Traveling to Mexico for the Holidays and the Paisano Program

If you are planning to travel to Mexico for the holidays, you need to be sure you have prepared yourself and your family for the trip. There are people who are available to answer your questions, and provide you with information you may need. The staff members at your local Mexican Consulate are focused on giving you the most up-todate information about traveling to Mexico, and if you run into any problems during your trip, they are available over the phone to handle your questions and complaints.

For a safe and easy trip, it is important that you understand and comply with Mexican laws, and take a few precautions. To help travelers get through the border with ease, Mexico’s Federal government introduced the Paisano Program. The program places volunteers at the U.S.-Mexican border, and other entry points, such as airports and bus terminals, to provide paperwork for entry and other information to visitors.

The year-round program focuses on bringing better service and safety to people returning to their home country. They hope to control and eventually eliminate the incidents of abuse, theft, corruption and extortion at Mexican borders, while making travel easier for people during the holiday season.

In preparation for traveling to Mexico, it is a great idea to determine what you need to have when entering the country. Read on to find out more information about these steps to ensure a smooth, successful and safe trip to Mexico. And remember, volunteers from the program will be at the border to help.

What should I bring with me to Mexico?

  • Important travel documents to prove your Mexican citizenship (a passport, birth certificate, military ID, Matricula Consular Certificate, or Declaration of Mexican Nationality or naturalization document). If you’re not a Mexican citizen and are a U.S. citizen, bring your U.S. Passport.
  • A map of your drive to Mexico, as well as a map of your final destination n Mexican car insurance (more information below)
  • Your family and friend’s contact information n A cell phone n Your temporary vehicle permit
  • Contact information for the Mexican Consulate (from Mexico dial 01 800 201 85 42 or 1 (877) 210-9469 from the U.S.)
  • Any medications you may need-including a prescription stating your name

What documents do I need to prove my citizenship in order to enter Mexico?

According to the Paisano Program, you need to prove your citizenship in order to enter Mexico. When you arrive in Mexico, you will need one of any of the following documents to prove you are a Mexican citizen: a passport, birth certificate, military ID, Matricula Consular Certificate, or Declaration of Mexican Nationality or naturalization document. If you do not have the aforementioned documentation, you may simply state your citizenship. As a Mexican Citizen you will need to complete a free form (migratory FEM) for statistical information. If you have any questions about any of these forms of identification, contact your local Mexican Consulate office: from Mexico dial 01 800 201 85 42 and from the U.S. call 1 (877) 210- 9469. You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you are a foreigner entering Mexico, you will need a Mexican tourist card – officially the forma migratoria para turista (FMT) – that must be completed and stamped by Mexican immigration officials when you enter Mexico, and kept until you leave. Tourist cards are available at official border crossings and international airports and ports. At the U.S.–Mexico border, you will have to ask for the card, because they are not automatically provided. Though the tourist card itself is free of charge, it brings with it a tourist fee of $295 pesos (roughly $23 USD). Make sure to hold on to your tourist card after you enter Mexico because it may be checked when you leave the country and you can be fined for not having it. If you are a Mexican citizen, it is important that you have the correct documentation (listed above) with you to prove your citizenship so you are not charged this fee.

How do I go about getting a Mexican Passport?

If you are a Mexican citizen, to make your trip into Mexico and back to the U.S. faster and easier, it is recommended that you obtain a Mexican Passport through the Mexican Consulate office. To do this, you need to make an appointment by calling 1 (877) MEXITEL, or 1 (877) 639-4835. Operators are available between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

If you already have a Mexican Passport, and need it to be renewed, call the number listed above. Once you receive your appointment date, you need to bring your previous passport and two color photos. There will be a fee to renew your passport.

What is a Matricula Consular and how do I get one?

The Matricula Consular is an identification card issued by the Government of Mexico through its consulate offices to Mexican nationals residing outside of Mexico. The purpose of the card is to prove that the holder is a Mexican national living outside of Mexico. It includes a Government of Mexico issued ID number, a photograph, and your address outside of Mexico. To obtain your Matricula you need to schedule an appointment with the Consulate office by calling 1 (877) MEXITEL or 1 (877) 639-4835, operators are available between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday-Friday.

What do I need to do for the temporary importation of my car in order to travel through Mexico with U.S. issued license plates?

If you plan on driving to Mexico, you will be able to temporarily import your car for a maximum of 180 days. You need to obtain and fill out the appropriate paperwork which can be found online at, at your local Mexican Consulate office in California (call to make sure your office offers this service), or at the Banjercito offices located at the Mexican border. You must be the registered owner of the car, or, if you are making payments on the vehicle, have registered plates, in your name, from the DMV. For questions, call 1 (877) MEXITEL or 1 (877) 639-4835, operators are available between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday-Friday.

If I am driving to Mexico, do I need insurance for my car?

Yes. Although having automobile insurance in Mexico is not required by law, the Consulate of Mexico recommends all vehicles traveling to Mexico purchase Mexican car insurance. If your vehicle is insured in the U.S., the policy will not be valid in Mexico. Check with your insurance carrier for more details. You may also purchase Mexican auto insurance in cities and towns along the U.S.-Mexico border.

What safety precautions can I take to protect myself and my family while traveling to Mexico by vehicle?

The Consulate of Mexico reminds you that it is important to take common sense measures when traveling. These measures include traveling only during the day, not carrying large amounts of cash (or not carrying cash at all), and traveling only designated roads. To make traveling easier, the consulate has a service to provide you with the safest and shortest driving routes, as well as an estimated fuel cost. It is called Point to Point Routes, and it can be found on their website: and follow the link titled “Trace Your Route”.

What should I do when crossing the border?

When arriving at the border, you will notice two sections, or lanes, (one of which you will need to enter). The two lanes are the “Nothing to declare lane” and the “Self –declaration lane”.

Go to the “Nothing to declare lane” when you’re sure what you have brought with you to Mexico will not exceed the permitted limit.

Go to the “Self-declaration Lane” when you bring items worth more than the personal and family exemptions ($75 USD normally/$300 USD during the holidays).

If you choose the wrong lane by mistake, you can ask a Customs inspector for an appraisal of your goods, so you can pay the correct duties and taxes. Remember, when your belongings are being inspected, you must be treated with courtesy and respect. The inspectors must also handle your belongings gently and with care, but you also must be sure to follow and comply with Mexico’s border laws.

If you encounter abuse from Mexican authority officials while you travel in Mexico, you may file a formal complaint by calling the numbers below.

Special events offered by your local Consulate office

Some Mexican Consulate offices will be holding programs this month with representatives from the Paisano program to help families understand what they need to do before traveling to Mexico. They will be on hand to answer any questions and give advice. Not all consulates will be offering these programs, so check with your local consulate office by calling 1 (877) 210-9469.

It is best to be well prepared when traveling! Remember, everyone’s circumstances are different, and not all situations are covered in this article. Please visit or call them at 1 (877) 210-9469 (from the U.S.) or 01 800-201-8542 (when calling from Mexico). You can also call the Mexican Consulate toll-free for more information about traveling to and from Mexico. To contact the Consulate from the U.S. dial 1 (877) 210-9469, from Mexico dial 01 800 201 8542. You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.