Can I Drive In Mexico With A US License? 


If you are planning to visit Mexico and are wondering, ‘can I drive in Mexico with a US license’ then this essential guide is for you.  


It will cover everything you need to know about driving in Mexico (with or without a U.S. license), including what legal and identification documents you need, how to cross the U.S./Mexico border, plus safety tips and driving laws in Mexico.

Driving in Mexico requirements may initially appear time-consuming and complicated  but you will be surprised to learn that you will already have many of the documents you will need. Plus, additional documents pertinent to Mexico can easily and quickly be arranged online in advance of your visit. 

Can i drive in Mexico with US license?

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Driving a car in Mexico will allow you to fully explore this amazing country to suit your travel preferences, budget and timetable. It will enable you to visit lesser-known locations off the beaten track as well as allowing you to visit the most popular sites at quieter times of the day. 

If you are prepared to add driving in Mexico rules and regulations to your usual trip planning, you will be giving yourself the best opportunity to enjoy your Mexican vacation to its fullest. 

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Renting A Car In Cancun: Ultimate Guide + Tips

Disclaimer – The information contained in this article is accurate at the time of publication. We hold no responsibility for inaccurate information found within this article. Always check your government travel advisories before travelling to Mexico. 

Can I Drive In Mexico With US License?

Valladolid Mexico

Yes, it is possible to rent a car and drive in Mexico with a US license. 

If you are from Europe, you will need a supplementary International Driving Permit in addition to your home country’s driving license.

What countries can I drive in with a US license?

Canada and Mexico are the only countries that allow U.S. visitors to drive solely using a U.S. license. 

Other countries around the world require U.S. citizens to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) as well as a U.S. driver’s license. 

More than 150 countries accept the IDP, so if you are a frequent traveller, it is well worth getting one. You can only apply for an IDP if you are over 18 years old and if your U.S. license is valid for at least six months after the issue date of your IDP. 

You can apply for an International Driver’s Permit online or in person at your nearest AAA offices in the United States. 

Do I need an International Driver’s License in Mexico?

If you are a U.S. citizen with a U.S. driving license, you do not need an additional International Driver’s License or to give it its official title, an International Driver’s Permit. 

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will need an IDP. 

What Do You Need To Drive In Mexico?

Isla Mujeres

If you are asking yourself what do I need to travel to Mexico by car, the answer is documentation! Start getting organised well in advance of your trip. 

You will need an Immigration Entry Permit (which is called the FMM or Mexico Tourist Card). The FMM is issued by the Instituto Nacional de Migración and can be arranged online here in advance of your visit or at the Instituto Nacional de Migración offices just past border control inside Mexico. 

If you don’t speak Spanish, the form is easier to arrange online. Also, it is worth knowing that you will need a new FMM permit for each entry into Mexico. 

You will also need a Temporary Import Permit for any vehicle you are bringing across the border. This permit is legally required whether you are driving a privately owned or rental car. You can read more about this later in this guide. 

And if you are wondering do you need a passport to drive to Mexico the answer is yes, you do! A driving license alone is not sufficient to cross the border. 

To hire a car in Mexico, U.S. visitors will need to show an original and valid U.S. driver’s license

European visitors will need the license they use in their own country plus an International Driver’s Permit to drive in Mexico. 

All nationalities will need to show ID and proof of age (your passport will do) and a valid credit card

It is also mandatory by Mexican law to have liability insurance when driving in Mexico. This protects the driver and passengers of another car that you may be in an accident with or any third-party property. 

You must carry your liability insurance documents with you in the car at all times and be prepared to show them when asked. It is best to buy specialised liability insurance suitable for Mexico rather than rely on domestic or credit card insurance. 

Apart from the necessary legal documents necessary for driving in Mexico, don’t forget other practical items. It is a good idea to carry the phone numbers of the rental company and of Mexico’s government-run bi-lingual roadside assistance Los Angeles Verde ( the Green Angels). 

It is also wise to carry a paper map or download offline maps, and if you are heading into unpopulated off-road areas, pack plenty of emergency supplies. 

Is It A Good Idea To Rent A Car In Cancun Mexico?

renting a car in Cancun

Driving in Mexico as a tourist is the perfect way to discover all that this incredible country has to offer. 

