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Cancun, Mexico, is a popular tourist destination for American travelers, but a common question before departure is, “Do I need a passport to go to Cancun?” The short answer is yes, but it also depends how you arrive there — by ground, air or sea.
Can you go to Cancun without a passport? Yes, but like other destinations, only in specific circumstances. That’s why it’s important to be prepared with the right information so you don’t get caught off guard. Having a passport for Cancun when you are traveling there is the easiest and safest way to avoid any hassles.
But, there are alternatives. Here are all of the different ways to arrive in Cancun, which will help you determine can you go to Cancun without a passport.
Arriving by air
Do you need a passport for Cancun if arriving by air? Yes.
If flying to Cancun (or any Mexican airport), both adults and children must travel with a passport book (not just the passport card or other form of government identification).
Double check that the passport is valid for the entire duration of your visit, and you will want to make sure you have at least six months remaining on the passport from your departure date.
Airlines will check this and may not let you board the flight, although the official word from the Mexican government says otherwise. It only requires that your passport is valid for the entirety of your intended trip.
When crossing an international border, you do need a passport for Cancun and will be asked to complete an immigration form providing some personal details before entering the country.
» Learn more: The guide to different types of U.S. passports
Arriving by car
Do you need a passport to go to Cancun, Mexico, by car? Chances are you won’t be crossing an international border and arriving by car to Cancun. Its position along the Yucatan Peninsula is quite far from the U.S. border, which means it would be a long ride.
While you wouldn’t need a passport to enter Cancun itself, you would need either a valid passport book or passport card to cross the international border. Passport cards are an option when applying for a new passport, and they are accepted at certain border crossings by land, like when entering Canada or Mexico.
» Learn more: When you should renew your passport
Arriving by sea
A common way for visitors to arrive in Cancun is by cruise ship. Doing so also has special privileges.
Closed-loop cruises, which depart and return to the same country, even if visiting other countries along the way (as long as they are part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative), usually do not require traveling with a passport. Instead, an official birth certificate and government-issued identification (like a driver’s license) would be enough.
Be sure to check with the cruise line, though, as some companies may still require a passport to travel. Of course, if you have to fly to another country to board the cruise, you would need a passport.
Keep in mind though that without a passport, your travel options become more limited. In the event of an emergency when you need to disembark the ship in another country, a passport is required.
You would also need a passport to fly home from another country should your plans change. This is why it is always wise to travel with a passport if you have one, just in case of an emergency or travel disruption. You’ll avoid a lot of hassle that way.
Do you need a passport to go to Cancun, even if you were to arrive on your own personal boat? No, the same rules would apply as if you were on a cruise ship, although there may be other maritime permits needed for bringing a boat to Mexico and entering port.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
Do you need a passport to go to Cancun, Mexico?
It depends on how you travel to Cancun, but there are some instances where it is not necessary to have a passport for Cancun. If you have a valid passport, it is always wise to travel with it in the event of an unexpected change in plans.
Mexico is a country rich with adventure, culture and heritage, and Cancun is one of the most popular destinations for its wide range of beach resorts and activities. Just be sure you are prepared for your trip so you won't run into any disappointments at the border.
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