Driving From Belize
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.
The new Mexican Customs/Immigration complex is very impressive and well thought out. Your first stop is the Immigration Office, which is the fist building you encounter on the right. Pull into the parking area. Take your passport to the agent usually standing outside the building. Show this officer your passports and he will give you the visa applications to fill out, one for each person entering Mexico.
It is now possible to avoid all the paperwork on the Mexican side if you are going to Chetumal just for the day. For 50 pesos you can purchase a day pass at the first immigration shack. Just tell the guy with the immigration forms that you want a day pass and he will direct you to the Immigration Agent inside. Give the agent the 50 pesos and he/she will give you a receipt. Then just drive on to Customs.
The Mexicans have again decided to collect for the required insect spraying at the border. Before going to the next building with your immigration form, stop at the window next to the first immigration stop and pay the spraying fee, currently 65 pesos. (They will only accept pesos, so be prepared.)
Now take the immigration form to the next large building, sit down in the Air Conditioning and fill it out. Hand the officer your completed forms and your passports. 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 (Mérida and Chichén Itzá are in the State of Yucatan) go to The Temporary Import of Vehicles window is on the opposite wall from where your visa was issued. Here you will obtain a Temporary Import Permit for your vehicle. The clerk there 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. It appears Mexican Customs has relented and they will now make a copy of the Visa for you.
The current fee for the permit and sticker is US$48.84 This will be charged to your credit card along with a $400.00 deposit fee. When you cancel the permit upon leaving Mexico, this deposit will be refunded. The permit is normally valid for the same period as your Tourist Visa, however if you will be making multiple trips, they will issue a permit valid for 6 months. The entire process takes about 15 minutes. (These fees have also changed, and are now based on the value of the vehicle being driven into Mexico. Our information is that the US$400 deposit is the maximum and amounts for older cars is less. We are still waiting for official verification of the new rules.)
The Temporary Permit Office Hours are:
9am - 5pm Weekdays
9am - 1pm Weekends and Holidays.
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 and receive you refund of the deposit. If you obtained a longer term permit, remember to turn it in before it expires to get your deposit back.
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. (after leaving the new Border Control Station, you will have to turn right, toward the old border. The office is on the left, almost to the old border station.. 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. Just like most Mexican airports, it is a red light / green light system, with most vehicles passing without inspection. If you get a green light just continue on the the next checkpoint. On a red light, pull over to the right, get out of the vehicle, open the trunk or back door and generally cooperate with the Customs Agent. He/she will probably want to look in every piece of luggage in the vehicle.
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.
The final stop is at the old fumigation station. The military personnel who must man the nearby bunkers complained about being constantly fumigated so the very convenient station at the border has been closed and it will not be re-opened. You should have paid the fumigation fee at the border. I don't know what will happen if you arrive at the spraying station without a paid receipt, but I suspect you will be sent back to the border to pay it.
The old Fumigation Station is about 1/2 mile before the round-about that is the entrance to Highway 186. The fine and hassles for not stopping are quite severe, so be sure to stop.
Now the bureaucrats are happy and you can enjoy your drive through Mexico.
Returning to Belize:
Now you have a choice. You can drive through the old border with all the speed bumps, stop signs, and traffic, or you can use the new, stay in your car border station at the new border crossing.
The old way is to drive into Subteniente Lopez where there is an Immigration Station just before the old 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.
It is better to drive to the new border crossing, just drive through until you reach the Immigration Shack at the end. There you hand the agent your papers, they process them, and away you go!
If you entered Mexico from Belize and if you were in Mexico 7 nights or less, 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 7 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 7 nights, if you entered Mexico by air or water or if you entered Mexico by land from the USA or Guatemala, 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.
Temporary Internment Permit:
If you obtained a Temporary Internment Permit, you may want to have it canceled before leaving Mexico. Go to the same window where you got the permit and the agent will issue you a cancellation document. Remember, this office has limited hours, so plan accordingly. If you obtained a longer term Permit, you can return to Belize without having it canceled, just don't forget to do so before it expires or you will loose you deposit, at least.
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 to loose you deposit and no end of hassle if you ever drive into Mexico again!