The RV lifestyle can extend well beyond the borders of the United States. Traveling in Canada is not uncommon but many RVers go south to Mexico and even Central America. Mexico presents an incredible opportunity, especially for snowbirds seeking an escape from northern winter climates. The variety in climates, RV parks, and camping opportunities is amazing.
Here’s what you’ll need to know before crossing the border. It’s not too complicated and with a little planning, you can fall in love with Mexico.
Getting Across the Border
The border crossing is where most questions arise for RVers considering a trip to Mexico. Numerous crossing points exist in California, Arizona, and Texas with plenty of big rig-friendly options. Smaller border crossings are also ideal and often quick for Class B and even Class C rigs.
FMM Visa and Passport Stamp
You need a passport to cross the border. If you don’t have one, they can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to receive. Get that process started immediately just to have it done.
The FMM is a tourist visa that designates the number of days you are allowed to stay in Mexico. You are not guaranteed a specific number of days and I suggest always asking for more than you actually plan to stay. 180-days is the maximum you can request.
You also need a passport stamp at the border. Many new travelers attempt buying their FMM online in advance to save a step but considering you still need to stop for a stamp (same office), I suggest doing the FMM at the border.
Temporary Import Permit
Your American or Canadian plated RV may require a temporary import permit to legally operate in Mexico. The “free zone” excludes this requirement and saves some hassle. The immediate border area and all of Baja fall within this exclusion zone.
If you plan on leaving the free zone to explore the mainland, an import permit is required. Visit the banjercito office at the border and they will check your title/registration and have you pay a fee and put a deposit on your credit card. When you exit Mexico, return the TIP form to check out of the country and the deposit is refunded. It’s a fairly simple and straightforward process.
Insurance is the final piece of the paperwork puzzle. Your US insurance is not likely to extend far beyond the border and you will need a new Mexican RV insurance policy. Insurance is compulsory in Mexico and at a minimum, every driver needs liability coverage. Finding full coverage from quality companies is not difficult. The pros at Cross Border Cover work with RV owners on insurance and trip planning.
RV Driving Tips for Mexico
Congratulations, you made it into Mexico! Now that you’re on the road, a few things will change. The driving style and general driving culture is a bit different but it’s nothing to sweat. As a general rule, just take your time, plan routes in advance and grab gas when it’s convenient. Downloading Google maps to operate offline is an absolute must for easy navigating.
When possible, use the quota roads (toll roads) in an RV. These are well maintained with wide shoulders and the driving is very similar to the United States. You will however encounter narrow roads with limited shoulder space like the notorious Highway 1 in Baja. Semi-trucks and Class A motorhomes travel here frequently, however.
The other big rule for driving in Mexico is to never drive at night. Loose livestock, potholes, and road damage that is unmarked are the big reasons for this rule. Plan your stops between destinations and keep your driving between sunrise and sunset. The number of interesting stops limits my driving to a few hours or less daily when time allows for slow travel.