Drivers license or International driving permit in Mexico?

International driving license in Mexico

Do you need an international driving permit for driving in Mexico or is the license from your home country sufficient?


Web research

According to, International driving permit is only recommended but not needed in Mexico. Another source claims, that Canadian or European driver’s license is valid in Mexico, which basically confirms that international driving permit is not really obligatory. The same is is recommended by the third source, which claims, that most European driving licences are valid in Mexico, but it’s a good idea to arm yourself with an international driving licence.

So how is it really?


Vienna Convention

Previous statements are valid and logical since Mexico is one of the countries that has not ratified Vienna Convention on Road Traffic from 1968, according to Wikipedia, and therefore Geneva Convention from 1949 is still legally valid in Mexico. According to article 41 of Vienna Convention, Mexico is not legally obliged to recognize international drivers permit.

Contracting Parties of Vienna Convention on Road Traffic from 1968

Contracting Parties of Vienna Convention on Road Traffic from 1968

DARK GREEN = ratified

LIGHT GREEN = signed, but not yet ratified


Police controls in D.F.

I was stopped by police control several times in Federal District in Mexico. When police checks you, they basically ask for 2 documents:

  1. Tarjeta de circulacion  = license from your vehicle
  2. Tarjeta de conducir = drivers license

In most cases they were completely satisfied with my Slovakian/European drivers license. Only one time, policemen required to see my Mexican drivers license because he didn’t accept my Slovakian/European drivers license as a valid one. My Spanish was enough to explain him my arguments which at the end he didn’t accepted anyway but let me drive away.


Mexican drivers license

It’s surprising easy to get Mexican drivers license in Federal District of Mexico (Distrito Federal). According to the official governmental website in order to obtain Mexican drivers license, you need to

  1. present yourself at any of the offices of Secretaria de Transportes y Validad
  2. pay administration fee of 604 MXN
  3. get your Mexican driving permit
Confirmed by many Mexican, you will not be asked to conduct any exams or prove of knowledge of traffic rules. The only question they ask you is if you really know how to drive.


Final suggestions

Because Mexico didn’t ratify Vienna Convention, International drivers license is only recommended and not legally recognized in Mexico, you can still use a regular drivers license from your home country, however you can’t expect that it will be accepted. Be prepared, that during police checks, a policeman can always ask you for legally recognized Mexican drivers license. If you don’t have it even your excellent Spanish skills doesn’t have to help you if the policeman wants to get some money from you. To certainly avoid any troubles it’s easiest to get Mexican drivers license, e.g. for few hundred pesos in D.F without any need of making examination.


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