Mexico Border Crossing, all that anxiety just for a good taco

Chantelle Kinzel Mexico, Standard 2 Comments

This is a simple wright up of our experience driving across the Mexico/USA border as a point of reference for any other overlanders hoping to do the same. This is mostly the technical stuff, if you are interested in a longer write up of our feelings about safety in Mexico, check out our blog on that topic here:

We crossed the border from Laredo, Texas USA through to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas Mexico.


1) First we pulled up to the gates on December 31, 2016 at about 8:50am

  • A officer walked up to the van window and asked us questions:
    Where are you from? Where did you live last? Are you married? Where are you going? Are you going to surf? Won’t it be too cold to surf right now? What do you do for work?


***NOTE: they asked us nothing about our Rottweiler (dog), who was visible.

  • Then we pulled forward and paid a few dollars ($3.50) for a toll fee.
  • Then pulled further forward to go through the light. The light gives you a red or green light, red signals you to get inspected & green signals you to not.
    • We got a green light, but we were still flashed over to be inspected, maybe because we look scary or maybe because we have a creeper van, probably the latter. Two officers asked if we spoke Spanish and if they could inspect the van. We said yes and so they briefly looked through the van, opened the bathroom, Chantelle’s clothing closet and the cabinet above the front seat.
  • Finito!! We are admitted into Mexico!! They didn’t check any documents, not even our passports!

2) Next we needed to do the TIP (Transport Importation Permit) at the Banjercito. This you need if you are driving across.

  • The Banjercito was not very clear where it was located. There were a few signs for TIP sending us at first what seemed like away (left) from the Banjercito (which was on the right of the road out of the boarder). However then the road looped back (a left-hand u-turn) to a large grey building on the left of the street. Beneath an arrow for the TIP to loop back were people stopping cars (avoid them!), it’s unclear what they were trying to do, supposedly trying to “help you”, but you shouldn’t need their help.
  • Inside we went through steps 1,2 & 4:
    • Step 1: We filled out an immigration form for our passports.
    • Step 2: Paid a few dollars & they made a copy of our required documents (car registration, drivers license & passport).
    • Step 4: Get the TIP, check registration & passport, & that everything matches. In our case because Minimalist Vagabonds llc owns the van they needed the letter of permission from the company that we could drive the vehicle.* Paid a fee with visa (cash is possible too though): $359 (TIP fee) + $20 (for personal something something??).
  • And we are off to paradise!!



We feel like a massive weight has been lifted. So many fears, worries (mostly generated by rumors & false media) & preparation to cross the border. Yet in the end what we faced was everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful. The TIP lady helping us, had less English then we had Spanish but was insanely nice about the language barrier and at the end gave us chocolate for the language struggle!! We both talked about how we couldn’t imagine that happening in the US. If people from another country come into America and don’t speak English, we as American’s would never apologize and give them chocolate for us not speaking a foreigners language! It is humbling to immediately feel like a minority, yet be treated so well. It makes me think about how poorly we judge and treat minorities in the States, and even more minorities who don’t speak english. Yet they are the ones working hard, struggling in a new country, a new culture & a new language for hope of a brighter future. I think that should be greatly admired and esteemed.

Documents Required:  
  • Passport
  • Drivers License
  • Vehicle Bill of Sale, deed to property, and vehicle registration
  • Proof of Mexican Auto Insurance

*Note: Our vehicle is registered to our business name so we had to have our business (Josh) provide a notarized letter of permission allowing us (Josh) to drive the vehicle in Mexico, obviously kinda silly but it was definitely needed at the border to make them happy.

Often they want photocopies so make sure to have at least 3 copies of each of the above and if you plan on crossing more boarders further along you’ll need more copies too so just stalk up!

After the border crossing you should have (and need to drive in Mexico) the following:  
  • A tourist card (in your passport)
  • Your passport stamped
  • Temporary Vehicle Importation permit
  • Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit sticker (put on your front windshield)
  • Mexican Auto Insurance (for the duration of your stay)
Bringing our dog / pet (Mascota) into Mexico with us:  

 What is needed is a Certificate of Good Health from a vet (within 10 days of border crossing) and documentation of vaccinations (needing things like rabies). As noted above what happened was absolutely nothing, but our dog looks healthy and I guess they were more curious about where we were planning to surf. Read more here:

 Crossing the US/Mexican Border was one of the best decisions we have ever made! It has been only 4 months & our hearts & minds have ever expanded from our journey. Hopefully this helps, if you have questions we might have some more answers so just drop us a line below and happy traveling!


Much Love,
Chantelle (& Josh)

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