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Do You Need a Passport to go to Cancun?

Yes. You will need a passport to travel to Cancun in most cases. There are some exceptions. Whether or not you need a passport to go to Cancun depends on a number of factors including where and how you’re entering the country, your nationality, and the length of your stay. Even if you don’t need a passport to go to Cancun, it’s a good idea to bring one anyway.

In this guide, we will cover all of the possible travel documents you may need to visit Cancun including passport books, passport cards, trusted traveler cards, the FMM visitor’s permit, the temporary vehicle import permit, temporary and permanent residency visas, and more. This guide focuses mostly on U.S. and Canadian travelers. Much of the info also applies to travelers of other nationalities.

Whether you’re flying to Cancun, visiting on a cruise ship, or taking a road trip through Mexico, hopefully, this guid helps you determine which travel documents you need to go to Cancun.

A beach in Cancun
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Key Takeaways

Most travelers need a passport to go to Cancun. If you’re flying or driving, you will need a passport.

It is possible to travel to Cancun on a closed-loop cruise without a passport. Minors under 16 can also travel to Cancun without a passport. In these cases, it is possible to travel to Cancun with a photo ID and birth certificate.

Table of Contents

Cancun Hotel Zone
Hotel Zone, Cancun

Do You Need a Passport to Go to Cancun?

Yes. Most travelers need a passport to go to Cancun. In the past, U.S. citizens could travel to Mexico without a passport. The only document required was a driver’s license. This changed when the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) passed on in June 2009. These days, most visitors need a valid passport or passport card.

There are a couple of exceptions to this. It is still possible to travel to Cancun without a passport in a couple of circumstances. Whether or not you need a passport depends on whether you’re entering Mexico by land, sea, or air.

Traveling to Cancun by Air

Cancun is located on the far southeastern end of Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula. The fastest and most convenient way to travel to Cancun is to fly.

A passport is required to fly to Cancun. Only passport books are accepted when flying to Mexico. Passport cards are not accepted for international air travel. Everyone needs a passport to fly to Cancun. This includes children. There are no exceptions. 

Your passport is the only document you need to bring with you when traveling to Cancun by air. Your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay. It must also have at least one blank page for an entry stamp.

In the past, each traveler needed to complete an FMM form (Forma Migratoria Multiple) when flying into Cancun. This is no longer the case. These days, you will simply receive a stamp in your passport. Everything else is done electronically. The Mexican government recently implemented this system to speed up the immigration process.

Mexican authorities might also ask to see supporting documents about your trip. For example, they may ask to see your hotel reservation. They could ask to see proof of onward travel. A return flight or a flight to a third country may be required before you can board the plane. If you’re planning on staying in Mexico for a month or more, Mexican officials could also ask to see proof that you have sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay in Mexico. A bank statement acts as proof of funds.

Traveling to Cancun by Sea

Cruise ships

One of the most common ways to travel to Cancun is on a cruise ship. Cancun is a popular destination for Caribbean cruises.

Most travelers don’t need a passport to travel to Cancun if arriving on a cruise. If you’re traveling to Cancun on a closed-loop cruise that starts and ends in the U.S. and does not stop at any ports outside of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) it is possible to visit Cancun without a passport. A closed-loop cruise is a cruise that starts and ends at the same port. For example, if your cruise starts in Miami then travels to Cancun then returns to Miami, it is a closed loop cruise.

If you’re traveling to Cancun on a closed-loop cruise, all you need is your driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID and an original copy of your birth certificate, certificate of citizenship, or naturalization certificate.

There are a few alternative documents that may be accepted. These include an enhanced driver’s license or a Trusted Traveler Card (SENTRI, NEXUS, Global Entry, or FAST). You can use these same documents to return to the United States. No passport is required.

It’s important to note that, many cruise companies require you to have a passport, even if it is not required by law. You may need a passport, even if you’re taking a closed-loop cruise. Many cruise lines require this. Ask the cruise line about their passport policy well before your departure so you have time to get a passport if you need one. If the cruise line requires a passport, usually a passport card is accepted.

