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Air

More than 30 Mexican airports receive direct flights from the USA (some from several US cities, some from just a couple), and some of them also receive direct flights from Canada. Mexico City (www.aicm.com.mx), Cancún (www.cancun-airport.com), Guadalajara, Monterrey (http://www.oma.aero/en/airports/monterrey/) and Puerto Vallarta are Mexico’s busiest international airports. Only Mexico City and Cancún receive direct scheduled flights from European, Caribbean and Central and South American countries, with Cancún offering the most options from Europe.

Mexico’s flagship airline is Aeroméxico (www.aeromexico.com); its safety record is comparable to major US and European airlines. Mexico’s Interjet (www.interjet.com.mx) and Volaris (www.volaris.com) fly to several US cities. Interjet also flies to Havana and Varadero in Cuba, Guatemala City, San Jose, Costa Rica and Lima, Peru.

Departure Tax

The airport departure tax Tarifa de Uso de Aeropuerto (TUA) is almost always included in your ticket cost, but if it isn’t, you must pay in cash during airport check-in. It varies from airport to airport and costs approximately M$900 for international flights and a little less for domestic flights. This tax is separate from the fee for your tourist permit, which is always included in airfares.

Land

Bicycle

It is possible to bring a bicycle into Mexico (in dismantled form) as part of your airline luggage. Aeromexico charges US$150 per bicycle on international flights. Cycling across the land borders is not common but occasionally done. The most popular cycling route into Mexico is south across the US border into Baja California; there's a growing push for a designated bicycle lane at the San Ysidro-Tijuana border crossing.

Border Crossings

Belize

Frequent buses run from Chetumal's Nuevo Mercado Lázaro Cárdenas to the Belizean towns of Corozal (M$50, one hour) and Orange Walk (M$100, two hours). Some continue on to Belize City (M$300, four hours).

Each person leaving Belize for Mexico needs to pay a US$15 exit fee for visits of less than 24 hours and US$20 for longer stays. All fees must be paid in cash, in Belizean or US currency; officials usually won’t have change for US currency. Exit fees are likely to increase in 2018.

Guatemala

The road borders at Ciudad Cuauhtémoc–La Mesilla, Ciudad Hidalgo–Ciudad Tecún Umán and Talismán–El Carmen are all linked to Guatemala City and nearby cities within Guatemala and Mexico by plentiful buses and/or combis. The Ciudad Hidalgo–Ciudad Tecún Umán border is the busiest, and famous for shakedowns on the Guatemalan side; Talismán–El Carmen is definitely the border crossing to go for.

The following companies run daily buses between Tapachula, Chiapas and Guatemala City (five to six hours):

Tica Bus (www.ticabus.com) M$407; 7am.

Trans Galgos Inter (www.facebook.com/TransGalgosInternacional) M$330-445; 6am, noon and 11.45pm.

Between Chetumal and Flores, Línea Dorada runs one daily bus each way (M$700, 7½-8 hours) via Belize City.

For the Río Usumacinta route between Palenque, Mexico, and Flores, there are vans between Palenque and Frontera Corozal (M$130, 2½ to three hours), from where it’s a 40-minute boat trip to Bethel, Guatemala (M$80 to M$450 per person, depending on numbers). From Bethel hourly 2nd-class buses run to Flores (four hours) until 4pm.

Travel agencies in Palenque and Flores offer bus-boat-bus packages between the two places for around M$610 (nine hours), typically departing at 6am, but if you’re traveling this route it’s well worth taking the time to visit the outstanding Maya ruins at Yaxchilán, near Frontera Corozal.

Another possible route between Mexico and Flores is via the border at El Ceibo, near Tenosique, Tabasco. Vans, buses and taxis run between Tenosique and El Ceibo, and there are vans between the border and Flores.

USA

There are more than 40 official crossing points on the US–Mexico border. Some Mexican cities on the border and elsewhere in northern Mexico are affected by drug-gang violence, so check travel warnings before you go. Ciudad Juárez and Nuevo Laredo are best avoided altogether, or at least passed through as quickly as possible. Hwys 101 and 180 between Matamoros and Tampico were ones to avoid at the time of research due to frequent armed robberies and carjackings.

In Baja, the Santa Inés border crossing is the busiest, so it's best for travelers to use another, such as Tecate, for visiting the Valle de Guadelupe.

A pedestrian-only crossing has been operating between the US and Mexico at Boquillas del Carmen–Big Bend National Park since 2014.

Cross-border bus services link many US and Mexican cities. On most trips you will transfer between a US and a Mexican bus on the US or Mexican side of the border, although you can usually buy a ticket right through to your final destination thanks to affiliations between different bus lines.

