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U.S. Department of State
95/06 Tips for Travelers to Mexico
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Department of State Publication 10270
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Revised June 1995
The information in this publication is in the public domain and may be
reproduced without permission. When this material is reproduced, the
Department of State would appreciate receiving a copy at: CA/P/PA,
Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-4818.
For sale by the U.S. Government Printing Office
Superintendent of Documents, Mailstop: SSOP
Washington, DC 20402-9328
Tips for Travelers to Mexico
Table of Contents
How To Have a Safe and Healthy Trip
Know Before You Go........................................2
Consular Information Program..............................2
Travel by Car.............................................8
Bringing Your Own Plane or Boat to Mexico................12
Avoiding Legal Problems..................................13
U.S. Assistance in Mexico
Where to Turn If You Have Serious Legal,
Medical, or Financial Difficulties.....................15
Advice on Dual Nationality...............................16
A Guide to Entry and Exit Regulations
Getting Into Mexico......................................17
Operation of Citizen's Band (CB) Equipment...............18
What You May Bring Into Mexico...........................18
Shopping--Some Things To Beware of Buying................20
Returning to the United States...........................21
Useful Addresses and Telephone Numbers
U.S. Embassy, Mexico City................................22
Consulates General and Consulates........................22
Tips for Travelers to Mexico
Between 15 and 16 million U.S. citizens visit Mexico each year, while
more than 460,000 Americans reside there year round. Although the
majority of visitors thoroughly enjoy their stay, a small number
experience difficulties and serious inconveniences. The Department of
State and its Embassy and consulates in Mexico offer a wide range of
services to assist U.S. citizens in distress. U.S. consular officials
meet regularly with Mexican authorities to promote the safety of U.S.
citizens in Mexico.
The Department of State seeks to encourage international travel.
Conditions in Mexico, however, can contrast sharply with those to which
you are accustomed. This pamphlet contains advice to help you avoid
inconveniences and difficulties as you go. Take our advice seriously
but do not let it keep you at home. To keep you among the majority who
do not experience difficulties, this brochure will offer some
precautions you may take.
Before you go, learn as much as you can about your destination. Your
travel agent, local bookstore, public library and the embassy of the
country or countries you plan to visit are all useful sources of
information. Another source is the Department of State's Background
Notes series which includes a pamphlet regarding the specific country to
which you wish to travel. To obtain specific pamphlet prices and
information, contact the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402; tel: (202) 512-1800. You may
also obtain select issues by fax by calling the State Department's
Bureau of Public Affairs (202) 736-7720 from your fax machine.
Important: This pamphlet was prepared from information obtained prior
to June 1995. This information is subject to change. Please consult
the latest Consular Information Sheet for current information.
How To Have a Safe and Healthy Trip
Know Before You Go
As you travel, keep abreast of local news coverage. If you plan a long
stay in one place or if you are in an area where communications are
poor, experiencing civil unrest or some natural disaster, you are
encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
Registration takes only a few moments, and it may be invaluable in case
of an emergency. Remember to leave a detailed itinerary and the numbers
of your passport or other citizenship documents with a friend or
relative in the United States. You should bring either a U.S. passport
or a certified copy of a birth certificate with photo identification.
For specific information on Mexico see page 17. Carry your photo
identification and the name of a person to contact with you in the event
of serious illness or other emergency. It is also wise to photocopy
your airline or other tickets and your list of travelers checks. Leave
a copy with someone at home, and carry an extra copy with you.
Safety begins before you leave home. Do not bring anything you would
hate to lose. Leave things like unnecessary credit cards and expensive
jewelry at home. Bring travelers checks, not cash. Use a money belt or
concealed pouch for passport, cash, and other valuables.
Consular Information Program
Before traveling obtain the Consular Information Sheet for Mexico and
any other countries you plan to visit. You should also check to see if
the Department of State has issued a Travel Warning for the country or
countries you will be visiting. Warnings are issued when the Department
of State decides, based on all relevant information, to recommend that
all Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Consular Information
Sheets are available for every country in the world. They include such
information as the location of the U.S. embassy or consulate in the
country, unusual immigration practices, health conditions, minor
political disturbances, unusual currency and entry regulations, crime
and security information, and drug penalties. If an unstable condition
exists in a country that is not severe enough to warrant a Warning, a
description of the condition(s) may be included in the Consular
Information Sheet under an optional section entitled "Areas of
Instability." On limited occasions, the Department also restates in
this section U.S. Embassy advice given to official employees. Consular
Information Sheets generally do not include advice, but present
information on factual matters so that travelers can make knowledgeable
decisions concerning travel to a particular country. Countries where
avoidance of travel is recommended will have Travel Warnings as well as
Consular Information Sheets.
