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MEXICO - Exercise a high degree of caution
Exercise a high degree of caution in Mexico due to high levels of criminal activity, as well as demonstrations, protests and occasional illegal roadblocks throughout the country.
Northern states - Avoid non-essential travel
Avoid non-essential travel to the following northern states due to high levels of violence, linked mainly to organized crime:
- Coahuila (except the city of Saltillo)
- Nuevo León (except the city of Monterrey)
- Sinaloa (except the city of Mazatlán)
- Sonora (except the cities of Hermosillo and Guaymas/San Carlos)
Exercise a high degree of caution in the cities that are excluded from the above advisory.
Western states - Avoid non-essential travel
Avoid non-essential travel to the western states of Guerrero (including Acapulco but excluding the cities of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo and Taxco), Michoacán (excluding the city of Morelia) and Colima (excluding the city of Manzanillo) due to the high levels of violence and organized crime.
Travel Health Notice - Zika virus
The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued advice for travellers on the Zika virus, recommending that Canadians practice special health precautions while travelling in affected countries. Pregnant women and those considering becoming pregnant should avoid travel to Mexico. See Health for more information.
Safety and security
Safety and security
You are advised to sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service if travelling to or residing in Mexico.
We strongly recommend travelling to Mexico by air to avoid land border crossings, particularly in the northern states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, Sonora and Tamaulipas.
In northern Mexico, particularly along the border with the United States, organized crime and urban violence greatly affect security. Confrontations between organized criminal groups and Mexican authorities continue to pose a problem. Shootouts, attacks and illegal roadblocks may occur without warning. Avoid inter-city road travel in the northern states. Heavily armed gangs have attacked travelers driving through the state of Tamaulipas and on several highways in the states of Coahuila, Durango, Nuevo León and Sinaloa. Criminals especially target sport utility vehicles and full-size pickup trucks for theft and carjacking along highways.
In the city of Monterrey, avoid travelling outside the suburb of San Pedro or other well-populated areas after evening rush hour.
Criminal activity is high in the states of Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán and Nayarit. Illegal roadblocks and demonstrations are common. The deterioration of the security situation is particularly noticeable in the rural areas of Guerrero and Michoacán. Vigilante militias have fired at vehicles that did not stop at their roadblocks.
Crime rates in Mexico are high. Arrest and detention rates are low and contribute to higher levels of criminality. The level of crime in resorts and major tourist cities and destinations is relatively low compared to the national average.
More than 2.1 million Canadians travel to Mexico each year, the vast majority of them without incident.
If you are the victim of a crime, report it immediately to the local branch of the state prosecutor’s office (Agencia del Ministerio Público) nearest to the crime scene. No criminal investigation is possible without a formal complaint to Mexican authorities. Complaints must be made in person before leaving Mexico. You must present photo identification. It is especially important to report the loss or theft of your identification documents, both to Mexican authorities and to the nearest Canadian consular point of service in Mexico, in order to protect yourself should the documents later be misused.
Although it does not target tourists, violence related to organized crime increased throughout the country in 2017, including in the states of Quintana Roo (Cancun and Playa del Carmen) and Baja California Sur (Los Cabos).
On February 21, 2018, an explosive device detonated on a popular tourist ferry in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo. The explosion injured over twenty individuals, including tourists. On March 1, 2018, local authorities found another explosive device on a ferry also operating out of Playa del Carmen. Some cruise lines have cancelled excursions using ferry services in Playa del Carmen. Cruise lines that are still operating have significantly increased security measures.
Criminal groups, including drug cartels, are very active in Mexico. Clashes between cartels or gangs over territory, drugs and smuggling routes are common, resulting in a high level of violence. Mexican citizens and government officials are also targets of violent crime, including kidnapping, extortion and homicide.
Foreigners may be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and could become victims of violent crime. Remain vigilant, stay in tourist areas and follow local media closely. Be very cautious on major highways and in rural areas. Avoid travelling at night.
In some parts of the country, military, navy and federal police forces have been deployed to combat organized crime and improve security conditions. They maintain a visible presence by patrolling the streets, setting up roadblocks and conducting random vehicle checks. Armed clashes between security forces and criminal groups do occur in certain areas without warning. Bystanders could get caught in the crossfire.