Book your rental car here before they sell out:

In Cancun, you can take day trips and local buses to nearby attractions, but using rental cars in Cancun instead of tours and public transport will enable you to explore at your own pace and on your own timetable. 

A rental car means the freedom as you can go where you want when you want to. You can choose your activities to match your mood or to enjoy the best weather. You can eat wherever you like and spend as long as you like in as many locations as you like. 

Using a rental car can be expensive as a solo traveller, but if you are travelling as a family, a group of friends or on a multi-generational trip, using a rental car in Cancun can save money on tours and taxis. 

Get out of Cancun and take a trip to unforgettable locations such as Chichén Itzá, Tulum, Coba or Valladolid, which are approximately a two-hour drive from Cancun. 

For quick and easy car rental in Cancun, check out Discover Cars

Discover Cars compares rental cars and up-to-date prices from lots of different rental companies and will show the best hire car for your needs and budget. It is packed with specifications and useful information, plus there are no hidden fees and costs.

Discover Cars is my reliable and trustworthy go-to for travel in Mexico by car. 

Is It Safe To Drive In Mexico?

Is it safe to drive in Mexico is a good question to consider before embarking on your trip. Good planning and careful preparation will add to the safety of your trip. 

Driving in Mexico is safe as long as you take the usual driving precautions, plus a few extra security issues pertinent to Mexico.

It is generally considered safe to drive in tourist hotspots such as the Yucatan. Busy tourist locations will usually mean the roads are in good condition with accurate and adequate signage.

Make sure you adhere to Mexico’s road rules and learn what Mexican road signs mean before setting out on your trip. Take the usual driving safety precautions such as not drinking and driving, parking in busy lit areas, avoiding driving at night and remembering to lock your doors when driving. 

Safety features for driving in Mexico include remembering to drive on the right (use a post-it note on your steering wheel if it helps), knowing the local speed limits and no-go areas and knowing how to use petrol/gas stations. It is also worth considering avoiding driving in busy inner cities where you could easily end up in the wrong part of town.   

Don’t rent the cheapest car you can find. Always rent road-worthy reliable cars from reputable, well-reviewed companies. Discover Cars will make this easy for you.  

One of the most important safety checks you can do before arriving in Mexico is to check the latest up-to-date travel advisories from your government regarding travel to Mexico.

The advisories will often state regions, cities or even towns that you need to avoid. For example, it is widely advised to avoid the Toluca Highway (otherwise known as the Carretera Nacional 134). Nicknamed the ‘Highway of Death,’ the road is notorious for bandits and should be avoided by tourists. 

Crossing The Border Into Mexico By Car


Crossing the border and driving into Mexico is relatively straightforward as long as you have all the necessary paperwork to show at the border crossing. 

Driving into Mexico requirements

If you are travelling to Mexico by car, you will need several documents. 

You must have a valid U.S passport (or a passport from another country) or a passport card, an Entry Immigration Form (known as an FMM or Mexico Tourist Card), a valid U.S driver’s license (or a valid license from your own country plus an International Driver’s Permit). By law, you must also have Mexican car insurance. 

If you are bringing your own car over the U.S.-Mexico border, you will also need a vehicle permit to travel to Mexico called a Temporary Import Permit (shortened to TIP).

How do I buy a Temporary Import Permit?

You can buy a TIP at the Mexican border but for a quicker and easier border crossing, buy vehicle permits to travel to Mexico online in advance from the official website. Note that you will need additional documentation, such as proof of vehicle registration, car insurance valid for Mexico or a leasing contract, in order to apply for your temporary vehicle permit.

You will also be required to pay a security deposit. The amount you must pay varies according to the make and model of your car, but it is usually between $200 and $400. The deposit will be refunded when/if you return to the U.S. by car within the Temporary Import Permit time limit. 

This permit to travel to Mexico by car is linked to your FMM or other immigration card time frame, but it is usually valid for six months. It is a good idea to display your TIP on your dashboard to avoid being questioned about it. You do not need a permit if you are staying within the free zone (the 25-kilometre zone along the border). 

If you do not purchase a Temporary Import Permit, you run the risk of receiving a fine and having your car seized by Mexican authorities. Driving in Mexico with U.S. plates is fine as long as you have a TIP to show when asked. 

