Motorcycle Travel Guide: Mexico

Welcome to Mexico! This ultimate motorcycle travel guide explains everything you need to know about riding a motorcycle in Mexico including paperwork, safety, the best routes and loads of extra info. If you’re planning an overland motorcycle adventure in Mexico – start here.

Motorcycle Adventure Travel in Mexico - Mad or Nomad

This Mexico motorcycle travel guide is based on our ride through Mexico in 2024 as part of our round the world trip. The guides on this website are constantly updated with info from contributors to keep them current, up-to-date and as helpful as possible for you.

Contents

Motorcycle Travel Guide Mexico

Mexico is an incredible country and one of the best ways to truly experience everything it has to offer is to travel through it on a motorcycle. You’ll find insanely good riding both on and off-road, gorgeous little magic towns that are hidden away, the best food, kindest people and a side to Mexico most won’t see. This guide explains everything you need to know about how to ride a motorcycle in Mexico. It’s aimed at overlanders taking a foreign registered motorcycle into Mexico, but even if you’re renting, joining an organised tour or just dipping in for a few weeks you’ll still find plenty of info too. Let’s get started!

READ MORE: All Mexico Guides

Our motorcycle ride through Mexico

We (Andy and Alissa from Mad or Nomad) are on a round the world motorcycle trip and entered Mexico from the USA in March 2024. This guide is based on our experiences and what we learnt. However, as with all our guides, readers and fellow travellers kindly contribute more info, which we always update our guides with so they stay current.

Before we entered Mexico, we had been on the road for six years. We have never paid too much attention to safety concerns or places to avoid as we travel because they tend to be from people who have never been. But when it came to Mexico, the warnings were coming in thick and fast so we did a little digging and it started to put us off – so we stopped and just headed straight for the border.

And we’re so glad we did because Mexico blew us away! We couldn’t believe how brilliant it was to ride and we fell in love with the country. There are of course security concerns, and we will go into that further on in the article. But, don’t let anyone put you off Mexico – it is brilliant.

Have a read of our story and see for yourself.

READ MORE:

Motorcycle Adventure Travel in Mexico - Mad or Nomad

Paperwork

The paperwork you need to take a foreign registered motorcycle into Mexico is as follows:

  • Passport
  • Driver’s licence
  • Registration certificate (if your country also issues a title document then you will also need that)

The paperwork you need to legally ride in Mexico is as follows:

  • FMM
  • Temporary import
  • Motorcycle insurance for Mexico

FMM

Mexico offers a visa free entry to citizens from a number of countries, but even if that includes you, you will still need a Forma Migratoria Multiple (FMM). You must get this document from immigration when entering the country at the border (around 720 pesos) and it is valid for up to 180 days (but at the discretion of the border guard).

Temporary import (TIP)

You need a TIP to take your vehicle into Mexico. This is also issued at the border and will be valid for as long as your FMM is. You must leave a 400USD deposit at the border (cash or card) and this will be returned when leaving the country.

Motorcycle insurance

You must purchase motorcycle insurance from a Mexican provider. This is compulsory. Do not risk riding in Mexico without it. We used and recommend Baja Bound for this service as it was quick and easy, they’re highly recommended and the cover is comprehensive.

Detailed info on Mexico paperwork

We have a dedicated guide explaining the paperwork requirements for motorcycle travellers entering Mexico in more detail for you to read next. And if you’re planning a bigger trip and trying to get your head around paperwork in general, have a read of our packed paperwork for bikers guide too.

READ MORE:

Crossing the border to Mexico

Mexico shares borders with the USA, Guatemala and Belize. You can enter and exit Mexico via any of these three countries.

There are multiple border posts and crossings, some are extremely busy, some a little rough, some don’t have Banjercito offices (where you can get a TIP) and some are perfectly smooth. We recommend using the iOverlander app to find a border that suits your route and reading the current and up-to-date info left by other travellers to pick your border.

