International Driving Permit Mexico

International Driving Permit Mexico

What is the difference between an International Driving Permit (IDP) and an International Driver’s License (IDL)?

An International Driving Permit is a small grey booklet marginally larger than a passport containing a translation of your original driving license in 10 languages, including English, French, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. It is recognized by 141 countries worldwide and is valid for one year.

In comparison, an International Driving License is not a legal document and cannot be used to drive in foreign countries or instead of an IDP.

How does an IDP work in Mexico?

Mexico hasn’t ratified any international motor traffic conventions and does not give particular preference to an international driver’s permit. Mexico is quite liberal regarding motor traffic and will allow almost any foreign driver’s license holder to drive as long as their license is valid, and they visit as a tourist. However, an IDP is still functional if your driver’s license is in a language that is not Spanish. Mexico is a large country, and not having an official document in Spanish that serves as a license and identification document may mean delays and problems with Mexican authorities on your trip.

How do you apply for an IDP in Mexico?

You can apply for your IDP on our website.

How long does it take to get an IDP?

If you are in a hurry, you can choose the Express Order option and have a digital version of your new international driver’s license sent to your email box within 20 minutes. The standard lead time for getting a digital IDP is 2 hours. The time taken for the official printed version to be sent to your preferred address depends on the chosen delivery method and your current address. It can take from 2 to 30 working days.

United Nations Agreements on Road Traffic

There have been three international motor traffic conventions in Paris (1926), Geneva (1949), and Vienna (1968). The United Nations organized them to develop standard motor traffic regulations for countries to follow. Many countries were contracted to honor international driver’s permits during each convention. An IDP is valid for one year, depending on which convention a country is contracted to.

Benefits of Carrying an IDP in Mexico

Functionality as an ID

One of the most significant problems a traveler faces is how to keep their important documents safe, as it may mean that they are stranded in a foreign country. An international driver’s permit can be used as an identification document, which allows you to keep your passport and national ID safely locked away. An IDP is also helpful when dealing with foreign authorities if your original identification documents are not in an internationally recognized language.

Quicker traffic authority stops.

Many countries, including Mexico, allow tourists to drive on their roads without an international driver’s permit. However, their law enforcement authorities may not be well equipped to process international licenses in other languages. And IDP will ensure police officers can quickly note down your particulars and send you on your way. Some Mexican states are not as rich as others, and their police departments are underfunded, leaving little funding for language training.

Car rental companies

As with the traffic police, you may face difficulties using a foreign license with car rental companies. Usually, a car rental company evaluates whether each customer is likely to return their vehicle in the condition it was rented out, as they typically don’t have full insurance coverage. As an international driver’s permit is a document accepted by the United Nations, a car rental agency will recognize its value even if the federal government doesn’t. Take an IDP with you when renting a car in Mexico to save precious vacation time.

Laws requiring an IDP

Mexico hasn’t ratified any international motor traffic conventions. However, it is contracted to the International Motor Traffic Convention of Paris (1926) and Vienna (1968), allowing them to issue both 1-year and 3-year IDPs. You don’t need an international driver’s permit to legally drive in Mexico, though there are benefits to having an IDP there.

Driving Requirements for Non-Citizens in Mexico

Short-term visitors vs. residents

Anyone who intends to stay in Mexico for longer than six months must have a resident visa and a resident card. Another option is a permanent resident card, often called the Mexican Retirement Visa. You are eligible. A foreign citizen can gain a temporary resident card if they have a family member in Mexico, start studying in Mexico, intends to retire in Mexico, or finds work in Mexico. A temporary resident card is only valid for a year and can be renewed for a maximum of 4 years before you can apply for a permanent resident card.

How long can I drive with a foreign driving license?

You may only drive for six months in Mexico with a foreign driving license. Mexico only grants tourist visas for a maximum of 6 months, which coincides with the allowable time limit for driving with a foreign driving license. If you intend on staying longer, you should apply for a temporary resident permit and get a Mexican driving license.

When should I get a Mexican Driver’s License?

If you are a frequent visitor to Mexico, you should get a foreign driver’s license. Mexico doesn’t keep your original driver’s license when you convert your license to a Mexican one, and this makes it possible to hold onto your home country’s license. You will do fine if you have an IDP when visiting parts of Mexico other than the north-western tourist hub. However, the traffic stop processing will be longer if you don’t have a Mexican driving license. We recommend getting a Mexican license as soon as you pass the obligatory six months to get a temporary residency. Mexican licenses are valid for either 2 or 5 years, after which they have to be renewed.

