Driving in Mexico?

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Traffic Rules and Regulations in Mexico

There are many rumors about driving in Mexico that can give expat drivers sweaty palms. Potholes, crime, reckless driving style – many an expat-to-be is nervous about actively participating in traffic and driving in Mexico. Our expat guide gives you the most important facts to keep in mind.

Are You Allowed to Drive in Mexico?

The legal driving age in Mexico is 18. There are special licenses for teenagers under the age of 18 which allow them to drive under adult supervision. It is highly recommended that you follow this age restriction, as police have begun carrying out roadside checks more frequently in order to keep accidents at a minimum. If you have a US license, you may drive legally with it for an unrestricted period of time. Tourists may also drive using their respective licenses, however, getting an international license is recommended.

If you wish to drive in Mexico for longer than a quick tourist trip, you will have to apply for a Mexican license. The process for getting a license in Mexico varies by state. Some states are very lenient and only require you to take a blood test in order to determine your blood type. In the event of an accident, this information is vital. Other states will require you to take a written and practical test in addition to a medical examination.

Note that using a seatbelt is mandatory for all occupants of a vehicle. The use of mobile devices without a hands-free system is prohibited while driving in Mexico, as is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The legal limit of blood alcohol content is 0.8‰.

Learning Patience with the Mexican Driving Test

In case you do need to acquire a Mexican license, it is best to contact your local department of motor vehicles in Mexico in order to find out which paperwork you need and what to bring. Keep in mind that the Mexican bureaucratic system will most likely differ from that which you may be used to. Local authorities take their time in processing information, and a typical response to prodding is to slow down even more. It is therefore recommended to apply for a license way ahead of when you will actually need it.

Generally, you need to provide the following documentation when applying for a Mexican license: your passport, proof of residence in Mexico, and some sort of health certificate. Make sure to bring some cash with you in order to pay the processing and/or application fee.

Some cities do not even require you to show proof that you can actually drive. If you are in a city which requires you to take both the written and practical test and you are not quite comfortable taking it in Spanish, be sure to ask in advance if you can get the test in English or take it with a  translator. In some cases this is possible; if not, be sure to learn Spanish before you take said test.

Buy a Robust Car and Insure It Well

For fear of illegal importation, authorities have become very strict concerning the legal registration of vehicles. It has become incredibly complicated to import your own automobile and use it in Mexico with foreign plates. Converting these can be even more of a hassle. It is therefore highly recommended you buy a car (used or new) in Mexico — you will be presented with a wide variety of relatively inexpensive choices.

If you are seriously contemplating buying a car in Mexico, keep road conditions in mind: In order to conquer potholes and stretches of rocks on the road, a more robust model should be your first choice. In order to register your car you need to have proof of ownership and the title of your car as well as proof of your identity and residency in Mexico.

If nothing else, it is imperative that you have automobile insurance for driving in Mexico. If an accident occurs, it is possible that you will be taken directly to jail until the police determine who is at fault. If you do not have insurance or it does not cover accident damage, you will have to pay out of your own pocket or stay in jail.

Surprisingly, it is not mandatory to have car insurance in the majority of Mexico. Only cars driven in Baja California are legally obliged to be insured. But even if you can register your car without having vehicle insurance, you are definitely better off getting one. Just like used automobiles, car insurance in Mexico is relatively inexpensive, so there really is no reason not to take out a policy.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Francois Bertrand

"The last InterNations event was just great: I had some very nice chats with fellow expats (even Canadians like me) in Mexico City. "

Barbara Melington

"With InterNations, we had the chance to find a good bi-lingual school for our children in Mexico. They are gonna grow up as true 'third-culture kids'! "

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