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Travel Tips Guide



Travel Tips Guide

When traveling, the more you know, the more prepared you will be. Our complete Travel Tips Guide includes everything you need for safe and hassle-free travel to and from Mexico.

What to Do Before You Go

  • Make Copies of your Passport and Itinerary – Make copies of your passport data page and travel itinerary. Leave a copy of both with family or friends so you can be contacted in case of emergency; keep the other copy of your passport with you in case it is lost or stolen. If you do not currently have a passport, you should plan ahead since it can take up to 6-8 weeks to process. For more information, visit www.travel.state.gov (US citizens) or www.canadainternational.gc.ca (Canadian citizens).
  • Check your Health Insurance Coverage – Don’t assume that your healthcare policy will cover you when you travel. Before you leave, you should ask your provider a) if your policy covers you if you travel to Mexico, and b) if it covers emergency expenses like a hospital stay and/or medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance. See Medical and Travel Insurance below for detailed information.
  • Purchase Mexican Auto Insurance – While drivers are not required to purchase Mexican Auto Insurance, it’s a good idea to buy a short-term insurance policy before crossing the border. See Bringing a Vehicle into Mexico below for more information.

What to Bring

In addition to the required entry and exit documents which are outlined below, you should travel with the following:

  • Driver’s License – It’s always a good idea to carry your Driver’s License when you travel.
  • ATM Card – Using an ATM machine is by far the easiest way to get Pesos, plus you will get the best exchange rate.
    See Money, Credit Cards and Tipping for more information.
  • Credit Card – You should bring a credit card for any major purchases, or in case of emergency.
  • Small Spanish (Latin American) Dictionary or phrase book will come in handy since most locals do not speak English.

What to Pack

Most people tend to pack way too much when they go on vacation. Once you settle in and get into the slower pace and mañana-state-of-mind, what you wear won’t seem quite so important. Besides, that way you’ll leave plenty of room to bring souvenirs and a bottle of your favorite tequila for friends and family back home.

Life here in Jaltemba Bay, Mexico is very casual and the weather is usually warm, so beach wear, casual resort wear, and flip flops or sandals are perfect during the daytime. Bring a pair of lightweight pants and a sweater or jacket as the evenings can sometimes get cool. We may also suggest that you pack a pair of tennis shoes or comfortable walking shoes for walking on the cobblestone streets.

Required Entry and Exit Documents

  • Passport – Everyone, including children*, must present a valid passport for travel to Mexico from the United States and Canada.
  • FM-T Tourist Card – Mexico charges a fee to all tourists and business visitors arriving in the country. The fee is approximately US$22, and the money collected is handed to the Tourism Ministry to promote Mexican tourism. Airlines normally collect the permit fee on behalf of the Mexican government and include the cost within the total airfare (under ‘taxes and surcharges’) so in the majority of cases, there will be no need for you to pay the fee separately. If you do not arrive in Mexico by airplane, then you will need to pay Mexico’s tourist permit fee and complete the FMT Tourist Visa at the border checkpoint if you plan to travel beyond the 35km ‘free zone’ after crossing the border into Mexico. Failure to obtain the necessary permit will result in a US$40 penalty fee upon returning to the US.

*Minors Traveling Alone – Mexican law requires that any non-Mexican citizens under the age of 18 departing Mexico must carry notarized written permission from any parent or guardian not traveling with the child to or from Mexico. This permission must include the name of the parent, the name of the child, the name of anyone traveling with the child, and the notarized signature(s) of the absent parent(s). The State Department recommends that the permission should include travel dates, destinations, airlines and a brief summary of the circumstances surrounding the travel. The child must be carrying the original letter – not a facsimile or scanned copy – as well as proof of the parent/child relationship (usually a birth certificate or court document) – and an original custody decree, if applicable. Travelers should contact the Mexican Embassy or the nearest Mexican consulate for current information.

Unaccompanied Minors Departing Mexico – In order to combat international child abduction or the exploitation of minors, Article 215 of Mexico’s Ley General de Población requires that minor non-Mexican children leaving Mexico must be accompanied by both parents or guardians or be prepared to present written authorization to travel from the absent parent or parents.

Updated April 2015 – Information obtained from www.usembassy.gov

Lost or Stolen Passports

If your passport is lost or stolen while you are overseas, you are required to report it immediately to the local police and to the nearest Embassy or Consulate to ensure that it is not used for fraudulent purposes. A consul can issue a replacement passport, often within 24 hours. Here is a list of Consulates and Embassies and other Emergency Numbers.