Theft—including armed robbery, purse snatching and pickpocketing—is common in Mexico. If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and do not resist. Tourists have been injured while trying to resist armed robberies. Be aware of your surroundings at all times, even in areas normally considered safe. Take precautions to secure your belongings and minimize your risk of becoming a target for thieves. Always keep your luggage secure. Stay in hotels and resorts with good security. While swimming in resort areas, leave your passport and valuables in the hotel safe, not in your hotel room or on the beach. Dress down and avoid wearing expensive jewelry.
Foreigners have been targets of robberies that sometimes involve assault. Robbers will follow a victim after they exchange or withdraw money at airports, currency exchange bureaus (casas de cambio) and automated banking machines (ABMs). Avoid withdrawing or exchanging money in public areas of the airport. If you must make a financial transaction at the airport, ensure only small amounts are involved and make the transaction within the customs area.
Only withdraw or exchange money at ABMs or exchange bureaus during the day or inside reputable financial institutions, hotels and malls; avoid street-side withdrawals and exchanges. This will help you avoid card skimming (i.e. the illegal collection of data from the magnetic strip of a credit or debit card). Always hide the keypad when entering your personal identification number, even if nobody else is around. Keep your credit card in sight when paying for goods and services.
Canadians have been robbed on buses, usually at night. Keep an eye on your luggage, money and personal documents at all times.
Foreigners have been physically and sexually assaulted. In some cases, hotel employees, taxi drivers and security personnel at popular tourist destinations were involved. Ensure your accommodations have adequate security features (such as cameras and security guards with radios), as not all resorts offer the same level of security.
Avoid walking after dark, especially alone, and avoid deserted or under-populated areas. Only go to bars and nightclubs in a group and avoid separating from the group. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption, and do not accept invitations or rides from strangers or recent acquaintances, as these can make you a more vulnerable target for criminals. In cases of sexual assault, police authorities will order a medical examination.
Female travellers should exercise caution when dealing with strangers or recent acquaintances. Consult our publication entitled Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide for travel safety information for Canadian women.
Spiked food and drinks
Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances or strangers, including taxi drivers, as the items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
Some travellers have reported getting sick or even blacking out after drinking alcohol in some resort locations, as alcohol served may be unregulated. While Mexican authorities have put mechanisms in place in an attempt to control unregulated alcohol, counterfeit alcohol could still be served in bars, restaurants and resorts. Be cautious if you choose to drink alcohol and seek medical assistance if you begin to feel sick.
- Federal Consumer Procurator’s Office and the Wine and Spirits Industry sign agreement to avoid illegal sale - Press Release, Government of Mexico (in Spanish)
- Alcohol, drugs and travel
Mexico has one of the highest kidnapping rates in the world. Kidnappers target both the wealthy and middle class. Foreigners are not specifically targeted but may be if perceived as being wealthy. Canadian citizens (and contractors working for Canadian businesses) are kidnapped mainly in the areas included in the regional advisory for the northern states, mostly in areas that are not under police and security forces control. If you are kidnapped, comply with the kidnappers’ requests and do not attempt to resist them.
Express kidnappings (i.e. attempts to get quick cash in exchange for the release of an individual) occur in large urban areas. Thieves most commonly work in cooperation with, or pose as, taxi drivers. They force victims to use their debit or credit card to withdraw money from ABMs in exchange for their release. Victims are sometimes held overnight so that a second withdrawal up to the victim’s daily bank withdrawal limit can be made the following day. To reduce your risk of becoming a victim, only use the taxi services located at major hotels or call a reputable taxi company, do not show signs of affluence and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Gangs and other criminals throughout Mexico also commonly commit virtual kidnapping. This is a form of extortion where a perpetrator identifies a person who is temporarily unreachable by cell phone or email, or steals their cell phone, and then contacts that person’s family claiming that their loved one has been kidnapped and demanding an immediate ransom for their release. When the family members cannot reach their loved one in Mexico, they assume that the person has been kidnapped.
