Starting today, visitors traveling to most parts of Mexico will be required to pay a visitor tax of about $15.
The 150-peso levy will be asked of all foreign visitors who plan to venture more than 16 miles beyond the border and plan to stay longer than three days. Mexican citizens living abroad are exempt.
Tourists staying within the 16-mile border zone for longer than three days are also exempt, as are travelers to some cities located farther south such as Ensenada and San Felipe. The exemptions are a relief for many tourism-dependent businesses that rely on day-trippers and weekend getaway tourists from Southern California.
For air travelers, the tax will be included in the price of their tickets. The tax will reportedly be used to fund immigrations services and consular activities designed to protect Mexicans living abroad. Mexico did not previously have a visitor tax.
Mexican officials were forced to implement the Baja California exemptions after protests from local politicians and tourism operators. Mexican officials say they are following the lead of other countries that levy tourist fees, including the United States, which charges Mexicans $45 for a tourist visa application.
The Tourism Ministry said the government would probably modify the new rules to allow multiple entries over a six-month period to those who pay the fee. Currently, the government would charge for each visit.