If you’re entering Mexico on your own vessel, you will need a passport or passport card. You will also need to get an FMM entry permit. You can get an FMM at the first port of call in Mexico. The process is the same as arriving by land.

Before you travel, you should check to make sure the port where you intend to enter Mexico has immigration and customs. Some smaller ports do not. The port of Cancun is a major port. You can easily pass through immigration there.

If you’re bringing your own boat to Cancun, you also need to get a temporary boat importation permit. You need to arrange this before you enter Mexican waters. You can’t get this document in Mexico. For more info on temporary boat importation, check out this guide.

When traveling to Cancun by sea, it’s a good idea to bring a passport book, even though you may not need one. It will come in handy in an emergency situation. For example, maybe you experience a medical issue and have to return home unexpectedly. In this case, you’ll need a passport to fly home. Maybe you miss your embarkation on your cruise and you need to fly to meet the ship. You’ll need a passport to board the plane. Maybe the ship experiences a mechanical failure and you need to fly home. Again, you’ll need a passport. Remember, you can’t fly with a passport card.

If you don’t have a passport and you need one, you’ll have to apply for an emergency passport, which is a hassle. It’s best to just bring your passport.

Traveling to Cancun by Land

The United States Mexico Border
The U.S.-Mexico border

You need a passport to travel to Cancun by land. Both passport books and passport cards are accepted. There are a few additional documents you’ll need to drive to Cancun.

First, you and everyone in your car will need to get FMM tourist permits. You can get these at immigration at land border crossings or online before your trip. All you need to get an FMM is your passport.

The driver will also need to bring their driver’s license. For most drivers, an international driving license is not required to drive to Cancun. The only requirement is that your license must be written in the Latin alphabet. If your license is written in a language that uses another script, such as Chinese or Arabic, you’ll need to get an international driving permit before your trip.

You’ll also need a temporary vehicle importation permit (TIP) for your vehicle if you’re driving a foreign-plated vehicle to Cancun. This document is required for any vehicle that is not registered in Mexico. The temporary import permit allows you to drive anywhere in Mexico as long as your immigration permit is valid. You will need to pay a deposit, which is refunded when you export the vehicle from Mexico. You can apply for a temporary import permit online in advance or at Banjercito locations near the Mexican border. I’ll talk more in-depth about the TIP later on.

In addition, you’ll also need Mexican auto insurance for your vehicle. Foreign auto insurance is not accepted in Mexico. Car insurance will protect you in the event that you’re involved in an accident in Mexico. You can also buy insurance for theft, vandalization, roadside assistance, and more if you choose.

I always use Baja Bound Mexican Insurance when I drive to Mexico. Click the link to get a free quote in just a couple of minutes.

You will also need a passport to travel to Cancun if you rent a car. To rent a car in Mexico, you’ll need a driver’s license and a major credit card. The driver will also need to be at least 21 years old. That is the minimum age to rent a car at most agencies in Mexico. You will also need Mexican auto insurance. You can buy insurance from the rental car company. A TIP won’t be necessary because the rental car will be registered in Mexico. Most rental agencies also require a copy of your passport when renting to foreigners.

Another option is to take the bus to Cancun. Mexico has a large network of long-distance buses that can take you anywhere in the country. To take a long-distance bus to Cancun, you will need a passport. A passport is required for non-resident visitors to buy bus tickets in Mexico. This requirement was put in place to prevent migrants from taking the bus to the border.

It’s also important to remember that this is a long road trip. Cancun is located at the southeastern end of Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s a long drive from the U.S. For example, the driving distance from Houston to Cancun is 1700 miles, which is around 33 hours on the road. The drive from San Diego to Cancun is 2700 miles. This drive will take you at least 48 hours. It’s a long trip.

You should carry a passport book when traveling overland to Cancun, even if you don’t require one by law. The reason is that you may need a passport in an emergency situation. For example, maybe a family member has a medical issue and you need to fly home quickly. You can’t do that if you don’t have a passport. If you make this drive with a passport card or other document, you’ll have to drive back to the U.S. to exit Mexico.