Note that border towns (not just in Mexico, but throughout the world) are seldom the nicest places to stay. So it’s always worth getting to your border early with a full stomach, drinks and snacks to hand so you’re not rushing or stuck in mid-day heat.

A quick note on entering Mexico from Belize. We met another motorcycle traveller entering Mexico at the Belize border as we were exiting. However, while we were offered 180 days when entering in Baja, he was only offered 35 days. He was told if he wanted 180 days he would have to show 180 days’ worth of hotel bookings. So consider this in your planning.

We entered Mexico via the Mexicali border in Baja California and it was super easy. We have a detailed guide explaining how to cross the border here.

READ MORE: How to Cross the Border Between the USA and Mexico

Motorcycle Adventure Travel in Mexico - Mad or Nomad

When to ride in Mexico

The heat in Mexico can catch you out. April and May can get seriously hot. September/ October to mid-November is a good time as it’s after the rainy season and very green. Overlanders tend to ride through Mexico through December to February. But, Mexico is a huge country and you also have Baja to contend with. The weather is always subject to change so check before you go.

Mexico Motorcycle Travel

Money and costs

Mexico is not an expensive country to travel through – especially if you’re coming from the US, UK, Europe, Australia etc. Baja is more expensive than the mainland because it’s more touristy, but overall and relatively speaking it’s not pricey. 

Accommodation

Accommodation is easy to find throughout Mexico. To give you an idea of our costs, we spent on average roughly 400-600 pesos per night (£17/$21 – £25/$32) for a double room with a private bathroom and secure parking.

You can of course find cheaper accommodation if you’re a solo rider or are willing to share a bathroom or take a cheaper place. And if you want a bit more luxury then the sky’s the limit on how much you can spend. On occasion we’d splash out on a ‘luxury’ hotel and go up to 800 pesos (£34/$43).

Finding accommodation

Google Maps is a great way to find hotels in Mexico. Simply type ‘hotels’ into your app and select the hotels that pop up on the screen. You’ll find that a lot of places aren’t on booking.com so don’t just rely on that app.

The downside to using Google Maps is that you’ll often need to call the hotel to reserve and ask if it has a private bathroom or parking if that’s a requirement for example. But it’s usually very easy to do.

iOverlander is a fantastic way to find hotels that fellow travellers have pinned on the map.

Booking.com is an easy way to find cheap accommodation in Mexico. We would find places the night before and book somewhere the next day. Booking is especially useful if you’re staying in more touristy or built up areas. But we did not always find somewhere on Booking.com and relied a lot more heavily on Google Maps.

You’d be surprised at the deals you can get on AirBnB as well – especially if you want to stay somewhere a little longer.  

Motorcycle camping in Mexico

You wont find an abundance of official paid for campsites throughout Mexico, but there are a bunch of fantastic and very well run campsites especially for overlanders.

Two we highly recommend are:

You can wild camp in Mexico, but we would only recommend this for experienced travellers who are used to finding wild camping spots. There is of course more risk with wild camping. We and many other riders have not had a problem wild camping throughout Mexico, but others have. Experiences differ and so you will need to use your common sense if doing so.

For more info on camping with your motorcycle and how to wild camp, we recommend having a read through our camping guides.

READ MORE:

Motorcycle Adventure Travel in Mexico - Mad or Nomad

Food and water

You are in for a treat! Mexico will blow your socks off (if you like Mexican food)! The food is cheap, delicious and so easy to find. The smaller the shop, the better it tastes. An old lady serving tacos from a battered old cart? Yes please! Don’t be afraid to try everything. It’s delicious. Tacos and tortas will become your best friend.

Expect to pay up to 100 pesos (£5/$6) absolute max for a selection of tasty tacos. The more rural you go the cheaper it gets.

Make sure you carry plenty of bottled water with you. It’s easily available at most small shops and tiendas.

