Camping in Foreign Locales: What You Need to Know Before Driving Your RV to Canada or Mexico

Posted: July 8, 2021 

Why stick to just traveling the United States? Take your RV further afield with a trip to Canada or Mexico. Whether you’re heading to Banff or Puerto Vallarta, here’s everything you need to know before driving your RV out of the country.

Driving Your RV to Canada

For any RVers who’ve yet to take their RV out of the country, Canada should probably be your first pick, before Mexico. There’s no language barrier (or, at least, there’s very little language barrier, unless you’re traveling through Quebec and come across some French signage), the road systems are relatively familiar and the cultural differences make for an easier time RVing. Still, though, there are some things you should know before crossing the border.

As is the case with crossing the border in a regular vehicle, you’ll need to show proof of citizenship (like your passport), as well as proof of insurance and registration (and not just for your RV — you’ll need both for your tow car as well, if you’re bringing one). If you’re bringing Fido along for the trip, you’ll have to additionally show a rabies certificate. 

While you can pretty much stock your RV for your Canada trip just the same as you would for any trip, there are a few restrictions. You can only cross the border with certain amounts of alcohol and tobacco, as well as cash money. You can learn more about these limits here, from the Canada Border Services Agency. There are no limits on prescription medications, but you’ll want to keep those medications in their original packaging. 

The one big difference when stocking your RV for a Canada trip? You shouldn’t do your grocery shopping ahead of crossing the border. Food, plants and animal products are all subject to confiscation when crossing the border, so you’d be best off waiting to stock your RV’s cabinets and fridge until you’re in Canada. You’ll also want to wait until you’re in Canada to stock up on firewood. 

Every border crossing is different. During some crossings, you may not have any trouble at all and might just be pretty much waived right on through, but in other cases, you may have to stand by while your RV is searched top to bottom. To better avoid an experience like the latter, you want to absolutely give the border crossing agents no reason to suspect you of anything fishy. That means being polite and answering all questions about your trip, truthfully, and refraining from any behavior that might, while innocent, look like you’re trying to cover something up (ie, wearing sunglasses, playing the radio loudly, etc.). 

Driving Your RV to Mexico

Driving your RV to Mexico can be a little more daunting. The road systems aren’t as familiar and there’s an obvious language barrier, if you’re not fluent in Spanish. Still, seeing some of Mexico’s top sights via RV can be an enjoyable and unique experience, so long as you follow some general guidelines.

Firstly, if you’re worried about safety while RVing in Mexico, rest assured that, if you follow some basic precautions like you would in any foreign destination, you’ll be safe. That means not flashing expensive goods, which can make you a target for robberies; sticking to known safe, tourist-friendly areas; and not traveling around at night.

For crossing the border, you’ll need all of your vehicles’ (tow vehicles and your RV) original registration documents and permits, as well as proof of insurance (make sure that the insurance is valid in Mexico and fulfills Mexican liability laws — you'll likely need to purchase a new, separate policy for bringing a vehicle and/or RV into Mexico). You’ll also, of course, need your passport.

At the border, you’ll receive a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit, which is valid for 180 days of travel in the country. This permit will require a fee and a deposit totaling up to, approximately, $450; make sure to keep your permit on you at all times, so that you can return it when you cross the border back into the United States and get your deposit back. 

Do note that you will not need this permit if you’re just camping along the Mexico Free Zone, which includes parts of Sonora, the entire Baja Peninsula and up to 16 miles from the Mexico-United States border in other areas.

In addition to your Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit, you’ll also receive a Tourist Permit at the border, which comes with another fee of $25. You’ll have to return your Tourist Permit at the end of your trip as well. 

Just like when traveling to Canada, if you’re bringing a pet with you to Mexico, you’ll need to show proof of a rabies vaccination. 

Other things to keep in mind include the weight limit for RVs traveling into Mexico (3.5 tons), as well as the items that you can and cannot bring into the country. You can learn more about these items, here

Ready to Hit the (Foreign) Road?

Driving your RV outside the United States can be intimidating, but it can also be so rewarding, as you visit destinations that you otherwise might not. Don’t let a little paperwork and a few extra steps keep you from seeing what our neighbors to the north and south offer!

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