Recommendations for a Quick and Hassel-free Border Crossing
If you are traveling by car from Arizona, we recommend crossing the International Border at either Nogales or Naco. The nearest port of entry to Rancho El Aribabi is at Nogales. We recommend the Mariposa Crossing, which bypasses downtown traffic in Nogales, Sonora. U.S. Citizens must have a passport or passport card and we strongly recommend obtaining Mexican auto insurance prior to crossing the border. Just before the border crossing, you will likely be asked by U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement agents what you are taking into Mexico. After crossing into Mexico, proceed directly ahead (as a tourist on a short trip, you do not need to stop at the Aduana station directly on the other side of the border: “Nothing to Declare”). In about a mile, you will encounter a toll booth where you need to pay a small fee (~50 pesos) to use Highway 15. Shortly thereafter you come to an inspection station. Stay right and go through one of the two lanes with red/green lights. If you get a green light you can proceed. If the light turns red, you must pull into the parking area on the left. You will be asked about your trip and the inspectors will probably want to briefly look into your trunk or other storage space. This is usually a short delay, lasting no more than a couple of minutes and then you are on your way again. At about 21 km south of the border at Agua Zarca, you need to pull off at the Aduana station on the west side of the highway. You will need to obtain a visa for your stay in Mexico, which involves filling out a simple one page form and presenting your passport to the Customs official. Bring a pen with you so you can fill out the form. If you are only going to Rancho El Aribabi or other destinations in the “free zone” the visa is free for stays up to one week. If you are going on to other destinations outside the free zone, you will need to obtain a vehicle permit (no vehicle permit is needed to go to Rancho el Aribabi). Once you have your visa and other papers as appropriate, then proceed south through the inspection station in the “Nothing to Declare” lane. Again, if you get a green light you can proceed, if you get a red light, you must pull into the parking area on the right (same drill as after the toll booth). Then you are on your way south to Rancho El Aribabi.
If you are crossing at Naco, you can obtain your visa at the Aduana station immediately south of the border, on the east side of the street. Park in the parking lot there and then walk back to the Aduana office, which is back towards the border. If you need a vehicle permit (not for Rancho El Aribabi), you should ask directions to that office, which is around the block to the west and adjacent to the border fence.
You need to return your permits (visa/auto) prior to crossing the border (same places you obtained the permits). Coming back to the United States, if you are traveling through Nogales, take the off ramp for the U.S. Border on Highway 15 just south of Nogales, which will take you back the way you came. Expect a wait at the border, especially if you come back on Sunday. We cannot predict the length of time you will be in line, but it could be as long as an hour and a half or it could take just a few minutes. If you cross at Naco, the wait is always very short. The border crossing at Nogales is open 24/7 whereas the Naco crossing closes from midnight to 8:00 am.
What Not To Take Into Mexico: This is common sense, but take no firearms or ammunition, cash in the amount of $10,000 or more, or narcotics.
What Not To Bring Back Into the U.S.: You are prohibited from bringing back meat and most fruits. You are permitted one liter of alcoholic beverages per person. Do not bring back any plants or animals, or parts therof, unless you have appropriate Mexican and U.S. permits. Visit dhs.gov for the most recent rules and regulations.