Customs Regulations – Entering Mexico

Passengers may transport, exempt from duty, new or used merchandises that makes up their personal baggage, as well as duty-free allowance merchandises as follows:

1) Goods Considered as Personal Baggage:

  • Goods for personal use, such as clothes (including one bride trousseau), footwear, personal toiletries and beauty products, as long as they are appropriate for the duration of trip; as well as baby travel, hygiene and fun accessories, such as car seat, portacrib, baby carriage, baby walker, etc., including their accessories;
  • Two cameras or video cameras, including 12 rolls of film or videocassettes; photographic material; two cellular phones or beepers or pagers; one portable typewriter; one electronic personal organizer; one laptop, notebook, omnibook or similar; one portable photocopier or printer; one portable recorder and one projector, including accessories;
  • Two personal sport equipments, four fishing rods, three surfboards or windsurfing boards and their accessories, trophies or recognitions that can be normally transported by the passenger; one running machine and one exercise bike;
  • One portable sound recorder or player; one digital sound player or portable CD player and one portable DVD player, as well as a set of portable speakers, and their accessories; five laser disks, 10 DVDs, 30 CDs or magnetic tapes, for sound playing, three storage software and five storage devices for any electronic equipment;
  • Books, magazines and printed documents;
  • Five toys, including collection toys, and one video games console, as well as five video games;
  • One blood pressure self-monitoring device and one blood glucose self-monitoring device, or a mixed device, and their reagents, as well as personal medicine (in the event of psychotropic substances, passenger must show prescription);
  • One binoculars and one telescope;
  • Two musical instruments and their accessories;
  • One tent and other camping articles;
  • One set of hand tools and the suitcase, which may include one drill, tweezers, wrenches, dies, screwdrivers, cables, etc.
  • Passengers older than 18 years may transport up to 20 cigarette packets, 25 cigars or 200 grams of tobacco, as well as up to 3 liters of alcoholic drinks and six liters of wine.
  • Old persons and disabled persons may transport devices that compensate or reduce their limitations, such as walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, walking sticks, etc.
  • Passengers may transport up to two dogs or cats, as well as the accessories necessary for pet transportation and cleaning, showing the pertinent animal importing permit issued by Sagarpa. View our Pet Travel Tips & Regulations for requirements.

2) Duty-Free Allowance:

  • Merchandise additional to the baggage, which monetary value may be proved by invoice or sale receipt and such value doesn’t exceed $300 USD, or the equivalent in MXN currency when passenger entries to Mexico by maritime or air port; or $75 USD when the passenger entries to Mexico by land.
  • Alcoholic drinks, tobaccos, and gasoline may not be part of the duty-free allowance.
  • During holiday period, Holy Week, summer, New Year, Mexican passengers entering Mexico by land may import, under their duty-free allowance, merchandise with a value up to $300 USD or the equivalent in MXN currency, except for the persons that reside in the border. Please look up for beginning and end of these holy day periods at customs desk or at www.aduanas.gov.mx

3) Prohibited Items:

In accordance with the “Law of General Import and Export Taxes,” the introduction of the following products into the country is prohibited:

  • Firearms, except for hunting purposes, as long as the rules indicated in.
  • Live predatory fish in their fingerling, juvenile, and adult stage.
  • Thallium Sulfate
  • Totoaba, fresh, refrigerated or frozen (fish)
  • Insecticide (Isodrin, Aldrin, Heptachloro, Drinox, Endrin, Mendrino, Nendin, Hecadrin, or Leptofos)
  • Turtle eggs of any kind
  • Turtle or Green Turtle skins
  • Poppy seeds or poppy seed flour (Opium Poppy)
  • Opium juices and extracts prepared for smoking
  • Imide of N-phtalilglutamic acid (Thalidomide)
  • Marijuana (Cannabis Indica) seeds and spores, even when mixed with other seeds
  • Medicinal preparations based on marijuana (Cannabis Indica)
  • Extracts and juices derived from marijuana (Cannabis Indica)
  • Mucilages and thickeners derived from marijuana (Cannabis Indica)
  • Heroin, base, or Diacetylmorophine hydrochloride
  • Medical preparations based on acetylmorphine, its salts or derivatives.
  • Stamps printed in colours or in black and white, presented for sale in envelopes or packets, even when they include chewing gum, candy, or any other type of articles, containing drawings, figures, or illustrations that portray childhood in a denigrating or ridiculous manner, in attitudes which incite violence, self-destruction, or any other type of anti-social behaviour, know as “Garbage Pail Kids,” for example, printed by any company or commercial denominations.
  • The Ministry of Agriculture prohibits the following goods since they represent a great risk for the introduction of plagues and diseases: earth, straw, padded containers of hay, straw decorations without processing; homemade foods; flours of animal origin; fresh, dry, canned or frozen meat and meat products, such as smoky, salted and mature sausages that have been elaborated in countries under absolute quarantine (Europe, Africa, Asia and South America). For additional information please visit the website www.sagarpa.gob.mx

