What you can bring into Mexico, and how to do it

Mexico border crossing When driving to Mexico, you will need to choose the proper lane at the border before you cross into the country. Some are labeled "Nothing to Declare - Nada que Declarar" and others are called "Declaration Lane - Carril de Declaracion." The lane you select depends upon what you are bringing into Mexico. Here is how to decide which lane is your lane.

Read more about driving accross the Mexican border.

And, as always, make sure to purchase your Mexican auto insurance before entering Mexico. The easiest way to acquire your Mexican insurance is to purchase your policy online before you leave on your trip to Mexico. Get a quote and purchase policy

Nothing to Declare

Choose the Nothing to Declare lane when you are a tourist bringing:

Only your personal luggage, which may include items listed below.

Items you can bring without a permit or paying taxes, including:

  • New or used goods for personal use, such as clothes, shoes, including any wedding party attire, and toiletries in a quantity appropriate for the length of your trip and that does not appear as if you may be intending to sell them.
  • Electronics and accessories:
  • One photo camera and one video camera and the charger for each
  • Up to 12 rolls of unused film or videocassettes
  • Printed photos or videos
  • One portable radio recorder and/or player, digital sound reproducer, CD reproducer, DVD reproducer and speakers and accessories
  • Five laser discs
  • Five DVDs
  • 20 CDs or cassette tapes
  • Five storage devices or memory cards
  • One cellular phone
  • One pager
  • One typewriter
  • One new or used portable computer, laptop, notebook, Omnibook, etc. IMPORTANT NOTE: 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. Also, be aware of the U.S. Customs reentry requirements regarding bringing a laptop and other high-value items back into the U.S.
  • Sports and recreational equipment:
  • Two sets of personal sports equipment that can be transported by one person, such as racquets
  • Four fishing rods
  • One surfboard or sailboard
  • One musical instrument and accessories that can be transported by one person
  • One tent and set of camping equipment
  • One pair of binoculars
  • One telescope
  • Entertainment/Media:
  • Books and magazines in a quantity that does not appear as if you may be intending to sell them.
  • Medical
  • Medicine for personal use
  • One blood pressure instrument
  • One glucose testing device
  • Crutches, canes, walkers, wheelchairs and other items for personal use that, by their characteristics, compensate for or diminish disability.
  • In the case of psychotropic drugs, you must bring the prescription. Note: Be careful not to bring a large quantity of your prescription medication. Many Americans have been jailed for violating the laws on prescription drugs in Mexico.
  • Cigarettes and cigars:
  • 20 cartons of cigarettes, 25 cigars or 200 grams of tobacco, if you are of age (if bringing more than allowed, you must declare it and pay duties).
  • Alcohol:
  • Up to three liters of liquor and six liters of wine (if bringing more than allowed, you must declare it and pay duties).
  • Children Items:
  • Strollers and baby walkers
  • Five toys that can be transported by one person
  • Tools:
  • Tool sets including hand drills, wire cutters, wrenches, screwdrivers, cables, etc.
  • Bedding:
  • Bedding sets including one sheet set, one towel set, and a set of table linens.
  • Currency:
  • Up to $10,000 in US currency or equivalent in other currencies, foreign or national checks, and/or other monetary instruments. (Note: We do not recommend carrying a lot of cash while driving in Mexico, for reasons that may be obvious. Please read our pages about using ATMs and credit cards in Mexico.)
  • Luggage:
  • The luggage necessary to transport personal items

Pets:

Other merchandise up to the allowed exemption of US $75 per person. If you are traveling with others, the exemption is cumulative. For example, two people will have a combined total exemption of US $150. Please bring receipts and invoices to take advantage of the exemption.

Note that personal belongings you take in your car are never covered by your Mexican auto insurance.

While your personal belongings are not insured by Mexican auto insurance, they may be covered by your US homeowners or renters insurance. So be sure to check with your homeowners or renters insurance in the US before you drive to Mexico to see if you are belongings are covered while traveling abroad.

You could get inspected anyway

Even if you have nothing to declare, you could be selected for inspection. Even if you choose the Nothing to Declare lane, as you are crossing the border, you will encounter a stoplight that randomly gives you a red or green light.

A green light means you may go on your merry way, although customs officials still have the right to pull you over for inspection. (Which is why we highly recommend you DO NOT take any items that are prohibited in Mexico. Doing so could mean jail time.)

A red light means you must pull over into the customs facility for secondary inspection.

The customs system is set up to register the weight and size of your vehicle. Generally heavier or larger vehicles will get a red light, but that is just a guideline. All vehicles can receive a red light, including yours.

Lucky you! You are getting a secondary inspection

If you are selected for secondary inspection, the officials will take a look in your trunk and glance inside the vehicle to see if you are bringing anything that should have been declared. The process takes only 30 seconds or so unless they find something undeclared. If you do not declare something that you should have, depending upon what the items are, you may have to pay the required duty, risk getting your merchandise confiscated, or go to jail.

Something to Declare

If you are bringing more than US $75 worth of items per person, but not more than US $1000 (which requires you to use a Mexican customhouse broker), declare it by driving through the Declaration Lane (Carril De Declaracion). There, you will be able to fill out the proper documents and pay the required duty. It is usually 25% of the value of the merchandise and may be paid in a nearby bank (sometimes located in the customs facility).

Once your duty is paid, you must press a button on a stop light. If you receive a green light, you may be on your way. If you receive a red light, the officials will inspect your merchandise to make sure you paid the correct duty.

Do not take this stuff to Mexico. Period.

Read more about items to NOT take to Mexico - prohibited items.

  • Guns are illegal in Mexico. Do not attempt to cross the border with a gun and/or ammunition. You will be put in jail. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. (Besides, you just read this so you are no longer ignorant of the law.) If you are planning on hunting in Mexico, get details on how best to do so here.
  • If you have more than $10,000 in US currency or equivalent or other monetary instruments, you must declare it. Otherwise, you are committing a crime. (We do not recommend carrying this kind of cash anyway.)
  • If you are bringing animals, agricultural products, or medicine other than for personal use into Mexico, you must declare it. Again, not doing so is a crime.

If you are bringing a whole, lotta stuff

If you want to bring items in quantities that exceed the limits - for example, more than one camera, computer or a house full of furniture - you should:

  • Contact the Mexican Consulate before you go to get information and any necessary permits. Just know that this can be a frustrating endeavor. Mexican Consulates are sometimes difficult to communicate with on the phone. So, if a Mexican Consulate location is within driving distance, it may be easier to go in person.
  • Contact a professional customs broker service, which will gladly take care of the details for you in exchange for a fee.

A few friendly tips about what to take, and what not to

Do not try to take anything into Mexico that is prohibited or sneak in items that you should declare. It is just not worth the risk. Chances are, you are going to Mexico for an enjoyable vacation or to do some important business, neither of which is enhanced by seeing the inside of a jail cell or having your stuff and your car taken away.

For casual road trips, we recommend you only take equipment that you can live without if it somehow disappears or is "confiscated" at a roadside inspection. Unless you are a serious photographer, take an economy point and shoot camera. Back all of you data up before taking your laptop. And leave your newest, fanciest gadgets at home. A good rule of thumb to follow is this: if you can not replace it, do not take it.

Get more information

If you would like more information, you can visit the Mexican Customs website. Otherwise, download the English language Manual of Tourist Entry at the Mexican Ministry of Tourism.

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