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Crossing the Border: Be Aware of What You’re Bringing into Mexico

Crossing the Border:  Be Aware of What You’re Bringing into Mexico

by Jack George (reprinted with permission from the Baja Times) editor’s note:  This article offers some rudimentary tips for items you can/cannot bring when crossing the border.  It is contingent on travelers to do due diligence in finding out more about guidelines.  There are a number of resources available to help you, including Baja Bound Insurance company.

Crossing the Border: It's a bit different now than it was at the San Ysidro border crossing in 1922!


The newly opened El Chaparral border crossing has brought a number of changes for people driving into Mexico. One thing that has not changed is the dreaded ‘red light.’ This is because you must then pass to the inspection station. The new inspectors no longer simply check what is in your trunk. (You do not automatically receive the ‘red light’…but it is good to be prepared in case you do get stopped for inspection. Editor,

They tell you to unlock your car doors, open the hood of your car, and open your trunk. If they find anything that looks like it is newly purchased, the inspector will ask you for the cost along with other questions. If you are crossing with a new television, for example, chances are you will go to the next inspection station where you will complete a declaration of the item, cost, and so forth. And, most likely, you will pay an import fee.

El Chaparral Border Crossing

However, you also have the chance of having items removed from your possession if you do not abide by the rules of what items can be brought into Mexico. For example, if the inspector looks through your car and finds your favorite cockatiel, hamster, rabbit, or any other animal aside from a dog or a cat, you might need to forever say “Good-bye” to your friend. This will depend, however, on if you did your homework, prior to arriving at the border, and if you followed the instructions for importing a pet. You will not be allowed to travel another mile if you have earth, straw, or hay-filled containers or any type of ornament made from straw or palm. You cannot have any homemade food preparations containing meat or ground products of ruminant origin. Processed meat products from countries Mexico considers risky will not be allowed to cross with you.

You may not cross the border with any food or pet treats containing ruminant origin (basically this is various hoofed, even-toed, often horned mammals; those mammals having a stomach divided into four, sometimes three, compartments). You may not cross with certain vaccines. You may not bring raw or dry shellfish, in any presentation. Seaweed, of any type intended for animal consumption, is prohibited.

Items on the restricted list should be discussed with a United States representative to determine if you can cross the border into Mexico. These include terrestrial and aquatic animals, specific types of animals (such as birds and small pets); bees and bee products; hunting trophies; drugs for veterinary use; objects showing traces of organic products such as boots; plants and plant products such as cut flowers, fresh fruits, seeds, cuttings, and so forth.

Ex-pats living in the border zone of Mexico can import goods for personal use, as long as the value does not exceed $75.

These items include alcoholic beverages, beer, and snuff carved cigars. Various items may be subject to various taxes, so, before returning across the border, you should know what you may face when reaching the inspection station.

Although the list of acceptable articles that are okay to import is extensive, there can sometimes be surprises when you reach the border. Some people are not certain about specific food products; however, products and animal by-products, such as dairy products and so forth are acceptable, as long as they are packaged and labeled in Spanish or English and sealed by the health authority.

You may also cross with most meat products, if they come from plants approved by SAGARPA (in English this is The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food. Its objective is to foster the pursuit of a policy of support that permits producing, improving, and making the best use of the Agricultural, Livestock, Fisheries, and the Food Supply sector).

You can transport smoked poultry, dried beef, and prepared foods, if they are labeled in Spanish or English and stamped by the health authority.The same approval is needed for prepared foods and fruits and vegetables canned or cooked such as prunes, spices, and medicinal dried herbs. You may also bring in fish, canned or jarred, (such as pate), products of fish ready for human consumption, and most sea products, as long as they are properly stored in a cooler with ice and packaged for personal consumption.

Some people are concerned about pet food as far as what can or cannot be brought across the border. You can safely cross with dry or wet pet food. The law seems very vague, “…a full package of food or treats without content of ruminant origin, labeled in Spanish or English and stamped by the health authority.” (After speaking with three different inspectors, I received three different answers as to the question regarding quantities, varieties, and so forth.) It is suggested that you do your research before buying a large quantity of pet food.

We all know that the inspectors have the final say on what can or cannot be brought across the border. If there is a disagreement, it is up to each individual to decide how he or she wishes to continue. It is strongly recommended that anyone crossing the border, on a regular basis, print a copy of the rules and regulations for what may, or may not, be imported into Mexico  (one site to visit is: 

This article was reprinted with permission from the Baja Times,

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About Jack E. George

Jack E. George is a Baja writer as well as the author of A Broken Charity and The Autism Handbook (published in English, Spanish, and Chinese).

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