Customs regulations and required documents
Personal effects import regulations
The Mexican Police have the authority to ask for proof of legal status in Mexico and, on occasion, have detained British nationals without documents. You should carry photocopies of the relevant pages of your passport and of the stamped ‘Forma Migratoria Múltiple’ (FMM) given to you on arrival in Mexico at all times. If you’re a resident you may be asked to provide your residency card issued by the Mexican government.
If you’re travelling between states or near international borders, you may be stopped by Mexican immigration authorities for immigration checks. You’ll need to be able to provide your passport and FMM slip. Copies are not accepted. If you’re unable to produce these documents, you may be detained, held at an immigration holding centre, and ultimately deported.
Don’t become involved with drugs of any kind. Penalties for drug offences are severe. Convictions carry sentences of up to 25 years.
Although civil unions between same-sex partners are now legal in Mexico City and the state of Coahuila, homosexuality in Mexico is generally tolerated, rather than accepted. Public displays of affection between same sex couples may be frowned upon. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Mexican law on surrogacy is under development. Assisted human reproduction, including surrogacy, might only be recognised in some Mexican states. If you’re considering a surrogacy arrangement in Mexico, you should familiarise yourself with the relevant laws and regulations and make sure you’ll meet all legal requirements to take the newborn child out of Mexico before you start the process. You should seek independent legal advice before entering into any surrogacy arrangement. For more information see our guidance on surrogacy overseas.
If you require more information on procedures, local laws, development of current events or social services you can contact LOCATEL at 5658 1111. They have English-speaking staff available.
Some U.S. exporters have expressed concerns about the Mexican Tax Administration Service’s (Servicio de Administración Tributaria, or SAT) procedures. These concerns include insufficient prior notification of procedural changes, inconsistent interpretation of regulatory requirements at different border posts, and uneven enforcement of Mexican standards and labeling rules. SAT has made efforts to increase transparency and communication and reduce corruption and fraud.
Agricultural exporters note that Mexican inspection and clearance procedures for some agricultural goods can be long, burdensome, non-transparent and unreliable. Customs procedures for express packages continue to be burdensome, though Mexico has raised the de minimis level to USD 50 from USD 1. However, Mexican regulations still hold the courier 100 percent liable for the contents of shipments.
Mexican law requires that any non-Mexican citizen under the age of 18 departing Mexico must carry notarized written permission from any parent or guardian not traveling with the child to or from Mexico. This permission must include the name of the parent, the name of the child, the name of anyone traveling with the child, and the notarized signature(s) of the absent parent(s). The State Department recommends that the permission should include travel dates, destinations, airlines and a brief summary of the circumstances surrounding the travel. The child must be carrying the original letter – not a facsimile or scanned copy – as well as proof of the parent/child relationship (usually a birth certificate or court document) – and an original custody decree, if applicable. Travelers should contact the Mexican Embassy or the nearest Mexican consulate for current information.
Goods imported in addition to the categories above are dutiable, but exempt from import license, if the total value of these additional goods is max. USD 500.- and the value of goods of the same character (e.g. leather goods) included therein is max. USD 100.-. Excluded from these additional goods are articles considered unnecessary luxury goods, e.g. ivory, cutglass, porcelain, electrical appliances etc
The import of certain endangered species of plant, live animals and their products is prohibited or restricted under CITES.
Currency Import regulations:
Local currency (Mexican Peso-MXN) and foreign currencies: up to USD 10,000.- or equivalent in freely convertible currencies. Higher amounts must be declared on arrival. Exchange into local currency is only allowed at authorized banks.
Currency Export regulations:
Local currency (Mexican Peso-MXN) and foreign currencies: up to USD 10,000.- or equivalent in freely convertible currencies. Higher amounts must have been declared on arrival.
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International Airport Departure Tax/Tourism Tax is levied on passengers departing from Mexico on international flights, which differs per airport and ranges USD 18-29.- each.
Place of payment: airport of departure in Mexico (if not already included in ticket).
1. Children under 2 years of age;
2. Holders of a diplomatic passport (not applicable to nationals of Ecuador).
3. Transit passengers complying with the TWOV conditions;
4. Airline crew traveling on duty;
5. From Tourism Tax: nationals and residents of Mexico
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus (COVID-19)
The land border between the US and Mexico is closed to all non-essential traffic as part of COVID-19 measures. This is reviewed on a monthly basis. This closure applies primarily to tourism and recreational travel. Cargo, trade and healthcare workers will still be able to cross the border. Check with your closest US Embassy/Consulate before attempting to cross the border.