Motorcycle Adventure Travel in Mexico - Mad or Nomad

Petrol

You won’t have trouble finding petrol throughout Mexico – unless you go well off the beaten path. For example, if you take multi-day off-road routes then yes, of course you will need to calculate fuel. The longest stretch we found without fuel was 200 miles, but that was an exceptionally remote area and not at all common. If you’re travelling with a small fuel tank, then just fill up when you have a ¼ tank left.  

Motorcycle Adventure Travel in Mexico - Mad or Nomad

Safety and security for motorcycle travellers in Mexico

One of the most commonly discussed topics on motorcycle travel in Mexico is safety. It certainly puts a lot of people off and worries a lot of travellers before they enter too.  

We’re not going to say don’t worry about it and to just go for it because safety is a concern in Mexico and is something you do need to consider. But, it is not something that should put you off.

There are regions where the cartel are very active and there are areas you should avoid. Here’s some advice and tips on staying safe in Mexico.

READ MORE: How to Stay Safe on the Road

Avoiding dangerous areas

The UK Gov website has a great map where you can see the areas to avoid in orange. That makes plotting a route through the green areas a lot easier. There may be times where you want or need to pass through orange zones, and that’s fine, just use your common sense and try to avoid the more remote roads and regions in those areas.

iOverlander

iOverlander is a great resource. You will find pins marked on the map where others have had trouble. But don’t take it as gospel because pins can be out of date. There were times we travelled along roads where there were pins that others had mentioned they had been robbed etc. But times change and those pins need updating. Still, it is a valuable guide.

Locals

Asking the locals is a great way to suss out a route or area. This is especially handy and useful if you’re thinking of taking a less travelled route or for off-road riding.

Don’t ride at night

This is an important one. For travellers, it’s sound advice wherever you are in the world, but it’s especially true for Mexico. It’s not just the worry of banditos, but also because livestock, wild animals, sand, gravel, potholes and the dreaded speed bumps litter the roads. Always try and get to your accommodation way before it gets dark.

Common sense

Most importantly, use your common sense. If an area feels particularly dodgy or you have a lot of eyes on you without a lot of smiles accompanying them, just move on. The longer you travel the more you develop a kind of sense for these things regardless. And even if your sense is wrong, at least you avoided the potential risk.

Motorcycle Adventure Travel in Mexico - Mad or Nomad

What to do if you’re stopped by the cartel

The cartel aren’t interested in robbing and murdering tourists. Tourists bring money to the country. However, you can still be stopped by them. If that happens, it’s most likely going to be because you’re somewhere you shouldn’t be. Which means you’re in a remote area and close to cartel activity. They will want to know who you are, where you’re going and why. They may then redirect you, follow you out of that area to make sure you leave or let you pass.

A friend and fellow motorcycle traveller had a particularly dicey interrogation by a group of cartel members. Without going into detail, his advice is to always remain calm, don’t panic, don’t get upset and don’t argue. Answer their questions honestly and provide them with the paperwork and or information they require and once they realise and believe you are simply a motorcycle traveller in the wrong place you’ll be moved on.

Getting stopped by corrupt police and bribes

Unfortunately, corruption does exist in Mexico and you may be stopped and asked for a bribe. This is far more likely in touristy areas for example when crossing the border from the USA to Baja. If you know you have not committed any offence then stand your ground and ask to be taken to the police station to pay the fine.

It is illegal for an officer to ask for a bribe and it is illegal for you to pay one also. So, no police officer should ever ask you for money directly. Simply state that you are happy to pay, but would like to do so at the police station. Stand your ground, use your camera to take a picture of the officer if you’re not getting anywhere or film.

We have a dedicated guide on dealing with bribes here.

READ MORE: How to Deal with Bribes

Mexico Motorcycle Travel

Keeping your motorcycle and gear safe

Unfortunately, motorcycles do go missing in Mexico. It’s usually when they’re parked outside and on the street, so it’s a good idea to find accommodation that has secure parking. And if it doesn’t, then pay to put your bike in a secure carpark with security for the night.

