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      Do You Need a Passport to Go to Cancun, Mexico in 2024?

      Holly Riddle
      Do You Need a Passport to Go to Cancun?

      Cancun is an extremely popular destination, with its abundant cheap flights, beautiful beaches, and plenty of resorts and activities to cater to tourists — but do you need a passport book to get there? You might be surprised to know that, no, that’s not always the case! Even though Cancun is in Mexico, you can visit without a passport book under certain circumstances. 

      Here’s what you need to know.

      Arriving by Air

      Traveling to Cancun on a flight? This is the only time you’ll absolutely need a passport book, with no exceptions. No matter where you’re flying, a passport book is necessary if you’re flying internationally.

      If you have a flight to Cancun booked, apply for a passport book now to get your passport as quickly as possible. If you’re applying for a child’s or minor’s passport for the trip, allow yourself even more time, as obtaining a minor’s passport comes with its unique challenges, making for a lengthier process.

      Further Reading: How to Find Cheap Flight Deals

      The Vacationer Tip

      Expedite your way through customs when landing back in the United States after your Cancun trip with Global Entry. While Global Entry will not work when landing in Mexico, you will appreciate having it coming home.

      Arriving by Car 

      But what if you decide to drive to Cancun? When crossing into Mexico by land, via the U.S. border, the government requires you to have a few different things, but a passport book isn’t entirely necessary. Instead, you can use a passport card.

      A passport card (as opposed to a traditional passport, also called a passport book) is a more affordable form of ID that fits in your wallet and allows you to travel internationally by land or sea only, and only to certain countries.

      In total, you’ll need the following if you plan on driving to Cancun from the United States:

      • Either a passport book OR a passport card
      • An entry permit issued by Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM)
      • A temporary import permit for your vehicle
      • Valid proof of automobile registration 

      If you do cross the border using a passport card, the U.S. Department of State recommends using one of the border’s Ready Lanes, which use RFID card readers to read your passport card before you speak with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer.

      Additionally, Global Entry members can use SENTRI lanes for expedited entry back into the United States from Mexico. You have to register your vehicle prior to using SENTRI lanes however; It is free when completing your Global Entry application or $42 for an inspection if you do it after. Remember to bring your Global Entry card.

      Further Reading: How to Find and Book Cheap Car Rentals

      USA Mexico Border Crossing

      Photo: USA Mexico Border Crossing

      Arriving by Sea 

      Many cruises make stops in Cancun. However, you may not need a passport if you plan to visit Cancun during an upcoming cruise.  

      Closed-loop cruise itineraries do not require a passport. A closed-loop cruise itinerary is any cruise itinerary that starts and ends at the exact same U.S. port. So, you could feasibly cruise from a cruise port in Louisiana or Texas to Cancun, and so long as you returned to that same port, there’s no passport needed.

      However, this doesn’t mean you can just cruise without any identification whatsoever. You’ll still need to bring: 

      • A government-issued photo ID (for everyone over the age of 16)
      • PLUS an original or copy of your birth certificate from the Vital Records Department 
      • OR a consular report of birth abroad
      • OR a certificate of naturalization

      You can also use a passport card for your identification during a closed-loop cruise. 

      Further Reading: Best Websites to Book Cheap Cruises

      Should You Try to Visit Cancun Without a Passport?

      While you can visit Cancun without a passport book, maybe stop and consider: Should you? 

      If you’ll need to apply for a passport card anyway, you might as well apply for the actual passport book. The passport book will come in handy if you decide to fly internationally in the future. It could also prove valuable in an emergency wherein you need a more all-encompassing form of identification. 

      So, while you can visit Cancun without a passport book, we don’t always recommend it. Having a passport book is always a smart idea when traveling internationally. 

      When you are ready to get your passport, check out our handy passport guides and resources, including our guide to expediting your passport application, what to wear in a passport photo, and how to take your own passport photo at home.

      Holly Riddle Headshot

      By Holly Riddle

      Holly Riddle is a freelance travel, food, and lifestyle journalist who also dabbles in ghostwriting and fiction. Her work appears in publications ranging from Global Traveler to Golf Magazine, Mashed to Forbes, and Bloomberg. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring the mountains near her home in the Adirondacks. Her favorite travel destinations include Chicago and New Orleans.