Perpetrators use various means of gathering information about potential victims, including using social media sites or eavesdropping on conversations. Do not discuss travel plans, your room number or any other personal information within earshot of strangers. Do not divulge personal business details to strangers in person or over the phone, especially when using hotel phones. Hotel guests are targeted in a scam where hotel staff are complicit in the virtual kidnapping crime. If you are threatened or harassed on the phone, hang up immediately. Scam artists have also gathered information on luggage tags in hotel lobbies and later convinced guests to give them their contact information in Canada. Afterward, the scammers have called parents of travelling Canadians to report that their child has been detained or hospitalized and have requested that money be wired to Mexico. If this occurs, parents or friends should request the name and note the number of the caller and report the call to local police in Canada.
Report any kidnapping, physical or virtual, to the local Mexican police and to the Embassy of Canada to Mexico in Mexico City, the nearest Canadian consulate or the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa (see Assistance).
Legitimate police officers have extorted money from tourists or arrested tourists for minor offences or traffic violations. If this occurs, do not hand over your money or your passport. Instead, ask for the officer’s name, badge and patrol car number, and a copy of the written fine, which is payable at a later date; also, note the location of the arrest. If you think the fine is not justified, file a complaint at the nearest tourism office or local branch of the state prosecutor’s office (Agencia del Ministerio Público).
Police officers have also targeted rental cars to extort money from passengers.
Demonstrations occur regularly throughout the country. Protests and roadblocks are common in Mexico City, including to and from the airport, and in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacán and Oaxaca. Such incidents may last a long time, leading to shortages of fresh food, medicine and gasoline, as well as interruption of inter-city bus transportation.
Avoid large gatherings, which could erupt in violence at any time. Foreigners are forbidden from participating in political demonstrations. Offenders may be detained, deported and denied re-entry into Mexico. Monitor local media reports for up-to-date information and follow the advice of local authorities.
Mexican driving styles and road safety standards are very different from those in Canada. Police do not regularly patrol the highways. Drivers do not observe speed limits, indicate lane changes or stop at red lights. Pedestrians should be extremely cautious at all times. Fatal hit-and-run accidents occur.
Road conditions vary and can be poor in some areas. Dangerous curves, poorly marked or hidden road signs, construction sites, roaming livestock, slow-moving or abandoned vehicles and other obstacles pose hazards.
Avoid road travel at night between cities throughout the country. Toll (cuota) highways are typically safer and better maintained than secondary highways. Overnight, ensure that you only stop in major centres, at reputable hotels or at secure campsites. At all times, keep your car doors locked and the windows rolled up, especially at traffic lights, where you can be a target for thieves. Do not leave valuables in the vehicle.
Rent cars that do not have stickers or other advertisements for the rental company on them so that your vehicle blends in with those of the general population.
The military searches for drugs and firearms at military checkpoints throughout the country. Remain calm and cooperate.
In the event of a vehicle breakdown or roadside emergency, the Green Angels (Angeles Verdes), a highway patrol service offered by Mexico’s Ministry of Tourism (Secretaría de Turismo de México or SECTUR), provides free assistance on all major toll highways from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. In case of an emergency, dial 078 or 01 800 006 8839 (toll free in Mexico). Ensure that the insurance coverage on your credit card is sufficient. Mexican liability insurance is mandatory.
Avoid hailing taxis on the street. Use reputable taxis companies, such as online transportation companies, hotel taxis or taxis based at designated stands (sitios). In Mexico City, all government-authorized taxis have licence plates starting with “A” or “B.” Taxis from designated stands have both the logo of their company and the plate number stamped on the side of the car. Always ask the dispatcher for the driver’s name and the taxi’s licence plate number, model and colour.
When arriving at Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City, pre-pay the taxi fare inside the airport and ask to see the driver’s official identification. You can also hire a taxi from a reputable online transportation network company.
Although public transportation is relatively safe, be vigilant in airports, at bus stations and on buses. The Mexico City metro is often very crowded and a popular place for pickpocketing. There are metro cars located at the front of the trains dedicated to women and children during rush hours only. Avoid travelling late at night and during rush hour, if possible, and exercise caution at all times.
When travelling to other cities, use bus companies that offer first or executive class transportation. These buses only travel on toll roads, which lowers the risks of targeted roadblocks and robberies. For longer distances, fly whenever possible.
