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Driving Across the Border ¡Bienvenidos a México!

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I will post a report later of my drive to Mexico City from California, but I thought some drivers might be interested in my border crossing experience. The full story is on my ad free blog, including all the problems I had trying to cross elsewhere and the mistakes I made. Obviously it is possible to drive a Tesla 3LR to Mexico City using only superchargers, as I returned a month ago from my trip. Below are just the logistics of crossing the border with a car.

I crossed the border at Puente Anzalduas, near McAllen Texas. I chose this place for several reasons. McAllen is a nice city with all the conveniences. There’s a supercharger in McAllen and another one 85 miles away in Mexico. This border crossing has everything I need to legally drive my car in Mexico, all in one room, with plenty of parking, and it isn’t too crowded. The bridge allows an easy trip around the city of Reynosa, and quickly puts me on the toll highway directly to my route to Mexico City. Even though I drove from California, it’s faster to drive through Texas on the freeway at 80 mph than to drive tollways in Mexico, especially as the supercharger network isn’t nationwide in Mexico yet. I recommend this crossing if you’re planning on driving to Mexico City, especially in a Tesla!

I found a lot of wrong information about driving across the border, which caused me delays and frustration. If you’re just driving in Baja California or to Rocky Point or just along the border inside Mexico, you don’t need any paperwork. But if you want to drive elsewhere, then here’s the real story: first, my recent experience, and then (if you follow the link), all my failures. Read and learn!

I crossed the border at around 9:30 am Tuesday two months ago, and there was virtually no wait. US Border Patrol checked my car, and then I drove across the bridge with a $3.50 toll. On the Mexico side of the border, take the left lane, since you need to declare your vehicle. If you miss the turn (like me), stay left and turn sharp left to go behind the buildings. Either way you end up in the same place, the Aduana, or Customs office. There’s a line of cars here that arrived from the other direction who are waiting to return their permits at the kiosk. Ignore them, park, and walk around to find the front door.

Customs is there to collect taxes on goods you import, including your car. But, since you’re just using your car temporarily during your visit before leaving with it, you don’t have to pay taxes. Customs checked my vehicle, including taking a photo of the VIN, and then they checked that I was the registered owner. California’s registration card includes my name, address, VIN and plate, and I had both my current card and my new one effective next week. Satisfied, they told me to walk across the room to Immigration.

Immigration is there to admit you into the country. These days, Americans like me can visit Mexico for up to 180 days without paperwork. But, since I need a permit for my car, they make an exception, give me an entry card to fill out, and they issue the 180 day form (FMM) for 717 pesos ($42) on my credit card. Satisfied, I walk back across the room to the copy desk, where they charge me $1 for a copy of my passport, my new FMM, and my registration cards. The copies are for the final step, the Banjercito.

The Banjercito is the government bank that issues the official vehicle permit that you must show at highway checkpoints. Here, they’re in the same room, right between Customs and Immigration desks, so they’ve already seen me walking back and forth. The permit proves that your identity, vehicle ownership and temporary status in the country have already been thoroughly checked by the right authorities, and the permit (TIP) contains all the relevant information. After signing several forms and providing my contact details, they took $468.30 (8,000 pesos) on my credit card, but I got almost all of that back when I returned the permit. (When you leave Mexico, hand over the permit at the Banjercito kiosk and either cancel for a refund or tell them you intend to reuse it before it expires).

Satisfied, I drove deep into Mexico. I was stopped by the National Guard highway patrol twice on my first day, and all they want to see is this permit before quickly sending me on my way. I hope this all seems logical to you and clears up some common confusion, especially for first time drivers to Mexico. Plenty of folks do this every day, so you can too. But you might want to learn from my mistakes (read the bottom half of my blog post). Thanks for reading!

How did the car handle the transition from the US cellular network to the Mexican one? I've heard of people driving from the US into Canada having a period of no connectivity while the car's modem figures out it needs to switch networks.
How did the car handle the transition from the US cellular network to the Mexican one? I've heard of people driving from the US into Canada having a period of no connectivity while the car's modem figures out it needs to switch networks.
My ‘22 Tesla 3LR had no problem with switching data networks. Also, it converts the speed limit from kilometers to miles.
My iPhone lost connectivity in Canada, but now I know how to turn on data roaming.
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Reactions: jddaigle
I drive to my friend’s house in San Carlos twice a year in my 2020 M3LR from East Phoenix area. The heat in AZ has contributed to my 280 mile range at 100% as well as 19” sport wheels. Still no issue as I usually arrive to my friend’s house with 20%. I just drive the speed limit at 110 km/hr. All the way to San Carlos is a free zone meaning I don’t have to permit the car. I do stop at KM21 to have my passport stamped. Free up to 7 days and $40 for 180 days. Santa Ana has 4 Tesla Superchargers. My friend has a NEMA 14-50 in his garage for my mobile charger. But there are other chargers popping up around town now including 14-50 at the RV park in town. Great laid back town with all the amenities. Marinaterra Hotel is quite nice. My Mexico insurance policy is $20/day and includes roadside assistance via flatbed if needed. I travel with a Modern Spare kit. AT&T rocks premium connectivity all the way down.


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