The Segmental Info System

Customs Regulations in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean

Customs regulations in Mexico satisfy many vacationers

Photo credit: © Lawrence Weslowski Jr |
Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean Customs

Knowing what you can bring into and out of Mexico will help to guarantee a hassle-free travel experience.

As a visitor, be aware of the following customs tips and rules before entering the region:

  • Travelers may bring a "reasonable" amount of duty-free goods for personal use in Mexico. According to customs regulations, personal effects may include shoes, a video cassette player, a personal computer, a CD player, five DVDs, 20 music CDs or audio cassettes, 12 rolls of unused film, and a cellular phone. Any tourist carrying such items should enter the "Merchandise to Declare" lane at the first customs checkpoint. Anything deemed in excess of "reasonable" may incur an import tax. Failure to pay the assessed duty may result in the seizure of the goods as contraband, plus the seizure of the vehicle in which the goods are traveling for attempted smuggling. The recovery of the seized vehicle involves the payment of substantial fines and attorney's fees.

  • All U.S. citizens bringing gifts to friends and relatives in Mexico should be prepared to demonstrate to Mexican customs officials the origin and the value of the gifts. U.S. citizens entering Mexico by the land border can bring in gifts with a value of up to $50(USD) duty-free, except for alcohol and tobacco products. Those entering Mexico by air or sea can bring in gifts with a value of up to $300(USD) duty-free.

  • All prescription drugs must be accompanied by an official prescription.

  • Firearms and recreational drugs are not permitted.

To avoid paying duties on the foreign-made high-ticket items you already own and take with on your trip, register them with customs before you leave the U.S. Consider filing a Certificate of Registration for items such as laptops, cameras, watches, and other digital devices identified with serial numbers or other permanent markings; you can keep the certificate for other trips. Otherwise, bring a sales receipt or insurance form with you to show that you owned the item before you left the United States.

Before returning home with travel purchases, remember these tips:

  • Keep receipts for all items bought in Cancún, Mexico, and the Mexican Caribbean.

  • Before departing Mexico, make sure any purchases are easily accessible in case customs officials request an inspection upon return.

  • If you have any questions or complaints about your customs experience, write to the port director at your point of reentry.

The following additional reentry rules apply for United States citizens:

  • Travelers may bring back to the U.S. up to one liter of alcohol (only travelers 21 years and older) or perfume containing alcohol, up to 200 cigarettes, and up to 100 non-Cuban cigars. If planning a stay of less than 48 hours, travelers may bring home up to 150 ml of alcohol, 50 cigarettes, and 10 non-Cuban cigars.

  • The following items may be brought home duty-free: original works of art such as drawings, paintings, and sculptures, along with antiques, which are officially defined as objects more than 100 years old.

  • Travelers may send packages home duty-free, though there is a limit of one package per addressee per day, with the exception of alcohol or tobacco products, or perfume worth more than $5 (USD).

  • Travelers can mail up to $200(USD) worth of goods home to the U.S. for personal use; be sure to write "PERSONAL USE" on the parcel and attach a list of its contents and their retail value.

  • If sending home a parcel containing personal belongings that have been used, write "AMERICAN GOODS RETURNED" on the package to avoid a duty fee.

  • Travelers may send up to $100(USD) worth of goods as a gift to someone in the U.S. provided "UNSOLICITED GIFT" is marked on the package.

Mailed items do not affect your duty-free allowance upon your return.

The website for Mexican Customs, or "Aduanas," is in Spanish only at

Since customs regulations are subject to change from time to time, it is best to check with your country's specific entry requirements before you leave, and keep your knowledge current using the following contact information:

International Customs Agencies
United States U.S. Customs Service
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20229
Tel: 877/227-5511
United Kingdom HM Customs & Excise
Tel: 0845/010-9000
Canada Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
Tel: 800/461-9999
Australia Australian Customs Service
Tel: 1300/363-263
New Zealand New Zealand Customs Service
Tel: 04/473-6099

With the help of these guidelines most travelers can return from Cancún without any trouble at all.


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