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Recreational activities and rentals
Ensure that the recreational activities you choose are covered by your travel insurance and that sporting and aquatic equipment is safe and in good condition, especially for scuba diving. Many operators do not conduct regular safety checks.
Canadians have been involved in accidents where operators of recreational vehicles, such as watercrafts, have demanded compensation exceeding the value of the damage caused to the vehicle or equipment.
The number of moped and scooter accidents involving tourists is increasing. Avoid renting from operators who do not provide insurance or a helmet.
Beaches and water activities
Strong currents and undertow are common on many of Mexico's beaches, and drownings of Canadians have occurred. Take posted warnings about swimming conditions seriously and familiarize yourself with the beach flagging system. Many beaches do not offer warnings of dangerous conditions or are not sufficiently supervised by lifeguards. Beach resort lifeguards may not always be prepared for emergencies. When in doubt, consult hotel staff or local authorities
Storm swells (known locally as mar de fondo) generally occur on the west coast of Mexico between May and November and can result in one- to four-metre high waves. The period of unusually high waves can last for several hours or days. Avoid swimming in the ocean, walking on the beach and practicing any water sports when a mar de fondo alert is issued by local authorities. Follow the instructions of lifeguards and civil protection authorities, and withdraw all small vessels from the sea and safeguard them.
General security information
Monitor local news sources on a regular basis to learn about events that could affect your personal safety. Leave your itinerary and contact information with friends or family in Canada.
Hitchhiking is not a common practice in Mexico and is strongly discouraged.
Exercise caution when standing close to balcony railings, as falls have resulted in deaths and injuries. Height standards for balcony railings in Mexico can be considerably lower than those in Canada.
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Mexican authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with foreign diplomatic missions and consulates in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for the expected duration of your stay in Mexico, even if you are a dual citizen. Permanent residents of Canada must consult Mexico's immigration agency, the Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM) (in Spanish) for specific entry requirements.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest diplomatic mission for your destination.
Canadians seeking to enter Mexico as tourists do not require a visa.
If you are travelling to Mexico for purposes other than tourism, you may require a proper visa. Foreigners involved in unauthorized activities will be expelled. Consult the Embassy of Mexico in Canada for more information.
Canadians travelling to the northern border zone (within 21 kilometres of the U.S. border) for work do not require a visa for stays of 72 hours or less.
Business visa: required
Work visa: required
Student visa: required
You should apply for your visa yourself. If a prospective employer is processing your business (or work) visa for you, obtain copies of all correspondence between the employer and Mexican immigration authorities, and verify that these copies are stamped by the immigration authorities as proof that your papers are being processed. You should also request a receipt from your employer for any document (your Canadian passport, for example) that you provide for purposes of obtaining the visa. You should not surrender your passport to your employer.
Canadians must obtain a tourist card, called the Multiple Migratory Form for Foreigners or FMM, from their airline or immigration authorities at Mexican points of entry. To obtain a tourist card, Canadians must present a valid passport. If you do not obtain a tourist card upon arrival, your entry will be considered illegal and you may be fined, detained or expelled from the country.
Canadian tourists do not require a tourist card for stays of 72 hours or less within the northern border zone.
Ensure that immigration authorities stamp your tourist card upon arrival, regardless of your mode of transportation. If you enter Mexico by land, it is your responsibility to stop at the immigration facility located at the border. Consult the Embassy of Mexico in Canada for more information on land border entry.
Authorities can demand to see your tourist card at any time. You must carry the original at all times and surrender it when leaving Mexico or face a fine and/or expulsion.
Length of stay
An immigration official will determine the number of days during which you can remain in Mexico. In most cases, you will be granted the maximum 180 days. You will not be able to request an extension or change the condition of your stay from inside the country.
All visitors to Mexico must pay a tourism tax (approximately US$20). This fee is normally included in airline ticket prices. Visitors arriving by road (car or bus) or sea will be asked to pay this fee at any bank in Mexico. There is a bank representative at every port of entry. The bank receipt must be attached to the tourist card for submission at departure.
You are exempt from paying this tax if:
- you are entering by land for tourism purposes, and your stay will not exceed seven days
- you are travelling to the northern border zone for less than 72 hours
- you are travelling to Mexico on a cruise ship.