Updated April 2015

Custom Regulations – Entering the US from Mexico

Prohibited/Permissible Items:

  1. All articles acquired in Mexico must be declared.
  2. $800 USD exemption for gifts and personal articles, including one liter of alcoholic beverages per person over 21 every 30 days.
  3. Cuban cigars are prohibited.
  4. Check with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) about importing any medications prior to crossing into Mexico.
  5. CBP has a zero-tolerance policy on illegal drugs. Any type, in any amount may result in serious fines, seizure of vehicle, federal record and/or imprisonment.
  6. Switchblade knives, sea turtle boots or any other articles of endangered species (i.e. spotted cats, coral, crocodile, elephant, etc) are prohibited.

Prohibited/Permissible Agricultural Items:

  1. Most fruits are prohibited (no oranges or apples).
  2. Do not take U.S. fruits and meats to Mexico. You cannot bring them back.
  3. Before you go to Mexico, ask a CBP Officer for a list of items you can bring back.
  4. Fines of $50 to $1,000 USD may result if you fail to declared agricultural items.

Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission:

  1. You must be 21 years of age to possess alcoholic beverages. If you are not 21, the alcohol will automatically be confiscated.
  2. One liter of alcohol and one case of beer may be imported per person every 30 days.
  3. No ID=no liquor. You must prove that you are 21 or older. If you show false or altered personal identification, the ID will be confiscated and you will be prosecuted.
  4. If you are 18 or over one carton of cigarettes may be imported.
  5. It is illegal in Texas to consume or possess with intent to consume alcoholic beverages in a public place on Sundays between 2:15 a.m. and noon or on any other day between 2:15 a.m. and 7 a.m.
  6. You are required to pay state tax on all alcoholic beverages and all cigarettes imported into Texas.

Pets: See “Bringing Pets back to the United States” under Pet Travel Tips for more information.

Custom Regulations – Entering Canada from Mexico

When entering Canada from Mexico by land or air, the following exemptions apply:

Personal Exemptions: You are allowed the following personal exemptions from duties and taxes:

  • Absense of 24 hours or more: $50 CAN
  • Absense of 48 hours or more: $400 CAN
  • Absense of 7 days or more: $750 CAN

You can claim the above amounts in exemptions when entering Canada. In general, the goods you include in your personal exemption must be for your personal or household use. Such goods include souvenirs that you purchased, gifts that you received from friends or relatives living outside Canada or prizes that you won. Goods you bring in for commercial use or for another person do not qualify for the exemption and are subject to applicable duty and taxes.

Although you can include some tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, a partial exemption may apply to cigarettes, tobacco products and manufactured tobacco. Except for tobacco and alcohol, goods you claim in your seven-day exemption may be shipped to your home by mail, courier or other means of transportation.

Alcohol: You are allowed to import only one of the following amounts of alcohol free of duty and taxes:

  • 1.5 litres (53 imperial ounces) of wine; or
  • a total of 1.14 litres (40 ounces) of alcoholic beverages; or
  • up to a maximum of 8.5 litres of beer or ale.

Tobacco: If you are 18 years of age or over, you are allowed to bring in all of the following amounts of tobacco into Canada free of duty and taxes within your personal exemption:

  • 200 cigarettes;
  • 50 cigars;
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) of manufactured tobacco; and
  • 200 tobacco sticks.

Food, Plant and Animal Products: All food, plants, animals and related products must be declared. Based on emerging threats, the import requirements for food, plants, animals and related products are subject to change on a daily basis. To determine the most up-to-date import requirements for these items, refer to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Automated Import Reference System.

Firearms: You must declare all weapons and firearms at the CBSA port of entry when you enter Canada. If not, you could face prosecution and the goods may be seized.

