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Do You Need a Passport To Go To Cabo

Yes, most travelers do need a passport to go to Cabo. There are some exceptions. Whether or not you need a passport depends on how you’re entering Mexico, your nationality, and the length of your stay. If you’re flying to Cabo, you will need a passport book. If you’re driving to Cabo, you can use a passport card or an enhanced driver’s license. It is possible to travel to Cabo without a passport on a closed-loop cruise. All you’ll need is a driver’s license and birth certificate.

In this guide, I will outline all of the travel documents you may need to visit Los Cabos including the FMM tourist permit, Trusted Traveler cards, the Temporary Import Permit (TIP), visas, and more. This guide is designed for American and Canadian travelers but most of the information also applies to travelers of other nationalities as well. Whether you fly, take a cruise, or drive, this guide helps you determine which documents you need to go to Cabo.

The Arch of Cabo San Lucas
El Arco de Cabo San Lucas
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Table of Contents

A beach in Cabo San Lucas

Do You Need a Passport To Go To Cabo?

The short answer is yes. Most travelers need a passport to go to Cabo. There are a couple of alternative documents you can use in some situations.

In the past, it was possible for most visitors to travel to Mexico without a passport. The only required documents were a driver’s license and a birth certificate. The rules changed in 2009 when the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) passed. These days, most visitors need a passport to travel to Cabo.

Cabo is located at the southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula. It’s about 1000 miles south of the U.S. border. In the following sections, I’ll outline what you’ll need to travel to Cabo by land, air, and sea.

Flying to Cabo

A passport is required to fly into Los Cabos International Airport (SJD). Only passport books are accepted. Passport cards cannot be used for air travel. Everyone needs a passport when flying to Mexico. This includes babies. There are no exceptions.

Once you arrive in Mexico, the immigration agent will check your passport and stamp it. Your passport is the only document that you need to bring when flying to Los Cabos.

Immigration might also ask to see supporting documents about your trip. For example, they may ask where you’re staying. You’ll need the address of your hotel. You could be asked for proof of onward travel. You may need to show a confirmed ticket out of Mexico either to your home country or a third country. In most cases, you won’t be asked for these documents but it’s best to be prepared.

In the past, you needed to complete an FMM form to fly into Cabo. The FMM form is currently being phased out. These days, you just receive a stamp in your passport. All of the entry rules are still the same.

Taking a Cruise to Cabo

Cruise ships

It is possible to take a cruise to Cabo without a passport. To do this, you must be on a closed-loop cruise that starts and ends in the United States and it must not stop at any ports outside of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).

A closed-loop cruise is a cruise that starts and ends at the same port. It makes a round trip. For example, your cruise might start in San Diego, stop in Cabo, and then return to San Diego.

To travel to Cabo on a closed-loop cruise, all you need is a government-issued photo ID and proof of citizenship. You could use your driver’s license or state ID card and an original copy of your birth certificate, certificate of citizenship, or naturalization certificate. No passport is required.

It is important to note that many cruise lines require that you have a passport, even if it’s not required by law. They want every passenger to have a valid passport, even on closed-loop cruises. Before you leave home, check the cruise company’s policy so you have time to get a passport if it’s required. Oftentimes a passport card is accepted instead of a passport book. If you’re traveling on a one-way cruise or a cruise that leaves the WHTI, you will need a passport.

If you’re entering Mexico with your own boat, you will need a passport or passport card. You will also need to get an FMM tourist permit or a passport stamp. You can get your FMM at your first port of call in Mexico. It’s a good idea to double-check make sure the port of entry that you plan to use has immigration and customs offices. Some smaller ports don’t. The port of Cabo San Lucas is a major port with immigration and customs offices.

If you’re traveling to Cabo with your own boat, you will also need to get a temporary boat importation permit (TIP). You need to arrange this before you cross into Mexican waters. You can’t get the boat TIP in Mexico. For more info on temporary boat importation, check out this guide.

When traveling to Cabo by sea, it’s always best to bring a passport book, even though you may not need one. It will come in handy in an emergency situation. For example, if you need to fly home unexpectedly. You’ll need a passport to do this.

Driving to Cabo

You need a passport to drive to Cabo. Both book and card-style passports will work. There are also a few supporting documents you’ll need.

First, you and everyone in your vehicle will need to get FMM tourist permits. You can get these at the border or online in advance. All you need in order to apply is your passport. When you get to the border, follow the signs for ‘something to declare’ and park. You can walk into the immigration building and get an FMM.

