Do You Need a Passport to Go to Cancun? [2024 Update]

Do You Need a Passport to Go to Cancun?
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We get it:

Cancun is an epic beach paradise with dazzling turquoise waters and all-inclusive resorts that offer *the* perfect getaway. It’s no wonder so many people want to visit it. 

The only question is—

Do you need a passport to go to Cancun?

Scroll on to find out.

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How to get to Cancun, and what travel documents you’re going to need

When traveling to Mexico, different documents apply when traveling by air, by land or by sea. This article will highlight what documents are needed when visiting Cancun.

Traveling by air to Cancun: your passport

Cancun is at the far end of Mexico; it may seem close on the map, but the distance by road is actually quite long. Therefore, the fastest and most convenient way of getting to Cancun is to arrive by plane.

In order to fly in and out of Mexico, a passport is essential.  It must be a proper passport booklet and not just a passport card, because the card cannot be used for international air travel. The passport book must be valid for the duration of your stay.

Each traveler will also need a completed Multiple Migratory Form, or FMM. This applies to both adults and children. The airlines provide these forms to you on the flight before you land, but they can also be filled out and printed online before you depart. Keep your FMM safe and do not lose it, because you will need to return it at the end of your stay.

There’s plenty more advice where that came from, read on:

Traveling by road to Cancun: a passport

You need a passport to go to Cancun if you take a plane. In the case of road travel, a passport card will suffice. This regulation also applies to minors, who might also need notarized consent forms from their parents or guardians.

The passport card is beneficial for travelers who want to save money: a passport card is significantly cheaper than the booklet, and it’s valid for travel to Mexico, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Canada. You still need to have your entry form (FMM), as does everyone else inside your car.

Drivers need to bring their driver’s license (or better still, get an International Driving License). You also need to have your valid automobile registration, of course, plus car insurance. Finally, a temporary import permit is required for any US-registered vehicle driving beyond the Border Zone (approximately 20 kilometers).

Getting a temporary import permit involves leaving a deposit that will be refunded to you when you leave the country, and it can be done online in advance. Failure to obtain this paperwork may result in your automobile being confiscated.

For those who choose to drive, be advised that driving to Cancun takes a very long time. From San Diego, you will cover over 2,700 miles, which is at least 48 hours of driving time—longer, if you stop for food and gas once in a while. From El Paso, the drive is 2,100 miles or 40 hours of driving. And even from Laredo, the drive is over 1,500 miles, taking about 31 hours.

A shorter (but still epic) road trip would be to fly into Mexico City and rent a car. From Mexico City to Cancun by road is roughly 1000 miles, which is a 30 hour drive. Of course, you still need a passport booklet to fly into Mexico City.

For those who plan to rent a car in Mexico, some documents are required. First of all, a form of identification (such as your passport) must be provided. You also need to have a driver’s license, naturally. Proof of car insurance. A major credit card for payment. And you must be over the age of 21, as the minimum age for renting a car is 21.

Required documents when traveling to Cancun by sea

The most common way to travel to Cancun by sea is to take a cruise: Cancun is a very popular destination for cruise ships. The cruise line even takes care of your FMM for you! A cruise ship is the only way to visit Cancun without a passport, but only if it is a “closed-loop” cruise. Closed-loop cruises are when the cruise ship departs from and returns to the same American home port, and it does not stop at any port outside of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI).

If you’re taking a closed-loop cruise, you likely only need a photo ID (such as your driver’s license) and your proof of citizenship (birth certificate or naturalization certificate). But check with your cruise line to be sure, because many cruise lines are now requiring a passport for all cruises, even closed-loop cruises.

Those who travel using their own vessel will need a passport. You also need to get the FMM, which can be done at the harbor. A special boating permit from the Mexican embassy is also required to enter Mexico by sea. The boating entry permit will be checked by the harbormaster at the pier, and people who don’t have a permit will be fined. Private boats also tend to be stopped by the Coast Guards, so be prepared to show your identification documents even before you get into port.

From Miami to Cancun by sea is only about 500 miles. Under ideal weather conditions, a motor vessel can make the trip in two days. A sailboat will probably take a week or more.

Obtaining a passport book or a passport card

To get a US passport, applicants need to fill in a DS-11 form (for first-time applicants) or a DS-82 form (for a passport renewal). For a DS-11, the required documents are:

  • confirmation of US citizenship (citizenship certificate, birth certificate)
  • a passport photo (in colour, 2×2 inches in size)
  • a government-issued ID (for instance, driver’s licence)
  • the total fee payment of $145. 

For a passport renewal, along with the completed DS-82 form the required documents are:

  • an undamaged expired/old passport
  • passport photos in colour (2×2 inches in size)
  • a passport had to be issued within the last 15 years and when the applicant was no younger than age 16
  • the total fee payment for this is $145.

A passport card is the cheapest and fastest option. Application document requirements are the same as passport ones, the only difference is the fee. 

  • proof of Identity
  • passport photo in colour (2×2 inches in size)
  • government-issued ID
  • the total fee payment for a new card is $65
  • fee for the renewal of a passport card is $30.

If you lose your passport while visiting Cancun, you need to contact the US Consular Agency in Cancun as soon as possible. They can be reached by phone (883-0272 or 01-998-883-0272). The Consular Agency is open Mondays to Fridays from 8 am to 1 pm.

You will need to provide them with proof of your identity and citizenship (military ID card, driver license, birth certificate), and they will provide you with a temporary passport that will enable you to return home.

You will also have to provide a new passport photo, because the consulate doesn’t take pictures. You can have someone snap your photograph standing in front of a plain white wall, then get it printed at one of Cancun’s many pharmacies.

Passport Photo Online

To get a good passport photo, it’s best to use the services of professionals, such as our advanced US passport photo online tool. Complex AI algorithms, designed by engineers at Passport Photo Online, transform your homemade photographs into top-class passport pictures. It’s undoubtedly one of the most reliable ways to get a great passport photo—and definitely the easiest!

We eliminate any guesswork, creating a picture with the exact size and specifications required in a US passport photo: the headroom and the size of the head, the brightness level and contrast, the color and saturation, and more.

We can remove and replace the background with a plain, white background, and we even have a human expert do a final inspection by eye to make sure everything is up to standards.

Do You Need a Passport to Go to Cancun: FAQ

Can I take a ferry boat to Cancun?

Yes, there are popular ferry services from Punta Sam, Cancun Hotel Zone, Puerto Juarez, and Gran Puerto Cancun. But these ferry services are only available from Mexico, so people from the United States need to get to Mexico first.

Can I fly from Tijuana to Cancun without a passport?

Yes, but this is not recommended. Domestic flights within Mexico do not require a passport, but they do require proper identification. If you drive from the US to Tijuana, you should be able to fly around the country without a passport before driving back into the US from Tijuana. This is perfectly legal under the laws of Mexico and the United States, even though it is frowned upon as “pulling a fast one.” Expect to get hassled at the border, but they will eventually have to let you in. They might not renew your Global Entry card next time, though.

Are there any other Caribbean islands that I can visit without a passport?

Americans are able to travel into and out of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands without passports because they are US territories. You can also take a “closed-loop” cruise and visit almost all other Caribbean islands with only a birth certificate and a driver’s license. Americans need a valid passport and a valid tourist visa to enter Cuba.


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