Renewing Your IDP or Original Driver’s License While in Mexico

Renewing your International Driver’s Permit

You can renew your IDP on our website.

Renewing your original driver’s license

You may need to renew your license when you vacation in Mexico. You need to contact the institution in the country that initially issued your driving license to do so. Many countries have online portals to help their expatriates with this procedure. However, some countries have requirements for either a medical or vision test. In this case, you should go back to the country that issued your license to renew it. Be prepared for complications when continuing your support, and keep at least a month for the procedure.

Car Rental in Mexico

Requirements for car rental

You must be 21 and have held your license for two years before a car rental agency will rent a vehicle to you. Most car rental companies will have a surcharge if you are below 25 or over 75. Even though you are not required to have an IDP, it will make renting a car exponentially easier. Some companies will allow you to use a debit card or cash payment to rent a vehicle, though most require a credit card in the driver’s name.

Deposit and costs for car rental

You can expect your car rental deposit to be $500 to $1,500 in Mexico as the crime rate is high. If you use a credit card, this amount will be blocked off on your card until you return the vehicle. Keep this in mind when you are planning payment methods for your trip. A car rental can be pretty low in Mexico, ranging from $15 to $50. A week’s rental for a four-door sedan will set you back about $200. However, car companies will try to make a profit using mandatory Mexican car insurance packages, and the rental cost can easily double due to this.

Car Insurance

As in most other countries, Mexico requires motorists to have 3rd party vehicle insurance when driving. This insurance covers damage to persons, things, and animals, but not yourself or your vehicle. Theft is a big issue in Mexico, so theft insurance is a must in addition to the mandatory 3rd party insurance. You should also get personal liability insurance and Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). If you plan a prolonged stay in Mexico, earning a Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW) that absolves you of any liability in an accident is recommended.

Travel Insurance

Mexico has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Tourists are generally not harmed during gang warfare, but some have been held for ransom. We highly recommend getting travel insurance before traveling to Mexico. Please consider the following points before purchasing your travel insurance package:

  • Hospital stays should be covered.
  • Cancellation fees and lost deposits should be covered.
  • Damaged or lost baggage should be covered.
  • Excess charges not covered by your Mexican car insurance should be covered.
  • Emergency dental work should be covered.
  • Ransom payments and extrication costs should be covered.
  • Funeral costs should be covered in an extreme eventuality.

Driving and Safety in Mexico

Where can you get a driving handbook with the road rules?

There is no official English handbook as a highway code in Mexico. However, you can use the information on to prepare for your Mexican trip. Make sure to get an official English version of the highway code from a local bookshop in a metropolitan area before taking the Mexican theory test. Registering for a driving course with a reputed driving school in Mexico will get you an up-to-date version of the highway code free of charge.

Overtaking on Mexican roads

As Mexicans drive on the right side of the road, you are only allowed to overtake on the left. You should check your mirrors and ensure enough space in front of the vehicle before overtaking. Mexican roads can be under-maintained and gravelly, making it easy to skid. Make sure you have good visibility from all four sides before overtaking. Refrain from overtaking during times of poor visibility or nighttime.

Turning and right of way on Mexican roads

Motorists traveling on a major road have the right of way over incoming traffic from minor roads. On intersections with similarly large roads, motorists going straight and turning right have the right of way. Motorists that want to turn left should wait until there is sufficient space in the oncoming traffic.

Mexican drivers can speed through intersections that look empty. Make sure you slow down to the point you can stop abruptly when approaching unsigned intersections on rural and metropolitan roads.

You are required to give priority to vehicles that are already going around a roundabout. When merging into the roundabout traffic, you should wait for sufficient space and adjust to the speed of the motorists.

Speed limits on Mexican roads

Mexico has denoted the speed limits for a wide variety of road types. You can only go at 10 km/h (6 mph) on parking lots and residential areas with many pedestrians. You can go at 60 km/h (37 mph) on roads with no speed limit signs. You can go from 60 km/h (37 mph) to 80 km/h (50 mph) on arterial roads such as ejes, Calzada, beltways, and freeways. Avenues without speed limit signs have a speed limit of 80 km/h (50 mph). Rural two-lane roads have a speed limit of 70 km/h (43 mph) to 90 km/h (56 mph). You may go 90 km/h (56 mph) on two-lane highways. You can go 90km/h (56 mph) to 100 km/h (62 mph) on major inner-city roads. The maximum you can go on a major motorway is 110 km/h (68 mph), though traffic police will rarely stop you if going below 130 km/h (81 mph).

