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Going International: How to Take Your Campervan Across the Border

Expand your adventures and take your campervan across the border.

Dec 21, 2021 | Tips

What could be more exciting than grabbing your backpack, hitting the open road, and traversing the great USA? For some, the answer is found in international travel. While there is no doubt that we have a lot to explore within our borders, there is something incredibly inspiring about traveling into a new country and experiencing a different culture.

When you are the proud owner of a campervan, you can take your travels across international borders without sacrificing the comforts of home. In fact, traveling into neighboring countries is becoming increasingly popular for those who count themselves among the #VanLife enthusiasts.

If you are inspired by the call of faraway lands, check out this guide to taking your campervan across the border.

Start by Gathering Your Paperwork

Whether you plan to take a trip to Canada or you wish to drive to the southernmost tip of the Pan-American highway, you’re going to need to have the right paperwork on hand. This will include both paperwork for your campervan and the van’s occupants.

While the paperwork you need will vary based on the countries you plan to enter; a good starting point is to make sure you have gathered all of the following:

  • Your campervan’s title, registration, and proof of insurance.
  • Your passport. Be sure that your passport is good for up to at least 6 months of travel as many countries require this for entry. If you plan to be traveling internationally longer, it is worth investing in a renewal before you cross the first international border.
  • Paperwork on your pets. Most countries require at minimum proof of rabies vaccinations, but many countries require proof of pest preventative medications, as well as your pet’s vaccination records.

Paperwork will be one of the biggest headaches when it comes to international travel, so it is in your best interest to invest in an organizational document holder that can be stowed in a safe within your campervan.

Research Country-Specific Regulations

When crossing into Canada, you will need to show your passport and driver’s license, and you will be required to upload proof of your COVID-19 vaccine online before you hit the border. Conversely, you don’t need any proof of vaccination when you enter Mexico, but you need a temporary vehicle importation permit at most borders.

However, if you are traveling to a popular tourist destination, such as Puerto Peñasco, you’ll be driving into what is called a Free Zone, where you are not required to purchase a temporary vehicle importation permit.

If you plan to travel further south into Central America, each country’s border you cross will have its own unique set of regulations and requirements.

Not only are border requirements complex to begin with, but the requirements are constantly in flux. The best thing you can do is check with each country’s customs for updated regulations.

For Mexico, visit temporary vehicle importation permit for further details about the process of bringing a vehicle into the country.

For Canada, visit Canada Border Services Agency for updated information about border crossings.

Purchase Insurance

You will need up-to-date insurance no matter what country you decide to bring your campervan into. Insurance requirements vary dramatically by country, and the policy you hold here in the US will not always translate across borders.

For Canada, check with your current insurance policy. Many US policies will cover the majority of Canadian provinces.

For Mexico, you will need to purchase a new insurance policy specific to Mexico. You can often purchase this insurance at the border, but you will find better deals by shopping around online ahead of time.

For countries in Central America, you will need to purchase additional insurance policies as you go.

Create Copies of Important Documents

From insurance policies to vehicle permits to medical documents for your dog, it can be easy to lose important documents as you cross borders. Make sure that you create extra copies of all important documents before you hit the road.

Additionally, consider uploading digital copies of these documents onto a USB drive or into the cloud. Keep a USB drive containing these documents in your safe, and leave one with a trusted family member in the US or provide them with access to your cloud storage.

Having extra physical copies of documents on hand can also be helpful at border crossings. Many borders will require that you hand over a copy of documents that you will not receive back.

If Possible, Learn the Language

When you are crossing an international border in your campervan, there is a lot to absorb. Beyond just knowing what paperwork you need on hand, you’ll be navigating on foreign roads, interacting with local businesses, and you might even encounter being pulled over by the local police.

All of these things are much less stressful and easier to maneuver when you speak the same language. If possible, learn as much of the language as possible before crossing international borders. Even a conversational level of the language can go a long way in making the process of traveling through the country smoother and safer.

It’s also a good idea to bring a book with common questions and answers in that language. There are also many audiobooks available to listen to before arriving in another country.

Give Yourself Ample Time when Crossing Borders

Crossing international borders can be a time-consuming process. This is particularly true when you are using popular border crossings that see heavy amounts of traffic each day. And, as you traverse further south in Central America, you’ll find that the technology and orderliness we have here in the US isn’t always present at the border crossings you encounter.

All this can translate to long wait times and slow crossings. For this reason, try to give yourself ample time when crossing international borders. If possible, spend the night before camping within an hour of the border. Get up early and head to the border first thing. If you realize you will be reaching a border crossing later in the day than anticipated, it might be worthwhile to put off the crossing until the next day. This is particularly true when traveling in Mexico and Central America, where it is advised that tourists stay off the roads at night.

Find Your Next International Adventure with Antero

Crossing into a new country within the comfort of your campervan is an adventure of a lifetime. Make new memories and explore new cultures with an Antero adventure van. Our campervans are designed to allow you to enjoy the luxuries of home wherever the road may take you.

Some Antero Vans feature built-in solar power, making our campervans an excellent choice for exploring remote Mexican beaches or the towering Canadian Rockies. Find your next international adventure today with Antero.

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