There have been reports of disruptions and tensions at the Mexico-Guatemala border. On 1 October a caravan of approximately 3000 migrants entered Guatemala and are currently making their way through Honduras to Mexico, bound for the United States (USA). Periodic border closures are possible and you should check with local authorities before attempting to cross the land border.
If you present symptoms of COVID-19 upon arrival at an airport in Mexico, you should ask for the International Health Team (“Sanidad Internacional”). Upon your arrival in Mexico, you will be asked to fill out a Health Questionnaire. This document is available in Spanish and English.
If you’re visiting Mexico as a tourist you don’t need a visa, but you’ll need to complete an immigration form and have this with you when you enter and leave Mexico.
You can get an immigration form either when you arrive (forms are available at border crossings or on-board flights to Mexico) or online in advance from the National Institute of Immigration website. Due to the requirements of the online system, the advance option is only possible if your passport is valid for at least 6 months from your intended date of entry to Mexico.
You need an immigration form to leave the country. If you lose your immigration form you can get it replaced at the immigration office at any international airport in Mexico. The cost of a replacement is $500 Mexican Pesos, which is payable at a bank.
There have been reports of bogus immigration officers operating within international airports. You should always refuse offers of help and head directly to the immigration office.
If you’re crossing the border into Mexico from the US, there may not be an immigration officer at the port of entry. If not, you’ll need to identify the nearest immigration office and clear your immigration status before you continue your journey into Mexico. The immigration office can usually be found close to the border area, and customs officials at the border should be able to tell you where to find it. If you fail to clear immigration at this point, it is often more complicated to do so once you have left the border area.
Tourists are not allowed to undertake voluntary (including human rights) work, or activity, or any form of paid employment. If you wish to carry out this type of work, you must get the correct visa from the Mexican Embassy before you travel.
You may need a visa to undertake certain adventure or eco-tourism activities like caving, potholing or entomology, especially if they involve any scientific or technological research. The Mexican authorities may define scientific or technological research activities far more broadly than other countries. If you’re in any doubt, check with the Mexican Embassy in London well in advance of your visit and ask for written confirmation if necessary.
It is no longer possible to switch immigration status in-country. You can’t enter Mexico on a tourist visa and then change it for a work visa. You must apply at the Mexican Consulate of your normal place of residence in plenty of time before you are due to travel.
Immigration officials at the port of entry may ask to see proof of your departure plans from Mexico before allowing you entry to the country. They can also ask to see proof of your booked accommodation, as well as funds to cover your intended stay while in Mexico.
If you have been invited to stay in someone’s home, immigration officials may also ask for a “letter of invitation” from the person you are visiting. This should include as much information as possible, including the host and traveller’s full names and contact details, address while in Mexico and reason for visit.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay in Mexico.
You must fill in an online form prior to travelling to Mexico if you have any goods to declare. If you do not declare goods, these may be seized and you may be fined. For information on restricted goods and how to declare goods, you should read the guidance from the Mexican government
The Mexican authorities have suspended the rules which came into effect in May 2011 requiring children under 18 years of age travelling alone, or accompanied by an adult who is not the parent or legal guardian, to apply for a special permit to leave the country. These rules now only apply to Mexican nationals or foreigners with dual Mexican nationality. The accompanying adult may, however, be asked to provide evidence of his or her relationship with the child.
Although there is currently no specific requirement for authorisation by an absent parent, single parents who are not, or who appear not to be, the child’s parent (eg if they have a different family name) may be asked to show evidence of their relationship with the child and the reason why they are travelling with the child. This evidence could include a birth or adoption certificate, divorce or marriage certificates, or a Parental Responsibility Order.
If you’re travelling to Mexico via the US, even if you’re only transiting, check the US entry requirements with the US Embassy in London. If you don’t have the correct authorisation you will not be allowed to travel to or transit through the US.
Further information can be found on travel advice for the USA.
You may need to pay a departure tax when leaving Mexico by air or land. The cost can vary and some airports or border crossings only accept payment in cash. Most airlines include the cost within the ticket price. If in doubt, check with your airline or tour operator.
You can’t bring meat or dairy products into Mexico from the EU.
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Mexico and are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Mexico. All tourists, including holders of ETDs will need an immigration form to leave the country. If you lose your immigration form you can get it replaced at the immigration office at any international airport in Mexico.
Drug-related violence in Mexico has increased over recent years. The violence is concentrated in specific areas, and some regions are almost completely spared. Make sure you research your destination thoroughly.
Outbursts of politically-motivated violence can occur across the country, with a recent increase in the states of Guerrero and Mexico City.
