Mexican international driver’s licenses are highly recommended to tourists planning to spend any substantial amount of time in the country. Although it is not mandatory, the international driving permit is suggested for Americans driving to Mexico. Some Americans prefer to visit Mexico by car because they can enter the country with a passport card, which is much cheaper than a traditional passport. It is essential that all visitors carry the appropriate travel documents with them during their trip to Mexico.

In addition to the mandatory U.S. passport and Mexico Tourist Card, American tourists require a few additional items. American citizens who plan to drive to Mexico are required to purchase a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit if they plan on travelling outside of free or border zones. Additionally, a Mexico Tourist Card is required for visitors who plan on staying longer than 72 hours.

Mexican Tourist Car Insurance with full coverage is also highly recommended for all American drivers. Americans should carry a valid driver’s license with them at all times along with an International Driving Permit for Mexico.

What is a Mexican International Driving Permit?

When you are travelling abroad from America and want to get behind the wheel of a car, you are not required to have a Mexican International Driving Permit, but it is highly recommended. If you are wondering, “what is a Mexican IDP”, it is a Spanish translation of all the information on your U.S. driver’s license. This permit is recognized in over 150 countries today and many of these countries require one for you to be able to drive legally.

Whether you plan on renting a car in a foreign country or driving across borders, obtaining an IDP can be a valuable investment. This document translates the identification information on your personal driver’s license into 10 different languages. By having the appropriate translation for the country you are visiting, you can ensure that you will always be able to prove your identity and your authorization to drive.

Note: This is different from an international translation for a Mexican driver’s license, which must be requested at a Mexican driver’s license office.

When do I need an international driver’s license in Mexico?

Americans visiting Mexico are not required to have an International Driving Permit before they can drive a motor vehicle. However, having one to translate your U.S. license can help you avoid any potential conflict with law enforcement or government officials if you do not speak Spanish.

Furthermore, many car rental companies in foreign countries require an International Driving Permit before renting out vehicles to tourists. An IDP would suffice in these types of situations and purchasing one in advance can reduce potential headaches on a trip.

How to get an international driver’s license in Mexico?

American motorists looking to get an international driving permit must apply with either AAA or the AATA. Applications can be completed by mail or in-person at a AAA branch office. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and have a valid U.S. driver’s license. In order to complete an application, drivers will need to provide:

  • A printed and completed international driver’s license application.
  • Two original passport photos (which can be taken at AAA branch offices).
    • Sign the back of each picture if mailing the application.
  • A valid U.S. driver’s license
    • A photocopy of both sides for mail-in applications.
  • $20 USD for the AAA international driver’s license fee.

How long do International Driving Permits last in Mexico?

An international driver’s license from the USA will be valid for one full year. Additionally, the permit must go into effect within six months of the application date. This means you cannot apply for an international license more than six months in advance of your trip.

Your permit will remain valid in conjunction with your current U.S. driver’s license, so your permit will expire if your license does. Permits are not renewable and a new application must be submitted for a new permit.

Note: If you are permanently residing in Mexico, you will need to abide by the local driver’s licensing laws, even if you still hold a valid U.S. license.

Where to Get an International Driver’s License in Mexico

If you hold a valid driver’s license, you can receive an AATA or AAA international driving permit by mail from anywhere in the world. Even if you are already in Mexico when you decide you want to drive, all you need to do is mail the required items to either an AATA or AAA office. You also have the option to visit your local AAA branch and complete an application in person. There is no method of applying for an international driver’s license online.

Tips for Avoiding International Driver’s License Fraud

The American Automobile Touring Alliance and AAA are the only two agencies authorized to issue an IDP in the United States. Be wary of other individuals or companies that are attempting to sell fake IDPs on their websites or through unsolicited emails.

A fake permit is almost always a worthless document that can possibly lead to legal issues or travel delays in a foreign country. Never purchase any travel document without ensuring that they are valid and issued by the appropriate agency.

Driving Rules in Mexico

When you are driving in Mexico with your International Driving Permit, there are several driving rules you should practice.

  1. Always carry a valid U.S. driver’s license and International Driving Permit if you have one.
  2. Avoid driving at night. Road fatalities are more common at night due to the animals, pedestrians and vehicles without taillights that you might come across in the dark.
  3. Stick to the main roads if you are driving alone. Avoid side roads and back alleys that might have poor road conditions.
  4. Stay aware of road elements while driving. Be on the lookout for unpainted speed bumps and potholes to avoid damaging your vehicle.
  5. Never drink and drive, ever! In Mexico, your car insurance can be voided and declared invalid if you get into an accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This can be a quick way to end up in a Mexican jail with huge financial burdens and legal repercussions.
Last updated on Friday, March 6 2020.