Before we entered Mexico, we wondered how easy it would be to find accommodation with secure parking. Turns out, it’s exceptionally easy. If you’re booking via booking.com then it’ll say whether or not it has parking and you can set a filter. If you’re on iOverlander, then again it will most likely say in the description. And if it’s via Google Maps, you can either look through the pictures or call and ask (one of the reasons we recommend buying a local SIM card so you can make calls).

We tend to put our bikes in safe parking areas belonging to the hotel or more commonly inside a hotel’s courtyard. On occasion, when a hotel doesn’t have that, they just let us bring our bikes inside. We have even brought the bikes into our rooms before.

And on occasion, we simply leave them outside. It’s dependent on the area and what the hotel staff say about safety.

Regarding kit, we leave both our panniers on the bikes. Alissa’s panniers hold our personal rucksacks and they come into the hotel and that’s it. Everything else stays on the bikes. My panniers hold the camping gear in one and the tools and miscellaneous in the other. Mine are secured with a Mosko Moto cable lock. This could be cut relatively easily but deters opportune thieves. In our crash bar bags we have other belongings. All of this stays on the bike overnight and when we leave the bikes to walk about and we’ve never had a problem.

When we started our round the world trip six years ago, we left with a big chain lock, disc lock and motorcycle cover. Now we have a small bicycle lock and very rarely use it. If you are concerned, a tatty old cover is a good idea to act as an invisibility cloak.

READ MORE: How to Keep Your Motorcycle and Gear Safe While Travelling

Mexico Motorcycle Travel

Staying safe and your health

We highly recommend getting decent personal travel insurance before you leave on your trip. It’s incredibly important that you’re covered in case of an accident and your medical bills will be taken care off.

If you are planning on heading into very remote regions and off-roading, then we also recommend carrying an emergency satellite GPS device so you can call for help if you have a medical emergency.

Alissa had a serious crash in Nepal years ago and we wish we had an SOS device back then. Luckily we had excellent travel insurance though, which took care of the £20,000 hospital bill. Do not risk it, make sure you are covered.

READ MORE:

Motorcycle Adventure Travel in Mexico - Mad or Nomad

Planning your motorcycle route through Mexico

Mexico is a huge country. Every state is different with varying topography, terrain and climate. So, to plan a route really depends on what exactly you want from your adventure in Mexico.

Motorcycle Adventure Travel in Mexico - Mad or Nomad

Baja California versus mainland Mexico

Baja North and South feel like a different country when compared to mainland Mexico. You’ll find a lot more tourists, more people speak English and the terrain and scenery is unique in comparison to the mainland. It’s often described by motorcycle travellers as a ‘soft introduction to the mainland’ and after riding through both, we agree.

This is why a lot of overland travellers heading down from the States tend to opt for Baja first. If you’re interested in riding there, have a read of our Baja guide.

READ MORE: Motorcycle Travel Guide Baja California

Motorcycle Travel Guide Baja California Mexico

Toll vs free roads

In Mexico you can either ride the toll roads or the free roads. We know riders who have literally taken toll roads the entire way through Mexico because they’re so worried about travelling there. Personally, that’s such a shame and waste. Mexico is a beautiful country and, provided you have your head screwed on straight, is safe for travellers. You can take toll roads, but they’re incredibly expensive and you’ll be travelling through the country without seeing anything other than straight motorway miles.

The free roads are older roads passing through towns and villages. In our ride through Mexico we didn’t take a single toll road or highway. Why would we? They’re boring. We recommend taking these as much as you can. 

Toll roads are signposted as ‘Cuota’ and the free roads are ‘Libre’.

Note: if you’re using Google Maps or Maps.Me and have ticked to avoid toll roads, make sure to double check your route for any sections where it goes a very round-about way. For instance, there may be a small bridge which costs pennies to get across, but as you’ve clicked to avoid tolls, Google may take you on an hour-long detour. 

