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

Declaration lane

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

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:


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.

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:

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.