Papers please

Our travel expert dispels a Mexico passport myth, facilitates some Tasmanian devilry and prepares the Idaho non-skier.

Published December 16, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

My company has been told by local authorities in Cancun and Cabo San Lucas that Mexico will start requiring passports of U.S. citizens in January, but they cannot document it. We don't want our clients purchasing passports if it's not necessary. Have you heard about such a change?

This must be the El Niqo of passport rumors -- two years ago about this time persistent reports that U.S. citizens would have to present passports to enter Mexico led the U.S. State Department to issue an advisory denying it.
Nothing's changed. In other words, save that $60 passport fee to buy enchiladas.

A U.S. passport, even an expired one, is acceptable and even preferred by officials as I.D. for entering Mexico. But other forms are sufficient -- and I find no evidence of a change in the near future or, probably, ever. Requiring U.S. citizens to present passports would create quite a diplomatic stir, as it would hurt Mexican tourism and fly in the face of the free trade agreement. It also would create a logistical burden on both U.S. and Mexican authorities and would certainly require a lot of advance notice.

(On Dec. 1, the Mexican government did implement a new rule requiring that deposits of up to $800 be made on cars driven from the United States beyond the border zone into Mexico. However, it was quickly rescinded under pressure from Mexican immigrants living in the United States.)

Here are the accepted types of documents for typical tourists, from the Ministry of Tourism site:

  • Passport: may be expired (up to five years) but not canceled; this is the most recommended document; secure and convenient.
  • Original birth certificate: hospital copy is not acceptable; must have an official stamp from the state of birth. A notarized copy of the official document is also acceptable. NOTE: Married women with a different last name should carry a marriage license or notarized affidavit with their married name.
  • Notarized affidavit of citizenship: OK to enter Mexico, but not recommended due to possible problems with U.S. Immigration upon return.
  • U.S. naturalization papers: certificate or laminated card (must be an original; photocopy not acceptable).

    Another source is Foreign Entry Requirements on the State Department Web site. A list of phone numbers for Mexican consulate generals around the United States is at that site.

    Here's what the State Department's consular affairs sheet on Mexico, updated in September 1999, says:

    ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Proof of citizenship and photo identification are required for entry by all U.S. citizens. A U.S. passport is recommended, but other U.S. citizenship documents (certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, naturalization certificate, consular report of birth abroad, or a certificate of citizenship) are acceptable. In accordance with Mexican entry requirements, U.S. citizens boarding flights to Mexico should be prepared to present one of these documents as proof of U.S. citizenship along with photo identification. A visa is not required for a tourist/transit stay of up to 180 days. A tourist card, issued by Mexican consulates and most airlines serving Mexico, is required. As of July 1, 1999, the government of Mexico charges U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico's interior an entry fee of $15 per person.

    My fianci and I are heading to Tasmania for our honeymoon (in Australian winter, no less). I have been there and have converted to Tasmaniaism -- the belief that a few days breathing Tasmanian air will leave you a changed person. This time, I want the trip to be super-special. I have heard a lot about different wilderness resorts on the island/state. Can you direct us to amazing, memorable places to stay in Tasmania?

    Tasmania is indeed an island apart, psychically as well as geographically. It's much more like New Zealand than it's like Australia's other five states. And it's a great place for a honeymoon. There are a few posh places around, but most of the wilderness resorts are moderately priced, and they may not be as luxurious as you have in mind. Still, the settings are priceless.

    Among places to consider:

  • Cradle Mountain Lodge, in north-central Tasmania near Lake St. Clair National Park.

  • Freycinet Lodge, at Freycinet National Park on the eastern coast.
  • Tall Timbers, at Smithton, in the northwest corner of the state.

    Check out Tourism Tasmania for official information and a link to all the wilderness lodges.

    Another good site for scouting out these and other wilderness lodges in Tasmania and elsewhere in Australia is the Travel Mall.

    For a three-day weekend in Boise, Idaho, later this month, what is there to do for someone who doesn't ski?

    Take a look at, the official site of the visitors bureau and chamber of commerce. The winter lineup is a bit tame compared to the summer cornucopia of outdoor sports, but you'll find skiing isn't the only game in the region.

    At this time of year, the biggest show in town is Winter Garden Aglow at the Idaho Botanical Gardens, where 75,000 lights put a twinkle into a nightly ritual of wine, cocoa and cookies by the fireside and live music around the Christmas tree. It happens from 6 to 9 p.m. The garden is at 2355 N. Penitentiary Rd., phone (208) 343-8649.

    Idaho Steelheads hockey also is prominent on the winter calendar at the Bank of America Centre, 233 S. Capitol Blvd.; phone (208) 424-2200

    Anyone who plans to be in Boise at the end of the month can't miss the Boise 2000 Millennium Celebration, dubbed "Celebrate the Past -- Imagine the Future," on Dec. 31-Jan. 1. It's billed as the largest family New Year's Eve celebration in Idaho's history and includes the Millennium Main Stage, night glow balloon countdown, fireworks, Community Celebration Stage, ice carving contest, a historical scavenger hunt, Y2K fun run, Millennium Morning On Ice, First Night Boise arts celebration and the First Day Breakfast.

  • By Donald D. Groff

    Donald D. Groff has been dispensing travel advice for a decade for such publications as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday, the Boston Globe and the Kansas City Star.

    MORE FROM Donald D. Groff

    Related Topics ------------------------------------------

    Latin America Mexico