For more in-depth info, check out my guide: Driving to Mexico.

Do Children Need a Passport to go to Cancun?

Whether or not children need a passport to go to Cancun depends on the mode of travel and the child’s age. When flying to Cancun, children of all ages need a passport booklet. Even babies. There are no exceptions.

Children under the age of 16 can travel to Cancun by land or sea with just a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship, or naturalization certificate. These documents are accepted both for entering Mexico and re-entering the U.S.

17 and 18 year olds can also travel to Mexico and re-enter the United States with a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship, or a naturalization certificate as long as they are 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 needs a passport to travel to Cancun. Even if a passport is not required, it’s always a good idea for the child to have one in the event of an emergency. With a passport, the child can easily fly home if necessary.

If a parent or legal guardian plans to travel to Cancun with their child, they must carry an original notarized consent letter from the other parent or any other person who has legal custody of the child. This document will be required when re-entering the United States. This rule is in place to prevent a parent from abducting their own child. It ensures that both parents are aware that the child is traveling in Mexico.

Minors under the age of 16 can travel to Cancun alone. In this case, they will need a notarized letter of consent from both parents. This is also necessary if the minor is traveling with an adult that is not their parent or guardian.

If the child is a Temporary Resident, Permanent Resident, or Temporary Student Resident, one parent needs to complete a SAM (Formato de Salida de Menores). This is a requirement of Mexico’s immigration authority (INM).

Can Canadian Citizens go to Cancun Without a passport?

Canadian citizens are required to present a valid passport when traveling to Cancun. They can stay in Mexico for up to 180 days.

Canadian citizens who wish to stay in Mexico for longer than 180 days will need to apply for a temporary resident visa. For more information, Canadian citizens should contact the nearest Mexican embassy or consulate.

What are Valid Travel Documents for Re-Entering the US?

The documents required to enter Mexico and enter the U.S. may be different depending on your mode of travel and your nationality.

If you’re flying to the U.S., you will need to present a valid passport before you’re allowed to board your flight. A passport is required for international air travel.

If you’re entering the U.S. by land or sea, you’ll need one of the following documents:

  • A valid passport (book and card styles are accepted for arrival by land or sea)

  • A trusted traveler program card (SENTRI card, NEXUS card, FAST card, or Global Entry card)

  • An enhanced driver’s license or enhanced identification card

  • Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)

If you’re traveling on a closed-loop cruise, you can re-enter the United States with your original birth certificate and driver’s license or other government-issued photo ID.

In all other cases, you’ll need a passport. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you may also need a visa to enter the United States. For more info, check out this guide.

Two passports

What Are the Entry Requirements for Cancun?

For the vast majority of travelers, all you’ll need is a valid passport with one blank page for a visa stamp.

If you’re flying to Cancun, you may also need a return ticket home or an onward ticket to another country. If you’re flying on a one-way ticket, you could be asked to buy a return ticket at the airport.

You should also have a hotel or hostel booking confirmation for at least your first night in Cancun. This is important because immigration may ask you where you’re staying. You need a name and address to give them.

If you’re planning on staying in Cancun long term, like several months, you may be asked to show proof of sufficient funds. A bank statement may be required.

You must also comply with Mexico’s import and export regulations. There are some items you can’t import, such as weapons. There are also duty-free import limits. If you bring in more than the limit, you need to pay import tax. Currently, the import tax is around 16% of the value of the items you’re importing.

Do You Need a Mexican Visa to go to Cancun?

No. Most travelers do not need to arrange a visa in advance to go to Cancun. Instead, immigration will simply stamp your passport on arrival. You don’t even need to get an FMM permit when flying into Cancun. The Mexican government has adopted a new immigration system. Check this list to see if you’re eligible to travel to Mexico without a visa.

There are a couple of situations where you will need to arrange a visa in advance to go to Cancun. For example, if you plan to stay in Mexico for more than 180 days, you’ll need to apply for a temporary resident visa. This visa allows you to stay in Mexico for up to 1 year. It can be renewed. You will also need to apply for a work permit if you plan to work and earn money in Cancun. You will need to apply for the visa at your nearest Mexican consulate. To apply for the visa, you will need a passport.