Dual citizens entering and leaving Mexico must identify themselves as Mexican citizens. Canadian-Mexican dual citizens must carry valid travel documents for both countries. A Canadian citizenship certificate is not a travel document. See Laws and culture for additional information.
Canadians with a criminal record may be refused entry and returned to Canada on the next available flight. Contact the Embassy of Mexico in Canada prior to making travel arrangements.
Children and travel
Learn about travel with children.
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
- Zika virus: Advice for travellers - February 12, 2018
Be sure that your routine vaccines, as per your province or territory, are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Some of these vaccines include: measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Vaccines to Consider
You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health professional about which ones are right for you.
Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread through contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.
Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease and is common in most parts of the world.
Be sure your measles vaccination is up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.
Rabies is a deadly illness spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from an infected animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Food and Water-borne Diseases
Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.
In some areas in Central America and Mexico, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Central America and Mexico. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
- Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
- The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among pediatric travellers, travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives or travelling for a long period of time. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insects and Illness
In some areas in Central America and Mexico, certain insects carry and spread diseases like American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), chikungunya, dengue fever, leishmaniasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), West Nile virus, and Zika virus.
Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.
There is currently a risk of chikungunya in this country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.
- The risk of dengue is higher during the daytime, particularly at sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue fever.
Zika virus infection
Zika virus infection is a risk in this country. Recent or ongoing cases of Zika virus have been reported in this country.
All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites day and night.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects such as abnormally small heads (microcephaly). Zika virus can also be sexually transmitted.
Travellers who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy:
- Should avoid travel to this country
- If travel cannot be avoided follow strict mosquito bite prevention measures.
- Talk to your health care professional about the risk of Zika infection in pregnancy.
- Use condoms or avoid having sex for the duration of the pregnancy, if you are pregnant and your partner has travelled to this country.
- Female travellers: wait at least 2 months after returning from this country before trying to conceive (get pregnant) to ensure that any possible Zika virus infection has cleared your body.
- Male travellers: wait 6 months after returning from this country before trying to conceive. Use condoms or avoid having sex during that time.
See travel health notice: Zika virus: Advice for travellers
- There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
- Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no vaccine against malaria.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in enclosed air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider pre-treating clothing and travel gear with insecticides and sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet.
Animals and Illness
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in Central America and Mexico, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.
Medical services and facilities
Medical services are easily available in large cities but limited in remote areas. Standards of patient care differ from those in Canada and vary greatly among medical facilities, especially in beach resort areas. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and medical evacuation, if required. Contact your insurance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Private hospitals and clinics in major cities offer good-quality care but are generally expensive and expect payment in advance. Many will not agree to deal directly with medical insurance companies. Be prepared to pay for treatment yourself and then request a refund from your insurer. If medical services are required, contact your tour representative or the closest Canadian government office to obtain a list of reputable facilities and physicians in the area.
Pharmacies in main cities carry most medicines. It is advisable to consult a physician before purchasing medicine in Mexico. If you take prescription medication, bring along an adequate supply and a copy of the prescription. Ensure that both the generic and trade names of the drug are stated.
To determine whether a particular medication is controlled in Mexico and requires a prescription from a doctor, consult Mexico’s Federal Commission for Protection Against Sanitary Risk (primarily in Spanish) or the Embassy of Mexico in Canada.
Medicine cannot be sent to Mexico from Canada via courier services.
When travelling to Mexico City, you may experience health problems caused by high altitude or by air pollution, which is at its peak during the winter months. Individuals with heart, lung or respiratory problems should consult their doctor before booking their trip.
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
Laws & culture
Penalties for breaking the law in Mexico can be more severe than in Canada, even for similar offences.
Penalties for drug offences are very strict, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences.
Avoid any involvement with illegal substances or people who deal with them.
Avoid borrowing a vehicle or picking up hitchhikers. Drivers are legally responsible for their vehicle’s contents and the legal status of passengers and the items they carry.
