Mexico is such a beautiful country, filled with people who are as friendly as they are vibrant with energy. Match that with the breathtaking architecture backed up by a rich history and lots of delicious food, and you’ve got yourself one of the best tourist destinations for any American tourist out there. Whether you’re out to venture into the Mayan ruins or want to hit the Cancun nightclubs, you’re going to find something that will make your trip more memorable than most.

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Both United States and Canadian citizens are required to bring a passport, among other documents, upon entry. You’re going to have to show this passport at the airport both before and after you fly. You might not need to show your passport to get in when you travel by land, but you will need to do so to going back into the United States. The bottom line is: Bring your passport when you travel to Mexico.

One notable exception can apply for minors, specifically groups of students who are traveling together. Generally, however, children will require their own passports as well, in addition to other documents unique to them.

Permanent residents of the U.S. who have their permanent resident card are not required to show their passport when entering the U.S., but they might still need to show their passport to enter Mexico. Again, it cannot be stressed enough that the surefire way to smoothly move between borders is to bring your passport along with you just in case. It is, after all, the most important way to identify yourself internationally.

U.S. citizens who traveled to Mexico before 2004 might recall that they were not required a passport to enter Mexico. This changed, however, when the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) began in 2004. This rule was created to strengthen border security.

It’s not difficult to get a passport, only it does take a bit of time. But it will be worth it, as it will most likely guarantee quick and hassle-free entry into Mexico (and most other countries for that matter). It is no doubt one of the most important possessions of any traveler.

To get one, you’re going to need to fill out a passport application form. You’re also going to need to submit certification of birth, which could either be your birth certificate, a consular report of your birth from abroad, a naturalization certificate, or even your Canadian citizenship card. The application also requires you to submit photos that must comply with the specifications required by law. Keep in mind that even sending the wrong type of photo is enough grounds to deny your passport application.

For adults, passport applications cost about $100 USD. The passport, however, will be good for 10 years. Children’s passports are only $35 USD, but they are valid only for 5 years. The cost is more expensive compared to getting a passport card but, as discussed above, a passport card is only for those entering Mexico by land and sea. As such, the convenience you get from procuring a passport is definitely worth the added cost.

More commonly known as a tourist card, the FMM is a special tourist permit issued to foreigners who enter Mexico for reasons other than employment. So, if you’re there for a vacation, then you’ll have to apply for this as well.

Tourist cards are good for up to 180 days. During this time, holders of this card can stay in Mexico for as long as the period lasts. Keep in mind that that all non-Mexican visitors who stay there for less than six months will need to get one.

On average, getting a tourist card costs about 23 USD! If you’re booking a cruise or going there by plane, the cost for the tourist card is often already included. If the tourist card is paid for, all you need to do is to get it stamped at the airport. Otherwise, you’ll have to fill out an application yourself, which you can now do online.

Remember to keep your tourist card safe as you will need to surrender it to immigration officials upon leaving Mexico. This is intended to check whether you’ve exceeded your stay, which would incur fines. If ever you lose your card, you will need to pay a fee to get it replaced.

In case you need to stay longer than 180 days or six months, you can apply to have the period of your tourist card extended.

When planning a trip to Mexico, never forget to check your passport and other travel documents ahead of time. Securing them in advance will make a difference to the overall success of your trip.