The day we were leaving Mexico for Belize I quickly googled the overland border crossing procedures and how much money I’d need to take out for the ferry and other expenses. But I kept on seeing Mexican Exit Tax Scam show up continuously in my search results, so I looked into that a bit and discovered that Mexico charges a USD ~$25 tourism tax for non-residents departing Mexico. There were very conflicting viewpoints across popular travel forums about whether the fee is legit, a scam, and whether it’s avoidable. I can now report that our Mexico to Belize border crossing in Chetumal that we successfully avoided the having to pay the Mexico Tourism Tax without any issue whatsoever. For us, there was no Mexico exit tax scam. Here’s how you can avoid paying too, before catching that ferry to Belize.
Is the Mexico Exit Tax Really a Scam?
The Mexico exit tax, itself, is not a scam. Mexico legitimately charges a tourism tax upon exit. If you came into Mexico by crossing a land border, you likely have not paid this fee, and you must do so before exiting. There’s no scam here. You really do owe Mexico this money.
However, if you flew into Mexico on a commercial flight, the cost of your plane ticket already included the tourism tax and you absolutely do NOT need to pay it again upon exiting.
Many people fly into Cancun or elsewhere in Mexico, spend some time in the Riviera Maya, continue onward to Belize and unknowingly just fork up the seemingly mandatory departure tax. No one tells you that you can bypass being double-taxed, so that is why it’s often referred to as a scam.
Be armed with all of the information in this post and get your documents together. In doing so, you shouldn’t be scammed by paying the Mexico Tourism Tax twice.
Another reason why Mexico’s exit tax is referred to as a scam is the unfortunate reality that even if you have your documents together, the particular border guard may not accept it, possibly having a desire to pocket the money or just to charge you anyways. In this case, it truly is a scam. But I believe these instances are rare for those who do have the required documents. If you have the documents and a border guard still wants to charge you the exit tax, we suggest remaining polite yet holding firm that you do not need to pay the Mexico Tourism tax again. And showing the documentation that it has been paid.
How to Know if You Are Exempt from Paying the Mexico Exit Tax
Whether you’re headed from Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Chetumal or elsewhere to Belize: do NOT pay this fee again if you have arrived to Mexico by a commercial airline.
In other words, answer this question to determine if you need to pay or not:
Did you fly in a commercial airline to Mexico?
- Yes, I flew to Mexico. You don’t need to pay. Read on.
- No, I walked, drove, bussed, came on a boat to Mexico. Sorry, you must pay the departure tax.
Documents Needed to Avoid Paying the “Mexico Exit Tax Scam”
If you have flown to Mexico and are now exiting by a land border, instead of paying the Mexico exit tax, you simply need two documents:
1) Your FMM card you received upon arrival, and
2) An itemized receipt from your flight purchase showing the Tourism Tax
When flying into Mexico on a commercial flight, you receive a FMM card, which is a portion of the immigration form you fill out upon arriving to Mexico. Its also known as a tourist card or tourist visa (although its not truly a visa). It reads FMM at the top of the card, so you’ll know you have the right thing. You only receive this when you have paid the tourism fee, which everyone that flies there has paid. Retain this FMM card with your passport and present it upon exiting through the overland border from Mexico to Belize.
Itemized Receipt from Your Flight
Also simply print out the itemized receipt from the purchase of your flight into Mexico. You should see the Mexico Tourism Tax broken out as a separate line item. All airlines operate differently so if that is not broken out separately on your receipt, contact your airline and request it and they should oblige. We flew in to Mexico using Spirit Airlines, which although a lot of people complain about Spirit, they always meticulously itemize their receipts which is great for instances such as this. Below, I’ve boxed in red to show the line item you need to look for.
Note: Our itemized receipt you see above is actually for two people, which is why you see the Mexico Tourism Fee to be double the amount. (And you’ll see we got a pretty good deal on our flight!)
So simply print out that receipt and have your FMM card in hand when you’re going through exiting Mexico’s border crossing. When we last went through the Mexico to Belize border crossing, we had absolutely no problems whatsoever. No arguments, no dirty looks, nothing. The customs official did ask to keep the flight receipt, which I had no problem with since I didn’t need it anymore, could print another if needed, and my credit card info on the receipt had been X-ed out. We avoided paying the Mexico exit tax scam and now you’re armed with this info to avoid it too!
Yay – You Just Saved About $20!
Now take that $20 you just saved and instead use it for a few lobster dinners once you arrive in Caye Caulker or San Pedro. (See here where you can find complete lobster dinners for $9 or lobster burgers for only $3!)
Are you heading to Belize? Perhaps our other reviews, adventures, tips, and recommendations of the country may be helpful. You can find all of our blog posts about Belize. Cheers!
Bonus tip: Have you booked your accommodation in Belize yet? It’s always important to book your hotel reservations in advance, particularly during high season, as hotels do tend to fill up quickly! Take a look at what’s available using hotelscombined, which searches all of the main booking sites (Expedia, Agoda, Booking.com, Hostelbookers, Hotels.com, etc.) at once.