This winter we took our RV to Mexico for the first time. We were lucky enough to be traveling with many seasoned Mexico RVers and were able to learn a lot before crossing the border.
Here, we’ll pass along what we learned ourselves, and from fellow RVers, to help you prepare for RVing to Mexico and having a great time.
While you’re doing all of these preparations it may feel like a lot of effort, I certainly found myself wondering if it would be worth all the trouble.
After a month on the beach in Puerto Penasco, we were already making plans to come back next winter. Especially for full-time RVers, you really can’t beat Mexico for a nice, warm winter destination.
Preparations (In Order) for RVing to Mexico
The items below are in order of what to handle (from first to last) as you prepare to head south:
RV Parts and RV Prep
If you have any known issues or needed repairs to your RV, it’s a good idea to take care of them before heading to Mexico.
RV parts can be hard to come by in many parts of Mexico, so if you can clear up any little nagging issues before you go, it will make your journey much smoother.
Similarly, if you have any “about to be” issues, you may want to buy spare parts for those as well, just to carry on board and be prepared with.
One of our small slides had been getting slow to open and close, so we ordered a new slide motor just in case it stopped working while we were there.
We can’t really drive our RV with a slide out, so that would have seriously changed our plans had it died while in Mexico.
We ordered our motor three weeks before we planned to cross the border and it didn’t arrive before we left. So if you need to order parts, start early.
Many RVers who have been to Mexico before encouraged us to bring oil, filters, a serpentine belt, and a spare tire because all of those items are critical to the RV operation, and are hard to come by in most of Mexico.
Especially for big motorhomes and larger tow vehicles, they just don’t have engines that large in most of the country.
Documentation is next up because some items may take a few weeks to turn around. So once again, the earlier the better to get started in this arena.
If your RV has a loan on it, you need written permission from the lienholder to take the RV to Mexico. This is the piece that can take the longest, so start here.
Next, you’ll need a visa to visit Mexico, called the Multiple Immigration Form or FMM. If you opt to do this online in advance, allow a bit of time as they are not instantaneous.
If you purchase your FMM online, be sure to get it directly from the Mexican government website:
Also, when presented in person, the FMM must be paired with a receipt that shows a matching payment. It must be the receipt you have the option to print at checkout.
At the time of writing, there is no way to get BACK to that receipt after checkout. We were missing one receipt between the two of us and were forced to purchase a second FMM at the immigration office in Mexico.
Therefore, I might recommend that it’s just as easy to buy your FMM in person.
MEXICAN RV AND AUTO INSURANCE
Even if your regular insurance policy covers your RV and vehicle in Mexico, you are still required to purchase Mexican liability insurance at a minimum to travel the roads in Mexico.
We purchased ours through Oscar Padilla at MexicanInsurance.com based on the referral of a friend. If you choose to go through them, be sure to check to coupons as they always have a special deal available.
Another reputable provider we heard about was Baja Bound.
You may need your passport, driver’s license, vehicle(s) registration, and title, so it’s a good idea to locate all of them in advance. Prepare all of your documents, and have everything together and ready for your border crossing.
If you’ll be working while you visit Mexico, or need internet connectivity, be sure to check your existing cell or internet plans for international coverage.
There may be a change you can make, or an add-on, to ensure you have some coverage on your existing devices while RVing in Mexico.
Once you arrive in Mexico, make a quick stop at an Oxxo convenience store to pick up a Telcel sim card. This way, you can also have access to the local internet which will provide much better speeds.
They call a “sim” a “chip” in Mexico, so be clear about what you’re asking for by saying “Telcel chip”.
If your work programs won’t allow international logins, prepare for your trip by purchasing a VPN service like Surf Shark. This way, you can create a virtual private network based in any location.
Notify your banks of your travel plans. Travel with at least two credit cards in case one gets declined and takes some time to get unlocked.
You can order pesos in advance from your bank (this sometimes takes up to a week) or you can stop at an ATM in Mexico on Day 1.
