Transportation

Mexico’s Hoy No Circula Vehicle Driving Restrictions

If you intend to drive in or through Mexico City and environs, you'll need to take into account a vehicle restriction program as part of your journey plans

Cars in a slow line of traffic

If you plan to drive your car in (or even just through) Mexico City or the State of Mexico, the ‘Hoy No Circula’ program —that limits the number of vehicles allowed to drive on the road each day— requires you to consider your journey plans. If you regularly travel into or through the capital you might need to get your vehicle’s emissions tested and ‘verified.’

The ‘Hoy No Circula’ program

This program, that translates to ‘today (these vehicles) don’t circulate’ was originally introduced as means to reduce the number of cars circulating on roads in the Mexico City area. The restriction zone has been extended to also include all municipalities of the State of Mexico.

The restrictions are determined by three factors:

  • the level of emissions generated by a vehicle; and/or
  • the last number on the vehicle’s license plate; and
  • environmental contingencies — enacted when air quality levels deteriorate in the Hoy No Circula zone.

Hoy No Circula’ Zone

The Hoy No Circula program is in force in all areas of Mexico City (map) as well as the State of Mexico (map).  Mexican-plated vehicles not registered in these states and foreign-plated vehicles traveling in the restricted zone are not exempt from the rules.

Foreign (plated) vehicles

Any vehicle that does not have plates issued in an area where Hoy No Circula applies, whether the car is Mexican-plated or foreign-plated, is considered ‘foreign’ according to the rules.

‘Foreign’ vehicles cannot circulate:

  • one day of the week, Monday through Friday —from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.— determined by the last number on the vehicle’s license plate; and
  • they cannot circulate on Saturdays.

Furthermore:

  • If your vehicle has non-Mexican plates: in addition to the above restrictions, you cannot drive in the Hoy No Circula zone every weekday between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Online calendar tool

This online calendar tool enables you to determine what dates/times your vehicle can and cannot circulate in the Hoy No Circula zone.  If your car does not have a holographic sticker, choose ‘Autos Foráneos’ from the ‘Holograma’ field.

Emissions test and holographic stickers

If you live in and/or intend to drive regularly in or through the Hoy No Circula zone, you will need to get your vehicle ‘verified’—an annual process that requires you to take your vehicle to an approved testing center.

After the test, you’ll be issued with a holographic sticker to place on your windshield; the number on that sticker will depend on the level of emissions the vehicle generates, and that will determine how often, and when, your vehicle can circulate in the Hoy No Circula zone.

There are five holographic sticker categories: 00, 0, 1, 2, and Exempt:

  • If your vehicle is issued with a 00, 0, or Exempt sticker, you can drive without restrictions inside the Hoy No Circula zone, although note that if there is an environmental contingency in place, 00 and 0 stickered vehicles become restricted too;
  • If your vehicle is issued with a holographic sticker bearing number 1, your vehicle is restricted one day a week depending on the last number of the license plate and two Saturdays a month;
  • If your vehicle is issued with a holographic sticker bearing number 2, your vehicle is restricted one day a week depending on the last number of the license plate and every Saturday;
  • If your vehicle is issued with an ‘Exempt’ sticker, there are no restrictions on when the vehicle can be drive in the Hoy No Circula zone;
  • Use the online calendar tool to determine what days you can and cannot drive if your vehicle is not exempt.

Get an Auto Insurance Quote

Mexperience is pleased to refer our readers to MexPro auto insurance, which offers comprehensive coverages valid in Mexico using English-language policies backed by a fully-licensed US insurance broker.  Their insurances cover third party liability, provide legal assistance, and you can opt for medical and roadside assistance to be included.

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Vehicles exempted from Hoy No Circula

Certain vehicles are exempt from the restrictions.  If your vehicle meets one of these criteria, it is exempt, and can circulate without restrictions inside the Hoy No Circula zone.

Important: Note that some of these exemptions may be withdrawn in the event of an environmental contingency in the restricted zone.

Exemptions include:

  • the vehicle has been tested and ‘verified’ (see above), and has a holographic sticker displaying the number 00 or 0 on the windshield;
  • the vehicle has a Tourist Pass (see next section);
  • the car is solar/electric powered;
  • the vehicle has Mexican-issued plates with disabled or ‘antique/classic car’ emblems on them;
  • the vehicle has an ‘Exempt’ holographic sticker.
  • Other exempt vehicles include: funeral hearses, federal transport vehicles, school buses, emergency vehicles, and vehicles displaying ‘trade plates’ (used by car dealerships).

Hoy No Circula ‘Tourist Pass’

If you intend to visit the Hoy No Circula zone for a defined period (or drive through it) you can apply for a ‘tourist pass’ for your vehicle.

A vehicle tourist pass:

  • Exempts the vehicle from restrictions for a defined period;
  • Can be requested only once every six months for 14 days each time; or twice every six months for 7 days each time
  • Can be requested for 3 days during Mexico’s long-weekend holidays
  • Foreign-plated vehicles can apply for the tourist pass, provided that the car was manufactured from 1993 onwards
  • You apply for the tourist pass online. You’ll need to print out the two permits the system will send to you (one for Mexico City and the other for the State of Mexico) and display these prominently in your windshield when you are driving in the Hoy No Circula zone.

However:

  • Vehicles less than eight years old with Mexican plates from: Mexico City, the State of Mexico, Querétaro, Puebla, Hidalgo, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Morelos, or Tlaxcala cannot apply for this pass as they can verify their vehicles in those states and obtain a holographic sticker with a 0 or 00.
  • Tourist passes are suspended if there is an environmental contingency;
  • Mexican- and foreign-plated vehicles manufactured before 1993 cannot apply for this pass.

Penalties for non-compliance

Traffic police in Mexico City and the State of Mexico are especially vigilant regarding this matter and are quick to pull drivers over for non-compliance.

If you drive your vehicle through the Hoy No Circula zone and you don’t have the prescribed permit or exemption, your car will be stopped, towed, and impounded (at your expense), and you’ll have to pay:

  • a fine, that is determined between 20 and 30 days of UMA, equivalent to between $1,925 and $2925 Mexican pesos; plus
  • towing and impoundment release fees that will add about an additional $1,500-$2,000 Mexican pesos; thus
  • a violation could cost up to $5,000 Mexican pesos and at least half a day of time and significant hassle.

Further information

Here are some online resources for further reference

Get an Auto Insurance Quote

Mexperience is pleased to refer our readers to MexPro auto insurance, which offers comprehensive coverages valid in Mexico using English-language policies backed by a fully-licensed US insurance broker.  Their insurances cover third party liability, provide legal assistance, and you can opt for medical and roadside assistance to be included.

Get a quote now: In just a few minutes, you can get a quote, review your policy details, and arrange auto insurance for your road trip in Mexico

Quote for Auto Insurance

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