How much camera stuff can I take with me to Mexico?
November 6, 2013 5:17 PM   Subscribe

As a tourist, how much photography gear can I take into Mexico without requiring a professional visa?

I'm an amateur photographer and I'm traveling to Oaxaca, Mexico in a few weeks. There's a lot of noise on photography forums about restrictions on how many cameras or rolls of film that can be taken into Mexico under a tourist visa, because professional photographers are supposed to get a work visa. However, in all of these accounts I've read the amount of permitted equipment is different. Sometimes it's one camera. Sometimes it's two. Sometimes it's 10 rolls of film or 20. Does anyone know what the actual rules are, and where I can read them? I'd like to take my Leica M2 film camera, 15 or so rolls of film, and ideally I would take my Olympus micro 4/3 digital camera too. I don't think anyone's going to mistake me for a professional, but I want to play by the rules.
posted by chrchr to Travel & Transportation around Oaxaca, Mexico (7 answers total)
I went into Mexico with a DSLR, a few lenses, and two P&Ss. I think you'll be fine.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:27 PM on November 6, 2013

Best answer: From the U.S. State department web site's page on travelling to Mexico:
Personal Effects: Tourists are allowed to bring in personal effects duty-free. Per Mexican customs regulations, in addition to clothing, personal effects may include one camera, one video cassette player, one personal computer, one CD player, 5 DVDs, 20 music CDs or audiocassettes, 12 rolls of unused film, and one cellular phone. Tourists carrying such items, even if duty-free, should enter the "Merchandise to Declare" lane at the first customs checkpoint. Travelers should be prepared to pay any assessed duty on items in excess of these allowances. Failure to declare personal effects may result in the seizure of the items, plus the seizure of any vehicle in which the goods were transported for attempted smuggling. Recovery of a seized vehicle may involve payment of a substantial fine and attorney's fees. See also the "Firearms Penalties" section below regarding Mexico's strict laws and penalties regarding the import of firearms or ammunition.
That said, my husband and I went there a year ago with five cameras between us and about eight lenses. Nothing happened.
posted by carmicha at 5:29 PM on November 6, 2013

Best answer: Here is a link to the "Manual of Tourist Entry" published by Mexico's Secretary of Tourism. Ctl-F for "camera" and you'll find info consistent with the above.
posted by carmicha at 5:35 PM on November 6, 2013

According to the Mexico's Tax Administration Service website, you can bring two photographic cameras or video recorders, 12 rolls of film and photographic material (whatever that means).

I doubt you'll have any problems. I'm Mexican and I've flown into the country with more cameras and gadgets than that (all for personal use).
posted by clearlydemon at 5:35 PM on November 6, 2013

I have been stopped at the "red light" in Mexico (many of you will understand). Listen... one camera with a big honking SD card is all you need. Why chance it?
posted by brownrd at 7:04 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

"Red light" means customs inspection. As long as you stick to the items described in the aforementioned tax website, you won't have any problems.

I've gotten the red light a lot of times. Once, I was traveling with a laptop, ipad, ipod, camera and a lot of clothing and books. No problem at all. They are looking for persons importing a bunch of things to sell. If they catch you with two laptops (you can only bring one for your personal use) or with 5 ipods or 30 identical pairs of jeans, you would be in trouble, but the cameras are ok.
posted by clearlydemon at 8:52 PM on November 6, 2013

As someone who travels with a camera, steps like these are wise to follow:
The Five Critical Tips Every Traveling Photographer Should Know

The first step is surprisingly useful. Make your camera ugly (I am thinking of the Leica) and make potential thieves look to another target.
posted by Leenie at 4:08 PM on November 7, 2013

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