4 Tips When Driving a Car Into Mexico
Whether the trip is for business or pleasure, traveling can be an exhilarating experience for those involved. Although road trips can be exciting, they can also pose certain risks depending on the locations through which you pass. Living in San Diego, isn’t difficult to hop in a car and drive to the border. Being so close in proximity might even normalize the idea of frequenting the border for a quick trip to Mexico.
However, all drivers must remember that proper preparation is necessary for a successful trip, even if it only lasts for several hours. It is essential to understand the responsibilities you possess as a car owner in another country.
Obtain a Permit
The Border Zone, or Free Trade Zone, stretches between 12 and 18 mile south of the border. If you intend to pass this zone, you must obtain a temporary import permit, valid for up to six months. To get this permit, you must visit a customs office and provide the following information:
- Your driver’s license
- Your car’s registration
- A form of identification, like a passport or birth certificate
- A credit card under your name
- The leasing contract, if you’re leasing your car
- An immigration form, or “tourist card”
In exchange for this permit, you must post a bond. The Customs office uses your credit card to post this bond, refunding it after you cancel the permit at the border.
Don’t Assume That Traffic Conditions Are the Same
Driving conditions in Mexico don’t reflect the driving conditions in the U.S. When traveling in Mexico, assume nothing. Traffic laws are not the same as they are in the U.S. in that law enforcement does not always enforce them. In the states, we see numerous road signs and traffic stops that regulate vehicular transit, as well as police officers who constantly stop to write tickets. This is not the case in Mexico. Follow common sense logic and remain aware of your surroundings when traversing this country.
Try to follow Mexican toll roads, or cuotas. Though many Americans might avoid toll roads whenever they possibly can, they should stick to toll roads in Mexico. Cuotas are safer than free roads, or libres, and are of higher quality.
When driving in Mexico, first-time drivers must be aware that road obstacles abound.
- Topes, or Mexican speed bumps, don’t always have accompanying warning signs to let drivers know about them. As a result, topes often take travelers by surprise when encountering them. This could cause a car accident.
- The government does not regulate or repair potholes. Mexican potholes are often huge and can either cause entrapment or serious car damage if a driver navigates into one.
- Left-hand highway exits can also catch travelers by surprise. Mexico doesn’t use exits or overpasses like the U.S. does. Instead, they use the returno system, which provides small areas along the roadway you can use to make a U-turn
It is crucial to remain alert when driving in Mexico. This means not drinking and driving even, if you’re in Mexico to have fun. Driving under the influence is dangerous in all countries, but those who aren’t familiar with Mexican terrain could create extremely dangerous circumstances for themselves. Moreover, drinking and driving generally nullifies any insurance coverage the driver possesses.
Remaining alert also applies to looking out for thieves. Especially when traveling at night, all drivers and passengers should keep an eye out for suspicious events or people. During the day, make sure you maintain a safe distance between cars to give yourself enough room to escape in an emergency.
Check Your Insurance Carrier’s International Policy
Car insurance is not transferable across countries. Though you can still have your American insurance waiting at home, you must purchase Mexican insurance through a company like AAA or Geico that partners with companies across the border. Obtain Mexican car insurance before your trip to ensure coverage. In case of a car accident you should have insurance to protect you from the damages caused to your car or someone else’s property. Contact a San Diego car accident attorney if you want to learn more about traveling outside the border.
Traveling to Mexico provides a great opportunity to authentically experience a different culture. Before taking off to the border, remember to prepare for differing driving conditions than you experience in the U.S. Proper preparation prevents unexpected accidents, making your trip less stressful and more enjoyable.