How to Access Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings
Consular Information Sheets and Travel Warnings may be heard any time by
dialing the office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225 from
a touchtone phone. The recording is updated as new information becomes
available. They are also available at any of the 13 regional passport
agencies, field offices of the Department of Commerce, and U.S.
embassies and consulates abroad, or, by writing or sending a self-
addressed, stamped envelope to the Office of Overseas Citizens Services,
Bureau of Consular Affairs, Room 4811, U.S. Department of State,
Washington, D.C. 20520-4818.
From your fax machine, dial (202) 647-3000, using the handset as you
would a regular telephone. The system will instruct you on how to
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board - CABB
If you have a personal computer, modem and communication software, you
can access the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). This service is
free of charge. To view or download the documents from a computer and
modem, dial the CABB on (202) 647-9225, setting your software to N-8-1.
Health problems sometimes affect visitors to Mexico. Information on
health precautions can be obtained from local health departments or
private doctors. General guidance can also be found in the U.S. Public
Health Service book, Health Information for International Travel,
available for $7.00 from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S.
Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, or the Centers for
Disease Control's international travelers hotline at (404) 332-4559.
It is wise to review your health insurance policy before you travel. In
some places, particularly at resorts, medical costs can be as high or
higher than in the United States. If your insurance policy does not
cover you in Mexico, it is strongly recommended that you purchase a
policy that does. There are short-term health insurance policies
designed specifically to cover travel.
Medical facilities in Mexico differ from those in the United States.
Adequate medical care can be found in all major cities. There are some
excellent health facilities in Mexico City. Some remote areas or
coastal islands may have few or no medical facilities. For these
reasons, in addition to medical insurance that you can use in Mexico,
consider obtaining insurance or joining a medical assistance program to
cover the exorbitant cost of medical evacuation in the event of an
accident or serious illness. As part of the coverage, these programs
usually offer emergency consultation by telephone. They may refer you
to the nearest hospital or call for help on your behalf; they may
translate your instructions to a health care worker on the scene. The
cost of medical evacuation coverage can be as low as $50.00 for a trip
of 30 days. Without this insurance, medical evacuation can cost
thousands of dollars.
If your travel agent cannot direct you to a medical assistance company,
look for information in travel magazines. The U.S. government cannot
pay to have you medically evacuated to the United States.
Immunizations are normally recommended against diptheria, tetanus,
polio, typhoid, and hepatitis A for travelers. Generally, these
immunizations are administered during childhood. For visitors coming
directly from the United States, no immunization certification is
required to enter Mexico. If you are traveling from an area known to be
infected with yellow fever, a vaccination certificate is required.
Malaria is found in some rural areas of Mexico, particularly those near
the southwest coast. Travelers to malarial areas should consult their
physician or the U.S. Public Health Service and take the recommended
dosage of chloroquine. Although chloroquine is not considered necessary
for travelers to the major resort areas on the Pacific and Gulf coasts,
travelers to those areas should use insect repellent and take other
personal protection measures to reduce contact with mosquitoes,
particularly from dusk to dawn when malaria transmission is most likely.
Air pollution in Mexico City is severe. It is most dangerous during
thermal inversions which occur most often from December to May. Air
pollution plus Mexico City's high altitude are a particular health risk
for the elderly and persons with high blood pressure, anemia, or
respiratory or cardiac problems. If this applies to you, consult your
doctor before traveling to Mexico City.
In high altitude areas, such as Mexico City, most people need a short
adjustment period. Spend the first few days in a leisurely manner, with
a light diet and reduced intake of alcohol. Avoid strenuous activity,
this includes everything from sports to rushing up the stairs. Reaction
signs to high altitude are lack of energy, a tendency to tire easily,
shortness of breath, occasional dizziness, and insomnia.
Drink only bottled water or water that has been boiled for 20 minutes.
Be aware of ice cubes that may not have been made with purified water.
Vegetables and fruits should be peeled or washed in a purifying
solution. A good rule to follow is if you can't peel it or cook it, do
not eat it. Diarrhea may benefit from antimicrobial treatment which may
be prescribed or purchased over the counter. Travelers should consult a
physician, rather than attempt self-medication, if the diarrhea is
severe or persists several days.
In an emergency, call  (5) 250-0123, the 24-hour hotline of the
Mexican Ministry of Tourism. They also have two toll free numbers: if
calling within Mexico  800-90-392 and from the U.S. 1-800-482-9832.
The hotline is for immediate assistance, but it can give you general,
nonemergency guidance as well. It is an important number to keep with
you. If necessary, in an emergency, you may also call the U.S. Embassy
or the nearest U.S. consulate or consular agency. (See addresses at the
end of this pamphlet.)
As a visitor to Mexico, be alert to your new surroundings. Problem
situations in Mexico may be different from those you are used to, and
safety regulations and their enforcement are generally not equivalent to
In large cities, take the same precautions against assault, robbery, or
pickpockets that you would take in any large U.S. city. Be aware that
women and small children, as well as men, can be pickpockets or purse
snatchers. Keep your billfold in an inner front pocket; carry your
purse tucked securely under your arm; and wear the shoulder strap of
your camera or bag across your chest. To guard against thieves on
motorcycles, walk away from the curb and carry your purse away from the
At the Hotel. Travelers to Mexico should leave valuables and
irreplacable items in a safe place. All visitors are encouraged to make
use of hotel safes when available.
