When you take a road trip across Mexico, sooner or later you will probably come across a military checkpoint.
Permanent and temporary checkpoints
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.
Getting stopped at 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.
Purpose of military checkpoints
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 products such as precious woods (e.g. mahogany) as the trading of these is licensed in Mexico; illegal firearms; 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 is unlikely to make any material 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.