The driver also needs a driver’s license. Your regular driver’s license will work fine. An international driver’s license is not required to drive in Mexico.

The Tijuana border crossing
The US-Mexico border at Tijuana

In addition, you also need temporary Mexican auto insurance for your vehicle. It is a legal requirement to have insurance while driving in Mexico. You can buy insurance at a kiosk before crossing the border or online.

I recommend Baja Bound Mexican Insurance. They offer reasonable prices. You can get a free quote in just a few minutes.

If you prefer, you can also rent a car and drive to Cabo. You could walk across the border to Tijuana, rent a car, then drive it to Cabo on a one-way rental. To rent a car in Mexico, you’ll need a passport, an FMM permit, a driver’s license, and a credit card.

It’s also possible to take a long-distance bus to Cabo. Busses to Cabo depart regularly from Tijuana. Several companies operate this route. The main one is called ABC (Autobuses de Baja California).

This is a pretty long road trip. Cabo is located at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. It’s a long drive from the U.S. The driving distance from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas is 1060 miles if you take Highway 1. This is a drive time of around 24 hours. It’s a long haul but worth it. The drive is beautiful.

Do Children Need a Passport to go to Cabo?

Two passports

Whether or not a child needs a passport to travel to Cabo will depend on the mode of travel and their age. When flying to Mexico, all children need a passport book. There are no exceptions or alternative documents.

Children who are 15 years old and under can travel to Los Cabos by land or sea without a passport. They just need a birth certificate, a certificate of citizenship, or a naturalization certificate.

Those who are 18 and under can also travel to Los Cabos without a passport. They will need an alternative document such as a birth certificate, a certificate of citizenship, or a naturalization certificate. In addition, they must be traveling with an adult chaperoned organization such as a school group, sports team, religious organization, or a social or cultural organization.

In all other cases, the child will need a passport.

The Parent Authorization Letter for Minors Traveling to Mexico

When an individual parent travels to Mexico with their children, they must carry an original notarized letter of consent from the other parent or legal guardian that they are not traveling with. This is a travel requirement. The document must also be notarized. These documents must be in Spanish or English.

This document will be required when re-entering the United States. This rule was put in place to prevent child abduction and child trafficking. It ensures that both parents know that the child is traveling internationally.

If the child is a Mexican Temporary Resident, a Temporary Student Resident, or a Permanent Resident of Mexico, one parent must also complete a SAM form (Formato de Salida de Menores). This is required by INM (Mexico’s immigration department). It’s Mexico’s version of the parental authorization letter.

Do You Need a Visa to go to Cabo?

No. Most travelers do not need to arrange a visa in advance to travel to Cabo. All you need is your passport. If you’re flying to Cabo, you’ll simply receive a passport stamp when you arrive. To see if you are eligible to enter Mexico without applying for a visa in advance check to see if the country that issued your passport is on this list.

There are a couple of scenarios where you would need to arrange a visa before you can travel to Mexico. If you plan to stay in Mexico for longer than 6 months, you will need to apply for a temporary resident visa in advance. You can apply at your nearest Mexican consulate or embassy. If you plan to work in Mexico, you will also need to apply for a visa and work permit.

Some nationalities also need to apply for a visa in advance before traveling Mexico. If your passport was issued by one of these countries, you’ll need to apply for a visa before you can visit Los Cabos. To do this, you will need a valid passport.

For more info, check out my guide to Mexican entry requirements.

Do I Need an Import Permit for My Car When Driving to Cabo?

No. A temporary vehicle import permit is not required to drive to Cabo. The states of Baja California and Baja California Sur are exempt. Baja is a ‘free zone’. You can drive anywhere on the Baja Peninsula without a temporary import permit.

If you’re planning to drive outside of the Baja Peninsula, you may need to obtain a temporary import permit for your vehicle before you enter Mexico. For example, if you’re planning to take the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan, and then continue your trip in mainland Mexico you’ll need a TIP.

A U.S. passport sitting on a map

What are Valid Travel Documents for Re-Entering the U.S.?

The documents required to enter Mexico and enter the United States can be different depending on your mode of travel and the country you come from.

If you’re flying to the U.S., you will need a passport. When entering the U.S. by land or sea, you’ll need one of the following documents:

  • Passport
  • Passport card
  • Enhanced driver’s license or enhanced identification card
  • Trusted Traveler Card (SENTRI Card or Global Entry Card)
  • Permanent Resident card (green card).