Motorcycle Adventure Travel in Mexico - Mad or Nomad

Speed bumps

The dreaded Mexican Topes (speed bump). There are speed bumps peppered throughout the country and they are incredibly annoying. They come in varying shapes and sizes and they are literally everywhere and in the most ridiculous places. Riding around a pretty corner? You’ll find a nice fat speed bump. You’ll go through some towns and find a bump every 20 metres. Sometimes there’s a sign warning you off it and sometimes there’s not. They will catch you at some point, so be careful.

Livestock and animals

It’s not uncommon to find donkeys, dogs, cows, sheep, pigs and so on crossing the road. There will be more animals the more rural you ride. Keep your eyes open at all times.

Mexico Motorcycle Travel

Roads

Some parts of the country have terrible roads that are peppered in potholes. Be careful in mountainous areas for landslides and rocks falling. Be very careful where you park in case of falling rocks. Never expect a road to be perfectly laid for your entire ride – even if you get into the groove of it on twisty bends, around any corner could be a huge crater in the road. 

Night riding

For all the reasons above, never ride at night in Mexico. It’s far too risky because you just can’t see what’s coming on the road. Try to arrive at your accommodation before it gets dark and plan accordingly. 

Motorcycle riding routes in Mexico

Recommending routes is always tricky business because we all like different things. We can, however, suggest a few of our favourite places and rides. We have a dedicated guide with our top routes. Check it out here.

READ MORE: 5 Awesome Motorcycle Rides in Mexico

Motorcycle Adventure Travel in Mexico - Mad or Nomad

Our favourite places to visit in Mexico

Lake Bacalar – Beautiful Bacalar. Bacalar is a stunning freshwater lake in Mexico. There’s beautiful little hotels around the lake and going out on a boat ride is a must. You’ll get dropped off at a point where you can stand and swim in the warm water. It’s a fantastic place to relax and you’ll love it. Here’s a list of great hotels in Bacalar.

La Gloria – Waterfalls cascade down the mountain and fill dozens of little pools all the way down for you to swim in… Bizarrely, the water from the waterfalls is hot and that makes these pools feel like warm jacuzzis – just without the bubbles. Tolotongo is where most tourists visit. You can get between La Gloria and Tolotongo by taking a small footbridge (but you’ll need to pay another entrance). But to ride between the two will take over an hour. There is one hotel in La Gloria (800 pesos) or you can camp. It costs 150 pesos to enter the park and camping is included in that price. 

Guanajuato – This incredible city is an explosion of colour, art, culture, and a maze of cobbled streets and coffee shops. And underneath the city is a network of tunnels for cars, bikes and people to quickly zip around – if you know which turns to take! The entire city (above and below) has been designed to turn you around and get lost in its labyrinth… And we’re totally okay with that. If you visit, make sure you check out the mummy museum! Here’s a list of great hotels in Guanajuato.

Patzcuaro – Patzcuaro is our favourite pueblo magico (magic town). The town centre is brilliant and packed with people sitting on the grass, eating delicious food, listening to musicians and dancers playing in the street. We recommend this fantastic hotel in Patzcuaro run by Jaime. 

Tlactopan – Sleepy little Tlactopan is a gorgeous town that’s well worth a visit if you want to take some time out from your ride. Here’s a great little place to stay in Tlactopan

Coatepec – The first place coffee was cultivated in Mexico. If you like coffee you’ll love this little magic town. You can smell the beans as you ride in. The central square is bustling with people and food stalls and coffee shops line the streets. This was our favourite hotel in Coatepec. 

San Jaoquin – This beautiful sleepy little town is nestled in the middle of nowhere. To get there you’ll need to tackle some fun off-road routes. But it’s worth it. Colourful buildings resting on a hillside, great food and friendly people. Here’s where we stayed in San Jaoquin. 

Palenque – A prominent Mayan city inhabited from 226BC to 799AD. Around one square mile has been uncovered, but it’s estimated that only 10% of the city has been explored and there’s still over a thousand structures hidden by the jungle… Tombs of buried kings and queens, sun temples, the main palace, the temple of inscriptions, impressive aqueduct systems, sacred ball game courts, incredibly well preserved hieroglyphics and art. Here’s a list of great hotels in Palenque.