Tips for driving in Mexico

  • Mexican motorists drive on the right side of the road.
  • You should be 18 to drive on Mexican roads.
  • You should have a hands-free system while using a mobile phone when driving.
  • An oncoming motorist will flash for you to slow down. This may mean a narrow bridge ahead or that both vehicles must slow down to pass each other.
  • There may be animals on the roads during nighttime, and potholes are hard to spot, so slower speeds are recommended.
  • When approaching a Mexican town or village, there may be speed bumps on the roads. They may be hard to see, so slow down immediately if you see a speed bump sign.
  • Many crossroads will have three or more roads intersecting, not just two.
  • If prone to motion sickness, you should take some pills as rural roads can be pretty winding.
  • Mexican toll roads can cost about $1.00 per km.

Drinking and driving

National Mexican law allows a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of up to 80 mg per 100 ml when driving, and the state of Chihuahua allows 50 mg per 100 ml. If a foreigner has been convicted of drinking and driving while visiting Mexico, they may be denied entry for ten years. If a driver is caught drunk driving two times within a year or three times within three years, they will have their license revoked. The fines and imprisonment durations for drunk driving vary from state to state, though each state considers drunk driving a severe crime.

Top 3 Places to Visit in Mexico


Tulum is fast out-pacing all other tourist destinations in Mexico as the place to be for luxury travelers. However, it still has enough niche bargain eateries and hotels to entice budget travelers. Tulum is situated on Mexico’s east coast and allows you to enjoy its vibrant nightlife. During the day, you can lay about on some of Mexico’s most attractive beaches, with white sand and clear waters. You can also visit some of Mexico’s better-preserved Mayan ruins with a beach-side backdrop. Make sure you explore several unique natural marine structures available in Tulum, such as underground water-filled caverns called cenotes, on your visit.


Cancun has been one of Mexico’s leading tourist destinations for many decades. It has one of the most extensive nightlife scenes in North America, and you can get almost anything you want in this area during your vacation. You can also book a cruise that includes Cancun as a stopping point. There are extensive golfing grounds that cater primarily to tourists. Parts of Cancun are built for budget travelers, and you can find plenty of budget motels and restaurants. You can try jet skiing, parasailing, and other marine sports on your visit. You should visit the Chichén Itzá, one of Mexico’s most extensive Mayan ruins and archaeological sites. The development level in Mayan society will surely rattle your ideas on ancient cultures.

Mexico City

Mexico City is Mexico’s commercial and political capital, and it is one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of 9 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area. Entire districts of this amazing civilization center have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can get exposed to much of Mexico’s extensive indigenous cuisine in Mexico City, and it is also relatively safe from crime and pretty affordable. If you are there for the nightlife, Mexico’s capital is second to none in the country, with nightclubs and restaurants that can cater to most social levels. To maximize your trip, you should book a tour to explore Mexico’s cultural heritage and cuisine.


Am I required to have an IDP in Mexico?

While some countries will accept a foreign license for a while, many will require you to have an IDP.

Can I drive a vehicle with a foreign license in Mexico?

You can drive in Mexico for six months with a foreign driver’s license as long as you visit with a tourist visa. Having an IDP when traveling outside tourist areas is highly recommended.

Can I use my EU driver’s license in Mexico?

Yes, you may use your EU license in Mexico for six months.

How long will my international driving permit be valid in Mexico?

Mexico was contracted to the Paris and Vienna international motor traffic conventions, so many institutions within the country recognize IDPs. However, an IDP does not have legal recognition with Mexico’s government institutions.

How long will transferring my license to a Mexican one take?

The lead time vastly varies from state to state. You can generally exchange your driver’s license within 1 to 3 months.

On which side do you drive in Mexico?

In Mexico, vehicles drive on the right side of the road.

Do you need a foreign license printed in English to drive in Mexico?

While it’s not a legal necessity, a foreign driver’s license in English will prevent miscommunications outside tourist areas.

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