If you’re traveling on a closed-loop cruise, you can re-enter the U.S. with your driver’s license and birth certificate.

If you are not a U.S. citizen or resident, you will need a passport and a visa (I-94 or multi entry visa) or a visa waiver (ESTA). For more info, check out this guide. Canadians don’t need a visa to enter the U.S. in most cases.

Can Canadian Citizens Travel to Cabo Without a Passport?

Generally, no. Canadian citizens need a passport to travel to Cancun. They can stay in Mexico for up to 180 days. Canada also doesn’t issue passport cards or enhanced driver’s licenses.

A marina in Cabo San Lucas

Is a Passport Required for Flying Domestic in Mexico?

If you plan to take a domestic flight from some other part of Mexico to Cabo, you will need a passport. You must present ID to check in for your flight. For foreigners, a passport is the only accepted form of ID. In addition, you may be asked to show your FMM visitor’s permit to prove that you entered Mexico legally. If you are a Mexican citizen or resident, you just need a government-issued ID or residence card.

It may be possible to check in and board a domestic flight with just a driver’s license at some airports. Some airlines are more lenient than others. It’s not worth taking the risk because there is a chance that you get turned away.

Information About the Various Travel Documents You Can Use to Travel to Cabo

A resort pool in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

The FMM Form (Forma Migratoria Multiple)

The Forma Migratoria Multiple or FMM is a travel document that allows you to travel to Mexico without having to apply for a visa in advance. You’re eligible if your passport was issued by one of these countries. Eligible countries include the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, most European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and moer. To apply for an FMM, you need a valid passport book or passport card. You aren’t eligible for an FMM if you come from one of the countries on this list. In this case, you will have to apply for a visa before you can go to Cabo.

The FMM allows you to stay in Mexico for up to 180 days for the purpose of tourism. You can get an FMM tourist permit on arrival at the port of entry or online in advance. To get an FMM visitor’s permit, you simply fill out a form with basic travel info. The FMM is available at land crossings, sea ports, and international airports. It takes just a few minutes. There is a fee for the FMM. If you’re staying in Mexico for less than 7 days, the FMM is free. If you’re staying for more than 7 days, it costs 687 pesos (about $38).

For more info, check out my guide to the FMM Tourist Permit.

Note: Mexico is currently phasing out the FMM. When you fly into Cabo, you will not need to fill out an FMM. You will simply receive a stamp in your passport. The rules for entry, the fee, and the duration of stay are still exactly the same. You just no longer need to fill out a paper form.

The Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TIP)

The Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit or TIP allows you to temporarily drive your foreign-plated vehicle anywhere in Mexico. If you’re just driving to Cabo down the Baja Peninsula and back, you do not need a TIP. You can skip this section. If you plant to take the ferry to mainland Mexico, you will need a TIP.

To apply for a TIP, you need a passport (book or card ), an FMM tourist permit, your vehicle’s registration, proof of temporary Mexican auto insurance, and a driver’s license.

The TIP is issued by Banjercito (a Mexican bank). You can apply for the temporary import permit on their website (recommended). You can also apply in person at Bajercito locations at most border crossings as well as some Mexican consulates. There is an application fee of about $50 for the temporary import permit. You’ll also have to pay a deposit of $200-$400 depending on the age of the vehicle you’re importing. The deposit will be refunded when you drive your car out of Mexico and cancel the TIP.

For more in-depth info, check out my guide to the Temporary Import Permit.

Passport Cards

A passport card is a wallet-friendly version of a passport book. The passport card contains the same identification information as a passport book. It allows you to re-enter the United States when returning from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, or Bermuda.

The main benefit a passport card offers over a passport book is the size. It fits in your wallet. A passport card is the same size as a credit card or driver’s license. It is also $100 cheaper than a passport book. A passport card costs $65 while a passport book costs $165 for a new applicant.

Passport cards also have radio frequency identification (RFID) technology that contains your identification information. The RFID chip is scanned at immigration. This allows you to use the ‘Ready Lane’ when crossing back from Mexico to the U.S. overland. This can save you a good amount of time. Passport cards can only be used for land and sea travel. They are not valid if you’re flying. 

Trusted Traveler Cards

Trusted Traveler Cards are special ID cards that are available to low-risk travelers. They are issued by the United States government. These cards allow the holder to use special lanes at airports and land borders to speed up the entry process. If you plan to travel to Cabo regularly, a SENTRI card or Global Entry card can save you a lot of time when re-entering the United States.

