When driving into Mexico, it may be tempting to bring in stuff that you don’t think you will find in Mexico, especially if you are staying for more than a few days. In general, personal luggage is exempt from permits or taxes, but there are conditions. The following items are safe to bring over the border when driving into Mexico if they are clearly for personal use; this means they should not be in quantities that can be mistaken for resale.
- New and used clothing, shoes and toiletries for personal use in reasonable quantities
- Photo and video equipment and supplies
- One mobile phone and pager
- One laptop or portable computer (to ensure you don’t have to pay import tax, get a signed certification from the Mexican consulate that it is for your personal use; make sure you also have US customs certification that you bought the item in the US for reentering the US)
- Sporting and camping equipment
- Medicine and medical paraphernalia for personal use (not including medical marijuana); bring the prescription for psychotrophic drugs
- Cigarettes (up to 20 cartons) and cigars (not more than 25 pieces or 200 grams)
- Alcohol (not more than 3 liters of liquor and 6 liters of wine)
- Not more than equivalent to US$10,000
- Up to 2 pets (dogs or cats) with health certificates from a veterinarian
- Foodstuff (except for meat, especially beef in any form, and fresh cheese) not exceeding 15 kilos per vehicle unopened and in their original packaging plus up to 3 fresh or frozen turkeys.
If you are bringing in more than what is reasonable for personal use when driving into Mexico, you must declare them and pay the taxes or get a permit beforehand from the Mexican consulate. If you are caught with undeclared items, you can pay a hefty fine and even get jailed if you bring in prohibited items such as firearms, recreational drugs, hazardous chemicals, and live animals. Any type of flour or meal may not be brought into Mexico, which is found in most pet food.
In general, it is easier to purchase grocery items locally when driving into Mexico than bringing them from the US. You will not have to count or weigh what you have, and you won’t have to worry about exceeding the limits inadvertently. When driving into Mexico with a pet, you are allowed one baggie of pet food for immediate use, but any unopened pet food should not have any type of lamb or beef ingredient. Again, it is easier to buy these locally.
If you are driving into Mexico for a vacation, you should only bring the bare necessities and buy what you need when necessary. Avoid bringing expensive electronic gadgets because they may be confiscated, or you may end up paying taxes coming in or going out of Mexico. Most medication can be bought locally, so bring only what you need for the first few days and buy the rest in Mexico.
A bigger priority than clothes and food is Mexico auto insurance. Make sure you have valid Mexico Auto Insurance from reputable companies like West Coast Mexico Insurance. It is not only smart; it is also mandated by law. If you are caught driving into Mexico without auto liability insurance valid in Mexico, you can get into a lot of trouble.