Driving Through Mexico City? Get a Tourist Pass to Avoid the Driving Restrictions Under “Hoy No Circula”

This post is for those folks who are driving across Mexico and will be passing through either Mexico City or one or more of the 18 municipalities located in the State of Mexico that participate in a program called Hoy No Circula

The program, which loosely translates as ‘no driving today’, places restrictions on the days and times that certain vehicles can be operated on the roadways.

We have several friends and neighbors who occasionally pass through that area on their way to other destinations. Most plan that leg of their journey very carefully to ensure that they wont be stopped and fined under the program. This often means staying an extra night outside the area — because some days you can’t drive between 5 am and 10 PM — or getting later start than they would have liked on other days.

But there is an easier way! You might be able to qualify for a free tourist pass that will allow you to motor through without restrictions — well, almost no restrictions. If the pollution gets too bad the government may place additional restrictions on traffic. The tourist pass won’t save you if that happens.

First Things First, Where Are You Headed?

Before I get into the requirements and procedures to get a tourist pass, let’s determine if you even need one.

The program Hoy No Circula is in effect in Mexico City as well as the following 18 municipalities which are all located in the State of Mexico:

Atizapán de Zaragoza, Coacalco de Berriozabal, Cuautitlán, Cuautitlán Izcalli, Chalco, Chimalhuacan, Chicoloapan, Ecatepec de Morelos, Huixquilucan, Ixtapaluca, La Paz, Naucalpan de Juárez, Nezahualcóyotl, Nicolás Romero, Tecámac, Tlalnepantla de Baz, Tultitlán y Valle de Chalco.

If you have foreign license plates, you can apply for a tourist permit.

Requirements and Restrictions

The tourist pass is for private vehicles that were manufactured within the last 15 years. You won’t need a pass if your vehicle is electric, hybrid or operates on natural gas. Another exemption is for vehicles with disabled person license plates.

Vehicles with license plates from Mexico City or one of the following Mexican states are not eligible for a tourist pass: Estado de México, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Michoacán, Morelos, Puebla, Querétaro and Tlaxcala. 

Foreign-plated cars are eligible. That’s good news for several of our neighbors who have license plates from places like South Dakota.

How Long Is It Good For?

You’ll need to plan your trip carefully because the tourist pass doesn’t last long.

The year is broken down into two 6-month periods called semestres (Jan-Jun, and Jul-Dec). Each semestre you can get one 14-day tourist pass or two 7-day passes.

There is also an option for 3-day passes during certain long holiday weekends (called puentes).

How to Apply

Go to the following government website and follow the directions:

http://www.paseturistico.cdmx.gob.mx/pasetur/index.html

If you can’t read Spanish well, just run the site through Google Translate.

After you finish everything, you’ll be able to print two tourist permits. One for Mexico City (CDMX) and one for the State of Mexico (Estado de México). You’ll need to display them in a location where they can be seen from outside of the vehicle.

Tourist permits for CDMX and the State of Mexico

Let’s Wrap This Up

Before publishing this particular post, I had to be sure that this system actually worked so I applied for a 7-day driving permit online. I entered my email address as instructed and the automated system advised me that a confirmation email had been sent to that address with my password and a link to access the permit system. The problem is that I never received it.

I checked my spam filter to no avail and finally wrote them directly at paseturisticociudaddemexico@gmail.com.

To my surprise, they responded the same day. They asked me for some information about my vehicle, the date I would like the permit to start and a copy of the vehicle registration. Within a few hours of sending the requested information, I received two tourist permits in PDF format.  I wish every government office in Mexico ran this quickly and efficiently.

Well, that’s it for today. It’s a beautiful day in the Riviera Maya and the beach is calling me name. Hasta luego. 

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About the Author

Qroo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years before retiring at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He and his wife moved to Mexico looking to maximize their retirement income. They later started a blog called Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us) to share their experiences as well as information about the logistical and legal aspects of retiring south of the border.

7 Comments on "Driving Through Mexico City? Get a Tourist Pass to Avoid the Driving Restrictions Under “Hoy No Circula”"

  1. Sure saved me from getting a ticket. Officer was surprised that I knew about this little trick, and was a bit disappointed that he didn’t get a “mordita”.

  2. You continue to be a fount of knowledge, Paul. I vaguely knew that Mexico City had driving restrictions, but it didn’t even occur to me that other municipalities might as well.

    Question – how does Hoy No Circula work with rental cars?

    The article mentions La Paz – I’m guessing that’s a fairly common city name, like “Springfield” in the USA? The reason I ask is that we’re headed to La Paz, Baja Sur, in February.

    Thanks as always!

  3. margaret w brown | December 20, 2019 at 12:13 pm |

    Do you have any information how this applies to rental cars?

    • If your rental car is a hybrid or electric, you can drive whenever you want. If you rented it in that area and it has a hologram sticker, you will have to comply with the hours located here: https://www.hoy-no-circula.com.mx/.

      If you none of the above apply to you, then you can check the restrictions per day based on the tag number. Use the drop down and hit “foraneo” for cars not from that area: https://www.hoy-no-circula.com.mx/calendario

      If you have the information on your rental car, you can get these tourist permits for that vehicle.

  4. William Conklin | December 20, 2019 at 4:16 pm |

    Do any of the cities in Estado Mexico effect taking Hwy 57 from Querétaro to the Norte bypass and then the Norte to Puebla?

  5. My question is similar, is the pass needed on the Arco Norte?

Comments are closed.