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Mexican Laws that Tourists Need to Be Aware of

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.

Mexican Auto Insurance

While driving in Mexico, you must carry Mexican auto insurance underwritten by a Mexican insurance company. Your US or Canadian auto insurance in not valid while driving in Mexico. Please read more information on this topic if you are unaware of the need for Mexico auto insurance while driving in Mexico.


Drunk driving is punishable and if caught, you will end up in a Mexican jail for an indeterminate period of time until you have sorted your mess out. Your Mexican Auto Insurance will deny your claim if you have been driving under the influence.


It is against the law to be drunk in public in Mexico. Certain border towns have become impatient with teenage (and older) Americans who cross the border to drink and carouse. This behavior can lead to fights, arrests, traffic accidents and even fatalities.


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 US, the purchase of controlled medication requires a doctor's prescription. The Mexican list of controlled medication differs from the US 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. Your Mexican Auto Insurance will not cover this.


The Department of State warns US citizens against taking any type of firearm or ammunition into Mexico without prior written authorization from the Mexican authorities. Entering Mexico with a firearm or a single round of ammunition carries a penalty of up to five years in jail, even if the firearm or ammunition is taken into Mexico unintentionally. The Mexican government strictly enforces its laws restricting the entry of firearms and ammunition along all land borders and at air and seaports. This has resulted in arrests, convictions, and long prison sentences for US citizens, even those who unintentionally crossed the border with firearms or ammunition in their possession. US citizens approaching Mexico along the land border who realize they are in possession of unauthorized firearms or ammunition should not seek to enter Mexico. The only way to legally import firearms and/or ammunition into Mexico is to secure a permit in advance from the Mexican Embassy or from a Mexican consulate.

If you are interested in hunting in Mexico, there are hunting guide services who can process the Mexico hunting firearm permits for you.

Customs Regulations:

Tourists should enter Mexico with only the items needed for their trip to Mexico. 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 US citizens arriving by air or sea to $300 US per person and by land to $30 US 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 percent tax. 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.

Traveling With 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.


US visitors to Mexico may bring a dog, cat, or up to four canaries by presenting the following certificates at the border:

Shopping Items to Avoid:

Wildlife Products:

Avoid purchasing any products made from animal products other than normal leather (example: sea turtle shells, alligator leather, bird feathers, marine animals including black coral and shells, etc.) You risk confiscation and a possible fine by US Customs if you attempt to import virtually any wildlife from Mexico.


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 US 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. US

Glazed Ceramics:

(Health Warning) According to the US 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.

If You Are in Danger:

Call the Mexican Ministry of Tourism's emergency hotline, [91](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 US Embassy or the nearest US consulate or consular agency. You should also report the crime to the local police immediately.

US Consulates General are located in:

Ciudad Juarez:

Avenida Lopez Mateos 924-N, telephone (52)(656) 611-3000.


Progreso 175, telephone (52)(333) 825-2998.


Avenida Constitucion 411 Poniente 64000, telephone (52)(818) 345-2120.


Tapachula 96, telephone (52)(664) 622-7400.

US Consulates are located in:


Avenida Monterrey 141, telephone (52)(662) 217-2375.


Avenida Primera 2002, telephone (52)(868) 812-4402.


Paseo Montejo 453, telephone (52)(999) 925-5011.


Calle San Jose, Nogales, Sonora, telephone (52)(631) 313-4820.

Nuevo Laredo:

Calle Allende 3330, Col. Jardin, telephone (52)(867) 714-0512.

U.S. Consular Agencies are located in:


Hotel Continental Plaza, Costera Miguel Aleman 121 - Local 14, telephone (52)(744) 484-03-00 or (52)(744) 469-0556.

Cabo San Lucas:

Blvd. Marina y Pedregal #1, Local No. 3, Zona Centro, telephone (52)(624) 143-3566.


Plaza Caracol Two, Third Level, No. 320-323, Boulevard Kukulcan, km. 8.5, Zona Hotelera, telephone (52)(998) 883-0272.

Ciudad Acuna:

Ocampo # 305, Col. Centro
telephone (52)(877) 772-8661, Fax (52)(877) 772-8179


Plaza Villa Mar in the Main Square - El Centro, 2nd floor right rear, Locale #8,Avenida Juarez and 5th Ave. Norte, telephone (52)(987) 872-4574.


Local 9, Plaza Ambiente, telephone (52)(755) 553-2100.


Hotel Playa Mazatlan, Rodolfo T. Loaiza #202, Zona Dorada, telephone (52)(669) 916-5889.


Macedonio Alcala No. 407, Interior 20, telephone (52)(951) 514-3054 (52)(951) 516-2853.

Piedras Negras:

Prol. General Cepeda No. 1900, Fraccionamiento Privada Blanca, C.P. 26700 Telephone (52)(878) 785-1986

Puerto Vallarta:

Edif. Vallarta, Plaza Zaragoza 160-Piso 2 Int-18, telephone (52)(322) 222-0069.

San Luis Potosi:

Edificio "Las Terrazas", Avenida Venustiano Carranza 2076-41, (52)(444) 811-7802.


Calle Monterrey #390, Con Sinaloa, Colonia Rodriguez, telephone: (52)(899) 923 - 9331

San Miguel de Allende:

Dr. Hernandez Macias #72, telephone (52)(415) 152-2357 or (52)(415) 152-0068.