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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Southbound Road Trip | Laredo, TX Border Crossing to Mexico

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

The first six months of our travels found us mostly exploring places in Europe and the Middle East by plane and rental car. However, when we set out on this journey a main goal of ours was to explore more of Latin America. Before Christmas we had planned to fly to Colombia; however, the flight was full and we weren’t able to make it on the flight as planned. This instead became the catalyst to put into action another travel idea that we had been thinking about for the last several months – to road trip down to Central Mexico and other countries in Central America. We’ll cover some of the reasons why we decided to pivot to a road trip and our crossing the border from the United States to Mexico via the Laredo border crossing, including processes for insurance and temporary vehicle registration.

How we came to Road Tripping to Mexico & Central America

This isn’t something that we had planned, but a few travel discoveries have been reinforced during our last 6 months of travel:

  • We enjoy the freedom & flexibility to explore a destination in a vehicle. Until now that was a rental car most places we went, but the cost of the rental cars adds up overtime.

  • Rental cars just aren’t meant to go off the highway. There were several times that we were limited by what we could do because the roads little a little too rough for our cheap rental car tires.

  • We love exploring off the beaten path and sometimes that means there aren’t public transportation options to get there.

  • There are a few small amenities from home that the kids missed, but we just didn’t have the room for, but could make a difference in how they enjoy the experience.

  • Our travel doesn’t have to be dictated by flight dates, etc.

Therefore, after not getting the flight to Colombia, we headed to Nebraska to spend Christmas with family and fully prepare for our road trip. We prepped our truck, packed up a few extra things and embarked on a road trip to Mexico & Central America. We aren’t sure how far south we will make it, but we’ll play it by ear.

Preparation for the Road Trip & Vehicle Insurance

The main things we had to prepare for the trip were mainly administrative and small maintenance for the truck. First of all, we had imported the truck earlier last spring when we arrived into the states, but we had never registered it because we had planned for it to remain in storage while we were away and it wouldn’t be on the road. We also had to change the insurance coverage for it. Since we spent a couple of weeks in Nebraska we got short-term full coverage for it while in the states, then we found Baja Bound Insurance to be the best option for us once we crossed the border into Mexico.

We didn’t go with any American insurance companies for coverage in Mexico because most aren’t licensed to sell insurance in Mexico. Rather Baja Bound is a San Diego based insurance company that will cover foreign vehicles in Mexico – including both the value of the vehicle, theft, liability and any type of roadside assistance or hospitalization due to an automobile accident. However, that coverage is just while in Mexico, so once we cross into Guatemala and some of the other Central American countries it is no longer valid, so we’ll have to find something else while in that region. However, we found that even if we are only in Mexico for a month at two separate times, the cost of coverage is still cheaper if you purchase for a continuous 6-month period, so we went with that option. We purchased the insurance package online the night before our planned border entry.

Then other than an oil change, a little bit of maintenance and purchasing a canopy, it was just a matter of packing. We did bring a bit more things with us as we had the truck, including a full-sized cooler, some extra clothes, a grill and some cooking supplies; and even some toys for the kids. [I understand that most travel families try to minimize on things, but our kids had been struggling for a bit with being on the road without some of their toys, so we packed up a tote of toys for them to hopefully help them enjoy the journey a bit more.]

Crossing the No. 2 Bridge Border at Laredo, Texas to Mexico

We had read the border crossing here can get congested during the weekdays, so we tried to go in the morning. We ended up crossing on a Tuesday around probably 9:30 a.m. and didn’t have any issues with traffic – in fact, we went straight through. You first cross the bridge for a toll of $3.50 and then once you’re on the other side you go through Mexican immigration. We pulled over for passport inspection and then they searched the back of the truck. He mainly just looked at what was in the bins, and we had one cardboard box that wasn’t open yet, so he did open that to inspect it. Otherwise, it was fairly straight forward and we were on our way.

Mexican border at Laredo No. 2 border crossing after taking the toll bridge.
After crossing the river, you come to the official Mexican border.

Once we exited immigration, we had to head to the office for the vehicle importation. We went straight pass the Oxxo gas station, to the set of lights with the sign showing the U-turn back to the office, which is on the river level.

Directions on how to get to the vehicle importation office after crossing the Laredo No. 2 border crossing.
Once given the all clear by the Mexican immigration officers you proceed to exit and go past this Oxxo gas station to head toward the intersection where you do the U-turn to the vehicle importation office.

Directions on how to get to the vehicle importation office from the Laredo No. 2 border crossing.
Proceed to the stop light that that has this blue sign on it, indicating the U-turn to get to the vehicle importation office.
Cointrol de Internacion Temporal de Vehiculos
The vehicle importation office for long-term car permits.

Obtaining Tourist Card & Temporary Vehicle Import Permit to Mexico

Because we were bringing in our own vehicle we needed to obtain a temporary import permit to have our vehicle in Mexico for a period of 6 months. If flying into Mexico you have to pay $35 USD for a tourist card, which is included in your airfare. However, because we were driving in we had to pay for this fee separately. Once inside the Control de Internacion Temporal de Vehiculos building we first had to pay the tourist card fee for each of us, but it is important to note they require this payment to be made by cash – either in Mexican pesos or American dollars.

After paying for these, we then proceeded to the vehicle import station. For this process you need to provide a vehicle title, registration, drivers license and proof of Mexican insurance, as well as color copies of all of them. There is a fee of $69.19 USD and then a deposit of $400 USD. However, once you exit Mexico, you receive that $400 back. Many pay by credit card, but there is a chance that if you lose your credit card or have to have it cancelled during your time there you might forfeit that money; so cash might be a good option, but just make sure you keep your receipt.

Hitting the Road into Mexico

Once obtaining the paperwork, it was time to hit the road. We decided to drive during the day and take toll roads and it was pretty straight forward, and we never felt unsafe. In fact, one of the services offered by the toll roads is the Green Angel program where you call the number on the signs along the road and they will send someone to assist you, as well as they monitor the highway. Versus the non-toll roads it was a little more costly – it cost us about $26 USD/$33 CDN in toll fees to get from the border to Satillo – but it was convenient for the 2-lane highways and peace of mind. It is recommended not to drive this route during the night time.

Yucca trees dotting the landscape in Nuevo Leon & San Luis Potosi states.
We took the toll roads from the border south towards Satillo and later San Luis Potosi - there was still amazing scenery along the way, including these yucca trees.

Overall, the process of getting into Mexico and bringing in the vehicle was relatively straight forward. However, we are excited to get further south and start exploring some of these amazing regions of Central Mexico.


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