Drone Photography in Mexico
Drones are getting really popular for creating incredible content from really unique perspectives. We’ve just gotten into playing around with one this year, but unfortunately restrictions around Los Angeles are so tight we have very few opportunities to fly ours.
Research, research, research!
When we planned our trip to Mexico, I did a ton of research on drone regulations. The white sand beaches and clear blue waters were too much of an opportunity to pass up taking photos and videos of. Drone laws are different and constantly evolving in every country, so it’s important to make sure you have up-to-date information before you go.
Customs at Cancun International Airport
As of our trip (September 2017), each traveler is allowed to bring duty-free up to two cameras when they enter Mexico. A drone, unfortunately, is not considered a camera and is subject to extra taxation if the item is worth more than $500 USD. (I read previously that the limit was $1000 USD but our customs forms said otherwise).
After customs and before you exit the Cancun airport, there is one last security checkpoint where you’ll hand your customs forms to a guy and he will ask you to push a button. If the resulting light is green, you’re free to leave. If it’s red, they will ask you to move into an extra screening area where all of your belongings will be searched. This is a random security process that anyone could be subject to.
Luckily, I got the green light this time around and went through with my drone in tow, no problems.
But what if the light is red?
You will be searched, and the security officer will see your drone and ask you what it is. You could try and pass it off as a toy, but drones are getting pretty recognizable. They’ll ask you how much it’s worth, and here is the tricky part.
The best thing to do is carry a printed out copy of your receipt that states how much you purchased the drone for. If the receipt states it’s under the limit ($500) you should be fine. If it’s more, you’ll be asked to pay a tax and given a receipt so you won’t have to pay the tax again. You could also try and pass off the drone to be worth less than what you purchased it for if it looks worn or old. Having the proof of purchase and cost will be key to making it easy to get in with your drone.
Once you’re in, congrats! Flying a standard-sized drone to take photos around the Cancun area is typically fine. The only areas where there are some restrictions are historic sites like the Mayan temple. Just look for any posted signs that say “No Drones” or “No Flying,” or ask someone before you fly in case some areas have certain restrictions that others don’t.
When we arrived at Isla Mujeres’ North Beach, I simply asked a nearby bartender if he knew there were any regulations against drones.
He laughed and said, “Lady, once you get to the beach, what you do is what you do. Nobody cares!”
In Cancun, we asked a lifeguard who happily said “Fly? Si!” and watched in amusement as we flew our drone up and down the beach.
Overall once you get in with your drone, there are tons of opportunities to take amazing footage in beautiful Cancun, so be smart and have fun with it!