Depending on your nationality, you will also need to apply for a visa in advance. If your passport was issued by one of the countries on this list, you’ll need to apply for a visa at your nearest Mexican consulate or embassy in order to visit Cancun. To do this, you will need a passport.

How Long Does My Passport Need to be Valid to Travel to Cancun?

Your passport needs to remain valid for the duration of your trip in order to enter Mexico. If you’re planning a lengthy vacation, you’ll need to make sure your passport will still be valid when you return home.

It’s a good idea to always have at least six months of validity remaining on your passport when traveling abroad. In fact, this is an entry requirement for most countries. If your passport is expiring within 6 months, they won’t let you in.

Mexico doesn’t have this rule. If you’re planning to stay in Mexico for 2 weeks and your passport is only valid for a month, they will still let you in. When planning a trip to Cancun, you need to make sure your passport will be valid for the entirety of your trip.

Can a US Citizen Fly Domestically Within Mexico Without a Passport?

No. You need a passport to fly to Cancun. Even if you’re flying domestically within Mexico. To board a domestic flight in Mexico, you need to present some form of ID as well as your boarding pass. If you are not a Mexican citizen or resident, most airlines will only accept a passport as ID.

If you are a Mexican citizen or resident, you can fly domestically within Mexico without a passport. You just a government-issued ID or residence card.

It may be possible to board a domestic flight in Mexico with just an ID. Travelers have done it. It’s really not worth taking the risk. The airline could deny you and not allow you to board. If you plan to fly to Cancun, bring your passport.

Is a Valid Passport Required to Take a Long-Distance Bus to Cancun?

Yes. Before you’re allowed to purchase a long-distance bus ticket to Cancun, you’ll need to present identification. For foreign visitors, the only accepted form of identification is a passport.

In the past, you didn’t need any identification to take long-distance buses in Mexico. This rule was put in place to reduce migration from Central America to the United States.

Do I Need an Import Permit to Drive to Cancun?

If you’re driving your own vehicle to Cancun, you will need to get a temporary vehicle import permit (TIP) before you cross into Mexico. This document allows you to temporarily bring your car into Mexico for a predefined period of time.

A TIP is not required in the state of Quintana Roo, where Cancun is located. You will cross through several states where a TIP is required. If you don’t have this document, your car could be impounded by the police if you’re caught.

A cenote on the Yucatan Peninsula
A cenote on the Yucatan Peninsula

Info About Various Travel Documents

In this section, I’ll outline a few important travel documents that you may or may not need to travel to Cancun.

What is a Passport Card?

A passport card is a small, wallet-friendly version of a passport book. It proves your U.S citizenship and allows you to re-enter the country when returning from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean. A passport card contains the same information as a passport book including your photo, name, passport number, place of birth, date of birth, nationality, and signature. Canada also issues passport cards to its citizens. Canadian passport card work pretty much the same way as U.S. passport cards.

The main advantage of a passport card over a passport book is the size. It fits in your wallet with your credit cards. A passport card is also cheaper than a passport book. A U.S. passport card costs $65 and a passport book costs $165.

Passport cards also feature a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip that contains your information. The RFID chip is scanned when you pass through immigration. This allows immigration officials to quickly and easily identify you.

This technology allows you to use the ‘Ready Lane’ when crossing the border from Mexico to the U.S. with a passport card. Ready Lanes are special lanes that allow travelers to cross back into the U.S. faster. Ready Lanes are available only to those traveling with a Ready Lane-eligible travel card, such as a passport card. If you don’t have a ready-lane eligible card, you’ll have to use the general entry lane.

Keep in mind that passport cards can only be used for land and sea travel. They are not valid if you’re flying internationally. So if you’re planning to fly to Cancun, you’ll need a passport booklet.

What is an Enhanced Driver’s License?

An enhanced driver’s license (EDL) is a type of driver’s license that allows you to cross into the United States from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean without a passport.