The Mexican government strictly enforces its laws concerning possession, importation and trafficking of firearms. Anyone (including foreign armed forces personnel) entering Mexico with a firearm or ammunition without prior written authorization from Mexican authorities is subject to imprisonment. It is also illegal to enter the country with certain types of knives. You can obtain a complete list of forbidden items and import permit requirements from the Embassy of Mexico in Canada.
It is illegal to drink alcoholic beverages in non-designated public areas. The minimum age at which people are legally allowed to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages is 18 years old.
It is illegal to possess archaeological artefacts or to export such items from Mexico.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Mexico.
If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of Mexico, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.
Tourists may bring in their personal effects duty free. Failure to declare personal effects will result in their confiscation and a fine. Mexican customs provides information regarding entry into Mexico by air or land. When carrying more than US$10,000 or the equivalent in other currencies, cash, cheques, money orders or any other monetary instrument, you must declare the amount exceeding US$10,000. Failure to make this declaration is against Mexican law and often results in detention.
If you wish to donate goods, contact the Embassy of Mexico in Canada before sending or importing goods to Mexico to fulfill the importation permit requirements.
The names on your identity documents (generally your passport) must be identical to those on your birth certificate to obtain official Mexican documents, such as marriage certificates, immigration documents or passports. Many Canadians have encountered significant difficulties due to this requirement, as middle names are often left off Canadian identity documents. If you plan on residing in Mexico or dealing with the Mexican Civil Registry (Registro Civil), obtain a Canadian passport that will meet Mexican requirements.
You may drive in Mexico with a valid Canadian driver’s licence. The police sometimes ask foreign drivers to show identification and proof of their legal status in Mexico. Always carry valid photo identification, your Canadian passport, visa and other pertinent documents. Leave a certified copy of your vehicle registration with relatives or friends in Canada.
If you rent a car, the rental contract must be in your name and include a full description of the vehicle. If driving a company-owned vehicle, you must produce proof of employment with the company and the company’s ownership of the vehicle.
Canadian automobile insurance is not valid in Mexico. You must obtain additional insurance at the Mexican border. You should obtain full coverage, including coverage for legal assistance. Automobile insurance is much more expensive in Mexico than in Canada. Many local drivers do not have any form of car insurance.
Auto accidents and driving infractions
In case of an accident or theft of your vehicle, you should immediately obtain a police report from the nearest local branch of the state prosecutor’s office (Agencia del Ministerio Público) and present it within five days to the Mexico City customs office (aduanas) to cancel the Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit.
If you are involved in a traffic accident, you may face serious legal problems, including imprisonment. You could be taken into custody until responsibility for the accident is determined and all penalties are paid. If you do not have Mexican liability insurance, you could be prevented from leaving the country until all parties agree that adequate financial satisfaction has been received. Depending on the extent of injuries or damages, drivers may face criminal charges.
If a driver is found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of an accident, or if the driver has no valid driver’s licence, their insurance is considered invalid.
If you receive a fine for a driving infraction in certain parts of the country, the issuing police officer will retain your driver’s licence or registration until the fine is paid. Expect delays in recovering the document.
In order to reduce air pollution, there are time and day restrictions on driving in Mexico City and other regions of the country. Based on licence plate numbers, there is at least one day each week and two Saturdays per month when driving is forbidden. This applies equally to permanent, temporary and foreign plates. These regulations are strictly enforced. Offenders face heavy fines and temporary confiscation of their vehicle.
A supplementary driving restriction is in effect in Mexico City. Only vehicles bearing plates from the State of México (Estado de México) or the Federal District (Distrito Federal) are allowed to circulate from Monday to Friday from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Saturdays from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, consult the city’s environment ministry, Secretaría del Medio Ambiente (in Spanish).
An exemption to this driving restriction may be obtained for cars with foreign plates by requesting a tourist pass (Pase Turístico), which is granted either for two periods of seven days or one period of 14 days within a six-month period. In order to obtain the tourist pass, you must register at Pase Turístico (in Spanish).
Importing vehicles and boats
Mexico has very strict rules regarding the importation of foreign vehicles and boats. Do not enter Mexico without having obtained the proper import permit and car/boat insurance. Without a permit, you may be fined and have your vehicle seized. Contact the Mexican embassy or a consulate in Canada to verify the latest regulations and requirements regarding vehicle and boat importation, or visit Travelling to Mexico by land. Consult Mexico’s tax department, Servicio de Administración Tributaria, for more information.
