The Arizona – Mexico Border has several busy crossing points. It’s home to a large amount of private and commercial traffic. A large segment of the border spans Sonora on the Mexico side. The far western border touches on Baja and the eastern side is adjacent to Chihuahua. With only a few towns, it’s a long, remote border in a beautiful desert landscape.
Driving into Mexico from Arizona
The border between Arizona and Mexico has multiple options for drivers. You must use official crossings to legally enter Mexico. From Tuscon, Phoenix or any other central city, you can quickly catch highways leading to the border.
The rules for crossing are the same as anywhere. You can stay within the immediate border zone for a short period of time without any special paperwork (foreigners in Mexico). If you wish to venture farther, an FMM visa is necessary.
Arizona is largely located along the Sonora border zone. Much of Sonora falls within the free zone which means you won’t need a Temporary Import Permit for your vehicle. If you plan on exiting the northern Sonora region, you will need to obtain this permit at the border however.
For folks making trips to popular destinations like Rocky Point, you can get the FMM and skip the TIP. Less paperwork is always nice and it’s one reason so many residents of Arizona cross the Mexico border to vacation on the Sea of Cortez beaches. Don’t forget that you have a legal requirement to carry Mexican car insurance when driving into Mexico. Grab a no obligation quote from us anytime.
Border Crossing Data
The Texas and California borders might have more traffic and commerce overall but Arizona is pretty dang busy. The University of Arizona publishes economic indicators along the border based on traffic data.
In the first half of 2023, they noted an overall increase in border crossing traffic. Personal vehicle crossings rose over 11% in January alone. 818,000+ personal vehicles crossed the border in that month alone. When you look at northbound commercial truck traffic, numbers are up most months as well. April of 2023 is the only exception with a dip in traffic.
Regardless of trends, the Arizona Mexico border sees tens of millions of people crossing as pedestrians, vehicle owners and vehicle passengers annually. It’s an important border state for commerce and pedestrian traffic moving southbound and northbound.
Arizona Border Crossings
We have guides to crossing each of these borders. Follow the maps and instructions to find the banjercito and aduana associated with each option. Most of the Arizona border crossings are fairly easy and some are even low traffic. This can make for a nice experience when driving to Mexico.
Arizona Border Towns
The border zone is full of wilderness areas, open spaces and attractions. Both sides have some excellent destinations to visit. Overall, the population density is relatively low outside of major crossing points. For travelers who want to have adventures, the border area has some wonderful places to explore.
San Luis and Yuma
Yuma is a great place to visit in Arizona. You can quickly cross the border by entering California and using Los Algodones or you can drop directly south to San Luis. Both are pretty easy places to cross back and forth. Yuma is a great town with a ton of history.
Things to see and do in Yuma:
- Colorado River State Historic Park – Many visitors come to enjoy the river and sunshine. It’s great for having a picnic and just getting outside. The historical displays and staff led educational events are also fantastic.
- Yuma Territorial Prison – Ever seen a western where they reference the prison in Yuma? Well, this is that famous location. Take a tour of the state park operated historic site for an up close and personal view of how things were in the wild west.
- East Wetlands Park – Anytime the desert collides with water, it creates a great environment. Here, you can hike along the Colorado River and enjoy watching birds and wildlife. The trail systems are ideal for biking and walking close to Yuma.
- Imperial National Wildlife Refuge – Another water based getaway on the Colorado River, the refuge is perfect for paddling and using trail systems. Bird watchers and naturalists will love this stopping point.
Lukeville and Sonoyta
The border zone here is often passed over as travelers are focused on other destinations. Slow down on your way to and from Rocky Point to really soak in these two great towns however. Both have some very nice museums and natural spaces to explore.
Must see stops in Lukeville and Sonoyta:
- Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument – The actual area spans the border, designating a large area of desert as a nature preserve. It’s full of big cactus and native plants and wildlife. The Organ Pipe Cactus is especially unique to this area.
- Ajo Historical Museum – Near Lukeville, you can visit the museum and dive into the historic mining culture of the area. The old mission and preserved artifacts are all fascinating and well worth the visit.
- Enjoy the Food – Sonoyta is a small town with some great food. While most travelers don’t stop for long, it’s worth hitting the street food vendors on short trips across the border.
This is a small town with the same name on both sides of the border. The population is actually slightly larger on the Mexico side. While there aren’t many major attractions here, it’s a perfect place to eat some food and walk around. The mountains and valleys are beautiful and it’s a laid back vibe overall.
Where to enjoy these small communities:
- Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge – Just north of Sasabe, Arizona is a big refuge with wetlands, stunning mountains and wildlife. It’s a rare ecosystem and a place where you’ll want some binoculars to enjoy the views and animals.
- Watch a Game – The Mexico side has local basketball courts and soccer fields. If you want to grab some food and watch a local game in the community, it’s a nice way to kill some time and get a feel for life in rural Mexico.
One of the more popular border stops is Nogales. It’s directly south of Tuscon and is a busy border crossing by Arizona standards. Nogales, Arizona is far smaller than the Mexico side where shopping, museums and parks are abundant.
- Nogales Mall – Shopping is a big part of the reason visitors flock to town. The mall is a central point for finding clothing, electronics and household goods. They also have a movie theater and entertainment onsite.
- Nogales Art Museum – If you love art (even if you don’t), they have some exceptional displays here. From modern to historic, some of Mexico’s greatest artists are displayed with international displays as well. As of our last report, admission is free.
- Primera Alta Museum – Take a look at the local history with displays at this quaint museum. The building itself is well worth admiring from the exterior as well.
Naco (and Bisbee)
Like much of the Arizona Mexico Border, Naco is a mellow, rural community on both sides. Bisbee to the north is a hot spot for tourism as well. The landscape is amazing here and it’s a fun part of the world to visit in general.
- Take a jeep tour – The mountains around the border area are loaded with off-road trails. Rent a jeep or ATV and hit the dusty trail to immerse yourself in the landscape.
- Visit the Queen Mine – Head deep under the earth to see where hard rock miners worked hard to uncover precious minerals. This is a really cool tour to take while traveling along the border.
- Grab a micro brew– Bisbee is home to the Old Bisbee Brewing Company where you can kick back and chat with locals. It’s a great way to get tips on local trails and attractions while sipping on tasty beers.
Douglas and Agua Prieta
Not far east of Bisbee you will find the border cities of Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta, Mexico. Douglas has a visitors center help guide your visit here. Agua Prieta is a small city with 70k+ residents. As such, you can expect some great dining and culture without the traffic of larger city destinations.
- Douglas Art Gallery – Enjoy the displays and grab gifts at this great little gallery. It’s a favorite for residents and visitors alike.
- Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area – This is one of the few places where Sandhill Cranes gather in large numbers. It’s a major attraction for bird lovers and especially for fans of the cranes.
- Old Tombstone Western Park – Visit the old scenes from Tombstone at this amusement park. Every detail is preserved in a movie-like set where visitors can experience gunfights and life in the old west.
There’s plenty more to see and enjoy along the Arizona – Mexico border. Overall, there is a surprising amount of water and preserved space for wetlands and wildlife. If you enjoy hiking, biking and the great outdoors, the border is ideal. Get in touch for insurance quotes before driving into Mexico!