On Public Transport. Be vigilant in bus and train stations and on
public transport. Watch out for pickpockets in these areas.
On Streets and Highways. Be aware of persons representing themselves as
Mexican police or other local officials. It is not uncommon for
Americans to become victims of harassment, mistreatment, and extortion
by Mexican law enforcement and other officials. Mexican authorities are
concerned about these incidents and have cooperated in investigating
such cases. You must, however, have the officer's name, badge number,
and patrol car number to pursue a complaint. Make a note of this
information if you are ever involved with police or other officials.
Do not be surprised if you encounter several types of police in Mexico.
The Preventive Police, the Transit Police, and the Federal Highway
Police all wear uniforms. The Judicial Police who work for the public
prosecutor are not uniformed.
At the Pool or Beach. Do not leave your belongings on the beach while
you are swimming. Keep your passport and other valuables in the hotel
Visitors to Mexican resorts should carefully assess the risk potential
of recreational activities. Sports and aquatic equipment that you rent
may not meet U.S. safety standards nor be covered by any accident
insurance. For example, unless you are certain that scuba diving
equipment is up to standard, do not use it. Inexperienced scuba divers
should be aware of dive shops that promise to "certify" you after a few
hours instruction. Safe diving requires lengthy training.
Parasailing is offered at many Mexican beach resorts. Be aware that by
putting your name on the passenger list, you may be relieving the boat
operator and owner of responsibility for your safety. There have been
cases in which tourists have been dragged through palm trees or slammed
into hotel walls while participating in this activity.
Be extremely careful when renting jet-skis. Several tourists have been
killed or injured in jet-ski accidents, particularly when participating
in group tours. Often inexperienced tour guides allow their clients to
follow too closely or operate the jet-skis in other unsafe manners. In
one case the jet-ski rental company carried liability insurance limited
to $2,500 U.S. dollars. Make sure that the rental company has adequate
medical/accident insurance, is staffed with personnel on-site with water
rescue training, and properly demonstrates safe operation of the vehicle
to you before you rent or operate such equipment.
Do not use pools or beaches without lifeguards, or, if you do, exercise
extreme caution. Do not dive into unknown bodies of water because
hidden rocks or shallow depths can cause serious injury or death. Some
Mexican beaches, such as those in Cancun, have warning signs about
undertow; take them seriously. Be aware that the newer resorts may lack
comprehensive medical facilities.
Travel by Car
People are often surprised when inconveniences occur because they were
unaware of the laws regarding crossing the border. It is important for
visitors to remember the following steps when crossing the border
between the United States and Mexico by automobile. There are no
procedures to comply with if you are traveling within the Border Zone or
Free Trade Zone (including the Baja California Peninsula and the Sonora
Free Trade Zone). If you wish to travel past these zones, you will need
to adhere to certain procedures. The first step to take is to obtain
the original and photocopies of the appropriate immigration form, the
vehicle state registration certificate or document certifying legal
ownership, and leasing contract. If the vehicle is leased or rented
then it must be in the person's name who is importing the car. If the
vehicle belongs to a company, proper documentation is necessary to show
the individual works for the company. A valid driver's license and an
international credit card (American Express, Diner's Club, Mastercard or
Visa) are needed in the name of the owner of the vehicle. If you do
not possess an international credit card, you will be asked to post a
bond, payable to the Federal Treasury, issued by an authorized bonding
company in Mexico. An alternative is to make a cash deposit at Banco
del Ejercito in an amount equal to the value of the vehicle according to
the tables of vehicle values for bonding companies. This is often a
substantial percentage of the vehicle's value. The second step is to
present the documents you have received to the Vehicular Control Module
located in Customs to process the importation permit. Carry this
document with you at all times! The permit is valid for periods up to
six months. The vehicle may be driven across the border multiple times
during the authorized period of the permit. Other persons may drive the
car as long as the owner is in the vehicle. Other foreigners with the
same "tourist" status as the vehicle owner may drive the vehicle without
the owner present in the car. If you wish to authorize another person
to drive your car, record the authorization with Mexican officials when
you enter Mexico--even if you expect to be a passenger when the other
person drives. Do not, under any circumstances, allow an unauthorized
person to drive the vehicle when the owner is not in it. Such a person
would have to pay a fine amounting to a substantial percentage of the
vehicles's value, and your vehicle would be confiscated. All documents
and the credit card must be in the name of the owner, who must be
present upon crossing the border. We caution American citizens not to
loan their vehicles to Mexican citizens resident in Mexico as those
vehicles are subject to seizure by Mexican authorities. If confiscated,
they are not returned. In the third step, your credit card will be
charged an amount in national currency equivalent to U.S. $10 at the
Banco del Ejercito. If you do not have a credit card, the bank will
accept cash in an amount equal to the value of your vehicle shown in the
table of vehicle values for bonding companies. Your deposit plus any
interest it may earn will be returned upon departure from Mexico. You
may also, instead, obtain a bond through an authorized Mexican bonding
company located at all border crossings. The bonding companies require
a refundable deposit equal to a substantial percentage of the vehicle's
value. The bonding company will also assess taxes and processing costs
for this service. Finally, upon your departure from Mexico, and if the
vehicle will not be driven back into Mexico, the permit for temporary
importation must be cancelled at Customs. If these steps are carefully
followed, there should be no problem taking your car to Mexico.
