The Smart Way to Play South of the Border
RV camping in Mexico can be an amazing adventure. However, because it is a foreign country, there are some things that you should know before heading south of the border. Let’s look at this complete guide to RVing in Mexico and get you on your way to your next great adventure.
Before you go RV camping in Mexico
Don’t head south just yet. There are a few things you need to do first.
1. Mexican auto insurance
While your auto insurance policy from Canada or the U.S. might be comprehensive, those policies have no jurisdiction in Mexico. Your current policy may cover physical damage, but it won’t cover liability to others while in Mexico. This means that you must purchase a separate policy when you bring your vehicle and/or RV into Mexico.
The good news is that the insurance is relatively inexpensive and you can buy it online before you cross the border. Here are three recommended insurance companies: BajaBound, Lewis & Lewis, and MexPro.
Important Note: When you take your vehicle to Mexico, you need to keep enough insurance coverage in place to maintain the vehicle’s legal registration in your home country. – Mexexperience
2. Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TIP)
A temporary vehicle importation permit allows non-Mexican citizens to bring vehicles, RVs, and boats into Mexico. It is required for tourists and temporary residents (including students).
If you are RV camping in Mexico, then when you stop at the border to get your FMM (more on that below), you will also get your TIP. A TIP is good for 180 days (the same duration as a tourist visa). If you are registering an RV, then you can get a TIP for 10 years.
The fee for the TIP is around $51.00 USD. On top of that, you pay a deposit depending on the year of your vehicle ($200 – $400 USD). When you leave Mexico (with your same vehicle), you return your TIP and get your deposit back.
There are exceptions; if you are RV camping in Mexico and staying inside the “free zone” then you do not need a TIP. How do you know where the free zone is? MexPro explains:
“The Mexico Free zone encompasses areas along Mexico’s northern and southern borders. Yet, the entire Baja peninsula and a large portion of Sonora are included in the free zone. For all other Mexican border states, it is the area between 20 and 26 km (12 to 16 miles) from the border.”
It is super important to stop and get your TIP when you first enter Mexico! Do not forget. You will not be able to get this permit at checkpoints in the interior of Mexico with the exception of the ferry in La Paz, BCS. If you fail to get this document and head out of the free zone, then you can run into problems.
3. Tourist Permit (FMM)
When you are crossing the border to go RV camping in Mexico, in addition to your TIP, you will obtain a visitor permit, also called an FMM. If you have flown to Mexico, then this is one of the forms you typically fill out on the plane.
The fee for the tourist permit is around $25 USD per person.
Like the TIP, when you leave the country, you return your FMM to the border official. So don’t lose it!
While there isn’t any huge benefit, you can get your TIP and FMM online. If you go this route, you will need to ensure you print the receipts and you will still need to get your documents stamped by the border agent. If you do not print the receipt, the border agent may not accept your paperwork and you will need to pay again.
My advice: Don’t get your documents online and simply fill them out at the border.
4. Mexico border considerations
Before you head off to RV camping in Mexico, there are some border considerations you will want to keep in mind:
- Pets – As of December 2019, you are no longer required to provide a health certificate for your dog when entering Mexico. You do need to provide proof of rabies vaccinations. Also, keep in mind that a border official may want to inspect your pets. Check out the USDA website for more information.
- Illegal items – There are certain items that you can not bring into Mexico. To avoid costly fines, being turned away, or thrown in jail, make sure you are familiar with what you can and can’t bring into Mexico. Here is a simplified list, but also check out official sources.
- Financed vehicles – Before trying to bring a financed or leased vehicle into Mexico, make sure you have permission from the finance company. The border requires you to have a letter of authorization. Keep in mind it can take up to 3 weeks to get this permission, so plan accordingly.
- Vehicle weight restrictions – There is a weight limit for vehicles that are not motorhomes entering mainland Mexico. The GVWR cannot be more than 7,716 pounds (3.5 tons).
Here is a great video from Newstate Nomads explaining in detail how to cross the Mexico border in an RV:
RVing in Mexico: South of the Border
Now that you have successfully made it south of the border, it is time to really go RV camping in Mexico!
5. Driving in Mexico
This isn’t all-encompassing, but there are 3 major takeaways to driving in Mexico that you need to be aware of.
- Don’t drive at night – The roads are extremely narrow; there can be animals on the road; the road may be covered in rock, debris, or be broken away. If a car is broken down on the road, then there are likely no tail lights and locals sometimes put boulders behind their cars to prevent people from driving into it.
- Watch for topes – A tope is a really large speed bump. They are very popular in Mexico and are not always painted or indicated with a sign. Also, sometimes locals install topes themselves so they may be an irregular height or the same color as the road.
- Bribes are illegal – If you are pulled over by the police, keep in mind that a “mordida” or bribe is illegal. Always ask for a copy of the ticket or ask to go to the police station to pay the fine directly.
6. RV camping in Mexico
To wrap this up, for questions related to where to find campgrounds, the best beaches, the highest quality fuel, and the best fish tacos, my advice is to join a Facebook group for the area that you want to explore and ask in there. You can also find campgrounds in Mexico with a quick search on Campground Reviews.
Last advice: bring pesos, keep your gas tank full, don’t drink the water, and try to speak Spanish (the locals really appreciate it).
Mexico is a massive country and has endless areas to explore. For more tips, check out this video from Keep Your Daydream:
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