If you wish to travel with your car beyond the northern border zone, you must obtain the Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (Solicitud de importación temporal de vehículos). This permit can only be obtained at the port of entry or online at Banco Nacional del Ejército, Fuerza Aérea y Armada before crossing into Mexico.
You are only allowed to bring one vehicle into the country at a time. You may not tow a vehicle with a recreational vehicle unless it is registered to a different owner who is travelling with you. The second vehicle cannot weigh more than 3.5 tons. It is your responsibility to obtain the permit through the Banco Nacional del Ejército, Fuerza Aérea y Armada 10 to 180 days before departure. You may also obtain a permit from a Mexican consulate in the United States (in Albuquerque, Austin, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Sacramento and San Bernardino), a customs office located along the U.S.-Mexico border or, in some cases, within an authorized border zone. Watch for signs indicating customs checkpoints and bank locations (where permits can be issued and cancelled).
If you stay beyond the date indicated on the Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit, your vehicle may be seized.
When leaving Mexico, you must return your Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit in person and in the vehicle with which you entered the country, to any customs office at the border so that the permit can be cancelled. If you don’t cancel your permit, you will lose your deposit. Keep a copy of the cancellation documents. Neither the Canadian embassy in Mexico City nor the Embassy of Mexico in Ottawa can return these permits on behalf of Canadian citizens. It is not permissible to mail your permit to the border point. While the permit is in effect, you will be unable to import another vehicle into Mexico. You may be able to cancel the permit on a future visit to Mexico if you enter at the same border point with the same vehicle; however, a fine may be imposed.
In cases where the permit holder cannot exit the country with the vehicle (for example, in case of death or sickness), the person driving the car out of Mexico must be a foreigner with a valid tourist card and have documentation to prove the relationship with the car owner, such as a marriage or birth certificate.
It is the owner’s responsibility to obtain the import permit for a boat through the Banco Nacional del Ejército, Fuerza Aérea y Armada 7 to 60 days before departure. Permits can also be obtained from a Mexican consulate located in Albuquerque, Austin, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Bernardino. Further information and online application forms can be found at Banco Nacional del Ejército, Fuerza Aérea y Armada.
For more information on Mexican driver’s permits, vehicle inspection, road tax or mandatory insurance, contact the SECTUR at 1 866 640 0597 (toll free from Canada).
Buying/selling a vehicle
Foreigners who wish to buy a car in Mexico must be either temporary or permanent residents in Mexico, and must pay vehicle taxes and obtain Mexican licence plates. If you are interested in buying a car, consult local authorities.
It is illegal to sell your imported vehicle in Mexico. If you do, your vehicle may be seized and you may be subject to a fine and deportation.
You may acquire real estate in Mexico. However, you should consult a lawyer, as real estate transactions, laws and practices can be complex and differ considerably from those in Canada. Choose your own lawyer or notary and avoid hiring the one recommended by the seller. Mexican real estate agents are not licensed or regulated.
Research potential property purchases carefully, as irregularities, most frequently title challenges, occur that may result in litigation and possible eviction. Trusts do not guarantee that the purchase is legitimate. Visit the local property registry (Registro de Propiedad) and ask to see the property registry to confirm the name of the last owner and that the property is free of any mortgage.
Reports of problems with timeshare arrangements (including cancellation of contracts and fraudulent sales) have increased. You may be approached by persistent timeshare representatives on the street, as well as at the airport or on the way to your hotel. Representatives use pressure tactics, such as insisting that promotions are only valid for that day or offering free tours, meals, gifts or alcoholic beverages.
Before purchasing a timeshare, gather as much information as possible, including researching the properties and getting a legal opinion. If you decide to buy, carefully review the contract. Anything not included in the contract will not be honoured. Only provide your credit card if you are certain you want to make the purchase.
Timeshare companies have requested that their clients sign a waiver that prevents them from cancelling the contract. This practice is illegal. Consumers are legally entitled to cancel a timeshare contract without penalty within five working days (starting from the day following the original date of purchase). Contracts must be cancelled in writing directly with the timeshare company. Keep copies of all correspondence.
