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:
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.