There are several different types of trusted traveler cards. The SENTRI Card is designed for travel between the U.S. and Mexico. A Global Entry Card can also be used. You can use these cards when traveling by land, air, and sea.

To apply for a Trusted Traveler card, you must complete an online application an undergo a background check. In some cases, you also need to attend an in-person interview. These cards are usually valid for 5 years. After that, you must re-apply.

The Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL)

An enhanced driver’s license or EDL is a special type of driver’s license that allows you to cross into the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, or some Caribbean islands without a passport.

To apply for an enhanced driver’s license, you need to provide proof of your U.S. citizenship. An enhanced driver’s license is valid for 4-8 years depending on the state that issued it. It usually costs around $30-$40 more than a regular driver’s license.

Enhanced driver’s licenses are only available to those who live in Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont. If you don’t have a driver’s license, you can get an Enhanced ID card that offers the same benefits without the license to drive.

A view of the ocean from Los Cabos

What is the Best Way to Travel to Cabo?

For most people, the best way to get to Cabo is to fly. From most of the U.S., you can fly to Cabo in just 3-5 hours. Flights are frequent. Direct flights are available from most large American and Canadian cities. Flights are also affordable. It’s possible to buy a round-trip ticket to Cabo for less than $250 if you shop around.

Taking a cruise is also a great option if you’re looking for an all-inclusive vacation. Most closed-loop cruises to Cabo depart from Southern California. Most cruises make additional stops along Mexico’s Pacific coast.

Taking a road trip to Cabo is also an excellent option. The Baja Peninsula has some incredible scenery. There are spectacular beaches on both the Sea of Cortez and Pacific Coasts. The desert landscape is rugged and stunning. There are also plenty of interesting pueblos to visit along the way including Tijuana, Ensenada, San Quintín, Bahía de los Ángeles, San Ignacio, Loreto, La Paz, and more.

It’s important to note that it’s a long drive to Cabo. From the U.S. border, it will take at least a full day of driving to get there. San Diego to Cabo is a distance of just over 1,000 miles. The roads are in good condition. Navigation is also easy because you can follow Highway 1 all the way down the peninsula.

It’s also possible to take the bus to Cabo. For most travelers, this isn’t the best option because the distance is so far. It would take a full day on the bus to get there. Taking the bus from the border to Cabo may also be more expensive than flying.

A beach in Baja California
Baja California is a beautiful place to explore

How Long Does My Passport Need to be Valid to Go to Mexico?

Your passport must remain valid for the duration of your trip to enter Mexico. In addition, you need one blank page in your passport for a passport stamp.

Most countries require that your passport be valid for at least six months Mexico does not have this rule. If you plan to visit Mexico for 2 weeks and your passport only has two weeks of validity remaining, they will still let you in.

Taking a Ferry to Cabo

You can take a ferry to Cabo. The ferry departs from both Mazatlan and Topolobampo in the state of Sinaloa in mainland Mexico. On the ferry, you’ll travel across the Gulf of California to the city of La Paz, Baja California Sur. From there, you can drive or take a bus about 2 hours south to Cabo. You can also take the ferry in the opposite direction. You can book a ticket here.

To take the ferry, you will a temporary import for your vehicle if you’re driving. This is because the state of Sinaloa is not in the free zone. You’ll need a TIP to drive there. Once you’re in Baja, you no longer need a TIP.

You will need a passport or a passport card to make this trip.

Final Thoughts About Traveling to Los Cabos

Whether or not you need a passport to go to Cabo depends on your method of travel, your nationality, and how you plan to enter Mexico. If you’re planning on flying to Cabo, you will need a passport book. If you’re visiting on a closed-loop cruise, all you’ll need is your birth certificate and driver’s license. When driving to Cabo, you’ll need a passport book or card.

It’s important to note that the entry requirements can change quickly and without notice. Before you leave home, it’s best to double-check Mexico’s entry requirements so you don’t end up with any surprises. You could be denied entry if you don’t have the correct documents.

If you’re planning a trip to Cabo, it’s best to bring a passport, even if you don’t need one. If you need to fly home unexpectedly, you will need a passport to board the plane.

For those who travel to Cabo frequently, look into getting a Trusted Traveler Card. The SENTRI card is the best option for traveling between Mexico and the U.S. Global Entry is also a good option.

Have you traveled to Cabo lately? Share your experience in the comments below!

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