In order to get an EDL, you must provide proof of U.S. citizenship, identity, and residency. Enhanced driver’s licenses can be renewed like regular driver’s licenses. They are valid for 4-8 years depending on the state where they were issued. An EDL typically costs around $30-$40 more than a regular license.

EDLs are available to U.S. citizens who live in Washington state, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Vermont. Several Canadian provinces offered EDLs in the past but they have been phased out.

What is a Trusted Traveler Card (SENTRI, NEXUS, FAST, and Global Entry)?

Trusted Traveler cards are ID cards that are issued to low-risk travelers by the U.S. government. They allow the cardholder to use dedicated lanes at the border when returning back home from Mexico. This makes the crossing much faster.

There are different Trusted Traveler Program cards for different purposes. The SENTRI card is designed for overland travel between the U.S. and Mexico. To apply for a SENTRI card, you need to complete an online application and undergo a background check. With a SENTRI card, you can cross through immigration in minutes.

What is an FMM Tourist Permit (Forma Migratoria Multiple)?

The FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple) is a travel document that allows citizens of a number of countries to travel to Mexico without having to apply for a visa in advance. The FMM is available to those who hold passports from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, European Schengen Area countries, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and a number of other countries. Check this list to see if you’re eligible for an FMM.

The FMM Visitor’s Permit allows you to stay in Mexico for up to 180 days. During that time, you can participate in tourism activities, do business, study, or volunteer. You can not be employed in Mexico while visiting on an FMM permit.

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 595 pesos (about $30).

You may not be be for an FMM if your passport is issued by one of the countries on this list. In this case, you’ll have to apply for a Mexican visa in advance from your nearest Mexican consulate or embassy.

Mexico is currently phasing out the paper FMM form. Cancun airport no longer issues you a physical FMM when you fly in. Instead, immigration simply stamps your passport. They will write the number of days that you can stay in Mexico on your passport. Everything else is done electronically.

All of the rules remain the same. The fee is still the same. The number of days you can stay is still the same. The only difference is that you’ll receive a stamp instead of a form. This is being done to simplify and speed up the immigration process.

You can obtain an FMM tourist permit on arrival at the port of entry or online in advance. The FMM is available at land crossings, sea ports, and international airports.

If you enter Mexico somewhere other than Cancun airport, you may be asked to fill out a paper FMM form. Someone will hand you a blank form at immigration. The form asks for basic travel information such as your name, date of birth, passport number, nationality, and the purpose of your trip. Simply fill the form out and hand it to an immigration official along with your passport.

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

What is a Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TIP)?

The Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit (TIP) is a document that allows you to temporarily import and drive your foreign-plated vehicle anywhere in Mexico. The TIP is available for all types of vehicles including cars, motorhomes, motorcycles, boats, etc.

The TIP remains valid as long as your immigration document (180 days if you’re traveling on an FMM or 1 year if you’re traveling on a temporary residency visa). You will need a valid passport book or passport card to apply for a TIP. You will also need an FMM tourist permit or temporary residency visa. In addition, you’ll also need your vehicle’s registration and proof of temporary Mexican auto insurance.

There is a fee of around $50 for the TIP. You’ll also have to pay a deposit of $200-$400 depending on the model year of your vehicle. This deposit is refunded when you export your car from Mexico and cancel the TIP. You must cancel your TIP when you leave the country.

The TIP is issued by Banjercito (a Mexican bank). You can apply for it on their website and at Bajercito locations at most border crossings as well as some Mexican consulates. If you apply online, you must apply 7-60 days before your trip. If you get your TIP in person, you can apply right before you cross.

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

Chichen Itza

What is the Best Way To Travel to Cancun?

There are many ways to travel to Cancun. For most visitors, the best way to get there is to fly. Flying to Cancun is fast, affordable, and convenient. From most of the U.S, you can fly to Cancun in just 3-5 hours. Direct flights are available from many large American and Canadian cities. Budget flights are commonly available as well. It’s possible to buy a round-trip ticket to Cancun for under $200 if you shop around. You can also find deals during the off-season.

