Mexico Safety, Transportation

Military Checkpoints in Mexico

Soldier Checks Vehicle in Mexico

When you take a road trip across Mexico, sooner or later you will probably come across a military checkpoint.

The checkpoints are either permanent or of the type which are set-up on the fly and may appear on any highway at any time of day or night.  Some checkpoints stop every vehicle for inspection, although most create a bottle-neck to slow down the traffic enabling the officers at the checkpoint to selectively signal certain vehicles to pull-over and stop at an inspection area situated at the side of the road. Private vehicles, public buses, taxis, as well as commercial trucks and vehicles may be stopped and searched at these checkpoints.

If you’re riding on a public intercity bus, a military officer may signal the bus driver to pull-over and have search dogs check the baggage holds; officers might also board the bus to undertake further searches.

There is no need to feel alarmed if your vehicle, or a bus you are traveling on, are selected for a revision and signaled to pulled-over.

If you are traveling in a private vehicle, the officer in charge will politely ask to look at the contents of your car’s trunk, and they might also ask you to step out of the vehicle while they check the contents inside.  At some checkpoints, mirrors are used to inspect underneath the vehicle, and search dogs may be present to sniff for the presence of drugs and other illicit items.  To expedite the process in the shortest time, simply be courteous and comply with the lead-officer’s requests.

The checkpoints are installed to monitor and prevent the illegal movement of goods on Mexico’s roads.  In addition to checking for illicit narcotics, officers are inspecting vehicles for the unauthorized transportation of items such as precious woods (e.g. mahogany) as the trading of these is licensed in Mexico; ancient artifacts that might have been stolen from archaeology sites; and ensuring that large commercial trucks have their paperwork in order when they are transporting restricted or licensed goods.

In the unlikely event that the lead officer decides to detain you or your vehicle, you should ask why they are doing so and, if you are a foreign national, you should request access to your country’s consulate to inform them of your detention.

Most inspections are completed within a few short minutes and you should soon be on your way.  Unless heavy traffic has caused a backlog of slow-moving cars on the approach to the checkpoint, the event will hardly make a difference to your journey’s itinerary.

For complete guides to getting around in Mexico, connect to our Travel Essentials : Transport in Mexico section here on Mexperience.

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4 Comments

  1. Rose Drzewicki says

    The Lukeville border crossing in Sonoyta, MX has recently set up a Federales check point just prior to the US border. The wait times have been up to 6 hours when traveling on a weekend. Is there anyway this checkpoint can be improved to handle several lanes of cars? With extremely high temperatures, cars are overheating during the long wait.

  2. Heather Rickerson says

    We have never had an issue at a military checkpoint after years of traveling there until yesterday. We were at the El Rosario checkpoint in Baja. We realized an hour after leaving that one of the soldiers took my husband’s cell phone. We just confirmed it’s location today on the find my iPhone app. All our vacation pics had not been backed up yet.
    Is there anyone we can report this to? Thanks for any feedback.

    • Mexperience says

      Hi Heather,
      The first port of call should be the check-point where your phone was left/taken; ask to speak to the commanding officer. Otherwise, try contacting SEDENA https://www.gob.mx/sedena – the Secretariat in charge of the army.

  3. Puerto Penasco says

    There is one permanent check point in Querobabi, Sonora, the soldiers where very nice. They made us get out of the car, for like 5 minutes and then they let us leave.

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