Motorcycle riding gear for Mexico

Mexico’s climate can change rapidly and the weather can be very different dependent on which state you’re in and at what time of year.

So, we recommend choosing an ultra-lightweight, breathable and well vented adventure riding suit – and one that is not waterproof. Pack a cheap and light set of throwover waterproofs in case it rains and a small compressible down jacket in case you’re caught out in the cold. The aim of the game here is a layering system. If you ride in any of the hot months in Mexico in a pro laminate Gore-Tex suit you will boil in the bag.

For more info and guides on adventure riding gear have a look at the below guides.

READ MORE:

Motorcycle Adventure Travel in Mexico - Mad or Nomad

Rentals and tours

You may want to travel in Mexico using a rental bike or by joining a tour instead of taking your own bike there. This is a great way of exploring the country without having to ship your own bike to the Americas, or for a quick trip or even if you’d just rather ride with a professional guide who knows the country inside out.

You’ve got a range of options here including road only tours, off-road only or even a mix of the two.

Check out our recommended rental companies for Mexico for more info.

READ MORE: Recommended Motorcycle Rental and Tour Companies

Top tips

Language – Learning the language goes a long way in any country you visit. And luckily, Spanish is a relatively easy language to learn for English speakers. We recommend at least learning the basics (hello, thank you, please etc) to be polite and make an effort. Anything else you learn goes a long way in improving your experience interacting and engaging with locals. But don’t worry, it’s easy and fun to communicate even if you really struggle with languages and you can get by without it. Communicating When You Don’t Speak the Language

Apps – Download the Google Translate app onto your phone, and then download Spanish onto it. This will work offline and you can easily communicate with locals using this app.

iOverlander – It’s a fantastic tool for overland travellers and is free. Download it and contribute wherever you can.

Maps.Me – A free offline map and navigation app. Simply download the maps for Mexico and use it offline. The Best Free Apps for Motorcycle Travellers

Facebook – There’s a great Facebook group for motorcycle travellers in Mexico called Motorcycle Mexico. You’ll find a lot of helpful folk in there. 

Go Explore Mexico Map – There’s a fantastic free downloadable map called Go Explore Mexico with loads of pinpoints for travellers. 

SIM card – We recommend purchasing a Mexican SIM card for your travels. It will make life easier when travelling and you can make phone calls to book hotels. They’re easy to buy from any Telcel store. However, you may want more data or not want to have to deal with swapping your SIM out. In that case, we have been using Airalo for years. It’s a convenient and easy to use e-SIM app. You can download a SIM card for Mexico onto your phone before you leave home and have it ready for when you cross the border into Mexico. 

Safety – Please don’t be put off by the negativity surrounding Mexico. The people are wonderful and it’s a safe country to travel through so long as you use common sense. We’ve met a lot of people who have whizzed through on toll roads and highways and that always felt like a shame that they missed what Mexico really has to offer. 

Speak to the locals as much as possible – Make an effort in learning language basics and practice as much as possible. Locals always appreciate it when you try. Relax and enjoy your ride in Mexico, it’s an incredible place and made all the more better by the wonderful people you’ll meet. 

Motorcycle Adventure Travel in Mexico - Mad or Nomad

Read more on motorcycle travel in Mexico

Thanks for checking out the Motorcycle Travel Guide: Mexico. We hope you enjoyed it! Here’s a few more articles on motorcycle travel in Mexico and North America that we recommend you read next. 

We may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you purchase a product using the affiliate links on this page. We’re not sponsored, are completely impartial and don’t run ads. So this helps us keep the site running. Thank you for your support.

Try these next…

Are you planning a motorcycle trip in Mexico? Do you have any questions, tips or suggestions? Let us know in the comments below. 

Leave a comment