As of May 15, 2013. the new bridge across the Belize/Mexico border has been completed and opened for motorists and pedestrians. The new bridge, named “Chaktemal”, promises to reduce traffic congestion that has often deterred many from visiting our neighbor to the north. An official opening ceremony is scheduled for Monday the May 27th.
Once the kinks of the new border crossing are worked out, we will be updating this page to reflect any new procedures.
There is a lot of information on the internet about driving through Mexico to Belize, but little is available for those of us wishing to drive from Belize into Mexico for a few days. The basic procedures outlined below are for persons wishing to drive their personal, Belize registered, non-commercial vehicles into Mexico. The rules are really quite simple and easy to comply with. The same procedures apply to USA or Canadian registered vehicles, but clearing in and out of Belize with a non-Belizean car can be a bit of a hassle.
Your first stop is the Immigration Office. Pull off to the right into the parking lot just after the ALTO sign. Everyone must get out and check in with the Immigration officer. Belizeans go to the outside express window. Everyone else must go inside.
Show the officer your passports and he will give you the visa applications to fill out, one for each person entering Mexico. Once complete, return to the window and your passports will be scanned and stamped. You will receive Tourist Visas good for 180 days.
Do You Need An Import Permit?
If you will be driving only in the State of Quintana Roo, you need only clear in through Immigration and drive on to the Customs Inspection stop.
If you wish to drive outside the State of Quintana Roo, you must go to Vehicle Permit window (on the side of the Customs House facing the Immigration Office) and request a Temporary Internment Permit for the vehicle. (The clerk here speaks English and is very helpful.) You will need both the original and a copy of each of the following documents:
- Valid passport
- Visa (which you just obtained from Immigration.)
- The vehicle title.
- Valid driver license.
- International bank credit card (it must be issued abroad and be in the name of the person to whom the vehicle is registered).
All the above documents must be in the name of the owner of the vehicle. Only the person whose name is on the vehicle title can obtain the Permit.
You should make at least 2 copies of all these documents before leaving Belize. Unless you have a multiple entry visa, for which you should already have made copies, you will have to make copies of the vehicle owner's Tourist Visa. Go across the street to the Transportation office or to the insurance office in Subtiente Lopez. (There is a copy machine at the customs office, but they will not make you copies, even for a fee.) Have 2 copies of everything, one for customs and one to carry.
The current fee for the permit and sticker is US$29.90. This will be charged to your credit card. When you cancel the permit upon leaving Mexico, this fee will be refunded. The permit is normally valid for the same period as your Tourist Visa. The entire process takes about 10 minutes, plus the time it takes to get a copy of your Tourist Visa.
The Temporary Permit Office Hours are:
9am - 5pm Weekdays
9am - 1pm Weekends and Holidays.
I was told that, if you are planning to travel outside of Quintana Roo, and you want to get an earlier start, you may obtain the Permit the day before, return to Belize, then drive through the next day. The same is true if you arrive at the border after the office closes, just go on into Belize and return to the Border the next day during business hours to have the Permit canceled. Just don't forget!
You cannot obtain a Temporary Internment Permit at any of the State Border crossings. They will send you back to the International Border from whence you came, no exceptions. If you drive up to Cancun and decide you want to visit Chichén Itzá, which is in the State of Yucatan, you will be turned back.
No matter where you want to go in Mexico, you must have Mexican Auto Insurance. Only the drivers named on the Mexican Insurance Policy can drive the vehicle while in Mexico. If you are caught without insurance you will go to jail and your car will be confiscated. Don’t chance it, get Mexican Auto Insurance.
Atlantic Insurance in Corozal will sell you “per day” Mexican policies, currently BZ$40 per day. You can also obtain “per day” coverage from the insurance office in Subtiente Lopez. (The office is about 1/2 mile beyond the military checkpoint on the right. It is easy to miss.) If you plan on driving into Mexico regularly, you might conceder buying annual insurance on line from Lewis and Lewis Insurance at MexicanAutoInsurance.com. If you are going to be driving in Mexico more than 8 or 10 days through out the year, this is a good way to go.
Customs, Military and Police Inspections
Now that all the paperwork is complete, it is time for inspection routine. Under the big MEXICO sign is the Customs Checkpoint. Just like most Mexican airports, it is a red light / green light system, with most vehicles passing without inspection. Wait for the Customs Officer to waive you through even if the light is green.
Just past Customs is a Military Checkpoint. Again, most cars are passed through but you are much more likely to be stopped here for an actual search and inspection. They are primarily looking for weapons.
Sometimes there is an additional Police Checkpoint. Same procedure, most cars go through quickly without inspection.
There is one last stop. About 2 miles up the road, just before the highway into Chetumal, is the obligatory insect spray station. You must pull in, pay MX$50 and have your tires sprayed with some smelly stuff. If you don't stop, they will come after you. They used to accept US$5 or BZ$10 but recently a new sign went up that says Mexican Pesos Only!
Now the bureaucrats are happy and you can enjoy your drive through Mexico.
Returning to Belize:
There is an Immigration Station just before the Customs Office at which you must stop to clear out of Mexico. Present your passport and visa to the Immigration Officer in the shack. He will stamp your passport and take the visa. (If you have a multiple entry visa, point that out so he gives it back.) Only one person needs to get out and present the passports for all persons in the vehicle. After hours, go to the main immigration office to clear out.
If you entered Mexico from Belize and if you were in Mexico 3 or fewer nights (used to be 7 nights) you are not supposed to have to pay the departure tax. Sometimes the Immigration Officer will try to collect this tax. You should politely resist, explaining you entered Mexico from Belize and were in Mexico 3 or fewer nights so you are exempt. Don't push it at all, and always be extremely polite. In any country, Immigration and Customs can make your life very uncomfortable. The exit fee is only about US$25 per person, not worth a big hassle or a night in a Mexican jail.
If you were in Mexico more than 3 nights, you are required to pay the exit tax and must do so at a National Bank before reaching the border. If you didn't pay at a bank, the Immigration Officer will probably accept your payment, but he could (and actually he should) require you to drive into Chetumal and pay at a bank before leaving Mexico.
If you obtained a Temporary Internment Permit, you now must have it canceled before leaving Mexico. Go to the same window outside the Customs House where you got the permit and the agent will issue you a cancellation document. Remember, this office has limited hours, so plan accordingly.
If the office is closed, you can drive into Belize and return the following day during business hours to have the permit canceled. Failure to have the permit canceled will cause you no end of hassle if you ever drive into Mexico again!