Remember, if your car is found in Mexico beyond the authorized time or
without the proper documents, it will be immediately confiscated. Also,
the sale, abandonment, or use of the vehicle for financial gain will
result in its confiscation. For more information, contact your nearest
office of the Mexican Consulate or call 1-800-446-8277.
If you bring spare auto parts to Mexico, declare them when you enter the
country. When you leave, be prepared to show that you are taking the
unused parts with you or that you have had them installed in Mexico.
Save your repair receipts for this purpose.
All vehicular traffic is restricted in the capital city of Mexico City
in order to reduce air pollution. The restriction is based on the last
digit of the vehicle license plate. (There is no specific provision
regarding plates with letters only.) Driving of vehicles with temporary
license plates or any other plate not conforming with the above is not
Monday: no driving if license plate ends with 5 or 6
Tuesday: no driving if license plate ends with 7 or 8
Wednesday: no driving if license plate ends with 3 or 4
Thursday: no driving if license plate ends with 1 or 2
Friday: no driving if license plate ends with 9 or 0
Saturday and Sunday: all vehicles may be driven.
Avoid excessive speed and, if at all possible, do not drive at night.
Loose livestock can appear at any time. Construction sites or stranded
vehicles are often unmarked by flares or other warning signals.
Sometimes cars have only one headlight. Many cars lack brake lights.
Bicycles seldom have lights or reflectors. This makes for very
dangerous driving conditions at night. Be prepared for a sudden stop at
any time. Mexican driving conditions are such that, for your safety,
you must drive more slowly than you do at home.
Learn local driving signals. In Mexico, a blinking left turn signal on
the vehicle in front of you could mean that it is clear ahead and you
may pass, or it could mean the driver is making a left turn. An
outstretched left arm may mean an invitation for you to pass. When in
doubt, do not pass.
An oncoming vehicle flashing its headlights is a warning for you to slow
down or pull over because you are both approaching a narrow bridge or
place in the road. The custom is that the first vehicle to flash has
the right of way and the other must yield.
When it begins to rain, immediately slow down to a crawl. Freshly wet
roads are dangerous because oil and road dust mix with water and form a
lubricant. Until this mixture washes away, driving is extremely
hazardous. Beware of sudden rains. Stop, or go extremely slow, until
To avoid highway crime, try not to drive at night and never drive alone
during this time. Never sleep in vehicles along the road. Do not,
under any circumstances, pick up hitchhikers who not only pose a threat
to your physical safety, but also put you in danger of being arrested
for unwittingly transporting narcotics or narcotics traffickers in your
vehicle. Your vehicle can be confiscated if you are transporting
marijuana or other narcotics. There are checkpoints and temporary
roadblocks where vehicles are checked.
If you plan to drive, learn about your route from an auto club, guide
book, or a Mexican government tourist office. Some routes have heavy
truck and bus traffic, others have poor or nonexistent shoulders, and
many have animals on the loose. Also, some of the newer roads have very
few restaurants, motels, gas stations, or auto repair shops. You may
not be able to avoid all problems, but at least you will know what to
expect if you have done some research.
For your safety, have your vehicle serviced and in optimum condition
before you leave for Mexico. It is wise to bring an extra fan belt,
fuses, and other spare parts. Pack a basic first-aid kit and carry an
emergency water supply in your vehicle. Unleaded gasoline (magna sin)
is generally available throughout Mexico. Bring a flexible funnel to
fill your gas tank because some gas stations have nozzles too large to
fit unleaded tanks.
If you have an emergency while driving, call the Ministry of Tourism's
hotline or (91)(5) 250-8221/8555 ext. 130/297 to obtain help from the
"Green Angels," a fleet of radio dispatched trucks with bilingual crews
that operate daily. Services include protection, medical first aid,
mechanical aid for your car, and basic supplies. You will not be
charged for services, only for parts, gas, and oil. The Green Angels
patrol daily, from dawn until sunset. If you are unable to call them,
pull off the road and lift the hood of your car; chances are good they
will find you.
Insurance. Mexican auto insurance is sold in most cities and towns on
both sides of the border. U.S. automobile liability insurance is not
valid in Mexico nor is most collision and comprehensive coverage issued
by U.S. companies. Therefore, when you cross the border, purchase auto
insurance adequate for your needs in Mexico. A good rule of thumb is to
buy coverage equivalent to that which you carry in the United States.
