US to Mexico Border Crossing Guide

US to Mexico Border Crossing Guide

The first accomplishment of our Panamerica road trip was successfully driving across the border into Mexico. The crossing was not without a little anxiety and a whole lot of research. That is why I decided to document our experience to share with anyone out there who might be like I was and searching for any information on what to expect when crossing.

Without further ado – this guide is for those planning to drive across the US border into Mexico and would like to know what to expect and how to prepare.

There are many entry points into Mexico, and the process is generally the same at each, however this guide is geared towards the entry point at Nogales, Arizona.

How to Cross the Border into Mexico (2015)

Entry Point: Nogales, AZ

Paperwork Required:

  • Passport
  • Driver’s License (DL)
  • Vehicle Registration
  • 1 copy of: passport of vehicle owner, DL of vehicle owner, vehicle registration, tourist card
  • Credit card for $200 vehicle permit deposit


  • $63 vehicle permit fee
  • $200 refundable deposit for vehicle
  • $22.65 tourist card fee


From the Arizona side we entered on Highway 15D to surpass driving through the town of Nogales, Mexico. The border crossing is a single lane road through a gate with an office, however there was no person present when we passed through. We continued to drive through a fenced area past a bank to the right.

We kept driving and eventually passed a government area with a customs and declaration building before reaching the highway. The vehicle registration office is another 12 km past that point, make sure not to miss it. Pull over when you see a large sign in English on the right side of the highway announcing the Vehicle Permit registration area.

What to Do:

  • Park anywhere in the large parking lot in front of the migración/banjercito* buildings.
  • Enter the first medium sized white building to fill out the tourist card.
  • After completing the card, go to the copy machine office just outside the white building to the right. Make copies of the tourist card, driver’s passport, driver’s license, and vehicle registration
  • Next go to the Banjercito behind the white building, the clerk will ask for your passports, all copies and originals. Pay the vehicle registration fee and deposit, they take both pesos and dollars. Then you will receive the vehicle permit sticker and receipt. Pay the tourist card fee and receive the receipt.
  • Go back to the white building, show the receipt of the tourist card payment. They will stamp your passport and hand you back the receipt attached to the top portion of the tourist card.
  • Finally you are done, return to your car, place the permit sticker on the windshield under your review mirror.

Not going through Nogales? Check out Life Remotely for their comprehensive guide or Vangabonds for their write-up on crossing through the San Ysidro border at Tijuana


Car Insurance – no one will ask you for your insurance at the border, but it is required in Mexico. Typically your US policy will not cover your vehicle into Mexico so you will need to purchase a policy. We got ours through Sanborn Insurance. The process was simple and the person we worked with was very helpful. The only downside was we could not do a midterm cancellation to get a prorated refund. We only drove in Mexico for one month, but had a six month policy. I noticed that Esurance now offers a Mexico Insurance policy, I’m curious to know how their policy compares to Sanborn.

*Migración – immigration

*Aduana – customs office where the tourist card and other traveler transactions take place

*Banjercito – essentially a military bank, this is where vehicle permits are paid for and issued

Do you have any questions about the border crossing or looking for more information? Ask in the comments or shoot me an email:

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