Fraudulent companies and individuals may approach you claiming to have a buyer for your timeshare and asking you to pay taxes beforehand. After making this payment, Canadians have discovered that their timeshare was never sold.
Scam artists also often impersonate Mexican government officials. If you experience any difficulty with a timeshare company, or suspect fraud in real estate procedures, contact the Mexican Consumer Protection Agency (Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor or PROFECO) immediately.
If you are considering purchasing or selling property in Mexico, or suspect you may have fallen victim of a scam, consult a lawyer in Mexico specializing in real estate.
Rental agreements between two individuals in Mexico are considered a private matter and are not regulated by the government. If you encounter difficulties with a rental agreement and wish to take legal action, you must obtain the services of a Mexican lawyer.
The currency is the Mexican peso (MXN/MXV). Automated banking machine services are available throughout the country. Canadian debit and credit cards are widely accepted; however, Canadian currency and traveller’s cheques are not. Some Canadians have recently reported that they were unable to withdraw cash from ABMs using Canadian debit cards. Consult with your bank before you travel.
There is a limit to the amount of U.S. dollars that residents and foreigners can exchange in Mexico, depending on your immigration status in Mexico. Although the rule does not apply to Canadian dollars, some financial institutions, hotels and currency exchange bureaus do not make the distinction.
Natural disasters and climate
Natural disasters & climate
In the event of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, landslide, flood or volcanic eruption, official information is available from the Mexican government’s national civil protection agency, Sistema Nacional de Protección Civil (in Spanish).
Hurricanes usually occur from mid-May to the end of November. During this period, even small tropical storms can quickly develop into major hurricanes.
These severe storms can put you at risk and hamper the provision of essential services.
If you decide to travel to a coastal area during the hurricane season:
- know that you expose yourself to serious safety risks
- be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or cancelling your trip
- stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
- carry emergency contact information for your airline or tour operator
- follow the advice and instructions of local authorities
- Hurricanes, typhoons, cyclones and monsoons
- Large-scale emergencies abroad
- Active storm tracking and hurricane watches and warnings - United States’ National Hurricane Center
The rainy season extends from June to November, and flooding and mudslides occur during this time throughout the country.
Transportation routes may be affected. If you are planning to travel to possible affected areas, contact your airline or tour operator to determine whether the situation could disrupt your travel arrangements. Exercise caution, monitor local news and weather reports, and follow the advice of local authorities.
Mexico is located in an active seismic zone. For further information, consult Mexico’s National Seismological Institute, Servicio Sismológico Nacional (in Spanish).
Some volcanoes in Mexico are active. You may obtain updated information on the status of the Colima volcano from the University of Colima’s Centre for Studies and Research of Volcanology, Centro Universitario de Estudios e Investigaciones de Volcanologia (in Spanish) and of the Popocatépetl volcano in central Mexico from Mexico’s national centre for disaster prevention, Centro Nacional de Prevención de Desastres or CENAPRED, (in Spanish).
Dial 911 for emergency assistance.
Mexico City - Embassy of Canada
Acapulco - Consular Agency of Canada
Embajada de Canadá en México
Cabo San Lucas - Consular Agency of Canada
Embajada de Canadá en México
Cancún - Consular Agency of Canada
Embajada de Canadá en México
Guadalajara - Consulate of Canada
Embajada de Canadá en México
Mazatlán - Consular Agency of Canada
Embajada de Canadá en México
Monterrey - Consulate General of Canada
Embajada de Canadá en México
Playa Del Carmen - Consular Agency of Canada
Embajada de Canadá en México
Puerto Vallarta - Consular Agency of Canada
Embajada de Canadá en México
Tijuana - Consulate of Canada
Embajada de Canadá en México
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada in Mexico City and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
Toll-free emergency numbers
The following toll-free numbers can be dialed from anywhere within the country of Mexico, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:
To reach the Embassy of Canada in Mexico City: 01-800-706-2900
Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa: 001-800-514-0129.
When making long-distance calls within Mexico, callers must dial 01, the area code, and the number; when calling internationally from Mexico to Canada or the United States, you must dial 001, the area code, and the number.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, express or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
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