Motor vehicle insurance is invalid in Mexico if the driver is found to
be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Regardless of whether you
have insurance, if you are involved in an accident, you will be taken
into police custody until it can be determined who is liable and whether
you have the ability to pay any judgment. If you do not have Mexican
liability insurance, you are almost certain to spend some time in jail
until all parties are satisfied that responsibility has been assigned
and adequate financial satisfaction received. There may also be
criminal liability assigned if the injuries or damages are serious.
Renting in the United States. Many car rental companies in the United
States have clauses in their contracts prohibiting drivers from
traveling out of the country. The Mexican police are aware of these
regulations, and will sometimes impound rental vehicles driven from the
United States. When renting a vehicle in the United States, check with
the company to see if your contract allows you to drive it into Mexico.
Renting a Car in Mexico. The standard insurance included with many car
rental contracts in Mexico provides only nominal liability coverage,
often as little as the equivalent of $200. Because Mexican law permits
the jailing of drivers after an accident until they have met their
obligations to third parties and to the rental company, renters should
read their contracts carefully and purchase additional liability and
comprehensive insurance if necessary.
Bringing Your Own Plane or Boat to Mexico
Private aircraft and boats are subject to the same Mexican customs
regulations as are motor vehicles. When you arrive at a Mexican port in
your private boat, you can obtain a temporary import permit similar to
the one given for motor vehicles.
Flying your own plane to Mexico, however, is more complicated. Well
before your trip, inquire about private aircraft regulations and
procedures from a Mexican consulate or Mexican Government Tourist
Street crime is common, especially in urban areas. Persons driving on
some Mexican roads, particularly in isolated regions, have been targeted
by bandits who operate primarily after dark. Criminals, particularly in
Sinaloa, sometimes represent themselves as Mexican police or other local
officials. The U.S. Embassy advises its personnel not to travel on
Mexican highways after dark. Highway 15 and Express Highway 1 (limited
access) in the state of Sinaloa are particularly dangerous areas where
criminal assaults and murders have occurred, during the day and night.
If You Are in Danger. Call the Mexican Ministry of Tourism's emergency
hotline,  (5) 250-0123, for immediate assistance. Or, in Mexico
City, dial 06 for police assistance.
If You Have Been the Victim of a Crime. Immediately contact the U.S.
Embassy or the nearest U.S. consulate or consular agency. For addresses
and telephone numbers, see the end of this pamphlet. You should also
report the crime to the local police immediately.
Avoiding Legal Problems
While traveling in Mexico, you are subject to Mexican laws and not U.S.
laws. Tourists who commit illegal acts have no special privileges and
are subject to full prosecution under the Mexican judicial system.
Avoid drug offenses. Mexico rigorously prosecutes drug cases. Under
Mexican law, possession of and trafficking in illegal drugs are federal
offenses. For drug trafficking, bail does not exist. Convicted
offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and fines. Sentences for
possession of drugs in Mexico can be as long as 25 years plus fines.
Just as in the U.S., the purchase of controlled medication requires a
doctor's prescription. The Mexican list of controlled medication
differs from the U.S. list, and Mexican public health laws concerning
controlled medication are unclear. Possession of excessive amounts of a
psychotropic drug such as valium can result in your arrest if the
authorities suspect abuse. Mexican law does not differentiate between
types of narcotics: heroin, marijuana, and amphetamines, for example,
are treated the same. Offenders found guilty of possessing more than a
token amount of any narcotic substance are subject to a minimum sentence
of 10 years, and it is not uncommon for persons charged with drug
offenses to be detained for up to 1 year before a verdict is reached.
Remember, if narcotics are found in your vehicle, you are subject to
arrest and your vehicle can be confiscated.
Avoid public drunkenness. It is against the law to be drunk in public
in Mexico. Certain border towns have become impatient with teenaged
(and older) Americans who cross the border to drink and carouse. This
behavior can lead to fights, arrests, traffic accidents, and even
Do not bring firearms. Possession of any gun or rifle without proper
authorization by the Mexican authorities is considered a "Firearms
Offense" in Mexico and carries stiff penalties. Possession of a single
non-assault weapon carries a penalty of up to five years in Mexican
prison. Sentences for possession of firearms in Mexico can be as long
as 30 years. A permit from a Mexican consulate in the U.S. is required
to import firearms or ammunition into Mexico, whether or not the firearm
is legally registered in the U.S. The U.S. Embassy has noted an
increase of Americans being detained for illegally smuggling arms into
Mexico. U.S. citizens should comply with all Mexican laws on arms,
including any arms they may wish to bring in for hunting. Some Mexican
cities have ordinances prohibiting the possession of knives or anything
that might be construed as a weapon.