Many fatalities are suspected gang members killed in turf wars between the different organisations that compete for control of trafficking routes into the US. Drug-related violence is a particular problem in the northern states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Sinaloa and Durango. Armed clashes between security forces and drug groups can occur at any time without warning. You should take extreme care outside tourist areas in all of these states.
You should take precautions in the state of Baja California, including Tijuana. There has been a rise in drug-related crime in Baja California Sur, including Los Cabos. You should take extra care when travelling to these areas.
You should take care when travelling to Ciudad Juarez or other cities in Northern States. Travel during daylight hours when possible, inform relatives or friends of your travel plans and use reputable hotels only.
There have been reports of increased security incidents in the states of Tabasco and Veracruz. There has been a recent increase in violence in the State of Veracruz, including the city of Veracruz. Illegal roadblocks have also been reported more frequently. You should take extreme care.
There have been reports of increased security incidents and drug-related violence in the state of Guanajuato. On 1st July 2020, 26 people were killed in the city of Irapuato. The majority of attacks have been attributed to organised crime. You should be extra vigilant in Guanajuato and surrounding areas.
Criminal activity is also a problem in the State of Mexico (Estado de México). You should take care when travelling through the state, as well as outside of tourist areas. There have been reports of armed robbery on public transport and vehicle theft on the highway. Petty crime is also common throughout the state.
Illegal roadblocks have been reported more frequently, particularly in the states of Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca and Chiapas. If you’re driving in these states, travel during daylight hours and use toll roads where possible, although you may still encounter disruptions.
There have been recent reports of clashes between cartels and local police in Michoacán and Colima. In early 2020, two butterfly activists were found dead in the Monarch butterfly reserve in Michoacán.
Drug-related violence is also a problem in Guerrero, Jalisco and Nayarit. See the main tourist destinations section below for further details on these states.
The Mexican government makes efforts to protect major tourist destinations like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Nuevo Vallarta. These areas have mostly not seen the levels of drug-related violence and crime experienced elsewhere in Mexico. However, since 2017 there have been a number of reported shooting incidents and other incidents of violence in these areas, including in locations popular with tourists. There is currently an increased police presence in the Cancun area, including in the hotel zone. While tourists have not been the target of such incidents, anyone in the vicinity of an incident could be affected.
If you’re visiting any of these areas, you should monitor local advice, remain vigilant and follow the advice of the local authorities and your tour operator.
There have been several instances of armed crime both within and outside tourist areas in Acapulco. If possible, travel by air if you’re visiting a major tourist destination in Guerrero. Due to an increase in violent crime in recent months, you should be extra vigilant in Acapulco and surrounding areas.
Crime and violence are serious problems in Mexico and the security situation can pose a risk for foreigners. Many Mexican and foreign businesses choose to hire private security. You should research your destination thoroughly and only travel during daylight hours when possible. Monitor local media and inform trusted contacts of your travel plans.
If you’re the victim of a crime and wish to report the incident, you should do so immediately to the nearest branch of the state prosecutor’s office (Agencia del Ministerio Público). No criminal investigation is possible without a formal complaint to Mexican authorities. Complaints must be made in person before leaving Mexico.
The emergency number in Mexico is 911. You can also download the 911 CDMX app (for Mexico City) or the Guest Assist App (for Quintana Roo).
To contact Mexico City’s Tourist Police, you can either call them on (0052) 55 5207 4155 or you can whatsapp them on (0052) 55 4891 1166.
The Mexico City Command and Control Centre (Centro de Atención a Emergencias y Proteción Ciudadana de la Ciudad de México) has information and advice in Spanish on safety in Mexico City.
When driving, avoid isolated roads and use toll roads (‘cuotas’) whenever possible. Keep car doors locked and windows closed, especially at traffic lights. There have been a number of violent car-jackings and robberies along the Pacific Highway and you should be careful when travelling on this route. Those travelling in large camper vans or sports utility vehicles (SUVs) have been targeted in the past. If you suspect you’re being followed or watched, drive to a police station or other safe place.
Be particularly alert on public transport, at airports and in bus stations. Theft on buses is common so keep an eye on your belongings at all times. Buses have also been hijacked in conflict areas. Where possible, travel on first-class buses using toll roads, which have a lower rate of incidents than second and third class buses travelling on the less secure free (‘libre’) roads. Most first-class bus companies perform security checks when passengers board the bus.
Passengers have been robbed and assaulted by unlicensed taxi drivers including in Mexico City. In Mexico City, use the better regulated ‘sitio’ taxis from authorised cab ranks or ask your hotel concierge to order you a taxi. At airports, use only authorised pre-paid airport taxi services.
Women travelling alone should be particularly alert when travelling on public transport.