Greyhound (www.greyhound.com.mx) From California, Arizona and Texas to border cities, with onward transfers into northwest Mexico.

Ómnibus Mexicanos (www.omnibusmexicanos.com.mx) From Texas to northeast, central north and central Mexico.

Transportes Supremo (www.facebook.com/Transportes-Supremo-1614999715450044/) Shuttle-van service between Phoenix, Sonoyta, Nogales, Yuma, Agua Prieta and Puerto Peñasco.

Tufesa (www.tufesa.com.mx) From many cities in the US southwest and California to northwest Mexico, Mazatlán and Guadalajara.

Turimex Internacional (www.turimex.com) From Chicago, Texas and southeastern USA to northeast, central north and central Mexico.

Most routes are covered by several buses daily. You can (often as quickly) go to the border on one bus (or train – see www.amtrak.com), cross it on foot or by local bus then catch an onward bus on the other side.

Car & Motorcycle

The rules for taking a vehicle into Mexico change from time to time. Check with a Mexican consulate, Sanborn’s (www.sanbornsinsurance.com) or, in the US, the free Mexican tourist information number (800-482-9832).

Driving into Mexico is most useful for travelers who have plenty of time, like independence, have surfboards, diving equipment or other cumbersome luggage and/or will be traveling with at least one companion. Drivers should know at least a little Spanish and have basic mechanical knowledge. A sedan with a trunk (boot) provides safer storage than a station wagon or hatchback.

Mexican mechanics are resourceful, but take as many spare parts as you can manage (spare fuel filters are very useful). Tires (including spare), shock absorbers and suspension should be in good condition. For security, have something to immobilize the steering wheel and consider getting a kill switch installed.

Motorcycling in Mexico is not for the fainthearted. Roads and traffic can be rough, and parts and mechanics hard to come by. The parts you’ll most easily find will be for Kawasaki, Honda and Suzuki bikes.

Finding a gas station at or near the border crossings is not a problem.

Vehicle Permit

You will need a permiso de importación temporal de vehículo (temporary vehicle import permit), costing US$45 (not including IVA tax), if you want to take a vehicle into Mexico beyond the border zone that extends 20km to 30km into Mexico along the US frontier and up to 70km from the Guatemalan and Belizean frontiers. The only exceptions to this are the Baja California peninsula, where the permit is not needed, and Sonora state as far south as Guaymas, which offers a cheaper, simplified procedure – but you will need a permit if you embark a vehicle at Pichilingue (La Paz) in Baja California, on a ferry to ‘mainland’ Mexico.

The vehicle permits are issued by offices at border crossings, or at posts a few kilometers into Mexico, and also at Ensenada port and Pichilingue ferry terminal in Baja California. Details of all these locations, including their opening hours, are given on the website of Banjército (www.banjercito.com.mx), the bank that deals with vehicle-import procedures. US and Canadian residents can also apply for the permit (at least a couple of weeks before your trip) on Banjército's website (‘Application for Temporary Import Permit for Vehicles’), in which case it will be delivered to you by courier. The online procedure also involves obtaining electronic pre-authorization for your Mexican tourist permit.

The person importing the vehicle will need to carry the original and one or two photocopies of each of the following documents, which must all be in their own name (except that you can bring in your spouse’s, parent’s or child’s vehicle if you can show a marriage or birth certificate proving your relationship):

  • tourist permit (FMM); at the border go to migración before you process your vehicle permit
  • certificate of title, or registration certificate, for the vehicle (you should have both of these if you plan to drive through Mexico into either Guatemala or Belize)
  • a Visa or MasterCard credit or debit card issued outside Mexico, or a cash deposit of between US$200 and US$400 (depending on how old the car is). Your card details or deposit serve as a guarantee that you’ll take the car out of Mexico before your FMM expires
  • passport or US passport card
  • if the vehicle is not fully paid for, a credit contract, or invoice letter not more than three months old, from the financing institution
  • for a leased or rented vehicle, the contract, in the name of the person importing the vehicle and notarised letter of permission
  • for a company car, proof of employment by the company as well as proof of the company’s ownership of the vehicle

When you leave Mexico, you must have the import permit canceled at the border to insure that your deposit is returned to you. A permit is valid for six months, during which you may enter Mexico multiple times. You have to exit Mexico before the expiration date or else the authorities may deny you permission to bring a vehicle into the country next time.

Hitching

Hitching across the borders into Mexico is never entirely safe and Lonely Planet does not recommend it.

Train

Is it not possible to enter Mexico by train.

Sea

Belize Water Taxi (www.belizewatertaxi.com) sails daily between Chetumal, Mexico and San Pedro (US$50) and Caye Caulker (US$55) in Belize.