Be aware that, even when you enter Mexican waters on your private boat,
you are subject to the ban on importing firearms.
Some cities, such as Nuevo Laredo, have ordinances prohibiting the
possession of knives and similar weapons. Tourists have even been
arrested for possessing souvenir knives. Most arrests for knife
possession occur in connection with some other infraction, such as drunk
and disorderly behavior.
Failure to pay hotel bills or for other services rendered is considered
fraud under Mexican law. Those accused of these offenses are subject to
arrest and conviction with stiff fines and jail sentences.
Be cautious when purchasing real estate. U.S. citizens who become
involved in time-share or other real property purchases should be aware
that Mexican laws and practices regarding real estate are markedly
different from those in the United States. Foreigners purchasing real
estate or time-shares in Mexico have no protection under Mexican law and
should be aware of the high risks involved. Foreigners may be granted
the right to own real property only under very specific conditions and
the purchase of real property in Mexico is far more complicated than in
the United States. For example no title insurance is available in
Mexico for the purchaser and the builders frequently go bankrupt leaving
the investors with little recourse to recoup their funds. The U.S.
Embassy strongly recommends the use of competent local legal assistance
for any significant real property or business purchase. A list of local
attorneys can be obtained from the U.S. Embassy or the nearest consulate
To Avoid Disputes With Merchants, Be a Careful Shopper. Make sure the
goods you buy are in good condition and always get a receipt. There is
a federal consumer protection office, the Procuraduria Federal del
Consumidor, to assist you if you have a major problem with a faulty
product or service. However, if the problem is with a service of the
tourist industry, you should bring the matter to the Mexican Government
Tourist Office (Secretaria de Turismo).
U.S. Assistance in Mexico
Where To Turn If You Have Serious Legal, Medical, or Financial
Legal Problems. If you find yourself in serious difficulty while in
Mexico, contact a consular officer at the U.S. Embassy or the nearest
U.S. consulate for assistance. U.S. consuls cannot serve as attorneys
or give legal assistance. They can, however, provide lists of local
attorneys and advise you of your rights under Mexican laws.
Worldwide, Mexico has the highest number of arrests of Americans abroad-
-over 1,000 per year--and the highest prison population of U.S. citizens
outside of the United States-- about 450 at any one time. If you are
arrested, ask permission to notify the U.S. Embassy or nearest U.S.
consulate. Under international agreements and practice, you have the
right to talk with an American consul. Although U.S. consuls are
limited in what they can do to assist you in legal difficulties, they
can monitor the status of detained U.S. citizens and make sure they are
treated fairly under local laws. They will also notify your relatives
or friends upon your request.
An individual is guaranteed certain rights under the Mexican
constitution, but those rights differ significantly from U.S.
constitutional guarantees. The Mexican judicial system is based on
Roman and Napoleonic law and presumes a person accused of a crime to be
guilty until proven innocent. There is no trial by jury nor writ of
habeas corpus in the Anglo-American sense. Trial under the Mexican
system is a prolonged process based largely on documents examined on a
fixed date in court by prosecution and defense counsel. Sentencing
usually takes 6 to 10 months. Bail can be granted after sentencing if
the sentence is less than 5 years. Pre-trial bail exists but is never
granted when the possible sentence upon conviction is greater than 5
Medical or Financial Problems. If you become seriously ill, U.S.
consular officers can assist in finding a doctor and in notifying your
family and friends about your condition. Consular officers can also
help arrange the transfer of emergency funds to you if you become
destitute as a result of robbery, accident, or other emergency.
Advice on Dual Nationality
U.S. law recognizes that Americans may also be citizens of other
Under Mexican law, an individual born in Mexico of an American parent or
parents may acquire both nationalities at birth. Also, a U.S. citizen
born in the United States of a Mexican father--or after December 26,
1969, of a Mexican mother--may have dual nationality.
If you are a U.S.-Mexican dual national, you must have evidence of your
U.S. citizenship with you when you travel between the United States and
Mexico. Such evidence can be a U.S. passport, naturalization
certificate, consular report of birth abroad, certificate of
citizenship, or a certified copy of your U.S. birth certificate.
If you are a dual national, be aware that you will not lose your U.S.
nationality if you obtain a Certificate of Mexican Nationality. Loss of
U.S. citizenship would only occur if you sign a statement relinquishing
U.S. citizenship. The Mexican government recognizes a child's dual
nationality from birth to age 18 without requiring an oath of
allegiance. Starting at age 18, in order to obtain a Mexican passport
or to obtain other benefits, such as the right to own property in a
restricted zone, to pay a favorable resident tuition rate at a Mexican
university, or to vote in a Mexican election, a dual national is
required by Mexican law to obtain a Certificate of Mexican Nationality
(CMN). If you are contemplating obtaining a CMN, it is recommended that
you first consult the U.S. Embassy or the nearest U.S. consulate or the
Office of Overseas Citizens Services at the Department of State.