The process of crossing the Mexican border by car

Can i drive in Mexico with US license?

The U.S./ Mexico border is a very busy border, and it could take up to four hours to cross the border by car. Be prepared and pack snacks, drinks and something to do!

Like any other border, drive through the lane which is most appropriate to you. When asked, show or scan your documents (including any documents for children or pets) and fill in a customs declaration form. 

If a green light appears, you are good to go. Occasionally, vehicles are given a red light and asked to pull into a secondary inspection area for further questions or investigations.  

Is it safe to drive through Mexico?

It is generally considered safe to drive through Mexico, but it is essential to check your own government’s travel advisories before you plan your route. 

Keep checking the advisories as you travel through Mexico, as situations can change daily. Also, try to tune into local news stations to keep abreast of the current situation.

If there is a government advisory to avoid a particular area or region, then it is essential to do so. The government advisories are issued for a good reason, and your travel insurance will be null and void if you should have an incident in an area that you have been advised not to travel to. 

Adhere to the usual driving safety precautions mentioned above and ensure you know the Mexican rules of the road. Keep up to date with weather forecasts, especially if you are going to be driving in Mexico during hurricane season. 

Can you drive to Mexico in a rental car?

If you do not own a car and are wondering can you drive a rental car to Mexico, you will be pleased to learn that it is possible to drive to Mexico in a rental car

Book your rental car here before they sell out:

However, not all rental companies allow it, so you must always tell the rental car company in advance that you are planning to drive into Mexico. 

Most car rental companies have strict rules about driving into Mexico. For example, Budget and Avis will only allow U.S. residents and corporate customers to drive into Mexico. 

Some companies will only allow you to drive into Mexico if you hire a car in one of the border states, such as Texas or California. Other companies stipulate that you must stay within 250 miles of the U.S. border. 

Furthermore, most rental companies do not allow one-way rentals, so you must be prepared to return the car to the United States at the end of your Mexico trip. A two-way trip can add a lot of mileage (and petrol costs) to the car and use up a considerable amount of time from your vacation.

Finally, you will need an official letter from the rental car company giving you permission to bring their car into Mexico. You may be asked to show this letter to border officials.  

You will also need all the same documentation as private vehicle owners who are crossing the border, such as an FMM, Mexican car insurance and a Temporary Import Permit.

Tulum Pescadores Beach
Playa Pescadores.

Driving In Mexico FAQs

If you need further clarification on driving to or driving in Mexico with US license, the following FAQ will help. 

Do I need an international drivers license in Mexico?

You will need an International Drivers License (officially known as an International Driver’s Permit) only if you are coming from a European country. You will also need your own driving license from the country in which you live. 

If you have a U.S. driving license, you do not need an International Driver’s Permit to drive in Mexico. 

Can you drive in Cancun with US license?

Yes, you can drive in Cancun with a U.S. license. You do not need an International Driver’s Permit. 

Can I drive in Mexico with a UK license? 

You can drive in Mexico with a UK license, but ONLY if you supplement it with an International Driver’s Permit. You must be able to show both licenses to be able to rent a car and drive in Mexico. 

Can you cross the US Mexico border with just a driver’s license?

The simple answer is no; you cannot cross the U.S./ Mexico border using only a driver’s license. 

Before 2007, it was possible to do so, but since then, U.S. citizens wanting to cross the Mexico border by land, sea or air must have a valid passport or a passport card when entering Mexico (and this also includes minors).  

‘Valid’ means that your passport is in good condition (with no rips, stains or tears) and that it is valid for at least six months from your date of entry. 

You will also need an FMM entry permit (Forma Migratoria Múltiple) which is colloquially known as the Mexico Tourist Card. 

Bacalar Mexico Resorts

Can I Drive In Mexico With A US License: Summary  

As one of the few countries in the world where it is possible for U.S. citizens to drive solely on a U.S. license, it couldn’t be easier for U.S. travellers to visit Mexico. 

You will just need to gather several documents, do some homework on Mexican driving rules and regulations and purchase a Temporary Import Permit if you are planning on taking your own car across the border. 

But once you get the green light at the border, you can set off on your fantastic, flexible Mexican vacation of a lifetime.

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