Money and Monetary Instruments: If you are importing or exporting monetary instruments equal to or greater than $10,000 CAN (or the equivalent in a foreign currency), you must report this to the CBSA when you arrive in Canada or before you leave. This applies to either cash or other monetary instruments.

Pets: See “Bringing Pets back to the Canada” under Pet Travel Tips for more information.

Updated April 2015 – Information from www.cbp.gov and www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca

Medical and Travel Insurance

Most US and Canadian healthcare plans do not provide coverage for overseas travelers. Any medical treatment you receive while on vacation or living in Mexico including doctor visits, hospital stays, medication and emergency transportation are the responsibility of the traveler, and in most cases a patient must pay in full (and in cash) prior to receiving service.

When traveling to Mexico, you should not assume that your health insurance policy will cover you. Before you leave, you should ask your provider a) if your policy covers you if you travel to Mexico and b) if it covers emergency expenses like a hospital stay and/or medical evacuation.

  • If Your Healthcare Plan Covers You: If your policy does provide coverage, you should carry both your insurance policy identity card as proof of your insurance and a claim form.
  • If Your Healthcare Plan Does NOT Cover You: If your travel to Mexico is not covered by your policy, it’s a good idea to purchase a short-term policy that does. The easiest way is to buy travel insurance is through your airline when booking your flight. However, many travel agents and private companies also offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services and medical evacuation.

Before you purchase insurance, you should understand the difference between Trip Insurance and Travel Medical Insurance:

  • Trip Insurance: Trip Insurance (sometimes called Trip Cancelation Insurance) insures your financial investment in your trip and typically covers unexpected interruptions in your travel plans and lost, stolen or damaged luggage.
  • Travel Medical Insurance: Travel Medical Insurance, on the other hand, covers the cost of medical treatment caused by accidents, injuries and hospital visits, as well as 24-hour travel and emergency assistance. Some short-term policies include both.

View a list of Medical & Travel Insurance Companies that service our area.

In case of emergency or if you need to contact your Consulate or Embassy, view the Emergency Services & Police Phone Numbers for the Jaltemba Bay area.

Bringing a Vehicle into Mexico

Persons driving to Mexico must have a valid driver’s license, a certificate of title or vehicle registration, and proof of Mexican auto insurance*.

If you plan on staying within the border zone, also called the “Free Zone” (up to 22 miles / 35 km south of the border, and including the Baja Peninsula in California and the Sonora Free Trade Zone in Western Sonora) there are no additional requirements. However, for tourists wishing to travel beyond these zones, you will need to apply for and obtain a Temporary Import Permit (Permisos de Importación Temporal de Vehículos). This permit allows you to temporarily import a vehicle, boat, motorhome, or RV into Mexico. This permit applies to vehicles registered outside of Mexico.

Temporary Import Permits are good for as long as the vehicle owner’s visa is valid. Vehicle permits for persons carrying temporary visas (FMM) are good for 180 days and can only be renewed by returning the vehicle to the border. Persons carrying FM2 or FM3 visas are permitted to renew their visas each year while in Mexico and thus their vehicle permits are valid for the same period of time.

*Mexican Auto Insurance

Drivers are not required to purchase Mexican Auto insurance. However, US and Canadian policies will not cover you while driving in Mexico – and the Mexican government (and police) do not recognize policies written outside Mexico even if that policy has “Mexican” coverage. Therefore, all drivers should purchase a short-term insurance policy before crossing the border. There are several agencies in the US that write Mexican auto insurance, and you can apply online. If an auto accident occurs and drivers do not have insurance and/or cannot pay for the damage and/or injuries, they could be incarcerated until the damage and/or injuries are rectified.

View a list of Mexican Insurance Companies that service our area.



When you arrive in Puerto Vallarta, you will be on Jalisco/Central Time. Once you head north, you will leave the state of Jalisco and cross into the state of Nayarit. While the time zone originally changed at the state line, a time zone change went into affect in 2010 within the Bahía de Banderas municipality, including the towns of Mezcales, Bucerias, Sayulita, San Pancho and Lo de Marcos. So once you pass Lo de Marcos (and head towards Los Ayala, Rincón de Guayabitos and La Peñita), be sure to turn your watches back one hour, as you will now be on Nayarit/Mountain Time.

Upon your return to the airport in Puerto Vallarta, remember that you will lose an hour as the time zone changes back to Central Time. Be sure to set your watches accordingly so you don’t miss your flight.

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