Street crime is a serious problem in major cities and tourist resort areas. Pick-pocketing is common on the Mexico City Metro. Dress down and avoid wearing expensive jewellery or watches. Limit the amount of cash or credit/debit cards you carry with you. Keep a close watch on briefcases and luggage, even in apparently secure places like the lobby of your hotel.
Take care when withdrawing money from ATMs or exchanging money at bureaux de change. It’s generally safer to use ATMs during daylight hours and inside shops or malls.
Be wary of people presenting themselves as police officers trying to fine or arrest you for no apparent reason. If in doubt, ask for identification and if possible note the officer’s name, badge number, and patrol car number.
Don’t leave food and drinks unattended in bars and restaurants. Travellers have been robbed or assaulted after being drugged. There have also been reports of tainted alcohol causing illness or blackouts. If you have any concerns, seek advice from your tour operator or the local authorities.
Several serious sexual offences have also occurred in tourist areas outside of Mexico City. Take care even in areas close to hotels, and especially after dark.
Foreign visitors and residents may be targeted by scam artists. Be wary of strangers approaching you or contacting you by phone asking for personal information or financial help. If you or your relatives or friends are asked to transfer money to Mexico, make absolutely sure that it is not part of a scam and that you have properly checked with the person receiving the money that they are requesting it.
The most common scam involves criminals phoning, acting as a distressed member of your family, or an employee, claiming to be kidnapped and demanding money for their release. Thieves may also deceive the family by assuring them that their relative is being detained. If you are threatened over the phone, the recommendation is to hang up and authenticate the safety of your family member or employee.
Tourists have reported that some police officers have extorted money from them, for alleged minor offences or traffic violations. Travellers driving rental cars have also been targeted. If this occurs, do not hand over money or your passport, ask for the officer’s name, badge and patrol car number and ask for a copy of the written fine, which is payable at a later date.
Short-term opportunistic kidnapping – called ‘express kidnapping’ – can occur, particularly in urban areas. Victims are forced to withdraw funds from credit or debit cards at a cash point to secure their release. Where victims have friends or relatives living locally, a ransom may be demanded from them. You should comply with requests and not attempt to resist such attacks.
Longer-term kidnapping for financial gain also occurs, and there have been allegations of police officers being involved. Be discreet about discussing your financial or business affairs in places where you may be overheard by others.
You can drive in Mexico using a UK licence or an International Driving Permit. Driving standards are very different from the UK. Roads can be pot-holed. Be prepared to stop unexpectedly and beware of vehicles moving slowly, changing lane without indicating and going through red lights. Many local drivers don’t have any form of car insurance.
To reduce air pollution, Mexico City and some other parts of the country have introduced restrictions on driving. Cars may be forbidden from entering certain areas on particular days, based on their number plates. These regulations are strictly enforced and offenders face heavy fines and temporary confiscation of their vehicle. This only applies to older vehicles and not to newer models which are often used for car hire. Please double check with your car hire company directly.
There is an additional driving restriction in Mexico City, where vehicles without registration plates from the State of Mexico (Estado de Mexico) or Mexico City are not allowed to enter Mexico City from Monday to Friday between 5:00am and 11:00am, and Saturday between 5:00am and 10:00pm. If air pollution is high, generally between February and June, further driving restrictions may apply.
In remote areas, you may come across unofficial roadblocks, including on main roads, manned by local groups seeking money for an unofficial local toll.
If you take part in adventurous sports (including paragliding, skydiving, scuba diving and jet-skiing), make sure adequate safety precautions are in place. Equipment may not meet UK safety and insurance standards. Only use reputable operators, and satisfy yourself that the company is using the most up-to-date equipment and safety features, and that they are fully licensed and insured. Check that you’re covered by your travel insurance for all the activities you want to undertake. British nationals have been injured and in some cases killed participating in extreme sports.
Shark attacks are relatively rare in Mexico, but you should take care particularly when surfing, research the local area and follow the advice of the local authorities.
Crocodiles are present in Mexico, most commonly in lagoons and coastal areas. Sightings have been reported near tourist areas, including Cancun and resorts on the Pacific coast. There are signs warning about crocodiles around many lagoons in these areas. Respect the warnings and don’t walk too close to the water. Tourists have been seriously injured in crocodile attacks in the past.
In some hotels, balcony balustrades may not be as high as you expect and there could be a risk of falling.
Mexico has an established multiparty democracy. Political demonstrations are common in Mexico City and can occur across the country. These can be tense and confrontational and could potentially turn violent. Onlookers can be quickly drawn in. You should monitor local media and avoid all demonstrations.
The Mexican constitution prohibits political activities by foreigners. Participation in demonstrations may result in detention and deportation.