A Guide to Entry and Exit Regulations
Getting Into Mexico
U.S. citizens visiting Mexico for no more than 72 hours and remaining
within 25 kilometers of the border do not need a permit to enter. Those
wishing to travel past the 25 kilometer border area of Mexico must be
properly documented. Those transiting Mexico to another country need a
transit visa which costs a nominal fee and is valid for up to 30 days.
Tourist Cards. All U.S. citizens visiting Mexico for tourism or study
for up to 180 days need a document, called a tourist card in English or
FMT in Spanish, to enter and leave Mexico. The tourist card is free and
may be obtained from Mexican consulates, Mexican tourism offices,
Mexican border crossing points, and from most airlines serving Mexico.
If you fly to Mexico, you must obtain your tourist card before boarding
your flight; it cannot be obtained upon arrival at an airport in Mexico.
The tourist card is issued upon presentation of proof of citizenship,
such as a U.S. passport or a U.S. birth certificate, plus a photo I.D.,
such as a driver's license. Tourist cards are issued for up to 90 days
with a single entry, or if you present proof of sufficient funds, for
180 days with multiple entries.
Upon entering Mexico, retain and safeguard the pink copy of your tourist
card so you may surrender it to Mexican immigration when you depart.
You must leave Mexico before your tourist card expires or you are
subject to a fine. A tourist card for less than 180 days may be
revalidated in Mexico by the Mexican immigration service (Direccion
General de Servicios Migratorios).
Visas. If you wish to stay longer than 180 days, or if you wish to do
business or conduct religious work in Mexico, contact the Mexican
Embassy or the nearest Mexican consulate to obtain a visa or permit.
Persons conducting religious work on a tourist card are subject to
arrest and deportation.
Residing or Retiring in Mexico. If you plan to live or retire in
Mexico, consult a Mexican consulate on the type of long-term visa you
will need. As soon as possible after you arrive in the place you will
live, it is a good idea to register with the U.S. Embassy or the nearest
U.S. consulate or consular agent. Bring your passport or other
identification with you. Registration makes it easier to contact you in
an emergency. (Registration information is confidential and will not be
released to inquirers without your express authorization.)
Traveling Minors. A child under the age of 18 traveling with only one
parent must have written, notarized consent from the other parent to
travel, or must carry, if applicable, a decree of sole custody for the
accompanying parent or a death certificate for the other parent.
Children traveling alone or in someone else's custody must have
notarized consent from both parents to travel, or if applicable,
notarized consent from a single parent plus documentation that the
parent is the only custodial parent.
Operation of Citizen's Band (CB) Equipment
American tourists are permitted to operate CB radios in Mexico. You
must, however, obtain a 180 day permit for a nominal fee by presenting
your U.S. citizen's band radio authorization at a Mexican consulate or
Mexican Government Tourist Office. This permit cannot be obtained at
Transmissions on CB equipment are allowed only on channels 9, 10, and
11, and only for personal communication and emergency road assistance.
Any device which increases transmission power to over 5 watts is
prohibited. CB equipment may not be used near radio installations of
the aeronautical and marine services.
What You May Bring Into Mexico
Customs Regulations. Tourists should enter Mexico with only the items
needed for their trip. Entering with large quantities of an item a
tourist might not normally be expected to have, particularly expensive
appliances, such as televisions, stereos, or other items, may lead to
suspicion of smuggling and possible confiscation of the items and arrest
of the individual.
Mexican regulations limit the value of goods brought into Mexico by U.S.
citizens arriving by air or sea to $300 U.S. per person and by land to
$50 U.S. per person. Other travel-related items may also be brought in
duty-free. Amounts exceeding the duty-free limit are subject to a 32.8
Unless you prepare ahead, you may have difficulty bringing computers or
other expensive electronic equipment into Mexico for your personal use.
To prevent being charged an import tax, write a statement about your
intention to use the equipment for personal use and to remove it from
Mexico when you leave. Have this statement signed and certified at a
Mexican consulate in the United States and present it to Mexican customs
as you enter Mexico.
Land travelers should verify from Mexican customs at the border that all
items in their possession may be legally brought into Mexico. You will
be subject to a second immigration and customs inspection south of the
Mexican border where unlawful items may be seized, and you could be
prosecuted regardless of whether or not the items passed through the
initial customs inspection.
Currency. The Mexican government permits tourists to exchange dollars
for pesos at the fluctuating free market rate. There are no
restrictions on the import or export of bank notes and none on the
export of reasonable quantities of ordinary Mexican coins. However,
gold or silver Mexican coins may not be exported.
Take travelers checks with you because personal U.S. checks are rarely
accepted by Mexican hotels or banks. Major credit cards are accepted in
many hotels, shops, and restaurants. An exchange office (casa de
cambios) usually gives a better rate of exchange than do stores, hotels,
Pets. U.S. visitors to Mexico may bring a dog, cat, or up to four
canaries by presenting the following certificates at the border:
(1) a pet health certificate signed by a registered veterinarian in
the United States and issued not more than 72 hours before the animal
enters Mexico; and
(2) a pet vaccination certificate showing that the animal has been
treated for rabies, hepatitis, pip, and leptospirosis.
