stamped and approved. Previously Mexico used an official FMM form to issue tourist permits. As of 2022, they are phasing those forms out and stamping passports instead. You may not get the FMM form as it appears in this photo.
Temporary Import Permit
If you are traveling in the Baja California peninsula or staying in the “Free Trade Zone” only, you will not need to import your vehicle. All you will need is your FMM. If you are traveling beyond the “Free Trade Zone” you will need to get a temporary import permit (TIP) for your vehicle. This is issued at the “Banjercito or Aduana” and can only be processed AFTER your FMM has been approved.
You will first apply for your TIP at the Banjercito. You will need your vehicle’s registration, license, passport, and liability insurance to apply. They may request a copy of the title or written approval letter from your lender if your RV or vehicle is financed.
You will then pay for the TIP (at a separate counter). You can pay with American Dollars, Pesos, or a credit card (Visa or Mastercard only) at the Banjercito. The name on the card must match the name on the registered vehicle. The agent will require copies of your application paperwork and FMM. There is a photocopy station at every office but you can only pay with pesos.
If you have a tow vehicle you will need to register your RV and car or scooter. Our scooter’s TIP was $400 and was valid as long as the visa was issued. It was refunded to us upon exit. The RV permit was $50 US dollars and is good for 10 years. The total cost for the permit is charged in pesos, so the actual cost will be dependent on currency conversion rates at the time of crossing. Expect to pay anywhere from $375 – $450 USD depending on the strength of the Mexican peso.
Previously the TIP was issued as a sticker, but now they are done electronically. You will get a 1 page printed certificate showing you paid for the TIP and an email with the formal certificate for your records. You MUST return your TIP for any secondary tow vehicles upon exit of the country. There is a return box at border crossings for this, but agents at the border will not remind you if you forget. Once returned the deposit will be refunded to the card that was originally charged within 7 days or less.
It’s a good idea to have 2 to 3 copies of your completed paperwork including your passports and driver’s licenses. Store them in a safe place in your vehicle with a digital copy in the cloud.
Worried you won’t be able to remember all of this? Grab a FREE border crossing checklist to keep track of your important documents and steps for crossing.
Hopefully, this guide has shown you that the process of crossing the Mexico border in an RV isn’t as bad as it may seem. I promise any hassle involved is more than made up for once you start exploring. If you’re looking for ideas on where to go or what to do, here are 20 Bucket List Places to Visit in Mexico, and don’t forget to check out our Youtube channel for more travel inspiration.