The Mexican Free Zone is designed to attract tourists. Formerly the “hassle-free” or “liberated area” – officially it is called the “Free Trade Zone.” This zone is about 15-20 miles into Mexico all along the Mexican border. Its intention is to reduce government requirements (Mexican government requirements) for tourists visiting and spending money in the area.
In this free zone, customs import requirements, are essentially nonexistent. You always need to declare yourself at the border and get a temporary visa or FMM. It also does not, however, give you permission to do anything illegal, like bring a gun into Mexico.
Baja California – One Giant Free Zone
Baja took this to a whole new level by making the entire peninsula (Baja North and Baja South) a free zone. Technically, until and unless something changes, you can move freely about Baja as a tourist with little regard for vehicle permits. You still need an FFM. You can get one of those online here.
Puerto Penasco – Rocky Point – Sonora – Free Zone
The northwest portion of Sonora is also a Free zone, well beyond 20 miles. The official marker is the Mexican Federal Highway 15 and the 2 Highways
Do I need a TIP in Free Zone?
No, you do not need the TIP (Temporary Import Permit) for your vehicle in the free zone. But, if you travel beyond, you need one.
Don’t forget to return your TIP Sticker at the border when you return. If you forget, you forfeit your deposit and you won’t be able to come back with another vehicle until it is returned.
Do I need Immigration Documents even for less than 72 hours?
According to the federal government of Mexico (INM), yes you do. Local authorities don’t like to enforce this as much as the Federal authorities do, but yes it’s a law on the books. Every visitor to Mexico must check-in, and declare their stay. You can apply ahead of time online using this link for the FMM application, but you still need to pay and get it stamped at the border crossing.
Do I need Mexican Car Insurance in the Free Zone?
Yes. If you plan to drive across the border, you need Mexico car insurance–even in the free zones. Many drivers mistakenly believe that their comprehensive car insurance policy in the U.S. will protect them in Mexico. While this is true when driving in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. insurance carriers do not have an international coverage agreement. So, if you are planning to trip to Mexico’s free zone, you’ll have to apply for Mexican car insurance–even if you only plan to be there for the day.
You can apply for a short-term Mexican car insurance policy but if you make frequent trips to the free zone or elsewhere in Mexico, it will save you money over time to get a long-term policy. Don’t risk driving anywhere in Mexico without a Mexican car insurance policy. You can be arrested and taken to jail if you get into a car accident and don’t have Mexican auto insurance. All drivers in Mexico must have auto insurance or proof that they can pay for repairs in full.
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