Certification by Mexican consular authorities is not required for the
health or vaccination certificate. A permit fee is charged at the time
of entry into Mexico.
Shopping--Some Things To Beware of Buying
Wildlife and Wildlife Products. Beware of purchasing souvenirs made
from endangered wildlife. Mexican markets and stores abound with
wildlife, most of it prohibited from international traffic. You risk
confiscation and a possible fine by U.S. Customs if you attempt to
import virtually any wildlife from Mexico. In particular, watch out for
-- All products made from sea turtles, including such items as
turtle leather boots, tortoise-shell jewelry, and sea turtle oil
-- Fur from spotted cats.
-- Mexican birds, stuffed or alive, such as parrots, parakeets, or
birds of prey.
-- Crocodile and caiman leather.
-- Black coral jewelry.
-- Wildlife curios, such as stuffed iguanas.
When driving across state lines within Mexico, you can expect to be
stopped at agricultural livestock inspection stations.
Antiques. Mexico considers all pre-Colombian objects to be the
"inalienable property of the Nation" and that the unauthorized export of
such objects is theft and is punishable by arrest, detention, and
judicial prosecution. Under U.S. law, to import pre-Colombian
monumental and architectural sculpture and murals, you must present
proof that they were legally exported from the country of origin. U.S.
law does not prohibit the import of nonmonumental or nonarchitectural
artifacts from Mexico.
Glazed Ceramics. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it
is possible to suffer lead poisoning if you consume food or beverages
that have been stored or served in improperly glazed ceramic ware.
Analysis of many ceramic pieces from Mexico has shown them to contain
dangerous levels of lead. Unless you have proof of their safety, use
glazed ceramics purchased in Mexico for decorative purposes only.
Returning to the United States
You must present the pink copy of your tourist card at your point of
departure from Mexico. If you are returning by motor vehicle, you will
need to show your vehicle import permit when you cross the border. At
the time of publication, the airport departure tax is $10 or the
equivalent in Mexican currency for those returning by commercial
The U.S. Customs Service currently permits U.S. citizens returning from
international travel to bring back $400 worth of merchandise, including
1 liter of alcohol, duty free. The next $1,000 worth of items brought
back is subject to a duty of 10%.
In addition to U.S. Customs regulations, be aware that some U.S. border
states (most notably, Texas) have imposed state restrictions on liquor,
wine, and beer imports from Mexico. If you are planning to bring back
alcoholic beverages, inquire about these restrictions from the liquor
control office of the state through which you plan to return.
Useful Addresses and Telephone Numbers
Paseo de la Reforma 305
Mexico 06500, D.F.
Tel  (5) 211-0042
U.S. Export Development Office/U.S. Trade Center
Mexico 06600, D.F.
Tel  (5) 591-0155
U.S. Consulates General
American Consulate General
Avenue Lopez Mateos 924-N
Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua
Tel:  (16) 11-3000
American Consulate General
Tel  (3) 825-2998/2700
American Consulate General
Avenida Constitucion 411 Poniente
Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, 64000
Tel  (8) 345-2120
American Consulate General
Tijuana, Baja California
Tel  (66) 81-7400
Calle Monterrey 141, Poniente
Ave. Monterrey 141 Pte.
Tel  (62) 17-2375
Ave. Primera 2002
Tel  (88) 12-44-02
Paseo Montejo 453,
Tel  (99) 25-5011
Calle Allende 3330, Col. Jardin
Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas
Tel  (87) 14-0512
U.S. Consular Agents
Resident consular agents have been designated in 10 other locations in
Mexico to assist U.S. citizens in serious emergencies. Each consular
agent is supervised by one of the above-listed offices and may be
contacted through it or by calling the consular agent's direct number.
Acapulco, Hotel Club del Sol
 (748) 5-7207
Cabo San Lucas, Blvd. Marina y Perdregal, Local 3,
 (114) 3-35-66
Cancun, Avenida Nader 40, Edificio Marruecos
3rd Floor, Office 31
 (988) 4-24-11
Mazatlan, Hotel Playa Mazatlan, Rodolfo T. Loaiza 202
Zona Dorada, 82110
 (69) 134-444 Ext. 285
Oaxaca, Alcala 201
 (951) 4-3054
Puerto Vallarta, Libertad y Miramar, Local 12-A
 (322) 2-0069
San Luis Potosi, Francisco de P. Moriel 103-10
 (481) 2-1528
San Miguel de Allende, Dr. Hernandez Marcias 72
 (465) 2-2357
Tampico, Ejercito Mexicano No. 503-203, Col. Guadalupe
 (12) 13-2217
Vera Cruz, Victimas del 25 de Junio #388
 (29) 31-01-42
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