Do you need a permit to use a tripod at Mexican archaeological sites, and if so how do you get one?
June 22, 2010 8:36 PM   Subscribe

Do you need a permit to use a tripod at Mexican archaeological sites, and if so how do you get one?

I am making a trip to the Maya ruins at Palenque this summer and am an avid photographer. One of the things that I plan to do is take pictures of the site, and I am hoping to use a tripod. The guidebooks to Mexico say that a permit is required to use a tripod, and I have attempted to learn more about this process. Have you taken photos at Mexican archaeological sites in the last few years with a tripod? If so, did you need a permit and how did you get it? I saw one post on a discussion forum from 8 years ago that said permits must be obtained at least 2 weeks in advance from the INAH office in Mexico City. But I could not find any information about this on their website.
posted by tnygard to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I haven't had the need to use a tripod at archeology sites in Mexico, but you may want to call your nearest Mexico consulate and ask them. For other governmental matters, I've found the consular staff quite helpful navigating the bureaucracy.
posted by birdherder at 9:00 PM on June 22, 2010

Sorry, I have no personal experience to share, but I did find the the form for SOLICITUD PARA LA AUTORIZACION DE TOMA FOTOGRAFICA, FILMACION Y/O VIDEOGRABACION, EN ZONAS, MONUMENTOS Y MUSEOS, QUE UTILICEN EQUIPO ESPECIAL Y/O PROFESIONAL INAH-00-001 on INAH's site; this is presumably what's being referenced. Can you read Spanish? The gist of it is that you need the permit if you're going to be using 'special' or 'professional' equipment or doing photography for professional purposes. The permit explicitly says:
Este trámite no es necesario en caso de permisos para fotografiar o videograbar zonas arqueológicas, monumentos históricos o museos
abiertos al público en custodia del INAH con fines personales, que no utilicen equipos profesionales o especiales, sujetándose en estos
casos a las restricciones que existan en cada sitio y salvo que se lleven a cabo en zonas y monumentos no abiertos al público.
Roughly translated:
This permit is not necessary for taking photos or video of archeological zones, historic monuments or museums open to the public and under the custody of INAH for personal purposes so long as professional or special equipment is not used, subject to specific restrictions that may apply to particular sites.
So it appears to comes down to whether the INAH staff at Palenque are likely to consider your tripod as as special or professional equipment (I suppose they could also make a judgement based on how many lenses, filters, etc. you carry). As you can expect, it can be pretty difficult to make this distinction these days. I'll note that a quick google doesn't seem to reveal any great number of amateur photographers actually complaining about not being allowed to take a tripod into Palenque, and you can bet that a lot have tried, bearing multiple lenses, tripods, etc... that's got to mean something, right? I'm going to guess that this rule is not often enforced unless you look obviously professional (multiple big camera bags, big solid tripods, etc., hours setting up for perfect shots). I could be completely wrong, though!

If you do want to get the permit, it looks like their turnaround time on a permit is 10 working days for public sites outside Mexico City. You can submit the request and get approval for it via email, but you will have to pick up the completed permit at the INAH office in Mexico City. If you'd like to just ask them for clarification, you could try emailing or contacting the person identified at the bottom of this page. Perhaps if they were to reply saying that you didn't need a permit then you might be able to print out the email and show it to anyone should they complain.

Good luck!
posted by bunyip at 9:57 PM on June 22, 2010

Best answer: I found a form (PDF) to request a permit to use professional photographic/film equipment in archaeological sites. It's necessary to get the permit in the Mexico City's INAH office and to pay for it.

However, the form says there's no need to get a permit if the photographs are for personal use, which I assume is your case, but it says nothing about tripods. I sent an email to the INAH's permits office asking if it's necessary, I'll update with their answer.
posted by clearlydemon at 10:03 PM on June 22, 2010

When I went to Palenque I noticed lots of people walking around with tripods and none of the park employees were asking them for permits, though I suppose they might've been checked at the gate. I didn't bring one myself so I wasn't paying attention, but I also didn't notice any signs or notes in the printed park materials about bringing in tripods.
posted by contraption at 11:04 PM on June 22, 2010

They sell them where you buy your entry ticket for the archaeological zone - the price will be listed with the entry fees. It's just a tacky paper label you stick on your equipment, although I'm almost certain there was no fee for tripods. The last one I got (for Teotihuacan) just said 'MUSEO NACIONAL DE ANTROPOLOGIA - Permiso para camara de video', the price (the camera permit was 30 pesos), a handwritten date and a red permit number.

I'm pretty sure you only need an INAH permit for professional photography. No idea how they'd enforce this. Probably look for somebody with an elaborate lighting setup.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:12 AM on June 23, 2010

The "permit required for professional photography" and "tripod=professional" rules are pretty common in Mexico. They apply, for instance, on the Metro system in Mexico City. Tripods are just seen as a rule of thumb, but I think you'd be better off getting a permit, I don't they're very difficult to get, or particularly expensive.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:02 PM on June 23, 2010

They said you need to get the permit and to pay a fee of MX$3843 (about US$300) per day.

You must get the permit in the Mexico City's offices:

Coordinación Nacional de Asuntos Jurídicos
Lic. Ma. del Perpetuo Socorro Villarreal Escárrega
Teléfono: 4040 4300 ext. 417001
Insurgentes Sur No. 421, Colonia Hipódromo, México D.F. CP 06100

I agree with Joakim Ziegler and bunyip, it might depend on whether the staff believes your tripod is professional equipment. At least, whoever answered the email thought it was. In your place, I'd take a bottle cap tripod or a small tripod I could leave at the gate if they don't allow it.
posted by clearlydemon at 3:00 PM on June 29, 2010

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