If you’re coming to Mexico as a tourist, you are okay to use your normal driving license of your home country. If you are going to be living and driving in Mexico, it’s likely you’ll eventually need a Mexican driver’s license. You can put it off, but once you register a car in your name you have one year to get a Mexican driver’s license. I just got mine (after two attempts) and am going to share exactly how you can get your Mexican driver’s license, too! You DO need to have your temporary or permanent Mexican residency to get a driver’s license.
Need to buy a used car? I bought a used car in Merida in the Yucatan and registered it to my name. You can read about that entire process here including how to find a car, what they cost, how to get the lump sum to pay in cash, and the best Mexican auto insurance.
How to Get Your Mexican Drivers License As a Foreigner Driving in Mexico
First off, you don’t need to plan ahead of anything you just need to go do it! I just decided to spur of the moment one day, and off I went. The location will be the state police department where the licensing and registration is located. For Merida, the location is the SSP which is split into two offices: the auto registration one and to the left, the licensing one, Modulo de Licencias. You can see it here on the map.
Documents to get a Mexican Driver’s License:
- Plastic immigration card
- Proof of address
You need copies of all of these.
If your proof of address is not in your name, for example, your lease or bill is in your friend or family members name, that is okay. You have two options.
- If it’s your husband/wife, you can bring a marriage certificate.
- If it’s your friend/boyfriend/girlfriend, you need to go to immigration aka INM (ugh, I know) with your bill in their name and have them write you a letter that states your address really is your address. This letter will be an original and you need to bring a copy too, as well as a bill from the house and a copy of that.
You will only be given ONE letter which is original. I first came to the SSP a month before and registered my car. They took my original letter from INM. Luckily, the licensing office decided to accept my copy since I didn’t have an original. It was not without a lot of back and forth and every person who saw my paperwork would go and ask again if it was okay – only to get approval again from the head lady.
When you arrive, go in and show your documents. Once approved at the front desk, take a number, and wait to be called to a counter. The numbers will be up on an electronic board. It’s a small office and you cannot use your cell phone inside. You will give your papers and information at the counter.
Keep in mind this will all be in Spanish from the moment you walk in the door to when you take parallel park test! I can get by, but if you don’t speak any Spanish then bring a friend to help. So, at the counter you answer questions, get papers, and take that stack over to the medico.
You will go to the medical center (just the next counter) and test your eyes, tell your age, and your blood type. If you don’t know your blood type, you need a little finger prick to find out. From here, you’ll go to the testing station.
The written test can be taken in English or Spanish. I chose English even though I had read it had terrible translations. There are ten questions. I missed two questions which is the maximum you can miss. If you miss a third, it will end the test. Some were easy (like what does this sign mean, and it’s a photo of a cow, with options of cattle crossing, train crossing, and stop). Others were totally weird and those are the two I missed. I think overall, it’s probably a mix like that. I didn’t look online ahead of time or study.
If you fail the written test, they will keep your paperwork for 15 days. You have that time to come back and re-test (you can come daily) or it will expire and you will have to start the process over from scratch.
The Driving Test
After you pass the written test, you’ll head outside for the driving test. You will be given a plastic card which you need to take with you, a little piece of paper, and your ID. You will get your car and bring it around to the line which wraps around the parking lot. You wait. I waited for one hour.
When you get to the front, you’ll go inside the white gate. Three cars will be testing at a time. The test is only a parallel parking test. The cones are much closer than in the USA, though. At least from what I remember! They are meant to be 1.5 meters in front and behind the car. They do measure this as you park beside them.
The first time I took the test I failed. I do parallel park okay but never in small spaces, always ones that are about 1.5x the size of my car. So, when I showed up and they had HUGE construction barrels, I made a really small space, I thought right away “oh shit, I’m going to fail this”, especially in my car which is a stick-shift SUV.
They explain the rules only in Spanish. You have three tries. You can only make 5 maneuvers. You will be measured after to make sure you are centered in the spot. The guy who did mine the first time was really grumpy. He did not move my cones out from the small car that went before me. I swear I don’t even think it was humanly possible to fit the car inside the cones.
I went back the next day, having watched some YouTube videos (per the suggestions of the police), and passed on the first try. While the videos probably helped, it also helped that this guy moved my cones out 1.5 meters from the car. I asked him actually what the distance was (in Spanish) and he said 1.5 meters. There is no way it was measured the first time because this time, it was so much easier. Having said that, I still think 1.5 meters is smaller than the USA test. So do practice if you’re terrible at it!
From here, you head in and wait for your papers, then go pay. They do take card. It was 484 MXN for a license which will expire in two years. Last, go get your photo taken, fingerprints, and wait a few minutes for it to print. Now you have your license! Don’t hit a cone on your way out. ;)
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