Either way, it’s a good idea to have pesos for your time in Mexico. Mexican banks will dispense only pesos, so if you anticipate needing USD for any reason, bring enough cash with you otherwise you’ll have to pay to convert it.
For example, our campground requested rent in USD.
Mexico no longer requires a health certificate to bring your pets across the border with you, but it’s always a good idea to have proof of vaccinations on-hand.
You are permitted to bring up to 50 pounds of dog food into Mexico with you. Dog food options may be limited, so bring as much as you can for your pup.
Plan Your Driving Route
We strongly recommend that you plan your route in advance so you can anticipate what you’ll encounter.
Use an RV GPS to confirm road passability (low clearance, etc.) along your route in advance. Plan to limit time in border towns and avoid driving at night as much as possible.
And caravan with other RVs if possible for “safety in numbers”, especially if you have no experience RVing in Mexico. If you plan to stay at RV parks or campgrounds, book them in advance to confirm spots along your route.
Mexico is not the place to fly by the seat of your pants!
KNOW YOUR VEHICLE SPECS IN METRIC
Convert your weight and height to metric, and post it where you can see it while driving. You don’t want to be sitting at a potential low clearance and calculating whether or now you can clear it!
(Note: Mexico has a weight restriction for non-motorhomes of 7,716 pounds. A friend of ours who pulls his fifth wheel with a heavy-duty truck was turned away at the border because they couldn’t process him. Know before you go.)
It also provides peace of mind to know that the Green Angels are always out on the roads. This is essentially a volunteer roadside assistance program.
They generally speak some English, are all fantastic mechanics, and only charge for parts. You can reach them at 078 from any Mexican phone.
Forbidden or Unwanted Items
We crossed the border in Lukeville, Arizona and there were storage facilities at the nearby towns of Ajo and Why for any items you didn’t want to, or aren’t permitted to, bring into Mexico.
If you have pepper spray, bear spray, drugs, guns, or ammo you may want to call ahead to inquire about space in the storage spots.
Immediately Before Crossing Border
As you can see, RVing to Mexico does take some advance planning that you can’t ignore. But there are also a couple of last-minute things you will want to think about in the last day or so before you cross the border:
If your vehicle requires diesel exhaust fluid (DEF), take it with you, as they do not have DEF available in Mexico.
FILL HER UP!
Fill up your fuel tanks before you cross the border because fuel is more expensive in Mexico than in the US. Also, that way you have some time to get the lay of the land before you need to fill up in Mexico.
Be aware that diesel is generally regular low-sulfur but not ultra low-sulfur ULSD like we have in the US.
And remember, diesel pumps are black and gas pumps are green in Mexico (the opposite of the US) but someone will always pump your gas for you in Mexico, just make sure to pull up to the right pump.
DON’T FORGET THE AGUA
Fill your water tank(s) before you leave. If you need to refill your tank(s) before you leave Mexico, get the reverse osmosis (RO) water or use a filter and don’t drink it.
If you know you’ll be staying long enough to run out of the water you brought from the states, I’d suggest buying and filling a 5-gallon or a couple of 3-gallon jugs before you leave.
You can use these for drinking water. There are plenty of places to refill them in Mexico.
BUT…WAIT TO BUY PROPANE
We found the propane to be cheaper to have delivered in Mexico so make it easier and cheaper on yourself and opt for the delivery when you get there.
Final Tip: Stay as long as you can!
The insurance for Mexico is a bit pricey, especially if you have a newer or more expensive RV, so the longer you can stay in Mexico, the more “worth-it” the hassle and expense becomes.
Knowledge is power, so arm yourself with this knowledge and go confidently as you are RVing to Mexico. Practice normal awareness and safety measures and you’re sure to have a great trip south of the border. I know we did, and we will absolutely do it again!
Kristen Bates lives & works from her RV, primarily boondocking off-grid. She owns and operates a women-led travel company, Legit Trips. Kristen loves to explore new places and inspire others to do the same. If she’s not typing away on her laptop, she’s off on an adventure- hiking, biking, or SUP boarding. You can follow her RV adventures @PerpetualMoves and learn more about her travel company at LegitTrips.com.