Cruises are also a great option if you want an all-inclusive experience that doesn’t require any planning on your part. Most cruises to Cancun depart from south Florida. From Miami, a cruise to Cancun takes about 2 days. Many cruises also make additional stops in Mexico or the Caribbean.

It’s important to note that most cruises don’t actually dock in Cancun. Instead, they dock in Cozumel or Playa del Carmen. You can travel to Cancun from these cities in just an hour or two.

Driving to Cancun is also an option but it’s a long haul. Cancun is far away. From the U.S. border, it will take at least a day and a half to two days of driving to get to Cancun. Maybe longer. You should only take the drive if you want to take a road trip through Mexico. A popular road trip is to drive from Mexico City to Cancun.

It’s also possible to take the bus to Cancun. Mexico’s long-haul buses can take you anywhere in the country. For this trip, the bus isn’t recommended because the distance is so far. It would take you two or more days on the bus to get from the Mexican border to Cancun. You would also have to make a transfer. There are no direct buses from the border to Cancun. Taking the bus from the border to Cancun would also be more expensive than flying in most cases. It would only make sense to take the bus if you want to make multiple stops along the way.

FAQ

What if I Lose My Passport While Visiting Cancun?

If you lose your passport while in Cancun, the first thing you should do is call or visit the U.S. Consular Agency.  Their number is +52-999-942-5700. They are located at Km 13 ZH, Torre La Europea, Office 301, Blvd. Kukulcan, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico. Their hours are 8:30 am to 1:30 pm Monday-Friday.

When you’re there, you will need to prove your identity. You could use your driver’s license, birth certificate, or some other government-issued ID. You will also need a new passport photo. The consular agent will then issue you a temporary passport. This passport can be used for travel back home.

When you return home, you should begin the process of applying for a replacement passport. For more information, please visit the website of the U.S. State Department.

Tip: Before your trip, take photos of your passport, ID, birth certificate, and all other important documents and save them to the cloud. This way, you can make copies if your passport is lost or stolen. You can use this to help prove your identity.

Can I Fly From Tijuana to Cancun Without a Passport?

A great way to save money on flights is to cross into Mexico overland and then catch a domestic flight to your destination. Mexico has a number of low-cost domestic airlines that offer regular domestic flights to Cancun.

This is so popular in Tijuana that the airport has a special terminal on the U.S. side of the border, called the Cross Border Xpress (CBX). At this terminal, you can check in for your flight and then walk across a sky bridge to the Tijuana airport. The airport is located right on the border. You will pass through immigration before crossing the sky bridge into Mexico. You can park on the U.S. side at the CBX or take a shuttle from San Diego.

To fly from Tijuana to Cancun, you will need a passport. A passport is required to use the CBX. You will also need to present a passport to board your flight.

Can I Take a Ferry to Cancun?

No. There is no ferry service to Cancun from the United States. The only way to get there by boat is to take a cruise.

For years, there have been talks of a ferry service opening up between Florida and the Yucatan Peninsula but it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe in the future.

A hotel pool at a resort

Final Thoughts

Whether or not you need a passport to go to Cancun depends on your mode of travel and nationality. If you’re planning on flying to Cancun, you will need a passport booklet. There are no exceptions. If you’re traveling by land, you will also need a passport in most cases. If you’re traveling on a closed-loop cruise, a passport isn’t required. You can cruise to Cancun with your birth certificateor naturalization certificate and driver’s license.

It is highly recommended to have a passport when visiting Mexico for optimal safety and security. If you need to fly home unexpectedly, you will need a passport to board the plane.

If you want to pass through the border with ease and avoid long lines at immigration, look into getting a Trusted Traveler Card such as a SENTRI card, NEXUS card, FAST card, or Global Entry card. These cards are great for those who travel to Mexico frequently.

It’s also important to note that immigration rules can change quickly and without notice. Before your trip, it’s always a good idea to double-check which travel documents you need so you don’t end up getting denied entry at the border. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Have you traveled to Cancun lately? Share your experience crossing the border into Mexico!

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